Is studying history at the VU worth it? What can one expect from an international history degree in Amsterdam? Our student Hannah will tell you her story.
After blogging for almost a year, I realised that I’ve never actually talked about the degree I’m studying. I’m currently in my second year of my bachelor’s programme, called History and International Studies.
A lot of organisational information can be found on the official course website which is why I’m not going to talk about general aspects such as the admission conditions. My only two tips regarding those are:
1) take a good look at the course schedule of the degree
2) if possible, visit one of the bachelor days to get a better idea of what the programme consists of
This blogpost, however, is more about the advantages and disadvantages of the programme from the perspective of a first-year survivor.
My home during finals weeks: the 9th floor history library
Because of the existence of a Dutch history track, my degree is very international, as in we have people from almost all continents, from the US, Indonesia, Greece, South Korea etc. This makes in particular courses such as World History or Current Debates in History extremely interesting, because there are heaps of different backgrounds with different perspectives in one class. The internationality is not only visible in regard to the student body but also in the courses that are offered. Instead of having a heavy focus on national history (which is often the case in other countries, for example Germany), the degree tries to keep the international focus present during classes as well. On top of that, it is a very small degree. Right now, there are around 30 students in my year. In comparison to courses such as psychology, with hundreds of students, the small course size makes it a lot easier to make friends and to feel at home away from home
This degree offers you a lot of different options to develop further academically, whether that means participating in the honours programme in your second year or doing an internship at the International Institute of Social History. Concerning the staff, all of my professors and PhD-candidates so far have been extremely nice and always willing to offer a helping hand. A great thing is also the tutor system, where you meet with your tutor (a professor from your programme) about once a semester and have a quick check in on how you are doing. It’s nice to know that whenever you have a problem, you know exactly who to ask for help.
When I asked some of my fellow students for their opinion, the only disadvantage mentioned was how unorganised it felt at times. I feel like it’s important to mention beforehand though, that my programme has only been offered for a very short time - in fact, I am in the first group of students studying history and international studies at the VU ever. Obviously students as well as professors had to figure things out along the way.
One aspect of this imperfect organisation was how unbalanced the different study periods were, work-wise. It happened, for example, that we had a couple of super stressful periods and then again some where we basically didn’t have to do anything. Additionally, we once had to wait for two months for a grade for two months due to illness-related issues. While that is something no one can prepare for, it was annoying that we weren’t informed until much later.
All in all, however, I can only recommend my programme and I am really happy that I chose it. I definitely think that it teaches me a lot and prepares me well for whatever I plan on doing after my Bachelor’s.
I hope this post helped some of you with your decision.