Life in the University College bubble

Panos being interviewed in his house.

University College Utrecht is an international honors college of Utrecht University. They offer a bachelor’s program in Liberal Arts and Sciences to more than 700 students. One of the first year students, Panos Vennis from Greece, tells us about life and regulations at University College.

Panos went to high school in Athens, but didn’t decide to go to college in his hometown. When we ask him why, he explains that he was searching for his bachelor degree and he found the degree he wanted, but at a university in Freiburg, Germany. He started to search for this specific degree in other areas and found it on The Netherlands as well, so he decided to go there.

The University College life

The way to The Netherlands and the university didn’t seem that hard as might be expected for a foreign student. Because Panos lives in Greece, a country that is part from the European Union, he didn’t have to request a visa to travel to The Netherlands. The university had a modern approach as to accepting him into college; they interviewed him via Skype. “They asked me about what I wanted to study and the reason why. Everything was mostly around these subjects.” The interview turned out to be successful, because Panos has started studying here in August.

Now he lives on campus where he has his own room close to the university and a common room he shares with other students. The so-called ‘Dining Hall’ in the college building provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for students a few days a week, but the dormitories also have a small kitchen to cook. Panos gets excited when he talks about the life on campus. He finds it quite pleasant and even though he has been here for only a few months, he already has a lot of friends. Of course, as a student, parties aren’t missing. “Generally it’s a very nice life in the campus. In the bubble,” he smiles when he says that, “sweet gold.”

Keeping up with politics

Panos is hoping to stay in his house for three years, as long as his bachelor program takes. In these three years he will probably learn more about Utrecht and it’s local news, because right now he admits that he knows nothing at all about the local politics. “Generally I am interested in politics, so I think it would be interesting to find out a bit more about the city’s politics or the country’s politics,” he tells us. The language barrier makes reading the local news harder for foreign students, but Panos thinks it wouldn’t be a very big problem. “I if I wanted to learn about local politics, I could do a search in the internet and find the information that I want. I could ask my classmates and perhaps my tutor.”

In the living room, Panos’ roommates have a wall covered up in newspaper pages.

The difference between Greece and The Netherlands

Surprisingly, Panos does seem to have quite some information about the current regulations for student finance in The Netherlands. When we explain the plans for next year to him and ask his opinion, he doesn’t think it’s fair. “It’s going to be bad for the new students, definitely. It’s going to be far more difficult to pay for all the studies.“ In Greece however this is completely different. Unless you go to a private university or a private school, education is free.

Now he has to pay for his studies with his scholarships. Even though the effort Panos has to make to study is bigger than when he lived in Greece, he thinks the system in The Netherlands is better regulated. “I guess the fact that it is free in Greece is quite an advantage over the Dutch system, but the Dutch system is of much higher quality. So I think the pros of the Dutch system are higher than the Greek ones.” If everything goes as planned and the system for next year doesn’t affect him, Panos will graduate in 2018.

[Note: A shorter version of this interview in Dutch will soon appear on my blog.]

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