Caitlin E. O’Riordan
University: Stenden University - Meppel
Course: International Teacher Education for Primary Schools (ITEPS)
Year: 1st year
Home Town in UK: Wimbledon
1. Why did you choose to study abroad?
Truthfully I did not come from abroad to study. I moved from the UK to the Netherlands when I was just a baby. My mother is Dutch and my father is English.
At the age of 8 I moved to Leipzig, Germany where I attended my first International school. Then, at the age of 13 I moved to an international school in Oegstgeest and became a border.
So with this experience when I was growing-up and I haven’t known anything other than being an international student.
All of my friends have different backgrounds so they have influenced me and my choice for studying in Europe. The variety of stories and experiences they have are very interesting and engaging, and I am keen to meet people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
2. How would you rate the assistance of the university before you arrived (the application process, finding accommodation, sorting out financial matters)?
Unfortunately I did not receive my IB Diploma after my May exams and I knew that if I took a gap year I would not reach the capabilities that I had and wanted to show. So I asked my university if I could join their programme even though I was one point short of receiving my diploma.
After much discussion with Stenden, they gave me the option to sign up as an “alvast student”. This meant that I could attend the university and have the same opportunities as other students, but I would not be registered in the system as a student. The university were very helpful in providing support during this time when I did not fully understand the terms of being a “alvast student”.
3. How would you rate the assistance of the university when you arrived (orientation etc)?
When I arrived at the university I found all the teachers to be extremely enthusiastic and excited about starting classes with us.
The university helped me find a place to live. Suitable housing in Meppel is limited; however when I was stressing about a place to live for the year, a teacher who had never met me before offered a bedroom in her house until I found something. She then asked around for me and discovered that a girl had a room to let out to a Stenden student. I met the girl the same day and my accommodation problem was solved! It’s nice to know that the teachers are willing to go that extra mile and help their students.
4. Did you feel prepared when you arrived and/or what surprised you?
Is anyone every really prepared when attending a new school environment? I was surprised, even though I knew what the first year entailed and what had to be done. I thought that it would be a lot of practical work with children, but there is also a lot of theoretical learning, such as citizenship, how that can be shown in classroom situations and also how language is closely connected with culture. I hadn’t given much thought beforehand to the theoretical topics but I now understand that they are essential.
5. How would you rate the learning environment (teaching style, studying with other international students, non-native English speaking lecturers)?
On a scale of one to ten, I would say that the learning environment is about 7-8. The teachers are very theoretical but they also use practical activities to support the theory.
There are times when having non-native English speaking lecturers can be frustrating due to lack of annunciation or they create words when they don’t know the English word for it. This doesn’t affect the quality of the teaching though. There are students from Germany, America, UK and the Netherlands, and again it is interesting to hear about their experiences and the diversity of their knowledge from doing charity work in LEDCs (least economically developed countries) or having attended schools themselves that specialise in training teachers.
6. Would you recommend studying abroad to a 17-18 year old Brit who might never have thought about it before?
I would definitely recommend studying abroad because it opens more doors for the future. It is becoming evident that parents wish for their children to attend an international school just because it makes the children/students become a rounder person. It does not even matter when you attend an international school/course. The respect that one builds for someone else’s culture is something that keeps building throughout one’s life.
7. Is there anything you wish someone had told you at the time you applied?
It would have been good to know what level some of the teachers were with their English speaking because this initial difficulty was frustrating. Of course, once you get used to it and bearing in mind that the teachers are also learning in their free time in order to make this relatively new course a success, it isn’t an issue anymore.
8. Would you recommend your course, university or city to British students?
Absolutely. As I said before, having international experiences and a global outlook is invaluable and will help open more doors in the future.
I would definitely recommend Stenden University because the faculty and its staff are always willing to help their student with any issues or problems they have. The faculty always make sure that the international school where we have internships are looking after use, treating us with respect and equality, and if this is not the case then they soon put it right! They go above and beyond to help students feel comfortable and at ease at the university.
Meppel is not a city known for its party/clubbing venues; however there are places close by that are “student cities”, such as Groningen and Zwolle. And a trip to Amsterdam is only an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours so it is an excellent location.
You can find out more about the Stenden ITEPS course here.