Classes are in full swing here at Universiteit Utrecht. For international students, that meant we attended two orientations during the first week of February. The first orientation was all about paperwork: paperwork for registering with the city, paperwork for canceling our city registration in July, paperwork for this, that, and the other. I memorized my student ID really quickly!


My friend Jinju and I found something familiar in the international office during orientation!

However, we took a break to listen to a Dutch Studies professor talk about Dutch study culture. It was very enlightening to learn how different Dutch universities are from American ones. Here, it would be offensive (and possibly incorrect) to call your professor Dr. _____. You’re expected to call them either Mevrouw (Mrs.)/Meneer (Mr.) Last Name or by their first name. You’re also not supposed to stick around after class to ask questions because it could potentially interfere with other appointments they have–and yes, they would make appointments for ten minutes after class ends.

One of the biggest differences is the grading system. The Dutch grade on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the highest grade one could achieve and a 5 being the lowest grade you could get to pass. At first glance, this seems very easily translated to the American scale: a 9 or 10 is an A (a 90 or 100), an 8 is a B (80), a 7 is a C (70), and so on. That’s what I thought when I saw it for the first time.

I was so very, very wrong. The professor explained that the Dutch never, ever give 9s or 10s. 10s are reserved for God, and 9s are reserved for the professor. Rarely and begrudgingly, the Dutch will give an 8, but only if the only means of evaluating are multiple-choice tests and you never missed a question. It turns out that a 7, the grade I thought was a C, is actually a very desirable grade and cause for celebration!

Another change is the length of classes. Here, you take four classes in the period from January to June, but you don’t take all four at once. Most people take two classes from Feb. 6 to the beginning of April (the dates vary based on which college you’re in) and two classes from April 23 to June 30.

Classes also meet for much longer than the three hours a week they do in America. My Brazilian Film class meets from 9 to 10:45 on Mondays and from 9 to 1 on Wednesdays; my Dutch Present-day Society class meets for a similar amount of time on Wednesdays and Fridays. That’s a long time to be in class! Luckily, we have at least one five-minute break during each meeting time. Sharp-eyed readers will note that that means no classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I spend those days either studying or recovering from my hours and hours in class!



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