Putting The "Study" in "Study Abroad"

Headshot of Kim Blanco.
Kimberly Blanco
May 7, 2023
A picture taken of a friend and I after finishing class in the IES center.

Before studying abroad, I really had no idea what to expect as far as classes, academics, and grades. All of my friends who had studied abroad in the past had different experiences with this based on their locations, so I pretty much went into it blindly. Read along if you want to hear some uncensored information about the classes abroad–specifically the academics in Amsterdam where I am studying!

To be honest, just based on what I’ve heard from other people I expected the classes while studying abroad to be somewhat of a joke and super easy. I have found that this is certainly not the case, at least at my university. The classes that I have been taking here are very much the real deal, and require studying and hard work just like the classes at my home university do. It is really important to do research on the academics in the location in which you wish to study abroad so that you are prepared for this!

In the Netherlands specifically, semesters are split into two periods, and grading is done on a 10 point scale, with 10 being the highest. At first, I had a very difficult time adjusting to this system, because it is very different from anything I have ever experienced at home. I would be lying if I said that now nearing the end of my program I have become fully adjusted, because there are still some times when the Dutch academic system confuses me. At first, I was definitely discouraged by the fact that I was having trouble with this, but I have since learned that starting a new chapter in a foreign country while also taking college courses is not an easy thing, and that it is okay to be confused!

Something else that I found to be different between my classes abroad and my classes at my home university is the work load. At home, I am used to having several homework assignments and other things that will count in the calculation of my grade for the course, whereas in Amsterdam, this is not the case. I have found that in a majority of my courses abroad, the “homework” is all lengthy readings, with no requirement for any sort of submission of work or proof that it has been done. Consequently, the final grades in the courses are usually based on either one grade (the final) or a very small amount of grades, which can be stressful. At first, when I saw that the bulk of the “work” I had to do for my classes was reading, I was overjoyed because I figured it wouldn’t be super important to the course. I quickly learned that this is not the case, and that without having done the readings, understanding the class material is nearly impossible! While having multiple homework assignments can be annoying and tedious at times, it does help to keep me on track.   

Something that I have learned this semester is that it is okay to miss out on some travel weekends if you know that you have a lot of work to get done and/or exams to study for! Everyone who is studying abroad definitely wants to get the most out of the experience and see the most spots in Europe, but it is still important to prioritize your academics.

I hope that this blog answered some of your questions about academics abroad, and made you realize the importance of doing some research beforehand!


More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs
Headshot of Kim Blanco.

Kimberly Blanco

Hi, I'm Kim! I truly feel that traveling is important in order to gain new experiences that can be used to ensure a successful professional life and personal life. Amsterdam is somewhere that I have never traveled before, so I was really excited when I saw that it was an option for me! Being able to travel around Europe while I am there seems super fun to me and this experience will definitely be one that I cherish forever! In my future, I hope to eventually work as a criminal psychologist. A fun fact about me is that I have been dancing since I was 2 years old and I am currently a part of a club dance team at Penn State University!

2023 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
Criminal Studies
Explore Blogs