So as promised, this post will be about the happenings of the introduction week and the PBL system, which could be interesting and/or helpful for potential future students. 🙂
So, let’s start at the beginning.
There were actually two introduction events for the incoming students: the official (and compulsory) university intro days and the intro week organized by ISN (which is like ESN but for all internationals rather than only for erasmus students).
From the 29th August until the 4th September, students were encouraged to take part in many activities organized by the university and ISN. Sadly, I still had an exam to take back at my home University in Germany, and I missed most of the programs (I was particularly devastated concerning the pubcrawl).
ON TUESDAY, the official introduction days began. It was really impressive, how well prepared the university was: upon arriving, we all registered and got a little envelope with the student ID, the certificate of arrival and a small card with all necessary phone numbers in case of emergency. Students who requested special documents (e.g. for BAföG), found these inside the envelopes as well. Afterwards we all took seats in a big lecture hall, and found a little orange messenger bag with the university logo waiting for each student, which contained a few very useful guides (how to connect to the wifi, how to use printers at the uni, some documents on PBL and essay writing) and a pre-paid sim card! This was a very thoughtful and pleasant surprise (but also I really wish I hadn’t already bough a sim card two days prior to that). In the following two hours, we were greeted by the decan, were told about the learning system and how we would need to work to achieve our goals, listened to the police on general rules and got a taste of the Dutch culture. All in all those lectures were all pretty entertaining (especially one prof, he made me laugh so hard I nearly cried), but slowly we all got quite hungry. After the lectures, we were randomly grouped and headed to the cafeteria to have lunch (praise the Lord for that). After inhaling our food, we got to know each other better and we embarked upon our joyous journey together to discover the city center and the other uni buildings, including the library. In the evening, I was keen to join my fellow exchange students on the international night. This party takes place every Thursday, actually, and the bar is very close to the guest house (and luckily, to our flat). The place isn’t so spacious, so it was just crammed, and half the students were just standing in front of it rather than going inside. Still it was nice evening.
ON FRIDAY, we stayed in the groups from the day before, and we were lectured on PBL or problem based learning. This is a system that is applied to most of the courses (save for those needing a more mathematical approach). In this system, instead of participating passively in lectures, students are encouraged to engage themselves and learn from each other, under a vague guidance from the professor and tutors. The courses consist of only one or two lectures, and a lots of problem sessions. Normally, these sessions take place twice a week. You need to prepare for the first appointment by reading certain articles or chapters from a book. Then you get a problem or case study and talk it through during the session. Then you will need to do even more reading until the second session to have a solution outline for the given problem. It is expected to spend more or less 20 hours per week on one course (you can take 2 courses per period at most, which is not so surprising anymore after you get that piece of information), and to work closely with your teammates. This way of learning fosters creativity and challenges your intelligence: you should read books, articles and scientific papers just for the sake of knowledge, and at the end, there is no right or wrong answer, but there are several possible ways to approach and solve a conflict. Participation is compulsory, for obvious reasons. The degree of engagement is also graded. Besides this, you often need to write some essays or hold presentations. Your final grade is made up of all those components together.
About grading: there is a scale of 1.0 to 10, based on which every student is rated. You pass with an 5.5. On the other hand, it was made clear that you basically can never get a 10 or a 9, and you need to be very brilliant and do your very best work to get an 8. In the Netherlands, grades don’t really matter (or so I’ve heard): it is more important to have practical knowledge and experience, and as long as you fulfill those criteria, you are fine with just a passing grade. As happy as I am for the Dutchies, I need good grades in Germany (e.g. for Master studies application), so the grading system makes me feel kind of uneasy, again, for obvious reasons.
Long story short, our sample PBL session went a bit awkwardly. Since nobody has a similar system at their home unis, none of us was really confortable with discussing something completely and on our own, but this will definitely (hopefully?) get better after a few sessions and the group will slowly change into a team.
After all the hard work we did that morning, we enjoyed our well-deserved little student party in the afternoon. We had beer, wine (perfect excuse for daytime drinking), french fries, music, and a lots of fun people, so it was a very enjoyable little gathering. That was it for me on Friday. I went home after the student party and enjoyed a good book and a big mug of hot tea in the company of my little dog, of course. 🙂
ON SATURDAY, there were several programs organized by ISN, for example a bike workshop and a second-hand clothes sale with breakfast, but I decided not to attend them and raher do something individually. So I took my dog and boyfriend and the three of us discovered the whole city and until we were completely exhausted from the walking. I managed to get some last-minute tickets for the ISN Kick-off party for the same evening. Before going to the party, we went over to some of my new acquintances, and then headed to the party together. I had a great night with lots of dancing, I actually ended up going to bed at 5 in the morning.
Therefore, I have nothing to tell you about my Sunday, since I slept throughthe whole day. And let me tell you, it was great!