Alumni Spotlight: Madeline Brown

Madeline was born and raised in East Tennessee and knew she wanted to study abroad after watching her older brother transform into a confident young adult during his semester overseas.

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Why did you choose this program?

My home university had a partnership with the school’s program which was specializing in journalism, my undergraduate field of study. I’d spoken to a student who had done the program a year before and she loved it so much. I also did not want to spend much money and, because I was getting in-state tuition with scholarships, those would all transfer if I chose an exchange program. Europe was also appealing because of its geography -- I knew I would be able to see different parts of Europe because of the connectedness of the countries and ease of travel.

What did your university assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My university helped me understand the housing options available to me. They also explained where to find a cell phone, grocery store names, and the best biking routes to school (everyone bikes in the Netherlands!). Most of the choices were up to me. I chose a room from the provided list of student housing and paid for it through a partner with the school. Because I joined a cohort program, all my classes were predetermined. They did send me a transcript after the program wrapped and I think they also sent one to my home university.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Explore housing options outside of the school. I wish I had looked beyond what the school offered because I felt the value of my housing wasn’t as good as some friends who’d found apartments and roommates on their own. I also wish I had understood that haggling when buying used bikes is completely normal and expected. I could have saved some money!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average week could be classes three or four days a week. Wake up, bike to school (my commute was about a half hour but it was very enjoyable because the country is so flat) and go to class for a few hours. Have lunch on campus, maybe go to the city center for a coffee. Go home, study a bit, then have dinner with housemates. Maybe there is a field trip to nearby Dutch cities (although we did go to Berlin for a few days). Weekends are filled with house parties, short trips and exploring the city center.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that I would be lonely without anyone I knew nearby. The first few weeks were very hard and I definitely spent a lot of time crying to my mom over Skype! But, I made myself chat with my classmates and hang out in the common areas of my dorm to make friends. I am quite reserved and introverted so it was a challenge. But, it didn’t take long at all until I’d become best friends with four girls from Lithuania, Russia, Germany and Spain. In fact, six years after, I met them all in Germany for one of their weddings and traveled with them for a week as if no time had passed at all!

What's your advice to other abroad students?

I think people may worry about safety and not knowing the local language. I think, if you just have common sense and are careful, you will be fine. Everyone speaks English fluently and usually, if you need directions on the street, most everyone is happy to help if you; at least greet them with a word of Dutch and a smile.