7 weeks in Asia for bachelor’s students

Are you a second- or third-year bachelor’s student and used to juggling many things alongside your studies? Are you interested in Asia, Dutch speaking and not scared to step outside your comfort zone? Then the Netherlands Asia Honours Summer School might be for you. Applications can be submitted between 1 December 2019 and 8 January 2020. “Just do it!” say two UM students who followed the programme before. “It really expands your frame of reference.”

It was on Facebook that Oscar Vranken and Narcis Serafras first came across the Netherlands Asia Honours Summer School (NAHSS) – and from the photos, it was clear that the participants had had a great time. At first Oscar, at the time of the interview in his fourth year of Dutch Law, assumed it wasn’t for law students.

Narcis (pictured right), at the time of the conversation a fourth-year medical student, figured she wouldn’t make it through the selection process for a national honours programme. But they did, and so they had an unforgettable experience. Or as Oscar puts it: “You get on the train to Schiphol, and seven weeks later you’re back in the Netherlands gradually processing the whole experience. And you think: ‘WOW!’”

Femke Kools

Both students are very active alongside their studies. They took part in a UM honours programme, spent a year on a board, held side jobs in the hospital or at the university, and worked for their respective study associations. “But when you meet the hundred other students during the kick-off weekend, that barely stands out”, Narcis says. “One student was the chair of the local youth branch of a political party; another had already founded a company that sold trees. It was very inspiring.”

Oscar Vranken

One of the special features of the NAHSS is that various multinationals and Dutch ministries offer projects for the participants to choose from. Each project is linked to a city: Beijing, Chengdu or Shenzhen. The participants spend part of the week following the summer school of the university in their chosen city, in addition to working on the project and going on excursions around the country. “You have to write essays, prepare presentations; you have responsibilities towards the company”, Oscar explains. “So it comes in handy if you’re used to juggling lots of different things at home.”

With so many good memories and enriching experiences, the pair have trouble choosing just one highlight. Oscar: “I shared a room with an Afghan law student from Groningen. That in itself was a very interesting cultural exchange.” Narcis: “You get to know many Dutch students from the rest of the country and from different study programmes. I’m still in touch with several of them. That kind of thing is very valuable for your network later. It’s not something you should do purely to pimp your CV, but it certainly doesn’t look bad on there.” Oscar: “I did a project for ABN AMRO. If I want to find an internship, I can easily give my mentor a call.”

Asian edge
Both look back with enthusiasm on the whole experience, which vastly expanded their frame of reference. “You realise that things are very different elsewhere”, says Oscar. “Society there is organised much more strictly than here. The government makes a 30 year plan; it’s very interesting to see. I was born and raised in Limburg, and Dutch Law is obviously quite focused on the Netherlands. This has given me an extra edge – an Asian edge. China is growing rapidly and I think having some affinity with it is going to be of great added value.”

Tips for UM students
What advice do they have for interested Maastricht students? Narcis: “Just do it! Dare to step outside your comfort zone and start working on your application.” Oscar: “And don’t be too modest. Don’t think: I’m doing pretty well here in my faculty, but surely not well enough for a national honours programme. Just give it a try. The thousand euros or so that you have to put in yourself is nothing compared to what you get in return.”

Who can join?
The registration criteria are available at the NAHSS website. Applications are encouraged from second- or third-year students (Dutch speaking) with an excellent track record, demonstrated by means of an honours programme, high grades or extracurricular activities. Participants pay a fee of €1,150; the NAHSS then organises the flights to and from the locations in Asia, the seven-week stay, and the summer schools, buddy programme, project supervision, and company visits and training sessions.

What is the NAHSS?
The NAHSS is a collaboration between all Dutch universities, four ministries and 13 Dutch and Chinese multinationals. The objective is to strengthen links between the Netherlands and Asia. Every year the NAHSS offers 100 excellent students from all disciplines and universities the chance to travel to Beijing, Chengdu of Shenzhen, where they follow a summer school at a top university, visit interesting companies and work on a project for a leading multinational. The programme concludes with the NAHSS business week in Shanghai.

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