UM exchange programmes & Holland Scholarship

Spoiled for choice – adventures abroad

Carlijn Bruijn, a third-year International Business student, spent a year in Montreal thanks to the institutional exchange programmes of UM and backed by a Holland Scholarship. While the sojourn was obligatory for her, she would recommend the experience to anyone.

Soon to graduate International Business, student Carlijn Bruijn is Dutch but moved to Sweden for three years when she was eleven and later to Singapore for high school. She chose UM because of its Problem-Based Learning method, but also because she wanted to study in an international environment. “Of course, I’ve also made a couple of Dutch friends – but mostly I was around people from all over the world, which was very important for me.”

That is already a pretty international background; however, Carlijn was also eager to do an international exchange. “Of course I spent a lot of my life abroad but it was always with my parents. This time, I would be by myself; I would have to figure everything out on my own: an adventure! It does feel like I’ve changed. I think I’ve become a lot more confident.”

Florian Raith

Worldwide web of UM partners

Thanks to UM’s extensive network of partner universities, all students can enjoy an academic stay abroad. Depending on the study programme, there is a list of universities to choose from and an application process after having submitted a shortlist of host institutions in order of preference. While it is usually up to the student whether they take up this option or not, in Carlijn’s bachelor’s programme, a semester abroad was mandatory – not that it would have made any difference for her: “I always knew I wanted to take that opportunity.”

Carlijn took the choice very seriously. “The list we could choose from was massive, so whittling it down to six preferred choices wasn’t easy. I had to come up with some criteria for myself, because I wanted to make the right decision.” In the end, her number one choice was HEC Montréal (École des hautes études commerciales de Montréal). “French was definitely a draw. I had studied it in high school and wanted to improve. All the courses would be in English, so I was running no real risk, but I would still have the opportunity to practice French when I wanted to.”

The choice of Montreal as a city was not difficult. “The university has a very good reputation and a friend of mine was studying there, so I had some first-hand testimony about how beautiful and exciting the city is.” The application process is very straightforward. The three spots available for HEC were awarded based on GPA scores. Naturally, Carlijn was delighted to be selected for her first choice university. However, she’s also pragmatic about it: “You create your own experience. If you’re open and you make an effort to meet people and explore the city and surroundings, you will have an amazing time, no matter where.”

Bonding over a shared adventure

The start though, was not overly promising. “Because of the pandemic, the welcome events were cancelled and the first month we were in lockdown… But once that was over, we got to explore the city!” Carlijn made new friends quickly and effortlessly. “There was a big group of exchange students and a lot of events. I was meeting new people until the last day. It feels like I’ve made friends very quickly; maybe you bond more because it’s a distinct chapter in your life that you’re experiencing together.”

On top of the regular benefits of an exchange programmes, chiefly being able to rely on established institutional ties and only having to pay the UM tuition fees rather than the (often significantly higher) fees of the host institution, Carlijn also received a Holland Scholarship, a one-off payment of currently € 1,250. This scheme by the Dutch Ministry of Education Culture and Science together with Dutch research universities and universities of applied sciences supports students who want to study, do an internship or conduct research outside of the European Economic Area.

Grateful for the opportunity

Montreal was what she hoped it would be – although one of the most predictable aspects was also one of the most striking: “It’s incredible how harsh the winters are!” The climate couldn’t keep her inside though and she explored the province Quebec and Montreal itself of course. “I particularly liked Mount Royal [a rock hill in the city] – I must have climbed it more than 30 times to see sunrises and sunsets.”

Carlijn is currently doing an internship for a multinational food company while waiting for her official graduation. She is already considering visiting some of her new friends, from Chile to Iceland. “We have those amazing memories to look back on together, from picnics, to doing snow angels in the night to eating poutine [a Québécois delicacy – in the broadest sense of the term – based on fries, cheese curds and gravy].”

Since the exchange was such a formative episode for minimal administrative and financial effort, Carlijn would recommend it to anyone. “I’ve grown so much, I’ve had fantastic experiences and made friends for life – I’m really grateful for this opportunity.”

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