Written by Markus
Source: https://unsplash.com/ (copyright free)
Choosing what is next in your teenager’s life
My daughter is now 17 years old.
The normal path in the Netherlands is to complete high school before choosing what to study. Simply put, this can be on 3 levels, with the highest level giving you access to obtaining your masters. The middle one steers towards a bachelor degree. And the lowest one focuses on performing a job specific study, for example to become a certified plumber.
Assuming the path towards masters, straight after high school, students start their 4 to 5 years masters study in their field of choice.
My daughter did not do high school in the Netherlands. She grew up in Singapore and followed the British (Cambridge) school system, completing her O-levels in the express system. So when arriving in the Netherlands, we had 2 choices. First option is to continue in the British system, but that largely rules out access to the normal local Dutch universities and limits choices to studying in Britain or international universities in the Netherlands.
Other option would be to have her stream into the regular local high school system. But seen she does not speak Dutch, it would mean losing a year or more to focus on learning proper Dutch.
We chose for option 1, placing her at the British School the Netherlands, where she is now completing her A-levels. This is a private school for “international” kids, being foreign kids staying in the Netherlands or Dutch kids who grew up abroad. At this school she reached the stage where she needs to decide what and where she is planning to study. Not in general terms. She needs to be specific.
So this process has started and several times I was updated by my daughter that this was going well. But I of course wanted to know what was being chosen. She told me about 2 paths: Studying Pharmacy in the Netherlands, but for that she needs Physics what she doesn’t have, so once done with her A-levels, she was planning to do some self-study and do a separate GSCE exam. Second option was to do pre-med at Cambridge in the UK.
Though it sounds nice, I was shocked. Self-study to catch up on years of Physics classes? Or go to Cambridge as international boarding student and spend at least thousands of euros per month? Neither is going to work. In a not very tactful way, I shared my opinion resulting in some drama.
Not sure what to do, during a work meeting, I shared my story with the boss of my boss. And I’m happy I did so as I found he, though two years ahead, has struggled through the exact same problem, eg having a daughter that does not fit in the regular local education system, yet is Dutch. I found he has spent years finding the best solution for his situation.
He has sent his daughter to EUC (https://www.eur.nl/en/euc) where she started this year. Here pre-med can be done, but also other interesting healthcare related subjects. It is part of the Erasmus University, being one of the best performing universities in the Netherlands. It fully caters to students coming from British school systems and best of all: it is only a 30 minute drive from where we live. And seen my daughter is Dutch, a large part of the study fees will be subsidized.
We arranged that my daughter could meet his daughter and is shown around at the Erasmus University and the dormitories. And that she did, excited to take a sneak preview of her future life. The fear of low-end bunkbeds was quickly taken away:
So each student gets a studio serviced apartment with their own bedroom, shower, kitchen and so on. And this located at a prime location in Rotterdam central. To me it felt like a 4 star hotel.
And then the school and classes itself seem great as well, for example classes are no bigger than 12 students.
The study rooms are great, where you are submerged in centuries of studying.
Once my daughter saw this, the drama stopped immediately. Within minutes she could see herself living and studying with her classmates, while getting the first peeks into adulthood. Living by herself in a big city, yet live only 30 minutes away from me. Studying at a famous university that caters to her background, but still be in the Netherlands. It all sounds great.
So now that she knows what she is studying for as the entry requirements and therefore she is now clear: she needs to get an A on all her subjects. And that means, work now and enjoy later. Suddenly I notice she, once again, is fully focused on delivering results, and doing this fully motivated as she once again has a clear goal. Of course she is sad that her dream, that is becoming reality for quite a few of her classmates, of going to world famous universities such as Cambridge or Oxford, is off the table, but she can also understand that if the funding is not there, she will get stuck half way.
I am so happy that, during a random work meeting, we decided to start talking about this. And I’m super surprised to find someone who just went through the exact same process with the exact same background and invested a lot of time to find the right solution. It’s just bizarre how a random chit-chat results into making a life changing choice. As the boss of my boss told me: “This kind of thing happens a lot in your life. The trick is to recognize when this is happening”. I believe he’s right as I now have a motivated daughter who’s going to a university that she likes, but is still affordable. And though this place is not easy to get into, she now has a buddy who is 2 years ahead of her and who will help her in any way she can. It all came together at just the right time and place.
I’m so happy that she’s on the right track again and found the right network to stay on that path. But now enough talking, it’s time to study again….