The price of Education: Welcome to the Netherlands

The price of Education: Welcome to the Netherlands

"Patricia with her work" Photo: Classmate instructed by Silke van den Broek

The Netherlands, a land of opportunity and prosperity, welcomed 42 thousand new international students in the previous school year. That is one out of every four students who started in their first semester (according to Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek). Patricia Lepascu from the humble nation of Moldova can empathize with this newcomers and the challenges they face when moving abroad. She arrived in Arnhem, the Netherlands at the onset of the pandemic to pursue her dreams in product design.

“In Moldova I already had some experience in fine arts, and my brother lived in Germany, so I looked at opportunities to move abroad as well. The Netherlands have promising design programs so that’s why I came to Arnhem” Patricia stated. “I quickly gained admission to Artez University and they also provided housing for me in Arnhem for the first year”.

In Moldova, attaining a higher education often demands a strong sense of self-reliance. In the schoolyear of 2021/22 there were only 110 Moldovan students in the Netherlands, a stark contrast to the numbers from other European countries. “My parents really supported me and my brother, but financially it was a heavy weight on my family” said Patricia. *“I tried to apply for the monthly support that Dutch and other students get since the beginning of this schoolyear, something EU-citizens probably get easier access to.” Scholarships and financial aid proved to be complex to secure, forcing Patricia to navigate the labyrinth of funding her education in Arnhem. Her application was rejected due to an incorrect residence permit type.

“Financially I’m almost entirely dependent on the support of my parents and my hardworking brother, they cover my tuition and rent expenses” Patricia explained. “I do have a part-time job next to my study but to give you a good comparison with Moldova my hourly payment is as much as my parents earn in a full day of working.” “Back in Moldova, my parents, like many others, cultivated vegetables on their own land. I brought that to the Netherlands as well with taking care of my own plants.” “My parents were compelled to sell their land to repay loans from relatives that had been used for my and my brothers study, it caused difficulties in the relationships between family members.”

“Repotting a plant” Photo: Silke van den Broek

“After the first year I had to find new housing, I had some unpleasant viewing experiences were they discriminated me based on my financial status or nationality. They called me “poor” or denied me simply because I wasn’t Dutch speaking.” Patricia said, eventually she found a new room in the city center. The rent had increased due to the energy crisis, making it more challenging for her brother who pays this for her.

“I did feel lonely quite sometimes, especially in the beginning my language skills and cultural background didn’t make it easy to form connections.” Patricia confessed. In the past years, many students experiences loneliness and stress due to the covid-19 pandemic and the high inflation. But for someone with a background in a country so different financially and culturally, Patricia remarkably adapted to her new surroundings. Her story shows the difficulties faced by international students in such a wealthy country as the Netherlands, highlighting their remarkable resilience and adaptability in overcoming these challenges.

In closing, Patricia expressed, “I’m so lucky and grateful that I’m here. The Netherlands is just as much my home as Moldova is.” Her journey is a powerful reminder that even when far from home, one can find a sense of belonging and pursue their dreams.

About The Author

Silke van den Broek

My name is Silke van den Broek, and I'm a 23-year-old student from Arnhem, the Netherlands. My primary field of study is built environment but I've taken a unique detour by enrolling in a minor course in cross-border journalism in Utrecht. With this minor I'd like to enhance my journalistic skills and gain a deeper understanding of the European Union and it's complex issues. In my free time I find joy in playing the violin and spending time in the vibrant city of Arnhem.