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Exchange semester at Tilburg University

Igor Gladyshkevich, 3rd year student of  "Business Administration" programme participated in the student mobility program at Tilburg University (Netherlands) and shares his experience.

The second semester of 2019/2020 academic year I spent in Tilburg University, the Netherlands on the academic exchange. Tilburg is a small city in the south of the Netherlands with a lot of students. Tilburg University is one of the best universities in this country in managerial and business study programs. That is why I have chosen it, and during all 5.5 months of my exchange, I have never had any regrets of my choice. For me, this period is (at least for now) the most memorable, remarkable, and beautiful time of all my student life.

The study process in this university is slightly different comparing to HSE. Although there is the same system of modules (blocks), and courses can be taught during one module or the whole semester, there are some strong differences. For example, familiar for Russian students seminars (practice classes) are absent in Tilburg University. The vast majority of classes are lectures. Many courses also have 3-5 tutorials, which are basically classes where a lecturer explains some practical parts of the course.

I was satisfied with the quality of education in Tilburg University. During one semester I got a lot of practical skills. All theoretical knowledge was supported by specific examples of its usage in our future careers. Group projects on all my courses also helped structure and frame course materials. Studies definitely were not easy, even during online learning due to the COVID-19 crisis, but the result of them, all benefits they gave to me and my future career, are impressive!

Of course, exchange semester is not only about studies! It is also a huge opportunity to find a lot of new mates, become a part of the international community, and sometimes meet people who will become your second family. That is what happened to me. Among exchange students, there were a lot of people from different parts of our world: from New Zeeland to Brazil, from South Africa to Norway. I*ESN (Erasmus Student Network) organized different events every week for exchange students with an amazing intercultural atmosphere. However, in March coronavirus crisis happened, and the majority of students finished their exchange. I decided to stay, as around 40 other exchange students. With 6 of them I lived on one floor in a student dorm in a kind of "state of siege". Our international group contained people from Turkey, Czech Republic, Brazil, and Germany. During the next 3 months we became a real family. I could not imagine that it is possible to build such relations with a huge amount of support, love, and friendship between people from various cultures. This is exactly that unique opportunity which exchange semester can give you. I hope that these relations are long-term, and there is some evidence for it. After one month from the end of our exchange program part of our team met in Prague! Besides, I want to say that all HSE students in Tilburg also were an important part of the international exchange society, which makes me proud of my university students' community.

Diving into a new culture and routine life of another country is also a significant part of academic exchange. When we are talking about the Netherlands, we always think about tulips, bikes, windmills, cheese, canals. All these things are framing life in this country. Especially bikes. They are the national means of transport. You literally use it every day in Tilburg. And this is quite beneficial in terms of ecology, your health, and your money :). The situation with canals, tulips, and windmills in Tilburg is hard (they are basically absent), but it is very easy to go to the central part of the country and see all of them. Moreover, the Netherlands is the most English-speaking country in the world between states where English is not official. Of course, this is a huge advantage for exchange students.

Another opportunity, which exchange semester gives you, is travelling. During 6 months of my stay in Europe, I have visited 23 cities in 8 countries. It was possible because of the great location of the Netherlands. Lots of cheap low-cost flights, FlixBuses, hostels, and apartments make travelling easy and inexpensive. Why travelling is important during academic exchange? They give you the possibility to see, understand, and accept different cultures, different ideas and attitudes towards our world. In my opinion, this is vital for a modern person, for a future world-class professional.

So, the recipe for the ideal academic exchange semester contains four elements: interesting and useful studies, people and intercultural relations, culture and life in a new country, travelling. I am happy that I was lucky to catch all of them, and my exchange semester was perfect. I am grateful for these opportunities to Centre for International Student Mobility of HSE University and ERASMUS+ scholarship.

If you are considering spending one semester abroad, you definitely should try it! It will give you an amazing experience, lots of positive emotions, and a powerful boost of your development as a future international professional. After all, it is not as difficult as you might think!