At Glendon, I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Linguistics and Language studies.
At Utrecht University, I’m taking courses at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, with an emphasis on Psychology.
The Academic Year
At York University – Glendon, the school year is divided into 2 semesters:
- Fall Semester: runs from September to December
- Winter Semester: runs from January to April
At Utrecht University —- and I *assume* that this is the standard for all Dutch universities but don’t quote me on this —- they divide the school year into 4 blocks as follows:
- Block 1: runs from September to November
- Block 2: runs from November to February
- Block 3: runs from February to March
- Block 4: runs from April to July
Back home, I’d be taking 4 or 5 courses at the same time in one semester, while at Utrecht, I’m taking a total of 4 courses in one semester, but only 2 courses at a time, which is where the blocks come in.
If that didn’t make sense, here are the classes that I’m taking this Spring Semester:
- Topical Issues in Health Psychology (Block 3)
- Adolescent Development (Block 3)
- Health in Society (Block 4)
- International Perspectives Education (Block 4)
So instead of juggling all 4 courses at once as I would normally would at York, I’m only taking 2 at a time, which allows me to focus on both subjects in more depth instead of spreading myself thin, which tends to happen when you’re juggling many things at once. The only thing is that because each block only runs for 2 and a half months, that means courses run very fast.
I already had an exam worth 25% of my mark on the 3rd week, to put things in perspective. It really depends on what kind of learner you are. If you’re a fast learner and prefer to only focus your attention to a few subjects at a time, as opposed to taking a whole bunch of courses but are more spread out time-wise, then Utrecht University’s system might work well for you.
The Grading System
Utrecht University uses a 10-point grading system. 1, being the lowest, and 10 being the highest. Don’t expect to receive 9’s and 10’s though because they almost never give those out. Unless you’re taking a multiple-choice exam and happen to ace it, which is entirely possible if you’re a smarty-pants. Other than that, aim lower sis. Ouch, I know.
Grade inflation isn’t really a thing here. Apparently, not only are the Dutch stingy with their money but also when it comes to giving away marks *snickers*.
“10 is for God”
I was told during Orientation Day that this goes back to the country’s Protestant history, where they believed that only God could achieve perfection. Since a 10 is equivalent to being perfect, they deemed it an insult to compare a mere mortal to God by giving them a 10 on their essay…sorry, mortals.
“9 is for the Master”
The same idea goes for getting 9’s. Right after God comes the teacher (aka the master).
As you can see, it’s better to aim for marks between the 6-8 range so you’re not disappointed. I’ve actually come to appreciate this. I think it takes away a lot of pressure from being perfect and puts more emphasis on learning the material as opposed to obsessing over your marks.
The Class Schedule
At York University – Glendon, A 3-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial once a week is usually the norm for most courses. I’ve also taken a class at Keele that ran twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) but each class was only 1 hour and a half.
At Utrecht University, we run on time slots:
When making your schedule, you pick a time slot.
In my case, my Adolescent Development class is in time slot D (Wednesday afternoons and Fridays) while my Health Psychology class is in time slot B (Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoons).
*This does NOT mean that I have Adolescent Development from 1 pm until 7pm on Wednesdays and that I have it the entire day on Fridays (same goes for my Health Psychology class) because that would be *ridiculously and unbelievably* long. It only means that the lecturer has the flexibility of running a class anytime, as long as it’s within its corresponding time slot. Naturally, this means that when picking your courses, make sure that they’re not in the same time slot!!!
My weekly schedule normally looks like this:
Notice how my classes only run for 1 hour and 45 minutes? Oh, AND we also have 10-15 minute breaks in the middle of that! Not too shabby huh? I’d say it’s a good deal.
And there you have it! Now you know all about how Dutch universities work! At first, it can be hard to get used to a new way of doing things, but I can assure you that you really just have to give it time, and before you know it, you’ll wonder how you ever did it any other way!