Disorganization Killed The Student: Loved the People Hated the Program June 06, 2017

By (Anonymous University) - abroad from 01/30/2017 to 05/12/2017 with

SIT Study Abroad: Netherlands - International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was worthwhile because of the people but academically it was the worst experience of college thus far.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The program's instructions were confusing per each assignment. Multiple assignments were regraded after grades were administered with different standards than what had been dictated to us. Individuals grading the papers/assignments were not all professors, some were not educators/were only doing activist work in the field they lectured in. Improvement for grades was limited as there was little consistency in the person grading between assignments. Would receive positive feedback on assignment and still only had B's throughout the entire semester. Held the attitude that, as American students who are hyper-focused on grades, that the program should provide less guidance than we (repeatedly) asked for because they were "not there to hold our hands" (comment came in post-semester debrief session in which multiple students expressed frustration about the lack of clarity in assignments and grading and asked that, in the future, examples of work/more explicit instructions from individual graders could be provided). The lecturers themselves were interesting but the schedule made it so that they only saw us a few times, never multiple days in a row, which made it difficult to make any connection with the lecturers/remember their previous discussions with us. Mostly, it felt like there was no room for growth but at the same time like we were constantly being lectured about how upset we were about our grades just because we were American. Like, absolutely, students from American universities often feel this way (compared to folks internationally) but just because you tell this to students doesn't mean that their grades don't still affect them and that they can just, switch off that particular concern. Also, the staff of the program is too small for 25 people. With two main administrators (who were incredibly nice and tried their best) any time someone was sick or took a vacation, the office was immediately short staffed and usually ineffective. They need to either accept fewer students or hire another person to work more directly with the students. Both administrators took a week off during the ISP period, so like, there was reduced face-time with anyone you wanted to ask a question to.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration was incredibly caring and worked tirelessly to make our experience positive, but they are understaffed and disorganized, which was incredibly frustrating and made the program more difficult to enjoy. As people, they are fantastic and amazing, but in terms of the on-site administration, it hindered the program. They were very easy to talk to, in terms of complaints and concerns, which really saved my impression of them.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Housing itself was very nice, but overall the vetting process for hosts seemed lacking. For a program about sexuality and gender, the host I was paired with knew nothing about the content, repeatedly made transphobic comments, exposed previous information about students (based on the host's assumption that the student was trans) and, additionally, made racist comments about Moroccans living in the Netherlands, which is a place that the program visits. These comments were not a one-off instance, and it seems like our living arrangement was only safe/positive because I was white and cis and not openly queer presenting in any way.

* Food:

The food was fine, like, nothing to write home about but not a deterant either.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Very little, you don't interact with anyone besides the other American students and your host, if you like them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

n/a -- cannot talk about health care/didn't have experience

* Safety:

Safety was fine!!! No concerns.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I talked a lot about it in the academic part, but like, the people were the best part of this program and while I love them so much, I wouldn't do the academic aspect again. I feel that I learned very little and struggled with the lack of, well, any structure in the assignment aspect of the program.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I would say you spend close to $100 a week on average.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Cook all of your own meals @ an airbnb while traveling out of your home country if possible.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Conversational Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Dutch is a joke, on the program. The fact that they make you take the class is a waste of time.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The people
* What could be improved?
  • The grading structure
  • Organization
  • Respect when the students are telling you what you're doing isn't working
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It's super disorganized and they're honestly condescending when you talk to them about grading concerns