Whether it’s high school, a bachelors, or a masters degree, the dreaded question facing every final year student is What Next. What will you do next year; in your life, in your studies, and beyond? In the game of life, what will be your next move? For a rare few this question is met with absolute certainty of where they want to go and who they want to be. But for most there is a fear of not knowing, of the uncertainty that lies ahead. Even if you know what you want to do, will it be possible? Or will you be prevented by finances, by abilities, or by the gatekeepers that stand in the way. To make matters worse, not only are we asked these questions by our families and friends but also by people we barely know. It seems that as soon as anyone you’re talking to finds out that it’s the final year of your studies, they ask… you guessed it- what next?
Despite the irritating nature of this question, I figured I can hardly write a blog about it without giving you an attempt at my answer, so here goes.
When I first started at Utrecht University, I was adamant that I would not go on to do a masters degree. A bachelors had been enough for both of my older sisters so why wouldn’t it be for me? I soon learned of the culture in the Netherlands that makes masters much more popular and even necessary for many jobs. For those unfamiliar with the Dutch system, a bachelors degree at a University of Applied Sciences (kind of like the old polytechnic universities of the UK) takes four years, and a bachelors degree at a Research University takes only three, it is often assumed that your three years are made up to four with a one year master programme. Furthermore, more and more people are doing masters degrees which makes those without one struggle when looking for jobs in the increasingly competitive labour market. The sentiment is something of ‘since a bachelors degree in anything is so broad, how can one expect to be qualified for any particular profession?’ So, I came to the realisation that if I want to stay and work in the Netherlands (which I think I might) then a masters degree it shall be (side note: I’m also very aware that I am not ready to be a ‘real person’ and go into the world of work so this seems like a good way of prolonging that inevitability).
I had also considered taking a gap year, but the risk of Brexit meaning that UK students end up being classed as ‘international’ students rather than ‘EU or EEA’ students represents about €15,000. Quite an expensive gap year if you ask me. Therefore, it seems to make more sense not to take the risk and to go straight into a masters in September (if possible).
Once I decided to do a masters, and when, the only decisions I had left to make were where, and, in what. Broadly the where is the Netherlands, and the what is in business (probably Marketing). I have grown very fond of this country and in particular its people. I am growing more comfortable with the language, although my speaking is still pretty poor. And I am not yet ready to leave the friends I have made here and the life I have built. Besides this, there are many great universities here where it costs a fraction of the price to study. Staying in Utrecht would be a dream but having lived here for two and a half years now, a new adventure would be welcomed, which will likely either be in Rotterdam or Amsterdam.
I won’t bore you with the specifics of the decisions but I will say that I am very excited that as long as I am offered a place, I will be staying in the Netherlands for at least another academic year, and that ruthgoesdutch will continue.
And for lack of a better word of encouragement, when it comes to what’s next, as my father has often told me- make a decision, even if it’s the wrong one.