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Opening Doors for Science Students to Study Abroad in Amsterdam

Published: November 1, 2016

Opening Doors for Science Students to Study Abroad in Amsterdam

On the campus of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, or VU Amsterdam, host university of the new ACM off-campus study program.

ACM will have more study away options for students majoring in the sciences next fall when the newest consortial program opens in collaboration with a top European university.

The Amsterdam: Sciences, Global Health, & Interdisciplinary Studies at VU Amsterdam program will offer students the experience of taking classes and living in university residences alongside Dutch and other international students, choosing among 300 elective courses taught in English, and learning about Dutch culture in an exciting, multicultural city.

Science curriculum excels at VU Amsterdam

ACM’s partner, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam or VU Amsterdam, has an international reputation for strong science programs, particularly in global health, biomedicine, and neuroscience.

“I think neuroscience could end up being something this program can really promote,” said Mark Levandoski, a chemistry professor at Grinnell College whose research and much of his teaching focus on neuroscience. “They have top-flight research going on there, and the kinds of courses they offer sound appropriate for our undergraduates.”

Earlier this year, he visited VU Amsterdam as a member of an ACM program site selection delegation for the new program. During the visit they met with faculty and students, including the head of the undergraduate neuroscience program at VU, whom Levandoski knows through international conferences.

He’s also heard about the university from one of his research students at Grinnell, who studied at VU Amsterdam last fall. “She had a fantastic time, learned well, and the classes were challenging,” Levandoski said. She also was able to take a couple of courses that interested her but are not offered at Grinnell.

Wide range of courses taught in English

Participants in the ACM program will be able to select individual courses at VU Amsterdam or pursue an established minor, or set of courses in a specific area. The university offers 10 minors in the natural sciences, as well as a wide range of courses in interdisciplinary studies and in fields across the social sciences, humanities, sciences, business, and law.

Typically, ACM students will take four elective courses and a required course related to Dutch language and culture or history. There’s also an option to pursue an independent study project supervised by the program’s visiting faculty director, either in place of one of the electives or as a sixth course.

Connecting with the global scientific community

Levandoski, who serves as the advisor at Grinnell for two off-campus study programs in Europe and has taught in Denmark as a visiting professor, makes a point of encouraging science students to study away.

As with all students, he said, it helps them expand their horizons and gain broader access to the world. For students in the sciences, study abroad is also an opportunity to make contacts and begin to develop their personal networks, which will be valuable for their careers in the increasingly global scientific community.

“I think it would be better if more US students can go and have an international experience as part of their undergraduate science training,” he said, “and then come back with the understanding that science really is international and that we need more international collaboration.”


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