by Maggie McSorley.
Even though Maggie, an American scholarship kid in the Netherlands, would like to stay and build a future here after she graduates, it looks like she’d “be a fool to try it”. This is her story.
I am a broke 24 year old American selected to study history and sociology at University College Utrecht. How am I able to study at the most prestigious (and most expensive) bachelor’s program in the Netherlands? I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend college via a generous scholarship from Utrecht University specifically designed to attract motivated talent from outside of the EU who would not otherwise be able to attend university in their home country.
Which is why I’ve been trying for the past two years to apply myself not only at campus life and activities but into Dutch society as a whole — I really felt the need to make an effort to integrate. I looked for work and switched my Facebook language settings to Nederlandse taal. In Amsterdam, I’ve seen how the blue sky on a clear spring day compares with van Gogh’s various interpretations. I’ve gotten to attend brilliant world-class lectures and be inspired by the many innovative and talented individuals and groups at Utrecht University and elsewhere in Dutch academia. Despite being very limited on funds, I’ve managed to spend time in nine of the twelve provinces and make many wonderful friends and acquaintances throughout the whole country.
So, it should come as no surprise that even if the UU hadn’t invested over EUR 37,500 into my education in the form of scholarships and support, that I would want to stay here and build a future. However, there are financial and legal barriers that I have to face as a non-EU student and worker which, as it stands now, will force me to leave Holland against my wishes 28 days after I graduate in January.
It’s not just the sky-high tuition, ever-increasing fees for visa renewals, expensive but nearly useless mandatory health insurance and lack of free OV that have made my time in Holland more difficult and more expensive as a non-EU student. Taken together, these policies have made it impossible for me to support myself and plan for the future. I’m a scholarship kid.
I don’t have any wealthy family to fall back on, but I’ve been a hard, smart worker all of my life. The IND’s senseless aping of German employment regulations for hiring non-EU nationals include requiring employers to undergo a mandatory twelve week search period where the employer must be able to prove that no Dutch, or EU, citizens are available to take the job, despite the credentials of the non-EU job seeker. Even though I have worked in a Mexican restaurant before, have eight years of foodservice experience and found an employer willing to undergo the twelve week waiting period to file a work permit request, the IND denied my request.
I don’t know why this permit, like the three others before it, were denied. Maybe the bureaucrats in the IND think that despite my resume, a gringa like me just isn’t capable of making fajitas. Or maybe the bureaucrats think that the job would be better suited to a Dutch student. Or maybe it’s a political decision that’s been made to keep non-EU citizens from meaningfully participating in the Dutch economy and, therefore, from even coming to the Netherlands in the first place. I don’t know.
“It looks like I’d be a fool to try and make it here in the Netherlands after I graduate”
But there should be at least one person in the Dutch government that does know. And this person or persons should be very keenly aware that by maintaining this constellation of bad legislation for non-EU students, they are throwing Dutch investment in human capital to the wind. Sure, the IND offers the possibility, for the bargain price of 600 euros, to stay in the country for one year after graduation to find work without needing a permit. But even if I were to find the money for this permit, where will I live? How can I feed myself in the meantime?
So, despite three years of study in the Netherlands and close to forty thousand euros in tuition assistance from the UU, it looks like I’d be a fool to try and make it here in the Netherlands after I graduate from UCU. I don’t know what else to do at this point except say: Help! I’m lost in Oranje!