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A scholarship to study abroad

If you want to study abroad, you can expect a mind-boggling amount of paperwork and eye-watering tuition fees. Fortunately, there are various scholarships providing much-needed financial and administrative support. Three Leiden students who have made their dreams of studying abroad come true this year with the aid of a VSBfonds scholarship talk about their experiences.

Studying abroad can cost you 10,000 euros a year in tuition fees alone, and many times that if you cross the ocean to go to a top American institution. One scholarship that allows you to recuperate some of these costs is the VSBfonds scholarship. You can apply for this grant if you are a Dutch student who wants to study abroad after your bachelor’s or master’s degree. Civic engagement and motivation are key selection criteria.

Benthe Geerdink in Paris

‘The French government has lots of provisions for students’

Benthe Geerdink (22) has just moved to Paris for the start of the two-year Master’s in Public Policy − Social Policy & Social Innovation. She will spend the first year studying at Sciences Po and the second at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE).

‘I was born and bred in Twente. With my bachelor’s degree in Governance, Economics and Development from Leiden University College in The Hague, a world was already opening up for me. What I really wanted next was to gain experience studying abroad. Being able to do this in two fantastic cities and at two prestigious universities really is a dream come true.’

Geerdink found the VSBfonds in Leiden University’s online scholarships database. ‘VSBfonds values civic engagement, which is a good fit for me and my studies. As an undergraduate, for example, I interviewed the residents of a care home in The Hague and helped the community council improve facilities for elderly residents. I also volunteered with my international study association and the nonprofit Young Lady Business Academy.’

She will use the scholarship for her tuition fee. The other costs of being a student in Paris have proved fairly low. ‘The French government has loads of provisions for students. All the museums are free and I’ve got a dirt-cheap unlimited metro card. And the international campus where I live has a restaurant that is cheaper than doing your own groceries!’

Charlie Nederpelt

‘You can’t do my master’s in the Netherlands’

Charlie Nederpelt (27) already did an internship in America during his medical degree. And this year he was accepted to the prestigious Master of Public Health at Harvard University.

‘I thought a lot about how to improve healthcare systems during my studies in Leiden. The emphasis for me is on the composition and implementation of the standard package. I’m going to spend the coming year here starting some research projects and taking courses and I also want to develop a software tool with decision factors for medical prioritisation.’

Nederpelt’s VSBfonds scholarship is going towards his tuition fee and living expenses in Boston. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to come here without the scholarship. And VSBfonds provides handy information and admin support. So it’s really useful in two ways.’

An international focus and civic engagement are a common thread running through Nederpelt’s student life. ‘Since I was an undergraduate, I’ve been working on projects on refugee access to healthcare in Greece, Madagascar and the Netherlands, as well as on nutrition and care in remote areas in Kenya, and an analysis for insurance system reform in Suriname and Kyrgyzstan.’

Nederpelt’s master’s degree is not offered in the Netherlands. ‘Studying here is a different ballgame. You’re expected to have a lot of ready knowledge and do a lot of preparation. The other students are really focused on getting high grades. I’m personally not such a fan of such a competitive environment but it does mean everyone is well prepared and comes up with interesting contributions in class.’

Zeinab Bazzi in Oxford

‘Oxford has a kind of EL CID week’

During her master’s degree in constitutional and administrative law, Zeinab Bazzi (23) kept on hearing how administrative law focuses on citizens and their access to justice. ‘But I’ve found that this principle does not always work in practice: take the child benefits scandal, for instance. I am convinced that we need social science insights to make administrative law more citizen friendly, which is why I want to study the sociology of law.’

Bazzi will begin a research master’s degree in Socio-Legal Research at Oxford University in October. This is not her first international study experience. ‘I already did an Erasmus exchange at the University of Edinburgh. What really appeals to me is how international universities in the UK are. I shared a flat in Edinburgh with Chinese, Indian and American students.’

Her scholarship is going towards her tuition fee and some of her rent in Oxford. ‘It’s a real student town, just like Leiden. It’s freshers’ week in October, a kind of EL CID meant as an introduction for all new students, including postgraduates like me. It seems like the perfect way to make friends and get to know Oxford.’


The VSBfonds scholarship (in Dutch) is for Dutch secondary vocational education (mbo), higher vocational education (hbo) and higher academic education (wo) students. The next round closes on 1 March 2024.

Text: Julie de Graaf

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