My name Kristiina Sau and I am currently studying hospitality in NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. I graduated Gymnasium in Paide in 2014 and then headed to study tailoring at the Tallinn Industrial Centre (Tallinna Tööstushardiduskeskus). However I always knew I wanted to go university at one point. I enjoyed my two years in Tallinn but I was ambitious for more so I attended an event with many foreign universities. The hotelschool in the Hague caught my eye as I found that I had many traits suitable for hospitality. I wanted to study something that inolved learned new languages, getting to know new cultures, travelling as well as obtain a practical bachelor’s degree.
However as part of my research I found out that NHL Stenden, which was then known as Stenden University of Applied Sciences would be better for me as it had a wonderful reputation as well as a international student friendly application progress. I decided to apply in the middle of June and was accepted in the middle of July. At that point I had already moved to the Netherlands and lived with the family of my Dutch boyfriend. We were frantically looking for housing as my boyfriend had been trying to find accommodation since January that year with no luck. Originally, because he studies in Groningen we considered moving there, but finding housing was very difficult. Besides that, I was not fond of the idea of working 52 hours a month during the first year of my study as that is a requirement to get a student OV/ transport card for European international students. Therefore, we shifted out focus to Leeuwarden and contacted the Rots vast housing group. After exploring three apartments we found our ideal place and luckily the owner believed in us. This began our journey in Leeuwarden and my journey in NHL Stenden.
The NHL Stenden experience began with a study start week at the last week of August where I was introduced to a group of about 10 students who I was going to spend the next two and a half months with. The week passed fast as it was very full of activities such as sports, going out at night time as well as listening to a stand up comedian making fun of the Netherlands. We then began classes which were divided into three different types. We had lectures, workshops and problem based learning (PBL). I really enjoyed PBL as we had a 500 page book to go through but by discussing theories and coming up with questions in a small group we studied the book without feeling overwhelmed. I was also shocked by how much free time we had, as each day we only had about 4 hours of classes and the rest was all self-study time. In the Estonian system we had gone to school from approximately 8:00 to 15:00, so this was a big shift. This time was meant for self-study. Naturally, some of it went to preparing for classes, but most of it I was not sure what to do with. Thinking back now, I definitely would have had time to work together with school as well, which can be great for students who want to be more self-sufficient. I ended up working for the ambassadors and studying Dutch independently alongside with hobbies like tailoring vintage clothes. Overall, the first year of my study went quite fast, I would say the most memorable times were when I was in practise, which in NHL Stenden means working in the Stenden hotel, restaurant and other food and beverages or rooms division related departments. I went to NHL Stenden with no previous experience working in a hotel so this really opened my eyes about what it is actually like. It was also a great way to choose a department for my future internship. Like with many other universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands, most studies are 4 years long with half to one year dedicated to an internship. I used the knowledge that I gathered from working at the hotel to decide that I was quite interested in the Front Office work, which was a big step from not knowing what to study to deciding in which department I would like to work in a hotel.
Now I am in my third year of International Hospitality Management studies and have become a senior ambassador of NHL Stenden. I am able to communicate in Dutch and have chats with my neighbours and with the families of my Dutch friends. Besides exploring the Netherlands, I have also studied in China for two and a half months. I am currently looking for internship opportunities which could potentially lead me back to China. I am amazed by how far I have come in just two and a half years. I recently had a conversation with one my very good friends from Estonia and I realised how self aware I had become about the behaviours of people from different cultures and how they perceive things. I have made friends from all over the globe going from China to Bulgaria to Italy to the Netherlands. I was recently asked whether I would recommend my study to others and to that I said – absolutely. It is not possible to describe all of the details of why I would do so, but people can already see it from my behaviour, from the various languages I can speak and from the insight I have into different cultures. Studying in NHL Stenden has made me a better rounded person and I am glad to have grown up in such an international enviornment as my birthday is approaching. I never imagined I would be inviting so many different nationalities to this event having lived in a small town in Estonia. I am excited for what the future brings and will continue grasping onto opportunities that allow me to become a true professional in my field.
PS! Read more about my studies in China HERE