Q & A: Netherlands Fellowship Program (NFP)

Here are the straightforward answers to questions I’ve been getting regarding my scholarship in The Netherlands. I’d gladly answer more if you ask more. If you still can’t believe how seemingly easy things have been for me, try it out yourself because that’s the only way for you to know and see. And read Enid’s article about her scholarship, it is very, very useful. She not only laid down clearly her application process for a short course in The Netherlands, but she also wrote useful tips on how to get the right attitude and carry on with the process like a pro.

With some of my Filipino batchmates in ISS at Den Haag’s Chinatown (naturally!)

1. How long is the application process?
> I sent my complete ISS application via courier in September 2009, got the acceptance letter in the mailbox (snail mail) in December 2009. I applied for the scholarship end of January 2010, got the acceptance letter end of May 2010.
2. Did you take TOEFL/IELTS?
> No. I provided an “English as a Medium of Instruction” certificate that I asked (and paid for) from the UP registrar. Ask the school you’re applying to if they accept this in lieu of TOEFL/IELTS, sometimes they post it on the website so pay attention. You don’t want to write an email only to be told the information is on the site, you would not want to leave an impression to the school’s admission that you are not paying attention. If it’s not on their website, ask by sending an email to the admission’s office. Again, you wouldn’t want to get a reply that you have to contact the right department. I didn’t have to ask because it was written on the ISS website that I can provide this English as a medium of instruction certificate. In fact, I didn’t take any test. Among the basic requirements (True Copy of Grades, College Diploma, etc.), ISS application requires: a personal essay and recommendation letters from 3 people. I asked a recommendation from my current and former employers, and from a college professor I shortly worked with after graduating from college.
3. What was your undergrad course?
> BS Community Development. I graduated in 2005 from UP Diliman, College of Social Work & Community Development. My grades were average, I worked as a student research assistant for a year while studying.
4. What’s your work background?
> I was a Program Officer of SEDPI for 3 years before doing my master’s. SEDPI is a microfinance consulting organization based in Quezon City, Philippines. Most master’s and scholarship programs require a relevant work experience. Read the requirements carefully and/or ask, some schools accept fresh graduates. I do know that in my program (PPM), everyone had a relevant experience before coming to ISS.
5. Did you work while doing your master’s degree?
> Yes. By June 2011, we ended our class sessions to start writing our thesis full time. I decided to apply for internships, I searched and applied online. By August 2010, I was working as an intern in a Dutch impact investment company.  I was receiving 300 euros a month for 3 days/week of work. I stopped working in November 2011 to allot time to finish my thesis. You can definitely work legally as a student in The Netherlands while there. I know fellow students who made money babysitting, working in restaurants & cafes, etc.
6. Was the MA program difficult?
> No. Living in The Netherlands all by myself for 15 months was most difficult. I’ve never been alone and never felt so alone in my entire life! And how about the rainy, super cold, windy weather in Dutchlandia? Ahhh you’ll get by with a lot of traveling to nearby European countries.
7. How long did your scholarship last?
> My study lasted 15 months and the scholarship covered the entire duration of my course. School started September 6, 2010 and I graduated December 16, 2011. The scholarship covered all my expenses, from Visa application, to roundtrip tickets, to airport fees, to my train ticket from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to my dormitory in Den Haag, it included my insurance, too. The school (ISS) pre-arranged the students’ accommodation. Literally, all I had to do was show up! I received around €980 euros monthly from my scholarship. About €400 euros was automatically deducted monthly for the rent. I had my own room with my own toilet/shower, while I shared the kitchen with seven other dormers. €980 euros per month is enough to cover basic expenses in Den Haag, even more.After my master’s, I stayed in Europe and from The Netherlands I moved to France and now I am in Belgium. But that’s another long story. Leave your questions on the comment box below!

P.S.

1. Keep searching, i.e. NEVER GIVE UP. You are bound to find the right program for you if you just keep on going. Trust the universe. 2. Plan, plan, plan! Know what you are doing. Research, be informed, gather as much information as you can. 3. Europe is different from the Philippines (understatement of the year!), prepare and work on NOT resisting change as early as NOW.
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