Univ. Amsterdam students have not given up hope for exchange programs
Students at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) are still rallying to allow their exchange programs to continue. Two weeks ago the UvA decided to cancel their exchange program for the semester beginning in September. The exchange would allow over a thousand students the opportunity to simultaneously continue their education path, travel the world and discover new cultures.
NL Times spoke with two students at the UvA who are frustrated the exchange did not go through. Assamaual Saidi is a member of the Central Student Council (CSR) at the UvA. His plans to go to Georgetown University in Washington D.C. were scratched due to the decision. Saidi had worked hard for one year to keep his grades up to be accepted at the American school.
“I was really looking forward to it. To apply, my GPA had to be high. It takes a lot of work. There are many students who took three or four jobs to go on exchange because they heard a vaccine is coming up”, Saidi said.
Emilia Lixi said the exchange program was one of the main reasons she decided to study at the UvA. She had initially applied last year for the exchange program which was canceled due to the pandemic. This year Lixi thought her chance to go on exchange had come, especially given that the university had seemed optimistic with their prospects.
“I decided to apply again both to the University in Hong Kong and Goldsmiths University in London to which I was both accepted. I really needed that moment of blooming after our lives had been put on hold”, the student said.
After the students found out that they would not be going on exchange in September, they started a petition to reverse this decision. As of Friday, the petition had garnered over 1,800 signatures.
The university argued that the situation with the coronavirus pandemic is still not at a point that would allow students to travel safely.
Many students disagreed that it would be too dangerous to travel in September. “The exchanges were going to start in September, so it’s crazy to look at the current situation. The prospects by experts, government and partner universities regarding the pandemic are very positive, so this argument is invalid”, Saidi said.
Many other universities in the Netherlands, such as the University of Applied Sciences, Vrije Universiteit and the University of Groningen will allow their students to go on exchange to any region where the Dutch government's code orange travel warning is lifted. In other cases, students can proceed at their own risk.
The UvA has suggested alternatives such as a hybrid exchange. This means that students follow online classes at the university of their choice in the beginning of the semester and can attend physical classes once the situation has been deemed safe.
Saidi said the issue with that compromise is that education at many partner universities will be fully physical by September which means they will not have online classes.
The UvA will meet with student representatives next week to discuss the matter further. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge are also expected to reveal the Cabinet's new travel policy regarding the pandemic on Tuesday night during a press conference.