As an international student in the Netherlands you might be worried that you don’t know anyone and you are not going to have friends. Dani and Olawale have some valuable advice for you to fully enjoy the social life in the Netherlands and make the most out of your time here!

Life outside university

Although the buildings of a single university might be spread throughout a city and only some higher education institutions have campuses, they do have a real student culture.

Each institution has a network of associations that bring students together for academic activities, sports and recreation. All of these associations are run by students, and some of them are internationally oriented. Two of the larger international student associations are AIESEC and the Erasmus Student Network (ESN).

Many cities also have several separate student associations, not connected to any institution. And there are usually pubs, restaurants and other meeting places where many students hang out.

Generally speaking, the Dutch higher education community seeks to be part of society and is not isolated from it.

Curious about a student's perspective? Make sure to read the blog of student ambassador Mira about her life outside university. Or check out the tips of Olawale for socialising during your studies in the Netherlands.

Participate in student representative bodies

Did you know you can influence decision-making within your higher education institution? Ask your international office for general information on the procedures at your institution. All students, both Dutch and international, can be elected to student representative bodies.

Since 1 January 2020 international students from non-EU countries with a study residence permit no longer need a work permit to participate in student councils.

You can find more information in the English translation of the Dutch Higher Education and Research Act (WHW).


There is plenty to see in the Netherlands, whether you’re strolling through town, making a boat trip on the canals or lakes, lazing on the beach or walking in the woods and dunes.

Major international music stars regularly play at Dutch stadiums and smaller venues. Musicals and theatre are also very popular and with over 1,000 museums there is a lot to discover.

And don’t be surprised to see people dressed in orange and partying in the street on King’s Day or during international football championships.