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American Studies at the University of Groningen is an interdisciplinary study program that deals with the history, culture, economy, politics, and literature of the American continent, and is, interestingly, in this field the only complete Bachelor program in the Netherlands. The program is taught by internationally-renowned professors, and is entirely in English.
American Studies courses require students to think critically and do a lot of independent research. Students are obliged to attend the program’s three major courses:
1) “The Americas” encompasses the continent’s history (although with a clear emphasis on the United States). The two first year “The Americas” courses deal with the eras 1900-present and 1800-1900, and the second year course discusses 1492-1800. After having followed these three courses, students will have gained a good grip on America’s comprehensive history and will be able to fit their knowledge into contemporary events.
2) “Theories of Culture” will allow students to get a clearer sense of America’s fascinating culture. The first year course, “Race, Class, Gender,” teaches them how these concepts have been, and still are, present in the United States. Second and third year courses of this major course are respectively called “Media and Popular Culture” and “Consumer Nation.”
3) In “Rhetoric and Composition” (which is both a first and a second-year course) students will learn how to write proper essays and how to give good presentations. This course will be extremely helpful when writing a Bachelor’s Thesis, as well as in a student’s future career.
Besides these mandatory courses, the American Studies program allows its students to tailor-fit the curriculum to fit their own academic and personal interests. In both the first and second year, “Special Topics” are offered, which could, for example, deal with the relationship between Europeans and Indians; the way war is represented in literature; the American Constitution; the 1960s in the United States; or the manner in which the Europeans failed to maintain their American colonies. Moreover, students can choose between 32 minors, which have to be attended in the first and second year.
Students are allowed to apply for an exchange with an American university that will take place in the first semester of their third year. Possible universities include the University of Charleston (South Carolina), Central Michigan University (Michigan), Furman (South Carolina), and Chapel Hill (North Carolina). The exchange has proved to be very interesting and fun, and is above all a wonderful way to learn even more about the United States.
After graduating the program, students might find jobs in journalism, business, culture and arts, the public sector, or education.
For more information about the Bachelor American Studies program, visit the official University page here.
In your third Bachelor year, the American Studies department provides you the opportunity to study abroad for a semester. During this semester, you will attend classes at one of the Department’s partner universities and experience the eccentric and eclectic United States first-hand. This part of the website is dedicated not only to the experiences of students who went abroad, but also to the process of actually going to the United States.
However, besides the partying and enjoying the culture and landscapes of the US, you also have to study. The “Studying Abroad” program is equal to 30 ECTS, which you have to fill with faculty approved courses. If you wish to stay in the Netherlands, you will also have to fill those 30 ECTS. In that case, you are to choose courses offered by the University of Groningen, both within the Faculty of Arts and other faculties. The 30 ECTS together make up the “designated minor,” which can be a standard 30 credit program, or a random collection of courses totaling 30 credits of your choosing. Approval from the examination board is always required!
The Application Process
First of all, you will have to choose the university you would like to go to. A list of possible partner universities can be found here. In the application process, it is important to rationalize why you have chosen that particular university, and what courses they offer to enrich your academic and personal development. The applications will open around December of your second year, and will stay open for about two months; even though that seems like enough time, we encourage you to start the application process as soon as possible.
The application will consist of a motivational letter, a grade list and your CV.
Transition second year to third year
In order to go abroad in your third year, completion of the transitional courses that allow you to participate in the second semester of the third year is mandatory. These courses can vary per year, and therefore we advise you to examine the OER (Onderwijs- en Examenregeling; or Teaching and Examination Regulations) that apply to your year. The OER applicable to your situation will be from the year that you started the American Studies program at the RUG, so not from the year that you will be going abroad! In this document, you will have to find the section about transition from second to third year. The courses that have to completed before you start any courses in the second semester are the ones that are also required for going on exchange. Since, again, these rules and regulations vary per year, we urge you to do your research and make sure you’ve passed all of them.
Money, Housing and any other business
When you study abroad for a semester at a university outside of Europe, you are eligible for the Marco Polo fund. This fund will be determined based on where you are going and for what time period you will be abroad. The Department will provide you with additional information once you are selected to go abroad. The Marco Polo fund will be given in two sections, 70% before departure, and the remaining 30% after you returned home and all the paperwork is done. The Marco Polo fund is a part of the University, so prepare for a very bureaucratic process with deadlines you must keep! If you don’t, you might have to repay the whole fund.
Furthermore, if you receive study financing from DUO you will continue to receive the “uitwonend” financing (which applies when you don’t live with your parents, as opposed to study financing you get while living at your parents’ place, which is significantly less) during your time abroad. Make sure to let DUO know that you are going abroad, in order not to miss out on any additional funds!
Housing will be organized with the help of the partner university. Once you are accepted you will receive additional information on living on campus.
As said before, the courses you are planning to take at the partner university, must be approved by the Department. For this process you can contact the study adviser. Throughout your second year, the Department will provide you with all necessary information on studying abroad and the procedures!
Please note that, even though we are willing to help you with any problems you might have, EPU is not part of the application or selection process, and that we take no part at all in the study abroad procedure!
We’ve asked someone who is in the Honours College program to comment on his experiences, and present a guide for any prospective Honours College students. A big thanks to Lenja Bystrykh!
Dear fellow American Studies students,
I am a third year student who alongside our major is doing the Honours College programme. This article is meant to give you an overview of the Honours College based on the three years that it takes to complete. If you are undecided whether to try the programme or if you never gave it much thought – this article is for you!
To start, some misconceptions about what Honours College entails exists among students. I would argue that many students (much like I used to) might think the programme is too difficult; too demanding; too time-consuming and even too alienating because of the way the programme is called. I was presented with an opportunity to apply for the programme despite my academic performance being nothing exceptional with an average of 7.0 for two courses at the time. I was to my surprise admitted into the programme and it turned out to be a great experience.
Firstly, I had the opportunity to meet many interesting people from different fields of study who I probably would have never met had I only done American Studies. In addition, Honours College – despite being more work (an additional 45 ECTs worth of courses you have to complete within three years) – it adds variety to your study experience. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to partake in different activities that are designed especially with the Honours students in mind. For example, you will have to go on a summer or winter school in your second year. You might be fortunate enough to land a spot in places like Rome; Lisbon; New York City and Rio de Janeiro. Groningen and the Waddenzee were also possible destinations and might sound less impressive; however I heard that these too were very enjoyable. Finally, Honours College does have its special perks. For example last year – though this was very unique – every Honours student was allowed to have one free ticket to see Archbishop Desmond Tutu receive his Honorary Doctorate in Groningen. That was truly a memorable experience.
This all sounds well and good, but how does one actually get into the programme?
As mentioned previously, I was surprised that I was granted an opportunity, because in the Admission Requirements section of the Honours College website it states as a requirement that “…you are among the top 10% of your degree programme cohort. This is based on the weighted average of all your marks in the first semester.” Despite this, it is also possible to get in with a lecturers’ recommendation! The university and the Honours College will send out several e-mails regarding the opportunity to apply as early as the end of November, regardless of whether you are a top-student or not. As University Dean Prof. Dr. J.E. Bosch-Boesjes e-mail to me in 2011: “Interested students should visit our website (www.rug.nl/honours) where further information is available [about applications].” Furthermore, actual applications occur in the beginning of January. The application process entails the following:
1) Filling in an application form.
2) Your CV.
3) Present a grade list.
4) Write a letter of motivation.
5) Include a letter of recommendation (mine was from our former study advisor).
6) Include a list of lecturers who are familiar with your study habits and their contact details. (I mentioned two lecturers – one within and one outside American Studies).
If all goes well, your application will be confirmed and you will be invited for an interview. This is the final stage of the application process. The Honours study advisor and a lecturer will get to know you in a formal interview. They will ask you about you and your application but there should be no unexpected surprises. From here on you will hear if you manged to get into the programme.
What will follow next are the two components of the Faculty of the Arts Honours College programme. Short descriptions will be provided where applicable, though relevant information can be found through this link.
There are two components to the Honours College: a Deepening Part (25ECTs) and a Broadening Part (20ECTs).
- There will be courses available within the Arts faculty especially catered to Honours students. In the first year the course Being Right and Being Judged Right (HCLE10105) will be mandatory for every student. The course reminded me of the American Studies’ special topic The Power of Speech (LAX030P10).
- In the 2nd year there is room for choice of a desired deepening module.
- In the 3rd year one can choose another deepening module or choose to do what is called a “research tutorial”. This tutorial is similar to a research assistant position in which you find a researcher who is willing to take you on for a semester as their assistant. This is typically done within the Faculty of Arts, though it is possible to do research elsewhere if it is somehow relevant to American Studies or a profession you wish to familiarize yourself with in the future.
a. Complete two Broadening Courses (10ECTs):
- Here students choose two courses outside of the faculty of arts in order to expand on their interests in other fields. One course relates to the summer/winter school, the other does not.
b. Petrus Camper Track:
- Academic Writing – I found it similar to R&C I and II.
- Training Debating – This is a unique course which teaches you how to debate using for example Oxford style of debating, among others.
- Summer/winter school – Your destination is typically dependent on the course(s) you follow in the broadening module. I for example followed Urbanization Question (HCRWB0205) which by following this course gave me priority for participating in “Summer School and Atelier Exploring the Postsecular City” (HCPL401FRW). You will not know what broadening module grants you priority to what summer school ahead of time. This is done in order to avoid situations where students pick courses because they think it will land them a particular summer school. You are encouraged to pick courses based on your interests.
- Atelier – is where 3rd year Honours students present their findings from the summer/winter- school. It is a large event at the end of the academic year and is open for the public to attend.
- TOP (Talent Development program) – This segment is a requirement in order to complete the Honours programme. Honours students work with councilors at the Talent Development Center in Groningen. Throughout the three years the employees will try to work on different aspects of students’ self-development.
Hopefully this has given you some insight into the Honours College. If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to send me an email.
Groningen is a vibrant student city, where students from the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences make up approximately 25% of the population. Because of the large amount of students, Groningen truly is a city that never sleeps. Whether you are a crazy party animal, or you enjoy culture and art, Groningen has it all.
Studying American Studies in Groningen
The RUG’s Faculty of Arts is located right in the city center, neighboring the University Library, tons of little cafes and restaurants, and the main shopping area. The Academy building is the university’s oldest building, characterized by the magnificent architecture. In front of this building, you can find the University Library, where many students spend most of their days studying, socializing, and sleeping. The Harmony Complex is home to the American Studies department, and therefore also a second home to American Studies students.
Besides the weekly seminars and lectures, the American Studies department as well as study association EPU organizes numerous events throughout the year that will contribute to your academic career.
Culture, Arts and Recreation
Groningen has a broad selection of cultural activities, varying from festivals to museums and theater companies.
The “Groninger Museum” is not only known for its particular architecture, but mostly for the diversity of the exhibitions. Students from the University of Groningen get a discount on the entrance fee.
The University of Groningen also has its own museum in the academic heart of the city, with a collection consisting of many components, such as nature, culture and science. The admission for RUG students is free.
USVA is the Cultural Student Center of the University of Groningen. Not only do they organize weekly events, such as theater shows, but they also support and encourage students in developing themselves and inspiring them with art and culture. RUG students can enroll in various courses which will stimulate their creativity.
Furthermore, Groningen is the host of multiple festivals, such as the Dutch VE Day on the 5th of May and the “Noorderzon” festival.
The University of Groningen has published a complete list of the cultural events in Groningen here.
The ACLO is the overarching student sports organization in Groningen. They offer 40 different kinds of sports, varying from soccer and tennis to wakeboarding and mixed martial arts. The 49 different sports associations in Groningen provide students with a welcome distraction from their studies, for they do not only focus on competitions, but also on the social aspects of sports.
Many inhabitants of Groningen will praise the city for its vibrant nightlife, with an always pleasant atmosphere and countless clubs, pubs and bars. Thursday is known as the students’ night out, but due to the great amount of students in Groningen, most clubs and bars are open every night, and crawling with students! Whether you like a quiet place to enjoy some beers with your closest friends, or like dancing to the newest tracks in a club packed with strangers, Groningen is the place to be.
International Students in Groningen
As a foreign exchange student, it can be scary to come to a new city in a new country. Luckily many organizations make it their goal to let you feel welcome in the city of Groningen! A great resource for European exchange students is the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), that besides providing practical information and aid, also organize various activities to let you meet new people, and become accustomed to Groningen.
For all international students it is important to make yourself familiar with the International Office of the Faculty of Arts. They can help you with the practical side of studying, such as how to enroll in your classes.
And of course EPU will also help you wherever we can to guarantee that you feel comfortable and happy in your new hometown for the remainder of your exchange period!
Sidenote: Apparently, according to Wikipedia, this is how you pronounce Groningen: [ˈɣroːnɪŋə(n)]