01 December 2008

Studying abroad

Hello all,

I've been studying at Wageningen for about three months and it might be a good time to reflect on my studies here.  I originally came here because of the uniqueness of the MAK program (the integration of beta and gamma, or social and natural sciences), the relative cost of the program to US colleges, and the chance to see something a little different.  
I have found most of these to be true. The most interesting thing about the program has been that it multiplies what I learned while studying my BS at SDSU.  The agronomy program, while quite good I thought, was basically one or two-dimensional. It looked at crops, soils, pests, etc. on a one-dimensional scale and expanded to a two dimensional scale by looking at interactions between these (i.e. pathogen-crop rotation interaction, soil-crop interactions, etc.), learning the social side of agricultural development gives me a third dimension.  At the end of my studies I will be able to look at how risk, security, land tenure, political dependence, knowledge and other human factors interact with agronomic processes. This is what I believe has been missing from agricultural development, including the green revolution, for the past +60 years.  
The cost of the program compared to US universities has not changed, but what has made a bid difference is the fact that jobs are difficult to come by and assistantships are even more difficult. Although some part-time jobs are available, the health insurance that I would have to pay for in order to find work would erase most of the wages I could earn. Assistantships are also difficult to come by because of the educational system in the Netherlands. In the US, masters students are a minority and are usually given a degree of respect because they are a select few who have chosen to continue with their education. In the Netherlands, a bachelor's degree is not suffeceint for most lines of work because before education reform, the education system was based on a 5 year bs + msc program and the switch to a 4 year bs and a 2 year msc is relatively new and employers have not yet adjusted.  Because most students here get their masters, few assistanships are open especially to foreigners.  
On to the third point, I really have enjoyed the travel that I've been able to take advantage of.  I've enjoyed seeing the Netherlands and learning abouth the Dutch culture and I had a great time in Paris and Sarlat and I'm looking forward to Roma and whatever else we may have the chance to see. 

So, most of my expectations have been met and I'm happy with my choice to study at Wageningen and I believe that it will open up more than enough opportunities for Amanda and I. 

There is a NY Times article about the decision of a lot of American to study overseas and I think it's worth a read. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/education/01scotland.html 
I think I may be rambling so will leave it at that.

Cheers, Andrew


  1. Your blog is helpful to me. I am interested to continue my study @ MAKS, exactly becoz of its unique offering: blending natural and social sciences!

    My BSc was from Food Science and Technology. I'm currently working for the World Bank country office in Jakarta, Indonesia. I join a team in preparing a national Youth Employment project.

    I see MAKS will equip me with the social academic dimension to continue working in the area of development upon my graduation.

    Any thoughts?

  2. Hey great to hear! I think you'd be a great fit for the program. I'd like to discuss the program with you; please email me at andy_lehne@hotmail.com and we can talk about it.
    Cheers, Andrew