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Student Johanna Bürkert

"A friend told me about Liberal Arts and the flexibility it offers. I decided give it a try since I am broadly interested and good at many things, but don’t have that one thing I wanted to base my later career life on."

foto Johanna Burkert
  • Nationality: German
  • Bachelor's program: Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Started in: 2015
  • High school diploma: Abitur (German)
  • Languages: German, English, Dutch, French

Did you always know what you wanted to do?

To be honest – no. Until 10th grade I wanted to be a lawyer. Then, a high school teacher (because I am good with kids, enjoy teaching and everyone encouraged me to go for it). After high school I took a gap year and worked at a boarding school on one of the German North Sea Islands to see if I could really become a teacher. It was a great year and allowed me to grow personally in ways I would never have imagined – including giving up my wish to become a teacher. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – again. A friend told me about Liberal Arts and the flexibility it offers. I decided give it a try since I am broadly interested and good at many things, but don’t have that one thing I wanted to base my later career life on.

Why did you choose to study abroad, and how did you decide to study in the Netherlands?

I actually never really made a conscious choice. When my friend told me about LAS, a lot of deadlines already had passed so I desperately applied for Tilburg and I got accepted. I was so relieved finally having made a decision. In the beginning, my parents were not too pleased about my choice but many people told me this study would suit me so I decided to accept the place.

What is it like to study completely in English, together with international students? Was the transition from high school difficult?

During my gap year I didn’t speak a lot of English so the first two days in Tilburg were kind of strange. Fortunately I’ve lived in the U.S. so I would consider my English pretty good – for German standards – and I found it rather easy to follow. However, when I look back at my first essays I have to laugh – my academic writing skills improved a lot in the past year.

In comparison to studying at High School, I experienced the University as amazing because of all the freedom it offers. Of course this can also be tricky, since I had to learn to motivate myself and structure my life more in order to manage coursework, sports, friends and family obligations. I enjoy this way of life a lot.

What is your favorite subject?

Law!!! I chose the major Law in Europe and my favorite subject by far was the course about International Law. Not only the teacher is awesome but also the whole content and how it is presented.

What sort of teaching styles do you encounter in your program, and can you say something about this?

First of all, there is frontal teaching (or lecture-style) where the professor stands in front of the group and teacah us, mostly using power point presentations. Some lecturers interact more with the group than others, some put more information on their slides than others etc.

The other model are seminars (some courses consist entirely of seminars, some have seminars and big lectures). In some seminars, the whole teaching is just an open discussion in which everyone participates (you need to decide yourself if certain information is important and if it is necessary to make notes), in others you have to prepare assignments before the seminars and then in the seminars we just compare them.

What do you like most about studying at Tilburg University?

The campus is a big plus. It’s so nice and green AND we don’t have to cycle through the whole city multiple times per day to get to our various classes. Also, I enjoy the flexibility. For the LAS-Law major students there is the possibility to follow a Dutch law program next to their studies to obtain civil effect (Dutch law bachelor requirement for becoming a lawyer). We only have one extra year of study and, in the end, get two diplomas. I don’t know if this exists at other Universities but I am happy Tilburg makes this possible.

Wat sort of student is a great fit for your program? And who is absolutely not?

For Liberal Arts you need motivation. Also, you need to be good at teamwork (or at least not hate it), since, especially during the first year, you have to write a lot of group papers and essays. Structure and discipline are an asset. What definitely won’t work is never attending classes or lectures. In some studies this might work, but in Liberal Arts it doesn’t since going to the lectures is a requirement for passing.

Do your studies take a lot of time? Do you have any time for activities besides your studies?

Yes - and yes. My studies take a lot of time since I am motivated to have good grades (to receive a scholarship for my Master’s). Also, I like the Law Bachelor a lot so I don’t mind spending much time. By talking to students who follow different programs I’ve learned that Liberal Arts is generally busier during the semester since we have to hand in a lot of assignments, papers etc. The bright side of this is that the exams usually don’t count 100%. However, I also do things next to my studies and seriously, I know no-one in Liberal Arts who doesn’t. Somehow we are just very motivated, energetic, and busy people.

Is there anything that’s unique about your experience?

I am now doing the double degree Liberal Arts and rechtsgeleerdheid/civil effect. I enjoy doing Dutch law, especially since it is more focused and less broad than LAS, and teaches me more analytical skills (I enjoy the broadness of LAS but I think it’s also good to get more fundamental knowledge). Also, they are both completely different in the ways they test their students as well as the work style.

Do you have any advice for prospective students considering this program, or studying at Tilburg University?

Inform yourself about the city and housing possibilities in advance (e.g. join Facebook groups to find rooms etc.), that will save you a lot of money. With regards to the program – try talking to other students and also the professors, come to the open days. Usually you can achieve almost everything with LAS (even though some masters may require a premaster), but motivation and open-mindedness are really important!

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