Dropping Out of AUC and Leaving the Bubble: “AUC Felt a Bit Like High School”

By Marit Grootswagers

Collage by Amal

There are many reasons students might consider dropping out of their degree. Especially around this time of the year, with the first semester finishing up and first impressions fading, students get the time to think about whether AUC is really the place for them. Starting college as a fresh first-year student is exciting. You get to meet a lot of new people, start taking new courses, and build your home away from home. However, as the courses are proceeding and you get to know your fellow students, lecturers, and the overall structure of the school, you might realize that AUC is not the right excellent and diverse place for you.

Quitting your degree around this time of the year is pretty common for university students. Particularly in the Netherlands it is encouraged to drop out before the first of February. In this case, you do not get a negative binding study advice and your tuition fees are refunded for the months in which you are not enrolled. This was introduced as a way for universities to lower the threshold for students to switch degrees in their first year.

Aino Kekkonen, one of the Student Life Officers at AUC says that the most common time for AUC students to drop out “is mostly around the middle or end of the first semester of first-year students.” Kekkonen adds that “students get to know the place and people, and are settled into this new environment. This makes it possible for them to figure out if AUC is a place for them”. She also says that after the first semester the number of first-year students dropping out is negligible, since most of them figure out whether or not they want to stay before the second semester.

She adds that if the dorms are not for you, you might want to consider another programme than liberal arts and sciences.“The dorms make such a big part of AUC’s identity. It forms this close community. For students, not being part of the dorms would make them miss out on a crucial part of the AUC experience, because so many social activities take place there.” Making the residential aspect non-mandatory would therefore not be an option according to her. Interestingly, Kekkonen noticed no difference between students quitting AUC this year and last year. She states that “the number of first-year students dropping out last year are more or less the same as this year, and so are the reasons for leaving AUC, online education did not change that”.

Ava Frohna, a first year science student from California following the bio-med and neurosciences tracks at AUC explains why she decided to quit liberal arts and sciences, stating: “I would like to study neuroscience as a master’s degree. AUC made it seem as if you could do a master degree in sciences, but when I met my tutor the first time, he said he saw a red flag.”  “My tutor told me a lot of science major students experience trouble getting into a scientific master degree and need to do a pre-master since AUC is not specialised enough. A lot of master’s programmes require you to have extensive research and laboratory experience, but AUC does not provide a lot of lab courses.” Frohna continues that she simply does not see the point in continuing here, if she needs to take a pre-master for one or two years instead of immediately getting in one.

When asked why she decided to come to AUC in the first place, she said that she liked the idea of liberal arts and sciences being more open. However, it does not compensate for not immediately getting into a master’s degree. When asked how she experienced the social life at AUC and “the bubble”, Frohna said “I really like the people and environment here. I can see how living in a student accomodation isn’t for everyone, but it is especially nice in your first year. Being in a double and having a roommate immediately gives you a ‘built-in’ friend and is an easy way to meet new people.”

Charlotte (her name is changed for privacy reasons), a former first-year Social Science student at AUC studied in the environmental economics and policy track before she decided to drop out. “I decided to quit AUC because I did not really feel comfortable with the living situation and the group dynamics. The campus felt really small and ‘school-like’.”

Finally, I talked with Humanities major Rob (his name is changed for privacy reasons). He chose AUC because his parents encouraged him to go to Amsterdam, specifically AUC, to broaden his horizon. “It is what they thought would be best for me. But when I got here, I thought, what am I really doing here?” He adds that “It is just bizarre how such small classes can be so lecture-oriented without much room for peer contribution. In contrast, in New Jersey I did half a year of bachelor in arts and took courses such as international relations, philosophy and a writing course as well. I basically did a lot of similar stuff like at AUC. Although classes in New Jersey was online, its lectures were still far more engaging and interactive than over here.”

Stating that the lack of student interaction is a missed opportunity for the university, especially with AUC’s focus on small-scale education. When asking Rob what his new plans are, he said: “I just applied for an art school in Amsterdam. As I am not really an academic type at all, I think I will benefit more from a “hands-on” education.” Finally he stated that he was “very fortunate to meet a lot of Humanities students with similar interests. I am very happy socially here. Academically, I might be somewhat disappointed, but I am so happy and grateful for the people I have met here”.

One thought

  1. Thank you for this article! Some years ago I also dropped out of AUC (also at this time of the year) and I’ve always felt kind of bad – so it was really nice to read this article and I feel a little bit relieved now! 🙂


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