Political science major Nathan Garner has been studying in The Netherlands since February, hoping to gain experience that will benefit a future career in foreign relations. He is living and taking courses in Deventer, near Amsterdam, through an exchange program with the Saxion University of Applied Sciences.
Garner plans to become involved in public service after he graduates in August upon completion of his current semester. Through his coursework he had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament in Brussels and is studying European law and policy, urban planning and government infrastructure. He aspires to one day work for the U.S. State Department.
"I find it fascinating," he says. "I'm learning what other countries are doing, what their goals are, and can hopefully combine that into something useful. I could definitely see myself working overseas for the U.S. government."
Garner's interest in government work was developed in recent years as he observed countries' varying responses to Covid-19. "The pandemic heightened my interest in foreign relations in seeing what our country versus others were doing to manage it," he says. "For example, I was trying to do a study abroad for three years. I was having to research and watch each country's policies related to the pandemic and overseas travel."
Ultimately Garner was able to travel abroad through the Saxion Exchange Program, through which students can study at campuses located in Enschede and Deventer, Netherlands. The program offers courses that appeal to all majors and allows exchange students to attend for either a semester or a year.
He lives in an apartment-style dorm with five other students from Bulgaria, Korea and Bangladesh. Although Garner says he is the only native English speaker he has encountered, the experience has been positive despite the language barrier. "My roommates speak varying degrees of broken English, so it's been fun trying to communicate," he jokes. "But everyone is so welcoming, and I haven't had a bad interaction."
Transportation has been another significant adjustment. While most places he needs to go are within walking distance and he can take a train to another city, not having a car in The Netherlands means giving up a sense of control to which most Americans are accustomed. "I miss driving," he says. "I like to be able to get up and go when I need to."
Despite these adjustments, Garner has settled in to his new surroundings. He is slowly picking up on the basics of the Dutch language and enjoys walking around the city, particularly the town square that hosts an open-air market each weekend. He also had the opportunity to visit Italy and the United Kingdom.
"I love being in this part of Europe," he says. "I'm finally able to see these places and meet people who aren't from the United States. It's nice to get an outside perspective on things."