MBA Thesis Analyses Experiences of U.S. Students in Dutch Higher Education

MBA Thesis Analyses Experiences of U.S. Students in Dutch Higher Education

Research by Daria Zelenukhina Focuses on Students’ One-Semester Experiences

Having worked for several years in the international education sector, Wittenborg graduate Daria Zelenukhina decided to focus her thesis research on the experiences of US study-abroad students in Dutch higher education institutions. Zelenukhina, who recently completed an MBA (Master of Business Administration) in Education, is originally from Russia but also lived in Singapore before moving to the Netherlands. 

She highlights that the chosen theme aligns with her professional interests and expertise. “I have gained experience working with various US-based study-abroad providers that offer diverse programmes to US students. While reflecting on what to research, I discovered a knowledge gap, as the majority of researchers tend to focus on the experience of international students in English-speaking environments, including the United States. My thesis, in contrast, centres on the reverse perspective – that is, the experience of US students doing one semester abroad.” 

To gather information for her research, Zelenukhina contacted four organisations that offer study-abroad programmes in the Netherlands for US students, out of which three companies are based in Amsterdam and one in Maastricht. The programmes offered are conducted in three well-known Dutch public universities. In addition to asking the service providers permission to administer an online survey to their former clients, the researcher also used social media channels to get in touch with some of these students individually.

In total, 112 students responded to Zelenukhina’s questionnaire. The open-ended questions covered nine topics: (1) quality of study programme, (2) study-abroad provider, (3) study location, (4) opportunities to travel in Europe, (5) accommodation, (6) cost of living, (7) personal connections, (8) personal growth and (9) interaction with locals. 

The most positive factor cited by the participants regarding their semester abroad was the quality of the study programme, with 73 mentions, followed by the opportunity to establish personal connections (68), opportunity to travel (65), study-abroad provider (63) and study location (63). 

When it comes to the negative aspects, the study provider was the most mentioned factor (15), with other relevant variables including accommodation (13), quality of study programme (10) and cost of living (9). 

Zelenukhina points out that, as shown by the results of her study, even though these students are only going abroad for one semester, they still manage to have a meaningful experience in the Netherlands, which broadens their horizons. “Their primary goal is not to permanently reside in the Netherlands. However, during their time abroad, they establish meaningful connections, hoping to maintain these relationships beyond the conclusion of their programmes. This could potentially involve returning to Europe or exploring other parts of the world together.” 

Nevertheless, some respondents reported limitations in the experiences provided, including the quality of their orientation sessions, the way overall activities were structured and the distance between their accommodation and the institution where the programme took place. This feedback could be used by study-abroad organisations to improve the services offered to international students. 

Regarding her future plans, the graduate intends to continue her professional journey within the international education sector. “What truly resonates with me in my current role is the opportunity to positively impact students’ lives. I look forward to encountering and connecting with more inspiring, engaged and passionate students along the way.”  

WUP 07/03/2024

by Ulisses Sawczuk

©WUAS Press