Netherlands Field School: Culture, Identity, and Migration

The Field School will consist of 2 days of seminars in Guelph followed by 16 days in Amsterdam and the Hague.  The course will explore the historical and contemporary factors that have led to the contradictions apparent in Dutch culture today:  On the one hand the Netherlands is an incredibly liberal, open country, home to key international institutions promoting world peace. On the other hand, anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiment is surprisingly strong. These contradictions will be explored through field trips to many museums, places of cultural importance, and historical sites.  Some of these will include the International Court of Justice, Anne Frank House, and the Van Gogh Museum. 

This international field school is open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph.

Information Session

Monday, Nov. 12

4:00 - 5:00 pm

UC 430

Field School Details

Instructor: Dr. Julie Simmons, Political Science

Offered: Summer 2019

Prerequisite: 7.5 credits or permission of the instructor, 70% cumulative average,

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Dr. Simmons or Allison Broadbent, Study Abroad Manager.

Program Dates

May 2019, exact dates TBA


Students will be registered in 1.0 credits at the third year level.  See the bottom of this page for the course outline.

Summary: This field course explores, over two days of seminars in Guelph and sixteen days in the Netherlands, the themes of culture, identity, migration and integration as they are playing out in the Netherlands; and it takes place in Amsterdam and the Hague. The Netherlands is generally considered a tolerant, progressive, open, liberal society. Perhaps best known for its legalization of cannabis, prostitution, and euthanasia, it also has strong protections of LGBT rights, and, in the late 1990s its generous immigration policies were thought to be a model for the rest of Europe. It has also been an ardent supporter of the post-nationalist European project of the European Union. Not surprisingly, then it has been a popular destination among those migrating across Europe from war-torn African and Middle- Eastern countries. However, as in many other Western democracies, nationalism and xenophobia (fear of what is perceived to be foreign) are on the rise. In 2007 the Netherlands became the only country in the world to require that residents who have relocated to the Netherlands from countries outside the European Union past a test measuring whether they are sufficiently integrated into society within 3.5 years of their arrival. In the 2017 election, Gert Wilders’ anti-Muslimism, anti-immigration, anti-Euroepan Union Freedom Party was the second most popular. His commitment shut down asylum centres, ban the Quran, close all mosques and Islamic schools, and forbid the wearing of the hijab in public places, along with his commitment to leave the European Union, appealed to a remarkable number of Dutch voters. 

What has changed? What is “Dutch” culture and identity and has it changed dramatically, evolved gradually, or stayed more or less the same? Is migration a new phenomenon in the Netherlands? How does it relate to the Netherlands’ “Golden Age of the 1700s, its colonial past, and its experience of occupation inWWII? Is this resurgence of nationalism and the overt xenophobia of the Freedom Party and its supporters a temporary phenomenon? In this course we explore these themes, and, to the extent that it is possible, we consider the experience of a recent immigrant to the country, exploring how they might come to find answers to these questions through their lived experience in the Hague and Amsterdam. In addition, we explore the kinds of services available to them; what government supports and programs they would have access to; how difficult or easy it would be to make ends meet (What’s the cost of living? Where would they shop? Where would they live?); and what it would take (in terms of finances, time and knowledge) to pass the integration test. In answering these questions in the Dutch context, students will gain some appreciation of similar dynamics at play in other European countries. This course aims to “enhance your “global understanding” knowledge of cultural similarities and differences, the context (historical, geographical, political and environmental) from which these arise, and how they are manifest in modern society.” 

The Hague is chosen for this field course because, in addition to hosting the Dutch government, parliament and supreme court, it is known as “The International City of Peace and Justice,” and is home to 150 international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, making it one of the major cities hosting the United Nations institutions. Its population is culturally diverse, yet still subject to the debates and identity politics and policies of the country as a whole. In this sense, it is the “best case scenario” for resources available to a new immigrant. The city is also rich in Dutch history and culture. 

Amsterdam is chosen for this field course because it has the largest percentage of foreign born inhabitants among Dutch cities. It also affords the opportunity to experience both traditional and modern Dutch culture and art and history, in the form of museums and other activities.


Students should budget for the following:

  • Round-trip airfare to the Netherlands
  • Tuition and fees at the University of Guelph for 1.0 credits
  • The Netheralnds Field School fee:  approximately $1900 (includes 15 nights accommodations in hostels plus field trips in Amsterdam and the Hague. Amount is subject to change based on fluctuating exchange rate.
  • Mandatory travel health and emergency insurance through the company Guard Me ($1.65 / day)
  • Personal expenses (food, additional personal excursions, etc) 


Students applying for the program must have completed a total of 7.5 undergraduate credits by the time the program begins in May 2019 (or permission from the instructor), and must have a 70% cumulative average.  (Students with a 67 - 69% cumulative average may be considered if there are extenuating circumstances that affected their marks which are described on their application.)

The program is open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph, with a maximum of 20 students being accepted to the program. 

Apply to the Netherlands Field School

Students interested in applying to the Netherlands Field School must apply using an online application. To receive access to the online application you must first attend a Study Abroad Information Session with the Centre for International Programs. You will then receive access to the online application by early December.

Application deadline: January 25, 2019


File attachments

PDF icon Netherland Field School course outline289.87 KB