This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.
These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.
If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better – and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!
Today’s post continues the series of posts for those who start new faculty positions in the Netherlands. These posts are especially valid for those of you who come from abroad.
And really, even though you come from within the European Union, or perhaps even from one of the neighboring countries (and speak the language), you are making an international move. In fact, when I started long ago in Delft, somehow I hadn’t received all the necessary information from HR which they sent to international hires, because the fact that I speak Dutch somehow get me mixed into the new hires from the Netherlands… (no harm was done, and within three weeks my documents were in order, and by the end of the second month, all the administration was arrange).
So, what are some of the things to consider when you move to the Netherlands as a new faculty member? Here are my ten best tips:
- Get all your documents in order, and bring lots of copies: You will receive very detailed information from your university administrative departments for getting hired as an international, and yet there may be additional occasions where you may need to present your paperwork that you did not think of initially. So, err on the side of caution and bring additional official copies of all important paperwork. Make sure everything is duly translated and apostiled where needed – it’s always better to have a few spare copies of your most important documents than having to make an international trip to go pull out additional copies of a document.
- Think about housing: It’s hard to find housing in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has an excellent social rent system, but the waiting lists are long. When I did my PhD in Delft, the waiting list for housing in the region Haaglanden was four years – so I only qualified by the time I finished. Your options are the private rental market (totally overpriced) and buying property (difficult as well, as many people bid on the same place these days). Most likely, you will be able to get temporary housing through the agency of your university for the first months of your position. However, this type of housing is developed for temporary stays of exchange researchers, and it can be much more difficult if you are moving with your family and have children and/or furry friends. Housing in the Netherlands is such a headache that I dedicated one of my first AcademicTransfer posts (10 years ago) to this topic.
- Get all your services up and running: Don’t wait too long to get a bank account, cell phone, and all the other services that you need, as you will find that the country really hinges on its national phone numbers and BSN number and DigiD.
- Explore the country: Don’t fall in the trap of saying that you will visit the iconic places once you are settled. One you are settled, it may feel odd to go do all the touristic things, as you may feel already too “Dutch” to go marvel at some windmills. Treat yourself to one trip every weekend to do something very Dutch or go see a nice place, so that you can really get to know your new country. The Netherlands may be small, but it packs a bunch.
- Get to know everybody in your research group: You may feel like you’ve fallen behind on all your emails and editorial assignments while you were moving internationally. You may be overwhelmed by the amount of work that you need to do to get started with your research and teaching. But don’t forget the most important part: the people around you. Take time for coffee breaks and lunches with your new colleagues, so that you can get to know all of them.
- Attend seminars from other research groups: To get a broader view of the work that is being done at your new university, you can attend seminars organized by other research groups. More than anything, it is fun to attend a seminar and learn something new. At the same time, you also want to get to know your indirect colleagues, and look for opportunities to collaborate with those in other research groups.
- Get to know the important people: Who makes your research group operate smoothly? The administrative staff, and (if relevant) the laboratory technicians. They are the most important people in the day-to-day workings of your research group. So, be nice to them. Take the time to get to know them – not because it is to your advantage (I’m not writing a machiavellian guide to working in the Netherlands here), but because they are important, they help you all the time, and they know a lot.
- Understand what is expected from you: Every university system has its own emphases. What gains you tenure or gets you to full in one system or one country may not translate directly to another system or country. Talk to your supervisors and get fully clear on what it is that they expect from you. How (if, at all) will your performance be measured? What matters: h-index, number of publications, amount of money you bring in, number of talks, number of students supervised, student evaluations, peer evaluations, timely reports to the administration….? Academia tends to be a bit diffuse in what is expected (besides the very vague notion of “excellence”) and the expectations tend to be tinged by local and national culture – as a new faculty member, it is good to ask explicitly what is expected from you, even though these expectation typically are not mentioned clearly in your contract.
- Identify sources of funding: As a faculty member, you will be doing research and teaching as your most important activities. To fund your research, you will need to learn the national funding systems. You can refer back to last month’s post, in which we talked all about funding.
- Learn about the education system: A course does not translate directly from one university to another one. The system is different, the culture is different, and, as a result, the students are different. What works with my students in Ecuador does not guarantee me that it will work in the Netherlands, and vice versa. Revisit your teaching statement, but be willing to adjust to the national culture. Similarly, take some time to learn about the education system in general: how primary education is organized, the different forms of secondary education (you want to know what they talk about when they mention mavo, havo or vwo), and how the higher education system works (and the differences between universities and colleges “hogescholen”).
If you moved to the Netherlands as an international faculty member, what would be your best tip to share?