When I came to England in 2010 I was fresh out of Dutch High School. Having completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, studying abroad was the logical next step. Sure, I would pay more than double the tuition fees I would pay in the Netherlands, but I would gain the experience of studying in a different country, and I would be in one of the best universities for the course I had chosen.
I come from a culture where your achievements within every stage of education determine your admission to the next. A primary school student takes an exam which determines which of three levels of secondary school you will be admitted to, which in turn decides which type of higher education you can apply for. In practice it is a lot more complex, but it comes down to this: you are motivated to work hard across several stages to make it to university, and obtaining that spot is an achievement in itself.
For me, this meant that when I arrived at my chosen university I was excited. I expected my British fellow students would be like-minded, and granted, a lot of them were. For the first couple of weeks, that is. I was surprised at the amount of people I met that either hated their subject or module, or had only enrolled in the course because "I scored highest in this subject" or "It seemed easy". As expected, those were the first people who stopped coming to lectures.
In a country where university is expensive, where lecture hours are remarkably lower than in Dutch universities and most work is done independently, the amount of people that do not attend lectures frustrates me. Based on annual fees, some lectures can cost hundreds of pounds. That is hundreds of pounds that students went to London to protest about. That is loans and grants and parents' support, wasted.
The reason for my fellow students' absence could easily be pinned down to laziness, or drinking, or even the bus service. However, after three years, I have come to a different conclusion; for many British students, university is not a reward. Many people I know explain their reasons for coming to university based on cost or ease of passing. Passion, a challenge or the job of their dreams? Not so much.
Now to make myself clear; I'm not saying all Dutch university students are hard-working and enthusiastic, or that everyone on my course is a slacker. However, from the perspective of someone who left home, friends, family and an adorable golden retriever, attending a university where many students throw away the experience is a bit demoralising. I did not come to the UK to pay for a slip of paper, but to study what I love. And so should every student.
The writer is studying a Joint Honours degree in Creative Writing and Media Communications at Bath Spa University.