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Off-Campus Programs: Semester Programs


The Netherlands Semester Program

This program is primarily meant for science and engineering students

Want to stay on track with your science major or engineering program and go on an off-campus semester? With Calvin's new agreement with the VU University, Amsterdam for the spring semester, you can choose two science courses, one humanities/social science course (all in English) and take one (Calvin) core course. These courses can easily count toward your major and core—and you can still graduate in four years.

With the strong Dutch tradition in the natural sciences, and because of Calvin's ethnic heritage and longstanding relationship with the VU University, Amsterdam is an ideal location for this program


You must at least be a sophomore with a 2.5 grade point average to apply to this program. Science and engineering students will be given first preference. Remaining openings will first be filled with students from Calvin's Dutch language and culture program, then by all other Calvin students.


This program cost for Spring 2011 has yet to be determined. The price will include:

  • Tuition (four courses)
  • Round-trip air transportation from Grand Rapids to Amsterdam
  • Room and Board
  • Residency Permit
  • Excursions

Additional expenses not included in program fee: textbooks, passport, spending money, medical insurance (required) and independent travel.


You will stay in university housing: private rooms with en suite bathrooms, shower and refrigerator, common kitchen.


Two courses are required for all students in the Studies in the Netherlands Program.

1) During the January interim prior to the off-campus semester, all students (except those who have already taken such a course) will enroll in a one-semester hour course in Dutch language and culture offered at Calvin. This course will be in addition to a regular interim course.

2) All students will be enrolled in the following course, taught by the Netherlands semester program director:

STNL 230: Toward Environmental Sustainability in the Netherlands: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Practices
This course introduces students to major episodes in the history of environmental modification, control and management in the Netherlands. The water management history and current environmental challenges of the “low” Netherlands as related to coasts, rivers and land are examined as well as the changes and current policies related to forests, dunes, rivers, wetlands and heaths of the ‘high’ Netherlands. The course addresses the present-day shift from conquest and control toward cooperation and sustainability. Dutch climate change policies and initiatives are explored. Lectures, guest speakers, field trips, discussions and films will all be part of this course. 4 semester hours, cross-cultural engagement and global/historical studies core

At the VU University Amsterdam, you will enroll in three courses in addition to STNL 230. These will be taught in English. Most students will take two science courses from the list below and one humanities/social science course (that will count as a Calvin core course) from the university’s list of courses, taught in English.

Science courses The VU University Amsterdam has agreed to offer the following courses in English. Calvin science and engineering students will normally register for two of these. Both Calvin and VU University Amsterdam students will be enrolled in these courses.

Electricity and Magnetism (VU 420016)

The course consists of three parts: electrostatics, magneto-statics, and electromagnetism. With the experiment as guideline, concepts such as Coulomb force, electrical field, and electric potential are introduced. The same applies to such magnetism concepts as the Lorentz force and the magnetic field. The electrical and magnetic properties of materials will be explained. In the next section of the course time dependent phenomena such as induction are treated in order to ultimately arrive at Maxwell’s description of electrical magnetic phenomena in an integrated framework. Toward the end of the course electro-magnetic waves will be covered. This course is equivalent to Calvin’s Physics 235.

6 ECTS units or 4 Calvin semester hours
Materials Science (VU 420194)

Materials play an essential role in our society. To produce such a very wide variety of products, natural and synthetic materials are used including inorganic and organic substances and polymers. A thorough knowledge of the physical and chemical properties of these materials is therefore necessary for durable and quality production. In the lectures the building blocks of chemistry (atoms and elements) and their mutual interactions will first be reviewed. Then the course will examine how bonds and materials can be fashioned from these building blocks. This will be accomplished with examples: nuclear energy (isotopes) and energy from fossil fuels. Then attention will be paid to the use of soaps and detergents in the cleaning products industry. Because today the large majority of materials are made from plastics and polymers, extensive attention will be paid to the synthesis, properties and uses of synthetic and natural polymers and plastics.

This course will serve as an elective in the chemistry program and as a basic science elective in the engineering program.

6 ECTS units or 4 Calvin semester hours
Human Evolution (VU 470055)

Students taking this course will become acquainted with the discussions about the reconstruction of human evolution and will develop insight into the arguments used by different disciplines to support such reconstructions. Students completing this course will be able to:

  • explain the state of affairs with respect to the history of descent of Homo Sapiens and other hominids
  • evaluate the evidence for human evolution from molecular genetics, paleontology and comparative ethology
  • form an opinion about recent articles inNature and Science in which new paleontological findings and genetic information are presented
This course will serve as an upper level biology elective for biology majors or as a basic science elective for engineering majors.
6 ECTS units or 4 Calvin semester hours
Developmental Biology

The goal of this course is to give insight into the molecular mechanisms which direct the development of eukaryote from egg cell to fully grown at the basis level (level 1). Special emphasis is placed on the role which the regulation of gene expression plays in fixing the building of embryos, the differentiation of cells, and the regulation of the cell cycle. Attention will also be paid to the methods and techniques to explain the underlying mechanisms. In the lab, in particular, attention will be paid to the interpretation of experimental results.

This course will serve as a biology elective.

6 ECTS units or 4 Calvin semester hours
Digital Spatial Data (VU 450023)

Students will learn the basics of Geographic Information Systems, Global Positioning Systems, Spatial Statistics, and Remote Sensing. They will learn to work with digital spatial data: collecting earth science data via remote sensing and global positioning systems, inferring information from remotely sensed data, processing of spatial data with geographic information systems and applying spatial statistics to these data.

This course will serve as a basic science elective in the Engineering program.

5 ECTS units or 3 Calvin semester hours

Humanities and social science courses  A variety of humanities and social sciences courses are offered in English by the Free University. Most of these courses are 5-6 ECTS units, or 3-4 Calvin semester hours. Normally, science and engineering students will take one bachelor level course from the VU Guide for Exchange Students. This course can, upon approval, earn Calvin core credit or serve as an elective in the program of the student. Engineering students, in particular, will use this course to satisfy a Calvin literature requirement.


The preliminary application is available here, or in the Off-Campus Programs Office. If you are interested in this off-campus semester, make an appointment with the professor in your major listed below. Applications for Spring 2011 are due by May 1, 2010.


The Studies in the Netherlands advisory committee members are listed below. The primary contacts are Henk Aay and Robert Hoeksema. Biology or chemistry students interested in this program should consult with John Ubels or Eric Arnoys. Contact Herman De Vries if you are in the Dutch language and culture program. All other students should contact Henk Aay.

Program Director, Spring 2011 Uko Zylstra,

Henk Aay, geology, geography and environmental studies department, 526-7033,

Robert Hoeksema, engineering department, 526-6167,

John Ubels, biology department, 526-6219,

Eric Arnoys, chemistry department, 526-6051,

Herman De Vries, Germanic languages, 526-6804,


Pictures taken by students on the Semester in The Netherlands program

Leiden - Rapenburg

Leiden - gracht

Delft - Nieuwe Kerk en Stadhuis


Texel - duinen

Texel - sneeuw!

Paleis het Loo

Den Haag skyline

Hindeloopen - Friesland

Sneek - De Oude Poort

Den Haag - Parlementsgebouw