There is a rich and thriving student life to be had in the Netherlands! The extracurricular activities you involve yourself in at University are arguably just as valuable as the course you take, and the degree you end up with. If you have chosen to study in NL, or you are considering it, keep reading. This page will explain what’s on offer to you, in the way of: sports clubs, student organizations and alumni networking. Making the most of these opportunities will help you to truly get to know your chosen Dutch city, whilst making invaluable life-long friends and connections. You may be thinking: ‘all this sounds wonderful, but how can I afford it as a student’? Living on a shoestring is difficult, but it should not mean that you miss out during your studies. Therefore, we have also provided a little advice on how to keep costs to a minimum, without compromising your enjoyment of student life in NL.

For further help on this topic, take a look at our page devoted to ‘Financial Matters for Students in NL‘.


These days, Dutch University campuses tend not to revolve around fraternities, sororities or student organizations as much as they did in the past. However, student life still has a huge influence on the atmosphere and identity of University towns in Holland. There are several reasons for this:

  • Many Dutch cities are not very big
  • Relatively, therefore, students tend to make up quite a high percentage of a city’s population
  • This means that their presence can be felt in the centers of towns, and in neighborhoods that are popular with young people
  • There are few large student campuses in Holland
  • Still, every student town has a number of student organizations
  • Sometimes, a student organization has its own ‘club house’
  • Club houses often have their own unique traditions, rules, atmosphere and culture
  • This seeps out of their walls and can be felt in and around the city as well

Why Join a Student Organization in NL?

  • Joining a Dutch student organization is a great way to meet new people
  • Because organizations tend to be the locus of student life within a city, joining one is a way of accessing the centre of the action!
  • Their buzz and lively atmosphere make them ideal for making friends relatively fast
  • Club houses can feel like a home away from home for international students in NL
  • They often serve as a regular meeting place, where students can hang out with their friends
  • Being a part of a student organization will enable you to naturally build up a network of like-minded people. This could help with your career later on
  • Friends you make at the club house could become future colleagues

Hazing in the Netherlands

In order to become a member of a student organization, you may well have to go through a process called ‘hazing‘:

  • Hazing is a kind of ‘rite of passage’ a student must undergo, in order to be given membership to a fraternity
  • The fraternity will usually devise a series of challenges potential members must overcome, in order to prove they are worthy of joining
  • If you plan to study in NL for just a short period of time it might suit you better to check out some smaller student organizations
  • These are less likely to uphold hazing traditions. Or, said traditions might be less extreme than those of larger fraternities and sororities


There are many different types of student organization on the Netherlands!

1. Organizations for a Common Interest or Hobby

  • Many organizations are aligned with a common interest, such as a sport, a religion, an activity or a cause
  • Some of these have been founded by institutions of higher education themselves

2. ‘Free Time Organizations’

  • These are called ‘gezelligheidsverenigingen in Dutch
  • No particular activity is at the center of such organizations. They are more like social clubs, through which students can meet other people easily
  • They are very popular in Holland

3. ‘Faculty Organizations’

  • In contrast to free time organizations, these organize a lot of activities
  • The events tend to revolve around a specific line of study
  • Activities might include: lectures, workshops or sales of textbooks at a reduced price
  • Faculty organizations are called ‘studieverenigingen in Dutch
  • If you are interested in gaining advice related to your studies and your career path, it is these organizations that are worth looking into

4. National and International Student Organizations

  • These organizations serve a similar purpose  
  • Both can help you find internships, work placements and temporary jobs
  • They also provide fun and interesting activities to help you enjoy student life as an expat in NL


AEGEE‘ and ‘AIESEC‘ are examples of popular international student organizations:

  1. AEGEE is a general European student organization
  2. AIESEC helps students find international internships in a global learning environment

The Organization for You

Student organizations should not be the only thing you base your choice of university on. However, they can act as a good indicator of a city’s character. The types of organization a town is host to are a good meter for what  interests and values its population has. Here are a few tips on how to research student organizations in NL:

  • We recommend that you look over each city’s list of the organizations, to find out which one you would feel most at home in
  • Talking to people at your institute of higher education is another great way to find out what’s on offer
  • If you can attend an open day, we encourage you to do so! It is the only way to really get a taste of a town’s atmosphere 


As an international student, you can join the Holland Alumni Network. This network offers services to international students in the Netherlands. By joining, you will gain access to:

  • All sorts of Alumni associations
  • Careers advice from alumni who have gone through the Dutch Higher education system
  • Communication with alumni who are affiliated with Dutch higher education institutions
  • Other relevant organizations for international students and job seekers
  • 62,000 fellow students


The Dutch are a very sporting nation. Hence, all student towns have sports facilities. This makes sport a huge part of student life for many Dutch University attendees:

  • Sometimes the facilities are a part of a local sports organization
  • Others are affiliated with the institute of higher education itself
  • Sports organizations aim to create camaraderie amongst students
  • They are not usually about serious competition
  • Sports club membership is generally affordable in NL
  • Most organizations offer a student discount too

Rowing in NL

Rowing is one of the most traditional and competitive student sports in the Netherlands:

  • Most Dutch rowing clubs are student clubs
  • Some of them are affiliated with larger student organizations, and others are completely independent
  • Many students take up this sport during their first year, and stop after graduating
  • The main Dutch rowing event is the ‘Varsity
  • This is a huge rowing tournament, to which large student rowing clubs send their best teams to compete
  • During the race, thousands of students sit and stand by the water to watch, picnic, drink and boogy
  • A huge party usually continues long into the night on the premises of the student organization of the winning team

Other Sports for Students in NL

If rowing is not your thing, do not be put off! There are plenty of other sports for you to get involved with, such as:

  • Soccer
  • Hockey
  • Rugby
  • Tennis
  • And more!

Most of these sports have their own organization


Having some ‘go to’ places to socialize with friends is fundamental for a healthy student life. Typically, students want:

  • Hangouts that are ‘frequented by other students’
  • Affordable food and drink 
  • A variety of cafés, restaurants, bars and dance clubs

Luckily, most Dutch towns cater very well for these requirements:

  • They tend to have a lot of student cafés and restaurants 
  • Designated student cafeterias are also popular
  • These are best known for offering very cheap meals
  • Eet-cafésare also common. These establishments have a pleasant atmosphere and very cheap grub as well

When you first move to your new Dutch student town, we advise you to:

  • Ask other students what they recommend
  • Go out and explore for yourself. The search is half the fun!


There are multiple discount cards designed for young people in the Netherlands. They enable students to save a lot of money. This, in turn, equips them for a richer student life.

The Dutch Cultural Youth Passport

If you are interested in educating yourself on the culture of your new city and country, get yourself a ‘CJP’:

  • CJP is pronounced ‘say-yay-pay’ and stands for ‘cultureel jongeren paspoort
  • This translates as ‘cultural youth passport’
  • The CJP costs € 17.50 for those under 30
  • There is a special kind of CJP for students, which costs just €25
  • This student CJP includes a ‘Knaek-discount‘. Knaek is a Dutch company that offers discounts on lots of products that are useful to students
  • The CJP can be bought via the CJP website
  • The pass enables you to claim reductions on theater tickets, concert events, entrance fees for exhibitions and films
  • You can also download CJP’s app

Other Discount Cards in NL

  • The CJP is part of ‘European Youth Card Network‘, or ‘EYCA’
  • This network shows students how to benefit from discounts at restaurants, cinemas, and shops all over the world
  • Another student card that offers discounts is the ‘ISIC
  • This is the ‘International Student Identity Card’


Many expat students enjoy student life in the Netherlands so much that they go on to forge a career in Holland, after graduating from their Dutch institution.

The types of students listed below have three years to request a residence permit, following their graduation from a Dutch University. They must dedicate one of these years to finding work as a highly skilled migrant in the Netherlands:

  • Foreign students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree in NL
  • Foreign students who have obtained a master’s degree in NL
  • Students that have obtained a master’s degree, or a Ph.D., at a qualifying university abroad
  • Scientific researchers
  • Post-doctoral students

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