Working while studying in Holland

Many international students try to alleviate the cost of studying by working part time. But how to find a job? And how do you balance school, work and social life? Student Ambassador Slavena shares her experiences with finding a job and working in Arnhem.

Posted by Slavena Trifonova - Student Ambassador - HAN University of Applied Sciences at Sep 12, 2018 11:04 AM

When you are an international student in the Netherlands and your origin is one of the less developed counties (in my case, that’s Bulgaria), it’s really easy to feel financial struggles. It wasn’t long after my arrival in Arnhem, when I decided I need to find a job, so that I could be eligible for the Dutch Student finance (brief reminder: if you are an EU student and you make at least 56 hours a month, you get the same rights as a normal Dutch student). But along with that decision, a lot of questions popped up immediately in my head – how am I gonna combine being a first-year student and working, what about the exam weeks, where can I even look for jobs, who is even gonna accept me with my level of Dutch (for the reference, I knew about 10-15 words, more or less), and so on.

I decided I will figure out the answers along my journey and immediately typed “student jobs in Arnhem” in Google (in the end, I’m gonna give you my tips for searching for a job, so keep this moment in mind). One of the first websites that were shown was . I started looking while translating everything on Google translate. Since my location was really close to a Winkelcentrum I thought it won’t be that hard to find a job there – there were a lots of shops such as HEMA, Kruidvat, Big bazaar, that have big assortment and probably would lack someone tidying up everything. While browsing, I saw an ad for Subway, which was right behind the SSH building I was living in. I filled in their questionnaire and started thinking what are the odds I would be accepted. Two days later, I got an invitation for an interview and on exactly my 8th day of being in the Netherlands, I met my future manager for an “afspraak”. Surprisingly, we did the interview in English, although I showed my motivation to learn Dutch, which proved to be useful, because in the end I got the job. I had a rough start with my Dutch, I probably messed up around 50 orders, but I never gave up. Currently, I’m 1 month away of working there for an entire year and have the position of a Shift manager (it means you are the responsible one for the restaurant during your shift).

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In my work outfit!


During the year, I had my obstacles combining work and school. We had lots of group projects, which required additional group job outside of school hours, which meant work hours for me. Since I needed to make the 56 hours every month, I had to skip some of our group meetings, which didn’t mean less work for me, just the opposite – I had to come back home at 8:30 pm after work only to start doing my work for the projects till an indefinite time. Speaking of time, sometimes it was quite difficult to combine the shifts and school, since the school schedule changed every period, so that meant reorganising everything once again. However, I managed to stick to one of my rules and that was about not skipping my lectures because of work. I was lucky, because my manager is aware of the fact that most of us are students and have prioritised our school agenda as the main one. Also, I didn’t have any sleepless nights due to work (most of the cases, it was mainly because of partying).Speaking of partying, you may think that if you have to work and study, you don’t have any social life and become one of those unsociable people, who don’t speak to anyone. That is definitely not the case with me, in fact I did not miss even one of ISA’s parties, I actually got also lots of time to travel and explore the Netherlands, do some sports or even cook myself a proper meal. Now is the time to mention that in such cases time management plays an incredibly important role and I own everything to it. Without appropriate agenda made by you, it’s very likely that you may not succeed with your first year and combining everything.

So to sum up, here are my tips to search for job and how to combine it with school:

  1. Search for all the opportunities you have – websites, friends, colleagues, shops near your place – you never know which one will be the your lucky shot if you don’t try. Don’t forget to type in Dutch so that you have more chances of finding something.
  2. Show that you have motivation – from what I have noticed, Dutch people seem to appreciate more people who show motivation and ambition. Whether it’s about learning the language, learning some skills that are vital for your job or simply why you want to get this job – show it!
  3. Don’t be afraid to learn Dutch – I know the language sounds weird and mostly really hard to learn, but once you feel the surrounding environment around you, it won’t be that hard to some some phrases in Dutch or even make a proper conversation
  4. Fix your time management – of course, nothing can be perfect, but why not try to make it close enough to that. Get one of those agenda books and fill everything in. In this way you will make sure you won’t forget anything and will keep track.
  5. Don’t be afraid – I’ve had so many cases in which I would be facing an insanely busy week and would question myself “How am I gonna succeed in everything?”. Eventually, everything works out in the best possible way, so no need to worry and cause yourself even more stress!
Posted by Slavena Trifonova - Student Ambassador - HAN University of Applied Sciences at Sep 12, 2018 11:04 AM