‘You will meet professors with a high dedication who prepare excellent outlines and who will accompany you throughout the year.’ Read what Manuel Crain tells about Urban Sociology.
My name is Manuel Crain and I come from Switzerland. In 2011 I received my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and General Social Sciences from the University of Basel, Switzerland. Already during my undergraduate studies I became interested in urban issues and finally decided to look for graduate programmes in this area. One reason was certainly that universities in Switzerland don’t offer any Master’s Programmes that explicitly approach urban issues from a sociological point of view. But more importantly, I wanted to take the chance and study abroad. I considered a number of universities, but the Urban Sociology programme of the University of Amsterdam has convinced me the most, as it combines a classical sociological education with a specific urban perspective. After studying for more than three years in the field of social sciences, I felt the desire to apply this knowledge in a more precise and concrete way. The Urban Sociology programme offers exactly that: doing a Master’s in sociology with cities as specific points of orientation. In addition, the Graduate School of Social Sciences, of which the programme is part of, enjoys an excellent reputation.
The first semester of the Urban Sociology track consist of two short methodology courses of your choice, a general seminar on social theories and a comprehensive introductory class in Urban Sociology. The two methods classes can be quite helpful, especially if you already know what methodological approach you are going to choose for your thesis. The seminar on social theories remains quite general and you will have heard of most theories before, but at least it refreshes your memory. The other major course of the first semester is fully concerned with urban sociology and guides you through all major topics and theorists. The seminar is small and personal and you’ll be in a room full of people who share many common interests. All this is likely to lead to productive and challenging discussions. For the second semester, I took part in an intense seminar on global cities – a seminar I found to be truly exciting and rewarding. What follows is the thesis for which you will be prepared through different meetings, either with other students or through personal advising by your professor. My thesis will consist of a discourse analysis on the city marketing campaign of Amsterdam. I’m interested in what ways and according to what criteria and values the city presents and positions itself discursively.
Compared to my undergraduate studies in Switzerland, there are a number of factors that never made me regret my decision to move to Amsterdam. You will meet professors with a high dedication who prepare excellent outlines and who will accompany you throughout the whole year. You’ll only have a few courses, which gives you time and space to profoundly engage in a certain topic. And most importantly, the students in your seminar share a common background and the courses are small, so you’ll be able to quickly make friends – the after work beers in one of the close by bars have quickly become a highly valued tradition.
And of course, Amsterdam is a wonderful city to live in, and even if everything appears new, your student counsellor will offer you helpful assistance. As an international student unfamiliar with how the University of Amsterdam works, I had to turn to my student adviser repeatedly, and each time I received an immediate and satisfying response.
The programme has opened up many new interests for me and I feel like there is even more to discover. This is why I am going to do another Master’s in urban studies at the University College London, where I will study cities for another year – this time from a more interdisciplinary perspective.
Overall I am very happy with the choice I’ve made – not only academically but also for the experience of living in Amsterdam for a year and having made so many terrific friends. My advice for any future students: go native, get to know the Dutch, join a local sports club – and become friends with someone who owns a canal boat.