In Rotterdam an MBA is More Than a Classroom |

In Rotterdam an MBA is More Than a Classroom

By john T

Updated June 20, 2019 Updated June 20, 2019

This article is sponsored by the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). Learn more about RSM.

If business education is something you think occurs within the confines of lecture theatres, classrooms and libraries, think again. Increasingly, learning take place inside corporate headquarters and company offices. MBA students are discovering that their education is about more than a classroom.

A school’s location obviously plays a part in where one’s education takes place. For some, this means joining the masses in global metropolises like London, Paris and New York; yet mega cities are not for everyone. Does studying outside one these global capitals mean sacrificing opportunities? Students and faculty at RSM don’t think so.

The R in RSM stands for Rotterdam (with SM being School of Management), a city which this year made the top 10 of The New York Time’s places to visit in 2014, courtesy of its striking modern architecture.

Rotterdam also ranks eighth in the Rough Guide’s Rough Guide’s Top 10 Cities 2014. With a population of just over 600,000 (in the city proper – the full urban sprawl is home to around 10 times this many people), Holland’s second-largest city can be navigated easily on one of the country’s ubiquitous bicycles (famously, there are more bikes than people in the Netherlands).

What to know more? Here are 10 reasons you should consider studying in Rotterdam.

1. Speak English while you learn Dutch

There’s a reason the Netherlands attracts students and business people from across the world. The nation has the highest proportion of English speakers in Europe. For many expats the common language reduces the challenges experienced in other international MBA programs. However, this also gives you the opportunity to learn a new language in a comfortable environment. One which can which can be a lot of fun – try pronouncing (or better yet, spelling) the names of local attractions like Nederlands Architectuurinstituut (the Netherlands Architecture Institute) or the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam. When you try to learn you may be wished ‘veel succes’ or ‘veel geluk’ – good luck!

2. The best bar in the world?

When travel publisher, Lonely Planet, asked its readers to name the best bar in the world in 2009, they didn’t pick a pub in London or a dive in New York. They chose De Witte Aap (The White Ape). Locals and tourists mix in equal measure in the bar which also functions as an art space and live music venue.

“The travelers who come to Rotterdam are mostly very interested in architecture and museums and galleries, and they come to this street because it’s one of the nicest in Rotterdam,” owner Ron Sterk notes on Radio Netherlands. “They come in the bar and the people who work here have good suggestions about restaurants or bands playing. It’s very personal. The visitors here are very free-spirited, open-minded people and there’s good interaction between all kinds of people.”

3. Museums

Amsterdam’s museums dedicated to Van Gogh and Anne Frank are famous worldwide, but Rotterdam can also boast its own more than respectable selection of museums too, with establishments devoted to architecture, photography, modern art and much more. Newly renovated, the Kunsthal Museum reopened last February, the much-celebrated Rotterdam artist Henk Chabot has his own eponymous museum and the Maritiem Museum celebrates the city’s maritime heritage.

4. Port of Rotterdam

Speaking of which, the Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the third-largest in the world. Living in Rotterdam means never being far from the water. The 802 meter Erasmus Bridge connects the northern and southern sections of the city, while the bustling, container-ship packed Port of Rotterdam provides a visual spectacle that is worth seeing in itself. RSM even offers an MBA Sailing Regatta.

5. Oldest fish market in the Netherlands

The city’s proximity to the sea means seafood and Rotterdam has some of the best. The Schmidt Zeevis fish market attracts tourists and locals who enjoy the fresh selection and meals prepared on site. The market was founded in 1908 as Schmidt Zeevischhandel; it has remained at the same location throughout its history. In addition to meals onsite, it provides fish for numerous restaurants and hotels along with the many ships that dock at Rotterdam’s ports.

6. Fusion cooking

Besides numerous seafood options, Rotterdam offers dining options that reflects the diversity of the famously tolerant Netherlands. Fusion cooking is partly the result of new arrivals bringing cuisine from their native lands. Almost half of the city’s population has at least one non-Dutch parent (Rotterdam has the highest percentage of foreigners from non-industrialized countries in the country). When they open restaurants, many incorporate Dutch or other elements into their offerings. Fusion cooking in Rotterdam means diners enjoy Dutch-French, Chinese-Caribbean and numerous other cultural blends. The city offers both top-rated restaurants and inexpensive dining for those not looking to break the bank. In October, 2014, Markthal (Market Hall) opened with some 100 stores selling fresh produce, along with 15 food shops, eight restaurants and a 36,000 square foot mural decorating its ceiling. It even has apartments for anyone hoping to be as close as possible to the food.

7. No matter what the weather in Rotterdam, locals love to cycle!

Cash-strapped students, those averse to cramped public transport and those just seeking a bit more exercise will appreciate Rotterdam. The city’s narrow streets are better suited for smaller vehicles. Here, as elsewhere in the Netherlands, bicycles dominate. Bike trails and bike paths make commuting by pedal power a breeze. It does, however, take a more hearty constitution to navigate by bike during the cold and rainy winter months. The weather in Rotterdam might seem ideal for biking in the summer, when the temperature averages 21C (70F), but by January the temperature drops to 3C (37F). Although it rains more than one third of the year, the weather in Rotterdam rarely deters locals who commute by bike regardless of the weather. As a George Washington student undergrad notes when detailing a year spent at RSM, “I even noticed little bike garages, to keep the bikes from getting wet from the rain. There is nothing quite like seeing someone riding a bike, while smoking a cigarette and talking on their cellphone. This kind of multi-tasking while riding around is pretty typical and always amusing to see.”

8. The Netherlands is highly ranked on the Global Innovation Index

Every year the Global Innovation Index ranks countries on a variety of criteria incorporating the nation’s innovation capabilities and the results of those innovations. The Global Innovation Index is co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, an agency of the United Nations, UN). As it notes on its website, “Over the last seven years, the Global Innovation Index has established itself as a leading reference on innovation. Understanding in more detail the human aspects behind innovation is essential for the design of policies that help promote economic development and richer innovation-prone environments locally.”

Switzerland tops the Global Innovation Index, just ahead of the UK with the Netherlands coming in a 5th – ahead of the US (6th) and Hong Kong (10th). As iAmsterdam notes on its website, “A defining trait possessed by all of the top countries is their ‘ecosystem’ approach to innovation, meaning they have developed their innovation policies across all pillars, including business climate, business sophistication and the creativity and enablement of the younger generation. Furthermore, the Netherlands ranks particularly high in patent filing and scores first place in e-participation, reflecting the widespread adoption of the internet in the country.”

9. Corporate headquarters

Corporate headquarters of companies like the Dutch half of Anglo-Dutch multinational consumer goods company Unilever and cruise line Holland America have called Rotterdam home. Although Holland America’s corporate headquarters moved to Seattle in 1989, numerous other companies have divisions in Rotterdam. Employment website lists companies that are top-rated by their employees like Eastman Chemical, Deloitte and Royal Dutch Shell that provide opportunities for newly-minted MBAs in Rotterdam. Included in the top five is Erasmus University itself (of which RSM is a part), which one employee praised for its “overall stimulating environment where everybody helps each other to accomplish their goals.”

10. Erasmus University

Named after the Catholic priest and scholar of the same name, Erasmus University began as the Netherlands School of Commerce in 1913, but began in its present form in 1973 when the Medical Faculty Rotterdam and the Netherlands School of Economics merged. Today, RSM offers a variety of MBA programs, including a part-time executive MBA as well as a full-time MBA. Next year, the school will even offer a double master degree in conjunction with China’s College of Business at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

This article is sponsored by the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). 

This article was originally published in November 2014 . It was last updated in June 2019

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Content writer John began his career as an investigative reporter and is a prolific educational writer alongside his work for us, authoring over 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults since 2000.