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I would love to hear some views on The International School of Amsterdam. Are you/your children happy with the school? We move countries every two years due to my husband's job. We have two girls, 5 and 7. We haven't yet seen the school however it will be close to where we live. Many thanks in advance for your helpful feedback.
 

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International School of Amsterdam (ISA)

There are a number of possible international schools in the Amsterdam metro area that are available to your girls.

First a little background from us, we returned from NL last year (fall 2012). We have three kids which at the time of our arrival in NL in 2008 were a few years older than yours (later years of primary school). We lived in the western part of NL near the German border for our first 3 years in NL; there our kids attended the only international school option, the dutch subsidized international school (DSIS). I believe that today there are 12 similar DSISs spread around NL. Our oldest did her first year in NL at the primary DSIS and then moved on to secondary DSIS which was located in a separate (10 minute walk) school . The DSIS primary school was excellent. We made many friends there and the faculty was excellent (a few were truly extraordinary). As to the secondary we weren't as happy. There were a number of issues with it that we and other parents discovered along the way. So as our second moved from primary to secondary, we decided to relocate to Amstelveen for our last and fourth year in NL, so that our kids could enroll in ISA. All our 3 kids loved ISA. Our kids only attended ISA one year. Looking back, I would have enrolled our kids at ISA, the second our first entered secondary school.

Having said that it really comes down to each family's goals, and financial situation. Based on the age of your girls, in my humble opinion, once you set your goals, you can't go really wrong with any of the options.

Your options again are ISA (International School of Amsterdam), one of the many Dutch Subsidized international schools (DSISs), and finally a regular Dutch school (Your kids are at an age that they can learn Dutch in no time if they are fully emerge in Dutch school. It would be tough but if you want them to learn the language it is an option. Maybe something to consider for one semester if moving to NL in December).

I am assuming your employer takes care of the tuition or that you are independently wealthy. In that case ISA is a very good option. I will try to list the pros and cons (of course from my point of view)

ISA Pros:

- School, faculty and staff is very well prepared to easily integrate kids from other countries into the fold. Most of the staff has worked at this and other international schools around the world and know what it takes to give each child a excellent experience. Each year a large % of new kids arrive and a large % of new kids depart. No big deal at ISA. They have the experience, and they do it flawless.

- As a result of the ISA's awareness your kids will make friends easier (and not as often openly discussed due to fear of sounding selfish SO WILL YOU. I am not going to go into this as you can research it elsewhere, but when you do you will learn that it is very hard for non Dutch in the Netherlands to build a network of "Dutch" friends). Not an issue at ISA.

- ISA offers some after school extra curricular activities. Sorry I am not sure what they have for 5 & 7 year olds.

- Academic decent, and appropriate for the age and grade level of kids (they will be able to enter other English speaking schools around the world without too much difficulty)

- I have to repeat it. As perhaps there's no bigger PRO to ISA, but ISA provides an avenue for the kids and parents to meet each other and for them to have a real rewarding social life. Many moms meet at the cafeteria after drop offs and pick ups and do things together (outings, chat, museums, etc). For the stay at home spouse more likely 80%+ of your new NL friends will come from other stay at home spouses from ISA. This is a little harder if the stay at home is the Dad - but not impossible. Most of the stay at home are Moms, and in many cultures some of the of the stay at home moms are not comfortable mixing the genres in social activities. As the stay home Dads only account for a handful of families, it can be a lonely thing for those dads. A challenge that require the few stay home dads to work harder to get involved. So please be kind to the Dad's :). If you see a dad there standing come on reachout :eek:

- Location: ISA is not located in Amsterdam but in the southern edge suburbs of Amstelveen (different city actually). It takes about 40 minutes by tram to reach the heart of Amsterdam, 25 to reach the start of the historic areas. If you like quite suburbs, you can live in in edges of Amstelveen (westwijk), or in Aaalmeer. These areas are offer nearness to school, larger modern homes, easy parking and and a bit lower price per sq/mt. If you want culture, restaurants, urban life you will be better off in history Amsterdam (in that case I suggest something near something near Vondalpark.

-Transport: ISA works with a transport company that picks and takes kids home. This is optional and not run by the school directly. I heard the service is expensive but good for some. They have some nice late model mini vans that line up at the school door. Some companies pay for the transport, in addition to the tuition. For example, I believe Nike (at the time there were 25+ families w/Nike at ISA) pays for the transport. Problem with that is that kids will leave school immediately after last period and will not participate in the extra curricular activities. And you will not be at the school which will cut your links to the social activities. If I would partake in the service I would use the service in the morning and pick up the kids after school. Most socializing is leading to the end of date. Although not all.

Mix Pro/Con:

- ISA is large. This is good in a way; you and the kids we'll find all kinds of folk. ISA is such large school that the kids and you will find someone with common values, and likes. There are folk from everywhere. Some high end folk, some down to earth folk and some in between. The con that I saw is that there was not as much integration between folk from different cultures. At ISA people tend to hang out together with other like them (Americans with othe American. Japanese with Japanse, Brits with Brits, Aussie/Kiwis with Aussie/Kiwis, Latin Americans with Latin American). For me personally I like to learn about many cultures, and would enjoy more intergration, but it is what it is. The Pros out flank the Con as you want your kids and you to have a friends.

ISA Cons

- Cost (if you are the one paying the tuition)
- English is the language. Great for kids that speak Spanish, Italian, Japanese, etc These kids will learn English. Not so good for English speakers to learn other languages (including Dutch). Maybe different in the secondary IB years, but not in case of a 5 & 7 year olds.

Dutch subsidized International School.

- Cost (if you are the one paying) about 15% of the cost of ISA.

- smaller schools (yet not necessary smaller classrooms)

Cons:

- Like a public school. Politics run the place (resources issues. labour problems etc)

- No school organized after school extra curricular activities. In NL activities are organized by clubs (A pain to find) not linked with the school and at a complete different locations.

Finally regular Dutch Subsidized International School (DSIS)

DSIS Pros:

- Cost free

- You kids are young so they will learn Dutch quickly

- near to your home/little commute

Cons

- Getting friends for your kids and you will be a CHALLENGE. Although it may be easier in Amsterdam than elsewhere in NL because afterall it is cosmopolitan city used to foreigners us.

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It'ss good to look at all the options. In the end each family has to determine what is right for them.

Now to my personal opinion. For the typical expat family relocating to the Amsterdam metro area, the best option, if it's available to them (tuition being the big factor), is ISA. ISA is very well prepared to integrate your kids. It provides good academic and safe environment. The School staff, teachers, and other parents will help you.

If money is not issue ISA all the way. Have fun in NL. Bring your rain coat. Get a Museum card the second you get there (it last a year). And take advantage and discover NL and Europe during the breaks you will have an amazing time.
 

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Ups The last school was regular Dutch Schools not the DSIS. and sorry for the bad grammar. Tried to edit it but the system shuts down edit after 15 minutes.

Not great for this site (an expat site) used by many who like me have English as a second language. Admin I suggest 24 edit period. 15 minutes is just not enough! :-(
 

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Any advice for a 17 year old needing to finish her last year of school? I think we will be moving closer to Utrecht.
 

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ISA is a bit far from Utrecht. As an example most expats working in Nike's European office in the surrounding areas of Utrecht choose to live in Amsterdam to give their kids access to ISA (there were over 2 dozen Nike families at ISA when we were there. Nike pays for the tuition but they also take care of the fees to cover the transport company that services ISA. The transport company is independent from ISA. They run a fleet of late mode mini vans ( but the service is not cheap). The transport company picks up kids throughout Amsterdam metro and brings them to school in the morning and back in the evening. The thing is that these vans leave right after school, so no chance to socialize or participate in after school activities and still be able to use the service.

We lived in the westwijk area which is about a 15-20 minute bike ride or drive. There is a segment in Westwijk with brand new homes there and is very easy to move around. The thing is that Westwijk is quiet and lacks activity. Our kids were younger so this area suited our needs, but if your kids is older, I suggest living closer to Amsterdam center. Visit the school. Close to the end of the school day. Head to the cafeteria and don't be afraid to approach folk and ask question. Everyone goes through the same move issues,

ISA is used to receiving kids at different stages of high school. So your daughter would not be alone.

Just choose wisely where you will live. Quick access to the highway to get however needs to commute to Utrecht will be high regarded by the commuter in your family very quickly. For activities in old Amsterdam, being within walking distance to a tram or metro, would be a plus too (even if you have a car)

You are in Cinci now? Let me guess P&G?

My last two tips get a museum card. They last a year and give you unlimited access to most museums, Anne Frank house etc. If you like to go to the movies get in the unlimited movies plan at the Pathe cinemas when November rolls in. It gives you unlimited movies. A great thing to do in the grey rainy winter Sundays. And is cheap if you see more than two movies per month.

Have a great time in NL, and don't forget your rain gear, and very very good locks for your bikes. (used bikes are best as they get stolen regularly).

Any question just ask. We are now back in the US. After 4 years stint in NL. Not to far From Cinncinati. 2hrs west of Louisville.
 

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I truly appreciate your advice and willingness to help.

So it sounds like even though my husband will be working in Nijmegen it might be better to live closer to Amsterdam so my daughter can finish her last year of high school at ISA? From what I can figure out the Ultrecht International school currently only goes to 8th grade. Even though they say they will be possibly moving and starting the upper grades 2014-2015 I am not sure I want her going to a brand new school before they figure things out.

We could live there the first 18 months and then move closer to his work once she graduates.

Yes Cinci but surprisingly No to P&G lol

Great ideas as far as the museum and movies passes. I will certainly get those once we arrive.

What was your biggest hurtle living in the Netherlands?
 

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"So it sounds like even though my husband will be working in Nijmegen it might be better to live closer to Amsterdam so my daughter can finish her last year of high school at ISA? "

So I just heard back from ISA and they said that they do not take students for their 12th year as it is a two year program! Now what am I supposed to do?
 

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tough choices

Nijmegen! You should have started with that. Actually my wife's job was also in Nijmegen. So we are quite familiar with the area and have friends that are still there. We lived in Elst our first 3 years in NL. Elst is located between Nijmegen and Arnhem where you will find the closest Dutch International School (Arnehm International School - AIS) to Nijmegen. AIS has a primary program that is excellent. The primary is located within the Aletta Jacob school building. The Secondary School is located two blocks away in a Dutch High School building. We were very happy at the AIS primary school and made many friends there. My daughter's first year in NL was as a student at the primary school then she did two years at AIS's secondary. There were various issues at the secondary so we were not so happy with the AIS secondary. So when the company asked my wife to stay an extra year we negotiated a company paid moved to Amsterdam metro so our kids could go to the ISA. Some of my daughter's old class mates are still at AIS and they would be your daughter's classmates next year if she enrolls at AIS (the senior class is probably 30 people at ISA if not less). I know some of their parents so I would be happy to put you in touch with them. They are very friendly folk who would be very happy to share their experiences and the status quo of AIS today.


You are in a difficult spot because your child is a senior. ( I am assuming that you have only on child still at home). You have to understand that most international schools run the IB (International Baccalaureate) program. most international schools will make most kids do the junior year again if they come from a non IB program school. Two fold reasons: they could not follow the IB program as a senior because it really is a continuation of work/activities that started when the student was a junior. Second these schools are in very high demand so space is limited and the schools rather have students who will be them for more than one year. Our kids were younger when they enrolled at ISA. We never told ISA that they would only be there for just one year. Otherwise my guess is that they would not accept them.

Unfortunately you don't have a lot of options because your daugther is a senior. Some of these options may not sound great still here they are:

If you can't get her in at ISA as a senior maybe you want to consider enrolling her in the 11th grade (tell her that she will have an amazing experience living abroad for two years, and in my opinion worth it to be at ISA). If for whatever reason you are not prepared to enroll her as a junior and as a last resort in NL, you can try to enroll her as a senior at the Arnhem International School or the Utrecht Interational School. Both are are part of the Dutch Government run International Schools. ( My prefernce then would be at IS Arhem. I would live in the Nijmegen area - Nijmegen, Elst or Arnhem before Utrecht). Because the commutes from Utrecht to Nijmegen aren't fun either (although clearly not as bad as from Amsterdam)

This morning I drove my daughter (16 and a junior) to her school because of all the ice on the roads(she normally drives). I asked her what she would think of Amsterdam vs. Utrecht or Nijmegen. Both she (a junior) and my son (a freshman) immediately said ISA (in Amsterdam/Amstelveen)!!! But she immediately also said that you would be a problem if not next to impossible to enroll her as a senior on a school running the IB program. She knows because she attends an IB program and is more familiar with the IB curriculum than me.

I hate to say it but if you are not able to get your daughter enrolled in one of the international schools, you have to seriously consider staying put with your kid at her current school in Cinci (kep in mind 10 months fly by). If your spouse's employer was going to pay the ISA tuition (25K++ euros) it would be cheaper for them to get airlines tickets to visit your spouse during the holidays. Alternatively if that is no option then there is the option of a US based boarding school. But if you stay in OH, you can always join your spouse when your daughter goes off to college. Finally one last option is to look at the american school that is located in the Hague area (I am not sure if they run an IB but if not, you may have better luck there). Personally I know what I would do but each person is different, and you have to make the decision based on your family values and goals.

Going back to commuting between Amsterdam and Nijmegen. My wife did the commute for one year (the last of our four years in NL) Frankly to do that commute for more that one year would be very tough. At times (bad weather or accidents on the road) that commute takes almost 3 hours (most times it take well over 2). You will find soon enough find that Dutch highways are a constant traffic jam during day hours. My wife left by 530am and did not get home until 830pm. Very exhausting. Nevertheless if you ask her it was worth it for our kids to go to ISA. But there is no doubt my wife suffered.

Not sure if there is private messaging in this forum. I am not comfortable writing my phone number or email openly. If you have any questions or you want me to put you in touch with others in NL now let me know.

You have some tough decisions. Yet living abroad will give you is a very rewarding experience.

If you end up in Europe take advantage. Travel as much as you can. International school give longer breaks during the school year. Don't miss the opportunity to visit all that you can. I hope you will find a solution for your daugther.
 

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Enrolling her in 11th grade is exactly what ISA said a lot of people in my situation would do. I am not sure I can sell that to my daughter. So close to the end - but wait you have to go an extra year!

Can I ask how your daughter thought the IB program was compared to American school curriculum? My daughter is pretty much a straight A student here and I was wondering if she would feel behind the majority of students there?

Do any of their senior classes transfer as college credits? Maybe I could sell two years there if I told her that really the second year would almost count as your first year of college classes!

My husband will most likely be traveling throughout Europe close to 75% of the time so I am not sure the commute would be so bad for him from ISA school area down to Nijmegen. Especially knowing he would only have to do it for two years. Once she goes off to college we could move closer to his work.

I was wondering about the private messaging option as well. If we get the Expat pkg and decide to try and live in the Netherlands over London - which is another option - then I will give you my email address as I would love to continue our discussions as well as get the ISA parent contacts you offered.

I have thought about staying for an additional year, but I know my husband really wouldn't like it. He likes to have his family around for the little amount of time he will be at home. I am the one that is more excited about moving abroad. Plus it defeats the wonderful experience for my daughter as well.

And I absolutely plan on doing a whole lot of traveling while I am over there.

Thanks!!
 

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"Enrolling her in 11th grade is a tough sell" I fully understand. I also have a daughter who is the same age. She is also a good student; it would be tough to convince her to do a repeat too. In their mind set, they would see it as a sign of failure and they would likely be a shame to tell her friends (who also would not likely understand the reason of the do over). Yes it is very tough. This is way I suggested the option to staying put in Cincinnati (even though she would miss out living in Europe which in my opinion is a real pity) so that your daughter could finish at her current school. What option do you have if she does not want to be a junior again when there's no available school to enter as a senior in NL. In Cincinnati school starts in August and ends in May/June so it is really a a short 10 months. Maybe your husband could delay the posting for one year?HA as if that would fly in corporate America.

Sadly if you stay in Cincinnati your daughter would miss the unique experience of living abroad. But sometimes you get lemons and all you can do with them is make lemonade.

If your daughter is a straight A, I am certain that she would be more than intellectually capable to do the IB work. Certainly there could be a learning curve, and maybe short term, it could affect her grades, but IF she puts the necessary effort she would be OK. The problem of entering as Senior is not whether she's able to do the work. Is that the work being conducted by seniors was started when these students were juniors. It would be very tough and disruptive for the other students and teachers to take in a new senior into an IB program when they come from another program. This is why the school admissions at IB will push for a junior entry point.

Good to hear that you will take advantage of your time in Europe. We really enjoyed the travel opportunities that living in Europe provided.

Can't help with London. Been there often and really like it but I am not familiar with schools there. Certainly I would guess there are more American school options available there.
London is great to a bit expensive, but so is NL.

Just let me know if any questions pop up later.

Ciao!

PS my wife is a Buckeye. My daughter number 1 school choice is OSU.
 

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So I was driving my daughter to a meeting and casually mentioned the issues I was having finding a school over there. When I went through the options as I saw them (stay here, move there and start as a Junior, or possibly go to International Dutch school) she surprisingly said "it wouldn't be that big a deal to go for two years. The students there won't know that I was repeating my Junior year, plus I would be able to take different classes not repeat the same classes I have already taken" It certainly surprised me. Although I may have said that we could certainly travel around more if she stay in school two more years instead of one. AND we would have a better idea of what going to a European college would be like.

Well I guess we just need to wait for the Expat Pkg and see if they will pay for the tuition and go from there.

Truly thanks ever so much. It is a big relief to get advice from someone that actually knows what they are talking about.
 

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Wow is all that I can say. You have a visionary in your daughter; for her to see it that way shows a great level of maturity in my book. I hope that your expat package will work to your advantage.

In that case my final recommendation for a school would definitely be the International school of Amsterdam.

Best of luck to you and family, and Safe travels!
 

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Bad experience at ISA

My Ds went to ISA whilst we were living in Amsterdam for a few years. It was not a good experience for him. He made some good friends but I could never recommend it unless your child is average and you don't take much interest in what goes on there.
If your child is bright, speaks very good English or is in any way sensitive, then I suggest going somewhere else. We also had to pay for EAN for everyone else yet my child was bored rigid as no one gave him any work to challenge him and there were no after school activities other than tennis or football.
We also experienced bullying that was not properly dealt with, an uncaring attitude from the powers that be (and worse) and the school ignoring parental requests (when my son had been very sick and I sent a note saying he couldn't go swimming, they made him swim and he got sick again). I could go on and on as there were many things that shocked us that went on there.
 

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My Ds went to ISA whilst we were living in Amsterdam for a few years. It was not a good experience for him. He made some good friends but I could never recommend it unless your child is average and you don't take much interest in what goes on there.
If your child is bright, speaks very good English or is in any way sensitive, then I suggest going somewhere else. We also had to pay for EAN for everyone else yet my child was bored rigid as no one gave him any work to challenge him and there were no after school activities other than tennis or football.
We also experienced bullying that was not properly dealt with, an uncaring attitude from the powers that be (and worse) and the school ignoring parental requests (when my son had been very sick and I sent a note saying he couldn't go swimming, they made him swim and he got sick again). I could go on and on as there were many things that shocked us that went on there.
Wow, sorry to hear that! Forcing him to swim while sick is shocking. What can I say, after living here over 5 years I am not surprised in the least.

Did that factor in your decision to leave NL (seems you are in Italy now)? I am leaving this year once I get some important legal stuff sorted. Can't wait to go back to the real world.
 
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