Liberal Arts students study criminal and social justice in the Netherlands

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This summer, 23 Liberal Arts students traveled to the Netherlands as part of the “Dutch Criminal and Social Justice” faculty-led course trip. Over the span of five weeks, students examined the Dutch and American approaches to social problems and criminal justice.

The program, led by Tim Robicheaux, associate teaching professor of sociology and criminology, has been ongoing for several years and provides unique experiences and opportunities for all involved.

“I have led this trip multiple times, and I never grow tired of it,” Robicheaux said. “I think I learned something new each day, and I always enjoy watching the students grow throughout our time in the Netherlands.”

Students learned about the Dutch criminal justice system through real-world approaches. From visiting local prisons to speaking with social activists, students were able to see first-hand the relationship between the criminal justice system and the role of culture in the Netherlands.

“The program consisted of many field experiences,” said Monica Michalowski, a fourth-year student majoring in criminology and psychology and minoring in political science. “We visited various programs and resources that help support the Dutch community.”

These included a police department, an all-male prison that focuses on rehabilitation, Rotterdam Detention Centre, CVD Rooms First and the Anne Frank House, as well as conversations with Dutch sex workers.

Students even had the opportunity to work with Dutch students on policing in The Netherlands, gaining hands-on experience with the profession.

“They organized the ideal day with a good mix of learning and activities, including us all being allowed to try on part of the police uniform or ‘wear’ the handcuffs,” Robicheaux said.

Despite the wide variety of educational opportunities, one experience stood out for all students — speaking with people in the community and getting to hear their stories.

“I very much enjoyed visiting with an organization that was focused on assisting undocumented individuals in the Netherlands,” said Simone Miller, a fourth-year student majoring in global and international studies and minoring in history. “We were able to listen to the different residents’ stories and experiences, and it was overall a very inspiring day.”

“My most memorable experience comes from visiting CVD Rooms First, a resource that provides temporary housing to members of the community,” Michalowski said. “After touring the house and learning about the program and its resources, we put together a barbeque along with the residents. We had a wonderful time with them eating and hearing their stories. We also taught them some American line dances, and they played us some European music.”

While this trip allowed students to utilize elements from their courses in the College of the Liberal Arts, many students said the trip significantly impacted their perspectives moving forward.

“Going on this trip gave me a global perspective in terms of my studies,” Michalowski said. “I am now able to connect my areas of focus in a broader perspective. This will aid me as I finish my last year at Penn State, as well as beyond in graduate school and my career.”   

Miller said, “My Penn State education allowed for me to connect cross curriculum from all of my previous classes to the criminology-focused program. I was able to utilize my knowledge and different perspectives and apply them to these new situations and class structures. After this trip, I was able to gain a better understanding of my own future career paths as well as an understanding of the interconnections of global politics and civil rights.”

This is one in a series of 10 stories about College of the Liberal Arts faculty-led course trips that took place this summer. Summer 2024 programs will be posted before the end of the fall 2023 semester. Read additional stories and learn more.


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