Good afternoon. Many international
students have expressed their disappointment will the lack of
meaningful social connections with their Dutch peers. In fact multiple reports
have outlined the difficulties that foreign nationals face in bonding with
local students. This has even been linked to the declining mental conditions of
these students when compared to their Dutch and European peers. So what exactly are the conditions that cause this divide between students? What are some exemplary experiences from students’ lives that outline this barrier? And, what are some
initiatives from the university that help students feel more at home? In this
video we’ll be talking to international students as well as representatives of student and university efforts Okay. This video turned out to be much
more complicated than we anticipated Who knew. So we split the video into two
parts. The first one we’ll be talking to international students to get their
experiences from when they first moved in all the way until the present moment
and then in the second one we’ll be talking to representatives from the university
as well as the Student Union to get to know about the efforts that they have in
place to make this whole situation better for everyone. With that said, here’s the
international students. Earlier this month U-today published a story about
the difficulties the university is facing in helping the 34 percent of
foreign national bachelor students who experience performance inhibiting
psychological stress on campus. This percentage exceeds the Dutch and
European figures by a factor of four. As discussed in these publications and
similar reports from other universities there are many often compounding reasons
which put a lot of strain on student health. One that is often mentioned at
the UT by reports and students alike is the difficulty in non-European
international students face in assimilating with their Dutch and
European fellows. This diagnosis correlates with the general student
consensus which we know about from the international student barometer ISB. The
ISB is an international student survey which measures the satisfaction of
students worldwide with their studies away from home. The University of Twente
scored well enough on most things and especially great on a few others. However
it is the cultural and personal aspects that suffered the worst scores. That and
the food. Get your food sorted kaaskoppen! When you first came in, how did you
feel about sort of moving into the Netherlands did you feel like you were
already sort of integrating within the community or was it like tough at first?
I think initially it was pretty easy just because everyone spoke
English so it was pretty easy to communicate with everyone.
I mean especially compared to other countries that I’ve been to where the
the rate of English proficiency is pretty low. So at first it felt like it
was gonna be pretty easy but I think as I got along I started seeing a little
bit more of a cultural divide. So basically I was kind of thrown into a
mix of Dutch people. They already had their friendships and everything. Their
life was getting along quite well already and I
was this person who was trying to explore new things so let’s say for example if I
wanted to visit a new Dutch town or something like that, “okay let’s go out”,
for them it was pretty boring. They didn’t want to do that. So yeah initially
it was pretty hard. Myself personally put in quite some effort into trying to
learn the language so the experience was quite different for me. Because as soon
as I would start speaking Dutch, there was suddenly a lot more acceptance. Even
if I couldn’t understand much, because they saw that I was trying to
learn. So at the very start it was a lot smoother than most of my
international friends felt it to be. Well when I first got here I I experienced
the same culture shock that most students would experience but before
that was a lot of excitement. A new environment, a new culture, meeting new
people, trying to meet the locals here as well as interact also with the
international students. Yes it was quite enriching for me personally because
I’m very extroverted I like to meet people, I like to do things with people
and I was also quite fortunate to be part of the buddy program where I met my
initial Dutch friends who would later become best friends and that really
helped me. In terms of your friends circle and then the people that you interact with more often do you feel like you’re more surrounded by
international students or Dutch students? Do you feel like there has been some
sort of coalescing of international students around each other or has there actually
been quite a bit of a distribution? I would say there is definitely a coalescing of
international kids together just from the get-go when we’re in the in the kick-in and stuff like that, it’s all the international kids specifically for
the nanotechnology thing. So it wasn’t it was kind of hard to integrate with the other
Dutch kids so from the get-go you get this group of international students and
they kind of just run along together so it makes it a little harder for the
Dutch and the international kids to mix. Of course you do the most comfortable
thing which is to find international students because they are all in the
same boat. They are also new here trying to explore
everything, discovering everything and they’re also more open to learning
meeting different people from different cultures. For most of the cases that I
have heard about from other friends and from my own personal experience some have
still found it very difficult to have these interactions with the Dutch
because they belief there is the Dutch and
international students. And these are cause some kind of psychological schisms,
division, between these two groups each judging each other without
necessarily having good conversations. I think where the most is loss is in
communication. Have there been things on campus in terms of associations or parts of the university that have helped you sort of enter back into that society? So I I joined NEST which is the theatre
association on campus. They do Dutch and English plays and I also joined DIOK
which is the badminton association and I’ve had mixed experiences with both. For
one association it was really easy to meet Dutch people and make friends because
they were interested in integrating with the international
community that was part of the association and for the other
association they were not quite sure what to do with international people so
they kind of thrust them into things that they already did and some people
are not comfortable so it’s kind of hard integrating. No. I mean the kick-in
was probably the best example of that but after that there wasn’t something
that really tried to get you integrated. Well I would say every faculty
always have the end-of-the-year kind of get-together barbecue thing to do and
this involves everybody as long as you’re part of a faculty here you’re
entitled to participate and this is supposed to be more socially oriented
than academic and it’s a good opportunity to meet the Dutch. What would you sort of hope that would happen on campus? What would be your
recommendation since you’ve done some part of the internationalization at least. Well this what’s happening right now actually
talking to people who are not from the Netherlands that helps a lot because
quite some discussions happen within international groups and within
Dutch groups but barely any happen barely any cross that boundary and then
you have one perspective and then you have another perspective but there’s
never sharing perspectives. So I think this what’s happening right now is actually
quite good in that sense. Rules are not going to help. It has to be solved
internally I think. I just think that people should
realize that leaving your country to come to another place is an
experience. One that you should try as much as possible to enjoy and cherish. Welcome back to the studio. So it seems from the interviews that the student
experience can be pretty varied. If you get lucky through your buddy program and you
find somebody who’s interested in meeting people as you are, great! If you
have some time and interest to learn Dutch on your own, prima! For everyone
else though the difficulty is in finding that opening into the social circles
that allow you to get to know Dutch students and more importantly the
university initiatives seem to be just out of view of international students in
terms of getting to know about Dutch students So, in the next video we’ll be
talking to Roos de Vries from Student Union and Hans Oeloff from the Center for
Educational Support to talk about how they strive towards cultivating a more
social interaction between the students. Take care and we’ll see you in part 2.