News - May 11, 2017

Are we ready for international BSc programmes?

Teun Fiers

If the WUR Council agrees, five BSc programmes which switch to English only from September 2018. At that point a new group of students will arrive in Wageningen: international Bachelor’s students. Will there be enough opportunities for them to join in student life? Will something have to change at the student societies?

Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek

Doret van Muilekom, president of IxESN Wageningen

‘As president of an international organization, I don’t think that the largest student associations should necessarily switch to English. However, the international Bachelor’s students do mean a significant change. Our association is already aware of this group of new incoming students and would like to grow into a bigger association which is able to provide a welcome to all of them, both international and Dutch students. One of the things we already do is to organize integration activities together with the larger student associations. In this way, I think we are providing a good opportunity for the international students to participate in the student life of Wageningen.’

Yanina Willet, student council member for Sustainability & Internationalisation

‘English-taught Bachelor’s programmes are a great idea; I see them more as a solution to current problems than as a threat. I notice that many issues stemming from the internationalization of the university, like integration problems and cross-cultural misunderstandings, are difficult to tackle. I believe one of the reasons for such problems is that internationals stay for a shorter time and are therefore not able to shape Wageningen as actively as Dutch students. Besides, I think it will become more attractive to form transnational friendships anyway once we are together from the first year of our studies. Nevertheless, the university needs to facilitate guidance and social support for this new group of students.’

Lotte Dopheide, Board member at WSV Ceres

‘In our society we’re already aware of the internationalization of the university. We recently took action on the plan to figure out the feasibility of an international membership of Ceres. That would give international students access to the society at other times than just open parties. The aim is to have this in place before the next AID. We also have a committee which organizes activities for international students at our clubhouse so they can take part in Dutch student life. The first activity run by the international activities committee is planned for Friday 19 May. With this sort of thing I am convinced that all the student societies will cater for the growing numbers of international students in Wageningen.’

Vera Sham, MSc student of Plant Sciences from Cameroon

‘Student life for Master’s students is great as it is. People come here from so many cultures and are really open towards each other’s differences. I never felt excluded from an activity by Dutch students. Even when I meet groups of Dutch students at an event they switch to talking English quite smoothly. For international Bachelor’s students, I think it is even easier to adapt because they are younger. The only challenge I see is that despite the official language of Master’s programmes being English, Dutch is still sometimes spoken in class, like during laboratory group work. This does create feelings of exclusion among internationals sometimes. Maybe further integration in student life could contribute to solving this problem.'

Jasper Wouters, BSc student of Environmental Sciences

‘The first question that occurs to me on this subject is: do international students feel the need for a strong involvement in student societies? After all, participation in the Dutch societies is not without obligations, as it often is at international activities. And I don’t think internationalization will just happen by itself because lots of traditions and mores are strongly linked to the Dutch language, as is the case at my rowing club Argo. The only international students there at present have a hard time getting into club life. They manage it best at competition rowing, when they are part of a fixed team and have fixed training times. Of course the sport itself isn’t language-based.’

Florine Kremer, MSc student of Management, economics and consumer studies

‘If I’m honest I don’t see Dutch first-years  speaking English from the start. It’s not easy when they’ve only just come from secondary school. But I do think things can change quite fast; before you know it there will be branches of the societies for international students. I expect international students will feel some need for social clubs, especially those from southern Europe. They will probably organize more parties at weekends. In the end I think international students will be capable of organizing a good time for themselves. I don’t see any need to start planning for it in advance.’