Science - September 26, 2002

Voice of experience

Voice of experience

Getting settled in a new country also means getting used to a new culture. Many of you will have to face all sorts of problems. Here's some good advice from an Msc graduate: take the initiative yourself if you want to get things sorted.

Christian Gou?t came to Wageningen two years ago from Chile. He observes that the Dutch are willing to help you in most cases, but you have to ask. Gou?t: "When you have a problem, with housing, health care or finances for example, it's hard to find the right answer. People's first response is generally no solution to your problem. They assume it corresponds to ordinary situations, whereas you as foreigner often have a special case. But nobody asks you about your particular case. So you must explain your situation and ask specifically whether there are particular conditions to which the general rules don't apply. People don't think for you and directly mention all options. It's not that people don't want to help you, but you have to realise that here the answer comes in stages. Therefore you must insist and keep asking to get somewhere."

The advice applies to other situations as well. "There's a lot to do around here. Interesting lectures, congresses, exhibitions. There are classical concerts on Sunday mornings no one tells you about. You can also go to free concerts at lunchtime at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or Vredenburg in Utrecht. It's an amazing opportunity to see famous musicians and orchestras in a fantastic music hall. You should go there at least once. So if you're interested in something, my advice is to take the initiative and ask everybody you know about it," says Gou?t.

Yvonne de Hilster

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