Wetenschap - 2 april 1998

International Page

International Page

International Page
Exchanging tiramisu for mashed potatoes
Leaving home to go to a foreign university is exciting, but a few basic conditions need to be met to make it a pleasant experience. Take where you are living, for instance. Many international students are not pleased with the room they are given and ask to move to another room
The Dean for international students, Jeanine Hermans, estimates that around 40 percent of international students decide to change rooms for various cultural, religious and personal reasons. This amounts to a lot of people if you consider that, in 1997 for instance, the SSHW (student housing corporation) found accommodation for a total of more than 800 international students. There are 523 rooms which are earmarked for international students and they are scattered over the various student flats. Most are located within Dutch student corridors, though four corridors have been specially designated for short-term international students, and three others are half Dutch and half international
Erika Farias, from Brazil, is doing a one-year project in Ecological Agriculture. She got her room with self-contained kitchen in a corridor of twelve Dutch students last September. This being her first experience outside Brazil, she was surprised by the business-like introduction to her corridor, in which the first priority was to explain the workings of the flat rather than getting to know one another. In the beginning, Erika joined the dinners in the common kitchen. But the conversations quickly changed over to Dutch, and she found herself just waiting for the end of the meal. Hardest of all was that nobody took the time to check up on her - if she needed help, she had to ask for it. After three months, she gave up trying and now eats in her own room
Privacy
Alejandra Moreyra is an MSc MAKS student. Although she got along well with her nine corridor-mates, she is older even than the average MSc, and at this stage in her life, she prefers more privacy and does not want to live in only one room. Also, where she comes from in Argentina, people eat meals at different times, in the evening at 9.30, rather than the Dutch rule of dinner at 6 o'clock. Another tension that arose was that when the other students went home to their parents for the weekend, she would be left with the pile of dishes. Although Moreyra wanted to move right away, she did not know what the procedure was. During the first three months she went to the SSHW various times, where they just told her to wait. Finally she learnt that she had to go through the Dean's office to have her case made a priority. After the obligatory month's wait, Moreyra moved into a self-contained apartment with separate kitchen and bathroom
For Chiara Sgreva from Italy, it was important to feel comfortable immediately where she lived as she is only here for a six-month project in Plant Physiology. Like Farias, Sgreva felt very isolated, on a corridor of six students who were all much younger and not interested in getting to know a foreign student, let alone speaking English. After two months, she moved to another corridor
Dean Hermans tries to explain why Dutch students may not interact very much with their international corridor-mates: Just imagine what it was like when you left home for the first time to go away to school. Of course not all students will be interested in getting to know people of another culture. Also, as international students whose first language is not English know, speaking another language for extended periods can be exhausting. Sgreva responds that Dutch corridor-mates don't need to always speak English when international students are around. But they could at least show an interest in who we are. On her new corridor, there is much more exchange, and Sgreva now makes sure she is home in time to eat supper with her corridor
According to Wim van Alphen from the housing corporation, the decision about where to place international students depends on what accommodation is available at the time of need. It is difficult to predict how it will go because corridor composition changes all the time. Increasing the number of international corridors has been considered as a way to solve the problem of placing international students. This would be much easier to manage, but Hermans thinks that it would lead to an international ghetto, which would make it even more difficult to integrate into Dutch culture
Erika Farias would rather stay where she is now than live in an international corridor, which she sees as The other extreme - too busy, I'd never get any work done. She sees the positive side of her experience: For the first time in my life, I am learning to be by myself. Chiara Sgreva's second experience of being the only international on a Dutch corridor has turned out very differently from the first: I'd rather be on a Dutch corridor and eat mashed potatoes with them. Jokingly, she adds, We exchange recipes. I show them Tiramisu, and they teach me about Dutch food, I love it!
New elections at ISOW
Last week, the International Student Organisation Wageningen (ISOW) met in order to hold another election because of the resignation of its president, Wilbert Sadomba. Sadomba had been president of both ISOW and the International Student Panel (ISP), and needed to give up one of the positions. When asked to comment, Sadomba said that he had hoped that working with both groups would mean that their work could be better combined, but this had not turned out to be possible. Realising that the same person should not head both groups, Sadomba decided to resign from ISOW. He is staying with the ISP because he feels its mandate of representing international students in the university administration is more in line with his own interests
The seven international students on the ISOW committee elected Alan Dzidic, from Croatia, to take over the presidency, and Chris Ogbu, from Nigeria, to the position of vice-president
National Knowledge Festival
In the coming weeks, you may notice some commotion in Wageningen because of the Nationaal Kennis Festival. This is a 3-day conference that will take place between April 16-18th. Issues covered will include sustainability, agricultural technology, food security and knowledge systems. As themes will focus on the context of the Netherlands, the conference will for the most part be held in Dutch. However, two English lectures in the series will be of interest to international students, both taking place on April 17th
The first, on Market Structures and Food Distribution, looks at the role of GATT and WTO and the influence of further trade liberalisation on the development of international food security. Lectures will be given by Dr. M. Hossain, from IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) in the Philippines, and Dr. Ineke Duijvestijn, international agriculture policy-maker from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Second, a debate will be held on The Cultural Significance of Genetic Technologies, with different ethical viewpoints, given by David Kremers, artist and biologist, working for the American biotech institute Caltech, and Henk Hobbelink, agronomist and founding coordinator of GRAIN (Genetic Resources Action International), in Spain
The lectures are open to students and university personnel at no cost
Besides the lecture series, there will be open markets with non-profit and other relevant organisations present on the 17th and 18th. Related to the conference, a special sculpture exhibition Beyond Heaven and Earth will be opening on May 8th in the University Arboretum

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