'Those who live in Bornsesteeg, get out of your room, arrange common events with your neighbours.' This call appears in a short film which premiered on Facebook on Tuesday. Its producers are two Wageningen students who want to draw attention to the loneliness felt by foreign students.
'Our main intention is to make this loneliness visible,' says Elske Hageraats, who made the film together with Adi Nugraha from Indonesia; a mutual friend agreed to be featured in it. The idea came up during a subject about culture shock. 'When students arrive, they get stressed up initially by all the changes. That makes reaching out to strangers even more formidable.'
In particular, the film turns the spotlight on the Bornsesteeg, the student housing block occupied by foreigners, and which does not have common areas on its corridors. 'Students need some coercion to cross the threshold to make contact,' says Elske. 'For example, a shared kitchen would compel one to make contact.'
Elske and Adi interviewed a handful of students for their film. These students sometimes spend hours in their room to skype with their families back home, while they often have no idea who their neighbours are. Adi has also been through this difficult stage at first. 'I had thought that this is a paradise to live in, a wonderful country,' he says. 'When I arrived at the Bornsesteeg, I knocked on all the doors in my corridor to introduce myself to my neighbours, but they had reacted mostly in a defensive way. Back home, however, I am part of a close-knit community.'
The students concerned do not like to talk about this problem. 'Many foreign students are extremely thankful for being able to study here, so they don't want to complain,' says Adi. 'Moreover, they think that the problem lies in themselves. They think that it is a sign of weakness to feel lonely.'
The film makers do not have a solution to the problem. In their film, they exhort students to contact others. But their first objective is to make the problem visible so that it can become a discussion topic. 'We will leave the solution to the university, Idealis and the students themselves.'