Many Dutch students like to join a students’ association board beside their studies, or even full-time. I know many international students who don’t understand this choice, as it takes a lot of time and commitment. I was one of these sceptical people, but last year I joined a board myself and I changed my mind.
When still in Maastricht, I did not quite share the enthusiasm of my fellow students (Dutch and German) joining various boards and committees. There are better ways to spend your groovy student time than running around in a printed shirt and organizing silly theme-evenings. However, I came to Wageningen in August 2013, I noticed that university was no longer as challenging as before, and I started looking around for projects where I could invest my spare energy. Last December, without giving it too much thought, I applied for the position of Secretary at Stichting RUW, one of the study associations of Wageningen University. Before I knew it, I was on a board. My international friends commented – ‘Now we’ve really lost Camilla, now she’s Dutch beyond the point of no return.’
Before I joined the board, it was Dutch-only. For me it was a good chance to learn Dutch. Because of me, though, all sessions turned into English and many policy documents were translated. Beside a chance for cultural integration, being on the board of a study association is a wonderful way to develop one’s social skills and probe one’s capacity to handle tasks and responsibilities. One can gradually take up more tasks, as well as learn to handle stress and work in a group. All of this, still within a protected environment where mistakes are not as costly as in ‘real life’. I am confident to say that being part of some association is as valuable as an internship and three times as valuable as a workshop on group work management.
Lately, many other international students are becoming interested in the activities of the student association. Some are joining it. Among them, there is also an Italian girl. I wonder how it will feel, to no longer be the only Italian on board…