Science - April 19, 2007

Foreign students trying to bail out International Club

The International Club Association (ICA) in Wageningen is looking for a new building. International students have asked the University to help out, but so far without success.

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ICA rents the building on the corner of the Marijkeweg and the Lawickse Allee. After having a contract with the municipality of Wageningen for twenty years, ICA has recently had a series of user-agreements for shorter periods, instead of a permanent contract. ‘The municipality is not giving us any assurance about how long we can stay here. The only thing we know for sure is that if the contract is cancelled, we’ll have to move out within three months,’ says MSc student Dasa Vorechovska from the Czech Republic, who is a volunteer at the club. This uncertainty is preventing the club from making any investments, especially because there are rumours going round that apartments will be built on the site in the near future. ‘We are desperately looking for another building,’ says Dasa.

Because of the importance of the ICA to international students, the club asked the University for help. Not financial help, but with providing a new building that is suitable for their activities. However, the University has refused. ‘ICA is not part of Wageningen UR and it is not like we support other bars where international students go as well,’ says Wageningen UR spokesman Simon Vink.

But the International Club is more than just a bar, says Dasa. ‘It’s an important place for us when it comes to integration; not only with other foreign students, but also with local people and Dutch students. Student organisations are good too, but their focus is more on people who are staying for a shorter time. The International Club is for everyone, not just students. This makes us unique.’

To try and convince the University, Dasa is collecting signatures. About 200 students have already signed. ‘It shows how important this place is for international students,’ she says. But the University is not budging on the matter. ‘We support the international student organisations, Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and the International Student Organisation Wageningen (ISOW). They provide integration opportunities as well, for example the parties ISOW organises regularly at Unitas.’

‘But the International Club is very important to us too,’ says Elke Klaassen, an ISOW board member. Besides the parties at Unitas, ISOW organises smaller parties at the International Club at least once a month, and these are open to non-students too. ‘Students also come to us asking if we can help with organising special theme evenings, like an Italian or Colombian night. We can only do this because we are able to make use of the International Club building.’ The good relations between ICA and ISOW mean both are open to the idea of sharing a building. As long as they both retain their own identity, the representatives of the two groups are quick to add.

‘It is not that we have no sympathy for ICA,’ responds Vink. ‘But, apart from the fact that ICA is not part of Wageningen UR, we don’t have any buildings that are suitable for their needs. It would require a catering licence and sound-proofing at least.’

Dasa, however, still finds this difficult to accept. ‘The university and the municipality are so proud about being international, but they don’t support us. We are not asking them for financial support, but simply if they can provide a space. It might be difficult to find a good place, but the University has many buildings which are not being used. With a bit of effort it must be possible to find something.’

‘Tell them to get in touch with Vastgoed en Bouwzaken, like any other organisation looking for space,’ is Vink’s final comment. ‘They’ll know whether there’s a suitable building and where.’

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