Organisation - April 11, 2013

Help foreign students find their feet

The student council is campaigning for an international desk: a central information service where foreign students can come with all their questions about living and studying in Wageningen. Handy for foreign students who can't always see the wood for the trees? Or pampering them too much?

An international desk: handy for foreign students or pampering them too much?

Christianne Kerkhofs
Member of VeSte
'Because there are so many sides to an international university, we think it's time to improve the information services. So we looked at how things are done at other universities and we found that they often have an international desk. Of course we do already have the SSC, but the staff there are not specialized in issues affecting international students. An international desk is appropriate at a university with international accreditation.'
Angela Rocio Ortiz Camargo
Master's student of Food Safety, from Colombia
'I think it would be very useful to have a friendly place where inter­national students could find help on all sorts of things, like finding a job or things to do with housing. It would be handy if all your questions could be answered in one place. An international desk could also play a role when you are looking for an internship abroad, for instance. To find a room there, perhaps, or to help you with the paperwork. Now you have to figure out everything for yourself. I went along to the SSC once because I was having problems with my computer but I wasn't treated very politely.'
Gonzalo Garnacho
Master's student of Organic Agriculture, from Spain
For me it wouldn't add much. For students from within the European Union there isn't as much paperwork as there is for someone from outside Europe. When I arrived in Wagenin­gen, on the first day of the AID, there were a lot of people busy informing foreign students. I got information about how to open a bank account, how to register at the town council, and all those sorts of things. They even took me to my new home. I was very happy with that. Apart from those things I didn't have to arrange much stuff.'
Abdulrahman Al-Fraih
Master's student of Organic Agriculture, from Kuwait
'It think it would be a good idea to set up an international desk. The uni­versity is getting bigger and bigger, with more and more languages and cultures. An international desk could work together with ISOW, for example, or IxESN, so as to have representatives from difference cultural groups. When you go from your Bachelor's to do a Master's in a very dif­ferent culture, it takes you time to adjust. Not everybody has the confidence to sort everything out for themselves. An international desk would be able to help a lot of students get used to how everything works in the Netherlands.'
Yue Liu
Master's student of Geo-information Science, from China
'An international desk could be especially useful for translating forms. Government forms are often only available in Dutch. A lot of students could use some help filling those in. Wageningen has a big Chinese community and when I arrived I could go to them to help me get started. But they can't help you with everything, so an international desk would be welcome.'
Romy Appelman
Ex-board member of Wageningen student union WSO
'I am wholly in favour; I think it's a very good idea. It is well-known that international students are a vulner­able group and have a lot to deal with. The last remnant of the WSO, the Housing Desk, helps foreign students find a room and apply for rent rebate. But the creation of one point they could come to with all their questions is something I can only applaud. It is good that the university is taking this up, all the more so now there is no union to stand up for vulnerable groups.'
Abebe Birhane
Master's student of Development and Rural Innovation, from Ethiopia
'I don't feel the need for it. It is part of the challenge of coming to another country to sort things out for yourself. The experience you gain by doing that stands you in good stead in the future. Especially if you come from Africa, like I do, a lot of things are very different here. And I didn't come here only to learn things at the university but also to get experience outside it. If you have to follow up everything yourself, you go to more places and learn more about how things work in the Netherlands.'  

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