Nieuws - 19 december 2019

Home from home

Luuk Zegers

Konrad Peckolt Fordal (22) from Norway couldn’t speak a word of Dutch when he arrived in Wageningen as a student. But that didn’t stop him joining KSV Franciscus, where Dutch is the language of communication. ‘It’s a bit of a homecoming with them.’

© Text Luuk Zegers, photography Guy Ackermans

‘After secondary school and national service in Norway, I wanted to go abroad, so I went to live and work in Berlin for six months. In that period I visited some friends in The Hague. And because I already knew I wanted to study abroad, and preferably something to do with the environment and sustainability, I took a look in Wageningen while I was at it. I felt at home right away in the small town of Wageningen. Zurich was also an option, but I chose Wageningen, partly because of the green surroundings. That is very important to me: in Norway I could practically walk out of my door and through the forest to Sweden.’

‘I started on the Bachelor’s in Environmental Sciences in 2018. Normally during the AID there are at least two internationals in each group, but I happened to be in an all-Dutch group. They talked constantly about which student society to join. We don’t have anything like that in Norway, so I wondered: what kind of craziness is this? But because all those Dutch students wanted to join a society, I knew it must be good.’

‘KSV Franciscus held an AID presentation for international students. It was the first time they had done so. They said, “Everyone is welcome, but you do have to learn Dutch, because KSV is a Dutch club with Dutch traditions.” I was planning to learn Dutch anyway and make Dutch friends, because I think that’s the only way to really get to know a culture. So I joined KSV, even though it might have been easier to join an international society.’

Nice group of people

‘During the introduction period, I really wondered what I had got myself into. All aspiring members wonder that, but it was extra hard for me because I didn’t speak the language yet. Luckily I had been through a kind of introduction period in the Norwegian army, which gave me a bit of a headstart on Dutch members. I met some nice people during that KSV introduction period. Our year group formed itself spontaneously, really. A nice group of people who supported and helped me.’

‘They loved the fact that I joined the society, but to really be part of it, it was important that I learned Dutch fast. So they organized a member with whom I could practise the language every week during the lunch hour. Mainly talking to work on my speaking skills, and also working on the basic grammar, so I got to grips with the sentence structure faster.’

When I go to KSV, I can really put it all to one side and do as I please.

Go with the flow

‘Alongside my studies, I am on the board of my study association. When I go to KSV, I can really put it all to one side and do as I please. I am on the international committee, but other than that I don’t have many responsibilities. It’s just nice to chat to people, party and enjoy my spare time with friends – it really feels like I’ve come home.’

‘In 2019, we’ve gained five international students: a guy and a girl from America, two German girls and a guy from New Zealand. We gave them some extra attention before the introduction period: we try to make clear to them that nobody gets what’s going on during the introduction – not even the Dutch candidates. The only thing to do is to go with the flow. In the end they all became members. Four of them are doing a language course at In’to Languages, and the fifth is having one-to-one lessons from a Dutch KSV member. They are well distributed over the different year groups. It is nice to see that they are now really starting to speak Dutch.’

Dutch directness

‘Thanks to the society, I have made good friends, learned a new language and got to know Dutch culture. The Dutch are very direct, to the point of bluntness. I am trying to learn from that directness and openness. Personally I tend to avoid conflict. Here I learn to say it how it is.’

‘My year group is one big friendship group: it is laid-back, relaxed and fun. It’s a bit of a homecoming with them. All in all, it was a great decision to join KSV.’