Student - May 7, 2009

INTERNATIONALIZATION WITHOUT FOREIGNERS

The debate on internationalization organized by student party VeSte on Tuesday 28 April at Ceres was attended by one Chinese student and one Russian student. The current state of affairs was discussed in fumbling English, but the main question remained unanswered: can WUR rightly claim to have internationalized?

The answer seems to be: not just yet, as long as the international students of Wageningen UR (twenty-five percent of the total) are represented by a mere two students at an event of this kind. About twenty Dutch students showed up at the debate, which was intended to improve the contact with foreign students - a group of people that is beginning to seem unreachable.

The short film that preceded the debate was of poor quality, and the ten interviews it showed were unintelligible. After the film Pim Brascamp, director of education, opened the debate with the motion that Resource should be entirely in English. Despite the extra effort it would require of them to read in English, most of the students agreed that their favourite newspaper should be more accessible and should change to some degree. Opponents urged international students to take matters into their own hands by applying for a job at Resource or, more drastically, by starting their own paper.

The complaints about the lack of variety and the high cost of the food available at the university were answered with similar suggestions: all it takes to realize change is initiative. At the same time, WUR caterers can’t be expected to cater for the enormous range of eating habits among the student population. ‘We should open a McDonalds at the Forum, then everybody would be happy!’ someone joked. As for the price, the students agreed that food in the Netherlands is undeniably expensive by Chinese standards. Working in groups with international students was seen as hard because of language and cultural barriers. But both sides seemed to enjoy it, out of curiosity about other cultures. No solutions were generated on this topic.

After the debate was over, it was evaluated by Anne Reijbroek, chair of VeSte, and Teun van de Braak. On the low attendance, Teun said, ‘Well, I am happy some people showed up.’ Anne threw him a look and said it wasn’t communication with students that was the problem. What the problem was, then, remained unclear. Anne concluded that ‘We didn’t gain new insights, but it’s good to have our perception of current issues confirmed.’ Teun was satisfied, on the whole: ‘Both sides of the issues were addressed at all times. The discussion kept going. I think it went well.’

Sytze Kamphuis, one of the organizers and a vocal debater: ‘I intended to oppose literally every motion for the fun of it. It’s a great game.’ Kees van der Ark agreed with him that debating is a great sport: ‘A debate is meant to corner the opposition verbally. It’s a game and it doesn’t have to be constructive. But this game wasn’t fun; there were no strong feelings about the motions, which is required for a fierce debate. People agreed too much with each other and the international students were poorly represented.’ Until the international students are ready to represent their own interests, not much will change.

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