Wetenschap - 23 mei 2002

LS: Coexistence or integration

LS: Coexistence or integration

As we progress towards a combined study programme of the Dutch and international curricula, last week it became tangible how these two groups have their respective misconceptions about each other. As a foreign student myself who has experienced 6 months of life in a Dutch corridor I feel like I know a little of both sides of the coin, and I count myself among the lucky ones who believes he has made true friends with the 'locals'.

At the 3rd Annual Conference of International Students, an event organised last week by the ISP and Wageningen UR, we had the chance to exchange our views on different topics related to student life in Wageningen. The number of students in the audience could certainly have been higher, but to me this is a symptom of a frame of mind that has been the standard so far. Up to now both the Dutch and the international students have been able to comfortably ignore each other and live in their own little worlds, while sharing the same facilities. Soon that won't be possible anymore.

After the curricular unification we will, and only then, be in the same school. If we don't start increasing the level of integration in our lives outside the study hours soon, an even further separation of these two groups could occur. Taken to coexist together in the classroom without any other way of getting to know and appreciate each other could lead to a situation where we'd have nothing else in common outside work. This would be a shame and a waste of a great opportunity to learn more from and about each other.

Some steps to prevent this from happening have already been taken: ISOW is discussing a change of venue for their parties in order to have enough room to invite all students. WSO has translated some of their papers to English, and in other Dutch student organisations similar ideas are being discussed as well. It will be up to the bulk of these two groups B the silent majority - to come up with actual suggestions and actions to make it all work, though.

In my opinion the burden of the responsibility for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to real integration, and not only coexistence, will remain with the University, in both its academic and administrative aspects. Activities in common such as the introduction week and the 'Algemene Introductie Dagen' (AID) will be a must if we want a truly unified University.

Otherwise we could end up in a place that just has English classes for Dutch and foreign students together, a far cry from what most of us expect B and deserve. As others have already written, such a paradigm shift will mean much more work than just teachers speaking English.

One good start would be to let go of our many clich?s about each other. The traditional Dutch view of 'international students' as one group makes little sense in itself since it includes hundreds of students and dozens of countries. Likewise the common idea of all else as 'The Dutch' is way too simplistic, they also have many sub-groups that not always like or agree with each other.

Mauricio C. Mathias

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