MSc study here is sometimes a family project
Christian Gou?t arrived last August from Chile with his wife and two daughters of five and six years old. "On the basis of the information we got when I applied, we thought there would be housing for our family. Just one month before we left we were informed that there would be no place for us to live. By that time I had already given up my job, our house, and taken the children out of school. Luckily we were able to stay with Professor Martin Verstegen and his wife the first two months, until we found a furnished flat," The MAKS student describes these first months as hard. "Besides getting used to studying again and my struggle with the English texts, as a family we also had to get used to this new country. Happily the children had few problems settling in at school."
An MSc student from Brazil, who prefers to remain anonymous, also encountered housing problems. Dutch relatives of his wife helped them out for three months until they were offered an apartment by the local housing organisation (De Woningstichting). "The Dean's Office had advised me to leave my family behind, at least for the first few months. This was not an option for us, financially or emotionally. How could we explain to our children that their father would be away for a few months?" Their children, aged four and seven, learnt Dutch in no time, as did Gou?t's children. Both students' wives look after the children. "We both left our jobs so he could come to Wageningen," the Brazilian student's wife says. "We also think it is a good experience for the children to live in another country for a while. They really seem to have developed. At school they are stimulated to express themselves, although this has sometimes resulted in unexpected conflicts," she adds with a smile.
In contrast to their husbands, both women can get by in Dutch. "It is useful to be able to understand the papers the children bring home from school for example or ask people what to do when your child is ill and your GP is on leave," the Brazilian woman says. "But it would have been nice if the Dean's Office had a social worker who could explain the health care system and help with housing and that sort of thing. We had to find out everything for ourselves, which took a lot of time and energy." Gou?t agrees with her: "The university should perhaps realise that the international programmes attract adults who generally have families. Not everybody wants to take the risks we did when we came to the Netherlands, giving up jobs at home and needing a job here to support ourselves because I do not get a fellowship. My study is a real family project."
Yvonne de Hilster
Christian Gou?t, MAKS MSc student from Chile, together with his wife Anamaria Messner and their daughters Micaela (6) and Martina (5). Photo | Guy Ackermans