From September 2003 about sixty to one hundred students from the China Agricultural University will come to Wageningen each year to continue their studies. They will start in the second year of Biotechnology, Environmental Sciences and Food Sciences. How will they deal with cultural differences here?
Yongfeng Wang, a MAKS Msc student who has been in the Netherlands for a year, draws attention to the fact that many of the students will be fairly young: "Most of them will be about 20, and many will have led a fairly sheltered life, largely dependent on their parents. All they have to do is concentrate on their studies, and their parents take care of everything else. When I came here, I had already learned to do quite a bit for myself, and I had already had work experience in an international setting. But I still miss my family on Chinese holidays, like the Spring Festival. The international environment here can make you feel quite lonely. I'm curious how the new students will deal with the cultural differences."
Lei Zhang, a PhD student in Environmental Sciences, and Wageningen UR coordinator for the China Programme, has the impression however that Chinese students today are more open than they were a few years ago, and that they adjust more easily: "They are more active and pick new things up more quickly. They also have more access to what is going on in other countries. Of course it also depends on personality. Some are just longing to be independent."
Ideas of how to help Chinese students integrate better in the Netherlands do not necessarily have to be complicated. Wang feels for example that more attention could be paid to the food in the canteens: "There could be a wider selection of good food from other countries. That would help students to feel more at home. More social activities could also be organised."
Zhang agrees with this point: "Students in China are used to all sorts of activities in addition to their study, including playing music, doing Kung Fu and dancing. There could be more international days and festivals organised featuring cultural exchanges." Zhang feels there is a role here for the Association of Chinese Students in Wageningen. At the moment this organisation functions as a go-between with the Chinese Embassy, but also organises evenings for showing Chinese films and celebrating traditional feasts.
Arin van Zee