Sports are a good way to integrate
Sanwen and Esther both started playing table tennis at a young age. "I was seven when I started," says Esther who is now 20. She?s Dutch and played in the national women's league before she came to Wageningen for her studies. "Now I play third class with a mixed team in the male competition. Mixed teams are not common but our male and female members play at such different levels that you can't put them in one team."
Sanwen from China was eight when he started playing table tennis. "In China it's the most popular sport. As a child I used to play at cheap concrete tables in the open air. When I studied at university I played indoors in the sports centre, on the green tables. The general level is high but we have no amateur competition." The rules of the game are universal, but playing techniques appear to differ. Esther: "I learned to hold the bat in a different way. But we can train perfectly well against each other."
A friend told Sanwen about the table tennis club. It was open to everybody who wanted to play and he's happy he joined the club. "Normally I don't meet people from outside the university. Student sports clubs should realise that international students don't understand Dutch and offer their information and activities both in Dutch and English. Sports are a good way to integrate." Esther adds that she wouldn't mind if the language used for many activities was English. "My classes are in English too." Nevertheless she recognises that it's too much to expect international students to become active on sports club boards because outside the club Dutch is the only language.
Sanwen regrets that he played so little over the past few months because he was too busy with his PhD project at the Plant Breeding Lab. "I miss playing for the team. I now occasionally play with a friend, but hope to rejoin the team in September."
Training is on Wednesdays at 20.30 in the small hall of sports centre De Bongerd.
Yvonne de Hilster
Photo Guy Ackermans