International students in the Netherlands don’t feel at home in the Netherlands. That is the conclusion of a survey by three Dutch student organisations. But to what extent are these outcomes relevant for international students in Wageningen? We asked Joshua Wambugu, Student Council member and spokesperson for Sustainability & Internationalisation.
© Marte Hofsteenge
The study (in Dutch), which was published last week, was conducted by the Dutch National Students Association (ISO), the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network Netherlands (ESN-NL). More than 75% of the 1002 respondents stated that they would like more contact with Dutch peers and that they find it difficult to connect with them.
‘Many internationals don't feel at home’, Wambugu says, who places the research in a Wageningen perspective. ‘But that conclusion is about international students in the Netherlands in general. For Wageningen, many students feel at home both on campus and in the city. Of course, there might be isolated cases with some students being unhappy. There must be a personalised effort to make everybody feel at home.’
‘Wageningen puts in more effort compared to other universities to make new international students feel at home’, Wambugu says. ‘Together with Idealis, they give international students priority when it comes to student housing, for example. One of the biggest worries of moving to a new place is having a place to stay.’
‘The classrooms at WUR are very international, especially in the master’s programmes. But the international student is not just one type of student. In Wageningen, there are over a hundred nationalities, so in a single classroom, you might find more than ten different cultures. Some of them are very direct, others are not. All students need to learn how to deal with that, and teachers must act as moderators. They are the bridge between the students in the international classroom.’
Language barrier? Free courses
According to the study, many students are unhappy with the language barrier and the limited options to learn Dutch. ‘In Wageningen, this has been addressed by the Student Council. Now all international students can follow free Dutch language courses, which is a very nice way to learn the language and practice speaking it. However, integrating is more than just learning a language. It also includes being welcomed into a culture. Luckily, there are a lot of organisations and associations that bring different cultures and nationalities together. And through events like One World Week, which are about cultural understanding and learning from each other, integration is promoted as well.
Despite his positive view on the situation in Wageningen, Wambugu does see room for improvement. ‘I think that students should be curious enough to learn from each other in general. But to encourage integration, I think the university should inform new students more about the global, international environment that Wageningen is. Because when you come here to study, it is not just about your programme. Studying in Wageningen also means becoming part of the global community that you find here.’
Wambugu has started a discussion on this topic on his Facebook page.