International students still find it difficult to find their way in the Netherlands. This is the finding of a survey conducted by the Dutch chapter of global student organization ESN and student interest organizations ISO and LSVb. In their report, the organizations ask for more attention for this problem.
In the report, published this morning, the student interest organizations ask for more attention for the well-being of international students. They conclude that there are four main challenges international students face, the first and biggest being the inability to find suitable housing. There is a shortage of housing in general, and international students are often the victim of high rental costs and discriminatory “Dutch only” measures.
The second challenge lies in the lack of social interaction. International students would like to see more interaction between international and Dutch students. Often, the Dutch and international groups of students stick to each other and rarely interact. The third challenge lies in the provision of information in English for non-Dutch speaking students, which is often unavailable. There are several official instances that still fall short in providing the necessary information. The last challenge, which the organizations call particularly worrisome, is that one out of three international students indicates to cope with feelings of depression.
Even though only 311 students partook in the survey, it can be assumed that it is representative for most international students. Renate Krabbendam, president of ESN Netherlands and former vice-president of ESN Tilburg: “ESN regularly carries out surveys on their own. These have a far reach and share the same conclusion as the
survey we carried out in the Netherlands. We therefore assume that this survey is representative. Nevertheless, the goal is to keep doing these surveys with more participants each year.”
The situation in Tilburg
“Although the situation of international students in Tilburg is generally better than in other cities, there is work to be done”, says Krabbendam. Students find housing more easily but there still is discrimination and even exploitation of international students. Also, the gap between Dutch and international students is quite big and students, especially from non-EU countries, find it difficult to get jobs. Krabbendam: “While Tilburg University is doing quite well in certain areas, such as providing the possibility of free language courses, there are still things that can be done. The university could look at the four problem areas pointed out by the survey and create an action plan to tackle these.”
The student interest organizations now ask the Dutch minister of education to act on these points. A first step would be that all government websites become available in English. Another necessity is the centralization of information provision so that all international students receive correct information before they arrive in the Netherlands. And lastly, a mentality change is needed under Dutch students. Though this cannot be forced, there are ways to encourage this. Partaking in an exchange for example often changes a student’s views. ESN therefore wants to further encourage students to be part of an exchange program.
The Dutch parliament will hold a debate today concerning internationalization of the higher education system. Krabbendam: “I am sure that our findings will be mentioned, but I can’t say if this will result in concrete steps. We hope that the points we brought up will be taken into consideration and that something good will come out of it.”
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