A new international student association is underway in Tilburg. Its founder, second-year Online Culture student Max Frambach, believes there’s a need for an alternative to the booze-fueled party culture shared by existing student organizations. “Too many students, internationals in particular, are feeling left out.”
International Student Association Tilburg, or ISAT for short, aims to be a safe haven for students from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The newly formed student society will be English-speaking, culture-centered and open to all students from Tilburg University, Fontys University of Applied Sciences and Avans University of Applied Sciences.
The founder of ISAT is Tilburg University student Max Frambach, who is actively involved in the international community on campus. Together with his girlfriend Antonia Telbizova, who is here as an international student from Bulgaria, he runs a Facebook page that helps incoming internationals find affordable student accommodation. By establishing an international student association, Frambach hopes to take his efforts up a notch. Rather than just helping internationals find housing, he wants to help them settle into student life and really feel at home in Tilburg.
“International students often experience difficulty connecting with Dutch students and Dutch student life. That’s partly because of the language barrier, and partly because student life is so heavily focused on drinking activities,” Frambach says. “As a result, many international students who come to study here end up spending most of their time alone in their room. We want to provide a home away from home for those students, a place where they feel comfortable and connected.”
Alternative to I*ESN
Currently, international students who want to experience Dutch student life by joining a “vereniging” don’t have much to choose from, since I*ESN is the only major international student association in Tilburg. “Drinking activities and parties are a big part of all Tilburg’s major student societies, including I*ESN,” Frambach says. “And while there are lots of international students who really enjoy that, there are also lots of students who don’t. You can’t expect every international to fit into that culture. For students who want something different from their experience here, there should be an alternative to I*ESN.”
“Drinks can be part of an event, but drinking shouldn’t be the event itself”
ISAT wants to offer such an alternative. Does that mean Tilburg’s new international student association will be alcohol-free and devoid of parties? Not quite, Frambach says. ISAT strives for inclusiveness, and that also includes beer-drinking, wine-sipping and shot-tossing students. Although ISAT members may be more likely to be taken on a coffee crawl than a pub crawl, the organization isn’t ditching booze altogether. “We’ll organize a party once a month. We’re not banning alcohol—having a drink can be part of an event, but drinking shouldn’t be the event itself.”
ISAT will offer monthly and weekly activities, placing a strong emphasis on engaging its members in local and cultural activities. Frambach wants to connect students to the city through partnerships with local organizations such as International Center Tilburg, theater De Nieuwe Vorst, music venue 013 and football club Willem II. Members will be encouraged to help shape the student organization and its events and activities. “Anyone is welcome to come up with ideas and organize activities.”
Frambach adds that spending time together doesn’t always have to be activity. In fact, sometimes having no plan can be the best plan. “We want to create a living room type of space where people can just walk in, without a reason or a plan. It will be a place where students can hang out, play a board game, or just sit and relax.”
Work to do
Frambach is not yet able to say where exactly this living room vibe can be enjoyed, since he’s currently still looking for a space. If all goes to plan, ISAT will have moved into its headquarters at the start of the new academic year, when the brand-new student association will welcome its very first members.
“There are still some things we need to do. We need a location, we’re still fostering partnerships, we’re building a website, and we’re looking for students to join the board,” Frambach says. “After that, we can finally start focusing on the most exciting part—reaching out to prospective members.”
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