11 June 2019 • HOP, Inge Schouten
International students find it hard to connect
International students miss the contact with their fellow Dutch students according to a survey by three student organisations. They also suffer from stress.
For the second time, the Dutch National Students’ Association (ISO), the Dutch National Student Union (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network Netherlands (ESN) surveyedhow international students fare in the Netherlands. Roughly three quarters of the 1,002 respondents – the numbers are not divided into universities of applied sciences or research universities students – indicated that they would like more contact with their Dutch peers. It seems they have difficulty connecting.
It is concerning, state the student organisations. Because good integration is important to keep international graduates in the Netherlands. Chair of ESN, Lupe Flores Zuñiga: “Internationalisation can be very enriching for Dutch society and the economy, but that is only if the students feel welcome.”
The language barrier is one of the problems. “Almost my entire study is with Dutch students yet I barely speak to them. I find it very hard to become close to them,” said one respondent. Almost a third are (very) unsatisfied with the options available for learning Dutch.
With regards to the education, almost 70% of the respondents speak highly of the quality of the lecturers. Yet, over a quarter find that no consideration is given to cultural differences during lectures. Over 22% feel they are barely heard there.
The internationals were again extensively questioned about their well-being. It appears that 44% experience ‘high levels’ to ‘extremely high levels’ of stress and over 40% suffer from psychological issues. President of the ISO, Tom van den Brink: “Everyone should have easy access to help, that also includesinternationals.”
The concerns felt by the international students are nothing new. Last year, a third stated that they have depressed feelings on occasion, but then only 311 international students completed the survey. A survey by the LSVb in 2013 showed that international students rarely take part in Dutch student life and that language is a major barrier.
The three student organisations want international and Dutch students to collaborate more during group assignments. They also think that institutes should offer more opportunities for learning the Dutch language. The influx of international students brings accountability with it.
The number of international students in higher education has been increasing for years. This academic year, almost 86,000 internationals follow a study at a Dutch university of applied sciences or research university. In 2010 that was 52,000. Add to that the exchange students, who do not follow an entire programme here.