“TU/e should embrace its international image even more”

International students are looking for more contact with other cultures

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“TU/e should embrace its international image even more”

TU/e is increasingly developing into an international university. Nevertheless, the integration of international students is not always an easy journey. While they are quite happy with their social lives, there is still plenty of room for improvement. During events, different cultures should be able to interact more often.

Say you come to TU/e as an international bachelor’s student. You attend the Welcome Day specifically organized for internationals like you, talk to your fellow students who are embarking on the same adventure, and are given a fifteen-minute presentation on Dutch culture, including bicycle etiquette.

In good spirits, you dive into the Intro week. You’re put into a mixed group of Dutch and international students, but most of the talking is in Dutch. The beer flows according to Dutch standards (which are high) and you try to sing along to André Hazes or dance to heavy Dutch beats. You don’t really manage to find connection and after the start of the academic year, you’re left to figure out for yourself how to connect and stay connected with your fellow students.

The Dutch way

That is how international Electrical Engineering student Emre Guler, originally from Turkey, experienced the 2022 Intro Week. “TU/e tried to encourage interaction between international and Dutch students, but they didn’t take the cultural differences into account. Everything was done in the Dutch way.”

This experience is far from uncommon. India native Ishaan Sunkuru is a board member of student association Cosmos. He focuses on student well-being, organizes events and represents the international community at meetings with external parties and the university. “The Intro week involves a lot of partying and exploring the city. Such a party culture can be quite overwhelming. I’ve heard from international students who feel excluded as a result. An alternative program during the Intro could be a solution for them.”

As of last year, that alternative program is available to all students at TU/e who prefer to get to know each other without too much extravagance. This year, it’s getting a new look and a new name: Tranquillo Track. Student Diversity Officer Lara Hofstra is the one who set up this initiative. “The program is not just for internationals, but for anyone who doesn’t really like partying but still wants interaction.” The program includes low-impulse activities such as biking lessons and arts and crafts.


Guler has been at the university for two years now, but little has changed in some areas. “I go to events and pubs. I try to socialize and have met a lot of people.” But Guler has not yet been able to build a deeper connection with anyone.

What is also a challenge for international students is the language of communication at events. “Dutch people often talk Dutch among themselves, even when international students are present,” says Guler. “I understand that: they were born here, it’s their country. If I were studying in Turkey, I’d also speak Turkish with my compatriots, but not if there were people there who don’t understand the language.”


Romanian student Stefan Robu, who is in the final year of his Computer Science and Engineering bachelor, recognizes this too. The alcohol-induced Intro week was not a problem for him, although he’s not necessarily a party animal. Throughout his studies, he seeks low-threshold contact during drinks parties or association events, but there, Robu faces the same obstacles as Guler. “If there’s a group of four Dutch people and one international student, they will still mainly speak Dutch. You could speak up about it, but you don’t want to repeat it too often. It makes me feel less welcome.”

Sunkuru concurs with these experiences. “The main reason why international students experience problems during their integration is because they have little contact with Dutch people. As a result, they mostly stay within their own bubble with people from the same culture or nationality. We even see that people who do step out of their own bubble later on still feel less connected to students with a different cultural background. Therefore, integration should be encouraged as soon as possible, otherwise their circle remains small.”


The language of communication at events has another consequence. Events for Dutch students and internationals often exist separately. For example, a Cosmos event attracts mostly international students. At other associations, the majority are Dutch, meaning that international students often feel less connected and sometimes less welcome.

Events that encourage interaction between different cultures do exist, but they are not sufficient, according to Robu. He can only name a few examples, namely Connect With My Culture and Diversity Week. He also mentions the Studium Generale events, which are held weekly in the Blauwe Zaal and attract a mixed audience. “Why don’t we organize more events like that? It would be a golden opportunity to celebrate the university’s international image. And it might reassure international students who are concerned about the current political climate,” he says, referring to the controversial limitation on international student intake for universities. “That way, they could see that the university embraces diverse cultures and the international image.”

For this reason, Sunkuru wants to move away from the international image of student association Cosmos. By doing so, he hopes to encourage interaction between Dutch and international students. “Dutch people have a negative image of our association, as if it’s not meant for them. This starts during the Intro week when their Intro parents tell them that we’re an international association. Then, when it’s their own turn to be an Intro parent, they tell their Intro children the same thing. This persists from one generation to the next. That is why we want to do away with that image and focus on collaborations with Dutch associations. Cosmos is a place for everyone.”

Why only try to encourage interaction between cultures during the Intro week?

Stefan Robu
International student
International image

Robu sees a role for all associations at the university in this respect. “They could organize events more often to encourage interaction between diverse cultures. And involve internationals in the organization process.” They don’t have to be exuberant parties, according to Robu. “A board game night would be great, too.” But reaching international students does require some serious promotion. “Just a poster or an Instagram post won’t be enough.”

Guler already has an idea of what such an event might look like. “Why don’t we organize a monthly event with free food to help students connect with people outside their own bubble?” He adds that this could be especially relevant in the early months of the academic year. “Why only try to encourage interaction between cultures during the Intro week when people also have a need to connect afterwards?”

This call for more events where international and Dutch students can mingle is not new, by the way. Cursor already wrote about this back in 2013.

We want to better understand their obstacles

Ishaan Sunkuru
Board member Cosmos
Other universities

These experiences are not isolated and do not just apply to TU/e. A study into the integration of international students at the University of Twente reveals the same obstacles. Students who find little or no connection at the start of their program continue to face this problem later on in their studies. It also turns out that events at the university are attended by either Dutch students or international students, often separate from each other. The fact that international students and Dutch people usually don’t live together also does not promote integration.

Similar concerns are being voiced nationwide, according to a study conducted by student organizations into the experiences of international students from 57 different countries. Although most rate their social life an eight, half of them would like to have more contact with Dutch students.

There is no data yet on the integration of international students at TU/e, but that will change soon. In addition to being a board member at Cosmos, Sunkuru is also a member of the Student Advisory Organ (SAO). He will be issuing a questionnaire into the experiences and feedback of international students. “The questionnaire is intended to map out the various areas in which international students experience problems with integration. We want to better understand their obstacles.”

The questionnaire can be filled out via this link.

The TU/e has a lot of international students, but some find it very hard to integrate. Cursor's Question: what tip would you give international students to help with their integration?

What tip would you give internationals?

The TU/e has a lot of international students, but some find it very hard to integrate. Cursor's Question: what tip would you give international students to help with their integration?

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