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Foreign students are finding it hard to connect

International students wish they had more contact with their Dutch classmates, a study by three student organizations reveals. Stress is also a significant problem for them.

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For the second time, the Dutch National Students Association (ISO), the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network The Netherlands (ESN) have studied how international students in the Netherlands are faring. More than three-quarters of the 1,002 respondents - how that number breaks down into students studying vocational HE or academic HE is not known - says they would like more contact with their Dutch peers; they don't find it easy to make friends in this group.

Worrying, write the student organizations. Because good integration is precisely what it takes to keep foreign graduates in the Netherlands. President of ESN The Netherlands Lupe Flores Zuñiga: “Internationalization can greatly enrich Dutch society and the country's economy, but this can only happen if these students feel welcome.”

Language barrier

One of the problems is the language barrier. “Almost my entire study is with Dutch students yet I barely speak to them. I find it very hard to become close to them,” says one respondent. More than one-third is (very) dissatisfied with the available chances to learn Dutch.

As far as their education is concerned, almost 70 percent of the respondents is impressed by the quality of their lecturers. Having said that, more than one-quarter feels that during lectures no account is taken of cultural differences. In addition, a good 22 percent feels their voices go unheard during lectures.

Once again the internationals were quizzed about their welfare. What was found: almost 44 percent experiences ‘a great deal’ to ‘an extreme amount’ of stress and more than 40 percent suffers psychological problems. ISO president Tom van den Brink: “Help should be readily available to everyone, including internationals.”

Student life

The worries felt by foreign students are not a new phenomenon. Last year one-third stated that they felt depressed once in a while, but on that occasion only 311 foreign students completed the questionnaire. A study by the LSVb conducted in 2013 also showed that foreign students were participating little in Dutch student life and that language is a major barrier.

The three student organizations are keen for international and Dutch students to work together more during group assignments. And, they believe, institutions should offer more opportunities for learning the Dutch language. Having an intake of international students involves some obligations.

The number of foreign students in Dutch higher education has been increasing for years. This academic year almost 86,000 internationals are taking a full program at a Dutch university of applied sciences or university. In 2010 that figure was lower, at 52,000. Exchange students, who do not complete a full program here, are an additional category.

TU/e internationals speak up: "Yes, I am lonely"

Cursor interviewed several international TU/e students about how they feel living and studying here: “I came to the Netherlands for a better future. But I also want a social life and feel connected. If you don’t get that, what do you really have here? I’m not alone in this. I know more people who struggle. Who find it hard to connect and feel lonely and/or depressed." Read the article here.


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