A columnist for three years - taking stock


About three years ago, I started to write columns about intercultural aspects and community life at TU/e and beyond. After forty-two pieces it’s time to take stock.

The range of topics I addressed is rather broad, but focussed on three main aspects: community life now and in the near future at TU/e, intercultural skills the engineer of the future needs, and various cultural concepts in our globalizing world. The very first one dealt with bringing your own lunch during Ramadan and implications for those Muslim colleagues involved. Interesting… The latest piece dealt with traffic rules and exceptions across cultures. For exceptions, see the fiets in NL.

One particular piece about whether our kerstpakket was politically correct reached over one thousand readers. But it didn’t help much after all…  Finally, another column about business and expression of religion in Indonesia triggered many reactions. Much ado for a sound business attitude. On a personal level, it was often nice to hear colleagues but also people I hardly know voicing their appreciation about the topics involved.

All of the above is good and fine, but perhaps it is more important to consider what has changed at TU/e in intercultural perspective in these three years? Our community is shaping up into a structure, creating networks and setting up a series of events (Connect with my Culture, Xmas Market, etc.) And what’s also important, there are several noticeable artefacts in the infrastructure and physical environment.

Just to name a few: the piano regularly used in Forum, permanent GLOW on the chimney every evening, a squat toilet in MF (but not in the new buildings; are there any statistics on this?), not one but now two supermarkets with an international touch (I wrote a column on the first one in Flux), the canteen in MF has offered various international menus, sports and well-being are being promoted, and English will become the formal language by 2020.

But people are also becoming more involved on various levels and set up all kinds of communities (see overview). Many locals and some internationals are taking up roles in councils and associations. Diversity (especially gender) is getting more attention in all promotion materials TU/e spreads around and there is a Diversity Committee. And last but not least, Cosmos is more active than ever.

That these efforts are not sufficient is underlined by the Nationale Studenten Enquête 2018 that points out that TU/e students seem to value the level of attention for international aspects and other cultures less than the national average. This needs to be tackled. But how? So far we’ve had an internationalization policy and a diversity policy. Why not join both of them into one single community development policy? So let’s all join forces, and add our bricks to this ongoing construction, bricks of words and also actions!

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