International students have difficulty connecting

Information day of BuddyGoDutch, the organisation that matches international students with a Dutch buddy. Photo: DUB

For the second time, the Intercity Student Consultation (ISO), the National Student Union (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network Netherlands (ESN) investigated (in Dutch ed.) how international students in the Netherlands are faring. More than three-quarters of the 1002 respondents - it is not known how many of them study in higher professional education or university - say they would like to have more contact with Dutch students. They prove to have difficulty connecting with their Dutch peers.

Worrisome, the student organizations write. Because proper integration is important to keep foreign graduates in the Netherlands. Chairman of ESN Nederland Lupe Flores Zuñiga: “Internationalization can be a huge enrichment for Dutch society and economy, but that’s only possible if the students feel welcome.”

Language barrier
The language barrier is a problem, among other things. “Almost my entire course 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 a third is (very) dissatisfied with the possibilities for learning Dutch.

With regard to education, almost 70 percent of the respondents are positive about the quality of teachers. More than a quarter do think that cultural differences are not taken into account during lectures. Over 22 percent hardly feel heard there either.

The internationals were extensively questioned about their well-being. It turns out almost 44 percent experience “very much” to “extremely much” stress and more than 40 percent suffer from psychological problems. ISO chairman Tom van den Brink: “Easy access to help must be available to everyone, including internationals.”

Student life
The international students’ concerns are not new. Last year one third said they sometimes had depressive feelings, but then only 311 foreign students filled in the questionnaire. Research from the LSVb in 2013 also showed that foreign students barely participate in Dutch student life and that language is a major barrier.

The three student organizations want international and Dutch students to collaborate more during group assignments. They also think institutions should offer more opportunities to learn the Dutch language. The influx of international students entails obligations.

The number of international students in Dutch higher education has been increasing for years. This academic year, nearly 86,000 internationals will follow a full course at a Dutch college or university. In 2010 there were 52,000. Exchange students, who do not follow a whole course here, are not even included in this number.