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Foreign students find it difficult to connect

THE NETHERLANDS. International students miss the contact with their Dutch fellow students, shows a survey by three student organisations. They also suffer from stress a lot.

The Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg (ISO), the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network Nederland (ESN) investigated for the second time how international students get on in the Netherlands. More than three quarters of the 1,002 respondents - it is not known how many of them studied at Universities of Applied Sciences or Academic Universities - indicate that they would like more contact with Dutch peers. Apparently they find it difficult to make a connection.

This is worrying, the student organisations write. Because good integration is important to keep foreign graduates in the Netherlands. Chairperson of ESN Nederland Lupe Flores Zuñiga: "Internationalisation can be a tremendous enrichment for Dutch society and economy, but that is only possible if the students feel welcome."

Language barrier
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," says a respondent. More than one third is dissatisfied to very dissatisfied about the opportunities to learn Dutch.

As far as education is concerned, almost 70 per cent of the respondents were positive about the quality of lecturers. At the same time, one quarter did feel that the differences in culture were not taken into account sufficiently during lectures. Also, 22 per cent feel that they are not heard there.

The internationals were again extensively questioned about their well-being. It appears that almost 44 per cent experiences 'quite a lot' to 'extreme amounts' of stress and more than 40 per cent suffers with psychological problems. ISO chairman Tom van den Brink: "Easy access to aid must be available to everyone, also the internationals."

Student life
The concerns of foreign students are not new. Last year one third indicated that they occasionally felt depressed, but at the time only 311 foreign students completed the questionnaire. Research by LSVb in 2013 also showed that foreign students hardly ever participated in Dutch student life and that the language was a huge barrier.

The three student organisations want international and Dutch students to work together more during group assignments. They also feel that institutes should offer more opportunities to learn the Dutch language. The influx of international students also carries responsibilities.

The number of foreign students in Dutch higher education has been increasing for years. Almost 86 thousand internationals are doing a complete study programme at a Dutch University of Applied Sciences or University this academic year. In 2010 that number was 52 thousand. This does not include the exchange students, who are not doing a complete programme.

HOP, Inge Schouten

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