Survey shows: social environments of Dutch and foreign students totally separated
They do not go to the same parties, the same associations and do not have the same musical preferences. Outside tutorial groups, Dutch and foreign students have very little contact and generally move in separate social worlds.
This idea, which is shared by many educational institutes, is confirmed by the survey carried out by Maastricht educationalist Bart Rienties and his colleagues. The results will be published in ‘Advances in Business Education and Training’. He asked 871 students from five educational institutes (four schools of higher education and Maastricht University) to respond to statements such as: ‘I am meeting as many people and making as many friends as I would like at my university’, ‘Homesickness is a source of difficulty for me now’, ‘I wish I were at another university’.
“The social environments are completely separated. Seventy per cent of the Dutch students have contact only with fellow-countrymen, while a mere 21 per cent also meets foreign students socially. The same goes for foreign students, whose social contacts are also largely restricted to their own group,” says Rienties.
It is striking that the non-western foreign students have a really hard time when it comes to “academic and social integration. They have a lot of adjustment problems. The Hague University of Applied Sciences pointed out that these students have problems reflecting, find it hard to take part in discussions. Others noted that they are afraid to ask questions during lectures. In Chinese culture, for example, the professor is always right. So you do not ask him questions.”
At all the institutes that were investigated, there was tension, Rienties concludes, but not always at the same level. “Foreign students feel more at home at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences. They are supervised carefully, on the basis of the principle ‘we care’. But the group of foreign students at this institute is relatively small. There are also positive reactions from Hogeschool Zuyd. All students at this institute must learn Dutch. The UM does not do so well. Differences between the various groups of students are greater.”
The main causes? “Students do not feel the need to integrate, as they have enough fellow-countrymen around them. Furthermore, 40 per cent of the Dutch students in Maastricht are members of fraternities or sororities, compared with 2 per cent of the foreign students. The latter group, however, is amply represented in the study associations: 17 to 18 per cent compared to 1 to 2 per cent of the Dutch. Also when it comes to having a job alongside one's study – a good opportunity to get in contact with the Dutch - you see that 60 per cent of the Dutch have some kind of work, compared to 30 per cent of the foreign students. Often, they do not work in pubs in the city, but in a non-Dutch environment, such as the Vodafone or Mercedes call centres.”
There is no tailor-made solution, but an ‘acculturation project’, developed by the UM and Leiden University, is currently being run at nine educational institutes. Rienties: “Through e-learning projects, future students get the opportunity to not only get to know about the study but also to become acquainted with the country and the university. At the School of Business and Economics, we have a six-week course for prospective (foreign) students. They brush up on their subject-specific knowledge, become familiar with PBL, learn a little about the city and about Dutch culture. We are now going to investigate whether this approach works, whether students feel more at home.”