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Netherlands: international students have difficulties “finding their way”

International students in the Netherlands are struggling to connect with their Dutch peers, find accommodation and may experience extreme stress and psychological problems, a survey has revealed.

international students netherlandsPhoto: Pixabay/ Daria Nepriakhina

One-fifth of those surveyed felt their voice is heard 'only slightly' or 'not at all' at university

The survey of 1,002 international students conducted by the National Student Union (ISO), Dutch Student Union (LSVb), and the Erasmus Student Network the Netherlands found that three-quarters (75.2%) would like more interaction with Dutch students.

A lack of opportunities to learn the Dutch language (according to 36.8%) was a contributing factor in their failure to do so.

“Internationalisation is more than just teaching in English”

Almost three-quarters of respondents also said that improvements need to be made in the area of housing.

Over a third (36%) indicated that they were rejected one or more times for accommodation because they were not from the Netherlands, while 35% had experienced having to pay more for accommodation than Dutch students on more than one occasion.

And while 68.9% said they were satisfied with the overall quality of teachers, some (27.2%) students survey said the felt that cultural differences are ignored in the classroom, with a fifth (22.1%) indicating that they felt their voice is heard ‘only slightly’ or ‘not at all’ at university.

“This is worrisome because the development of intercultural competence is crucial to internationalise in a responsible manner,” noted the survey’s authors.

“Internationalisation is more than just teaching in English and in this way it appears that the “International Classroom” is not yet being achieved everywhere.”

Alarmingly, almost half of respondents indicated that they experienced stress at very high levels, while 40% also said they had experienced moderate to extreme psychological problems.

A lack of information on how to deal with homesickness and getting professional help in regards to mental health was cited as two potential causes.

The number of international students in Dutch higher education has been increasing steadily for years. This academic year, 85,955 students from 170 countries enrolled in a bachelor’s or master’s degree at a Dutch university – compared to 52,000 in 2010.

Speaking with The PIE News, president of ESN the Netherlands Lupe Flores Zuñiga said the results of the survey show that there is still a lot of work that can be done concerning the integration of international students in The Netherlands.

“74% of the master’s degrees are in English, which shows the universities are valuing internationalisation of higher education. however, when the internationals arrive, it’s difficult for them to find their way,” she said.

“We believe that the government and the higher education institutions carry a great responsibility here. For example, the paperwork that the students receive is partially in Dutch.”

“When the internationals arrive, it’s difficult for them to find their way”

Another topic that all international students should know about is the housing situation, Flores Zuñiga added.

“Many people may know that there is a big housing shortage, but what people might not know is how to find a room in The Netherlands. We have a very specific system, with a kind of audition for a room –’hospiteren’ – between 10-20 students.

“For international students who don’t know this system, it might come as a big and unpleasant surprise that they are invited with so many others at the same time,” she said.

“On all these issues, ESN is trying to inform the international students, [and] by getting help from the local students, we hope to integrate them in Dutch society and make them feel welcome.”

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9 Responses to Netherlands: international students have difficulties “finding their way”

  1. Going abroad to study is NOT a package holiday, so don’t expect everything to be done for you. Yes, have support mechanisms in place for international students but let’s try promoting the challenges they face in a more positive light, which will result in them returning home as much more rounded individuals who are confident to deal with many situations that life throws at us.

    • Holiday????!!! Jesus, some people really don’t know what reality is like for us buitelanders. For the people interested in facts:
      I came to NL as a full time BA student in Maastricht University. I had no discounts, ( which other EU students had) no right to work ( without a working permit till 2014), and experienced EXTREME cultural racism where on a viewing my landlord asked me: ” So, where are you from? – I said Bulgaria, and he said to me : ” But I thought you people were white!??”
      Need I say more?!!

        • No worries Tagir, I like Dutch people and their directness! One of the reasons why I chose to study in The Netherlands and not UK or Denmark was because I wanted to experience the Dutch culture.

          But I don’t stand for racism and discrimination and will ALWAYS fight back ignorant people who think they are better just because they have blond hair and blue eyes.

    • Yes. It’s not a holiday. So we should torture the international students so that learn their place?? Why do people like you exist?? Cultural racism is extreme and the one going through it faces severe emotional stress. It leaves us with emotional scars and under confidence. Not confidence to deal with situations.

    • No one said it’s a package holiday. Just because they’re international students doesn’t mean they have to face all the hardship and be discriminated against. You’re ignorant.

  2. I did my bachelor’s and master’s studies in the Netherlands. Later I simply fell in love with the culture, architecture, directness of people, hospitality (yes, you read it right) and stayed for longer.

    That being said, one shouldn’t forget that studying abroad isn’t a piece of cake. I found myself struggling with homesickness, loneliness and cultural shock. First of all, university level studies in the NL are really demanding. I didn’t expect that and had to make many adjustments towards my studying style. Second, the Dutch tend to socialise with other Dutch students not due to the lack of friendliness. You see, many internationals leave after graduation. Everybody wants to rather form those friendships which stay. However, the keyword here is being proactive. It took me a few years to adjust completely, but I started participating at local events, socialise with local people, putting effort to speak Dutch. Guess what, this does wonders! I even have my second Dutch family in Utrecht 🙂 Local neighbours I used to talk to often and help with their computer problems… next year we celebrated Sinterklaas with their family. I made other local friends among my classmates and later co-workers, people I could call in the middle of a night if I have a problem. That works both ways, of course.
    All I have to say is that studying/working abroad and leaving home is always hard and requires you to put a lot of efforts to make yourself comfortable at any new place. In the end, it’s quite rewarding 🙂
    Good luck!

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