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Foreign students ignore 'International Week'

Despite the good intentions and meticulous planning efforts of a week full of activities specifically for international students, the 'International Week' organized by Studium Generale failed to attract significant numbers of international students.

So what is it exactly that the TU's international community wants?, Studium Generale's Els Koppelman is left wondering.

"We feel excluded and we don't like it" was one of the most compelling and condemning statements made last year by a member of the TU's international student community, as he complained about the apparent internationalization problem at TU Delft. But is there really a so-called 'internationalization problem'? And what exactly then is it that international students expect from the TU Delft's internationalization efforts?Els Koppelman, program coordinator of Studium Generale, asked herself these questions repeatedly following the poorly attended 'International Week' event organized by Studium Generale last October. Except for the event's after-party, which attracted an impressive number of students (300), only a few foreign students attended the other activities on the event program.Studium Generale (SG) is the TU department that was founded to broaden the general knowledge of the university's students. SG does this by providing lectures, workshops, exhibitions and theater on a variety of subjects, ranging from the life and work of Albert Einstein, to Eastern Philosophy, Postmodernism and Marilyn Monroe."The many appeals made by the international community for more activities in which they could also participate made us decide to organize, in collaboration with Aegee, a full week of activities for them," Koppelman says of the 'International Week' program, which, she adds, offered a broad range of activities designed to attract large numbers of both international and Dutch students.The apparent golden match between, on the one hand, a Studium Generale that wants to offer extracurricular activities accessible for all students, and on the other, a specific group of (international) students who desperately wanted to be included in such activities, did not however turn out to be much of a match after all.The 'International Week' program of events was very diverse: it kicked-off with a guided city tour of Delft and ended with an international (dance) party. Other activities on the program included a visit to the Army Museum; a Q&A session on do's and don'ts for international students living in Delft; a stand-up comedy show, in which students could also actively participate in; a lecture series on subjects ranging from Dutch politics to International Law; introductory world language courses in Dutch, Bissa (an African language) and Chinese; and, to top all this off, those fervent critics of the TU's desperate but apparently futile internationalization efforts were given the chance to complain as long and as loudly as they wished to the man himself, TU Delft's Rector Magnificus, Jacob Fokkema.FailureDespite SG's best efforts, the 'International Week' statistics reveal that something went completely wrong. Excluding the after-party, the Delft city tour attracted the largest number of students (twelve). The world language courses were only visited by a handful of Dutch students interested in learning Chinese. Two students attended the stand-up comedy show, which was quite a crowd compared to the 'do's and don’ts' Q&A session, which not one international student attended. As for the chance to discuss important issues with TU Rector Magnificus Jacob Fokkema, only two international students and few Dutch members of the Student Council bothered to show up.Laura Sardoninin, an Italian (visiting) PhD student, says the event's poor attendance could not have been because of a lack variety in the event's program or because of a lack of publicity: "The large variety of activities was such that they should have interested students with all kinds of likes and dislikes. I visited the world music workshop and enjoyed it a lot, but I was really astonished when I saw that I was one of the only two students that attended this activity."According to Koppelman, bad planning was also not a reason for most foreign students deciding not to attend 'International Week': "We didn't plan the event during an exam period and we deliberately organized activities during both the daytime and evenings. But still almost nobody showed up to any of the activities."As for publicity, Koppelman adds: "We distributed flyers, program booklets, an article was published in Delta and we even hung a big banner on the Mekelweg. Some of the students that visited the activities even said that they were overloaded with publicity!"Months later, Koppelman is still desperately looking for answers. "We probably just don't know what foreign students want, except that they like to party," she says, referring to the huge difference in the numbers of students that attended the various activities and the after-party.The apparent failure of an 'International Week' expressly designed for international students puts a new impetus on the gloomy internationalization efforts of TU Delft. And Koppelman seemingly hits the nail on the head when she laments the fact that TU Delft probably just doesn't know what international students expect from the university.International students are however apparently not that interested in explicitly stating what they want and, more importantly, trying to help achieve it themselves. Delft's student political parties, such as the AAG, Oras and the Central Student Council, have for years been trying to create international councils without any success. Koppelman: "Organizing parties cannot reasonably be expected to be a responsibility of the TU."Koppelman is nevertheless determined to organize the 'International Week' again. It's believed and hoped that a change in the way the event was organized last year will produce better results this year. International students have been purposely invited to participate in the organization of this year's event. But if international students again don't show any interest, this will be the last 'International Week' organized by Studium Generale. Koppelman: "It's just not worth the costs and the personal effort if nobody shows up."Would you like to comment on this article? Send your emails to d.mcmullin@tudelft.nl. Emails should not exceed 300 words and are for publication on our 'Letters Page'What else do foreign students want? (Illustration: Juan S. Sanchez, MSc, Colombia)

"We feel excluded and we don't like it" was one of the most compelling and condemning statements made last year by a member of the TU's international student community, as he complained about the apparent internationalization problem at TU Delft. But is there really a so-called 'internationalization problem'? And what exactly then is it that international students expect from the TU Delft's internationalization efforts?Els Koppelman, program coordinator of Studium Generale, asked herself these questions repeatedly following the poorly attended 'International Week' event organized by Studium Generale last October. Except for the event's after-party, which attracted an impressive number of students (300), only a few foreign students attended the other activities on the event program.Studium Generale (SG) is the TU department that was founded to broaden the general knowledge of the university's students. SG does this by providing lectures, workshops, exhibitions and theater on a variety of subjects, ranging from the life and work of Albert Einstein, to Eastern Philosophy, Postmodernism and Marilyn Monroe."The many appeals made by the international community for more activities in which they could also participate made us decide to organize, in collaboration with Aegee, a full week of activities for them," Koppelman says of the 'International Week' program, which, she adds, offered a broad range of activities designed to attract large numbers of both international and Dutch students.The apparent golden match between, on the one hand, a Studium Generale that wants to offer extracurricular activities accessible for all students, and on the other, a specific group of (international) students who desperately wanted to be included in such activities, did not however turn out to be much of a match after all.The 'International Week' program of events was very diverse: it kicked-off with a guided city tour of Delft and ended with an international (dance) party. Other activities on the program included a visit to the Army Museum; a Q&A session on do's and don'ts for international students living in Delft; a stand-up comedy show, in which students could also actively participate in; a lecture series on subjects ranging from Dutch politics to International Law; introductory world language courses in Dutch, Bissa (an African language) and Chinese; and, to top all this off, those fervent critics of the TU's desperate but apparently futile internationalization efforts were given the chance to complain as long and as loudly as they wished to the man himself, TU Delft's Rector Magnificus, Jacob Fokkema.FailureDespite SG's best efforts, the 'International Week' statistics reveal that something went completely wrong. Excluding the after-party, the Delft city tour attracted the largest number of students (twelve). The world language courses were only visited by a handful of Dutch students interested in learning Chinese. Two students attended the stand-up comedy show, which was quite a crowd compared to the 'do's and don’ts' Q&A session, which not one international student attended. As for the chance to discuss important issues with TU Rector Magnificus Jacob Fokkema, only two international students and few Dutch members of the Student Council bothered to show up.Laura Sardoninin, an Italian (visiting) PhD student, says the event's poor attendance could not have been because of a lack variety in the event's program or because of a lack of publicity: "The large variety of activities was such that they should have interested students with all kinds of likes and dislikes. I visited the world music workshop and enjoyed it a lot, but I was really astonished when I saw that I was one of the only two students that attended this activity."According to Koppelman, bad planning was also not a reason for most foreign students deciding not to attend 'International Week': "We didn't plan the event during an exam period and we deliberately organized activities during both the daytime and evenings. But still almost nobody showed up to any of the activities."As for publicity, Koppelman adds: "We distributed flyers, program booklets, an article was published in Delta and we even hung a big banner on the Mekelweg. Some of the students that visited the activities even said that they were overloaded with publicity!"Months later, Koppelman is still desperately looking for answers. "We probably just don't know what foreign students want, except that they like to party," she says, referring to the huge difference in the numbers of students that attended the various activities and the after-party.The apparent failure of an 'International Week' expressly designed for international students puts a new impetus on the gloomy internationalization efforts of TU Delft. And Koppelman seemingly hits the nail on the head when she laments the fact that TU Delft probably just doesn't know what international students expect from the university.International students are however apparently not that interested in explicitly stating what they want and, more importantly, trying to help achieve it themselves. Delft's student political parties, such as the AAG, Oras and the Central Student Council, have for years been trying to create international councils without any success. Koppelman: "Organizing parties cannot reasonably be expected to be a responsibility of the TU."Koppelman is nevertheless determined to organize the 'International Week' again. It's believed and hoped that a change in the way the event was organized last year will produce better results this year. International students have been purposely invited to participate in the organization of this year's event. But if international students again don't show any interest, this will be the last 'International Week' organized by Studium Generale. Koppelman: "It's just not worth the costs and the personal effort if nobody shows up."Would you like to comment on this article? Send your emails to d.mcmullin@tudelft.nl. Emails should not exceed 300 words and are for publication on our 'Letters Page'What else do foreign students want? (Illustration: Juan S. Sanchez, MSc, Colombia)

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