Two of the latest Delta articles - Advice to international students was ‘unacceptably late’ and TU Delft wants far higher tuition fees from non-EU students - made me feel weird and sad. As an international student, I wanted to share the impression they gave me.
I am concerned about how TU Delft is treating international students. There has always been a housing shortage in Delft, but all incoming students are aware of that. Therefore, the message ‘Don’t come here’, sent by TU Delft to some of the students just 2 weeks before classes started, is really scandalous. It is like the University is sending a clear message to incoming international students: we do not care about you. I think this is sad and reveals the general mindset of the university administration towards international students.
The articles state that Dutch and non-Dutch students do not mix very well despite the effort of the mixed OWee. According to Rob Mudde, “That will always be the case.” I disagree. The university is not making any real efforts to bridge this Dutch-International gap. I think the mixed OWee program is just a smoke screen the administration uses to pretend they care, while in fact they do not. After the OWee is over, the gap is still strong and growing. A one-week event is simply not enough to integrate groups that are currently so divided. We will start to see and interact with each other only if there is a good example and encouragement from the top throughout the year. Right now, the message from the top is, “We don’t care about international students here, we just want them to pay their tuition fees.”
Dutch students separate themselves in their fraternities
The housing problem only deepens the gap, and I think neither TU Delft nor DUWO does enough to improve it. For example, the new, expensive DUWO complexes are overpriced, closed enclaves. First of all, they are too expensive and too fancy for an average student. DUWO prices are higher than standard rooms offered privately in the city, which is ridiculous - student accommodation should be affordable by definition. International students will pay it because, unlike Dutch students, they have no other option. This results in student accommodation being inhabited by international students only. How are those international students supposed to mix with Dutch students if they are separated in habitats like this?
On the other hand, Dutch students separate themselves in their fraternities. If TU Delft really wanted to bridge the gap between us, it would start a dialogue on such a basic, organic level as housing. For example, providing affordable student housing would help, with a fixed Dutch/non-Dutch ratio, equally accessible to everyone. Currently, affordable (older) DUWO housing is available mostly for Dutch students, as they arrive in Delft earlier and sign up for the housing list earlier, and thus have a better chance to get a cheap flat. Instead of reasonable actions like this, the university sends a ‘Don’t come here’ message.
Money itself is another topic covered by the articles mentioned. Again, Mr Mudde had a lot to say. Increasing the tuition fee only for a particular group of students is unethical. Mr Mudde complains about scarce funding - I understand that quality education costs money. But perhaps instead of increasing the prices for the most vulnerable group of students, it would be better to look into the current money management? I really like the new Pulse building – it’s a great place to study. However, was it really necessary to make its interior so fancy? There are designer coffee tables for 241.60 EUR and couches for around 3600 EUR. Do students really need to drink their 45-cent coffees on such expensive furniture? The wastefulness in that building is a matter of concern.
In general, I was left with the impression that only money counts for the current Executive Board, definitely not the well-being of students. The lack of respect for the international students coming from the top influences our daily life at the bottom. We, international students, will not feel treated as equals as long as this continues. We will not be included in activities with our fellow Dutch students. Currently, our Dutch colleagues are just some random people that we sometimes go to lectures with. We would like to meet them, and we would like to be part of one, big, undivided Delft student society.
Malwina Witczak is a master's student of Materials Science and Engineering.