Why are things done separately here? Why are there a Dutch TU Delft and an international TU Delft living side by side with so little interaction? I’m often amazed at how we even manage to all live together in such a tiny town and not interact and integrate.
So the big question is: do we want these two TU Delfts to become one? And if we do, then whose fault is it that they aren’t? We international students say we’re really interested in getting to know the Dutch; after all, we came here to experience a new culture. But the Dutch students aren’t interested in meeting us; they’re only interested in their own Dutch friends and student associations and traditions. All they care about is getting dressed up and going to their routine theme parties and drinking beer with their Dutch friends. And then you talk to some Dutch students and they say, well, we’d love to meet the international students, because we want to learn from them. You know us Dutch, we speak many languages and love travelling – we’re the most international people out there! But it’s the international students who prefer keeping to themselves, some only want to stick to their own nationality, and the others just want to hang out with other international students. Bottom line, the Dutch ones say, is that internationals aren’t interested in us Dutch.And then you think maybe it’s the universities fault. So you ask the people in charge: Don’t you want TU Delft to be one international university? And they reply that the integrating the two communities is a main goal and they’re searching for ways of creating one TU but the students aren’t interested! They say it’s hard to reach international students, and even harder to encourage Dutch students to forgo some of their traditions and let the international students in.So what to do? I hear lots of noise about how international students wanting mixed housing. Most international students I talk to really want to live in houses with Dutch students, because they believe that’s where the real interaction happens. But there’s one problem: most international students stay in Holland temporarily, whereas Dutch students live in their student houses for many years, often forming strong bonds with their housemates. Another major issue is the separate social activities for the two groups. Many Dutch students are members of student societies, and international students feel these societies are closed to them. These societies have their own traditions, and members participate in society activities for many years, so they say it’s very difficult for international students to join such student societies. And then there are the activities organised for international students. Dutch students aren’t invited to these activities, and international students themselves don’t organize these activities anyway. So what’s the solution? Can Dutch student societies start organizing activities involving international students? Or should there be an international student society that can also actively invite Dutch students to meet and integrate with the international community? The final major barrier is language. TU Delft remains a Dutch-speaking university, and most international students aren’t encouraged to learn Dutch. Could solving this language barrier take integration to the next level and help the two communities understand and interact better?Today, most of us feel like there are two TU Delfts. Is this because each community thinks the other doesn’t want to integrate? Or do they in fact not want to integrate? Is there really an opportunity for us to learn from fellow students with different backgrounds and cultures and step into a globalized future if we integrate? Or is this just PR talk that nobody really cares about, least of all the tradition-loving Dutch student society students who never left home, nor asked the world to come to them, in the first place?
Rose Manouchehri is a member of TU Delft’s University Student Council, responsible for issues relating to internationalization. If you have any questions or comments for Rose, email her at R.Manouchehri@tudelft.nl