Why do Dutch students not interact with international students?

Illustratie: Elmarye Aaij

    Dutch students who take an English-taught study programme rarely interact with international students outside of their classes. We asked three Avansstudents why this is the case.

    Bas van Kalmthout

    First-year Finance & Control student, Breda
    “Our English is quite good, but we always tend to talk Dutch to one another, even when there are students of different nationalities in our group. But I think that’s quite normal. Most students choose an English-taught study programme because they believe that it is better for their future prospects, but they have no desire to speak English in their free time. Even when they take an English-taught study programme, they still prefer to make Dutch friends.
    I have one international friend. He came to one of my parties and we all spoke English to him, but we would switch to Dutch when speaking to each other. It’s not very polite, but it’s something that just happens naturally. Fortunately, he didn’t mind too much.
    I am becoming more aware of the importance of getting to know more international students and to speak more English. After all, I chose to follow an international study programme and speaking English is part of that. But I do think that many students don’t see it that way yet. Avans could change this by making sure that we only communicate in English in English-taught classes. I take a subject called business communication. It’s mostly the lecturer talking during class, even though you’d think we’d be communicating with each other in English.

    ‘Dutch students, including myself, should also invest more time and energy into meeting students who speak a different language’

    In the classes in which we have to give presentations in English the interaction between students is much better. If everybody has to present in English, they’re more likely to continue talking to each other in English. This promotes the group dynamics, as there is more interaction between Dutch and international students. Avans should do this more often and emphasise the importance of conversations in English and giving presentations in English during classes. Dutch students, including myself, should also invest more time and energy into meeting students who speak a different language. That’s not really the case right now, although I’ve noticed that the international students are really friendly. But it is logical that they are more open to meeting Dutch students; after all, they don’t know so many people here.”


    Ernst Vonk

    First-year Finance & Control student, Breda
    “I actually think it’s cool to meet people from different countries. It’s something you should be open to in any case if you’re taking an international study programme. At the start of the year, I had a classmate from Zimbabwe whom I spent a lot of time with. He was a really great guy and would often go out with us. But he’s now busy with his own company.
    Beside him, I’ve spoken to few international students. It’s actually a pity, as I find it interesting to learn about different cultures and I really don’t mind speaking English. But many Dutch students do have a problem with this. I’ll often hear someone say at a party: ‘I’m not going to speak English.’

    ‘Dutch students have to move out of their comfort zone and speak to international students in their free time’

    I think that many Dutch students can’t express themselves properly in English, so they tend to stick to hanging out with other Dutch people. But there’s a pretty simple solution for this: just do it. Dutch students have to move out of their comfort zone and speak to international students in their free time. I don’t think Avans should interfere in this, as the study programmes are fine. It is the responsibility of the students to change things.”

    Lieke Buuron

    First-year Finance & Control student, Breda
    “I mainly interact with the female students in my class and they’re all Dutch. I’ve noticed that international students tend to stay inside their own bubble, but that’s normal, I guess. There are cultural differences and for us it’s easier to communicate in Dutch, while they might not understand our norms and values.

    I might take an international study programme, but that doesn’t mean that I need to speak English the entire day. I am open to meeting international students, but they need to take the first step. I love experiencing other cultures when I’m on holiday, but I’m always glad when I arrive back in the Netherlands again.

    ‘We should work in project groups that include Dutch and international students more often’

    I think that Avans should pick up the reins: we should work in project groups that include Dutch and international students more often. Maybe then I would develop a more international mindset and start speaking English more often.”

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