When dewy-eyed international students arrive in the Netherlands for the very first time, there’s a whole list of things they have to take care of. Get a public transport pass, apply for student financial aid, but also look for a part-time job. Avans can help out with some of those things, but now you can also go to the free platform Going Abroad. Set up by second-year students in International Business, Joey de Koning, Rita Venturini and Gunnar van de Weem.
“We saw that it was a fairly big problem for international students in our programme to get everything arranged with the right forms and everything as soon as they arrived in this country, or when they were still in their own countries. The stories we heard weren’t pretty”, co-founder Joey de Koning says. “We all thought: we know how to tackle this problem. We know where you have to go to take care of formalities, we have experience with the same things. That’s why a couple of months ago we set up the platform Going Abroad.”
Partnering with businesses
The free digital platform has everything international students heading to the Netherlands, or those who have just arrived, need to know. The site gives a clear overview of where to go to arrange practical matters, with easy step-by-step explanations for each topic. And there’s a lot of stuff to take care of. “You have to register with the municipality, apply for student financial aid, get a weekly or weekend public transport pass, but also look for a part-time job, which can be really hard if you’re new to the country”, the students, who’ve partnered with local businesses, explain. Businesses with job vacancies that international students can apply for can post them on the site in exchange for a fee. The funds are invested in the platform in order to keep growing and help even more internationals.
“It’s working really well, they’re coming in droves. Every day we get dozens of messages from interested international students. The set up has another big advantage: this way the platform will always be free for the students. Businesses are keen to invest in students who come from outside the country.”
By now it should be clear that the Avans students didn’t set up the platform with the idea of getting rich. And certainly not with money from international students. “It’s hard enough for them when they come to the Netherlands from another country. We want to be friends and you don’t ask friends for money”, the group insist. The platform was first intended for internationals at Avans in Breda. “But we’re not bound by that. In the future we hope to become the biggest platform of this kind in the Netherlands, and in the short term we hope that all internationals in Breda have heard of us.”
Avans also offers assistance to foreign students who come to study in the Netherlands. Nonetheless, what the Avans students are doing with their platform is, in their eyes, different than what the institution is offering. “We’re students ourselves, so it’s advice from peers. That’s somewhat less formal and more accessible, with more information, too”, the group says. Discussions are underway with Avans for closer collaboration. “Along with the info posted on the site, there’s also the possibility of contacting us personally with questions or problems. Our vision is to help everyone as much as we can.”
Working on the platform does take away from the time they spend on their studies, they admit. Putting yourself into your coursework for a full 100% right now isn’t happening. “But we don’t mind. We believe that many students are going to benefit from this.”
For the time being the group will be kept busy with work that they’ve set for themselves so far. They do hope in future to add additional functionalities, like helping internationals find a place to live. “We know that we don’t have a magic wand, but we want to try to help them find a place. Or at least make sure they aren’t being ripped off online anymore.”