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'It’s great that Avans is organising an event like this'

A International get-together during Week of the International Student

Avans International Office hosted a get-together at the Grand Café in Breda on last Wednesday evening, offering free beers and bitterballs to their international students. The mixer was organised to celebrate the Week of the International Student, which also featured the first edition of the Avans International Conference. Some forty students gathered at the Grand Café to enjoy the free beers and snacks.

Danae Hidalgo, an International Finance student from Mexico, was curious about the snacks being served. Presented with a plate of frikandel, she hesitated briefly before dipping one in chilli sauce. “This is some kind of sausage… right? I think I’ve had this before in the Netherlands – doesn’t taste too bad.”

Different cultures
Danae joined the get-together on Hogeschoollaan, along with a group of international students from her programme. She had just finished her classes for the day, so the timing was perfect. “It’s great that Avans is organising an event like this. We are having lectures with students from all over the world this week. It’s nice to learn about other cultures and to get different perspectives on things,” she said sipping her beer.

Social interaction
The mixer was organised to offer the students of the Avans International Community (AIC) an opportunity for some social interaction during a week in which they are participating in special educational activities as part of the Week of the International Student programme. There was room for one hundred participants and registration filled up well in advance. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to make it to the Grand Café after Wednesday’s sessions. Each student was given four drinks vouchers and on entering the bar, you could hear all kinds of languages being spoken: not only Dutch and English, but also French, Spanish, and even Korean.

Guglielmo Ferrari, currently in the final year of his economics degree and taking a minor at Avans, came along with his friends Omar from Mexico and Alexandra from Hungary. “We’re going to have a fun evening. Meeting new people, enjoying the free drinks and of course, relaxing after a hard day’s work. It’s nice to meet up like this and to get to know each other in a different setting. It’s great that Avans is facilitating this kind of event; it’s so important.”

Guglielmo (black sweatshirt) with Omar to the left and Alexandra to the right.

During the afternoon, Guglielmo’s study group attended a lecture in which they had to role‑play in small groups. He took on the role of a stakeholder. This approach was new to him. “In Italy, we don’t work together this way. It’s so different from what I’m used to – I’m learning a lot.” The drinks finished at 6.30 p.m. and while some students went home, others headed for the city centre together to socialise some more.

Avans International Conference
The mixer was part of the Week of the International Student. This year, Avans pulled out all the stops, organising the first ever Avans International Conference: a five‑day event involving three international minors, the Centre of Expertise on Broad Wealth and New Entrepreneurship, the Province of Noord-Brabant and representatives from relevant professional fields. The central theme of the conference was Exploring Future Challenges and Opportunities in Doing Sustainable Business.

The opening ceremony of the conference was held last Monday in Breda and was attended by Vice President of the Board of Avans, Jacomine Ravensbergen and the Mexican ambassador to the Netherlands, José Antonio Zabalgoitia Trejo. Mr Trejo talked about the importance of broad international collaborations, and economic and diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Netherlands.

Jacomine Ravensbergen (left) and José Antonio Zabalgoitia Trejo. Picture credits: Beeldmakers Avans

Collective knowledge
“Previously, Avans marked International Student Week with a range of activities across the various academies and programmes,” says Joost van Hilst, project leader of the AIC. “With this very first Avans International Conference, we are bringing together students from our international community and inviting them to collaborate with our researchers and the professional field to address complex societal issues. By working together, we can harness the power of our collective knowledge and create targeted solutions that are truly sustainable. This conference is all about taking that collaboration to the next level, which is extremely valuable.”

“By working together, we can harness the power of our collective knowledge and create targeted solutions that are truly sustainable.”

-Joost van Hilst, Project Manager AIC

Some 75 students from countries as far apart as Mexico and South Korea participated in the conference. Each day, they were given an assignment on a theme related to doing sustainable business. “Working together to develop new techniques for complex challenges, such as new business models for cotton, for example. On Tuesday, we challenged the students to think about how to turn existing value chains into circular ones,” Van Hilst said. Tomorrow, a broad discussion will take place on how the cotton industry should move forward.

Van Hilst, who is also an Avans lecturer, is very enthusiastic about the conference and believes that a follow-up is on the cards next year. “You can tell that there’s a lot of energy in and around the conference, from the programme, the students, research groups, the province, and the professional fields. And that’s what it’s all about. Creating and sharing knowledge, with confidence in each other and in a sustainable future. We can only get there if we keep working together to the fullest extent.”

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