This academic year saw the launch of international student association Intarnia at Avans. The cross-programme association is accessible to everyone, and was set up to contribute to a sense of community for international students of the university of applied sciences, say Avans students Paula Velasquez Suarez and Helena Booij.
“Avans views itself as an institution that actively promotes internationalisation. While this is true, more needs to be done. When a lecturer came up with the idea of setting up an international study association, I thought that sounded great”, says Paula, who hails from Colombia. She’s a third-year Environmental Sciences student in Breda, and one of the founders of the student association. “If you want to see change, then you have to be a part of it.”
Communicating in Dutch
As an example of how the university of applied sciences can improve its services for internationals, Paula mentions communication outside of the international programs. That communication is now mainly done in Dutch, from ads on big screens to texts in the cafeteria. “I think those are small things that can easily be adapted, and more communication in English will make international students feel more welcome. This will help them integrate more quickly”, says Paula.
The students agree that a association specifically for internationals and students interested in internationalisation was necessary. And yes, there are plenty of other study associations, including the ones associated with their own study programmes. But internationals often feel a lack of connection there. “Because those societies are dominated by Dutch students. Dutch is the main language of conversation, which is understandable, but it makes it harder for international students to join in and participate in activities”, says cofounder Helena from California, a first-year Environmental Sciences student in Breda.
“With the launch of Intarnia, we hope to create a community in which everyone feels welcome. Our main goal is to help internationals to integrate into their new life and to feel more like at home. It should be a safe place, to come together in an informal setting, but where you can also talk about your struggles”, Paula explains. Helena adds, “It is tough to move to another country. You leave your own culture and everything you have ever known behind, to go somewhere completely new. That is a big change, especially if you just graduated from secondary school. It’s a totally new world.”
Creating a safe environment
The founders have a number of plans for the association, which is intended for both international students and Dutch students interested in internationalisation. One idea is to plan parties with Dutch study societies, so everyone can get to know each other better. There are also coming events to integrate in typical Dutch parties, as carnaval. The members also hope to create and maintain a good relationship with the International Office, in order to help each other when necessary. There is also a group chat, in which members can make suggestions for doing something together outside of school.
As a new association, Intarnia currently consists of mainly its board while looking to start new traditions and setting up resources for Avans’ international community. With the opening of OpenX in Breda. But with the opening of OpenX in Breda, where the international community has its own space, and through the use of social media, the associations board members hope this will change. Anyone wanting to join can do so by completing this form. “We are open to fun ideas and could use helping hands in organising events”, the two students add.