10 januari 2020

Hello, can you hear me?

First of all, in case of any misunderstanding, I have to say that I love the Netherlands way much more than my mother country - China. Although, China is not really like the demonised nation as portrayed on western media, but well, that’s not the topic today. Democracy, on the other hand, is something that I have been learning about ever since I became a student councillor. God knows that I have never even voted.

It will be fun, they said. You should let your voice be heard, they said. All the things about student representatives, I was genuinely fascinated and excited in the beginning. But like elders always say, the more you expect, the worse you will fall. After a few months USR work, the reality hit me real bad.

The first thing is the same message I perceived from multiple VU service departments: “We need more student participation, but we don’t know how to achieve that.” The thing is, I don’t remember which department was that lady from, she says: “It’s new to us. It all began just a few years ago.” Everything becomes clear. No matter what was the cause, that repeated message was actually the first but most difficult step - acknowledgment of the issue. It’s new to them as well as it’s new to us, we just need to collaboratively learn and then improve the problem. This reminds me of one of Vinod’s sayings, “We are in this together.” Maybe it was said by someone else first, but that’s not the point.

The second thing is the language barrier, which has been the pain in my ass constantly. As a matter of fact, I have been learning Dutch language. I know ‘gezellig’ is kind of the best Dutch word, I know ‘goed’ or ‘mooi’ means someone agrees, and ‘niet’ means disagreement in most cases. But it takes process for a complete beginner to be proficient enough in Dutch to understand what has been discussed in the meetings. However, for now, the responsibility is not clear that which one should take care of international councillors. You know, it’s new. I’m not exaggerating, from September 2019, I have the feeling that I’m deaf and blind at most of USR meetings.

I cannot read documents so that I am blind, I cannot understand what people said so that I am deaf. I have been this desperate, it is quite ironic to say that my job is to represent (international student at least), right? No matter how bad the issue is, I’m here to help. So please, help me to help you. No matter how little the help is to you, it means a lot to me. Thanks in advance.

Edwin Chen
raadslid IT; cultuur en diversiteit

Edwin Chen



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