Not the ones to be blamed
For our council, internationalisation is extremely topical now. International students are increasingly being put under the scope of the Dutch government as the government now begins to consider the wider implications of the high amount of international students who are accepted at universities such as VU Amsterdam. As the national dialogue in the Netherlands begins to highlight anti-internationalisation stances and as the dialogue within the university between students carry on this conversation, it is important to remind many that international students are simply not the ones to be blamed or punished in this situation.
International students - such as myself - were drawn to VU Amsterdam without being aware of the many problems and struggles which are present within Amsterdam and the wider Netherlands. Especially when considering that I joined during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it took me an entire year to realize fully what the situation is here in Amsterdam, when it comes to housing, to integration, and many other issues which directly impact internationals. Yet, I can even say that I got lucky over the past three years.
It took me an entire year to realize fully what the situation is here in Amsterdam
Over the last year as a member of the USC, and the two years prior meeting many internationals at VU Amsterdam, I’ve had the chance to hear many stories and experiences of international students. For many, their story was that they came here, on their own, unaware of the many struggles an international student would have to face coming here, and were forced to adapt on their own, leaving the majority of their support circle behind. Best case scenario for many of these students, they would have to learn how to adapt to university life here in Amsterdam. But worst case scenario, for many international students who couldn’t find housing in Amsterdam, this meant trying to get situated in cities like Zaandam, Hilversum, or even Rotterdam. All while studying at VU Amsterdam.
Despite these challenges, the many international students I’ve spoken to remain undeterred. Many of them continue to attend their classes, study harder than most, get grades higher than most. They remain hopeful for the future that they can find housing in Amsterdam, and in the worst case, they’ve learned to adapt to the different paces of life that living outside of Amsterdam may require.
Finally, international students have proven to be more than necessary to VU Amsterdam and its mission towards promoting a proper campus life. One walk around campus will tell you that despite internationals only realistically making up around 14% of students overall at VU Amsterdam, one could reasonably assume that half of the students that are actually on campus are internationals. International students are seen everywhere, are the most engaged, and add a lot to the university experience for all of us.