UG be my valentine

The university community has always had a love-hate relationship with internationals. Lately though, things seem to have really cooled. We need to talk before it’s too far gone. 

Whether it’s a discussion on internationalisation, or housing, or the falling quality of education, nobody seems to have a good word to say about us internationals. Things are no different at all the house parties we’re not invited to, at traffic intersections (perhaps legitimately), and literally every time the topic comes up, in-person or online. 

The chief complaints are that there’s too many of us, we don’t integrate, and that we complain too much. How exactly did we skip past the honeymoon period and straight to the bickering phase? Where were all these issues when we were being wooed to come over? Talk about mixed signals. 

Take integration. Every Dutch lesson is full up and we still can’t say ‘Groningen’ right. Is there a herring and hagelslag miracle diet we’re missing? If only there were – we’d all be swaying along to André Hazes at the Negende Cirkel by Thursday. The excitement of being immersed in a new culture is half the reason to choose to study abroad. 

Where were all these issues with internationals when we were being wooed to come over? Talk about mixed signals 

Yet the isolation is real. Within and outside our studies, social groups are almost always segregated. Fair enough – it’s a good deal easier to fully be yourself within your own language and culture. The rest of us have to make do with each other. While understandable, it disadvantages internationals academically and socially. 

In a way it really isn’t you, it’s us. It’s unrealistic to expect a red carpet, or to be accomodated to at every turn. Of course nobody’s obliged to go out of their way, nor should they be – but it wouldn’t hurt if at least somebody did every now and again, surely?

The city is  truly Samaritan-rich. There are multiple organisations dedicated to making internationals feel at home, cultural events are more popular than your average seminar, and people in general are quite broad-hearted. Yet the bridge-building occurs at arm’s length at best. 

Perhaps with a bit of courage it might filter down to your neighbour in the lecture hall or association. Not because you ‘ought’ to, but because you can, especially in the off chance that it might end up meaning something to them, or to you. 

The whole thing began with so much enthusiasm. Maybe a little patience and self-giving on all our parts could help us remember why. 


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