Student housing provider SSH& is considering to particularly house international students in one of its new complexes. But doesn't this divide the student population even further?
Making authentic Dutch friends is the ultimate social goal of many internationals who come to Radboud for a real study abroad experience. However, fitting in with the locals is not always that easy. Apart from obvious linguistic and cultural differences, many foreigners expressed difficulty in connecting with their Dutch counterparts. This might not become easier with plans from student housing provider SSH&. With the construction of a new building, SSH& is considering keeping internationals separate from Dutch students. According to Vincent Buitenhuis, manager strategy and living, this is not a goal in itself. ‘But because the demand of especially internationals is going to grow in the upcoming years.’
Until now, mixed living has been the basic principle: foreigners together with Dutch people improves integration. But the policy is changing, says Buitenhuis: ‘Matching lifestyles will become leading, we are consulting with the university on how to apply this in the best way.’
Meeting in the elevator
Buitenhuis gives an example: ‘[For a] very extreme example: a student who is here for only half a year, wants to make the most of it and wants to party. If you put him or her next to a master student, there might be some friction.’ It does not matter much whether this an international student or not, says Buitenhuis.
The concentration of internationals is also stimulated for another reason. Buitenhuis: ‘On a policy level, it is easier if we keep international students together (rooms for international students usually have furniture, while Dutch students bring their own). In Arnhem, we have a building where the top half is for Dutch students and the bottom half is for international students.’ Integration does not necessarily mean living behind the same f
ront door, he says. ‘It is about meeting each other. In a flat like the one in Arnhem, there is interaction between the two groups, for example in the elevator, at the entrance and at the bicycle parking.”
Students themselves do not seem too happy about this. Vox asked a mixed group of students at the Sterrenbosch housing block what their preference is. Surprisingly, every student preferred intermingled living, no matter if they were Dutch or foreign. Student Jan-Willem Ros also agrees with these sentiments. “Radboud University has stressed the importance of internationalisation on multiple occasions. My vision is definitely in line with this – foreign students should be able to get to know our Dutch culture and vice versa. What better way to do it than letting international students live closely to us as neighbors? Isolating the foreign students also might give them the wrong signals of being tolerated, but not really welcome.’
Management student Dahye Kim is originally from Korea, and thinks that segregated housing will strengthen the feeling that foreigners are not ‘part of the club’. She noted that in the 6 months she’s been here, she has only connected with other internationals.
This is not a new sentiment. Gerard Meijer, who recently left his job as chairman of the executive board, said that student organisations have to try harder to engage international students in Dutch student life. The new housing plans the SSH& might have are ‘contra productive’, according to Kim.