Page 1

bubble Bursting the

Univers magazine, May 2010

Tilburg 2025 Ffw into the future

Apart together

In or out?

Learning Dutch

International group work, tricky but worthwhile

Are student associations open to international students?

Why should you and when do you?

1 bursting the bubble

Colophon Bursting the bubble is a special edition magazine of Univers, the independent news medium of Tilburg University. This magazine has partly been made possible by the International Office of Tilburg University.

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Managing editor Lieke Meertens

Illustrations Marthe Kalkhoven

Editorial director Ingrid Ramaan

Advertising/marketing manager Ries Agterberg

Creative director Mieke Fiers

Translation (pages 3, 11-13, 21) Charles Peter

Lay-out editor Adrian van den Eerenbeemt

Correction Patricia Goldrick

Authors/editors Marlin de Bresser, Mieke Fiers, Lieke Meertens, Dennis Nuiten, Mieke van Poll, Marten van de Wier

Editor in chief Univers Ries Agterberg

Photography Kees Beekmans/Verbeeld, Erik van der Burgt/Verbeeld (covers, bubble burster-textboxes), Dolph Cantrijn, Angeline Swinkels/Verbeeld, Ton Toemen

Advisory board Erik van Beers, Harald Benink, Hilde van den Berg, Hans-Georg van Liempd, Jorg Raab, Pieter Siebers, Janeke Thumbran Printed by M. de Jong, Baarle Nassau

Address Univers Warandelaan 2, Room S 237, Postbox 90153, 5000LE Tilburg. 0134662277,,

May 2010 2

‘bub.ble, bub.bles: 1. A pocket formed in a solid, that is trapped. 2. A fantastic or impracticable idea or belief; an illusion: 3. A speculative scheme that comes to nothing: 4. A protective, often isolating envelope or cover. ~ a speculative bubble; ~ to blow bubbles; ~ the first problem pricked his bubble; ~ to bubble over with joy; ~ to bubble over with enthusiasm [syn.] Fizz; gurgle; simmer; to foam; to sparkle; to well up Bub.bly: 1. Full of life, lively. [syn.] Active; lively, bouncy; vivacious; vital; actively; full of pep; full-blooded.

Dear readers, At Tilburg University, the international students and staff can sometimes form sub-groups of their own. Many organizations are working to burst those bubbles, and many guests from overseas are bubbling over with gusto to break out of their isolation and fully immerse themselves into the Dutch life. Just as more and more Dutch individuals embrace the chance to mix with other nationalities. So building a full-blooded international community at Tilburg University is definitely more than a fantasy – it is work in progress. In the magazine you are holding right now, these topics are leading. It’s about bursting the bubble. [IR]

Shutting them in, or out?


Working apart together


Not for the faint-hearted


The point of learning Dutch


In this magazine

Living among the Dutchies

Tilburg 2025

4 7

Bubble Bursters


A night in Bogota


s a member of a delegation from the University of Tilburg, I often visit universities throughout the world. Let me describe a typical visit. Like the one to Bogota, the capital of Columbia. Arriving after a six-hour flight from Buenos Aires, I visit the Dutch embassy. Next up on the programme is Colcienias, a department in the field of research, technology and innovation. After spending the afternoon at the beautiful University De Los Andes I sign an agreement with Colfuturo; an organisation that arranges grants for Colombian students who wish to study abroad at a top-class international institute. Now, I’m awaiting a meeting with Colombian students who have either already studied at the University of Tilburg or who are currently com-

3 bursting the bubble

pleting the procedure for admission. Sandra Rincon, responsible for our international Alumni policy, has organised the meeting. To my surprise, it’s very busy as we arrive at the restaurant where the meeting is to be held. There are thirty to forty students present and more trickle in. I welcome them and talk to them about a University of Tilburg community in Columbia. The students are very motivated to come to Tilburg to study economics, psychology, business administration and international business law, which I find heart-warming. They are full of questions. Will I be expected to learn Dutch? What does the Tilburg campus look like? Is it easy to find accommodation? What is the city of Tilburg like? Is there a good student night-life? What sports facilities

does the campus offer? What do people typically eat in Holland? Is the university in contact with international companies regarding job experience for students? Can you help me obtain a grant? I do my utmost to answer all the questions. It’s getting late and I start to feel fatigued from all the travelling. Did I hear that correctly? Mister Vice-Chancellor, would you consider Tilburg a safe city? Am I not in Columbia?! Philip Eijlander Rector of the University of Tilburg

u The guys preparing the ‘tasteless Dutch meat’ according to the Lithuanian Lina

Living among the D Unlike most international students, the Lithuanian Lina Jasmontaite boldly chose to live in a typical Dutch student house. She’s the only girl and the only foreigner amongst four Dutch guys. “I never get mad, but I occasionally yell: English, please!” u Mieke van Poll, photo’s: Ton Toemen


hen Lina Jasmontaite, enters the living room at the Jan Toroopstraat, everyone stops talking for a second - switching from Dutch to English sometimes can be tricky. Joost Hendriks (18, Journalism): “When Lina joins the conversation we usually stop talking Dutch, but we often forget what we

‘I now understand why Dutch guys aren’t so helpful’ were talking about, so we smoothly switch back to Dutch every now and again. That can be annoying.” The 23-year old Lina came to the Netherlands in September 2009 from Lithuania and entered the master’s programme International and European Public Law. She decided to live in a Dutch student home instead of choosing or arranging

ity according to Lina. “You don’t have real milk, it tastes so different! And your meat, it’s processed and tasteless. In Lithuania, food is more biologically produced. It’s so much better.” In the Jan Toroopstraat no one really eats Dutch food. Except for hagelslag, which Lina thinks is so strange. “Why do you put chocolate sprinkles on bread? It doesn’t look great.” The only thing Lina really loves is stroopwafels. “They’re delicious.”

accommodation through university. Luckily she found a room in the Jan Toroopstraat through a friend. Lina: “I moved there mainly because of the costs, those international student flats at the Hogeschoollaan and Verbernelaan are really expensive.” Nobody at the Jan Toroopstraat knew Lina before she moved in. Bart van Dongen (21), International Business: “When we came back from our summer holidays we found out we had a new roommate, I first met Lina in a pub, instead of our home!”

For Lina it can be helpful living with Dutch guys. “If I want to know some practical stuff, such as which cinema is cheaper, I can ask them. Students who live at the Verbernelaan always have to look everything up.” So it is a plus living with Dutch students, although it isn’t necessarily helpful to live with men. “While travelling from the airport to Tilburg I realized that there is a different relation between genders. I had a heavy suitcase and backpack and had trouble getting on and off the trains. But no one offered me any help. It was unusual cause people It didn’t take long to get used to the Lithuanian in Lithuania are very helpful to each other. Now I girl. Martijn:“Of course Lina has her own culture. know that Dutch men wouldn’t dare to help womShe cooks differently from us. Sometimes I won- en, Dutch girls are such feminists. Living with Dutch der why she won’t boil the potatoes before fry- guys has made me see that. If I hadn’t met them I ing them, but apart from that she’s just like us.” might’ve never understood why Dutch guys aren’t Joost: “Except for the sweet pasta with peach helpful.” yoghurt, ugh!” The differences in taste is also the reason why Lina never eats with the rest of the There’s one thing everyone at the Jan Toroopstraat house. “They always eat meat.” has in common. They share the same sense of huThe food in the Netherlands isn’t of great qual- mor. Especially jokes about blondes are really popu-

May 2010 4

‘The trick: get in their agendas’ Karla Gonzalez is a Mexican Social Psychology student who followed her boyfriend to the Netherlands. She has learnt to make the extra effort to connect with Dutch people. Karlas Gonzalez (28) has been in the Netherlands for ten months, but is still amazed when she sees Dutch mothers on bikes with three children. The sight still raises her heartbeat. She eats ‘stamppot’ and has made some Dutch friends but overall she finds it hard to connect with Dutchies.

Dutchies lar. Martijn: “I never expected her to laugh at the same things, but she does. When I lived in Norway, no one ever understood my jokes.” René Megens, (23, International Business), who has been silent the entire time, states: “Martijn’s jokes are stupid in all languages.” Although Lina likes her life in Tilburg, she’s not planning on staying here. “Therefore, I’m not motivated to learn Dutch. But I do think it’s polite to learn some phrases like: ‘goedemorgen’,‘dankjewel’, ‘alstublieft’ or ‘ik ben Lina’. It shows some respect.”

The reason why international students don’t connect as much with Dutch students as with each other is simple, says Lina: “We have more in common. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Spain or Czech Republic, we all face the same problems.” Living at the Jan Toroopstraat did change that.“I feel like I’ve learned more about the Dutch (student)culture. I still don’t have a lot of Dutch friends, but at least I’ve experienced what the Dutch life feels like. I know when Dutch students go out (Thursdays) and I’ve eaten kroketten and frikadellen [typical Dutch junk food- Univers].” When she’s not at home, Lina doesn’t interact with Dutch students a lot either, just like she sees other international students keeping to themselves, who mostly stay their entire master’s year at the Verbernelaan or Hogeschoollaan. That’s why Lina is really happy with her choice to live among the ‘Dutchies’. “At the condo’s you’re all alone, you don’t have to interact with anyone else. Here, it is a more of a home-like atmosphere. We know when someone has to study hard so we can be more quiet. We have a common living room where we drink and play games or just sit and talk. I know I can always talk to someone if I want to.” u 5 bursting the bubble

Karla has two tips: “To the Dutch people I would say ‘live in the moment more often’, and international students I would advise to make appointments the Dutch way. That means: get into their agendas! Just text ‘Lunch at 13.00?’ That’s clear, they can write it down, set their minds to it and then you will have a great time with them.” Karla giggles: “The Dutch and their agendas are cute!”

Bubble burster

‘Verbernelaan students always have to look everything up’

“I would say integrating is quite difficult. It helps a lot that my boyfriend supports me and I’m really touched by the fact that all his friends are so nice and eager to get to know me. But as much as I like his friends: they are still his friends and I want my own friends. I have two close Dutch friends now. One of them I met while doing a group assignment for a course, the other is on the board of an international student organisation. Becoming friends after the group assignment was not easy. After a few weeks of working together with four girls, I proposed having a drink or dinner as a group. Unfortunately, I only kept in touch with one of the girls - who happens to have traveled a lot and understood my situation better. Overall, I have to find creative ways to meet more people myself. One of my plans is to practice Capoeira at the Sports Centre where I hope to meet some more nice people. In a way I do understand why students of the European Student Network stick to ‘international life’, it’s fun and it’s easy to stay in your comfort zone. However, when you plan on living in a country for a longer time, it’s important to integrate. You can have all the material luxury you want but if you don’t have the human interactions you lack an important part of life.’“

Studenten Service Centrum Be a student... And enjoy your college years. Go to Tilburg University’s Student Service Centre to make the most of it! The Student Service Centre (SSC) offers a wide range of courses, including language courses: Dutch (also for foreigners), Spanish, Chinese, English, and more. But there are also cultural workshops, sports lessons and there is job application training. Most courses are for free or for a small fee. You can also broaden your horizon by attending symposia, lectures, theatre and musical performances. The Student Service Centre employs experts who can assist you during your studies or when preparing for the job market. You can also go to the Student Service Centre with questions about study delays, binding study advice, and for more personal problems that may affect your studies. Read more about these and all other services of the Student Service Centre at ssc or visit the Prisma building (ground floor, next to the ATM). But there are also cultural workshops, musical workshops, sports lessons and there is job application training.

‘Excellent sports facilities, extremely cheap’ Back in Lisbon, Portugal, he played rugby for more than ten years, even in a national team for youngsters, where he was the captain for several years. So when master’s student of Investment Analysis Gonçalo Sommer Ribeiro (22) arrived in Tilburg last summer, he immediately went in search of rugby opportunities. Through the Sports Centre of Tilburg University he joined student rugby club Tarantula. He deliberately did not choose the first and best team, says Ribeiro. “I particularly want to relax and have fun. Not to play at a very high level of competition.” After Ribeiro bought a sports card for the Sports Centre, he was surprised at the possibilities. “You buy a card of only 99 euro, extremely cheap. What you get are excellent facilities, and you can choose the sport you want; almost every sport is represented. You also get good advice and intensive personal guidance from a trainer, if you want. And all this at no extra cost. This is usually unthinkable,

and absolutely not possible in Portugal, for example.” He could ‘not be more satisfied’ with the sports climate at Tilburg University, says Gonçalo Sommer Ribeiro. So, he understands that the university wants to encourage sports at any cost. “It’s really important for a student to sport, you can release some pressure.”

Twice a week he trains with Tarantula and on weekends he plays a match. And soon, he also really wants to sign up for tennis or squash. But without lessons, just for fun. Tarantula is often hard work. Though there is plenty of time to relax during the - according to Ribeiro - ‘very well-organised third half’. The Portugese master’s student and rugby player smiles: “After the match we go downtown to meet women’s hockey teams in our favourite pub. Yes, that too makes sporting fun.” More information: Gonçalo Sommer Ribeiro sportscentre

Practising foreign languages at informal Language Café Speaking better Spanish, English or Chinese? At the Language Café at the Esplanade, you meet native speakers for a nice chat.

“It is difficult to practice my Dutch because I mainly meet international students”, says Hana Zahradkova from the Czech Republic. Maybe it is even harder for a Dutch student to find a Chinese or Portuguese native speaker to improve your proficiency. And how often can you train English or German in an informal setting? The monthly Language Café at the Esplanade is a solution for both for Dutch and international students and employees. “I am very happy that this opportunity exists”, thinks Zahradkova, who is taking a Dutch course at the Language Centre. She visited the Language Café in March. “It was educational, but certainly also fun. I’m going again next time.” Because the Café was just before Easter, the different kinds of Easter traditions were a popular con-

versation topic. Zahradkova told two Dutch students how the Czechs celebrate Easter: “The women and girls stay at home to entertain the guests while the men visit. They hit the girls with a specially carved wooden stick while reciting an Easter poem. By doing so, they wish for us to remain young”, Zahradkova explains. The Dutch told her about hiding Easter eggs. At the Language Café, speakers of English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch are always present. At the start of the afternoon, Language Centre teachers introduce the native speakers to the group. With a drink in hand, the ensuing conversations are very relaxed.

The Language Café takes place every last Tuesday of the month from 16.30 to 18.00 hrs. Hana Zahradkova May 2010 6

Tilburg 2025 7 bursting the bubble

Writing an article on the ‘future of international

this happens. It’s just me and the leprechaun sitting on the toilet floor. Tilburg University’ can be tedious. Sleep can “This is not exactly what I had expected”, I mumble, catch up with you. So can leprechauns. mainly to myself. “The future never is”, the leprechaun replies briskly. He stands up, walks towards u Mieke Fiers, illustrations: Marthe Kalkhoven the corner nearest to the sink and jumps up and down three times. The waste bin starts shaking and rattling. With a rolled-up sleeve, the leprechaun reaches into it wildly. Then, he lifts out his arm holdould you like to see the future?” ing a rusty key labeled ‘Tilburg University 2025’ and I wake up with a start, immedi- lifts it high above his head. He turns on his heels ately embarrassed as I realize I and quickly uses it to open the door we just came fell asleep in the coffee room of the Cobbenhagen through. Without waiting for me, he steps back into building. My neck aches and with the back of my the hall, and vanishes into thin air. hand, I remove some saliva from the corner of my mouth. A remarkable little man is sitting in the seat The rough tiles on the floor and the sandy wall in front of me. It’s a dwarf. “Leprechaun actually”, he bricks - all seems the same. I should have known corrects with his childish voice, apparently reading better than to believe this leprechaun. On my way my mind. I look around; the coffee room is deserted. back to the coffee room, forcing myself to awaken It’s late, a low-hanging sun peeps through the win- more, I hear the rising buzz of discussion. In a corner of the hallway, I pass a group of three standdows. With his extremely long index finger, the leprechaun ing around a little water fountain - I’ve never seen taps at the memorandum in front of me: ‘Towards it before. Something seems odd about them; their an international campus’. Oh, of course, I have to clothes, their lack of books, their earphones – I can’t write an article for the university paper on what this quite put my finger on it... international campus could look like. Well, it must A bit further up, there’s a screen on the have been quite interesting, since I’ve fallen asleep. wall, like a television, broadcasting the “Would you like to see the future, the internation- news. Next to it a shelf with some kind al campus?”, the leprechaun asks again. Then he of magazine. It’s Univers! The date on jumps off his chair – he really is small!- and runs the cover confirms the weird feeling in away. In a reflex, I follow him. We run through the my stomach: ‘May 20th, 2025’. labyrinthine Cobbenhagen building until he stops in front of the door of the toilet for the disabled, in one of the forgotten aisles. Inside, he indicates that I should sit on the ecru tile floor. “Time machine”, the leprechaun states, proudly spreading his arms.


This thing with my stomach might also have been the hunger. Time travel or not, skipping dinner is no good for me. Fortunately, Food Plaza really is a food plaza by now. The new building has the feel of an indoor marketplace. Stalls with Asian food align with a pasta bar, a hot dog stand, and many, many other choices of food. The place is packed. With a plate of freshly-made paella, I sit down at one of the lager tables, next to a group of four, making sure I can overhear their conversation. I pretend to read the Univers magazine. Their skin tones vary, but I can’t see where they’re from. The talk is about one girl working at a home for the elderly, in the city of Tilburg. Her ‘community service’, she calls it. The Asian-looking boy next to her says he’s not sure what to do, but he wants ‘to contribute as well’. “Maybe I’ll volunteer at Mundial Festival”, he adds. On page 6 of Univers – completely in English by the way - there is an article about the international primary school on the outskirts of the campus. Apparently, it was built three years ago, after the opening of a day care centre as well. These facilities are meant for the youngsters of expats. “The school has already contributed greatly to the building of our international campus community”, the Rector Magnificus states in the article. The rector is a she and, as the pic-

This is a very weird dream I’m having, but I might as well enjoy it. By snapping his long fingers, my host turns off the lights. As they flash on again after a few seconds, I somehow expect to see a shiny, cocoon-like machine, bright lights, and a mysterious mist, and to hear ominous music - like in the movies. But none of

Towards an international campus In the document Towards an international campus plans for the near future (2010-2013) are unfolded. Some plans:

dents become active members of the different – mostly

also be open to non-Dutch-speaking students and staff.

Dutch-only - student associations. Therefore, the univer-

Therefore, all documents should be in English. A sugges-

sity is looking for incentives for international students to

tion for the meetings is that everyone can speak their

n Internship, work experience, community work: Lots of

become active, and for the associations to become more

own preferred language (Dutch or English). All official

open to foreign students and to let them feel welcome.

documents of Tilburg University will be in both Dutch

foreign students want to do an internship or would like to have a job on the side. At Tilburg University, different

n Joint student introduction week: From the summer of

organizations are able to help them, but they do not work

2011 onwards, introduction weeks for Dutch students

n International services: All services should be adapted to the

together properly yet. A special committee will come

(TIK) and for foreign students (Welcome Week) will be

needs, requirements and expectations of an international


population. Opening hours of the library, restaurants and

with a proposal to smoothen things out. n Student associations: To improve extra-curricular integra-

n Representation and memoranda: Faculty councils, uni-

tion, Tilburg University would like to see more foreign stu-

versity councils and other representative bodies should

and English.

sports centre should be extended; new services should be

offered, for instance, career services.

May 2010 8

‘Be curious & sincerely interested’ ture beside the article shows, has a dark skin tone. I can’t help smiling contentedly. Meanwhile, my table mates have left, and new ones have taken their place. On a little device, one of the two girls shows the other one a new dress, commenting on it in Dutch. The other one, replying in English with a strong Hispanic accent, obviously loves it, and their conversation turns to the party next weekend. Time to move on. The agenda in Univers is extensive. It is filled with guest lectures, debates, movies, parties and more, for day and night time, including the weekends. A few university building names that are new to me give away just how large the Tilburg campus has grown. I decide just to stroll around. In front of Montesquieu building, people are standing in line. According to the poster, a live online guest lecture from a Norwegian professor in Economic Psychology will start in ten minutes. There’s a lot going on. Almost every hundred metres there’s a coffee corner, a food stand or some other spot for people to gather. I see two Chinese students stick together, I pass a bench with three students who apparently share an Eastern European language. But on the whole, such uni-groups seem an exception: no bubbles here. ‘Nice observation for my article’, I think to myself. Which reminds me, where is that leprechaun? Giving in to my curiosity, I walk into the Library. The books seem to be missing. In the spacious rooms, people are working in groups or alone. The Library has turned into a meeting room, live and digitally. Several people are talking into webcams. In one of the snug corners, a young man, probably in his thirties, sits in front of a big screen. On it, an older women wearing a bath robe is eating cereal. “I always like to have breakfast with my mum”, he explains when he sees me staring at him. I look at my watch: twelve past ten in the evening. He smiles at my foolishness, “It’s eight o’clock in Sydney.”

This is not just fantasy What you’ve just read, is not all just fantasy. Thís outline of the future of the international campus is based on interviews the author held with Rector Magnificus Philip Eijlander and Hans-Georg van Liempd, director of the International Office.‘International’ appears to be a label under which lots of plans fit to make Tilburg University better and more ‘open’. Some guiding principles and wishes: •

Tilburg University is an international community, whose members spread out into the municipality of Tilburg.

Campus is open 24/7.

The bachelor’s programmes will be broader, like Liberal Arts already is now, and the master’s programmes will be more specific.

Students and staff from different countries receive the same treatment regarding regulations, finances and social support.

Bubbles are rare.

9 bursting the bubble

“I meet people everywhere. For example Marlene: I met her in the train when I asked her about the OV card and if I could travel with her on her student discount.” Sandra Hechler (28, German/Sri Lankan) gives another example: her roommates. “We clicked immediately at the ‘kijkavond’ [first meeting] as we found out we have so much in common: we all love sports, are movie buffs and like going out and traveling.” Now, a lot of X-box competitions, house parties, barbeques and two holidays later, Sandra can say she has made a lot of friends. She knows it can be challenging, but integrating is the best way to fully understand a culture and to feel at home. She believes there are two main points to integrating. “First, get the right mindset – be sincerely interested, be curious and ask questions. Second, burst the language bubble!” In the beginning Sandra felt like an idiot when she spoke Dutch. Besides, she admits, it’s convenient to speak English because everyone switches to it when they hear you struggle with Dutch. “But after my boyfriend got me enthusiastic about a ‘Dutch crash course’ – I was only allowed to speak Dutch for one week and for every English word I spoke, my Dutch ‘homework’ got extended by one day - it went really quick. After three weeks I felt comfortable speaking Dutch.” Despite her enthusiasm, she did feel frustrated at times. Shortly after arriving in the Netherlands, some five years ago, Sandra joined a sport association and it was common to go out for drinks on Thursday nights. “My team members really wanted to stimulate me to speak Dutch, but instead pushed a bit too much, to the point of sheer annoyance. At the time I was too busy with other things and I got a bit discouraged.” How she solved it? “I asked them how many languages they spoke. When they concluded they spoke Dutch and English and I was already learning my fifth language, they saw it wasn’t laziness or lack of interest and understood my situation a bit better.” [Marlin de Bresser] Sandra also blogs about ‘The Dutch Life’ for Univers at

Bubble burster

Suddenly, I feel someone pulling at my trouser leg. It’s the leprechaun! Again, without a warning, he starts running. With a head full of impressions, I follow him, right up to the magical toilet. For a second, I hesitate, shouldn’t I just stay here? But the leprechaun is already jumping in the corner. After the brief darkness, he bows and vanishes again. Confused and overwhelmed, I stay seated on the bathroom floor for a while. I feel like I’m waking up after a night of heavy drinking. Nevertheless, I muse, the future is great. As I get up, intending to head back to work on my article, I see something near the waste bin. It’s the key! I pick it up, reading the same words as before my great adventure started: ‘Tilburg University 2025’. Holding it closely like this, I notice something printed on the shank of the key: ‘Time traveling is bullshit, so dream on’. The sneering laughter of the leprechaun echoes in the toilet room. u

International Business student Sandra Hechler has Dutched-up her life intensively: she has a Dutch boyfriend, lives with Dutch roommates, has done an internship in the Netherlands and has a lot of Dutch friends.

The Human Side of Business

Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

English taught Master’s programmes and tracks: Economic Psychology, Human Resource Studies, Organisation Studies, Leisure Studies, Organisation of Cultural Diversity, Social Psychology, Sociology, Work and Organisational Psychology, Research Master

May 2010 10

Tim Kreté (22), student of International Business and Investment Analysis and President of TSR Vidar. “If we completely adapt the associations we might lose the typical Dutch character.”

Frédérique Verblakt (24), student of Business Eonomics and President of Sint Olof. “Internationalization is still at its very beginning as far as we are concerned.”

Stefan Leeffers (19), student of Economics and President of D’Artagnan. “It will be both fun and educational to have members from different continents.”

Feye van Westing (23), student of Public Administration and President of TSV Plato. “The main question is, whether somebody feels at home at the association.”

Shutting them in, or out? How are the four student associations Olof, Plato, Vidar and D’Artagnan coping with the rising numbers of foreign students? Univers arranged a debate on the subject with the four Presidents of the student associations and with Harald Benink as the panel chairman. u Dennis Nuiten, photo’s: Dolph Cantrijn

11 bursting the bubble


or decades the student associations have set their stamp on student life in Tilburg. Every year hundreds of freshmen sign up as members of Olof, Plato, Vidar or D’Artagnan and usually remain members until they graduate. They make friends for life; enjoy weekly do’s, parties, symposia, lectures, sports and excursions. History and tradition often play an important role in these social clubs, that all have their own accommodation in the city. Olof’s Senate, where the debate is to be held, is a clear example: the room is full of nostalgia: on the walls there are pictures of previous executive committees, some of them several decades old. Olof’s banner is draped on the opposite wall. Below the banner, at the head of the table, sits tonight’s chairman of the debate, Harald

u Olof’s Senate, where the debate is held, is full of nostalgia

Benink, Vice-Dean of Internationalization of the Tilburg School of Economics and Professor of Banking and Finance. To start off with, he wants to know how many students from overseas have already found their way to the student associations. The Presidents cautiously admit the number is very limited. Olof, Plato and Vidar have only one foreign member each and D’Artagnan none whatsoever. “Internationalization is still at its very beginning as

Harald Benink, Vice-Dean of Internationalization and Professor of

far as we are concerned”, says Olof’s President Frédérique Verblakt. “At the moment we have just one foreign member, who doesn’t want special treatment because he wants to learn Dutch quickly and wants to experience Dutch student life.” The Presidents also admit that foreign students generally don’t stay on as members after the first year. Benink puts forward this is a missed opportunity that shouldn’t be underestimated by the associations. “Isn’t it crucial to recruit foreign students? The world is rapidly globalising. Chances are that your Dutch members will be operating in an international setting later on in life. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they can experience an international setting during their studies in your associations?” Judging by reactions, only D’Artagnan fully adheres to this proposition. This association was founded five years ago and is therefore the youngest of the lot. Even though right now it is the only association which doesn’t have any foreign members, at the same time it is also the only party with specific plans for recruiting foreign students. President Stefan Leeffers: “We will start this in September. We want to be part of the internationalization process. Our two pillars are openness and involvement. Foreign students fit perfectly well within that outline. Indeed, it’s both fun and educational to have members from different continents.”

Banking and Finance. “Isn’t it crucial to recruit foreign students in this rapidly globalising world?”

Nevertheless, it is clear that the other Presidents

have been busy with the matter too. Some of them have brought notes that are consulted and adapted frequently over the course of the evening. Members of Plato, Olof and Vidar emphasize that they aren’t letting the process of internationalization slip by unnoticed. And they agree that exposure to an international setting is important to their future careers. Verblakt: ”Many members follow an international course, for example.” Feye van Westing, President of Plato: “Lots of students around me spend some time studying abroad. Obtaining international experience is a hot issue.” However, the three student associations have various reasons for not actively recruiting foreign students at this point in time. Especially for Vidar, founded in 1961, and Olof, founded in 1927, history plays an important role. “Olof is an association with many traditions. It is very difficult to transform an association with such a long history with as only goal focussing on foreign students. Should we all of a sudden implement English as the official language in the Senate, for example? That isn’t the kind of decision you make overnight“, explains Verblakt. Tim Kreté of Vidar endorses this. However, the situation at this student association is different because rowing plays such a major role within the association. International students, who enjoy rowing and want to compete at the highest level, join Vidar.

May 2010 12

Meet the student associations Sint Olof (600 members): The oldest of Tilburg, with a strong tradition. Has a great number of debating committees and commissions that concentrate on study itself, as well as various activities such as parties, symposia, career days and sports events. n TSR Vidar (440 members): Rowing is the central activity. The rowers compete at a top level and have their own accommodation right next-door to a rowing course just outside of Tilburg. They also organise other fun activities. n TSV Plato (676 members): Enjoys a very open character and distinguishes itself by not being a traditional student association. Equality and diversity are important. Organizes activities in which fun is the central theme such as sporting events, a gala and sailing weekends. n D’Artagnan (82 members): Social involvement is it’s basic principle. Organises various activities such as travelling to far destinations, dances and a sports event for charity. n

* The student associations dispute each other’s membership num­­bers, these are not centrally registrated.

Van Westing of Plato, a younger association, founded in 1987, wonders whether it isn’t possible to do all these activities in English.“Information channels, such as the website or application forms can be re-written in another language. But the main question is, whether somebody feels at home at the association.” Leeffers doesn’t believe that language needs to be a barrier though: ”Once you are chatting to somebody at the bar, it doesn’t really matter whether you speak Dutch, English or even Spanish.” Some Presidents feel it would be a shame for the student associations to become too international. Kreté: “Isn’t it great that foreigners can get acquainted with something typically Dutch? If we completely adapt the associations we might lose that typical Dutch part.” Verblakt: “If I were studying abroad, I would be keen to learn the local language and get to know the culture.” According to Van Westing the fact that student associations are such a typical Dutch thing, is one of the reasons why it’s so hard for foreign students to get a foothold inside them. “Research in Groningen has shown that foreign students aren’t aware of what being a member of a Dutch student association entails. Maybe this lack of knowledge scares them off.” Additionally he refers to several international student associations such as AIESEC, Erasmus Student Network, Asset I FIRST International and ICONN. “Both foreign and Dutch students seek13 bursting the bubble

ing a more international environment already have a fair amount of choice”, says Van Westing. Student associations also encounter practical problems when trying to recruit foreign students. For example, the Welcome Week doesn’t coincide with the TIK-week yet. This will be the case from 2011 onwards. Van Westing: “Once they do, it will be easier for Dutch and foreign students to integrate and student associations could use the opportunity to organise an open house for international students on one of the evenings. That way you could recruit ten foreign members instead of one.” But the fact remains that Olof, Vidar and Plato aren’t convinced of the necessity to recruit foreign students as each year there is an abundance of new Dutch members. The students associations do, however, acknowledge that things might change in the future.“Perhaps in five or ten years time there will be so many foreign students that we will have to adapt“, says Verblakt. Benink thinks this is too much of a pragmatic and a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. It brings him back to what, as far as he is concerned, is the main issue: “Why don’t you say to yourselves: the fact that so many foreign students are flocking to Tilburg presents us with a great opportunity! They could add incredible dynamics to our association. This notion is completely lacking.” Except for D’Artagnan, Benink fails to get the student associations more enthusiastic. The neces-

sity isn’t there; it doesn’t match their identities and members are perfectly capable of finding an international setting elsewhere. However, they do agree that it would be an advantage to all of them if one of the associations were to gain experience in recruiting foreign students. Leeffers: “That fits best with our identity so D’ Artagnan will take it upon itself to do so.” Towards the end of the debate it would seem that internationalization has moved up the Presidents’ agendas. Kreté: “I agree we need to

‘It would be a shame to become too international’ do something about it. We don’t have any policy on the subject but I intend to discuss the internationalization process in the executive committee. And associations should have more frequent mutual consultations about this.” At least all the Presidents take up the Professor’s suggestion to experiment with internationalization. “In an informal way, just to get a feeling with it. Why not organise a drink or an international evening including both Dutch and foreign students”, suggests Benink. Van Westing tells us that Plato has been playing with the idea of organising a week of activities for foreign students for some time now. “I notice that we are being triggered more and more to consider this.” u May 2010 14

Working apart together Working together in multi-nationality groups can be very fruitful but tricky too. Sometimes international students are completely ignored by their Dutch partners. And even healthy working relations don’t necessarily lead to cross-cultural friendships. u Marten van de Wier, photo’s: Adrian van den Eerenbeemt


n a small lecture room in building P, first-year students of International Business Administration (IBA) have a hard time getting started. It’s quite early, and lecturer Vincent Wiegerinck has asked them to come up with questions for the team that just presented their marketing strategy for a company that manufactures airbags. All students have their own way of coping: some lean back, others frantically confer with their team partners. Wiegerinck raises the stakes: “If you don’t have any questions, I will have some questions to ask you.” Marieke Vissers looks at her partner Zuoying Li for help. Li quickly turns to a Chinese student in the group next to them to obtain a spare copy of the case study at hand. Now Visser can formulate a question on behalf of her group: “I was wondering if you shouldn’t modify the product for the Shanghai market. China is a really different market.” IBA lectures are in English, and the programme attracts both Dutch and international students. At practicals, like this marketing management course, they work together in teams. Can this

15 bursting the bubble

break the boundaries so often experienced between Dutch and foreign students? “It’s one way to diminish this gap a bit”, says Petre Curseu, assistant professor in Organisation Studies. “Although it creates both problems and benefits.” Curseu knows this from his expertise in group dynamics, but also from his experience in teaching. “I have been using groups since the start of my career.” “Groups of Dutch and international students combined outperform single ethnic groups”, says Curseu. “International students learn about Dutch culture, and Dutch students about other cultures. As they are discussing organizational behavior, one of my courses, these different cultures present different views. A foreign student will say, ‘In my country, this is not done so and so’. They will come to a more complex understanding of the content I’m teaching.” Wiegerinck tries to use cultural differences in class, this morning in building P. “What do the Chinese think of negative appeals in marketing, like an

appeal on fear? Do you prefer positive appeals?” Negative appeals, says one Chinese student.“I prefer positive”, says another. “So we have no consensus in China”, Wiegerinck concludes with a smile. “Maybe it’s not a national but a personal attitude”, the second student adds. “Now the Dutchies”, Wiegerinck continues. “How do the Dutch think about the use of black humor in commercials?” Dutch student Marieke Vissers consciously chose to work together with Chinese students Zuoying Li and Yiming Yang. “It’s very interesting to cooperate with different cultures. Also, I studied in Australia for one year. Most Australians got together to form groups of their own.” Vissers thus knows how annoying it can be to be shut out as an international student. Li agrees. “I prefer this group to groups with only Chinese students. That would be no different from staying in China.” Still, there’s a catch. “Sometimes what happens in these groups is conflicts, misunderstandings and stereotyping”, Curseu warns. He gives an example. “A Turkish student, a really outspoken, clever guy,

The City of Tilburg, host to over 26,000 students With a population of over 200,000, Tilburg is the sixth largest city in the Netherlands. A true city of knowledge and intellect with over 26,000 students enrolled at Tilburg University or at Fontys and Avans, the two universities of applied sciences in the city. Every year Tilburg welcomes more international students and knowledge workers – who need not feel bored for one minute in our hospitable and vibrant city! We have two prestigious museums, De Pont and the Audax Textile Museum, an array of well-known music centres including 013, Paradox and the concert hall, and there is certainly no shortage of theatres, cinemas, galleries, stores, restaurants or bars. A visit to the beautiful Campina nature reserve, the national park of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen, and the Utrecht estate – all within easy reach – is an absolute must. Photo: Ton Toemen

We like everyone to feel at home straightaway in Tilburg. So, essentials such as housing, healthcare and family support (if necessary) are all well organized. The Brabant Expat Centre will help you with any practical matters. And you can get down to some serious international networking at Tilburg International Club.

More info? • ‘A Touch of Tilburg’, city guidebook available at Gianotten bookstore on the Tilburg University campus. •, ‘Study’ • Brabant Expat Centre: • Website TIC:

May 2010 16

would often have a different view. In the beginning, he was allowed to present the group’s work in class. But after a while, he was not even listened to in his own group. He was marginalized. I believe he ended up in the study advisor’s office.” “A while ago, a group of four Dutch students came to me, complaining about one Chinese guy”, Curseu continues.“He was ‘lazy’, he ‘didn’t do anything’. Their assignment was due the seventh week. It was legitimate for them to ask him to start working in the second week. However, especially students from Asia can experience culture shock. This Chinese student wanted to catch up, but he wasn’t able to do it. The group didn’t want him back. I had to give him an individual assign-

Form groups by ‘speed dating’ ment.” Dutch students often stereotype Chinese students for missing deadlines, Curseu says. “But the truth is Chinese students don’t want to hand in something they consider incomplete.” Language can be a problem too. “Dutch students speak English very well. International students from non-English-speaking countries may have difficulties. Very often, this causes friction. In the worst case international students are excluded from the discussion. The Dutch students start talking Dutch. My insight that I want to share with teachers: make groups with at least two international students. Then they are not as easily marginalized. Preferably they should be of dif-

17 bursting the bubble

ferent nationalities, otherwise they might form a sub-group.” Li, Yang and Vissers didn’t encounter these problems. On the other hand, they didn’t get together as a team very often: just at the beginning of a project to divide tasks, and at the end to put their findings together. Next to the Marketing Management course they work together for their ‘Project-IBA’, and so they were able to make a rather efficient arrangement: Vissers does most of the work on the Project-IBA, as it involves asking Dutch accountancy firms for information. Li and Yang focus on Marketing Management, as their presentation is about Google China. Still, they are cooperating. Most of the other workgroups in the class are Dutch-only or internationals-only. The group presenting today about Autoliv, the airbag company, has no Dutch members at all. It consists of four Chinese and one Polish student. Wiegerinck says he stimulates more mixed team formation, ‘but it’s difficult’. “Students tend to cluster. The Dutch students coming from the city of Eindhoven, for example. They already know each other, it’s easier to make appointments.” The best way to form groups is by team dating, a method that Curseu did research on. Team members get to speak with all others for three to five minutes at an initial meeting, and fill in who they want to work with afterwards. A computer will calculate the best workgroups. It can take nationality into account, creating a good mix. However, this is a costly process. “It takes two to three days’ work.” Curseu therefore asks his own students to form

groups themselves, with at least three nationalities on board - if possible. What would happen if Curseu didn’t set this criterion? “There’s a tendency for single nationality groups”, he stresses. Curseu knows group work sometimes leads to informal contact and even friendships, but he can’t tell how often. “That’s something to explore. I remember a foreign master’s student who now organizes a regular game night at her place.” Necessary ingredients for a group to become friends: “They would at least have managed to survive the conflicts and misunderstandings. Maybe when students get along, and achieve a good result for their work, they go out and drink beer to

‘Mixed groups outperform single ethnic groups’ celebrate.” Curseu knows master’s students often stick together as a group for the whole year in different subjects, because it’s practical. Vissers, Li and Yang like to work together, but haven’t become friends. Li and Yang think it’s hard to make Dutch friends, even when you work in teams at the university. “I live with roommates from all different countries. I prefer to go out with them”, says Li. “The Dutch always party after midnight. We don’t like that”, says Yang. Are they planning on any celebration drink after this project? “That’s a good idea”, Vissers says. “Another thing: the Dutch always drink beer”, Yang states. Vissers laughs. “I don’t drink.” u

Understanding the Dutch In the Tilburg International Club, foreign university staff and other expats in Tilburg gather to learn about their host city and society. No Dutch join in. Does this burst the bubble, or feed it? Two months ago, Tilburg International Club (TIC) held a lecture on Dutch local elections, the governing system and the city council. “It makes it easier to discuss the elections at work”, says Anne van Oorschot. “Now our members could say, ‘So who do you think will form the coalition?’” TIC has about seventy members, most of them Tilburg University employees. The rest are other expats working in Tilburg. Anne van Oorschot, born in the United States and married to Tilburg University chairman Hein van Oorschot, took the initiative to form the club two years ago. The members get together socially, and assist each other in understanding Dutch society. This helps ‘burst the bubble’, Van Oorschot thinks. “We did lectures on the history of Tilburg, the region of Brabant and life in the Netherlands during World War II. While the majority of our members are only here for a short period, they are interested in the country and customs.” The club doesn’t organize get-togethers for expats and Dutch employees. “It’s hard to organize that kind of interaction, and the Dutch are often not interested in the same kinds of activities”, says Van Oorschot. However, she believes that not meeting Dutch people is mostly a problem for students. “Employees tend to mix more. They have a necessity to work together.”

May 2010 18

Not for the faint-hearted The ‘highs’ of new experiences in a foreign country are almost inevitably alternated by the lows of loneliness. Dutch and international students and employees often live in different worlds. How to burst the bubble? u Marten van de Wier


ne after another, the Bulgarian dishes arrive. Victoria Daskalova turns every entrance into a special occasion, asking the guests for their attention. “This is a spring salad with eggplant and tomatoes. It’s a recipe from my grandmother. I personally love the stink. It inspires me.” A group of six Bulgarians is cooking in the common room of student church Maranatha. There’s a lot of phyllo dough, cheese and yoghurt. Every dish tells a story. “This one is from a region where

19 bursting the bubble

the people have a strong attitude. You can taste it in the salad”, says Daskalova. The Tilburg international students network ICONN organises international dinners every few months. The Mexicans cooked already, next ones up are the Brazilians. Forty students are present tonight: from America, Germany, Finland, Estonia, and Hungary. Dutch students are welcome to join in, but apart from the two in the ICONN board, only one has turned up. Earlier this year, ICONN started a mentor project at the School

of Social Sciences: international students were teamed up with a Dutch mentor. Some mentors attended the dinners at first, but no longer. “Many Dutch students have their own parties on Fridays”, explains chairman Linda van Ras. “They go home, meet their friends in other cities.” Welcome to ‘the bubble’ international students find themselves in. Foreign employees live in a bubble as well, especially when they’re here for a short period. Assistant professor Juliette Schaafsma saw it happen at her own Faculty of Humanities. At the department of Intercultural Communication, of all plac-

‘Often both groups say: the others won’t join in’ es. “A man from Morocco worked here for half a year. It was painful to see him waste away. Nobody invited him to their home. In Morocco, you receive an invitation in no time. It makes people think they’re not liked.” Schaafsma did research in Africa and spent some time in the US, where she was warmly welcomed. Colleagues at Tilburg University are not necessarily less hospitable, they just expect the newcomers to make the effort, Schaafsma thinks. But there’s more causing this distance. “Similarities attract”, says Schaafsma, who did research on cultural diversity in organizations. “It’s easier to make friends with people who come from families with a similar level of education, similar nationalities and similar interests. Interaction is more predictable. It’s easier to make it work. And successful communication is good for our ego and self-esteem. Often both groups say it’s the others that don’t want to join them.” At universities, the international community can be a group of its own. A Chinese student may seem to have a little in common with an American one; they share their wonder about the Dutch. Schaafsma:“They’re in the same boat: they don’t know the social codes of the society they find themselves in. That causes insecurity, and a preference to talk to ‘fellow-sufferers’.” “It’s inevitable. Like every migrant, international students and employees go through a V-curve of adaptation to their new environment”, says Wasif Shadid, professor emeritus of Intercultural Communication. “It starts with a euphoric ‘honeymoon period’. ‘I have achieved what I wanted to: I’m abroad, I received a grant.’ But quickly, it goes downhill. You’ve got to discover other forms of behaviour. You have to adjust to

the physical circumstances: the food, the weather. And you’re lonely and feeling homesick. That’s when you’re at the bottom of the ‘V’. At the other end of the ‘V’ you learned to appreciate your new environment, you come to realise some aspects of this society might be better than in your country of origin. You’ve made friends.” This process takes roughly a year, says Shadid. A year to burst the bubble: it’s a pity for international students staying only that long. Luckily, they might be done earlier. “Overall, students have a better knowledge of different languages, and they are probably more interested in other cultures. Moreover, it’s easier anyway for people who are young, and have a higher level of education.” Fons van de Vijver, professor of Cross-Cultural Psychology, studied international students in many countries. At the moment, one of his research master’s students is looking into the group in Tilburg. “We explore how aspects like cultural and language differences influence the process of adjustment”, explains Van de Vijver. The shorter the distance from the host culture, the smoother things go. Students from other western countries will feel at home relatively soon. Personal characteristics play a role too.“When you’re worrying by nature, it’s more difficult to adjust. When you’re outgoing, it’s easier.” International students are ‘a-typical’, compared to other migrants. Van de Vijver calls them ‘sojourners’. “They tend to invest less in a new culture. Their friends are co-nationals, other international students, and host nationals -in that order. They will adapt to a new country at a superficial level, because it’s not necessary to do more. At the university, few people insist on speaking Dutch, for instance.”

‘You’re not here to feel comfortable’ Is this a problem anyway? It might be, when international students want to find a job, go to the market at the Koningsplein, or to the theatre, and then experience that a basic command of Dutch is needed outside the university. They may feel

shut out, says Van de Vijver. On the other hand, at Tilburg University they function perfectly, and feel at home. “At least when you see ‘feeling at home’ as ‘not feeling threatened’. Because ‘becoming one with your environment’ can take generations.” “You’re not here to feel at home”, states Victoria Daskalova, after she has introduced the meat dishes at the Bulgarian dinner. Daskalova is doing a master’s in European Law. “You’re in a new country to feel uncomfortable, to think about it and learn from it. However, we’ll never be able to make sense of this experience unless we talk to local people. Well, we will make our own sense of it, but not the way the locals do.” “Migrants are happier when they’ve got relations with their own group as well as the other group”, Schaafsma believes. “At that point, psychological well-being is at its peak.” On the other hand, a person staying only a year to receive a master’s degree may not feel a great need to make Dutch friends. “For internationals who choose to stay here, social capital becomes more important. A Dutch network can help them find a job.” According to Shadid, every migrant will try to adjust. “It’s a necessity, it’s a means to survive. Human beings can’t stand to be lonely.” When it doesn’t work out, this can only be because of ‘rejection by the new environment’, Shadid states. He doubts that students really are happy in their international circles. “They might stay there out of necessity.” For the Netherlands, this is a missed opportunity, Shadid stresses. “We don’t just want to cash these students’ tuition fees. We want to strengthen the international connections of the Netherlands, to improve the image of the Dutch abroad. This generation will be in power later on, back home. It helps us if they think that we’re friendly.” So how to ‘burst the bubble’? ICONN tries to: next year their mentor programme will be expanded from Social Sciences to Law and Economics. The club also aims to put more effort into keeping the Dutch mentors interested.

May 2010 20

More organisations at Tilburg University are making an effort to encourage the Dutch and internationals to mingle. MAK, the mentorship system of the Tilburg School of Economics and Manage­ment, holds introduction camps for international and Dutch first-year students at Economics and Management. Unfortunately, the MAK camps take place in the summer, when many international students haven’t yet arrived. MAK tried to reschedule, says Hilde van den Berg, coordinator international affairs, but that would interfere with the activities of student associations. MAK organizes day-trips too. A visit to the Heineken beer brewery in Amsterdam a few months ago was a success. “Half of the group was international, the other half Dutch. Both mingled very well during lunch at a pancake restaurant.” Van den Berg believes this is partly because they spent two hours in a bus together. The students did a quiz too, in randomly mixed teams. Shadid argues that it’s very important to create opportunities for interna-

‘This generation will be in power later on’ tional and Dutch students and employees to mix. Dutch mentors should play a central role. “Those shouldn’t merely be ‘instrumental mentors’, helping with practical stuff. They should be ‘social mentors’, taking internationals to meet their own group of friends.” Schaafsma adds that employees inviting foreign scholars to Tilburg should also be made responsible for the social well-being of their guests. At the Bulgarian dinner, at least the food needs of the international guests are being looked after. Although the raw onions with sugar cubes, brought in as if they were dessert, cause a minor culture shock. Luckily, the onions disappear before anyone can finish a ‘V-curve’. The Bulgarian cooks were just joking. There’s yoghurt with fruit, and an evening of easily digestible Bulgarian dancing. u

‘Be more engaged world-wide’ Vincent van Kervel, Dutch citizen and a PhD in Finance, has many international friends. These contacts developed gradually during his master’s. “I find it very interesting to talk to international people - they all have different backgrounds. Dutch backgrounds are familiar to me. Because I am so interested in international people, they are interested in me too. That makes contact ‘easy-going’.” During Vincent van Kervel’s (23) bachelor period, he didn’t hang out with international students at all. “I didn’t think of it really. A group assignment was more easily done with Dutch friends.” That changed during a year of research for his master’s degree.“Half of my fellow students were international and I came into contact with them naturally. In the breaks we would chat and in no time I was invited to a dorm party on the Hogeschoollaan.” Great fun, he finds those. Far more attention is paid to the party itself. “For example, everybody brings along their own music and all the food is home-made. This way you are introduced to the cultures of their countries. This adds something special to the party. Very different to Dutch parties where beer and crisps make up the menu.” Usually a handful of other Dutch students attend these dorm parties but Vincent doesn’t seek them out.“Speaking English has become second nature to me. The only downfall is that my jokes don’t translate well.” Vincent often goes out with a group of Dutch and international students, either to Studio or to Polly’s. “The international group dance more than the Dutch do, including the classical dances. They’ll get up and do a tango or a waltz in the middle of the pub. It’s great fun to watch it all. But no, I don’t join in – I remain a down-to-earth Dutchman.” He doesn’t think he’s changed for having international friends.“I have always considered myself to be open-minded and flexible. I do, however, feel more engaged with things that are happening world-wide. When there was an earthquake in Chile recently, I spoke to my Chilean friend about it a lot. One of her family members had lost their house. She also told me about all the looting that has been going on. Something we didn’t hear about on the news over here. So in that sense, I am more personally involved with the news nowadays.” [Lieke Meertens]

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May 2010 22

u French students Christophe Guerdoux (most right) and Julien Fournié try to ask directions in Dutch in the Heuvelstraat of Tilburg. The two men on the left answer their questions in the same language. As the conversation progresses, they use their hands more and more to communicate.

The point of learning Dutch International students and employees can get around the campus easily without speaking Dutch. It’s the same off campus. So what’s the point of learning Dutch? u Dennis Nuiten, photo’s: Kees Beekmans/Verbeeld


ogen wij alstublieft een plattegrond van het stadscentrum hebben?” (Can we please have a map of the city centre?), asks Julien Fournié (24), student of Law and Technology, in Dutch with a strong French accent. Together with Christophe Guerdoux (24), student of Information Systems, he’s at the Tourist Office in Tilburg. “Of course”, replies the friendly woman behind the counter in the same language. “Is there anything in particular you’d like to visit?”, she asks as she unfolds the map on the counter. “A museum, or would you like to enjoy sitting on the terraces?” As the conversation progresses, the two Frenchmen keep trying to speak Dutch. They do quite well, but sometimes they don’t understand the woman completely. At a certain point, when their faces look too puzzled, she switches to English. She simply wants to serve her customers properly. Talking in English indeed makes things easier: in no time she has given directions. It probably happens to a lot of international students and employees: Dutch people switch to English as soon as they find out they are talking to a foreigner. Fournié and Guerdoux admit that they speak a lot of English in everyday life in Tilburg. But they have been keen on learning some Dutch since they arrived in January. They’re both taking part in the course 23 bursting the bubble

Dutch I for International Students at the Language Centre of the university, even though Fournié will study here for only one year and Guerdoux for only six months. “I feel that it is normal to learn the language of the country I’m staying in for a longer period. It’s about being polite”, tells Guerdoux. Fournié agrees: “Speaking the language is a way to show respect. But it is also practical. We’ve learnt some basic things in Dutch, such as greetings, numbers and times. With this I’m already able to understand, for example, when which train will leave at the railway station.” However, many international students lack the necessity to learn Dutch. Why make a big effort if you will probably never speak the language again? Fatih Cemil Ozbugday (26, first-year PhD student in Economics) from Turkey initially planned to stay for one year for his master’s. “In the beginning I didn’t mind that I didn’t understand what Dutch people were talking about, for ex-

‘Speaking the language is a way to show respect’ ample in the train or in the street.” This started to change after a few months. “I began to realise that I would feel bad if I didn’t learn some Dutch.” The desire grew even stronger when he decided to extend his stay by another year, in which he completed a research master’s. Then he decided to stay for another three years: last summer he started as a PhD student. In the meantime he has finished the course Dutch I for International Students and now he is following Dutch II. “I still don’t understand people who are having a conversation in Dutch completely, but at least I have an idea what they’re talking about. I think it is related to being human: every person wants to know what’s going on around him. It makes me feel happier”, says Ozbugday. In some cases, he thinks, it can be extremely important to master some Dutch.

u Guerdoux succeeds in buying an apple he likes, with only speaking Dutch. He understands all the questions the lady of the store asks. “Wil je

u An employee of the Tourist Office shows Gu

dat ik de appel nog even was? (Do you want me to wash the apple?)”, for example. Obviously Guerdoux quickly hears the similarities between

museum is a very interesting museum to visit

Dutch and English. Meanwhile the French student is inspecting the quality of some other fresh fruit, like ‘aardbeien’ (strawberries).

going that well, I switch to English. I want to b

“For example if you urgently have to see a doctor. Not everybody speaks English.” Marcos Nunes (26), master of Logistics and Operations Management, from Brazil once personally experienced the importance of understanding the language. He received a letter in Dutch from the housing association, but assumed it probably wasn’t really significant; he often receives Dutch ad­vertisements or general announcements which don’t really matter for him. Later, it turned out that the letter contained an important message about the rent and he was supposed to reply to it. “It made me realise once more that off campus the Dutch language is part of life”, says the Brazilian who arrived in Tilburg three and a half years ago. In his first semester, Nunes made an attempt to learn Dutch by attending a course.“It was very in-

tense, with a strong focus on spelling and grammar. It took me about eight hours a week. Because I was also studying and working, this was impossible for me.” He admits that maybe he didn’t try hard enough, but he also wishes that back then he had had the opportunity to attend a more ‘easy-going’ course in which he could have learnt some Dutch for everyday life. “If I could go back four years in time, I would have pushed myself much more to learn Dutch. Then I would be ten times happier now. It frustrates and embarrasses me that I can’t respond in Dutch when someone in the supermarket is polite to me or makes a joke. Those few words would change a lot. And of course, studying another language is good for your personal development. Speaking more than two languages makes you more than average.”

Dealing with the English Most foreigners on campus only communicate with others in English (as a second language) and have chosen not to learn Dutch. What do Dutch students and employees think? Harold van Heijst (20, Econometrics): “More foreigners at Tilburg University broadens the view of Dutch students on the world and forces them to speak more English. They can only learn from that. I can imagine that international students and employees aren’t motivated to learn Dutch. In the world economy the Dutch language isn’t very important. Of course it is positive if they try.” Erik Wiese (21, Marketing Management). “After graduating, most students will have to speak Eng-

lish in business life. Having all these international students on the campus will only help them to learn this language. I don’t mind that most foreign student don’t speak Dutch. I understand it is difficult, but I appreciate it if they try. Usually it sounds funny, like the foreign soccer players on TV.” Emmy Golstein (senior library assistant): “I consider speaking English, but also French or Spanish, as a nice aspect of my work. I understand that most don’t want to learn Dutch during their short stay. Sometimes I have difficulties understanding students from Asia or Russia because of their accent; talking English is already difficult enough for them because it is totally different from their mother tongue.”

In addition to his studies, Nunes runs the company StuGood, an online exchange platform for students. After graduating this summer, the Brazilian wants to stay for a few more years to work for his company. His experience so far is that the Dutch don’t value their language enough. “In my opinion, learning the basics of Dutch should be obliged more. Make it part of the programme for foreign staff and students.” Tilburg University has a policy of stimulating international students and employees to learn Dutch, but it isn’t required of them. Especially not of those who stay here only temporarily. Tilburg University believes it’s better if they put their time and energy into their studies and work. For international employees in a permanent position it can be very useful to learn Dutch for their social and cultural life. The Language Centre of Tilburg University offers about ten courses in Dutch as a second language, for both students and employees. The courses vary in level and intensity. The course Dutch I teaches the basics of the language. In other courses, students are prepared for state exams. Some language courses are specially designed for Asians or Germans. For students there’s also a course which gives an introduction to the Dutch culture. In 2009, 331 students attended the language and culture courses. During the summer 34 students and employees attended the intensive course, and about 5 employees have signed up for individual language training. The number of participants in the courses has grown over the years. Tjits Roselaar of the Language Centre presumes that the percentage of foreigners learning Dutch hasn’t increased, the rise is due to the increasing number of international students and employees in Tilburg.

May 2010 24

‘A job brings Dutch life closer’ Greek Human Resource Management student Vicky Anagnostaki works in a Greek restaurant with Dutch colleagues. She thinks a side job provides the perfect setting to integrate.

uerdoux and Fournié on a map where they can find places worth seeing in Tilburg. “The Textiel-

t”, she recommends. The lady talks to foreigners regularly. “As soon as I notice that speaking Dutch isn’t

be customer-friendly of course.”

Hans-Georg van Liempd, director of the International Office: “At their intake we discuss with international employees what possibilities there are for their development – including a Dutch course. The faculty or service usually pays for this. Speaking Dutch makes things easier, for example if they want to participate in faculty or service councils. But we understand that learning Dutch is not easy. Maybe Germans learn it quite quickly because the languages resemble each other. But for Asians, Dutch is a totally different language.”

‘Understanding what’s going on around me makes me happier’ In the streets and shops of Tilburg, Fournié and Guerdoux keep making attempts to get around with their still limited Dutch vocabulary. Guerdoux manages to buy an apple at a fruit shop without speaking English. Even when the saleswoman asks all kinds of questions in Dutch about what kind of apple he likes. Fournié has quite a difficult conversation when he asks an old lady for directions. She turns out not to speak English, so she keeps trying to explain it in Dutch. The lady obviously is talking too fast for Fournié. Though he’s nodding politely, she sees that he doesn’t understand her. The lady then walks out to the middle of the street and points with her arms: “Eerst naar rechts, dan rechtdoor!” (First right, then straight ahead!) Now Fournié understands. The two Frenchmen don’t mind learning by trial and error. “I just hope that by the time I leave Tilburg I can have a conversation in Dutch for two or three minutes“, Guerdoux laughs. u 25 bursting the bubble

Vicky has to admit, though, that she sometimes connects more with international students; especially with the ones from Mediterranean countries. “I feel like the Dutch aren’t that open and warm. When I face a difficulty southern people will come to offer help. In Holland, the people are also happy to help you, but you have to ask first!” That’s something she still has to get used to. “Maybe it has to do with the fact that the Netherlands is quite an individualistic country. It would be nice if the Dutch people would take the next step sometimes in becoming friends. The lack of that, together with the dull weather, gets depressing at times.” But integrating is definitely possible according to Vicky. “Make an effort and try to find a part-time job in a field of your interest. Discovering norms and interacting with people  in settings other than at Tilburg University or at parties, gives you energy and makes everyday life more exciting. Plus,  you’ll have the money to travel around a little bit more.” [Marlin de Bresser]

Bubble burster

As a Chinese student, Lingzhe Liu (26, master of Information Management) knows all about the differences between his language and Dutch. He arrived in Tilburg in August 2009. Especially expressing himself in Dutch is difficult. However, Liu is a very motivated student at Dutch I. After finishing his master’s he wants to work in the Netherlands. Liu: “Here, people are very creative in IT so I want to learn a lot from them. That’s why I try to attend every Dutch class. I want to join the community as much as possible.” Of course he realises that mastering the Dutch language in one year is impossible. Liu:“I think I’ll start applying for jobs where I can speak English as well, for example at international companies.”

At her job in the Greek restaurant Minos Palas –where it’s a ‘cozy mixture’ of English, Dutch and Greek languages- Vicky Anagnostaki (25) feels that she connects well with her Dutch colleagues. “If a customer asks a question in Dutch I have to refer to my Dutch colleagues, but none of them seems to mind so that tolerance makes me feel comfortable. The work setting makes it easier to integrate, because we need to help each other in order to run the place. If you don’t work together the customers may be served with the wrong food, for example. Also, at university there is sometimes a competitive atmosphere, but at my job everyone works together to give the customer a great evening.” Every two weeks there is a Greek party and everyone does ‘crazy Greek dances’. “I’m always so happy and proud of all of us if we’ve managed to make it a nice evening again!” Mostly, the contact is limited to work-related issues. “But we are planning to visit a former colleague now with a group of colleagues of different nationalities -including Dutch. I look forward to that.”

May 2010 26

ds. the Netherlan in ts n ra u a st re n 1.100 re overnment, ca ge in more tha g ra , ss ve e e n b si d u n b a d in es foo ur outlets Albron provid 00 guests in o .0 ation. 50 2 r ve o e r more inform elcom w fo l e .n w n y a ro d lb ry .a Eve eck www and leisure. Ch s u p m ca , re and cu

Did you know we frequently pay attention to sustainability in our restaurants with promotions and special offers for our guests?

Did you know Albron offers a varied assortment of organic products in her restaurants with several quality marks such as ‘Fairtrade’, ‘Organic’ and ‘EKO’?

Did you know all milk and buttermilk in our restaurants is organic?

At Tilburg University, Albron has been the supplier of food and beverage for several years. Students and teachers enjoy our muffins, donuts, hot sandwiches, fresh juices and more in our four outlets on Campus. Restaurant ‘Foodplaza’, two lunchrooms and Grand Café ‘Esplanade’ are open every day. Every day we serve fresh sandwiches, salads, soups, warm snacks and one of our ‘best burgers’. We hope to see you in one of our restaurants soon! Our goal is to be the most sustainable caterer in the Netherlands. For over one hundred years we have been working with respect for the people and the world around us. Corporate social responsibility is not something we ‘do’, it is ‘who’ we are.

Adv_LndBoer_Bio 27 bursting the bubble op je bord.indd


28-04-2010 13:37:00

May 2010 28

Bursting the bubble  

Building a full-blooded international communicaty at Tilburg University is definitely more than a fantasy - it is a work in progress. Bursti...