The Dutch National Students Association (ISO), the Dutch National Union of Students (LSVb) and the Erasmus Student Network Netherlands (ESN) conducted a second survey among international students to establish how they fare in the Netherlands. Over three quarters of the 1002 respondents – it is not known how many of them are students in Higher Professional Education or at university – say they would like more contact with their Dutch peers. They seem to find it difficult to connect with them.

Which is worrying, write the student organisations. Because good integration is important if we are to keep our international students in the Netherlands. President of ESN Nederland, Lupe Flores Zuñiga: “Internationalisation can be a great source of enrichment for Dutch society and the economy, but that’s only possible if students feel welcome.”

Language barrier

One of the problems is the language barrier. “Almost my entire study is with Dutch students, yet I barely speak to them. I find it very hard to get close to them”, says one respondent. Over a third are (very) dissatisfied with the opportunities they are offered to learn Dutch.

With respect to the education, nearly 70 percent of the respondents are happy with the quality of the teaching staff. However, over a quarter of them find that cultural differences are not taken into account during lectures. Over 22 percent also feel that they aren’t listened to.

The internationals were again asked in detail about their welfare. The result: nearly 44 percent experiences ‘a lot’ to ‘extreme’ stress and over 40 percent suffer psychological problems. ISO president Tom van den Brink: “Easy access to help must be available, also for internationals.”

Student life

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International students are often lonely

One in three students occasionally suffers from feelings of depression. These feelings…

The concerns of the international students are not new. Last year, a third said that they sometimes felt depressed, but only 311 international students completed that questionnaire. The results of a survey conducted by the LSVb in 2013 had already revealed that international students take very little part in Dutch student life and that language is a huge barrier.

The three student organisations want international and Dutch students to work together more during group projects. In addition, they feel that institutions should offer more opportunities to learn Dutch. Obligations are involved if we want to attract international students.

The number of international students in Dutch higher education has been increasing for years. This academic year, nearly 86,000 internationals are in full-time studies at a Dutch university or university of applied sciences. In 2010, that was 52,000. This does not include exchange students, who aren’t here for their whole study programme.