The National Student Union (LSVb) appointed its new board this week. EUR student Ugoeze Anyanwu Podler will serve as its secretary. As a member of the Association of Students of African Heritage (ASAH), she learned that international students often have to work much harder than their Dutch counterparts. She hopes to do something about that. “I don’t feel very Dutch. I feel closer to international students and students of colour.”
The board, consisting of five students representing the universities of Utrecht, Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Groningen and Rotterdam, will embark on its new duties on 25 June. They hope to bring about greater equality of opportunity in the education sector and reduce the negative impact of student loans. Nineteen-year-old Rotterdam-based Ugoeze Anyanwu Podler (whose first name is pronounced Oo-kway-zuh) will serve as the board secretary and says she is really looking forward to it.
Her position requires good organisational skills. “I must keep everything organised and schedule meetings, but also ensure that the problems encountered by people working for the organisation are solved.” The EUR student is in Year 2 of an International Business Administration degree but suspects she won’t get round to doing much studying in the next year.
You currently serve as the secretary to the Association of Students of African Heritage (ASAH). What kind of society is that, and how did you join it?
“ASAH is a society for students from Africa and students who have African parents or are interested in African culture. I joined the society because my father is from Nigeria and I often feel more Nigerian than Dutch. Maybe it’s because the Netherlands is a majority white country, meaning I often feel like an outsider.
“It’s a place where I feel completely at home. That society is like a family to me. We organise networking events and lectures on African culture. African cultures share many similarities, and African students at EUR tend to have similar experiences. Many students have had the same experiences in terms of discrimination, music, how they were raised, history and what it’s like to study abroad.”
How did you first encounter the LSVb?
“The union wanted to represent a wider variety of groups. I identified with many of the union’s objectives. They strive for equality of opportunities and seek to defend the rights of students. The LSVB noticed what I was doing at ASAH, and I was able to help them make their board more diverse. So everything came together at the LSVb – both things I’m interested in and things I was able to help out with.”
What do you think will be the main challenges the student union will face this year?
“I really wish to focus on student finance for international students. Many international students aren’t entitled to the public transport chip card. They are not given a grant unless they are from the EU, and those who do get a grant are required to work 56 hours per month, on top of a full-time degree programme. I’d like to see that change. Of course, the debate about student grants and compensation, for the generation of students who missed out on grants and had to take out loans instead, will continue to be an important topic of conversation, but international students currently aren’t even eligible for that. The LSVb promotes the rights of students in the Netherlands, but it seems that international students aren’t always included in that phrase, even though they, too, are students here. But it’s they who are discriminated against and excluded.”