International students struggle to connect with their Dutch peers: study

Students in a lecture
Students in a lecturePhoto: kasto/DepositPhotos

International students in the Netherlands are very positive about the quality of Dutch lecturers, but they struggle to feel at home in the country, according to a survey by three student organizations. They struggle to connect with their Dutch peers, have trouble finding affordable housing, and complain about how difficult it is to find courses to teach them the Dutch language, Trouw and Het Parool report.

Student organizations ISO, LSVb and ESN surveyed 1,002 foreign students about their experiences in the Netherlands. "International students are actively recruited", Carline van Breugel of LSVb said to the newspaper. "But when they arrive in the Netherlands there are often no affordable homes, the don't get Dutch lessons and they find it difficult to connect with fellow Dutch students."

Three quarters of international students said they want more contact with their Dutch peers. The student organizations call on lecturers to let foreign and Dutch students work together more often, and to pay more attention to cultural differences in the lecture halls. Learning Dutch can also help foreign students better connect with Dutch students, but 37 percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the available possibilities to learn Dutch. The student organizations call on Dutch universities and colleges to pay more attention to this. 

International students also have trouble finding affordable housing. 72 percent of the respondents said that housing could be arranged better. More than a third said that they had housing applications rejected at least once because of their foreign background. Another third said that they've discovered they pay more than someone from the Netherlands.

The student organizations also call for better psychological support for international students. 43 percent of the surveyed students said that they experience extremely high levels of stress. About 40 percent said that they are struggling with moderate to extreme psychological problems. The student organizations therefore call for foreign students to be offered the same help that is available to Dutch students.  

Spokesperson Bart Pierik of the association for Dutch universities VSNU told Trouw that universities are already doing a lot to help foreign students feel at home. Universities focus on "international classrooms" in which the background of the students is used to increase the quality of education, he said. The housing situation is also being tackled - the University of Amsterdam already offers 2,600 homes to international students every year and another 3 thousand student homes will be made available in the area around Almere station this coming academic year.