New DISS board determined to bridge divide

Once again, integration is the top priority of an international student organisation. The new board of Delft International Students Society (DISS) believes the key to bringing Dutch and international students together lies in collaboration.

The new board of DISS, from left to right: Sara Toscano, Shiwankar Garg, Sakshi Aggarwal, Ramy al Sharif. (Photo: Marcel Krijger)
The new board of DISS, from left to right: Sara Toscano, Shiwankar Garg, Sakshi Aggarwal, Ramy al Sharif. (Photo: Marcel Krijger)

Having recently taken over, the board is still getting to know its role. Most of the members are multilingual and, the chairman, Ramy Al Sharif, spent a large part of his childhood in the Netherlands so is proficient in Dutch. "I was born in Kuwait but grew up in the Netherlands before moving to Jordan. I have always been part of an international community and understand what that means. But, I also have the convenient advantage of speaking Dutch, which will come handy as we try and bridge the gap," said Al Sharif.

Collaborate with the Dutch

Their key plan is to collaborate with other student associations on campus, especially Dutch ones, on events and activities. "Every association has its own established network. If we can work together, we can reach out to more people and achieve more," he said.

An exceptional fact about this board is that the women outnumber the men. "The previous board had only one woman, so when we all met we were pleasantly surprised," said Sara Toscano, the treasurer.

The board is currently looking into how their predecessors functioned. Toscano, who was a member of DISS last year, is somewhat familiar with the ropes. She added that they will continue with some of the collaborations that started under the previous board but will add a lot more.

Their first official event was the After Party of the Spring Introduction Programme. "There were 250 students enrolled in the programme and 300 people showed up. It was a great success, people were even dancing on tables." said Al Sharif.

Translate Dutch documents

The more serious business starts in March. Every Thursday from 18:00 – 20:00 starting on March 2, 2017 onwards, students can go to their new office at Kanaalweg 4, to get help translating Dutch documents. "This is an important point for us. Many students struggle with Dutch official documents. Online translation websites are not credible or accurate enough for these documents."

In May they plan to launch a project to help international students with housing. Meditation Mondays, Language Exchange Meetings and Cultural Projects and a revamped website and logo are also on their agenda. And they've started on some projects with the Dutch student organisation VSSD, including a petition to demand that the Delft Station make important train announcements in English and Dutch.

"We will also focus on bringing the campus together. My faculty [Chemical Engineering] is the last building on campus and we don't have much contact with the rest of the university. We plan to host events that will bring people across faculties together," added Toscano.