Christmas surprise for 1,800 international students

By delivering postcards and stroopwafels, the Students Matter Team shared an early Christmas spirit to 1,800 TU Delft international students living on their own.

Khalid El Haji and Anna Bazarova delivering Christmas packages. (Photo: Lijst Bèta)

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ says the Christmas song. But that’s not the case for everyone. Especially not for international students who can’t travel home for this year’s Christmas holidays and are forced to spend the holidays by themselves.

International student and Lijst Bèta Secretary Anna Bazarova (Applied Earth Sciences) knows what it feels like being all alone in a strange country. She wanted to reach out to this group of international students and started an initiative to deliver Christmas cards to 1,800 of them.

Reaching out

The campaign was put together by the Students Matter Team which consists of Bazarova, fellow Lijst Bèta members Khalid El Haji and Saraf Nawar, Ali Farokhi, two other TU Delft international students, and Debbie Butarbutar (co-founder of Ovedco, a company that helps and supports international students in the Netherlands).

‘We wanted to show international students someone does care about them’

Bazarova says that “We were all shocked by a recent report on the mental well-being of students. And we all know what it feels like to be alone. That’s why we wanted to show international students, especially those who are living on their own, that someone does care about them.”

They expressed their support by putting together a small gift pack with some Dutch stroopwafels (syrup waffles) and a specially designed Christmas card. “The card has a QR code that links to a website listing events at TU Delft during the holidays,” explains El Haji. “Up to 400 students have already viewed the website.”


The group delivered most of the packages themselves. Bazarova: “I was literally living with hundreds of envelopes since our office was closed because of corona.”

“But acting as mail carrier actually turned out to be surprisingly fun,” adds El Haji. They sometimes encountered surprised students who were happy to find something nice in their letterbox. “We actually received an email from someone expressing their gratitude. That shows that even a small gesture like this can have a great impact,” says Bazarova.


The students who received the card and waffles were carefully selected. Bazarova explains that “With the help of Duwo we were able to deliver gift packs to international students who are currently living alone in a studio with no common room. These students are particularly vulnerable as they have zero or little social interaction.” 

But with new corona measures in place, Bazarova also realises that there are also other students who might struggle during the holidays. “I know it’s tough, but I would like to encourage everyone to break out of their bubble and find a community that suits them. The Uni-Life app is a really good tool if you need some help with this.”

  • This winter, stay in touch. Now, more than ever, it is important to reach out to your peers and connect. TU Delft put up a website that has everything you need to keep warm this winter. Join workshops, check out what’s being organised near you on the Uni-Life app, and get the tools you need to focus on your mental health.

Nieuwsredacteur Marjolein van der Veldt

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