A long way to go

“In my last column, I drew comparisons between the tuition of Dutch and non-Dutch students. Now I’ll compare the living standards of Dutch and non-Dutch students.

On balance, despite receiving the ‘Orange Carpet Award’ for being international-student friendly, TU Delft has a long ways to go in welcoming non-Dutch students. The university should strive for policies that put Dutch and non-Dutch on an equal footing – fitting into a new country is hard enough as it is. The good news is that a lot of the solutions are simple.

The Dutch get OV; the international students get overpriced

fietsen for jongens: Even though I’m enrolled in a programme in two universities that requires travel, I do not receive any travel assistance. Neither do other students, even if they’re from EU countries. Dutch students however can travel free most of the time, because that’s nice for them. And while the Dutch are familiar enough with life here to find decent bikes at decent prices, many international students wind up paying too much for bikes designed for kids. Solution: negotiate a transit pass for international students. My university in the US did just that: we were all required to buy a transit pass, but we received a heavily discounted group rate, and in exchange for so many new customers the service was improved. Solution: clue international students into sites like Marktplaats.nl before they arrive. Understanding how the Dutch negotiate day-to-day tasks like buying bikes will help international students have a smoother transition.

The Dutch live in fraternities or group houses; international students live in space boxes: being a Dutch student is fun. It’s relatively easy to get into a big house with a lot of other students, have meals and activities together, and pay a low price – maybe €130 a month after the huurtoeslag or rent subsidy. But if you’re an international student who doesn’t speak Dutch, doesn’t understand instemmingen, and doesn’t know who to ask about housing, you wind up paying €400 a month for a space box, which just isn’t fair, even if they have been painted very bright colors. Solution: this one is tougher, because housing is tough in Delft. But the university should give students more information on housing before they arrive, and should have shorter contracts for housing – letting students negotiate something more affordable and comfortable after they arrive. I don’t think the university experience should be made any worse for Dutch students, but I think the experience for international students could be made better, and much of this can be facilitated by the university. I was on the board of my student association last year, and one of our projects was to create a handbook for new international students to explain all the things that we wished we’d known when we got here. But it’s ridiculous that we would even need to do that: it’s a simple thing for the university to do, especially for a university that wants to be attractive to an international crowd. And it could be worse – my other university, Leiden, is downright malicious towards international students. But being better than shameful, and merely being indifferent, is nothing to be proud of. You can do better, TU.”

Devin Malone, a second-year MSc student of industrial ecology, is from Anchorage, Alaska.

Maandagmiddag werd het evenement geopend door ondermeer Jeroen van der Veer (Shell en voorstander van ‘groen fossiel’) en rector Karel Luyben.

In de loop van de week zijn er lunchlezingen door Lucia van Geuns (Peakoilexpert van instituut Clingendael), Diederik Samsom (Tweede-Kamerlid en TU-alumnus), Andre Wakker (energie-expert bij ECN en voorstander van meer kernenergie) en zelfbenoemd klimaatrealist professor Salomon Kroonenberg.

Donderdag treedt bovendien poolreiziger en inspirator Paul Cornelissen op.

Kijk voor het volledige programma op www.sustainability-event.nl

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