Global Night tries to beat loneliness among international students

21 Nov 2019 ,

At Radboud University, there are increasingly more options to study in English. This brings more international students to campus - but unfortunately also causes more loneliness among students. To tackle the distance between internationals and Dutch students, several international student associations organised the first Global Night in De Refter yesterday.

This Wednesday, De Refter opened its doors until 11 PM for Radboud’s first-ever Global Night. The atmosphere in the restaurant was very international: students from all kinds of nationalities walked among country flags, Dutch games, live music and stands of student associations like de Cycloop and Unicef. Upon arrival, students could stick a country tag to their clothes to recognise people from their homeland and to get to know new nationalities.

John Hacking, pastor of the student chaplaincy and one of the main organisers, describes this night as a meeting point for students. ‘Tonight, we offer different ways for internationals and Dutch students to mingle and to get to know each other’, he says. ‘There is a country corner where you can find other students who come from the same area, a ‘Dinner in the Dark’ to bond over food, and we have several student associations that are inviting students to join their community.’

Lack of integration

Integrating with Dutch students is especially important for internationals who are here for their whole Bachelor programme, Hacking adds. ‘I have heard stories from students who felt so alone that they were depressed for months, before finally finding some friends here.’ After hearing many similar stories, ISON, the student chaplaincy, the International Office and Synergy decided to create an opportunity for more integration. ‘We are trying to show international students what Nijmegen has to offer in terms of student associations. I think there are many options that internationals don’t know about yet,’ says Saskia Veenstra, Treasurer and Head of Activities at ISON.

‘I think there are many options that international students don’t know about yet’

So why is there a gap between internationals and Dutch students? ‘I think it is because of the language barrier’, says Xu Chen, an exchange student from China. She is sitting on the floor and is playing a game of mikado with another international student. ‘Sometimes I’m a bit shy to express myself in English, and that makes it difficult to talk. I think a Global Night is necessary, I already met many international students from different countries tonight.’

English

According to Dutch student Sander, it’s also a problem of the way students group together. ‘From the start, Dutch students like to stick to other Dutch students, and internationals to fellow internationals. People even advised me to do so.’ He doesn’t think Dutch people are unwelcoming, however. ‘From my experience, if you ask a Dutch person to switch to English for you, they will always do it.’

Veenstra adds that Dutch people already have their ‘own group’ from the start. ‘Even the introduction week is separated between Dutch and international students, so the gap already starts there. With this event we really try to bring the two groups together.’

Highlight

And what is the most fun corner tonight? Veenstra likes the Dinner in the Dark. ‘You can get a three-course meal with a blindfold on, so you don’t know what you are eating and you can’t see each other. That’s a really cool way of meeting new people and having fun together!’ Judging from the long queue in front of the dinner, this surely is one of the highlights of the night. Hacking is happy how this first-time event turned out. ‘As you can see, the room is full of people having a nice time together. That is exactly what we hoped to achieve.’

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