‘International students should also be able to travel cheaply’
The Palestinian student Lina Toubasi thinks that public transport is too expensive for international students. She started a petition, which was signed almost 3,000 times in less than a week. ‘Everyone agrees it’s unfair.’
In January the European office of statistics, Eurostat, calculated that Dutch public transport is the most expensive of all countries in the European Union: on average transportation services charge 32 percent more than the average. Whereas most Dutch students are able to travel for free, international students pay full fare. ‘Unfair,’ said the Palestinian Lina Toubasi, a Bachelor’s student in International Business Communication, and she started a digital petition to change this.
‘In countries like Germany, The Czech Republic and France, all students get travel discounts regardless of their nationality. Why shouldn’t that be possible here as well?’
This year Toubasi wanted to take some courses in Amsterdam so that it would then be easier to do a pre-Master’s there. However, the costs of traveling back and forth threw a spanner in the works. ‘A one-way ticket to Amsterdam without a discount already costs more than 20 euros. I just can’t afford that.’
According to Toubasi the same holds true for international students who want or have to do an internship. ‘That’s difficult to do in Nijmegen because there are few English-language internships. So, you have to go to Rotterdam, for example, or The Hague, but it’s very expensive to travel there.’
And the life of an international student is already expensive as it is, she argued, especially for students who aren’t from Europe. ‘The tuition for a non-EU student is five times higher than the standard tuition.’ Moreover, international students often can’t work because of the language barrier. All the more reason to help this group by giving them a discount on public transport.
Role for the government
Toubasi was amazed at how many people signed her petition and she thinks that she definitely has a chance of arranging a discount. ‘I’ve received so many responses to the petition; people really want this to happen. Everyone agrees it’s unfair and is hoping for a solution.’
As I write this, the digital petition has already been signed 2,750 times. And not just by students in Nijmegen – Toubasi had friends spread the campaign on the Facebook pages of other student cities. The website says that they anticipate to collect 5,000 signatures, but Toubasi is aiming higher. ‘About 122,000 international students are studying in the Netherlands. It’d be great if at least half of them signed.’
If she can collect that many signatures, she’ll send a letter to the Dutch government because she thinks that the government and the university share this responsibility. ‘The discount should partly be paid from the tuition of international students and partly by the government. The government is responsible because they accept international students here. They live in the Netherlands and not just on the campus of Radboud University.’
Lena’s petition can be found here.