Report of Global Lunch on 12 November 2014
Global Lunches are part of the Global Mind programme. The main aim of the lunches is to bring various groups of students and staff together to increase global awareness within the organisation. This refers to the cultural aspects affecting internationalisation, and particularly to generating a global mind-set. The Global Mind programme also aims to stimulate and facilitate initiatives designed to reinforce this mind-set among all members of the TU Delft community.
The 2nd Global Lunch was organised on 12 November. A mix of people from various parts of the organisation are invited to each Global Lunch, to discuss a specific theme. The theme of this particular lunch was: global mind and student societies, with a focus on the role of various associations/organisations in the integration between national and international students.
Those present included people from study associations, student associations, sports and culture associations, internationally oriented associations and the organisation itself (Unit Sports & Culture).
Malou Visser from the Student Council (SR) and Daniëlle ten Veldhuis from Communication welcomed the participants to the 2nd Global Lunch. This year´s lunch was hosted by the DSC student association and took place in the DSC library. After a brief description of the global mind programme, the participants introduced themselves and explained their connection with the global mind theme.
New in Delft: ISAD
Inge de Wolf from AEGEE then explained about a new initiative being undertaken by the internationally oriented associations. The largest internationally oriented associations have joined forces in a platform to address issues that affect all associations. This will enable them to share their strengths instead of competing against each other on certain aspects. The cross-association platform will be known as ISAD, which stands for International Student Associations Delft. The main associations taking part thus far are: AEGEE, BEST, DISS, IAESTE and AESEC.
Anka Mulder, who is responsible for education and internationalisation at TU Delft, explained that although she was keen to see an international organisation, she also values the unique character of Delft engineers. After all, researchers and students come to Delft to study because they think that Delft can offer something that is not available in their own country or at another university. This is the challenge as she sees it: how can we make the organisation more international and global, without compromising the typical Delft identity? She asked those present to help think about this question.
This was followed by a number of propositions, on which everyone was asked to take a stance.
Proposition 1: Study associations are the place where international and national students should get to know each other
Most participants did not agree. Study associations certainly have a part to play in this respect, but they are not the most important place. Students should interact wherever they are. Study associations are a good place for initial contact and membership should perhaps be made compulsory at first.
Proposition 2: Further internationalisation of TU Delft will destroy the true Delft identity
This proposition relates to the question posed by Anka Mulder. The majority disagreed. This does not have to be the case, but we must be careful about upholding the unique character of Delft. DISS: we come here for the Delft experience. But it is not just up to Delft to adapt to suit international students; international students must also adapt to Delft. They should, for example, take the trouble to learn a few basic words of Dutch. “The biggest mistake any organisation can make is to provide everything in English.” On the other hand, it is vital that international students can participate if they so wish.
Proposition 3: International students are not that interested in joining student associations
The majority disagreed. International students: we don’t really know that these student associations exist as we are told nothing about them during the introduction week. This is unsatisfactory. International students must be able to decide for themselves whether they are interested or not. “It’s certainly true that a lot of international Master’s students have neither the time nor the inclination for ‘fun’; they come here to study in as short a time as possible.” Question from a member of S&C staff: “Isn’t this also a cultural difference? Wouldn’t international students consider the ‘initiation rites’ offensive?” DISS: “Possibly, but it would be good to be able to decide for ourselves or just join in anyway. The first time I went to a society, I was shocked to see beer flying through the air. But I soon got used to it and I was able to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s something international students should be allowed to experience so that they can decide for themselves how far they want to go. There are some things that I would never consider taking part in. But international students must be made aware of these things, otherwise they’ll never experience them.”
General conclusion: we must reorganise the TU Delft introduction programme. At present, the Welcoming Week (OWee) and the introduction week are two separate worlds, which is undesirable. International students are not given an introduction round of student associations during the OWee. They should be made more accessible to international students. The traditions of the Delft student associations must be upheld, but given a more international flavour. That shouldn’t be too difficult.
Position of various student organisations
After lunch, the participants were divided into four groups, namely: study associations, student associations, Sports & Culture and ISAD. Each was given an assignment to determine its position. How do they see themselves in terms of integration and how do they see the other parties? Who could help bring these two worlds closer together?
Each group was asked to state its position in a field demarcated by two axes. The axes defined two extremes:
- The association takes an active or a passive attitude towards integration policy.
- The association considers integration an important or an unimportant subject.
The groups were first asked to determine their own position in the field, before indicating the position of the other 3 groups. This made it possible to compare the relationships between the various groups. The task was carried out with regard to the current situation and the future, for which an ideal situation had been sketched. See appendix.
Conclusions and suggestions:
Finally, the groups wrote down their suggestions and considered which parties they thought should play a role in implementing them. The idea of collaboration between the various parties was also considered. The discussion that had taken place earlier was converted into possible concrete action points to be taken on board by the Global Mind programme.
- Sports and cultural associations: S&C clearly has a low threshold for international students and it is important to maintain this position into the future. However, group lessons are still proving tricky and this aspect should be given more attention to improve the situation.
- Study associations: The study associations are accessible to students from Delft and international students. This group therefore reaches the target group and should be given a role providing information within Global Mind. It is important that the study associations agree on the matter of international focus. Perhaps a communication platform between study associations could be created.
- Student associations: This group is the least accessible to international students. The student associations should try to be more appealing to international students, without rigorously changing their character. It is particularly important to let international students know that they exist. The OWee is the perfect time for this. There could be a mixed OWee, whereby international students take part in certain aspects of the programme, such as the information fair.
- ISAD: ISAD has the largest role to play. It is the most accessible organisation in terms of integration and this must be maintained. ISAD is already putting a lot of effort into integration and is keen to set up a TU-wide buddy system and joint programme during the introduction week. Communication for Delft students and international students on Blackboard is currently segregated; this must be opened up.
Concrete follow-up actions:
- Develop ISAD as an important discussion partner for the organisation in the field of internationalisation and integration. Draw this new initiative to the attention of management and the organisation.
- Organise a meeting with those responsible for the OWee and the introduction week. Plan brainstorm sessions to consider the possibilities (and impossibilities) of more joint activities in the OWee and the introduction week. Planning Dec/Jan
- Explore and analyse the potential of a buddy system for TU Delft. Explore possible cooperation between the different groups. Furthermore, it’s important to facilitate a proper working buddy system where buddies can be matched by hobbies, interests in certain languages or cultures and studies. This program will start off with a small group of buddies. If this is a success, the program will be spread out TU wide.
- Plan the next Global Mind Lunch