Experiencing an international classroom

Amber is an ambassador for WilWeg and has lived in South Africa and Ireland. Now she is studying at Breda UAS and picked an international programme. She shares her experiences in this blog.

Posted by Amber Wever - WilWeg Student Ambassador - Breda University of Applied Sciences at Dec 09, 2018 09:08 PM

As an international student studying abroad, you might feel like an outsider within your class full of nationals. I experienced this too when being on Exchange in Ireland. However, I also experienced being in my own country in a class full of internationals. How is it to be in a class with international students from a Dutch student’s perspective? How does a Dutch student perceive the collaboration with internationals? And, what are the benefits of being in an international classroom?

As a Dutch student being in a class with 17 different nationalities, I encounter different cultures daily. The reason for choosing my first study a couple of years ago (International Business) was that the international aspect of the program really appealed to me. I wanted to go abroad, and I knew that this study allowed me to do so. In the beginning it was quite hard to adapt, especially to speaking and reading in English all day. I think that this is also why the International classrooms became quite divided in groups of people from the same nationality. Germans would be friends with Germans, Dutch with other Dutch and the Chinese with the Chinese. We would work together when we were put in an international group by our lecturers, which I think is a waste of a great opportunity. Currently I am doing a master in Tourism Destination Management, which is very different and exactly how I expected an international classroom to be. From both experiences I have learnt some valuable skills.

By now, I have been in groups with people from all over the world, and I learnt so much from it. First of all, as me and most of my classmates are not speaking in our mother language, a barrier to communicate is always there. Sometimes it is easier to explain something in your own language, but you can’t. Being in an international classroom has therefore been very beneficial for my English skills. A language can only be learnt by practicing and what better way to practice than talking to your international friends?

What I also learnt from working with different cultures, is that elsewhere, people think and act differently, and my way isn’t always the best or the worst way. From working with students of different cultures, you can actually learn a lot of new methods and skills to use. I also thinks it makes the class discussions much more vivid, and it teaches us how to have mutual respect, even when we disagree.

A fun example that one of my Brazilian classmates told me is that when the train is delayed, you can see all Dutch people get upset and wait until someone tells them what to do further. She told me that there is no point in being upset when something like this happens. The train isn’t going and I have to accept that. Instead of being upset and wait, I can ask people to car pool or sit down somewhere with a coffee to work for a bit and then catch another train.

Cultural diversity has taught me not to make assumptions about someone just because of their nationality. Not all stereotypes are true and in the end, we are all the same. We all go to university to learn and we all like to have fun, so why not learn and have fun together?

Collaborating with students from other nationalities can be very challenging too. I, as a ‘’Dutchie’’, really appreciate it when my group members show up prepared and on time. However, in some cultures, time and tasks are only an indication rather than an agreement. It took me some time to get used to this, but now I must admit that I am very often the one that’s late and that I have learnt do deal with it.

I think that being in an international classroom is the best preparation for an international career, but also for participating in society. We can all learn from each other, and have fun while doing it. Some tips for people in an international classroom:

  • Don’t be afraid to speak English.
  • Respect your fellow student’s view on a topic that might be different from your view.
  • Learn from each other.
  • Help each other.
  • Reach out to your international classmates.
Posted by Amber Wever - WilWeg Student Ambassador - Breda University of Applied Sciences at Dec 09, 2018 09:08 PM