A meeting I recently had made me think about internationalisation and the various perspectives on it. I would like to share some of these thoughts with you here and I hope you will also share yours with me.
I take pride in the diverse background of our International Studies students. To outsiders we are always keen to present graphs indicating the more than 60 different nationalities of our students on various occasions, like Open Days, Introduction Days and presentations to higher management. We are also very happy with our small scale teaching practices in the tutorials, where all these students with different backgrounds meet, interact, and, hopefully, learn from each other. In International Studies the possibilities of the international classroom appear almost limitless.
Discussions about internationalisation
At the same time, I am very aware of the discussions about internationalisation in the Netherlands and the fact that resistance against internationalisation is increasing, at present mainly focused on the use of the English language. What I do not always realise, though, is that international students themselves face resistance as well. One example particularly struck me: at a LUS (Leiden Univeristy Student Platform) meeting, some weeks ago, I heard that the majority of student houses, include the phrase ***No Internationals*** in their advertisement when they are looking for new housemates.
Participants at the meeting indicated that the main reason for excluding international students from student houses, is the fear that conversations in the kitchen, over breakfast or dinner, would have to be in English with international students in the house. Another reason that was mentioned was the fact that international students often do not stay for long, even though that is, of course, only true for exchange students.
This example first annoyed me, but then it made me think about the different perspectives that students, and staff as well, may have on internationalisation, depending on their background. While some of us are proud of our diverse group of students and diverse teaching staff, others see problems and threats. And some of their concerns are probably valid. For example, the general opinion is that many lecturers can be much more humorous , and hence more effective, when they are allowed to teach in their mother tongue (is that true, though?). At the same time we may ask ourselves: we are so proud of our diverse classroom, but what do we actually do with this diversity? Do we make use of it, do we allow for the different backgrounds in our teaching or are we just ticking the diversity box?
Survey on internationalisation
To get a better grip on internationalisation, on its strengths and weaknesses, and on the threats and opportunities that lie ahead, I would like to ask staff and students who read this blog post and have an opinion on the matter, to complete this short survey. I will collect your ideas and try to summarize them in a future blog post. Your response will, of course, be treated with the highest confidentiality and responses cannot be traced back to individuals.