Humans of International Studies
Updated: Mar 7
I am from Miami, which is known to be a bilingual city. So, a lot of institutional papers would be in English, Spanish, and sometimes also Creole. So, when I moved here, I assumed a similar setting in my university surrounding, due to the internationalisation of universities. That applied specifically to the Humanities Council, which I was elected to this year. However, I encountered multiple problems relating to not having a translator for the first meeting and institutional documents, being in Dutch. On top of that also not being encouraged to use Google Translate due to the documents involving sensitive information. This also relates to the reason why I joined the council because I know that a lot of international students do not feel fully integrated or welcomed in the student culture at Leiden University. So, my goal was to fix the language barrier, since to sit at the table you got to be able to also speak at the table. Against the backdrop of the university and government talking about stopping recruitment or implementing quotas for non-EEA students – it creates a strange dichotomy between Leiden’s public announcements declaring that they welcome international students and the institutional reality. Specifically, this welcoming narrative is tiring since welcoming is not a passive act. Welcoming people means making changes to the existing system, which also creates certain struggles that I acknowledge and have empathy for. However, I don’t view this as a Dutch individual’s problem, but I am criticising the institutional level on how reluctant the university has been in adapting to the new circumstances, they advocate for publicly. On the bright side, it must be mentioned that a lot of council members try to speak in English with me during mentioned meetings and considering that the first non-Dutch-speaking council member only joined in 2019, I do see progress. But I am being so strict with the institutional measures since I see it as my role and most productive route to creating meaningful change for the international students at Leiden. So, that our inclusion at Leiden University is being advanced and that our voices are being heard.
(Lelani, 3rd year, USA)