International students are having a hard time

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One in three University of Twente bachelor students from outside Europe experience such psychological or medical problems that it puts their study at risk. Other institutions also report an increase in complaints among international students.

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One third of non-European Bachelor's students from the University of Twente indicated 'special circumstances' in the previous academic year to prevent a binding study recommendation. With first-year students from the Netherlands and other European countries this was 8 percent, writes U-Today. “Unacceptable”, Ton Mouthaan of the University of Twente called the large number of students from “distant countries” who encounter problems in their first year of the study programme.

As chairman of the personal circumstances committee of the university, Mouthaan received a total of 31 requests from non-European bachelor students. “No file is the same, but with this group of students you often see that their problems escalate because they study in a foreign country and do not have a social safety net”, he confirms by telephone.

Younger population
Previously, it was mainly Master's students who came to the UT from outside Europe, but the number of international Bachelor's students has grown in recent years. Mouthaan: “This younger population brings with it specific problems. They often have not studied before, are uncertain about their choice of study programme and live on their own for the first time. Master’s students are older and usually more confident”.

International students suffer more from homesickness, loneliness and adjustment difficulties, and often have to get used to Dutch teaching methods. For example, students from Asia have more difficulty analysing and asking critical questions: something they are less accustomed to in their home country. In addition, their parents often pay a lot of money for their studies, which increases the pressure to succeed even higher.

Threshold to seek for help
The Eindhoven University of Technology recognizes the problem. “It seems to be more complex and tougher with both international bachelor and master students than with Dutch students,” spokesman Barend Pelgrim says. "Many students with problems seem to have taken these with them from their homeland, where the threshold to go to a psychologist is often much higher."

Jeanette Van Rees, chairman of the national consultation for student psychologists, also suspects that the problems of internationals are often ones they have been struggling with for some time already. “Students get on the plane and think they are leaving their problems behind. We then see these students at the consultation hour with serious complaints, such as long-term depression, severe anxiety or personality disorders.”

Buddy system
Van Rees cannot say whether the increase in foreign students with problems keeps pace with the growing number of internationals. “Soon, we will start with a research to gain more insight into the extent and nature of the psychological problems of this group.”

The universities in Eindhoven and Twente are happy with their international students and organize all sorts of activities to ensure that their stay in the Netherlands runs smoothly. Examples include a buddy system, activities to meet Dutch students and English-language dealing-with-stress-training. Mouthaan: “At the UT, we already do a lot of guidance, but perhaps we should work even more closely with the non-European students."

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