These are unusual times we’re living in, in a period where everything is dominated by Covid-19. That certainly applies to internationalization, international students and international lecturers and researchers. Uncertainty, unease and even unrest are things we’re all feeling now. On the other hand, we’re also experiencing the creativity and innovation of higher education in coming up with solutions to these challenges, in a context where online teaching has become the new norm overnight. It goes without saying that this is no substitute for the campus experience, face2face meetings and brainstorming with fellow students. Nonetheless, the ‘blended’ approach is sure to gain traction. Whatever happens, we in higher education are eager to see our campuses come alive once more – no doubt with some spatial modifications – with students, with creative and international young people, and with lecturers and researchers. In the meantime, everyone is working very hard to structure teaching and the educational experience in the best possible way in these times of corona, while bearing in mind that our international students are particularly prone to loneliness and uncertainty.
These are also busy times for our National Commission, which is working with the umbrella organizations (NRTO, VSNU and VH) to iron out problems that might arise for international students. This is what I love best about the Commission’s work: our central focus on international students and the commitment and responsibility our members feel for these students.
Covid-19 may also create a greater impetus to think more about responsible internationalization. These last few years have seen new discussion about a paradigm shift in internationalization. ‘Responsible internationalization’ is a growing discourse advocating a more inclusive approach to internationalization. The Covid-19 crisis could be the spark that accelerates this narrative in practice. Here, too, we will have to devise new forms in which to make the international experience available to coming generations of students – while also being mindful of the climate and environment. Because now more than ever the world needs young people who are open-minded, who look at the world with curiosity and who want to participate in the world to make it a better place.
I myself came to the Netherlands years ago from my home in Argentina and so have also been an ‘international student’ in this country. Studying and working in a completely different culture and dealing with different traditions is a challenge, for sure, but also unbelievably enriching. In my own home in Amsterdam we speak a word salad of Dutch, English and Spanish – always according to the law of least resistance!
After university and getting a PhD in gender studies at Leiden University, I continued working in higher education, always in international positions as a researcher, lecturer or administrator. The past 11 years I have been an administrator at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, with responsibility for, among other things, internationalization. It is in that capacity and as a member of the administrative committee on internationalization at the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH) that I joined this commission some years ago.