The new Commission member, Karen Penninga, introduces herself

Working as I have for a private educational institution with students from over a hundred different countries and staff from thirty different countries, I have been in a culturally diverse environment on a daily basis for almost sixteen years. Both international students and highly skilled migrants are faced with a dynamic challenge – to integrate in all their diversity with each other from a new home base where everything is different from their country of origin. Different not only in terms of their academic or working career, but also in a social-cultural sense. They are given the opportunity to improve themselves and we have the honour to be improved by them.


Those who settle far from home to build a future face difficulties on a personal level also: they are often unable to share the most important occasions with their family in their home country. More often than not, it is simply the distance in kilometres that is a practical obstacle to being present during an important happy or sad life event. All the aspects of that wonderful, cultural diversity obviously come with a great responsibility.

In particular given the present-day realities, we all bear joint responsibility for a large group of migrants who have fine aspirations and ambitions and who now find themselves in even more vulnerable circumstances. Because of the pandemic, international students are running into difficulties in all sorts of areas, and they are strongly dependent on our society and our conscientious actions towards them. Think of situations where an internship cannot be found immediately, think of the insecure status of part-time student jobs or simply the lack of contact with other people.

These circumstances appeal to the common duty that we, as educational institutions for international students, have to act with due care. That is a great and challenging responsibility which starts from the very first moment of contact with the prospective student to the time where that student, we hope, leaves the institution as an alumnus.

It goes without saying that, pandemic or not, each international student deserves to have the full ‘student experience’. But as circumstances will be different for some time to come, I feel, as the Director Corporate Governance at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, it is important to keep in mind that full student experience, that Grand Tour in the Netherlands, in terms of our teaching, both during the pandemic and in the times to follow. It is to that aspect of internationalization that, in light of all the safeguards for carefulness set out in the Code of Conduct, I hope to make a positive contribution by accepting a seat on the National Commission on behalf of the NRTO, and backed by my experiences in daily practice.