Two co-initiators look back on their time in the Students Advisory Board

By Fernando and Liliana

In October 2021, the foundations for an international student advisory board were laid during a meeting as part of the Code of Conduct review. The meeting, which brought together international students, addressed the central question:

How to make the involvement of students more structural and intertwined with the work of the National Commission?

It was a long-standing wish of the Commission to involve international students in its work on a structural basis, although no one was sure quite how to go about it. The meeting led to the recommendation that a student advisory board be set up. Soon after, the Students Advisory Board (SAB) was established. The SAB may provide the Commission with solicited and unsolicited advice on all matters concerning the Code of Conduct and represents the perspectives of international students.

Fernando and Liliana were both present at the October 2021 meeting and have been members of the SAB since day one. As they bid farewell to the SAB, we asked them to reflect on the past few years.

Looking back to the first meeting and its purpose of “How to make the involvement of students more structural and intertwined with the work of the National Commission”, the answer appears obvious, however, back then it wasn’t. The National Commission (NC) and the Code of Conduct are focused on international students, however, the interaction and insights with and from international students were either absent or superficial. This is a common practice I have often encountered in the Netherlands and the academic community, discussing, and making decisions on subjects we only know about in concept, but not in reality. We talk about climate change, the Global South, immigration, housing, etc., to propose “solutions”, but all this without experiencing, knowing, or engaging with that reality or those who live it. The question of who is not at the discussion table should be constantly asked. Two years ago, the NC asked that question to, ironically enough, give international students the voice of international students with the Student Advisory Board (SAB) as an answer. Two years later, the SAB’s existence proved truly insightful, and its voice should only become louder, bringing international students’ reality closer to the NC and Dutch education system, for the better.

Fernando in front of an artwork from Ghanaian artist Halimatu Iddrisu

As I prepare to bid farewell to the Student Advisory Board (SAB) and the National Committee (NC) this June, I am filled with a deep sense of nostalgia and pride. Being part of the SAB from its inception has been a remarkable journey. I still remember that initial session with Victor Rutgers and Fernando, where the foundation of the SAB was laid with enthusiasm, vision and curiosity.
Over the past two years, I have witnessed the SAB grow from a fledgling idea into a robust platform for student voices. This evolution has not been without its challenges, but the collaborative spirit and dedication of the members have always prevailed. We have tackled numerous issues, provided valuable insights, and strived to make meaningful changes that benefit the student community in The Netherlands.
One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned is the power of perseverance and teamwork. My advice to the new SAB members is simple: stay committed to your mission, listen to each other, and never underestimate the impact you can make. Your voices are powerful tools for change, and with passion and collaboration, you will continue to drive the SAB forward.