Roos’ Final Blog
What makes an average UT student? What are their goals? What do they do for fun? What do they look like? Where are they from?
Imagine asking these questions a few years ago. Now, imagine asking it today. The answer is different.
How would you even describe the average UT student, today? The population is just so much more diverse than it once was. We have more openly LGBT students, more women, and many more international students. And, our interests are also changing: there’s more focus on your resume, we finish our studies more quickly, and we experience more stress.
Why are things changing? Maybe it’s a result of the high influx of international students. Or it could have to do with the new student loan system. Or it’s due to social media, or the Flat Earthers. I’m not sure what it is, but things are changing fast.
Within my time at the SU, I have watched the mindset change. In my first month, I remember some of the directors asked me whether my function was possible without speaking Dutch. My answer was: “I don’t think our organization is ready for that, yet.” Look where we are now.
Throughout my year, the CPO released some worrying statistics about stress and depression among international students. The ISB came back with negative results for international social networks. The Kick-In received harsh criticisms. UToday and national presses released various articles about the predicament of international students. And, people definitely reacted….
The UT released a new language policy. They did a huge survey into mental wellbeing. They began implementing six projects related to internationalization. The SU set up new trainings for international students, launched the Member for a Day platform, set up an international campaign, revised the international student handbook, began a broad evaluation and restructuring of the Kick-in, and transitioned to doing all our internal documentation in English. Students began speaking out more and more on the topic as well- mailing us, wanting to be interviewed, and even making a whole Student Report series about the topic.
All of this in one year.
Being involved with all of this taught me a lot about leadership, but also about myself. I did my very best to contribute, but sometimes I got in my own way. I’ve been driven, and also really emotionally invested, and so I experienced a lot of stress and insecurity. I doubted myself for not being able to “fix” the problems of internationalization. Why was I sitting here? What was I really contributing? The problem was very clear, but the solution seemed to be guesswork.
I had to learn to accept that change takes time— especially cultural change, especially in a huge organization like the UT. And, considering that, I’m actually pretty happy with what we achieved this past year. It wasn’t always easy, but, what a time to be an SU board member!
I am so thankful to have had this opportunity. I worked with a fantastic team of students and staff who I could not have survived without. And, I am extremely excited to have helped pave the road for the first truly international board member. Over the past years, the whole UT environment has shifted to make this possible, and I know Saikiran is the perfect person to take on the challenge.
Good luck, Sai!