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    International Student Conference

    On the 19th of February 2019 the second edition of the International Student Conference was held as part of the Week of the Student at the VUB. The first one was spearheaded by Jimmy Hendry Nzally, PhD student and former chair of the International Student Platform. The conference is a collaboration between ISP and the Student Council on university policy. At VUB it is important that students can voice their opinion on key issues. As 21% of the student body has an international background it is also vital they get the opportunity to participate in the decision making. High ranking members of the academic governing body were present at the conference and listened to the input provided by the students. The four themes of the conference were chosen by the Student Council and ISP and the entire conference was organised and moderated by students.

    The conference started with workshops on the four topics led mainly by Student Council members based on their policy expertise over the past years. The four themes were VUB Student Life, Interaction between local and international students, Communication at the VUB and Outgoing student mobility. This was an opportunity for local and international students to voice their opinion. The conclusions of these workshops were presented at the plenary session by the moderators and discussed by the panel of academic representatives.

    We had a chance to talk to Gwen, ISP Chair, after the event. This is what her thoughts on the event were.

    What did you think of the conference?

    I thought the conference was a success and I was very glad to see that there were many different opinions and that we were able to get input from different people on the topics. I think we were all hopeful that more people would participate, especially as we know the topics were reoccurring topics at VUB. But we were glad to have motivated people in each focus group.

    Are there opinions that surprised you?

    I don’t think any opinion surprised me but the recommendations for things that could be implemented did surprise me in a positive way. For example someone suggested the idea of having buttons in order to show if local students are open to talking to international students. Bouncing back from that idea it was suggested to just have a button with the flag of the student’s home country. I think if little things like that can be implemented at certain events it can make a big difference to students. These are ideas that you don’t necessarily think of but it makes sense and makes a difference for students at the end of the day. There were many examples of things that could be implemented in the everyday life of a VUB student which I believe could help the community as a whole.

    Are there things you want to change in the future based on the feedback you got yesterday?

    I think change is constantly happening at VUB and even more with the growing numbers of international students. Having feedback like this from students that face issues like only having documents available in Dutch or communication being in Dutch are things that could be changed relatively easily. Concrete solutions such as having translation students or language students translate documents for experience or ECTS credits were given last night and I think these are things that could be implemented in the near future. It might look like things that aren’t necessarily needed but which can become very important to international students. The example I gave previously could also be implemented relatively easily and I think that once there is a clear report and all the concrete ideas are written down we will be able to realise that many things can easily change. Sometimes it might seem like a detail to locals but it makes a huge difference in the life of an international student.

    Can students contact ISP if they want to discuss the themes (or other ones)?

    Students can always contact ISP (and are encouraged to do so) to address any particular issue or remark they have in terms of International students. We are always very welcoming and look for input from other students on many themes that have to do with international students and there is no better way to get input than from international students themselves.