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Jimmy Hendry Nzally, PhD student in Political Sciences and recent graduate of the Multilingual Master in Linguistics and Literary Studies, was elected chair for the next year.
The ISP was set up by the VUB’s International Relations office as an advisory body to the university’s Studenten Raad (i.e. the Student Council), representing the VUB’s international student community. The Student Council is the university’s official governing body, and as such it must hold its meetings in Dutch, which poses a challenge for international students to get elected and participate. Hence the creation of the International Student Platform as an advisory body to the Student Council.
This year the ISP team has increased its members from 12 to 15, due to the high number of applications that were sent in. The team is a diverse group, coming from Italy, The Gambia, Uganda, Albania, Belgium, Germany, Nepal, China, the Netherlands, Brazil, the USA, Palestine, Lithuania, Portugal, Syria, and Lebanon. It has diversity at its core, not just from the nationality perspective but it has a balanced gender composition as well, being almost at 50-50.
Jimmy, as the new chair, has four main strategic goals for the platform:
- A closer link between ISP and the VUB’s Student Council in terms of communications and events, to be closer knit.
- ISP is not just a member organisation of 15 people; it will reach out and involve the fuller international student community by consulting them through workshops, and by working closer together with other international student associations, so they can act as an extension of ISP.
- Help in university administration by providing assistance in terms of counselling and mentoring students, working more closely with the VUB’s international relations office, and by engaging more in volunteering activities.
- Advisory role, e.g. in terms of housing policy and graduation ceremonies.
A couple of initiatives are already on the agenda and they show how the strategic points listed above are being acted on. On 21 February, the ISP together with the Student Council will organise the first Student Conference on VUB’s main campus. The main theme will be to re-examine the VUB’s core values and take a closer look at student-centred learning. There will also be four focus groups with each having a student leader as chair. They will look at four specific topics:
- Role of students in internationalisation
- Ways to improve interaction between local and international students outside the classroom
- Strengthening VUB student leadership and engagement
- Refugees and migration: integration on campus – VUB as a case study
The conference will be followed by a Town Hall meeting with the university authorities where rapporteurs will give the feedback and results of discussions from the conference. More information will be announced shortly, so keep an eye out for that and register!
The other initiative that has taken off, are online sessions between VUB students and international universities. The first one was this past Monday 11 December where some 15 students sat in on an hour’s session with the university in The Gambia. The idea is to organise several of these online sessions with universities abroad – e.g. once a month – to foster internationalisation from a student’s perspective, to encourage a global view and diversity among students, and to take a look at some pressing issues and current affairs topics.
Upcoming programmes include picking up from the previous council by continuing the Campus International Games and a host of other policy advisories focusing on international students which means working in tandem with the university student council as well as the administration.