The Netherlands is keen on attracting international students. And for good reason: international students bring a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds and expertises to the table. But what is the experience of those who accept the invitation? Faced with issues like the housing crisis, often-difficult registration and immigration processes and language barriers, the reality of living here as an international student is one laden with challenges, often based in a lacking systems design. These challenges can be made easier through fostering community, being open to differences, and offering support to those who need it.In this Designing Cities for All special, we will come together to discuss the barriers to belonging, consider solutions, and most importantly, support one another.
Seung Ju Kim was born in Korea but has spent her time in different countries such as Malaysia, the Netherlands, and now the UK. She started a podcast–Voiced Vulnerabilities–in hopes of breaking the stigma around mental health and as well as to share her struggles as an international student. Currently, she’s taking a break from the podcast to focus on her psychology studies in the UK but am still active on social media (@voiced_vulnerabilities) to share mental health content. She hopes that by being vulnerable, sharing experiences, and talking about struggles that people will feel less alone and more confident to open up.
An international student living in the Netherlands, Sophia Dittmar was born in Germany and has also lived in the US. After moving to the Netherlands, she found her community through joining ESN Leiden. She made many great friends through ESN and thus decided to get more involved to offer more students the opportunity to find their home away from home. In the past years, Sophia has taken part in committees on the local level of ESN Leiden, has held the President position on the ESN Leiden board and now supports the board of ESN The Netherlands through continued committee work. She is driven by her hope to make the lives of international students easier and more joyous by offering support, a community and a family of like-minded peers.
Meghann Ormond (Wageningen) is Associate Professor in Cultural Geography at Wageningen University & Research. Her research, teaching and societal engagement reflect her deep concern with how differently mobile people’s roots, rights and vulnerabilities are recognised and included in the places they visit and in which they live. Her main research interests focus on the intersections between tourism, migration and heritage; transnational health and social care; and transformative and participatory learning. Meghann curated Roots Guide: Nederland (Mehus et al. 2022), an atypical interactive guidebook of the Netherlands that invites users to deeply connect with diverse people and places throughout the country. She is heavily involved in the expansion of the Migrantour network throughout Europe and, together with De Voorkamer and community partners in Utrecht’s Lombok neighbourhood, currently co-creating the Netherlands’ first Migrantour guided walking tour.
Deon Bisslik is a passionate entrepreneur and facilitator with a background in maritime studies and music & business management. Born in the Netherlands, he grew up in Aruba and returned to the Netherlands for his studies. He experienced hardships upon his return, but instead of letting them defeat him, he used them as motivation to help others in similar situations. In 2018, he co-founded Stichting Kompas For Students, a non-profit foundation that offers pre-departure workshops to students moving to the Netherlands. So far, he has guided over 150 students through the workshop. In 2021, he joined another non-profit foundation called “Fuente” as the communication lead for Aruba’s first voting tool ‘De Stemwijzer’ and helped present it during the government’s collapse. Currently, he runs his own business as a workshopper, designing and running workshops for companies using design thinking and experience design methods & tools.
Luis Bracamontes (He/They) –@ageoflui– is a queer Mexican spoken word artist based in Rotterdam. Luis’ work explores themes of queer joy, intimacy & spirituality from a decolonial, intersectional lens on identity. Founder of Unwanted Words, an award-winning platform for LGBTQ+ poets in The Netherlands and creator of the “1st Queer & Feminist Poetry Awards” (2020) and the “Queer & Feminist Poetry Anthology” Vol 1 (2021). Luis is dedicated to fostering and amplifying the voices of marginalized groups and collaborating with other individuals and organisations to continue creating safe(r) spaces for our community. His work has been featured in Opera Dagen Rotterdam, Milkshake Festival, Brainwash Festival, the Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival, Rotterdam Pride and more.