By Tallie Nikitchyuk
Hey international students! You, yes, you. Where are you on the election posters? Why aren’t you seeing yourselves welcoming our newbies in an over-the-top Introweek costume, saving the academic day in a crisp blue blazer, serving up delicious food and drinks in the purple heart of our community, or sharing the green love with your neighbors? Of course, this period has gotten us all out of whack, but it’s also the perfect example of why more internationals should run for big boards. Strangely enough, it’s tough moments like these that make me grateful to be an international board member.
While I adore my board, which is diverse in many ways, I feel that I provide a necessary perspective. For example, when news broke that America would be initiating a travel ban a month ago, I panicked. Do I stay, do I go? Do I risk not being able to see my loved ones until Christmas or not being able to return to my home here? While discussing the situation with the HAC, I was amongst a board of Dutch people who couldn’t understand what I was going through. Their lives are here, everything a train ride away: family homes to return to, news without translation needed, familiar healthcare systems, and no worries that the borders between them and their loved ones could close at a moment’s notice.
As international students, we have different experiences. This is just one of many examples. Consider the vicious cycles in the immigration process (I remember needing a Dutch address to register for things I needed so I could register for a Dutch address). Remember how you spent the first year figuring out what things mean at the grocery store, and yet you still mess it up occasionally. You might often pray you don’t need to go to the doctor because you’re not actually sure what your insurance covers or what this whole “doctor shortage” business is. Not to mention, if you want to visit your family, it might only be possible once or twice a year if you can afford it.
Honestly, the discrepancy in internationals in big board positions is not surprising. It can be difficult to figure out the Dutch system as an outsider, and there are already a thousand hurdles before your time at UCR even begins. Sometimes, the less stress, the better. Additionally, the big boards deal with a lot more external parties than the average UCR student. Especially with certain boards and positions (such as the HAC, AAC’s External Officer, or the Elliott Daily Board), some things just have to be in Dutch.
However, some things simply must come from an international perspective. The average Dutch person doesn’t know what half the student population has gone through to settle here. Not to mention, sharing diverse backgrounds makes a stronger board. Therefore, boards can better represent and address the needs of the student population. Besides, being on a big board is an amazing experience, and adding some international flavor is always appreciated! You can learn so much from each other and carry these skills (and friends) on for the rest of your life.
Currently, about 35 to 40 percent of big board members identify as international. This doesn’t seem like such a big difference, but consider that some boards are dominated by Dutchies, including HAC with a 6-to-1 ratio. Only one board, Elliott, has an international majority. As the posters published on the UC Roosevelt Election page show, there are very few international students campaigning. Currently, the entire prospective HAC and RASA boards are Dutch. For a school that is half international, it’s not very representative of us.
It seems like such a shame that there may be international students (like you!) out there who, consciously or not, never consider themselves as a potential big board member. It’s also disappointing that the big boards won’t be truly representative of our community. Think of how much we have to share! We come from such different places, we have our own stories that have shaped us, we eat different foods and celebrate different holidays, and we all have a special place in our hearts for UCR. I recognize it’s a stressful time for us all, and particularly for international students. However, I still urge you to consider running, not only for the good of our community, but also for yourself. Being on a big board can be a beautiful experience, and your voice is needed now more than ever.
Interested in running? Sign up by emailing the respective board (and, for AAC, also [email protected]) with your name and the position you’d like to run for by Tuesday, 14 April, and send an A4 document with your motivation statement to [email protected] to be compiled into the election booklet. Be sure to forward a nice poster to the UC Roosevelt Elections page and work on a nice 2 minute speech for Pre-Election Night (16 April) and 1 minute speech for the Election GA (21 April)! Questions, need some campaign support/advice, or still unsure? Feel free to contact Tallie or get in touch with the person currently in the position you’re interested in!
Sharing the Love: Current big board perspectives
I also handed the mic off to others to share their opinions, including different pros and cons!
While it was a pretty mixed bag, everyone was pretty enthusiastic about internationals in big boards. There is a lot of opportunity to share cultures, provide different perspectives, and better represent UCR students. Many people cited the language barrier as a potential issue–but also mentioned that it depended on the position, and it would be fine if there was a Dutch-speaker in your board.
As RASA’s Jacob concludes on being an international in a big board, “It’s a very minor factor among much more important things like enthusiasm, passion, and excitement for the job at hand.”
From the board brave enough to fight for student’s academic rights, we hear from Ariel (International, Chair & BoS Rep.), Daantje (Dutch, Internal Officer & Council Rep.), and Joëlle (Dutch/International, External Officer & Council Rep.).
Ariel has quite a lot to say about her experience in AAC and her prior year as RASA secretary. While she is sometimes baffled by Dutch culture, she enjoys learning the quirky bits from her Dutch boardies. There are also other perks to working with Dutchies, such as learning about Dutch approaches/systems that can be incorporated into your work. For potential cons, she points out disagreements, big and small, that reveal differences in cultural values. However, she says, “Like all teamwork settings, compromising on differences in values is an extremely important skill to develop and you should have fun with it too; you can learn about the extent of your flexibility and personal boundaries too!” Ariel mentions the Dutch perspective can be overwhelming sometimes, but it’s crucial to voice your international view; indeed, usually all it takes is a little reminder to your colleagues. Other issues may be more practical like extending visas if you receive course reduction, and there aren’t many internationals in your situation to get advice from. Overall, the dichotomy between Dutch and international people isn’t usually on Ariel’s mind; she likes thinking about the cultural differences and sees them as an enjoyable challenge. “Internationals thinking of running? Do it! UCR is such a diverse university and it would be a shame to not have that reflected in our student boards. Your representation is honestly needed and a balance of cultures and viewpoints is a wonderful benefit to all big boards.”
As for Daantje, she appreciates how you can learn from other people’s backgrounds. The more internationals, the more perspectives on different topics. This also allows UCR’s population to be represented; while Daantje acknowledges that Dutch people are capable of representation, a balanced board is much more effective. She remarks that her experience working with internationals has been great, and she encourages people to run for positions they are interested in! “As a Dutch student, all I can say is that I would love to work and interact with international students, as that is one of the reasons I came to UCR in the first place.”
Joëlle provides a mixed perspective as she doesn’t categorize herself as fully Dutch or fully international. She explains that she feels more at home with internationals, so she appreciates working with them. Also, UCR is a place where one’s background isn’t very important, so running for a big board shouldn’t be any different. Joëlle does note that a lot of AAC-related documents are in Dutch (or have poor translations), and some events like the ones organized by ISO were mainly in Dutch, which is frustrating for internationals to join. However, she also mentions that some events really consider internationals and speak English even if there are no internationals. There is more focus on internationalization now, and Joëlle finds it a good initiative as a significant amount of students in the Netherlands are not Dutch and deserve representation. Her position has also given her more insight on this issue: while it can be intimidating to be in Dutch environments, oftentimes there are discussions (even about internationals) that are held without internationals. Joëlle adds that her own experience has helped her get in touch with her own Dutch roots while also highlighting the differences between her and fully Dutch people. “Please run! There are enough Dutch people representing you, and there are a lot of international people that need to be represented.”
From everyone’s favorite place on campus, Mathilde (International, Facility Manager) and Teresa (International, Mensa Manager) were kind enough to share their thoughts.
Mathilde provides an interesting perspective: she explained that she didn’t really experience any difference as an international, and even so, she didn’t have any other experience to compare it to. Maybe this is due to the current Elliott board’s diversity–they are the only board where internationals are the majority (5 to 3).
Teresa, current Mensa Manager and former Content Manager & PC representative in the AAC, shares a beautiful insight on her experiences. In the AAC, she joined midway through the year, and notes that it was probably a relief for Farina to no longer be the only international in a very Dutch board which would often speak or make jokes in Dutch. She contrasts this with her Elliott experience (currently, they have the most international board in their history). While she acknowledges that you may face challenges without the language, most only go as far as becoming funny anecdotes. Also, you can always pull Teresa’s most-used Dutch sentence, “Sorry, ik spreek geen Nederlands!” On the topic of the Dutch language, she writes, “It is also a great opportunity to bust the bubble and test and improve your Dutch every now and then, so in my opinion, it is only positive!”
If hearing from me isn’t enough representation from the board known for their mediation (and stripping) skills, Katja (Dutch, Roggeveenhof Campus Elder) shares her point of view.
Katja emphasizes her love of working with internationals, specifically because it contributes to board dynamics. At the bare minimum, it ensures the board doesn’t speak Dutch all the time, which is important for archiving for future boards. She explains that you learn a lot from each other and can balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. She also notes that internationals sometimes have more heart for the UCR community as they cannot go home as easily, and this can be apparent in their level of motivation. “Being an international person on a big board is not seen as a burden. It is seen as a gift.”
From everyone’s day-one crimson board, we hear from Charlotte (Dutch, Chair), Carlijn (Dutch, CAO), Eva (International, CAO), and Jacob (International, CAO).
Charlotte says she never really noticed a difference between the international and Dutch members except in circumstances where Dutch is needed–for example, she mentions that the treasurer may struggle with the Dutch program that’s used for bookkeeping. Additionally, contact with external parties might be limited; groups like HZ are more comfortable speaking Dutch. However, Charlotte is optimistic: “In general, being an international should never stop anyone from running for a big board! As long as there’s at least one Dutch speaker, it’s all possible!”
Carlijn shares a similar sentiment but focuses on her enjoyment of her international boardies. “Besides the fact that I think that a board should represent the student population as much as possible…I think it is necessary for a board to consist of both Dutch and non-Dutch members. Sometimes, Dutch students will simply forget about some issues non-Dutchies might run into.”
Eva thanks UCR’s international atmosphere for her pleasant experience as a board member. She finds it beneficial to have international boardies because they have different perspectives which make decisions well-rounded and reflective of UCR’s international community. While she notices cultural differences, they always create interesting discussions or funny moments. The RASA board often discusses Dutch culture, and sometimes they try practicing Dutch or partaking in traditions. “For internationals running, I feel like it shouldn’t be a question of nationality but whether they want to be in the board & the position, and contribute to the student community.”
Jacob admits he didn’t face any issues as an international, while also noting his decent level of Dutch. Even in positions people may think Dutch is important, Jacob notes, “History has shown that even in those, internationals can manage.” He encourages anyone to run: “You might want to consider the specific position a little bit but it really shouldn’t be your main concern. It’s a very minor factor among much more important things like enthusiasm, passion, and excitement for the job at hand.”
Tallie Nikitchyuk, Class of 2021, is a Literature, Linguistics and Psychology major from Sandy Hook, United States.
Image Source: https://www.murfreesborotn.gov/423/Elections