Wageningen University – a culture chimera
If you are reading this post, then you are probably aware that Wageningen University has a reputation for being an international university. I don’t know the statistics regarding how many countries are represented at WUR, but I know it is a lot. In this post I want to address the benefits of having an international classroom, so here are my top four reasons as to why studying at a diverse international university is, well – incredible.
1: International Classroom
Ok so “international classroom”, is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around by the university and can be easily dismissed as a word without any tangible meaning. But Wageningen is probably one of the few places that actually has an international classroom. One thing I have noticed is how different cultures approach tasks and problems. Group work is a huge part of the curriculum here, and as in every group situation, people have different opinions and backgrounds. I have noticed that some cultures are very direct and confident. They will get right to the point and voice their opinions and thoughts. They are comfortable throwing ideas around even if they are not certain if those ideas are good. They are also comfortable having their ideas workshopped or challenged and are also comfortable in accepting better ideas.
One thing I have noticed is how different cultures approach tasks and problems.
Then there are some cultures that are not as direct. Cultures that prefer to sit, listen, and then synthesise what everyone has said into a coherent argument or plan. There are some people that are happy to be told directly what their role is and will do the work regardless of who is leading. But then there are other people that highly value personal relationships, even in an academic setting, and will invest a lot of energy into maintaining these relationships.
Now, I’m not saying that one culture is better than the other, all have their strengths and weaknesses. But this international dialogue has forced me to reflect on the way we operate in Australia and if I need to change my way of thinking and operating based on who I am working with.
The world is becoming more interconnected and many jobs require interaction with different cultures.
It can be very easy to fall into a pattern and approach group work in the exact same way you did at home because it always works there, and it may be highly effective in your own university or country. But the world is becoming more interconnected and many jobs require interaction with different cultures. The international classroom at Wageningen gives you the opportunity to interact and work effectively with an international group and everyone comes out stronger than before.
2: Shattering stereotypes
During the AID week, we were shown a video from Denmark urging to stop putting people in boxes and stereotyping based on their appearance, accent, clothes, or age. Stereotyping can be a very dangerous thing as it results in false assumptions. The university truly celebrates all cultures and tries to break these assumptions before they are formed, but there is nothing better to shatter stereotypes than actually talking to and interacting with different cultures. Discussions over coffee or between lectures about our homes, families, pets, and everything in between not only forges strong friendships but opens your eyes and creates a clear picture of other cultures. A truthful and complex picture that allows no room for false assumptions and judgment.
The university truly celebrates all cultures and tries to break these assumptions before they are formed.
There are many different celebrations that occur around the world. Swedish Midsommar, American Fourth of July, Dutch King’s Day, Luna New Year, Eid Mubarak and so much more. Not only are these great opportunities to try new food, dance around a pole, and meet new people but they are also a chance to learn. A chance to learn about the history of a country and its relationship with other countries. A chance to peel away the curtain and explore their hidden traditions. And a chance to explore what the citizens of the country value and celebrate. It also gives you a chance to reflect on the how and why holidays are celebrated in your home town, and in my case, realise how few holidays we celebrate in Australia.
The international classroom at Wageningen gives you the opportunity to interact and work effectively with an international group and everyone comes out stronger than before.
4: Food, food, and more food
Ok, I can’t write a post about the international community without mentioning food. Food brings people together to eat and chat. My Italian friend told me during the AID week that “you [non-Italians] use food as fuel, but we [Italians] use food to connect”. Well, I think we would all benefit from taking a page out of the Italian’s recipe book and my international dinners have certainly been a chance to connect.
Dinner with my AID group during the AID week. We had a mixture of Italian, Dutch, and Bulgarian food.