Study associations & student associations: which to join?
Are you keen to get out there and see what opportunities are available to you as an international student? But do you feel a bit overwhelmed by all the options? I hope after reading this you are a bit clearer on the choices available at Wageningen University & Research.
At the WUR there are study associations and student associations then further still there are associations for sports and other activities. This blog will give an insight into the differences between study and student associations, the benefits of joining them and what they can offer for you.
Joining a sports association is a great way to keep your fitness up while meeting new people. The level of commitment required does depend per sport and team. So there is something for everybody. And then there is the added benefit of going to the sports bar after training.
I am a member of the Wageningen Warriors Lacrosse club and can honestly say that some of the nicest people I have met and the best experiences happened through the club. I would recommend joining as many intro/taster sessions as you can. Especially in sports you haven’t yet tried. They are a great way to get a feel for the association and a easy first step to meeting new people as everybody at the intro sessions is in the same boat. The sports associations can be found through the following link: WUR Sports Associations.
Study Associations are centred around courses of study (the clues in the name right?!). Many offer educational seminars and workshops designed to enhance your time as a student. For example, I recently attended the Pyrus careers evening. Here we got to learn more about what life in relevant companies in the field looks like and the steps necessary to get there. Of course, a big part of enhancing your academic life as a student is expanding your network and getting to know your peers. So also expect events where you can relax, have fun and drink a beer with your study association.
It is worth looking into your study association and seeing what the added benefits are by being a member (often discounts on study material etc.). Some of the events are open to anyone regardless of whether you’re a member or not. You can find the study association related to your course through the following link: WUR Study Associations.
Many of the large student associations do not have a very big international involvement. Only Ceres has a separate international group within their association. Yet none of them is explicitly for Dutch members only. So if you’re up for immersing yourself in the Dutch student culture (heavily revolving around beer) and also want to practice your Dutch phrases other than ordering fruit and veggies at the market then this could be the perfect opportunity for you!
The biggest associations were founded a very long time ago and have some very traditional student traditions. Most have a main student building or house (or multiple) where the events and parties happen. (Pre-pandemic restrictions some of these parties are also open to non-members and are the popular choice for students who like to party.) Several students associations have their own housing so you would be able to live with a group of like-minded people. Check out their websites to see where you might fit best: KSV Franciscus, Ceres, SSR-W, Unitas.
International Student Associations
The ‘go-to’ associations for international students are ISOW (International Student Organisation Wageningen) and ESN (International and Erasmus Student Network). Both differ slightly in their structure and culture.
ESN-Wageningen is a sub-branch of the European organisation ESN. Their focus is mostly on social integration. It provides members with lots of opportunities to meet each other and expand their social network while maybe also learning some culture along the way. ESN have a packed activities calendar including international kitchen nights, international student nights every Monday at Cafe Loburg and 2 excursions per period. You can also join the buddy programme and rent bikes at the ESN office if you are a member.
ISOW is an independent association exclusive to Wageningen, whose focus is learning about international cultures. All of their activities focus on a cultural element. For example, at the food events, you will learn the significance of the food respective to the culture. At ISOW you can expect to attend celebrations such as Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Dia De Muertos and Eid Mubarak. In addition to these more social activities, ISOW offers free (to its members) language and cultural courses including Salsa, Yoga and Bellydance.
Which one should you join?
Several of the people I live with are members of both ISOW and ESN. Me casually asking which one they thought was better sparked a lengthy discussion into the pros and cons of both. I think the overall conclusion is that you will have plenty to do and meet lovely people whichever you join. Neither of their membership fees are very expensive for what you get. So joining both definitely allows you to live the best of both worlds!
There are many more associations that I have not had the chance to mention including music and theatre e.g. WSKOV and other more specific international associations such as the United Community of African Students (UCAS) the full list can be found at the website.
Wishing you the best of luck in finding your place and hope it is full of interesting and fun experiences!