Improve your intercultural skills in a Dutch classroom

Fatima is a Dutch student that deliberately chose an international master. Studying with classmates from around 30 countries, she learns everyday. Not only about them, but also about herself.

Posted by Fatima Benhaddou - Erasmus University Rotterdam - WilWeg Ambassadeur at Feb 01, 2019 04:30 PM

During my bachelor's degree in European Studies I did an exchange and internship abroad. This experience developed my cross-cultural communication skills. Living abroad has widened my horizons and most importantly, it has given me more understanding, sympathy and tolerance towards other cultures. These experiences gave me international ambitions, so I found it very important to choose a Masters that is internationally oriented. The reason I chose my current Master, was mainly because the teachers are from abroad and 50% of my classmates are coming from around 30 different countries.

We all have different cultures, languages, lifestyles and this brings an interesting dynamic in class. The discussions during class go more in-depth, because the shared opinions, experiences and examples are based on the different cultural backgrounds. So far, I have worked in small teams with students from China, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil, Venezuela, United States, Italy and Germany. Doing group projects with not only Dutch, but also international students, give me insights in the different ways of thinking and approaches towards particular subjects.

Something that has stayed with me was that during a Media class, the use of blackface in a Japanese comedy TV show was used as an example of how audiences interpret different meanings towards a media message. My Chinese and Japanese classmates had a different view upon using blackface as a comedy character, because they grew up with seeing it on TV, which is different from how I grew up. For some of my classmates, it could be a heavy and sensitive subject to talk about, while some of my Chinese and Japanese classmates did not see a problem with the use of blackface on TV. This caught me by surprise.

Through these discussions you not only learn about others viewpoints, but you also learn more about yourself and it improves your intercultural skills. Also, I find it fun to teach my classmates about Dutch culture and they teach me about their cultures. These interactions brighten my student life, for example I got invited to a Chinese hotpot gathering and to a Chinese New Year party. This gives me the opportunity to actually participate in their traditions and to develop a greater appreciation for their culture rather than just hearing or reading about it.

Interacting with all these different backgrounds allows me to see how other cultures live, what their main interests are, how they perceive the Netherlands. Through this I am able to develop my own opinions in an educated way and appreciate the importance of differences. This enables me to make better opinions and decisions based on the international experiences and thoughts of people I have actually met. Instead of just looking at stereotypes, I develop a broader view on other cultures and the world. I believe international classrooms lead to more mutual understanding, which is exactly what the world needs right now.

Posted by Fatima Benhaddou - Erasmus University Rotterdam - WilWeg Ambassadeur at Feb 01, 2019 04:30 PM