08 February 2022

Come to VUnited!

Have you ever been to a ‘borrel’ of a Dutch student union? This may sound like a random question, but this is how my story began questioning my position as an international student at VU. Beers, snacks while enjoying old or popular Dutch pop songs and many friendship moments; this is how a Dutch student would describe a get-together.

For me, it was the first time I felt like I didn't belong anywhere. The chance that you, as a non-native speaker, will make friends with someone from the fraternity during your first drink is extremely small. Maybe it's the beer that complicates everything.

I tried to find a place where I would feel at home for the first two years of my studies and just when I was losing hope, I found my perfect place at a society called FAM: Family of Academic Minds. People from different backgrounds, nationalities, and many different cultures, you name it. But you can't change that much by joining one association, which was when I decided to run for university student council.

'I want all internationals to really feel at home here'

I was uneasy when I thought about those internationals who come to VU as freshmen, and who are going to feel the same way I felt here in the beginning.

That's when I knew I had to be with the student council to achieve what I wanted from the beginning: a more inclusive university. Yes, it is true that VU has one of the most diverse background profiles in terms of students, but does diversity mean inclusiveness? Discrimination happens everywhere, including in your studies and when looking for housing. Think of hospitality evenings where they are mainly looking for Dutch people.

In the student council, I work on internationalization and lead the VUnited! platform. VUnited! is a platform for the international VU students. I encourage all internationals to attend our meetings and express your ideas on how we can make VU a more inclusive space so that it feels like you are truly at home.
I strive to make VU more welcoming to internationals. Make your stay at VU worthwhile, make your voice heard. Come join VUunited!

Berk Cakmak
general council member




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