Monthly interview with the chairman of Ibn Battuta: Manus Schlooz
with Jesse de Glint and Esmee Timmer
- Could you tell something about Ibn Battuta, with a special focus on internationalisation?
Ibn Battuta is the faculty association of the faculty of Spatial Sciences. Currently we are 56 years old. We represent two bachelor programs and eight master programs.
Last year was the last year the program was in Dutch. From this year onwards, the program and all the courses are in English, so we are now also open for internationals. The previous boards of the last three years worked on how to internationalise the association. The board of three years ago made a long term vision on how to adapt to internationalisation and what we can offer for the international students. For this year we expected ten international students, but it turned out that there were more than thirty already. That was a great surprise for us. We were really glad that we were already prepared, so it was not a problem at all that it turned out to be more than we expected. Sometimes it still feels a bit unnatural to do everything in English, but we have learned that a lot of internationals come to our activities just because we held them in English. Also in five years there could be a ratio of 50/50 international and Dutch students. So we find it a good thing that we adapted quickly and that we were well prepared.
- What did you specifically do to prepare for the internationals?
We started with the communication. Last year we started to use the ‘English below’. In this way we felt that we were preparing our members for the change to English as the main language of communication, and that the adjustment would go smoother.
Nowadays we do everything in English, also if there are no internationals present. We do this to make them feel welcome, if they feel like coming. Sometimes there is only one international present, but we feel like they really appreciate it that we still do our activities in English.
- You have a special function in your board, namely the International Ambassador. Could you tell something about the tasks of this function?
We always had six board members. One of the functions is the Vice-Chairman. We felt like that the last couple of years the Vice-Chairman could not really find their own tasks so we added the function of International Ambassador to this function. We found it quite handy to have a specific person for this topic. It makes it easier for Internationals to have a go to point to ask all kind of questions, either about their study or life in Holland for that matter. It is a great thing that internationals can just hold low key conversations with the International Ambassador, for those who maybe would not send an email as quickly as they would just approach the ambassador.
- In the process of internationalisation, did you have support from other associations?
Definitely, we had help from de Chemische Binding, EBF & CLIO. Not like specific help, but just to see how they handle things and talking about that really helped a lot. Everyone has there own way of doing things. It is always a good thing to hear about the different ways you can approach this topic.
- What was the hardest part in the process of internationalisation?
For us I think the most difficult part was that our association is very tradition based. For example, we have a lot of names for committees and we even have Ibn Battuta phrases, almost our own language. And that of course does not work the same way in English as it does in Dutch. We talked about changing the committee names, but we decided that it is not that necessary. We now use the full committee name in English, but we kept the abbreviated names.
- Which part was the most fun in the process of internationalisation?
Well, the first few months we were preparing a lot for the international students It was not that fun to do because you don’t really see progress yet. But then we had our introduction weekend and 10-15 internationals came along on our weekend. They really appreciated it that we did everything in English. So for us, the best part was that they felt welcome. In June or July we always send a information letter to the prospective students. We decided to send the international members a slightly other version with a greater emphasis on that it is all fun and that there are no obligations. We felt like that was a good thing to do in preparing them what a study association is all about.
- What are the plans for the future concerning internationalisation?
We are really curious to see what the future holds. I hope that in the end Ibn Battuta will be 50/50 international and Dutch members and that everyone is okay and used to talking English.
- Do you have some tips for other associations?
Try to do the thing that fits your association. Some things only work for a few. Try to do your own thing, that seems fitting to your association. And if it does not work than take a step back and evaluate. Always try to speak English, also if there is only one international present. It helps for the internationals to see that you are trying your best for them.