Develop a crush instead of a crash with a new culture
Nereida Ordovas Garcia is a student psychologist. She comes from Spain and gives the training “Lost in Transition” for international students. On her LinkedIn profile, we read: “[…] surf the waves of uncertainty and learn to experience a crush instead of a crash with a new culture.”
“International students who come to study at Wageningen University & Research do not only acquire knowledge and experience, they make a valuable contribution to Dutch culture, and common conversation as well. The differences you feel don’t have to be barriers; they can also inspire our relationships with others. Of course, you must adapt, but you don’t have to abandon your own culture. When you value every input from every person, then you will develop a crush instead of a crash with your new culture. Believe in your own values. Cherish your culture.”
How did you end up in Wageningen?
“I moved to Wageningen three years ago. I studied Clinical Psychology in Madrid and later came to Nijmegen to study a master’s in Human Geography and I specialised in Migration. As an international student myself I experienced many challenges. That inspired me to use this knowledge to help the International students that I work with.
How does today differ from your own experience?
“I could fly home for a long weekend when I wanted – or needed - to. Today this is impossible for over a year now. Students often spend eight hours a day in front of their laptops. They don’t even have the energy to talk to their family and friends by skype anymore. This is adding up to the stress they are already feeling. I advise them to plan a skype date with family on a day that you are not online all day. During the weekend for instance. It takes some effort, but it certainly pays off!”
You give the training “Lost in Transition”:
what is the main take out?
“The training has three important pillars: Loneliness, homesickness, and educational shock. Everyone who comes to the Netherlands for their master’s studies, experiences some difficulties in adaptation. It will cause feelings of stress, sadness, sometimes anger, and that’s completely normal! ‘Lost in Transition’ helps students to approach those feelings with a “Frisse Blik” (a fresh perspective). Not as a threat, but as something that belongs to the process of change you are in. Sharing experiences with peers creates a sense of belonging; you are not alone. Also, we exchange tips on how to meet new people, and how to deal with the Dutch education system.”
International students are used to clearly defined semesters, followed by exams and some time to recover. At Dutch universities the pressure is always high. Combined with the amount of work they must do to keep up, that’s really a shock.
I help students to manage these feelings by using mindfulness techniques. Remind yourself of why you are here, stay true to your motives. Also, it is important to accept that feelings will be there. My advice? Accept those feelings and give them some space. Fighting only makes it bigger.”
I am currently working on a new training “Introduction to Mindfulness” which I hope to give regularly next study year. In the meantime check out the free e-health module on Mindfulness by gezondeboel. And, check out their other trainings too.”
What would you like to say to WUR students in general?
“For all of us it’s important to know that every culture is different. Be aware of our own unconscious biases; your preconceived ideas. It is very hard to change these but recognising them is a first step. Observe, be open!”
Related trainings & workshops
- Living in a different culture