June was the last working month in GEO for Ria Vries. Ria who? Although most GEO staff who joined after 2011 may not even know her, she worked for many years to help foreign students come to the Netherlands to do their Masters’.
Ria helped to set up the international study programme at the WLRA International Center of Excellence (WICE) in what is now known as the NHL Stenden Hogeschool in Leeuwarden in 1992. From 1995 fte programme was hosted by Wageningen University. Ria had an office in the GEO premises and was in charge of the practical and administrative aspects of getting scholarships from various Dutch government agencies and even from the private sector. "It has never been easy to get scholarships for tourism education," says Ria. After the contract between WLRA and Wageningen University ended in 2009, she was asked to continue her work on a part-time basis for Master programme in Tourism and later also in Land Use Planning. She worked mostly from home.
"I think that I have handled about 100 scholarships in all these years," says Ria. Recipients come mainly from developing countries in Africa, South-America, Asia and Eastern Europe. "It was wonderful to help young people from these countries so that they can return with the knowledge they have acquired. Ninety percent of the students who came on these scholarships returned to their countries after graduating. They learned from us and we from them. This international element kept me focussed."
While working in WICE, she enjoyed travelling to these countries.
"Students then were quite different. In the previous century, many students arrived without much computer know-how. Later students were more independent". She hopes that students from developing countries will continue to get scholarships for studying in Wageningen.