International Student Office cares for you from start to finish.
Probably the first person you meet before you arrive at Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen is a staff member of the International Student Office (ISO). Members from the ISO explain what they can do for you.
'International students need to prepare a lot more than Dutch students, especially when they are from outside of the European Union. They need visa, housing, insurance… We help them get through this whole process, so they don't have to deal with it all by themselves.
'If you tell us you want to come to Hanze (UAS), we will make sure it will happen. We send you information, and we call and e-mail you to answer your questions. We will even call the embassy in your country if necessary; just to make sure you will get your visa. We believe you should not have any problems when you arrive in the Netherlands.
There is a difference between EU and non-EU students. We guide non-EU students through the whole process of application. EU students have fewer hurdles on the way, so we offer them assistance, but leave the choice whether or not to accept our help up to them.'
What happens when a student first contacts ISO?
'We assist international students with their application and inform them about study programmes. But we also pave the road, so to speak. If students encounter problems, we help them as much as we can. "Will I be admitted with my diploma?" "I'm not graduating until then or then, can I still apply?" They send their application to us and we check it, send it to the schools, and they sign it. We try to work as quickly and effectively as possible. When students apply, we try to respond within two working days. We strive to complete an application within two weeks, providing the student has sent all necessary documents.'
After a student has permission to come, he or she needs a place to live…
'We try to make sure that every student has a place to live when he or she arrives, but it's important for them to apply before June 1st. We can guarantee a place to live for anyone who applies before this date. If you apply later, we will still try our best to get you a room, but it is a lot trickier.'
Once the student arrives, your job is done?
'Our work does not stop once a student has arrived. Of course, the most important work is done by then, but we always keep track of students. We check if they have a place to live for example, or if their residence permit has not expired… especially if you are a non-EU student, we keep 'bugging' you, but in a positive way. We inform students about the necessary steps that they have to take in order to extend their legal stay. We always want to make sure you don't get into any trouble. But we are open to all questions from all types of students. No question is too silly!'
Why a special international student office? The schools cannot take care of that themselves?
'ISO is important, because it has gathered a special expertise that the separate schools don't have. Dutch immigration law is extremely complex and changes almost every year. We keep track of these changes and communicate with the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service). This way we can provide better and faster service to students. For other practical matters laws and rules also tend to change from time to time. It's important for the students to have a central point of contact who can always provide the best information. The yearly International Student Barometer, filled in by more then 700 students, showed that 92% of the international students are very satisfied with the work of the International Student Office. That strengthens us in our work. We are very committed to our international students and it pleases us that our work is valued!'
How does a student communicate with ISO?
'Once you get in touch with ISO, you get your own personal contact person. Any time you have questions or problems, you can contact him or her. This way you already know someone when you arrive and you know who to approach when you have questions or problems.'
So you basically know each student before they arrive?
'Sometimes it is hard to get a visa for a student and we have to work really hard. When that student finally arrives, steps into our office and introduces himself, he thinks he is unknown. But we have heard his name so often by then, that sometimes it's hard to hide our enthusiasm. You will hear the ISO employees say "Aaah, there you are!"'
What do you advise students who are thinking about studying at Hanze (UAS)?
'Make sure you apply in time, preferably before 1 June. Prepare yourself well and think hard if this is really what you want to do. It has to be a conscious and thought-over decision, because it is not a small step. Make sure you ask us as many questions as you can, it might help you make the decision easier.'
What kind of questions do you usually get?
'Most questions, besides visa, housing, and application, are about what students can expect in the Netherlands. What are the costs? What kind of clothes do I need to bring? How do I get a phone?'
What are the most original questions that students asked you?
'Do I have to eat in a restaurant everyday? (No) When is breakfast served? (Sorry, you have to make your own breakfast!) Can I bring my pet snake to the Netherlands? (No, you cannot). We also had an American student who arrived with a snowboard, all ready to go. "Where can I find a place to snowboard?" he asked. The Netherlands is unfortunately as flat as a pancake, so we had to disappoint him!'