A section of the new Dutch Caribbean students who are taking up their tertiary studies in Amsterdam with staff members of the student organisation HvAnti on the first day of the introduction programme. (Suzanne Koelega photo)

AMSTERDAM--The Dutch Caribbean student association in Amsterdam HvAnti, on Wednesday, welcomed the new students from the islands who will be taking part in a two-day introduction. Between 70 and 100 students mostly from Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, who arrived earlier this month, are about to start their studies at Amsterdam’s college of higher education, Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA). Only a few students from the Windward Islands will be taking up their studies in Amsterdam. The majority of the students from these islands go to Rotterdam and The Hague.

HvAnti Amsterdam is providing assistance to get the students more acquainted with their new city of residence, that is why the student association has its own introduction programme in which much attention is given to the specific challenges that the Dutch Caribbean students face being far away from home and their family.

About 30 new students, almost all from Aruba and Curaçao, gathered at one of the HvA locations on Wednesday to listen to the inspirational words of Chairman of the HvA Board Huib de Jong, graduates Jeandrick Josephina and Michel Calvo and Master’s student Jerry Alberto.

De Jong said he was very proud of HvAnti, which he noted had played an important role in assisting the Dutch Caribbean students. “You can use some help in this sometimes warm, but more often cold country,” he said.

According to De Jong, the some 500 Dutch Caribbean students, part of HvA’s larger community of 50,000 students, were an asset in the sense that they brought an international, multi-lingual aspect. “You speak various languages, something that you can make good use of. You are bringing along more than the average student. We need your contribution. Grasp the opportunities that this city and the HvA have to offer you.”

Economics graduate Josephina from Curaçao said it was important to set a clear goal and to surround yourself with people who are on the same mission. He warned that especially the first year in the Netherlands was a “roller coaster” and that it was important to believe in yourself.        

Calvo, a business administration graduate from Curaçao, said he found the first year the most difficult one – getting acquainted with the weather, the country and the people. “But I was determined to make it and having dealt with highs and lows, I got my diploma.” He said the students should realise that being able to study was a privilege that not many people have.

Electrical engineering Master’s student Alberto also from Curaçao, said he had been “filled with concerns and anxiety” when he came to Amsterdam to study. “Fear should never stop you. You have no control over where you were born and who put you in this world, but you do have control to make something of yourself.”

HvAnti was established in 2010 as an initiative to assist and connect the Dutch Caribbean students in Amsterdam. One of the main reasons was to improve the often disappointing study results of the island students. HvAnti has three objectives: to improve the study success, coaching and support, and networking. The focus is not only studying and school, but also on the social aspect of studying in the Netherlands and in Amsterdam in particular.

HvAnti staff member MC Kaylene Thompson from Aruba emphasised that the organisation was for and by students. “We all have gone through the same. We too have experienced homesickness, anxiety and the challenges to get used to living and studying here,” she said.

The introduction programme started on Wednesday and ends today, Thursday. The programme includes, among other things, several workshops, a tour of the HvA, social moments to eat and network, and speed dating. Today, Thursday, the group will visit the Amsterdam City Hall on the invitation of the deputy mayor where the students will receive an official welcome to Amsterdam.