How to keep international talent in the Netherlands after their graduation? There are different initiatives from national level to stimulate that: Study in Holland & Career in Holland, but since last year also the Make it in the Netherlands (MiitN) project.

On the 17th of March we organized an activity in Action Line 3 (Breaking the Bubble) of the MiitN project: the Buddy Coordinators Day (#BuddyCoDay, @ESNNL). This action line focusses on integration between Dutch and international students. In the Netherlands there are a lot of buddy, mentor or integration programmes for international students either organized by HEI's or local ESN Sections.

More than 70 Buddy Coordinators from the ESN Sections and HEI's gathered in Eindhoven University of Technology to exchange experiences, thoughts and knowledge on organizing Buddy Programmes.

The event started with presentations of different inititiatives of which two local ESN sections presented themselves: ESN Rotterdam and I*ESN Tilburg. Both sections have a different approach of the Buddy Programme: an intercultural awareness course, certificate and small financial reward or thank you activities, one on one or group structure and many events for Buddies and their students.

After these presentations there were small sessions with different topics to exchange knowledge and experience. How can we recruit Dutch students? How to motivate buddies? How should buddies be matched and how can Buddy Programs best be financed?

The group was brought back to the main room for a final discussion and closure presentation. Among one third of the participants flags were distributed. The participants had to create a buddy group consisting of 3 people from different institutions or organizations with one flag per group. At the end of the day they could write down an agreement, lesson or thought they will bring back to their home institution. The flags were put back on the line in front of the plenary room.

It was a great day with lots of brainstorming, exchanging and developing new food for thought on organizing Buddy Programmes. The thoughts that were written down on the flags you can see in the following mindmap.

We are planning a follow-up conference in autumn to bring together the buddy programme coordinators once more in an Annual National Buddy Day. We expect this to be a fruitful day where we can meet each other again!

We would like to thank the presenters, participants and especially TU Eindhoven for the location, University of Maastricht, Nuffic and LSVb for helping organizing this event.

Linh Chi Le, Vice-President/Secretary ESN Rotterdam:
“On the 17th of March I was present at the National Buddy Coordinator Day with many other ESN members and international officers. In my opinion it was a very interesting and informative meeting. We discussed important matters concerning different kind of buddy programs. This varied from individual programs to programs where mentors guide a whole group of international students. Also, the rewards differed from buddies receiving ECTS or monetary rewards for their involvement to buddies that need to pay to join the program and the events.
The LSVB/Nuffic started a plan to encourage more international students to stay in the Netherlands after their studies and providing buddies to international students are important in this plan.
I took part in the workshops: 'How do you motivate buddies?' and 'A national buddy day'. These workshops were really short due to the lack of time, so unfortunately there were no clear conclusions.”

Tjen van den Berg, Secretary IxESN Wageningen:
“The buddy day. Already some time ago but I still remember it as a great experience. People from different ESN-like organizations were present, more ESN sections and even employees from different Universities, who work for example at the international office in their University. It was really nice to share experiences and ideas with such a variety of people. However, the discussion rounds were also difficult because everybody has such a different Buddy program and different ideas about it. But of course the beginning was there and there are loads of possibilities to learn. It also made me really proud of the buddy program that we and other ESN sections have and how well it is organized already. Unfortunately the buddy day was a little bit short, but you should definitely organize it more often! And hopefully it can be longer next time :-).”