So how did you like it, studying at the UT?
Over eighty different nationalities study at the UT. That melting pot on campus produces numerous stories, contrasts and connections. How do three internationals, who are about to graduate, look back on their time in the Netherlands?
WHO: DILAFRUZ YUSIFZADA (23)
- Obtained her master’s degree in Educational Science and Technology (BMS) in January 2021
- Place of residence: The Netherlands for the last two and a half years
- Comes from: Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan (2,375,000 residents)
How did you enjoy your studies?
‘It was wonderful in Enschede. I studied with over fifteen different nationalities around me. That will always stay with me. The study itself was good, but not perfect. I expected many practical programmes, but it was mainly theory. I got along with the professors very well.’
Did you struggle to adjust to the Netherlands?
‘It took some getting used to, but it didn’t feel like a culture shock. That was because I had already experienced a summer school in Germany. I made a conscious choice to come to the Netherlands alone. I wanted to see how I would adapt to the situation in another country. Azerbaijan and the capital of Baku is partly European and partly Asiatic. The Western perspective I encounter here is not unfamiliar to me.’
While studying here, I have to mention the importance of the AzSAB organization – the Union of Azerbaijani Students and Alumni in Benelux. AzSAB helped me a lot to get to know other compatriots in the Netherlands and expand my network. As mentioned in its slogan, AzSAB gives you a chance to feel home far away home.
Joining the board of this valuable organization as a project manager also made a special contribution to my personal development, because working with such a team, organizing many interesting events played an important role in my acquisition of both social and organizational skills.
In general, I would like to note that AzSAB is a value for every Azerbaijani who will come to study or live in the Benelux countries, Hurry up to join AzSAB in order not to miss the opportunity to meet new people, feel the Azerbaijani spirit even far from home, and expand your network.
Are there big culture differences between Azerbaijan and the Netherlands?
‘I had to get used to the cuisine here. I was accustomed to a great deal of attention being devoted to preparation. To the use of herbs, for example. Here, people eat a lot of bread as the primary ingredient of a meal. In my culture, bread is often a side dish. The helpfulness of people in the Netherlands is incredible. I still remember seeing the conductor on my first train ride from Schiphol to Enschede and hurriedly grabbing my train ticket, visa and passport. He calmed me down straight away and bid me welcome to the Netherlands. I did not have internet on campus yet, but people walked with me to my apartment. Neighbours helped with my luggage. Really wonderful.’
Can the cultures learn something from one another?
‘If you ask for help in the Netherlands, then people help you. But it is always up to the person who needs help to take the initiative. People never do it of their own accord. In Azerbaijan, people help you if they see you need help. Conversely, people in Azerbaijan are envious of the punctuality of public transport here. If a train is due to depart at 13.09 hours, then the train departs at 13.09. They even tell you if there is a delay.’
How are you coping with the corona crisis?
‘I am grateful, because in retrospect, I timed it perfectly. I had all the data I needed in February. The lockdown came in March and then I was mainly busy writing. I sometimes felt alone, because my friends live in other parts of the Netherlands. Fortunately, I was able to maintain close contact with my family. The situation in Azerbaijan has always been similar to the situation here.’
Can you make a difference in Azerbaijan with the knowledge and experience you have acquired here?
‘I think so yes. I hope I can teach teachers, but I still have no idea what the future holds for me. I first want to gain more European experience so I can frame the past few years in the right perspective. Eventually I would like to return to Baku.’