Fulbright kick-off

10 september 2019

“We are an international university of applied sciences. In order to stay relevant, we need to work on our internationalisation. And for that, we need more than a Dutch point of view,” Elisabeth Minnemann states in her welcoming words to fourteen eager American teaching assistants.

They are in the Netherlands through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program and gathered in the Horizon Building for the kick-off of the research part of the programme. “We embrace internationalisation, but there are challenges,” Minnemann proceeds. “For instance in making the classroom not only diverse, but also inclusive. We want to use language to overcome limits. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or innovations.” During this academic year, the ETAs will work for 24 hours a week as English teachers in primary, secondary, and vocational schools, and universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. But more importantly, they will do research on the theme of internationalisation at home at Breda University of Applied Sciences. They will share their insights and recommendations in May 2020. 

Assistance at BUas

Breda University of Applied Sciences will support the teaching assistants and will also serve as operating base for one of them: Emily Haagenson, an English teacher from Colorado. Haagenson: “The Netherlands has a strong education system with overall successful, empowered and happy students. I want to learn how to improve myself as a teacher and to get a view on different approaches to education.” Haagenson will have consulting hours for students and lecturers who want to improve their English writing and reading. She will also be part of several learning communities and will be attending all domains on different days. “I think it is endearing how the outside perspective is being valued here at BUas.”

Internationalisation at home 

Perspective is key, according to the keynote speech of guest lecturer Jos Beelen at the kick-off. Beelen is an authority on internationalisation at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. “First of all, when we think of internationalisation, we think of mobility. But only 20 percent of Dutch students go on exchange. We have to think about how we can make education more international in our own classrooms: internationalisation at home.” 

The hidden curriculum 

Beelen explains that every city or region is different, and has its own perspective and focus points. “It is not one size fits all. And be aware that you can integrate internationalisation in formal education, but schools have less influence on the informal curriculum and the participation of students in that. Also, we are not aware of the large aspect of hidden curriculum. This means rules, cultural aspects and norms that we generally don’t talk about because we think they are common knowledge. It goes from grading to how many questions you can ask in class.”

How to take hurdles 

After lunch the ETAs have talks with an alumni and six students of Breda University of Applied Sciences to get an idea of what challenges we face. The students are both Dutch and international. Topics that are discussed are speaking Dutch in the international classroom, the level of English of lecturers, and the lack of integration between international and Dutch students. Lecturers Anna Voinova and Nicoline de Heus will guide the ETAs in the coming year with their research on internationalisation at home. Voinova: “Here the actual works begins. We have to tend the garden of internationalisation. It will not grow itself.” De Heus adds: “There are lots of hurdles to be taken. We want to use the research results to know how to take them.”