‘The Van Bergen Fund is a sounding board for our ideas’
How can we improve contacts between Dutch and international students? That is the key question at the heart of the Van Bergen Competition organised annually by Leiden University. This year’s winners will be announced on 5 November. A good time to look back at how last year’s winners are faring.
Last year’s winners, Buddy Talk and Leiden International Arts & Theatre Foundation (LIAT), were awarded a grant of 5,000 euros to launch their project. Leiden graduates in China Studies Qing-Yi Fan (28) and Kim-Lan Jong Baw (26) from Buddy Talk, a platform that matches pairs of students who want to learn each other’s language, have been very busy. ‘We’ve been working on developing the platform. We hope to launch Buddy Talk in February, simultaneously with the start date of the second cohort of students for this academic year,’ commented Jong Baw.
Van Bergen Prize 2015
The Van Bergen Fund challenges students and staff members to bring Leiden University students, from no fewer than 110 different nationalities, closer together. You can still submit a plan to make Leiden University even more cosmopolitan until 14 October. Winning ideas are awarded a 5,000 euro grant to implement their plan.
The Van Bergen Prize made it possible to further elaborate their plan. Jong Baw: ‘Since the idea was still quite broad, we first approached potential partners. The Van Bergen Fund helped us identify potentially interesting partners. The Fund has really acted as our sounding board: the prize not only represented welcome financial assistance, it also gave us the opportunity to bring our message to the public’s attention. We can invite all these students to come to Leiden and The Hague, but this does mean that we have a responsibility to actively facilitate integration.’
The fact that Fan and Jong Baw were able to raise this issue has been their greatest reward. ‘We are both sinologists by training. In the course of our studies we noticed that we often had little to talk about with the language buddies we were assigned to learn Chinese, because our interests differed so much. This is what inspired us to create Buddy Talk, which matches students on the basis of their interests as well as the languages they speak and those they want to learn.’
Prize winners Thanos Souliotis (34) and Olga Fedorova (27) are still busy with their idea: LIAT. Their goal is to bring international and Dutch students together through theatre. ‘In addition to the workshops we organised, we also created five performances with fifteen Dutch and international students.’ These performances attracted more than 200 visitors. None of this would have been possible without the financial support of the Van Bergen Fund. They also really helped us to find rehearsal space, and their advice has been invaluable.’
Fedorova and Souliotis are planning to organise new workshops and performances starting in October. ‘Theatre is a good way to bring people together. We’ve seen that creating performances is a stressful process because so much can go wrong, but the show must go on. The students always look for a solution together. As a result, they became more culturally attuned to one another and the group feels more connected.’
Symposium: ‘Diversity and Inclusion; Challenging Implicit Bias’
The Van Bergen Prize will be awarded at the ‘Diversity and Inclusion; Challenging Implicit Bias’ symposium on Thursday 5 November 2015. The symposium is the annual moment for Leiden University to take stock of its diversity and inclusivity policy and to celebrate achievements in this area with students, administrators, professors, researchers, teachers and supporting staff. Registration form
(8 October 2015)