International ProVU (i-ProVU)
Why international ProVU?
Internationals face many different issues than the traditional students, PhDs or employees: Not only do they struggle to find housing, a common problem for all newcomers to the Amsterdam area, but for internationals you have the added barrier of entering into the Dutch government system by way of registration at the town hall, setting up a banking account, getting insurance, arranging taxes etc. Many internationals struggle to keep all of these balls afloat, especially when encountering systems, and policies that are unfamiliar to them. We are mostly surrounded by very helpful Dutch colleagues, but some of our problems are very specific to being a foreign employee in the Netherlands which our colleagues cannot help us with.
The VU Amsterdam provides a number of basic services to internationals. The International Office and Euraxess assists with issues of housing and visas. The Human Resource Management (HRM) office also provides some services related to establishing yourself at the VU as well as – depending on the faculty – additional service.
The biggest transition point for any international starting at a new job, in an unfamiliar city, is setting up these first things, thereafter starts the real transition of learning the language, making friends, doing your taxes, finding new housing, etc. i-ProVU started up in 2009 to help on exactly these issues in several manners.
i-ProVU was born as a special interest group of ProVU for all international PhDs and Post-Docs at the VU. We work to address the systematic and overarching issues that internationals face. Our role is to take action on the issues, questions, complaints that you bring to our attention and address them through official representation, workshops and social events.
Being part of ProVU, our first goal, is to build a social infrastructure for internationals which will create a stimulating environment for them during their time at the VU. We organise social events together with ProVU and we are in the process of setting up a Buddy Program. The second goal is to bring greater awareness within the VU about the general problems international employees face and work to improve this situation through systematic changes within the VU. One of these changes is actively taking part in the procedure of a general international VU employee manual. As a result, with the invaluable help of ProVU and the OR, the issue of internationalization is now within the policy plan of the VU for the next 5 years. Thus, our third goal is to contribute to the ongoing conversation of internationalization within the VU.
What are we presently working on?
Most of the problems are common to all international PhDs at the VU or even in the Netherlands. This manual shall help newcomers but also old ones to solve their problems. It will include tips for what to do first after arrival (e.g. how to open a bank account, get the BSN number, insurance etc), but also things like how to find a doctor and taxation issues.
We are currently collecting all these problems and the solutions. Of course we need your input for that, so please send a mail with the questions that you would like to have answered in such a manual, to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject MANUAL.
We have been very busy helping with the organisation of the 2010 PhD-day on the 7th of December. The whole i-ProVU fused with the PhD-day committee of the ProVU Some of the workshops we organised are mostly interesting for internationals, but most cover topics that are important for all of us:
o Career development for international PhDs
o NWO: Grants for PhD student
o Taxes, permits & employment
o Open Access workshop in English
o How to avoid a Burnout
o Expat mortgages
o Dutch as a second language: Dutch for international researchers
Check the detailed program for the PhD-day here
Survey about Internationalisation (2008)
During the Fall of 2008 ProVU has held a survey among PhDs to explore whether the services of the International Office are known and appreciated by PhDs. Below we summarize the main findings and reveal what has been done with the results. Unfortunately, postdocs could not participate in the surveys as ProVU did not have access to an e-mail list of the VU postdocs.
The main conclusions are firstly, that international PhDs are not introduced well enough to the different (important) facilities of the VU, like the PhD card, International Office, Career Development Office, etc. Secondly, international PhDs taking Dutch language courses at the VU feel they are less fluent in speaking, writing and understanding Dutch than PhDs who took Dutch language courses outside the VU. Sixty percent of the PhDs taking the VU language courses evaluated these as bad or very bad. Thirdly, twenty percent of the international PhDs never used the services of the International Office and an additional sixty percent of the international PhDs did not know about the existence of the International Office.
Regarding the services provided by the International Office: PhDs would like to receive help with filing taxes and administrative matters such as (health) insurance. They would also like to receive more information on how to arrange a stay abroad. Lastly, the survey revealed that about two thirds of the international PhDs arranged housing by themselves whereas one third found their apartment via the VU. Those PhDs who made use of the VU housing mediation are not satisfied with the time the whole process took, the assistance received from the VU and the duration of the contract (too short). These findings have resulted in recommendations, which ProVU has disseminated and communicated to all relevant actors in the VU.
All results of this survey can be found under ‘More information’.