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The student elections have started! As an international student you too can have a say in shaping the way our university looks in the future. Become a candidate for the Student Council or Faculty Council until 7 March and defend your fellow students’ interests. As a member of the Student Council, you help design the university’s policies, whereas members of the Faculty Councils represent their respective faculty. Laura Pizzirani was the first international student to be elected to the Student Council. You can read her personal experience here.


What does it feel like to be a member of the Student Council as an international student?

Laura Pizzirani: “I happened to be the first international student in the Student Council. I do not feel there are any barriers to attend the Student Council, not even when it comes to language. All the meetings are held in Dutch by law, but they provide me with translators. The people at the VUB really have open minds. It is different from the places where I previously lived. I feel that at the VUB, they value you as a person and appreciate your skills and participation. Prejudice is not as deep-rooted as in other places. I feel completely welcome and part of it all. I feel very included in everything. They value my opinion and background. At the VUB they are more open and they do not judge on appearances or background.” 


Do you recommend to run for the student elections to other international students?

“I really recommend sitting as a member in the Student Council to other international students. Together with another Student Council member, I am responsible for the International Student Platform (ISP), which is a platform that focuses on the international students and their needs. We attend their meetings and bring in their recommendations to the Student Council, so that international students are more represented and their voices are heard. The difference between being active in the ISP and the Student Council is that the ISP focuses only on the needs of international students, whereas a student representative in the Student Council can also discuss other issues at other levels of the university. It is important that the international students are represented in the Student Council, since it is hard for someone who is born and raised in Belgium and has always studied here to understand the challenges and problems an international student faces.”


What was it like to work with translators during the Student Council meetings?

“They provide me with two translators, since the meetings we have to attend are very long. They take turns in translating for me. We sit in the back, because we do not want to disturb the meeting with all the whispering. We are trying to get a translation headset, so that I can be more in front at the meetings, but this is a future plan for the international students who will be part of the Student Council. Not all of the reports are translated into English, as sometimes these reports take up many pages and it would be extremely time-consuming to translate them all. I rely on Google Translate so that I can understand the gist of the subject.”


Do you have any tips for international students who want to go for the Student Council?

“Give it a try. Do not be afraid of the language difference, because this is not a barrier. They are doing their utmost to provide me with everything I need. The members of the Student Council are very welcoming and open. When I do not understand something, they always help me. I feel very much included. It is an amazing opportunity for me to be part of the Student Council.”


Do you see a great future for international students in the Student Council?

“I think it is possible to have a significant number of international students in the Student Council. It is beneficial to the Student Council to be confronted with another point of view, but it is also great for international students as they learn from the Student Council. This is a win-win situation: we both learn from each other and share a lot. It enriches the experience here as an international student.”