International students who want to take part in student politics are met by language barriers and faulty regulations.
Douglas Chukwuekwe, an engineer from Nigeria, is one of the newly elected representatives in The Student Parliament of NTNU. He says that he has a zeal and desire to participate and contribute in the student democracy.
– It is therefore very disheartening when i sit in a session for five hours without understanding a word that is said, or what is decided.
Douglas explains that there is a big misconception about the parliament among international students.
– Most international students think that the Student parliament is exclusively for the norwegian students and did not think it was possible for an international student to run, he says.
Difficult to participate
President of the Student Parliament Jone Trovåg finds it positive that international students want to take part in the norwegian student-democracy. However, he also points to practical issues.
– Its a challenge. All documents are written in norwegian, and it would be an immense effort to have it all translated. We simply don`t have the time, he says.
Douglas admits that it is difficult for him to partake in the proceedings since everything is written and discussed in norwegian.
– If I recieve a document beforehand I run it through google translate to try and get something useful out of it, Douglas reveals.
– Positive contribution
Jone explains that they to the best of their ability try to include everyone, but for the time being there is no existing arrangement for international students who want to participate in student politics. We have asked NTNU for additional funds, but have not yet received an answer.
– In the last meeting we decided to have a student work as an interpretor for the international representative. Unfortunately the representative failed to show up, Jone informs us.
Executive for International Affairs at the Student Parliament, Anne Helene Bakke also states that it is positive to see international students with a desire to involve themselves in student politics. However, she points out that many only stay for a semester.
– It is difficult to establish continuity, she says.
She claims that there is no existing framework from where the parliament can retrieve funds to hire interpretors or have documents translated.
– Where should we get the funds? How will we establish a framework and to whom should we speak? She asks rhetorically.
The procedural laws at the Studentparliament state that all proceedings are to be held in norwegian. At the same time, all students can be representatives, regardless of the students knowledge of Norwegian.
– It should also be stated that students without knowledge of Norwegian should not be able to sit in the Studentparliament. If everybody can win an election, then everybody should be able to understand and partake in the proceedings, Douglas adds.
Douglas offers a suggestion.
– The student parliament of an international university like NTNU should be bilingual. All of the study programs are thaugt in either English or Norwegian, which means everybody at NTNU understands at least one of the two. You should therefore have the opportunity to discuss and partake in student politics in both languages, Douglas states.
Douglas claims that the Studenparliament is of no benefit to international students, unless radical changes to remove the language barrier are made.
– I have already decided that I will not continue after this term. I am a result-oriented person, I ask myself what I have achieved. My achievement is not commensurate with the effort I have put in. I will not make that mistake twice.
However, Douglas urges other international students to learn Norwegian and consideres it a essential tool for succeeding both in the workplace and in social life.
– We should do our best to integrate in to the Norwegian society. In that respect our Norwegian hosts should try to meet us halfway. We should find common ground for better cooperation and integration. I am sure we all can live together, happily ever after, he says.