International Students on Ice

After some attempts to get international students more involved within
Asset | Econometrics, we as the Nekst committee decided to give it another try. We came up with the plan of trying to find two international students who were willing to spend some time with us during a typical Dutch activity: ice skating.

On the way to the ice skating hall, I was wondering whether the stereotype thoughts I had about Chinese students would turn out to be true. Is there anything else they do besides studying? Do they spend hours in the kitchen every night? More of these questions were floating inside my head when I arrived.

After spending almost two hours on the ice with Michael and Joe, Michiel and I decided to go into the café for a quick drink and some time to talk. There, Michael and I talked about our views on choosing a study program here in the Netherlands. The biggest difference between our opinions had to do with the motivations of our choices. He could not grasp why economics has such a large number of students compared to econometrics. “Why would you choose studying economics over econometrics, when econometrics offers much better job opportunities!” After hearing him say that, I tried to explain that Dutch students mainly base their choices on what they want and not on what it will get them. That was hard for him to believe, coming from a country where high school students get up at 6:00 every day to start with homework and do not stop studying until it is late at night.

My stereotype of Chinese students spending a lot of time in the kitchen turned out to be not entirely true. Michael spends on average one hour in the kitchen and apparently Joe cannot cook at all. He gets most of his dinners in the mensa on campus. He told us he does not need to be able to cook, since he has a girlfriend who is willing to cook for him. Michael quickly explained us that it is no tradition at all in China that women have to cook; it is just an excuse of Joe for not having to make his own dinner.

Another thing I considered to be very interesting to hear about was the one child policy. I always thought that people in China could get only one child no matter what. So when I asked what would happen if you give birth to twins, Michael and Joe had to laugh. They assured me that you did not have to choose one child and ‘throw the other one away’. It is even the case that when both parents are only children, they are allowed to have two children. Moreover, when a Chinese inhabitant marries a foreigner, they are allowed to have as many children as they want. Since China is also dealing with an aging population, the government is thinking about changing the rules to some extent.

My thoughts about Chinese students spending a lot of time studying turned out to be true, at least for Joe. Before coming to the ice skating hall, he was studying in the library and when we said our goodbyes, he told us he was heading for the library again (Even though this activity took place in the Carnival holiday).

Text by: Vera van der Lelij

The perspective of Joe Li

Thanks to Vera and Michiel, Michael and I were invited to go ice skating. For me, this was the first time in my life that I went ice skating. All my experience of ice skating came from watching the Winter Olympic Games. It is amazing that the human body is able to move so fast by itself!

I never thought I would have a chance to actually go ice skating, although in the city I come from, ice skating rinks are often built in shopping malls. Therefore, we were really excited and could not wait to experience such a traditional Dutch sport ourselves. Being a beginner, I was quite apprehensive initially, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. Actually standing on the ice is a totally different story than watching it on the television. First of all, the ice is bumpier than I imagined, which makes it really hard to slide smoothly on the ice. But the good news is that, for a novice like me, an ice skating walker is very helpful to start with, as long as you do not feel embarrassed.

Michiel was the best skater among us, due to the fact that he brought his own skates. Vera and Michael had not skated for some time, but they habituated very soon. I set my mind to being able to skate without a walker, so that I could not be distinguished from them at first glance and I was prepared to fall as many times as it takes. What I soon learned and found pretty interesting, is that it is not hard to prevent falling as long as I clear my mind and do not think about anything. I always fell when I was thinking purposely not to, or talking to the others. After several hours of practice, finally, I could skate very slowly, without hurting myself, or someone else. The best sight I have come across was of little kids of 3 – 5 years old skating effortlessly, a visual treat to watch them skate. Although skating is not as drastic as other sports like running, every single muscle of mine was exhausted. I did not expect myself to master the sport in one day. Still, I think it is an excellent sport and entertainment in winter, which I would come to enjoy more when I become a better skater.

Regardless of your skill level, it is a good idea to wear proper winter gear, since you will be exposed to cold for quite some time skating on the ice rink. You really do not need to feel awkward that you do not know how to skate when doing it for the first time. You see a lot of people falling down on the rink in an attempt to skate and you will fall down as well. That adds to the fun part of the experience.

Be it a group of friends you go along with, your significant other or your family, ice skating also proved to be a social experience. You will get a feeling that you have spent quality time with your group. And, hell yeah, it is a great source of exercise. You will sweat a lot even though you skate in the freezing temperatures for hours.

So, hit the nearest ice skating rink and there is a good chance you will like the experience!
Text by: Joe Li