Student experience: Manuela Pekelman Venturini (International Social Work)

''I love that we all help each other''

International Social Work, klas, college, 2 docenten, vrouw

Manuela is 28 and comes from Brazil. She’s in her 1st year of International Social Work. She loves the caring and helpful attitude of her classmates.

International Social Work student Manuela outside at HAN Nijmegen campus

Moved to the Netherlands for love

Manuela comes from Brazil but also has Italian nationality because of her father’s side of the family. She moved to the Netherlands for love almost 4 years ago and is now married. So, she was already settled in the Netherlands when she decided to study International Social Work at HAN.

Motivated classroom

What Manuela especially noticed in the first couple of weeks of the program was how helpful and caring her fellow students were. 

“It's been super nice. I think what I liked the most is that, because we all decided to study social work, and international social work, especially, we have this feeling of helping other people, and therefore helping each other as well. So the whole classroom is really motivated. And we all help each other in the way we can.”

Interest in other cultures

Being in an international classroom is enriching, according to Manuela. Not just for her own personal experience, but also for what it means for her future work.

“There's just this natural interest in meeting other cultures. We have people from Curacao from Aruba, from Congo from Uganda. It's so broad, it's so beautiful. I think this is one of the things that I like the most. Because I have the opportunity to have some glance of what other cultures look like, and how people behave in society, especially in this society that we're all sharing with different backgrounds. When I realize how, how much difference it will make, for my future as a professional, it just makes me want to embrace more this little community that we have here. Here at HAN. Because it's just something quite unique.”

Culture shock

At times, Manuela found it hard to deal with what she calls “Dutch honesty”. And there was something else she found quite annoying too…

“The people are so straightforward, so direct. Especially, I was talking about it with some friends that I have from Curacao. Because we're all from somewhere in Latin America, we have this feeling that Dutch honesty can come across as rude. Because we don't have the same filters as the Dutch people do. So they say things from a good heart, but we hear it with rude ears, so to speak, you know. That was one of the main things that we had as a cultural shock. And the fact that you have to pay for the toilet in every public area, that doesn't make any sense. It's annoying. It's really annoying. But, you know, just some little things that you notice when on a daily basis.”

Meaningful conversations

Of all her subjects, Manuela especially likes sociology. Because of the intriguing conversations and the caring, sensitive attitude of her classmates and the teachers.

“I think especially sociology, because we always have amazing conversations in class. And I feel like it's the class where people participate the most, because it's so intriguing, because they always spark a conversation, you know, and they have a very subtle way to ask people for their opinions without being like, intimidating. I feel like in sociology, for every single answer, we have a full meaningful conversation, you know, a whole topic about it.”

“Like, I think it was last week that we had a situation where we were talking about abuse. One classmate started crying about it, because it was a trigger for her. And another classmate said yeah, maybe we should put a trigger warning before we talk about sensitive topics, so people can see if they feel like being part of it, or if they want to leave. So it's a very caring classroom. And I think the, the teachers are always very careful with the way they will talk about certain subjects in class.”


Read more about International Social Work.