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 STE focuses on community building: ‘Our mission is to give students a sense of home!

13 march 2023

In the last 20-25 years, STE Languages had around 2000-3000 students per year. In 2022, the yearly number was 4000; and only in January 2023 did the school enroll 1000 new students. There are refugees, students, professionals, and partners, and they are all internationals who are eager to learn the Dutch language. 

‘Eindhoven is becoming an increasingly international city. We have students from more than 90 countries in the world. Our mission is to provide a sense of belonging and home to those who follow our lessons. We want to contribute to the retention of talents in the region and make newcomers feel happy and welcomed’, says Wilfried Gradus, Director and Owner of STE. 

73% of STE students want to socialize, and 61% — become a little bit Dutch 

Indeed, international students crave social connections in the new country and want to dive into the local culture. In the poll that STE Languages ran in December 2022, they discovered that 73% of students want to socialize, 63% — to make new friends, and 61% — to become a little bit Dutch. 

‘Back in 2020, when I moved to the Netherlands from Brazil, adjusting to a new and unfamiliar environment took me some time’, 

says Roberta Morais, Community Manager at STE Languages —  

‘Two years later, I'm still learning how to navigate this (not so) new reality, but I can assure you that it's much better now. And it was only possible because I have an amazing support network.  

That's why I'm excited to work on the STE community project. I believe our work can help internationals foster a sense of belonging and connection. We want students to feel supported and create a welcoming, inclusive environment that stimulates growth.’

How STE builds community

Cultural events for practicing Dutch and making new friends

The first step was a winter party the school organized for students in December 2022 with glühwein, a Christmas tree with wishes, and kerststol. The pasty was a great success.

Then, Carnival and tribute to the Brabant culture, Lampegat, and diversity. Community managers Maudi Kühl and Roberta Morais launched a speed dating activity for people to practice Dutch and get to know each other. Afterward, there was a contest of costumes, worstenbroodjes, and coxinhas, traditional Brazilian snacks. It was a great dive into the Carnival for people who didn’t have any idea what it was.  

STE's mission is to give students a sense of home

We understand that the region of Eindhoven (Brainport) is becoming an increasingly international region. STE Languages has students from more than 90 countries.Our mission is to provide a sense of belonging and home to those who follow our lessons. We want to contribute to the retention of all the diverse talent in the region and make newcomers feel happy and welcomed.

In 2023, the STE community management team plans to organize many other social activities: speaking clubs, holiday celebrations like Koninsdag, and pop quizzes in Dutch. 

Warm and cozy atmosphere and curious design elements

 What is ‘arco iris’? Or ‘regenboog’? You’ll find these words on the coat hooks in the STE classroom, meaning “rainbow” in Spanish and Dutch. 

It’s a simple action before the class — to hang your coat on the hook, but we want to give it a spark for initiating a conversation between students. That’s why we put many positive words in different languages on those hooks, so there is curiosity and a reason for small talk’, says Mathilde Lageman, Director and Co-Owner of STE Languages.

Mathilde puts much effort into creating a cozy atmosphere through thoughtful design elements: warm natural colors, soft carpets, and international wall ornaments. The school invites you not just to come to the classroom but to stay before or after the lesson in a common room, have coffee or tea with cookies, and study or chit-chat with your peers (preferably in Dutch). 

Handy services for internationals as the STE partners for the future

Finding your place in a new city is a challenging task, sometimes even literally, considering the housing shortage. Many services can be of good use to newcomers: real estate agencies, sports clubs, medical centers, and others. STE Languages is open to partnerships of that kind. 

‘Internationals seek support, help, and guidance in their journey. They want to stay in Eindhoven, and we want to help them. This is what community is about — helping internationals build their lives in the new place’, states STE Languages’ plans for future Wilfried Gradus. 


Written by Tonya Skorova


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