People from many different countries live, study and work in Eindhoven. Every week, Innovation Origins has a talk with an international about what brought them here and what life is like in Eindhoven.
Name: Beena Arunraj
Country of Origin: India
Work: Founder of Eyal Eindhoven, journalist for Eindhoven News
We never choose the location for the interview. It’s up to the interviewee where we meet. Beena wanted to meet us at one of Eindhoven’s icons: the Evoluon. Originally, this building, commissioned by Frits Philips, was a science museum. Today the location is used for conferences and events. On a hot summer day, we meet Beena on the terrace of the restaurant of the Evoluon. In the shade of the trees, we talk about her life in Eindhoven. “We said, let’s give it a try to stay a year in Eindhoven. That was seven years ago.”
“I had my own dental practice in India. I am specialized in the more complicated dental surgery. Here in the Netherlands, I’m only allowed to practice as a regular dentist. Besides the language barrier, having such a practice is not challenging enough for me. When our son started school at the age of four I had too much time on my hands. That’s when I started Eyal Eindhoven, a group for Indian Tamils. I noticed there wasn’t a group in Eindhoven for Indian Tamils like us, although there are about 200 families in the region. We have our own traditions and the first one we celebrated in Eindhoven was the Tamil New Year. We celebrate with diverse elements of the culture with dances and songs. Every child should be on stage and shine. These are nice get-togethers with the connection we miss from home. 30 volunteers work together to make it happen. We adapt to a lot of things here, but we also keep some of our traditions.”
Besides her work, Beena is also a member of the school board of the International School in Eindhoven. “It is important to me to know how the school system works in the Netherlands. And also I wanted to be involved in the school of my son. I could have chosen to be in the parent committee, but I feel I can be more of use in the board. The meetings are half in Dutch and half in English. So I really take my time to prepare well and to understand what everything is about. I really want bilingual education to be available for all children. The international school has a pretty high fee and that makes it not accessible for everybody. More and more schools are interested in bilingual education. The rules and regulations for education are a national matter and I hope the Department of Education will act on the demand for more bilingual education.”
Beena tells us she loves children and likes to challenge them with interesting assignments and questions. “So many children have amazing talents, but it doesn’t always show at first sight. I’m currently working on setting up a foundation that focuses on learning in a fun way, available for all children. With subjects like astronomy, debating or photography. At first, it will be in English, but I also would love to work with Dutch volunteers. I would like to bring the children the joy of learning, to be challenged, amazed and inspired.”
And how is life in Eindhoven? “I got used to the Dutch humor. In India, we are more conservative and less direct. My husband had traveled to the Netherlands often before we decided to move here. He prepared me for the differences in the culture. I feel comfortable here, but I would like to integrate more. The people are very nice, but I need to make more connections. I notice that most families are so busy, they don’t have time to make new friends. We do make connections, like with our wonderful elderly neighbors in our former apartment complex. When our son was born, they really took care of us with home cooked meals and visits. In our spare time, we like to be outdoors, cycling nice routes in the area. And we love to go to different events like the annual horse show and the Tuna festival. Our son loves Carnaval, so every year we celebrate it one day with a group of friends and have a lot of fun!”
Photography: Diewke van den Heuvel
Read more stories of internationals here.