I’ve been meaning to write something like this for some time, but with all of the fun activities buzzing around me, it’s been hard to blog about anything besides the adventures I’ve been having and the sites I’ve seen.
While at work, in times when I need breaks from writing, I’ll read the other Haverford internship blogs– primarily of those students traveling abroad or doing CPGC internships. I’m constantly impressed by the work that my peers are doing abroad, and impacted by reading about the challenges they’re facing in their internships. Sometimes I think about how, being in a Westernized, affluent country, this experience and this internship seems to be more of a privilege for myself, rather than an opportunity for me to promote peace and global citizenship.
While I hope that the work I do for UNAWE does make a difference, I’ve been lately thinking about how I can enhance my experience here by paying attention to details and seeking opportunities to learn about the realities of life outside of my American experience.
Sometimes this happens all on its own. My friend, Esteban, for example, is a Colombian Anthropology Masters student in Leiden, writing his thesis on the family lineages of gypsy communities in Colombia. Whenever we get to talking, I feel like I’m learning a lot from him. Our first real conversation, also with British student Peter, delved right into the war on drugs and Colombian socioeconomic inequality.
Also, my new apartment-mate, Emine, is a Turkish Masters student writing her thesis on EU-Turkey relations. My first night in the new place, we talked for over an hour about xenophobia in the Netherlands, specifically in regards to immigrants from Turkey. Before talking with her, I would not have noticed this apparently extremely prevalent issue here in the Netherlands.
Otherwise, I’m trying to notice cultural differences and international interactions on my own. Like how Dutch parents will let their small children wander quite far away from them to play. Or how cheap labor employment consists mostly of Eastern Europeans (Polish, Turkish) or North Africans (Moroccan), and then how Dutch interact with people from these areas on a regular basis. Or how people here react to me being American — like when my cashier at the grocery store will change her expression when she realizes that not only is my Dutch awful/nonexistent, but that my US accent is unavoidably strong. (Almost like, “Nice try, American. Do you want a receipt or not?”)
This is my first time abroad. While my semester in Hawai’i was definitely a cultural experience, it was not a very international one. While this means that I have the “everyday is a new adventure” mindset, it also is encouraging me to pay attention to the details and differences, and also appreciate the things that stay remarkably constant.
So, that’s all for now. I’m headed to Belgium for the weekend, so more “adventure updates” when I return!