Who: Jessica Wolkenhauer
From: University of Applied Sciences and Art (HAWK), Hildesheim, Germany
Destination: Amsterdam (International Minor programme Diversity in Urban Areas)
Suggestion: Apply for housing, don’t try to look for it yourself.
Just go for it! this city is super diverse and offers everything
so go and challenge yourself!
How did you choose this programme?
Back home I study to be able to go working in kindergartens. Because of the globalization, also kindergartens become more and more diverse in the future. Since my study course is specialized on working in but also leading of kindergardens, the subject of superdiversity is more important to me.
In general, I am interested in intercultural issues. At my school back home, they have only one class in diversity, which was at the beginning of my study programme and more superficial. That is the reason why I thought, let’s go to another country where they also speak English and have more on this topic. That’s how I ended up here. I also thought that Dutch is very similar to German, so it is easier for me to learn another language besides English. It turned out, however, that both languages are less similar than previously thought.
I liked the course in particular very much. Even in advance there was a study guide that was very structured. To confirm stereotypes, as a German I like structures very much. In the beginning my classmates and I were complaining about the workload, especially the many readings. In hindsight, however, I assess this as very positive as my English has become much better as a result.
Additionally and as a motivation, I am thinking of working abroad in the future. In my opinion intercultural experience is an advantage if you want to work internationally. Intercultural experience was taught to me both thematically and through the participants. Even though most of the other students, including me, previously considered us to be very open, we can now say that this course has only really opened us up. This course has changed and broadened my mind in many ways.
Finally, I am particularly grateful and happy that I have completed this minor. I would rate time as the most influential time of my life.
What do you think of the programme?
Like I said, this course was perfect for me. To follow up on what I said before, I particularly liked the very good balance between practice and theory.
With compulsory readings and additional texts, we worked out the topic of superdiversity with a focus on exclusion and marginalization. We also covered globalization, LGBTQAI+, social and cultural capital, stereotypes, stigmatization, discrimination, and identity. These topics were practically dealt with in the countless field trips, e.g. to the Anne Frank House, the Photo Museum (FOAM), the Troopenmuseum or in the facilities for the homeless or marginalized young people. As an example we had a Photo workshop, which taught us how to create and interpret pictures.
We also had a lesson on LGBTQAI+. Besides social issues, we were informed about the Amsterdam Pride and especially the Turkish boat there. I think that was really interesting because I never had a focus on such topics while working in kindergartens.
At our first day we had a human rights walk, which was a good start, because we on the one hand learned to know the diverse issues of the city and on the other hand our fellow students better.
Additionally, I found the integrated study trips and guest lecturers that were illuminated in many contexts particularly enriching. For example, there were lectures on media (as a current political issue) as well as stereotypes or discrimination (in a historical context) or homelessness or refugees (as a social issue).
In addition to regular classes, we had some evenings of large guest lectures with students from different programs. After these lectures we even had drinks with the teachers and students from other minor programs. That was also really cool and inspiring to get to meet other people from other programs of the social department, exchange knowledge and build networks.
In contrast to my home university, the contact with the lecturers is very close. They were always reliable, helpful and quick to answer.
What I really liked about the course was that the course and the group were really diverse. We had 11 students from the Netherlands, 2 from Norway, 2 from the Czech republic , 1 Austrian, 1 Finnish, 1 from California and me as a German. There was superficial diversity, but also from the Dutch students only 4 were native Dutch. The others were partly from Morocco, Somalia, Ghana, and Iraq, which made the group very diverse.
What is like, being an international student in Amsterdam?
The first week, when I came here I attended a general ISN introduction week, which was very open and welcoming to all incoming students. I made friends and a lot of contact with students from other programs straight away. Later throughout my exchange I met those from time to time. We explored the city and its cultural offers together or had a coffee to exchange us. I really liked having these friends, because I think that’s the only downfall of social studies. With people from social studies you usually talk about social stuff.
During my exchange semester I had probably the best place to live, in Prinsengracht, in Amsterdam's City center. I shared bath and shower there with an Italian girl. Before, I was a physiotherapist. I worked on cruise ships abroad and had international contacts, but this was my first time studying abroad. It was a completely different experience. We did get along although we didn’t spend much time together. The Mediterranean cultures are very sociable and eat comparatively late. This means that my housemate often had people over so it was very difficult for me to concentrate, which is why I often went to university or cafes for studying that have late opening hours.
I like Amsterdam and want to live here forever. For me, life here is better and more worth living. The culture within Amsterdam is really open and free. I don’t feel the stress of the society that I feel back home. That could also be because Hildesheim is way smaller. Here you can bike everywhere so I also feel much more fit. Also the improving of the English language is an advantage of living in a international city as Amsterdam, that I can acknowledge.
Unfortunately I have some mandatory lessons (e.g. a training to prevent and stabilize sexual abused children) back home that I have to do in order to finish my studies. After that I plan to come back to live, work and maybe study further here.
This time has definitely influenced my life very positively and will always be remembered.