The first half of 2020 was a tough one for the whole world. Where the problems surrounding COVID-19 seem barely past its first peak, the next challenge was already emerging. Racism is still proving to be a major problem in the world, and with the violent death of George Floyd in the US, this theme flared up again.
As a half Antillean, half Dutch woman in the Netherlands, I cannot ignore this subject. All memories of my own experiences where I was discriminated against are being recalled; white friends and acquaintances are curious about my opinion and experience; and at the same time they seek confirmation from me that they are doing a good job, or they try to question facts such as that racism is also a problem for many people in the Netherlands.
Although it is a heavy burden to be assigned to much responsibility, I am happy to sit in the pulpit, to share my experiences, and to take on the role as a part of the TINT team to making subjects negotiable with students (and staff) on a personal level. At the same time, it also makes me think. I wonder which voices are silent, what is kept silent, and who is being silenced or not.
It reminds me of something I wrote before, in an offline magazine, in January 2019. About one of the first events I attended at TINT: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone. Students told, among other things, what it was like for them to move to the Netherlands for their studies. One of the speakers was a TU/e student from Kenya. She shared how she came to the Netherlands and how she had been unable to make Dutch friends during her entire studies.
An important difference is: where Internationals are seen as guests in another county, non-white Dutch people are seen as guests in their own country in certain situations. But the common denominator is in the word 'guest'. I wonder if you are really welcome when you are seen as a guest, and therefore not completely treated as an equal?
I believe that you are only treated as an equal when you can become a part of that society. A true part; of the land and the culture, of the residents. Only then you can ground there. Only then you can really develop yourself.
That is why I am extremely grateful for the organization TINT, which is committed to the well-being of students. Because you can only work on that well-being when a student really feels welcome. With themes such as identity, well-being, stepping out of your comfort zone, community, loneliness, the meaning of your work, and more, we strive to connect all students, make them feel at home, help them ground, and develop themselves.