11 December 2019 • Rutger Boot
Working towards global citizenship
Working towards global citizenship entails more than just talking and debating. It means taking action and making an effort to get to know one another better. Three foundations and two student associations at The Hague University of Applied Sciences joined forces to put all the words into action. They organised an introductory dinner between individuals with refugee status in the Netherlands and students of The Hague University of Applied Sciences.
Last Monday, 20 refugees and around 20 students gathered together in the Lighthouse. The goal was simply to get to know one another. Experience over the last 50 years has shown that most refugees end up staying in the Netherlands. After the first five years of refugee status, they usually become Dutch citizens soon after. So it is important for them to feel welcome in Dutch society. And to feel welcome, you have to be able to integrate into society.
Many people with a refugee status in the Netherlands are young, with the ambition to do something with their lives, and some of them are future students of schools that include The Hague University of Applied Sciences. The human connection we facilitated was also aimed at giving students the opportunity to get acquainted with people from a completely different world and background and, above all, with a completely different life story and, conversely, to show refugees all the possibilities the Netherlands has to offer.
The evening event was designed to ensure maximum contact. The initial experience was a bit awkward. After all, everyone was sitting at a table with complete strangers. What do you talk about? The idea was to serve pizza. There was one for every table, so that sharing would come naturally. It was wonderful to see the hesitation at first, followed by conversation. Who would take the first slice? And, of course, who would take the last one? It’s an exciting way to engage in dialogue with each other. It immediately makes the values of the others clear. For the initial contact to ultimately take on greater depth, the getting-acquainted process needed a little nudge. So sets of ‘speed dating’ cards were placed on every table. These are usually used with first-year students to help them get better acquainted with one another. This time, they were used to get to know complete strangers. There were a few serious questions, a few personal ones and lots of questions that resulted in a smile. It turned out to be an immediate hit. The game also resulted in various plans to meet again – outside of the school. And that was exactly what we hoped would happen.
After all, the overall focus is global citizenship. And that means not just meeting once, shaking hands, enjoying a drink and saying good-bye. No, global citizenship is really about spending more time together, for example playing football, visiting a student association or even attending a lecture, so that you can learn about all the opportunities available and have first-hand experience with how inviting and hospitable Dutch society can be – not to mention how meeting people you would normally not meet is a fun learning experience. I’m already looking forward to the next time!
Rutger Boot, Applied Safety & Security Studies lecturer