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My Global & Intercultural Engagement Distinction Experience

Date:22 May 2019
Nikee van der Gouw
Nikee van der Gouw

The Global & Intercultural Engagement Distinction (GIED) is an initiative of the University of Groningen to develop students in being more interconnected and globally oriented on multiple levels. As such, the GIED offers the opportunity to develop yourself in an intercultural manner by completing extracurricular categories in order to increase your language skill, intercultural skills, and even your labour market value. Doing two International Law Masters myself, I thought the GIED would be an excellent addition on my CV and it would be a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. This proved to be true, as I have learned more about other peoples’ cultures, values and norms through GIED than I have during the rest of my study. I believe you should be intrinsically motivated to be open to other cultures and standpoints, as the programme is quite demanding and therefore you need to be sure you want to see it through. However, if you are open for this, the GIED offers you a whole new perspective on people and cultures.

 The GIED comprises five categories, the first being an intercultural competence course, which is given before you start with any other category in order to create self-awareness and other-cultural awareness. This course was extremely interesting, I learnt a lot of which most I still use in daily life and I met a lot of different people from different backgrounds. The second category contains international or intercultural courses, which can be fulfilled by following comparative law courses or law courses taken abroad. Category 3 comprises an international or intercultural work experience or internship. In my case, I did volunteer work in Ghana for multiple weeks. The fourth category is learning a foreign language (at least one level of CEFR) which is not the language of your study or your mother tongue. I have always wanted to learn more languages, but actually taking steps to do this and keep practicing it has been a challenge. That is why this category is a great addition to the GIED course. You have to spend such a large amount of time in learning a new language, that you actually learn to speak the basics quite fluently. The last category is doing an international study, which means you should successfully complete a semester abroad or participate in international summer and/or winter schools. Overall, you get to influence how you fulfil each category in a very open-minded way, making possibilities endless and each student’s experience unique.

 I chose to go to Ghana since I have always been drawn to Africa, and having been in South Africa last year, I wanted to see what people meant with the cultural diversity each African country supposedly possesses. I participated in a winter school in Cape Coast, where I met fellow students from all over the world. By actually studying together with (mostly) Ghanaian students, I got to learn more about their academic views, their work ethics and how religion influenced their academic work. After this winter school, I arranged to do volunteer work at a primary school in Accra. This part of the experience had the most influence on me since I got to live, eat and breath with Ghanaian families. It was very interesting for me that I could put what I had learnt in the intercultural competence course into practice. For instance, I recognized the exact moment I had a culture shock when I was in Ghana (after a week) and again when I got back to Holland. By recognizing these symptoms I could make more sense of everything that was going on and I was able to cope with it better. My time in Ghana was extremely educational, but also at times frustrating and shocking. However, due to my GIED background I was able to recognize different types of communications due to different cultures in order to prevent for example offending people just by lack of knowledge. During the workshops I learnt to be open to other perspectives and as such I could sympathize with other people better. The experience has given me a great amount of life experience I value dearly. I recommend GIED to anyone who is up for a challenge and wants to broaden their view on the world.

Nikee van der Gouw – LLM Public International Law & LLM International Human Rights Law