Golden Bear Dispatch: Cody Walker
WVU Tech student Cody Walker attended a Council for Opportunity in Education study abroad trip to the Netherlands this summer. Here, he reflects on his experience.
This summer I studied at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in Den Haag, Netherlands. My three-week program focused on sustainable cities and communities, as well as diversity and inclusion. During this time, I was not only exposed to different ideas and perspectives, but I was allowed the time to go out and see what makes the Netherlands so unique compared to the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The first two weeks of my program were focused on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) from the United Nations. In the general module, I was able to get a well-rounded education on the SDG’s and how improving each one improves lives around us. Everyone took this module and within this space we could collaborate and bring together ideas we learned about within our specialty modules. The specialty module I took was called “Sustainable cities.”
Within the sustainable cities class, we learned how to combat climate change through climate mitigation and climate adaptation strategies. The class also explored green energy, efficient heating and cooling methods, and innovative water systems. More importantly, we learned how to improve people’s lives within a community. The community of Culemborg was one of the sustainable communities I had the privilege of exploring. It had unique, apartment-style buildings that embodied green living, and there was also a community garden that seemed to encompass Culemborg. The streets were built out of brick with spaces for rainwater to infiltrate into the soil, which results in flood control.
Multiple people coming together with a common set of values and beliefs is stronger than one. Also, when you are surrounded by people that share the same perspective as you; you feel safer and happier. When you feel safe and happy you can become more productive and live a more fulfilling life. Humans are social animals and our natural instincts branch from us, interacting with each other and nature. That’s why becoming more sustainable and preserving this planet we have is so important. It is so that future generations can continue to create these relationships and experience this world we call home.
I learned in the last week of my program about diversity and inclusion from the Expertise Center for Diversity Policy. ECHO acts as a consultant for higher education institutions, organizations, and companies about diversity policy. We were honored to have people from their staff come and guide us through the lessons for that week. The course was focused on how to define diversity and inclusion within the Netherlands and in our own context. The way we learned about this was by talking to underrepresented minority groups like the Afro Student Association from Liden University, hearing stories from migrants who escaped war-ridden countries, and discussing the topics between ourselves within the class.
The most important thing I learned during this week was that every person is important. Everyone has a story that has made them who they are, and we need to learn to respect one another. Also, having diverse perspectives on issues allows us to have a better understanding of how communities overcome barriers. Lastly, we all need to realize that no everyone is treated equally or has access to the same resources. We need institutions and organizations in all forms of business and education to change this for the people that need it most.
I had a great experience while studying abroad. Other than my academic programs and field trips, I was able to explore Amsterdam from the canals and the streets. I was guided through a black heritage tour in the Red Light district of Amsterdam, explored the beautiful cities of Den Haag and Delft, walked along the beaches of Scheveningen Strand, saw more people riding on bikes than in cars, ate raw Dutch Herring, learned and listened to Dutch, immersed myself into a new country’s culture, and gained more knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community. Most importantly, I met some amazing people from all around the world. I could not have done this without the help of TRIO Student Support Services. The TRIO SSS Staff assisted me every step of the way, and I am thankful for all the hard work they have done for me for this trip and during my collegiate career.
In conclusion, I would like to say thank you to TRIO Student Support Services, the Council for Opportunity in Education, The Hague University of Applied Sciences Summer School staff and buddies, ECHO workers, and all the people that I have met during this trip. You have made this experience unforgettable.
The reason to study abroad isn’t to be able to tell people you got to study in a different country and brag about how amazing it was. If you are given the opportunity, you should do it because it can change your life. It can broaden your perspective, help you figure out who you are, and you can meet some great people along the way. This is what my experience provided me with and it can do the same for you.Cody Walker