Kate Jeans - Utrecht, Netherlands

Kate is one of our Arts Global Scholars, a scholarship program available for Bachelor of Global Studies students. Kate went to Utrecht, Netherlands, and shared the highlights of her overseas study experience.

While I was in Utrecht, Netherlands, my confidence in the opportunities available after graduation immensely increased. I have been focused in a career towards human rights and development, with a passion for different cultures and human behaviour.

The location of the Netherlands, in the midst of Europe, surrounded by an abundance of different cultures and countries, expanded my exposure to the issues that are present in all corners of the world. In Utrecht, I undertook predominantly anthropological subjects. One memorable subject was titled, ‘Culture, Trauma, Violence and Death’ which focused on conflict studies, the way in which people deal with trauma, and how people are led to extreme and inhumane uses of violence. During one of my lectures we had a guest speaker from Amnesty International, who conducted a report for Human Rights Watch on the violent situation in Sierra Leone and Liberia. With a fascination of understanding the complexities of human behaviour, I was inspired at the importance of reporting these human rights violations but also understanding situations in their historical context (such as post-colonialism), so solutions can be implemented that address the root causes.

Another interest of mine is understanding the reality of the refugee experience, both overseas and here in Australia. A Utrecht University student association focused on Conflict Studies and Human Rights organized a day trip where we met and interacted with documented and undocumented refugees in Amsterdam Amstel. The documented refugees are currently housed in an old prison where opportunities are available to them, such as job training and integration services. However, an eerie environment remains, with isolation cells being turned into showers and pampering rooms (See picture).

The undocumented refugees however, some of which speak fluent Dutch and have been situated there for over 16 years, are in a state of limbo and transiting from one vacant lot to the next. These undocumented refugees are well known by locals who assist them with donations, and even by the police who may rely on them to situate other homeless people. This was an eye-opening experience into the difficult and complicated situation that those seeking refuge globally face. This has led to me being motivated to volunteer with refugees in Melbourne this year.

Whilst studying in Utrecht, new opportunities and experiences in and out of the classroom, expanded my drive and passion for human rights, with a focus on diverse cultures and conflict studies in their historical context. This can be attributed partly to being based in a country that has greater proximity to a diverse range of cultures and therefore resources of academics who are experts in their field, allowing me to come home with a new and fresh perspective of the world.