The phrase “the third time’s the charm” has become part of my everyday here in Holland; still learning to navigate Groningen with its canals, narrow streets and never-ending bicycle lanes, I tend to circle around intended destinations three times. Given my non-existent Dutch, Google Maps can only do so much before I bear onto the wrong street, ride against traffic and/or realize that the place I was so supposed to go to is several streets back. Despite of all, I don’t mind getting lost in this great place. Groningen has a “rhythm” that waves between the cozy feeling of a small town and an in-vitro cosmopolitanism.
And it is that Groningen has an interesting past and present; I witnessed the commemoration of “Gronings Ontzet” a holiday unique to this area. On August 28th, locals celebrate the successful stoppage of French/English troops when they tried to siege the city during the third Franco-Dutch war in 1672. On the other hand, the city has welcomed a large population of college students that makes it the thriving university center that it is today.
Although far away from home, I can’t help but to meditate on our current reality and the importance of the past. It is interesting that also on August 28th , in the US, we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech as it was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. A piece of rhetoric just as important today as it was back then given the latest news on police brutality and racial tensions that have affected us all. Nevertheless, I was encouraged to learn of marches in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, which join a worldwide campaign to stand against the abuse of power by governments and police. I think such manifestations go hand-in-hand with the purpose of this exchange program at Hanze University; spending a semester overseas is not only to experience a foreign culture but also to learn to bridge cultural differences and focus on shared similarities for better understanding.
MLK’s inspirational words continue to resonate with me after I realize that my (new) university’s motto is “Share Your Talent. Move the World”. This is a significant coincidence because my main intention here is to keep developing my talents in the constant pursuit of my dream of becoming an artist. As I continue to navigate this city and discover more interesting things about Dutch culture, I must reiterate that I don’t mind getting lost. As long as I never lose the inspiration, the hope and the dream to move the world…even if it takes me three or more times to get there.