Aparajita, India



Just like you and this project, my work is also about diversity. I am currently the Head of Internationalization at a university of applied sciences in The Hague, and I am doing PhD research in Leiden. In addition to that, I actively engage in diversity and inclusion work. It is an important and complex issue that remains current.


I have noticed that it is quite difficult to explain to colleagues the full meaning of diversity. There are not always simple solutions to challenges that present themselves. Sometimes they come back at you like a boomerang, creating new problems. Take the Black Lives Matter period for example. Of course, I personally supported the protests, but I didn't think it was a good idea for our school to publish an extensive statement about it when the riots started. Because by doing this, we exclude other people again. Then the Asian students ask where our statement was when they experienced discrimination over face masks. Or there will be students from other European countries who want to know who is looking after them. We deal with students of many nationalities and sometimes that creates delicate challenges.


But the best part of having such diversity is its overarching contribution. Having many nationalities is an enormous enrichment for our culture. We learn to approach things from different perspectives. I still notice that every day. I have lived here for over 25 years now, but I still look at things differently than other people. A fun example that always makes my husband laugh is that I still like to haggle prices, just like I used to do in India. It's a game to me. In the market or at some clothing stores, I always try to negotiate.


I also like the mix of customs within our family. For example, we always celebrate the Bengali New Year on April 15th. The tradition is that everyone wears a new piece of clothing. Me? I usually wear a new sari then. We cook and eat and then we bring presents to friends. But we also celebrate Sinterklaas. I love that typically Dutch holiday. I had to learn to write poems for this tradition.


Yes, of course, I have also been discriminated against. And our daughters as well. But I also think you should make the most of life yourself. We have lived in Leiden for 19 years now and it is a wonderful city. There is no place that can be paradise every day. You are in control of your life. With more positivity, you will enjoy it more.