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Regional Identity and Cross-Cultural Connections

Human of CADS Project

December 22, 2021

By Roxanne Hendrix

With Boet, Second-Year CADS Student

Photo made by Musa

Through personal stories we are able to make a deeper, more understanding connection with others. Since Itiwana is all about bringing people together and creating connections, the mediacom decided to launch its own story-telling project to share the stories of our fellow anthropology students; Humans of CADS. This project is inspired by the like-named projects of Humans of New York and Humans of Amsterdam, in which short, but profound stories are shared about people who live in the city. For the Human of CADS project, we aim to share stories of anthropology students of Leiden by having meaningful conversations with them about their ambitions, passions, history and view of the world around them and through that, inspire other students to pursue a more profound understanding of themselves and connection with others.

Our first anthropology student that we had the pleasure of having a conversation with is Boet. He is a second-year student of our studies and is originally from Limburg, but has moved to the Hague to pursue his studies. During our conversation, Boet shared a lot of meaningful things and despite the fact that some questions we asked might have seemed standard, his answers were not.

To start off with, his motivations for studying anthropology might not be what you expect. He told me upon asking “what has been your drive to study anthropology”?, thatinitially, he was not planning on going to university and that the drive to go study daunted quite late. He was the first generation in his family to go to university, so he did not have an environment where he grew up in which university was often talked about. Moreover, growing up in a more conservative part of the country, you can grow up with the idea that there is only one way to go about life. So when he started working in the international restaurant Dadawan in Maastricht, his eyes opened through the stories he heard from the international students who were his colleagues. The new environment to which he was thrown into became a source of inspiration for him; he became friends with students from over 20 countries and it made him think about the things that would be worthwhile and fulfilling to him. This international environment made him realize that he wanted to be a part of it and through that also became his drive to go to university. Two people in particular were very profound during this time for Boet and were part of the reason why he changed up his life to go to university. Through a good friend from Thailand he met in the restaurant he was working in, he ended up meeting another Thai girl who eventually became his roommate in Maastricht. Both these people made him reconsider his visions for the future in the sense that they showed him that a life that logically makes sense, a life that follows a linear path, is not important, what is important are your own priorities. Through talking to them, he became familiar with the limitless possibilities that were around him and if it weren’t for them, he would have not been motivated in the same way to discover these possibilities. Considering anthropology, it was not something that he specifically wanted to study, but it seemed like something he could dedicate himself to beyond only educational purposes and that is how he ended up being part of CADS.

“Even if we share the same nationality, we do not share the same history”.

Identifying as a ‘Limburger’ and not necessarily Dutch, Boet felt like a familiar stranger when he came to the Randstad. To him, people from Limburg are quite different from people from Holland. In his birthplace in Limburg, whichever way you would go, within 10 minutes you would be at the border with another country, either Belgium or Germany. He believes that being so close to intersections of cultures makes you more finely attuned to different kinds of people and helps you to shape your sense of self. Moreover, having done a lot of research into the region of Limburg, Boet found that its history does not at all resemble the one of the rest of the country; “Even if we share the same nationality, we do not share the same history”. Due to these differences in regional identity and different historical paths, he recognized that it could sometimes be alienating or frustrating to speak to people from different regions in the country, including in the Randstad. His regional identity towards Limburg thus makes him feel alienated at times in other places, not really knowing where he belongs or where his place is in the world. That is why he identifies more with internationals because they too have this experience of still looking for their place.

When asked about his connections with other people through this lense of being an ‘outsider’, Boet shared some really profound insights. To him, socializing and connecting with people is never an equal playing field, it’s all about the context you grew up in and your positionality that influences how your contact with others will be. That is why he believes that interacting with people from different cultures is so important because cross cultural encounters can lead to mutual understanding, despite their differences in history. As a closing to Boet’s story and something which to me deemed very impactful is that he mentioned that we always carry way more similarities with people than we initially think. And this does not mean we have to think the same about anything in the world, but rather take these similarities as the starting point and see from there how you differ from others. This, to him, is the key to true cross-cultural connections.


We would like to thank Boet for being the first student to participate in the Human of CADS project and we hope that you found some wisdom in his words. If you would like to share your story too, please feel free to contact us and we are more than happy to chat with you!

X The Mediacom

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