The St. Maarten students with Amsterdam Deputy Mayor Simone Kukenheim (fourth from right) and St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite (right). Photo by Marlise Steeman/Municipality Amsterdam.
The 45 Dutch Caribbean first-year students who will be studying in Amsterdam with the Ministers Plenipotentiary and the Deputy Mayor. Photo by Marlise Steeman/Municipality Amsterdam.
Keynote speaker St. Maarten senior student Kyara Walker. (Suzanne Koelega photo)
AMSTERDAM–Four St. Maarten students, twenty from Curaçao, twenty from Aruba and one from Bonaire received a warm welcome from the Municipality Amsterdam on Thursday. Deputy Mayor Simone Kukenheim and St. Maarten senior student Kyara Walker shared inspiring words, as did the Ministers Plenipotentiary of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.
Recently arrived St. Maarten students Leeann Wyatt, Georgia Nelson, Cassandra Williams and Reshandra Carty all opted to further their tertiary education in Amsterdam. Amidst fellow students from Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, they took part in what has become a traditional welcoming ceremony which includes speeches, a quiz, personal introductions of the students and short presentations of the various student organisations and educational institutions.
Following the customary group photos of the first-year students with the Deputy Mayor and the Ministers Plenipotentiary, Kukenheim addressed the city’s new residents. She said the students were now also a part of the beautiful, buzzing, multicultural city of Amsterdam. “This city will form you, and you too can contribute to Amsterdam,” she said.
Kukenheim spoke of the challenges of studying. Even though they were far from home and could not go home for the weekend like Dutch students, she told the new batch of students to look out for each other. “We are here with many nationalities and all those different cultures make Amsterdam a special place.”
Walker, currently a third-year social-worker student, set the tone of her keynote address with this first line: “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
She spoke of her challenges and her decision to switch from studying law to social work, her true passion, and the foundation that she started with two other young women, named “Girl, know your worth”, an empowerment group for girls in Amsterdam Southeast.
Getting out of their comfort bubble is one of the more important things to which the new students should aspire, in Walker’s opinion.
“It is easy to get stuck in your comfort bubble, sticking to the same friends that you came to the Netherlands with. But by doing so, you exclude yourself from new opportunities. News flash: comfort stops growth. You can’t grow if you stick to the same old. Pop that bubble and go explore, make new friends and get to know the Dutch culture and teach them about yours,” she said.
Walker had valuable closing words: “Nothing that is worthwhile comes easy. Nothing that is valuable comes quickly. It takes time to develop. You have made a choice to develop yourself. Be patient with yourself. Love yourself for who you are, embrace yourself, you are worthwhile. Do not wander far from your identity. You will make it, you can make it, you must make it. And don’t forget, life is not a race, it is a marathon.”
Curaçao Acting Minister Plenipotentiary Eunice Eijsden called on the new students to show solidarity and to ask for help if they get stuck. “Have fun, because your time as a student is the most beautiful time in your life.”
St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite also urged the students to seek help if they were in distress. “Not only on social media, but also in personal contacts.” She said there was professional health care help in the Netherlands, but that it was also important to help each other. She said the cabinets of the Ministers Plenipotentiary were there as well to assist. “We are very proud of you all,” said Wuite.
Aruba Minister Plenipotentiary Guillfred Besaril told the new students to find a balance between studying and free time. “You have come here to develop, to shape yourself, to become citizens of the world, to become true Kingdom children. That means studying hard, but to also do other things that will further develop you as a person.”
Thursday’s event was moderated by Tanja Fraai of WeConnect, a foundation for Dutch Caribbean students and young professionals. A large delegation of the Dutch Caribbean student association of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam HVANTI attended the event.