Written by Bas de Nijs, Co-Founder of Maya Universe Academy, Netherlands
Three weeks have passed since we had the privilege of hosting the Dutch high school Het Amsterdams Lyceum (HAL). It was a new experience for our Maya team to interact with a foreign school and as the excitement at Maya had been building up for a while, the week at school seemed to go rather fast. Nevertheless, strong bonds between students, teachers and volunteers were established.
Some of our older Maya students are still in touch with the HAL students through social media and I have heard that several of them are planning to come back during their gap years. It was extremely fulfilling for us that our guests enjoyed their time and were inspired by our work to such an extent that they want to return, especially since our school in rural Nepal doesn’t exactly offer the same luxuries as day-to-day life in Europe. This is exemplified by HAL vice principal Tjeerd Volbeda, who has already visited Maya twice and would like to come back again. One of Maya’s biggest strengths is the ever-expanding international community it harbors, and having had our first taste of foreign students coming in for a school trip, we are eager to spread this concept to more schools and more countries.
It amazed me that so many HAL students, when given a variety of options, picked Nepal as their first choice. While the alternatives would’ve guaranteed a week of fun hosting exchange students, they chose to spend their time in the Netherlands raising funds for a school in an unknown country. Their outstanding effort in such a short period of time is a tremendous feat, particularly in addition to their 5th year VWO schoolwork, hats off guys! In my eyes, spending time volunteering or fundraising promotes altruism and I believe that giving help without expecting anything in return will inspire others to do the same, thus resulting in a chain reaction of compassion in which everyone benefits.
Besides the amazing work the HAL team did with raising funds and bringing science lab equipment, clothes and stationary, the added value of the trip was the experience for the Dutch students. My first time at Maya was a very humbling experience and it made me aware of my privilege growing up in the Netherlands. It also made me appreciate the seemingly simple things in life back home, such as a fridge, a private shower with hot water and the availability of a large variety of food. More importantly, it made me question consumption patterns typical to developed societies and reflect on my own contribution to said overconsumption. Although every person will have their own experience and a week may not be enough to merge into the local lifestyle, I’m proud that Maya contributed in giving twenty young adults from my home country a completely different taste of life.
Concerning the interaction between the Dutch and Nepali students, I felt that despite the age gap, language barrier and different cultural backgrounds, they were able to connect on an intellectual level. Many HAL students found themselves intrigued by Maya’s 7th grade class’ set-up, focus and intelligence, as it was something that they weren’t expecting in a rural community of a ‘developing’ country. Simultaneously, the Maya students had the opportunity to learn about the Dutch culture and school system in a way that books could never teach, and they got to meet their foreign ‘peers’ for the first time in their lives.
Now, as winter is coming, we find ourselves warmed not only by the winter clothes provided by our new Dutch friends, but also by a hearty experience, that we can look back on with pride, and the confidence that we can create an environment in which people from all corners of the world can flourish.
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