Far away, and yet so close

It is no surprise that many of you ask me about my plans for next semester; I haven’t really been able to hide my excitement about it. Many have asked if (or assumed that) I am nervous and perhaps even a little anxious about leaving the Netherlands for six months to go study in Canada. I am not. Most of you know that I enjoyed my stay in France very much, and I am very happy that I have another opportunity to study abroad and to experience the world. Some of you warned me that Canada is quite far away and that this distance would affect my experience in a negative way – being geographically distanced might make me socially detached.

Canada, indeed, comes close to being on the other side of the world. However, to me Canada is just one ocean – and a seven hour direct flight from Amsterdam to Montreal – away. I have never felt closer to Canada as I am feeling nowadays. This, of course, has to do with the fact that I went to Montreal in October last year, and I didn’t experience this distance back then. I had an amazing time by myself during this week in Montreal: it has brought me academic knowledge and experience by attending and contributing to the conference, it made me reflect on Europe and the Netherlands (as part of the Western world), and Montreal has become one of my favorite cities where I really felt at home.

Perhaps even more importantly, the feeling of being close to Canada is due to the fact that since one and a half years ago an important part of my research is dedicated to Canadian subjects. My first encounter with this field of research was in a class on literature from Quebec in which we studied some key texts from the region, a couple of novels by Indigenous writers (Indians) and by migrants. Afterwards,  I wrote my master thesis on Indigenous peoples’ poetry from an ecocritical perspective (for example, I counted all the animals that appeared in the collections of poetry that I studied – which, how surprising, amused my fellow students). In the research master I try to relate as many assignments as possible to Canadian literature or society. For example, during last week’s class of ‘Contemporary Debates in the Humanities’ that focuses on multiculturalism, I wrote a ‘letter to the editor’ about the suicide attempts in Attawapiskat, a Native peoples community in the North of Canada. For the student magazine Interlingua of the romance languages department at university I wrote a piece on the missing, murdered and violated Indigenous women, the so-called Stolen Sisters.

In this way, I have learned a lot about Canada in the last two years. It gave my academic ‘career’ a boost but has also influenced my personality and world view. Also, I often feel like I am more up to date about Canadian news, especially when it comes to the Indigenous peoples, than about Dutch news.

In short, intellectually and emotionally I have become rather close to Canada lately. The ocean between us cannot keep us apart anymore. Of course I will miss my friends and family in the Netherlands – luckily we have Skype – but I am really looking forward to live in Canada for a while.

This is the first in a series of blogs on Canada. I will keep you posted on my plans, struggles, excitement and, most importantly, my stay there.  Most of the blogs will be in Dutch. Next up: my plans so far…


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