Author: Rachel Silcox

Location: Utrecht, Netherlands

Hi Friends! Welcome again to Utrecht, NL. Today, I will introduce you to one of my best friends here, Elise! Elise (pronounced Ill-ee-za) is 100% Dutch and was born and raised not far from Utrecht, in a small town called Hilversum. Whenever I want to explore the Utrecht area she knows just the place to go! My favorite time with Elise is when she took me on an hour bike ride! We rode to the small village of Lage Vuursche about 15 km away, where we had a dinner of Dutch pancakes (like crepes) with bacon and apples and cheese. Elise also showed me the outside of the former Dutch Queen’s current residence! We couldn’t see much because it had a huge fence in the way, but like Elise said, “That’s normal considering the Dutch version of Barack Obama basically lives there.” She is quite funny and is always interesting to talk to!

Elise is studying law and politics as she wants to go into international relations, specifically dealing with border conflicts. Her international interest is so strong as she speaks Dutch, English, Spanish, and French fluently, even though she was born and raised in the Netherlands. I asked Elise about herself and her interest in international studies, so here are the answers so you can get to know her too!

Me: How did you get so interested in international affairs?

Elise: I’m not sure. I’ve always really liked listening to the stories my grandparents would tell me when I was little and especially when I was old enough to start connecting what they would tell me to what I learned in school. For example, in school we learned about the Hungry Winter of 1944. This was when one part of the Netherlands was liberated, but the Allies couldn’t cross the big rivers in the South to get up North. It was a historically cold winter and people were walking from Rotterdam to Germany (about 90 miles) to get food because there was so little. Then, my grandparents told me about their specific experience and it was so cool to see how regular people fit into history. They survived by eating flower bulbs and making soup out of the most basic things. It’s interesting but sad to hear of how regularly had to people behave. It was also so crazy to hear about the German soldiers. Even though they were fighting for the Nazi’s, my grandparents said they acted nice, grateful, and welcoming. Not hostile at all. It is hard not to vilify someone who supported the Nazis, but it really makes you think how any of us could have been there if it was our country. Hearing these stories makes you think a lot about the individuals in different countries throughout history and what they were really like.

Me: You see history as an important part of understanding people?

Elise: Yeah, history is especially important when understanding conflicts between people, I think. Conflicts are so complex and you have to trace the origins of a specific conflict back so far to understand why these problems have come about, particularly when thinking about border conflicts. In the past, some borders were simply drawn arbitrarily, but it is interesting to think about how borders and country sovereignty determined our world today. That’s why I wanted to combine history, law, politics, and biology. Especially when dealing with political issues like border disputes, it is necessary to know about history and law. They are intertwined, like with the Arab-Israeli conflict you need to understand history to work effectively in politics today.

Me: Interesting! How does biology figure into that?

Elise: Oh. Well, I like Biology, so that’s for fun!

Me: Ah! Now that is a real Liberal Arts and Sciences student talking!

Elise: Yeah. I’m just genuinely interested in lots!

Me: What do you see yourself doing in the future?

Elise: Traveling. I really want to travel. I’ve been to the U.S. and various countries in Europe, but I really want to travel to Asia. My country gets so boring; I want to see something completely different!

Me: I feel that! Why do you think I came here?

Elise: It’s so cool that you chose the Netherlands to come to! It’s cool for me to see people interested in my country. I also love to talk to people from the U.S. There are so many opinions and ideas that I find interesting to listen to, so you should tell more people to come here from Valpo!

Elise is so easy to relate to! Even though we have grown up in very different places, we both have an interest in studying and learning about other cultures. We both love to share our culture and our experiences with each other. I hope you enjoyed Elise sharing a bit of her experience with you too!