'Before I arrived at ‘Conflicts, Territories and Identities’ I studied ‘Spatial Planning’ at a university of applied sciences. Suffice to say that the two programmes are quite different from each other. Not completely satisfied with my first choice I wanted to move in a different direction and ‘Conflicts, Territories and Identities’ caught my eye: all three are subjects I had been interested in a while. Simply said the subjects of the master programme will always be relevant to human behaviour and have very clear real world consequences. How do people, who are on a one-on-one basis usually at least personable to each other, go into violent conflict? And why? What compels human beings to behave like this? Why does the land or culture one is born into or identifies with matter so much as to go to war for it?
The same questions matter on a much smaller scale, just think of the differences between different parts of the Netherlands and how those matter for (political) conflict. Those coming from small towns like me, often we think of people from the village over as having a completely different identity, and in the municipal political realm this might come to real conflicts of interest. It also goes to questions like; what unites people? Why do we feel ‘Dutch’ or ‘Macedonian’ or ‘Thai’? How can these identities matter so much as to cause conflict? To sum up, I think the master programme ‘Conflicts, Territories and Identities’ deals with many of these questions that matter to us in our daily lives, and are often kind of normal to us, but cause many (non-violent) conflicts that shape our lives. And they are in a sense universal. These same questions arise in South-East Asia as in the European Union as in West-Africa.
The atmosphere in class is quite relaxed in my opinion: it feels like you are always able to ask your professors anything, or perhaps comment on what is being told in the lecture. Classes are taught differently depending on the course or the lecturer though; a lecture with a 100 people in a big hall feels quite different from a class taught for 12 people in a small classroom. Similarly Zoom-lectures are a completely different beast. Certain lecturers (quite a lot of them) prefer a lot of interaction between the students and the professor. In general, I find it easy to approach professors, also after class or through email.
The situation in this specific schoolyear is quite unique due to Covid-19. Suddenly the whole program took place online and I haven’t been to the campus in more than a year. For me, one of the most valuable but also fun things about studying is working together with other people and bouncing ideas off of each other. I liked to study in the library and meet people during breaks to do exactly this. All that changed. Contact with classmates is tenuous and contact with professors is completely online. The most challenging was to figure out a way to still work from home and keep motivated and not distracted the entire time. It is a completely different way of studying that I reluctantly needed to learn.
Besides that obvious obstacle, I would say time allocation remains very difficult. During each block, there would be at least one course that would take up so much more time than the others that it threatened to completely dominate that whole block. You more or less need to establish time to keep track of other courses as well, as to not drown them out. This choosing between what you are able to do with your time, and allocating at least a modicum of time to all your courses was quite difficult and required many long evenings at school and at classmate's places.
I follow an internship at the ‘Institute for Human Rights’ which is an NGO located in Skopje, North Macedonia. Due to the restrictions of Covid-19, it is an online internship, but it still provides me with the necessary connections to conduct interviews. North Macedonia is a society where your access is very much related to who you know. My thesis is about the relation between ethnic identity and political processes in North Macedonia. The country has an consociationalist government following the 2001 conflict between the two main ethnicities in the country: ethnic-Macedonians and ethnic-Albanians. This consociationalist government has essentially ‘politicised’ ethnic-identity in the country by guaranteeing ethnicity-based quotas for government and governing institutions. To find out where power truly lies (and thus how ethnic identity influences politics) I want to talk to a wide array of people, which is why I believe an internship is truly invaluable even if just online.
I think the importance of ‘Conflicts, Territories and Identities’ is more or less self-explanatory: human conflict can be extremely devastating and is also something that (in smaller doses) is present in the daily lives of every human being. Understanding how human beings and their identities conflict is, I think, paramount to understanding human societies and behaviour.
I don’t have very clear plans for what to do after my master. In general, I am interested in working for the ministry of foreign affairs, and I planned to follow an internship there but those were abolished following the pandemic. Still, I would like to pursue this career path. I am also not opposed to following the NGO path, as the internship I follow has interested me more in the work that NGO’s do. In general, I would like to live and work abroad if I have that possibility."