3932 miles – That’s the distance from Maastricht, which is located in the Western part of the Netherlands, to Washington D.C..
A more pictorial illustration of the distance between these two places in the Atlantic Ocean separating Europe from the Americas.
But this distance is not only a geographical feature, but also a portrayal of the differences. There is a reason why the United States of America are referred to as the ‘New World’ while Europe represents the ‘Old World’. There are shared experiences and many similarities, but the overall perception of the world differs. It is a ‘New’ view challenging an ‘Old’ perspective. Maastricht and D.C. are two cities, which perfectly embody this dynamic. But before coming back to this unique dynamic between the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ , I should probably introduce myself:
I am Bahar.
Born in Germany. Being blessed of growing up in the beautiful city of Cologne.
Rooted in Persian culture with both of my parents being from Iran.
Living and studying in the Netherlands currently – Focusing on International Relations and International Law.
Personal Maxim: The easiest way of falling in love with a country and its people is through the national cuisine – ergo: Food means Peace.
A historical city as Maastricht, which was already well-know due to its strategic location by the Romans as “Mosae Trajectum”, is a perfect representation of Europe as the ‘Old World’. Strolling through the narrow alleys and passing the historical monuments still preserved from the Roman Empire generates the atmosphere as if time has stood still. As a student of Maastricht University such atmosphere can also be found in the old university buildings with some of them dating back to the 15th century. One of these is the Niuewenhof monastery, which serves as a place of education and learning to all University College Maastricht (UCM) students – myself included.
The Liberal Arts and Sciences curriculum paired with the European ‘Old View’ has a tendency to look back. Learning from past experiences, ancient philosophy and historical events is core to the educational agenda of UCM. Kant, Nietzsche, Aristotle and Plato are always present in the tutorial rooms and lecture halls – only figuratively speaking of course. And sometimes this ‘Old View’ concerning education is carried through at the expense of reconnecting with practical reality. At that moment, innovation and fresh ideas are what one seeks after or simply said a ‘New View’. This basically sums up my expectations for my upcoming semester at GW: innovative ideas, new perspectives and inspiring insights. I have been looking for a paradigm, which does not directly stem from the European experience, for quite some time now. My semester abroad at GW could be the chance to dip into a new paradigm and see the world events from a different perspective. US politics, culture and lifestyle do differ from the European one. Although, Europeans initially founded the United States the way of how they saw the world and how they wanted to live differed. The value of liberty is a cornerstone of the US’ moral basis. Liberty in the American sense is interpreted in a very different way than in Europe. After having lived in the US (Concord, New Hampshire) for almost a year during my time as a high school student, I perceive the current American idea of liberty to be more absolute, more emphasized and very emotional.
Such difference is not only mirrored in major societal and political structures, but also in the education system and in what is learned. I want to experience that. Learning about the world from another perspective will not only broaden my horizon, but it will also allow me to understand others and defend my own point of view in a much more sophisticated way.
My expectations seem to be very abstract, but put into simpler terms it is all about experiencing something ‘New’. It is true that I have already experienced daily life in the US. However, my 16-year old me has very little to do with 21-year old Bahar. The high school experience cannot be compared to academic life at GW. And most importantly, I have clear goals and somewhat of a plan in my mind this time. 6 years ago I visited the US as a curious and naive world traveler and fell in love with the country and the people. I became a different person throughout my 1-year stay in little Concord, New Hampshire. Now I am going back to the States with a clear vision in mind of what to expect. I would still call myself a world traveler, but I’m not naive anymore and I have plans. This blog will provide me with a platform to remind me of these plans and allow me to share them.
Me, 21-year old Bahar, is in urgent need of inspiration and the best way to find it is by changing locations and diving into new cultures. GW is the first step towards fresh inspirational inputs. DC is the perfect place for me to elaborate on innovative ideas. The US will provide me with the ‘New’ that I so desperately need at the moment.