Update Master Student Exchange Program River Commons

The group of master students meets at Casa Migrante in Amsterdam, a non-profit organization that supports Spanish-speaking immigrants who live in and around Amsterdam. They already all seem so comfortable as it is not their first time here. The students have become acquainted with some aspects of the South American countries that they will go to for their Master’s thesis or internship. In the encounter space for intercultural exchange between Latin-American immigrants, the students have a last meeting to conclude before they will depart. They are the first group of master students that participates in the River Commons Master Student Exchange Program. After several preparatory meetings during one semester, they are now ready to depart to their different study sites in South America. All with their own focus of study on the main topic of rivers, river co-governance, and water justice movements.

As part of their preparatory activities they not only held discussions about development, positionality, and environmental justice, but they also had a first introduction to Casa Migrante and Parroquia San Nicolas as a dynamic interchange between cultures and knowledge. Collaborating organizations shared real-life examples through presentations and lively discussions on topics such as intercultural communication, community engagement, and critical self-reflection. More than once the question arose: “what will be your role, position, and also, your contribution?” and following “how will this be part of your research”?.

Soon, the students will arrive at their study sites, in Ecuador and Colombia, where they will all conduct their field research. Some focus on more social sciences aspects, others on natural sciences. Still, all of them include cross-cultural exchange, connection, and reflection. For at least 3 months, they will engage with local communities, NGOs, and other stakeholders to jointly study innovative river-commoning approaches and methodologies. From a participatory action research approach, students will support and collaborate in riverine grassroots initiatives aimed to protect and restore rivers.

In a couple of months from now, upon their return, the students will communicate their learned lessons and intercultural insights to audiences in their home community, for example through experience-discussion meetings on social equality, sustainable water governance, and environmental justice. This intercultural connection is important to all partners: The INREF-collaborating WUR chair groups and study programs, CEDLA/UvA, Week Nederlandse Missionaris, Casa Migrante, Parroquia San Nicolás Amsterdam, and different NGOs around the world. They jointly stress the programs’ focus on issues of North-South solidarities, common good, ethics, human and nature’s rights, social inequalities and discrimination, and the diversity of cultural values, cosmovisions, and spiritual dimensions.

In 2023, the Masters’ exchange program will focus on consolidating the exchange programs’ setup and methodology taking into account the lessons learned from the first cohort. Specifically, the following activities will take place:

  1. Implementation and consolidation of the program with partner institutes, based on the lessons learned from 2022.
  2. Supervision of students who are now in the field.
  3. Establishment of new exchange opportunities with other NGOs and local actors
  4. Identification and arrangement of the counter-exchange-visit of 8 Colombian students to the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the students who have arrived in Colombia and Ecuador recently, engage with their host organization partners and exchange with youngsters back home: inspiring stories about intercultural.

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