My name is Joris Deelen and I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne where I study the genetic mechanisms underlying healthy ageing. In April 2016 I was approached by the Frans Seda Foundation (FSF) to participate in their annual Seminar. The theme of the seminar was “Identity without borders” and I was selected as one of the 10 participants representing the Netherlands. Although I had always been interested in Indonesia, I had no direct connection with the country. Hence, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about Indonesia and see if I could help building bridges between Indonesia and the Netherlands.
And indeed, during the seminar I learned a lot about Indonesia. In addition, I experienced that our shared history still plays an important role in our current collaborations and that this should not be underestimated. I think we came up with some nice ideas how to improve the collaboration between our countries, and I hope this will continue in the future.
The seminar also gave me a lot of more personal insights. For example, I realized that for Indonesians religion is still very important in their daily life and that many different religions can exist side-by-side. This is clearly different from what I experience in the Netherlands, where there is a lot of tension between the different religious groups. In addition, I experienced that the Dutch way of discussing is clearly different from the Indonesian way and that we (Dutch) sometimes forget that we have to take a step back and listen to others. This was a valuable lesson for me, which I also try to implement in my current work. Altogether, participating in this Seminar was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to everyone!