Home is where the heart is, the old adage goes. But home is also a space and a feeling of belonging created through our connections with each other, whether it’s by means of sharing daily experiences, values, hopes and dreams, a place on Earth, or all of these. In this post, Ruard Ganzevoort, who recently joined the ISS as its new rector, shares his thoughts on feeling at home at the ISS and why this feeling arises.
If I would try to describe my experience of joining the ISS community as its new rector, the first thing that comes to mind is how much I feel at home. That is not only caused by the warm welcome I received. It has to do with something much more fundamental. It has to do with where we can locate ourselves at the intersections of the personal, the local, and the global. Feeling at home to me means finding a place where we can be rooted as well as a place from where we move into the outside world. Let me explain.
From my early childhood until today, I have moved quite often. I lived in around 20 houses in 12 cities in two countries. I traveled and worked (even if briefly) in a dozen more countries, most regularly in Indonesia where my partner is from. In the recent past, I co-owned a small boutique hotel in a building that doubled as our private home, with only one sliding door between the lobby and our living room. Home, I can say, has always been a fluid and momentous concept to me — more a specific quality of life than a fixed location. I can feel completely at home in a new place or alienated in a place very familiar to me.
So where do I experience that sense of ‘being home’? And why at ISS? First, it has to do with the personal alignment of values, of what really matters to you. I feel truly at home when my fundamental personal values are shared with the people around me. That doesn’t mean we agree about everything. Far from it. But it does mean that there is a shared understanding of what is really important. It means that what I care about is not dismissed by the people around me.
Connected through our values
At the ISS, I sense this value alignment in the focus on social justice and global equity. There is a shared understanding that what matters to us is the search for pathways to a better world and that our academic endeavours are geared toward aim. And as a corollary of that social justice perspective, we are aware that diversity of positions, perspectives, and personalities should be acknowledged and appreciated. That is why I feel at home and that is what I want to nurture as rector of the ISS.
Connected in the here and now
The second aspect of being at home is allowing oneself to get rooted in a local community. This is not necessarily a permanent community, not one that will always remain the same. It means that we embrace the community as it exists here and now — a community that inhabits a space and is located in a certain environment. For me, the community of ISS feels like home insofar as we are willing to engage with one another, to be there with one another, to be willing to be part of each other’s life in the here and now. And, surely, part of that local community is in fact virtual, but there is a strong here-and-now dimension to a community. One of the striking features of ISS is this experience of a local community of learners, living and working together in that iconic building of ours, located in the specific context of The Hague, with all its unique qualities and possibilities.
Connected to the rest of the world
The third aspect of being at home is being aware that we are connected globally and part of a larger world. To be at home here and now implies that there is also a there and then. Sometimes this is played out antagonistically in an us–them scheme. Much more fruitful, however, is to see home as our base from where we engage with the world. Knowing where we are at home makes it possible to reach out and move to other places without getting lost. One of the beautiful characteristics of ISS is that this is precisely what is happening. Students, staff, and alumni are at home at ISS and travel into the world. And they are at home somewhere else in the world and travel to ISS.
That is why I immediately feel at home at ISS. As rector, I hope to contribute to profound conversations about our values-driven scholarship, to a caring and meaningful social community, and to an ever more intensive focus on the world outside. Let’s do this together!
Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.
About the author:
Prof.dr. (Ruard) RR Ganzevoort is the rector of the International Institute of Social Studies in Den Haag (part of Erasmus University Rotterdam) as well as professor of Lived Religion and Development.
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