Learning about the role of agriculture and natural resources in sustainable rural development – student’s reflection (2)

Together with four students of Wageningen University, I spend two weeks in Kaunas, Lithuania to represent Wageningen University, and the Rural Sociology Group, at this years’ ‘Intensive Programme’ on rural development. In a series of posts, the participating students reflect on the programme and share their experiences.

By Woutine Pauw (student Master Agricultural & Bioresource Engineering):

On forehand, I did not have the objectives of the Intensive Programme (IP) clear in mind. What would be the program, the methods and the results? What people and cultures will we meet and work together with? What are we going to learn about rural development? I did not know what to expect, but I did know: whatever I would expect was not going to happen – and the other way around. I decided to pretend my brains to be a sponge and let them soak everything I saw around me. So here it is:

Some of us did their 8th IP, some of us were abroad for the first time. Some of us were born in the Soviet Union, some of us were native “Capital of Cucumber” citizen, some of us did not know how to work with Word. Some of us were shy, some of us were too polite to speak. Some of us never did group work before, some of us preferred to do group work alone. Some of us started dinner with desert, some of us made a brunch package just after having breakfast, some of us were veggie and thus lived on a diet of potato balls. Some of us danced in traditional Lithuanian circles, some of us danced flamenco and some of us clapped flamenco. Some of us were practicing whole night on reading their slide of the presentation, some of us were confident to state in their presentation that “milk… it’s good…”,. Some of us hiked trough field and forests on high heels, some of us went to lectures on hiking boots. Some of us changed their bed sheets every day, some of us brought home-brewed bottles of Palinka.

After two weeks I had an answer to most of my questions. I knew the program, methods and results. I met all the students and knew where they were from. I found that Lithuania has some severe ‘rural characteristics’. But most of all, afterwards, the objective of the IP could not have been clearer: all of us had our own goal and we had to work together to achieve them. Now, when I “squeeze my sponge”, I realize that this IP gave me an insight in all kind of differences that exist in cultures, people and their goals. Although in different ways, I think that everybody experienced all these differences between themselves and others. This means that coping with differences is a common thing. Realizing this was only possible because of working together intensively during the IP and it will be very useful in future teamwork. It happened to be my personal unknown objective. Could I have expected that?