Reflections on Intersections of Cities: Amsterdam meets Birmingham

Spaghetti Junction at night, Birmingham, UK

Dila Gormus and Kamil Rog, student ambassadors from UvA and UoB, reflect on the joint EDI Festival exploring broader conversations about fostering a more inclusive and cohesive community in our diverse cities.

The Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Festival is an annual celebration of the aspects of Amsterdam and Birmingham that make both our Universities and cities great places to be. Student ambassadors of each University collaborate to share knowledge, experience and best practice across our international communities through the partnership.

Our student ambassadors supported and co-developed four webinars in this year’s first-ever virtual festival, which centred on the theme of Intersections of Cities: Amsterdam meets Birmingham. You can access the recordings of the webinar series via the following links:

Personal reflections of ‘Embedding EDI’ from Dila, University of Amsterdam.

I am Dila, 20 years old and a second-year Communication Science student at the University of Amsterdam. When I first heard about the opportunity of joining the Cultural Exchange Ambassador Programme, it immediately sparked my interest as there is a big focus on celebrating cultural diversity, promoting equal access to study abroad and stimulating students to engage with their student community, all of which I am very passionate about.

As a Global Changemaker, I got the chance to host the ‘Visualising the Diversity of Amsterdam and Birmingham’ EDI Festival webinar. Even though I have often spoken in public for school-related events, this was a very different experience as it was fully virtual due to COVID-19 and had an international audience. The webinar series was great as everyone was actively participating and sending in questions, which led to very interesting discussions and insights of Anne de Graaf and Jo Duberley, the strategic equality leads of both universities and our guest speakers of the finale webinar. 

One beautiful quote that stuck with me is: “diversity itself is critical to education because part of education is getting to understand different perspectivesthat people come from different backgrounds and have different views”. This sentence perfectly represents the theme of the webinar series. I think all in all this was an amazing way to connect with students and staff from the Universities of Amsterdam and Birmingham and also very innovative: hosting a webinar with students and staff of another university in a different country is the newest modality of study abroad!

Personal reflections of ‘Inclusive Cities’ from Kamil, University of Birmingham.

Photograph of Kamil Rog, smiling and sitting on a beach

As an Urban Planning student, I jumped at the opportunity to co-host the ‘Inclusive Cities’ webinar, which combined a broad panel of academics and governance stakeholders to understand how the fabric of our two cities brings people together. My career ambitions to create urban spaces which benefit all people as an urban planner.

Cities like Birmingham and Amsterdam are melting pots of different cultures, enabling people of all backgrounds to share physical space. The interactions between city residents are essential for acknowledging identities different to our own and the subsequent awareness of existing within something more significant than our independent selves. Dr Justin Varney of Birmingham City Council acknowledged that creating inclusive communities is both “a science and an art”, requiring a combination of supportive infrastructure provided through decision-making and the presence of community voices that celebrate the differences that make cities unique.

Simion Blom from Amsterdam’s Green Party (GroenLinks) evoked the importance of comparing national perspectives. Simion’s visit to Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum highlighted an apparent openness in the UK to disseminate understanding of the issues of colonialism amongst the public, an approach which could support the Netherlands in addressing its on-going political tensions.

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