Life has been full of surprises since I moved to the Netherlands. I get to do many things for the first time, and I like it very much. When I graduated from university in Israel I was sure that now I knew everything about the world, about life and about myself… But then I discovered that in life, you always keep on learning and doing new things that you never did before.

So this is how things have gone for the past few months here, lots of “first times”.  Many of these first times have to do with my master studies. Besides the fact that this is the first time I do a master, and in English! (which I already wrote about last time), I also have to face new challenges as a young researcher.

One of the methods I use for my master thesis is in-depth interviews. This is very exciting because it means that I actually get to talk with real people and I’m not only analyzing theories. Since my research question is about women’s experiences, the best way to find out about these experiences is by talking with them personally and hearing about it from them. It warmed my heart when I discovered that many women were willing to participate and be part of my project. It was not a problem at all to find these women, and some of them actually contacted me by themselves just because they heard about me from somebody else.

Last week I already performed the first two interviews. This is so much fun! First of all, it is amazing that people actually let me into their homes without knowing me. I was quite surprised about this because I know that Dutch people don’t let you in so easily. In Israel everybody is very open and there are no such problems. Of course it has a lot to do with the identity of the women I interview. They are all migrants or second generation of migrants.

The interviews went very well. Most of my question are about the life experiences of young migrant women in the Netherlands. Some of the questions are very practical and easy, for example: which language do you speak at home, or, do you celebrate Dutch holidays and so on. Other questions are more personal, since they are about the feelings and opinions of the interviewee. It can be quite personal and at first I wasn’t sure whether the women would open their hearts. These questions are mostly about the feeling of “being at home” and belonging in Dutch society. It is maybe easy to answer a question like “would you say the Netherlands is your home”, but it is not so simple to explain why, and what makes it “home” or not. Also a question like: ”what does it mean for you to be home”, can be quite complicated to answer, and the same goes for explaining these types of feelings. I am trying to ask myself these questions and I still find it challenging.

But there was no reason to be worried at all. So far, the women I interviewed were incredibly nice and open. I am looking forward to the rest of the interviews!

Actually last week was a great time to perform such an interview especially after the events on the local elections day. I believe all of the readers here know well enough what I am talking about. So much was written already about it in the past days here, in the social media, and everywhere; so I decided not to focus on this subject this time. Nevertheless I must say that all the latest political and social developments here in the Netherlands are quite interesting for me personally as a migrant, but also for my research which is about migration in this country.

Unfortunately, for me, racism is not an alien subject. As a Jewish woman, and as Israeli woman, I came across racism more than once. This is a universal phenomenon that occurs in many different societies. The Israeli society is not innocent in that matter, but neither the Dutch one or the French one… you can find racism and discrimination almost everywhere. But, although this not the topic of the blog, I do want to say that I also went to the demonstration on Saturday 22 March and I completely identify with this struggle!

I wish you all a week full of “first times”! Never stop learning!




Ronie Barel

verhuisde van Israël naar Nederland, activist, blogger

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