‘It’s not scary to go to these borrels’
Who is FAM for?
“Those students that don’t feel attracted to or included by other associations: first generation students, students with a migration background, multicultural students, international students, queer students. Not every student wants to drink alcohol for example, but at borrels [Dutch word for social drinks, Ed.] is where a lot of networking and socializing happens.”
Student association Family of Academic Minds (FAM) strives to be welcoming for all students, and focus on diversity and inclusion. Besides hosting events they often announce on their Instagram, they have a podcast and are planning on going abroad with a travel committee.
Is the feeling of struggling to fit in familiar to you?
“I was born in Peru and moved here when I was eight years old. I was that kid that had to translate government papers for their parents, it was a wild ride. I didn’t speak the language and went to an all-white high school. Struggling to fit in implies that you want to and are willing to adjust to others, but it was more that I didn’t feel like I had a community. I thought I was alone for a long time, until I went to a VU family event [the precursor of FAM, Ed.]. A diversity event hosted by VU? I was quite skeptical.”
How did it turn out?
“They started with: Raise your hand if at a young age, you helped your parents translate. That question surprised me, as well as how many hands went up. Even though we all had different backgrounds, didn’t share a specific religion or a study program, we all had similar experiences. I thought: I’ve found my people to talk with.”
The concentration of students with a migration background is highest in the law faculty. Is that diversity reflected in the work field?
“It’s a work in progress. You see diversity amongst interns and on the junior level, but higher up the ladder there are no diverse partners. A lot of first generation students in law start off with the dream of becoming a lawyer, but lose that dream because they feel law firms are not inclusive enough.”
How can that change and where should it come from?
“From multiple parties. It’s our job as FAM to pull students out of their comfort zone and show them it’s not scary to go to these borrels. And it’s the job of the companies to accommodate, to not just have one row of water or cola zero for instance - that sends a message. We have inhouse days where companies speak on their policies on diversity and inclusion and we make sure they’re not just checking the boxes but are actually willing to change the work floor. Our entire board is qualified to give trainings on diversity and inclusion and multiple organizations have asked us as a focus group. The university has a role as well, through the Diversity Office for instance, to hire more diverse people, not only offer western curriculum and train staff on what to do in instances of racism.”
Master of Law: Internet, Intellectual Property and ICT
2021 - 2022: VU student assistent Diversity Office
2020 - Sept 2022: First Chair of FAM
2020: Founder FAM
You mention on your website you want to be a community that is welcoming to all students. In an ideal world, would there still be need for an association like FAM?
“I can see why you ask this but even if all associations were inclusive, there will always be the need for certain groups to come together. If I need updates on law I go to QBDBD [the Law Faculty Association, Ed.], if I want to talk about my immigrant or first generation student experience or that of a woman of color, I go to FAM. However, we do think it’s important to bridge between our community and all the other communities in the Netherlands. During iftar for instance, we invite other students. I think that’s why FAM is growing – we primarily offer a community and safe space to our members, but are always trying to find a connection to society. Having a community is important, but we have to keep the communication with the whole society – that’s the only way we can all win.”