UvA Summer School 2021: A love story

When I proposed UvA summer school office potential collaboration in creating a programme on mindfulness and compassion, I really thought it will be a one time only event… it turned out that it was a whole love story!

I still remember my first encounter with Mirjam and her team, entering their office in rush trying to fit the meeting in the middle of my numerous tasks on my never ending to do list. My plan was to pitch them the concept of a weekend-long lecture/workshops on the topic of mindfulness and compassion. Nice and easy way to disseminate scientific knowledge to the interdisciplinary young academic public. I felt confident and happy with my plan, till the moment when I heard that they are usually working with a 3 weeks format, which put me in a state of shock.

3 weeks?! the whole 21 days of intensive teaching? 6 credits usually taught during few months condensed into this format? During that time I did not had even 3 minutes for a relaxing coffee time; which by the way was not very mindful nor compassionate for myself, I must admit; finding time for 3 weeks intensive experience not mentioning the whole preparation time was impossible to imagine.

I talked to my colleges: they all thoughts it was crazy. I did my pro/cons list in my head: the balance for NO was obvious. I set down… the logical part of myself was saying in loops something along the lines: “don’t you even dare considering it!”. Still, I could not ignore tingling, moving and bubbles popping positive kind of feeling in my body. My heart was filled with joy and my body was exited.

I went to my supervisor and I said to her: Susan, I don’t know why, I know that it sounds insane, but I want to run this 3 week summer school. She responded calmly, if you feel like doing it, go for it! So I did.

From that moment on it was a beginning of a beautiful adventure!

The combination of multidisciplinary knowledge coming from the best experts in the field, different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences coming from the students from around the world; together with the safe space created to reflect, discuss and most importantly experience ourselves in the interaction with others, what we have in common and what makes us uniquely different, made it a bliss. We witnessed together stories of burn out and anxiety in people tired of being perfect; stories of self-discoveries of strengths; coming out for participants born in countries where freedom of being who you are has a different meaning; and stories of beauty of being human.

As Mandy Len Catron [1] perfectly put it in one of her The New York Times article “it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known”. I must say that I feel privileged to know each one of you who were in this programme so far, and those who helped me to build it and continue to innovate it in the most creative way!  Because grace to you all I could also know better myself. This is why also I am looking forward with the same excitement as several years ago to every person with who I will cross my path in the future programmes.  Reis & Aron [2] defined love as a desire to enter, maintain or expend a close, connected and ongoing relationship with another person and another entity. Therefore, the only title I can put to this programme is a real Love story. If you too want to be a part of it, check it out! https://bit.ly/3pDPHkV 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/style/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html

[2] Reis & Aron (2008). Love: What Is It, Why Does It Matter, and How Does It Operate? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(1), 80-86.

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