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TESTIMONIAL: The Role of Cycling in Helping Refugees Integration in Netherlands.

Name: Mbali Mbuyisa University: Radboud University Nijmegen Email: Study Program: Urban Planning, Human Geography and Environment and Society Studies. Research Study: “The role of the bicycle in helping refugee settlement and integration in the Netherlands,” (focusing specifically on participants from the city of Nijmegen and the participants of the organization Unity in Diversity, in The Hague.

This past summer of 2017, as a student at Radboud University Nijmegen, I had to write a thesis paper to fulfil my program’s requirement. As a Urban Planning, Human Geography and Environment and Society student, I chose to conduct and write my thesis on the topic of transportation, smart mobility and people. My research study was about the “role of bicycles in helping with refugee settlement and integration in the Netherlands.”

The interest and choice to do a study on bicycle stemmed from the prominent stance of the bicycle within the Dutch society and culture and the recent situation of refugees entering Europe. Conducting research meant that I needed to find refugee participants that were able and willing to take part in my study. I contacted an organization in The Hague called Unity in Diversity and asked if I could work with them doing my research. They agreed to help me with my research and It was truly amazing to be able to work with the foundation during this study period. Through their assistance, in the month of July, I managed to conduct over 5 in-depth interviews, transcribed them and analyzed data. This was great because I needed at least 10 respondents. The organization went over and beyond to help organize everything with regards to conducting the interviews.

Additionally, I gained in-depth knowledge on the potential successes and blunders of the usefulness of the bicycle as a tool that can be used for integration purposes, the gaps that exist within its use, and additional recommendations by the respondent participants on how bicycles could be used in their integration processes. My research experience was extremely informative and beneficial for my thesis paper. Working with the foundation enriched my research study a lot in terms of organizing and facilitating the interviews with my participants with a huge help from Ms Miracle Uche, the chairperson of the foundation.

Furthermore, working with her on this, also helped and prepared me with a number of skills I know I will use as I continue on to finish my Master program, such as developing good communication with interviewees, finding the correct way to ask questions and adapt them quickly when interviewees get uncomfortable, managing time and responsibilities independently, and also gaining a sense of confidence in my own ability to conduct intense research on a sensitive topic.

Moreover, after I finished with conducting interviews, I wrote and completed my thesis. My study concluded that, if put in context, with better organization and planning, bicycles could be used positively in helping with the settlement and integration of refugees. Supportive projects revolving around the use of bicycle, traffic rules and basic courses on learning how to cycle for refugee women, men and children would be very useful as soon as they arrive in the Netherlands. With the help of the foundation Unity and Diversity, I am happy to say that my thesis was a success. I would definitely recommend that anyone interested in getting involved, working or conducting research on the social integration of refugees and foreigners in general, to contact the Organization. The foundation itself is great and has a lot of projects that help with integration and social inclusion of refugees and foreigners alike.

Thank you, Mbali Mbuyisa

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