When the Statelessness Programme in Tilburg University was created by Mrs. Van Waas, I was a teenager dreaming of working in a university and becoming like Mrs. Van Waas - make a change and help other people. I knew those were my dreams, but I did not have any idea about how to make them a reality. In 2012, I took the chance to study in Tilburg University, moved to the Netherlands and stared a life changing journey.
Enrolled in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Bachelor, I truly enjoyed my studies. Nevertheless, I had great difficulties adapting in the new environment and learning to live alone. I started searching for more opportunities than just attending lectures and studying. I dreamed of a challenge and a real experience from the academic area. Applying for an internship in the Statelessness Programme was just a dream that seemed quite impossible before I realized that I was actually given the opportunity for 6 months to work for the world’s most innovative and hardworking programme about Statelessness.
I joined the Statelessness team as an intern to help with awareness raising on statelessness, by creating a web-site about Statelessness and Nationality. While still a student in high school I was highly influenced by my brother, a computer engineer, and my mother, a physics teacher; they made me passionate about studying and creating web-sites. When applying for the Statelessness Programme I had basic knowledge on how to manipulate ready web-site templates and adjust them to the content desired. Nevertheless, I was lacking the essential knowledge of building my own web-site from a scratch. Realizing how important the Statelessness programme is, I decided that it would be highly inappropriate to use free online template and therefore, I started taking online courses for programming. My internship was 6 months, 3 months of which I spent studying how to create the perfect web-site for the needs of the Programme. In that sense, I am extremely grateful at Laura van Waas and everyone in the team for giving complete freedom to decide on my own and to create the web-site gradually. Working on Microsoft Web Expression 4, the web-site has a ‘bone’ structure of HTML, with some HTML5 elements, and a ‘skin’ structure of CSS and j-Query. I really wanted to create a PHP form for comments, but for now my knowledge of PHP is insufficient to do that, although I tried.
The web-site presents two sides of the Statelessness problem – Statelessness and Nationality. Before, my mind could not understand how it is possible one legal term to envelop to such a degree a human creature and condemn it to belong nowhere. The right side of the web-site is about Nationality and the left is about Statelessness, and each of the two parts have their own drop-down menus. The main purpose of this separation of those two terms is the clear distinction between the legal terms and the social consequences of those terms. The web site dedicates parts to all aspects of both Statelessness and Nationality that affect all people in the world – those with and those without citizenship.
The Statelessness section gives more information about what statelessness itself is, how it occurs and why, as well as what can be done about statelessness and what is done today by whom. In order for the Statelessness part to be fully understood, the essence of Nationality has to be explained as well. Hence the web-site is separated in two mutually complementing parts. In the Nationality part, you can find why we have citizenship of different countries and how this affects our lives. People can learn how due to the concept of Nationality and the legal gaps connected with it, another legal term developed – Statelessness.
Creating a duo-website about both Statelessness and Nationality was extremely helpful for me as well. Working in such a great professional environment I started feeling at home, surrounded by friends. The Statelessness Programme and everyone working in it helped me grow as a person and to create something meaningful. I received great help from Mrs. Van Waas and Miss Albarazi for the content of the web-site. Back then, being a first year student, I realize now that I was not able to explain the essence of the Statelessness issue without the great guidance of the before mentioned people. Most of all, I am endlessly grateful for being found, when I was lost. That is what the Statelessness Programme in Tilburg University is doing – it is helping people all over the world to find their place, where they belong.
Zhasmina Kostadinova, former intern with the Statelessness Programme and designer of the website www.whatisstatelessness.org