EAC volunteer reflections
In April 2021, we are reflecting on the past years the EAC has spent collecting and preserving life stories of expatriates worldwide and celebrating people who have played an important role in making the EAC what it is now.
The following are paired reflections from two EAC social media volunteers who have spent most or all of their time with us since we closed our doors to the public in March 2020. While the staff members members miss the daily interaction with volunteers, interns, and researchers, working remotely created the opportunity for some volunteer positions to be done remotely, too.
I started working as the Social Media volunteer for the Expatriate Archive Centre in January 2021. I saw the position posted on Twitter and was intrigued by the opportunity to do the work remotely, something that would not typically be possible without the current pandemic situation. Although many things have changed for the worse over the past year, I was grateful that it opened the door to volunteering. Although I’ve not personally set foot in the EAC, my perspective of it is shaped by my experience as a historical researcher and expat. I have researched in many other archives, so I appreciate the work that the EAC is doing to preserve these histories.
For those who are Third Culture Kids or expatriates or emigres or immigrants, living somewhere that isn’t ‘home’ or eventually becomes ‘home’ is often life-changing, if not life-defining. Over the past few weeks, I have tried to reflect how unique and yet uncannily similar these experiences can be through my choices on social media. By sharing links related to expat life, the experiences of being a Third Culture Kid, or fascinating archival finds, I want to show a wide-range of both the stories the EAC is preserving, but also how varied, exciting and crucial historical archival work is. I’ve enjoyed the volunteer work immensely, as well as the chance to learn more about the role social media plays for research institutions in terms of public outreach. Perhaps most surprising about the job so far, though, is the fact that even thousands of kilometres from home, I am working together with a fellow Texan from the same home district. If the opportunity opens up to volunteer at the EAC, I would definitely recommend it.
— Susannah Brooks, an American in Germany
A lot has changed since I started volunteering at the Expatriate Archive Centre in January of 2020. Each Monday, I had my little routine of hopping on the train that took me from Amsterdam to The Hague, enjoying some reading along the way, and settling in at the EAC office with some warm greetings and a cup of coffee. As the weeks progressed, lunchtime discussion shifted to the growing concerns about the prevalence of COVID-19 in the Netherlands; by March, the office was closed and our work shifted online.
During this time, my residence permit in the Netherlands was also reaching its expiration, and I had been preparing to pack up my little Dutch life and move to Scotland in late April. With Brexit looming and the potential that remote working would not extend long-term, I didn’t anticipate that it would be possible for me to continue on with the EAC. However, as an expat myself with a background in cultural heritage, the work of the EAC is very near and dear to my heart, and, as lockdown persisted, I was more than happy to continue on in my role from Scotland.
As a social media volunteer, I had a privilege that some of the other volunteers at the EAC didn’t have: the option to work remotely. As I adapted to life in a new city and a new country in the midst of turbulent times, I found comfort in reading and posting expat content on the EAC’s social media channels. Reading stories from all corners of the world, it gave me some reassurance to know that I was not the only one struggling to adapt to my new surroundings, dealing with homesickness, or trying to find a place to live.
Meanwhile, seeing the perspectives of my fellow expats on the @WeAreXpats account further entrenched within me the importance of the various archival initiatives undertaken by the EAC. The latest initiative, “Expatriate Life in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic” cements the importance of preserving the stories of expats as they face niche challenges that might otherwise be forgotten.
Ultimately, despite the uncertainties, I can’t think of a more appropriate year to have spent volunteering at the Expatriate Archive Centre than this past one. I am grateful both for the times that I spent at the office with Kelly, Kristine, Fadime, Eva and Myrthe as well as the times I spent at home – alone, but not really.
— Paige Foley, a Canadian in Scotland