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The semester is coming to a close and so is my time as a trainer for A Place To Talk. I am most proud of my co-trainer and trainees who have all done such an excellent job over these many weeks of training and grown so much. The good news is that I will be the Internal Training Director next year! So, if I have convinced you to become a great listener, apply. Spring or fall, you are most welcome. Reading this column will have definitely taught you a thing or two.
Oftentimes when you are talking to a friend, it’s about how your day is going, what you’ve been up to recently and vice versa, all that surface level stuff. If we are being honest with one another, that’s just small talk. Once you tap into your feelings, then you really start to listen to what the person is saying and understand how they are feeling.
If listening was simply paying attention to a sound, such as what someone is saying, with great eye contact, nodding your head and with open body posture, it would be easy. At least, I would find it easier than it really is. However, people often come to talk to you about something and want you to say something in response. Sometimes this can be an affirmation of their feelings, telling them that you really hear them, but some people need more of a nudge to keep talking.
As a member of A Place To Talk (APTT), a peer listening group on campus, I am very lucky to have learnt how to really listen to others in a way that can help someone tackle almost any problem. This doesn’t mean I can fix every situation that I hear about. On the contrary, APTT’s number one rule is that we do not give advice.
First of all, I’d like to say that I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and a relaxing break. Secondly, I would like to tell you about mine.
I am now writing to you all from Geneva, Switzerland (not Amsterdam) as I enjoy a few days at home. It is the end of the first half of my semester abroad and this has made me want to reflect a little on the time I have spent away from Hopkins so far.
Cycling in this city can be a treacherous task, but as I’ve gotten used to it, I’ve found that it has enabled me to finally appreciate the allure of Amsterdam.
As anyone who knows anything about the Dutch will know, they are obsessed with cycling. It’s not too surprising though, when you think of how small the Netherlands is (around 42,000 square kilometers or twice the size of New Jersey) and how flat. When the steepest incline you have to ascend is just a canal bridge, you quickly realize that cycling seems like the most logical mode of transport. Tour guides always like to ask the trick question to tourists about how many bikes they think there are in Amsterdam. They might give a hint that the population is a little over 830,000. Can you guess?
Hello there! I am writing to you today from almost 4,000 miles away, in a charming café on the bank of a gorgeous canal, among the busy chitchat of the everyday Amsterdammers (the café is called De Drie Graefjes — would definitely recommend their red velvet cake!).