Vacation is over! It’s time to get back to work. Therefore, I’m gonna get back to biweekly posts. Let’s get started with the third part of how the past half year has changed me. Warning: a bit of Dutch patriotism might have leaked out while writing this part.
I’ve always kinda strolled through the educational ladder. Primary school, high school, university. Even though I ended up at a university for applied sciences instead of a uni of research, I was relatively content. I’ve always done everything that was required, nothing more and nothing less. Didn’t fail a course, although German made it difficult in high school. That damn language never stuck with me somehow… Anyway. When you’re younger, you tend to care more about the grades you get. Therefore, I worked hard. However, the past few years have included more and more chillings at uni premises than actual studying. I didn’t care. I’m still passing everything, so why not have some fun instead? This also lead me to completely disregard the level of education I’m receiving and have received before. The Netherlands is doing pretty damn well. I can write tons of stuff about strong points and points of improvement. However, let’s stick with the following three major aspects:
Dutch people often refer to themselves as “nuchter”. You can translate that as “sober”, “composed”, “down to earth”, and such. Basically, dreams and fantasy, or glitter and glamour are not highly valued. Facts and reason are. I used to think of this mindset as boring, and stark. However, it’s also highly practical. Getting carried away based on authority happens way less than I have seen in countries such as Russia, or South Korea, both to a different extent. I’m not saying the Netherlands is alone in this, thank god, no. That doesn’t make it less valuable, though.
Ever since high school I remember being told to keep in mind, that the history we get taught is written from a West European point of view, that there are multiple ways to solve a math problem apart from the one we’re taught, and to always ask why. Don’t assume just because someone on the internet says so, it is completely true. Don’t assume just because anyone from anywhere says something, it is completely true. Don’t assume that a single research report conveys the whole truth. Do your own research. Look at other sources. Search for oppositions. Don’t copy someone else’s opinion, but come up with your own. Be critical. This has led me to figure out that “the way it has always been” might as well be the worst argument ever made. It made me understand different points of view, and made me want to push forward changes. It’s a mindset I have partially gained from high school and uni, whether I’d like to admit it or not.
I can be short on this. The general level of understanding English, also speaking to a noticeable extent, is really high in the Netherlands. I looked it up, actually. Apparently, last year (2016) our little country has been ranked first on the English Proficiency Index amongst 72 non-native speaking countries, followed by Denmark and Sweden. (Curious where other countries stand? You can find more information about that here.) I’ve heard that before, but okay, how does that matter to me? Coincidentally, I love travelling, for various reasons. I also love to search for information, as well as entertainment (we’re being honest here), from various sources (refers back to critical thinking in a sense). Considering that the Netherlands is a pretty small country, English language is an insanely practical means of communication. It opens doors to more possibilities, and more understanding of online humour. Amazing.
I feel that grades are the least important when it comes to Dutch education. You have to pass all subjects, but whether that’s with a 5,5 (barely passed) or with an 10 (perfect score, which no one actually gets in uni), no one seems to care. Not even lecturers. Future employers? They care about your skill level. You’ve passed your study, congrats. Now, what can you actually do? An aspect that is, however, very important in uni, is building a network. Sigh…
At the beginning of the second year of my bachelor, I attended a guest lecture about networking. Oh my goodness, I cannot emphasize enough how much that talk had scared me. You had to deliberately come in contact with people from your industry, making a great first impression, making sure they liked you, and make sure to keep up the contact from that point on. The same would count for your current fellow students, for you’ll never know who will end up with an important position in the industry. Holy hell, I was petrified. I had been passing my classes, but all of a sudden I also had to be on good terms with everyone? Did it mean that I had to act differently? Talk differently? Where would I even find those people from the industry? Attend meetings? Attend business events? But what if I’m not interested in them? But what if I don’t like an important person? But, but… I didn’t even know what I wanted to do! (Still don’t, in all fairness.)
I was going crazy.
So much pressure was put on “networking”, at least in the media industry, but what did that exactly mean? Yeah, some people indeed attend all kinds of events, and deliberately come in contact with people who they think are valuable assets to have in the industry. However, this is not a requirement. If someone had told me that two years ago, I’m sure I would have had considerably less mental breakdowns in that year. Networking is something that happens when you meet people. When you’re present at events that interest you, when you read or listen to whatever interests you, you can always get in touch with the people creating that content. Tadaa, another person met. You can also accidentally meet someone and find out you work well together. Tadaa, another one.
Network: people that I know and respect.
From the moment I started looking at “networking” not as a professional plan, or a list with contacts, but simply as people I know and respect, a heavy load fell of my shoulders. I think, because I have heard that word so often in industry-related conversations, I have become scared of it. I thought it must be something big and difficult, while it is really not. In the end, you never know where you might end up and who might help you to get there. Doesn’t mean you have to see every person as an “possible asset”. People are still people. That’s all there is to it, I suppose.
Of course, all of this is just my personal experience. It very well might be completely different for someone else. Still, if I look at the people I know, these things largely apply. Personally, I believe I’m lucky for a lot of things. The main thing I will never stop being grateful for, is that my parents decided to come to the Netherlands and build up a new live. If I’d have grown up in Afghanistan, or Russia, for all I know I would have never even gone to university. Never mind living on my own, and having any other aspect of my live exist how it does today. Growing up in a rich country is nothing more or less than luck for me. The more I come to know about other countries, the more I realise this. Yeah sure, the Dutch educational system can improve a lot. However, it’s still pretty damn good.
– Katrin –
Cover photo by Christian Gertenbach