What’s next? How UCU Students Cope with Making Choises

by Laura Boerboom & Robert van Schaik

Spring break is rapidly approaching and UC’s third years are making important future plans. At least, they should be. The Boomerang asked around: are our graduates ready to be released into the wild?

Studying to obtain a master’s degree, getting a job, taking a gap year: there seem to be endless possibilities for UC graduates. According to a recent poll conducted by The Boomerang, a little over 40 per cent of the current third year students will enroll in a masters’ degree.

One would say that choosing a master implies making a career choice. Yet, surely a significant amount of these students is continuing their studies just for the sake of learning more. This is admirable, but perhaps just a way of postponing choosing even longer. Why are third years still not making concrete choices after three years of free-fall discovery and testing every field of the academic world?

It might have something to do with the UCU environment. “Our close-knit community has an impact on us,” says sixth semester Anton Kabisch. “My brother lives in Germany and has one group of study friends but a totally different group of friends for extracurricular activities. Having all of your friends and your academic life on one heap might make you think less about the future.”

Despite UCU students often being very ambitious, this exemplifies the common situation on campus: living here makes it hard to look beyond the gates. The academic structure allows students to keep options open. Liberal Arts & Sciences requires students to take at least two tracks, leaving two (or more) fields of education open for future academic study. It’s exactly this broad-mindedness that hundreds of students each year are attracted to.

Yet, at a certain point choices have to be made and not surprisingly, this is what makes studying at University College Utrecht difficult. Choosing what one does not want, can help with choosing what one actually does want. “Courses at UCU are very theoretical, but I wouldn’t say this stops people in making choices,” says sixth semester Martina Boyuklieva who wants to do a master in European Union Law. ” The course International Corporate and Tort law greatly inspired me. When I put this field of study into practice during an internship in a law company, I was so bored by the administrative work I decided this wasn’t my cup of tea.”

Others have also discovered by practice that they don’t want a specific type of job. A first year majoring in Law says he discovered that a job at a big Dutch law firm would not suit him at the UCU Career Conference. “They told me they were only looking for students who had studied Dutch law. Once you’ve been selected as an employee, you get to travel to countries abroad once in a while, to help out with the legal aspects involved in business deals, and if you stay with the company for 20 or 30 years, you get to become a partner –then you retire. That’s all the excitement there is.”

Utrecht’s Liberal Arts and Sciences students are craving for possibilities to put their newly acquired knowledge into practice. According to first semester Ashley Vandepol, who studied in Canada for a year, UCU has an exceptionally specific focus on theoretical knowledge. “In Canada, people are involved in field courses even in the first year. And not just the sciences students: law students, journalism students, all of them have mandatory lab courses.”

It seems our seniors know what they want on the short term, but have no idea what type of career they want to dive into. “I can’t look 10 years into the future, and even if I could, that would be very boring,” says third year Sophie Vriezen. She is looking forward to a master in Science and Regulation at the London School of Economics. “I have no idea what I want to do in the future; I just want to be successful in what I do. My career will probably be around the field of law.”

Sophie says her friends want to be in research in ten years; but don’t know whether they want to work in an international corporation, as an expat or set up their own business.’

It’s the comment we’re getting over and over again: “I don’t know, let’s wait and see.”

Will students ever be able to make up their mind? It might be that UCU is an ivory tower, that students don’t get enough chance to put their acquired knowledge into practice or that students at UC are simply interested in too many fields to make a quick and painless decision.

With the end of three years of study looming for the class of 2012, time is running out. Sometime after walking through the campus gates for the last time, they will discover for themselves what path to take in life. For some it might just take a little bit longer.

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