The Other Side of the Story – Working in Dining Hall

Profile: Eva Hovorka

By Julie Albers

Every single day you walk through the catering area to Dining Hall. You grab the cheapest food, grumble a bit and go off to enjoy a meal with your friends. But did you ever wonder how Dining Hall staff members experience their job? Boomerang decided to get some insight information: meet Eva Hovorka.

Before I could ask her anything, Eva starts talking enthusiastically about the Boomerang. “I’m a dedicated Boomerang reader. It’s interesting to know what is on your minds.” Enthusiastic – the word to describe Eva. Throughout the entire interview, she keeps smiling and joking.

Eva is half-Dutch, half-Czech. After finishing high school, she started a HBO Management and Logistiek at the Hogeschool Utrecht. A welcome challenge, but she decided to quit during the final year. “Of course my parents tried to convince me to finish, but I couldn’t understand them at the time.” So she worked in a supermarket for nine years, becoming Head of the Cash Register Department.

Her mother Ans, who retired last year, was already working for DH. “I think she was seen as the bitch of campus,” Eva says smiling. “She is strict, but honest and sincere.” Three years ago, as the economic crisis was already looming, Eva was offered a temporary job at DH. She decided to stay.

A “dedicated, hardworking employee” is how Eva would describe herself. “I do not focus on one task. If something needs to be done, I put myself to it immediately.” Although there are no big disadvantages to her job, she is quick in responding what she likes most: “The interaction with students. I sincerely believe that chatting with students is an important part of my job. I try to bring you some ‘gezelligheid.’ A little distraction from your stressful lives, even if it’s only for two minutes.”

Unfortunately, chatting time has shrunk with the new catering system. She also misses breakfast: “I particularly loved breakfast on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Students would still be drunk and smell like alcohol,” she laughs.

Other staff members are sometimes less keen on being friendly towards students. Eva believes this difference derives from her supermarket experience. “Making clients feeling appreciated was my main focus back then. Even so, I have always said that the customer is king, but I am the emperor – I am still a person who doesn’t have to do everything. It’s about mutual respect.”

What about our behaviour towards staff members? “I am convinced that saying ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ doesn’t hurt,” she says. Whenever a student does not respond, she will act overfriendly, so they will greet her next time. “Students are a pleasant kind of people.”

Only when students steal, she will become unfriendly. “I definitely say something about that. To put it simple: you are stealing my salary.”

Next to working in DH, you can also spot her at the gym. “Staff members aren’t allowed to join any other activities on campus, due to some incidents in the past and the fact that friendships in the bar could lead to nepotism behind the cash desk. Which I think is completely justified.”

Her biggest hobby are her twin boys. In the weekend, together with her husband, they often go cycling, swimming or ice skating. She does have to work on Sunday, but Eva considers this as a day off. “No matter how awful something may be, I always try to look on the bright side.” A statement which suits her very well indeed.

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