Who: Sija den Toonder (1992)
Studied: Bachelor's in Language and Communication and Law, Master's in Private Law Legal Practice.
First job: babysitting and newspaper route.
Favourite place at the UvA: the seventh-storey office where Sija works at the Roeterseiland campus has a great view of the city.
Essential: her lawbook.
'I grew up in Nuenen, a village near Eindhoven, with two brothers and a sister. I come from a family that loves learning. My father studied mathematics and my mother studied art history. One of my grandfathers actually went to the UvA; he did a Master's in working conditions. I considered going the higher professional education route, but ultimately decided that the university was a better fit. I enrolled in the Language and Communication programme at the UvA when I was 19; I added Law later. Since then, I have obtained my Bachelor's in both programmes and am doing the Master's in Private Law Legal Practice. I started in September and plan to complete the Master's in a year. I just heard that I passed my first two exams.'
'I love language, which is why I started with Language and Communication. During my studies, however, I realised that I was not really sure what I ultimately wanted to do with my degree. When I was 23, I began figuring out what my other interests were. I thought, if I want to take on a second degree programme, I have to know for sure that I like it and really go for it. Language – which was still definitely an interest of mine – led me to Law, which is actually a kind of language programme, too. You spend most of your time deciphering what is meant. I enjoy the game aspect, the puzzle-solving.'
I feel free to be myself at the UvA.
'I was hungry for adventure, which is why I wanted to study in Amsterdam. The big city appealed to me, the idea that everyone here can do what they want and be a little bit weird. You can be part of the crowd, with no one looking at you sideways because of the way you look or act. Nuenen is very different; it is a small village where you quickly stand out. I am not sure whether I will always want to live in Amsterdam. Maybe I will, although I would move further away from the city centre in that case. The city is hectic to me. Sometimes, it is nice to go to my parents' and walk to the supermarket without seeing anyone. That is impossible in Amsterdam.'
'I was the rebellious type during secondary school. I was known to skip class, and I was a right pain in the neck. I liked mathematics because I enjoy solving formulas, but aside from that I was more interested in other stuff. Social issues. During your time at university, you enter a phase in which you start developing more. I used to think of myself as very mature, but I know that I am much more grown-up now. I am calmer and more inclined to consider the consequences of my actions. I no longer have a purely "live for today" attitude; I think about the long-term, too. I am discovering what I find interesting, or what I like, what I support, what I want to express my opinion about and what I would prefer to stay out of. I think things over a lot. I am doing well so far, I would say.'
I worked on a case with real law firms in the Zuidas business district.
'When I enrolled in the Law programme, it was time to seriously ask myself what I wanted and what I was going to do? I could no longer justify all that lounging around to myself or to my parents. And I have ambition. During my law studies, I took on every extracurricular opportunity that came my way. I joined the Honours programme and I participated in the Amsterdam Law Firm, a minor that gives you a lot of practical experience. You work on a case with real law firms in the Zuidas business district. The case is usually either fictional or has already been wrapped up, but you have to study it and treat it just as lawyers would in real life. I also work at the UvA. After starting out as an information officer at secondary schools, my duties gradually expanded and now I work 19 hours a week as a student assistant in the communications department of the Faculty of Law. It is a lot of work, but it is fun and meaningful. I learn from it and it will be useful to me in the long term.'
'My preconceived notion was that lawyers were mostly men in suits, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be a part of that. I didn't have any "Suits" fantasies about Law, but now I also know that the picture painted by series like that is not entirely accurate. I am not necessarily interested in companies or shares; I am more interested in law related to people. Why do people do what they do? Juvenile law is interesting to me; I want to help people. The Master's in Private Law Legal Practice is about all of the laws that apply to people, about contracts between people. Juvenile law is also about private law: people have the right to make agreements amongst themselves about things like co-parenting, for example.'
'The UvA is a friendly place to me; I feel like I'm free to be myself. The Law lecturers use the formal form of address, but aside from that the atmosphere is fairly casual. You are always welcome to express your opinion. In the Honours programme and the ALF, I had classes in small groups. I liked that, because the Law programme itself is so large. I learned how to work effectively with others and made new friends. To me, a valuable aspect of my time doing the Law programme was that I was with people who shared the same goals. We wanted to do our best, but at the same time also wanted to make enough time to have fun. Students can help each other better themselves.'