What did you do before starting this study programme?
'Long-term study is no longer the norm these days and is actively discouraged, but I must confess that I have been a student for seven years already. I started my Bachelor’s degree in History at the UvA in 2014. After completing it in 2017, I immediately continued with Philosophy. Last June, I got my degree in this as well and since September I have been doing Classics and Ancient Civilizations.
History and Philosophy are broad programmes in which you acquire a great deal of knowledge and many skills. However, in both programmes it turned out to be that Antiquity was a recurring field of interest to me. When studying History, I filled much of my elective space with subjects relating to Antiquity, such as Greek mythology and early Christianity, and when I was studying Philosophy I was particularly interested in Plato and early Christian philosophy. So, the move to the Classics and Ancient Civilizations curriculum might not have been so surprising; I opted for the specialisation in Ancient Studies.'
Why did you choose this Master’s and what, to you, is its added value?
'Ever since I left secondary school, I have always chosen the direction that suited me the most, without giving much thought to career prospects or other possibilities; following my heart rather than my head. This is also the case with Classics and Ancient Civilizations. I think Antiquity is the most fascinating part of history and I love immersing myself in it.
The fact that career prospects are not the leitmotiv does not mean that they are totally unimportant. History – and therefore Antiquity – teaches you unique skills that apply in a broad field: critical analysis, conceptual thinking, very good reading and writing skills, persuasion etc. In its own way, the programme asks you to tap into these qualities in an optimal way: Antiquity is characterised by a chronic lack of (reliable) sources and you will therefore always have to approach your subject of study in a very critical, conceptual, but also multidisciplinary way in order to make a reconstruction of the past.'
What kind of courses does the programme offer and what are they about?
'Despite the fact that all subjects concern Antiquity, they are very diverse and varied. At the beginning of the year, for example, we looked at rulers’ ideology in different periods: how do rulers (from the Assyrians to the Romans) establish and maintain dominance over their people? This is, of course, interesting to compare with the present time.
Other courses that I took concerned the institutionalisation of Christianity up to and including the rise of Islam, as well as a course which dealt with major contemporary scientific debates on Antiquity and was therefore of a more methodological nature. The programme really offers a wide range of subjects.'
What do you want to do after you finish your degree?
'In my final year of Philosophy, I did an internship at the Ministry of Justice and Security, and stuck around there even after my internship had finished. Next year, I will continue to work as a civil servant, although no longer at the Ministry of Justice, while continuing to study the programme in part-time study mode. This combination works surprisingly well: on the one hand, I can deal with very concrete challenges in government, while on the other hand, I can learn about the time period I find the most interesting!'
Do you have a tip for prospective students?
'Do not be put off by distractions such as career prospects, but follow your heart! Every university programme will – in theory – professionally prepare you for a life as a decent citizen in our society and will teach you more than enough skills which will be useful on the (international) job market. It is very much worth it to study something you really enjoy, because with hard work and a bit of Amsterdam-style bravado you will find your footing anyway!'
How are your fellow students?
'The nice thing about this specific scientific field is that it brings together people from various backgrounds: there are those who have simply studied history, like me, but also those who studied Ancient Studies at the VU, Classics and people who did other programmes. This makes for a fun group of people.'
Why did you choose to study at the UvA?
'Classics and Ancient Civilizations is a Master's degree at ACASA (The Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology), an joint-institute of the Free University (VU) and UvA. This means that your lectures will take place at both the UvA and the VU, depending on the lecture. The great thing about ACASA is that it combines the knowledge and quality of two institutes, and therefore you can find an expert for (almost) everyone's interests.
So why did I choose Amsterdam, specifically? I grew up near Amsterdam, went to secondary school in Amsterdam, live in Amsterdam and have been studying in Amsterdam for seven years.'