In secondary school I was still uncertain about what I wanted to do. Mostly I just looked forward to the freedom of being a student, of living in a real city and going out. For a long time I saw myself working as a paediatrician in developing countries, but I wasn't sure. During one of the information days I noticed the programme in Sociology. It sounded interesting to study society and research the differences between population groups.
I did a gap year abroad to get myself out of study mode for a while, and then enrolled in the Bachelor's in Sociology. The way the programme was run was perfect: as the compulsory component was fairly small, I was able to organise my own time. The courses that really interested me were the practical ones on aspects like research methods, more than those on abstract, philosophical concepts. So I tried to develop in other areas instead, doing a minor in journalism and work placements at an ad agency, a communications agency and at the VPRO's documentary television programme Tegenlight. Doing that taught me a lot, especially in terms of the career options available to sociologists.
After my Bachelor's I still didn't know what I wanted to do exactly. I worked for a year as a nanny, a promotional model and in the common room of the Sociology building and also making a documentary on migrant teens in Ghana (City of Dreams). Finally, I decided to do the Master's in Sociology, but all the time I kept wondering what it was I really wanted to do. I just knew it had to be a job in which I could make a difference.
In January 2014 I started my own social enterprise, called Iemand Thuis [ 'Someone Home' ed.]. It's the perfect synthesis between sociology and practice. I knew that loneliness among the seniors is becoming a bigger social issue and wanted to do something about it. My company matches seniors with young people for friendly visits and help around the house. This way, both generations help each other: students help seniors, and seniors help students earn some extra cash, paying €10 an hour. As well as arranging good matches, I also organise activities for seniors, such as three-course dinners prepared by students for €3. That's one of my favourite jobs as you see how you can really brighten someone's day.
Now that I've graduated, I would emphasise to prospective students that they should make an effort to explore different disciplines. And if you're looking for something more practically oriented, also consider higher professional education. If you do a gap year, actually take the time to discover what you enjoy doing. Sociology was a great foundation for my life. It taught me to look at social problems objectively and to write and reason effectively. It also gave me a chance to get to know some incredibly motived and socially engaged students and lecturers. Nonetheless, I think I might also have enjoyed doing a more practice-based programme, centering on learning how to actually change or make things in the world – such as a doctor, or something like an architect or entrepreneur. Unfortunately, my finances don't permit me to go back to university right now due to the high institutional fee. Since having graduated I've realised just what a huge privilege it is to be able to go to university.
View the documentary City of Dreams