'Although, there are enough possibilities to bring in your own preferences, I experienced to be well-guided by the teachers with constructive feedback to develop a solid academic foundation to investigate any urban issue.' Read what Tiemen Koch tells about Human Geography.
Within Human Geography many contemporary and challenging topics are examined. These topics can be divided along the lines of various specialisations such as Economic- Environmental- and Political Geography. These specialisations are also three of the four tracks taught at the University of Amsterdam. I have recently obtained my Master’s degree in Urban Geography which is the fourth track in Human Geography. During my studies I investigated subjects that stretch from living with difference in the Schilderswijk, one of the most segregated neighbourhoods in The Netherlands, to the impact of sea level rise on urban Miami. All these topics in Human Geography share one common aspect, the urban or spatial context.
The decision to study Human Geography at the University of Amsterdam was a logical continuation of my studies, since I completed the Bachelor in Human Geography and Urban Planning here as well. Because I was already acquainted with most of the staff members and how the education is organised at the department, it was easier for me to further develop my research skills and to focus on the topics of my interest. For the latter there is plenty of room in the Master programme when for example choosing the topic of the final assignment of the Advanced Urban Geography course, when on fieldwork abroad (mandatory!) and when writing the thesis proposal. Although, there are enough possibilities to bring in your own preferences, I experienced to be well-guided by the teachers with constructive feedback to develop a solid academic foundation to investigate any urban issue.
So what makes Urban Geography as a specialisation stand out or differ from the other three tracks? Let me explain this by using a metaphor from one of the professors. Urban Geography is to science what Athletics is to sports. The specialisation combines various disciplines together on one playground, the urban area. Besides, some say that Geography was the beginning of all academic disciplines which certainly counts for Athletics as the ancient sport from which others have developed. The interdisciplinary focus of Urban Geography especially became relevant when investigating the ramifications of sea level rise for urban Miami. By making use of a framework including environmental- political-, and economic perspectives some interesting tipping points could be identified which even led to some local interest in our research.
The idea behind the four specialisation tracks in Human Geography is a closer link to society and future jobs. In my opinion the fieldwork abroad is one way to experience what research can do on a local level. Furthermore, opportunity is given to combine the thesis project with an internship. My stay at the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) made me realise how important and valuable a well-written and nuanced academic paper can be. To conclude, the Master programme Human Geography and the Urban Geography track in particular at the University of Amsterdam provided me with a high level academic framework and research skills to investigate urban issues all over the world. I experienced an atmosphere that belongs to a top 15 ranked University with regard to Geography in the world.