Carmencita Boekhoudt graduated in Cultural and Social Anthropology in 1994.
In my final year of secondary school I read ‘Horrible Tango’ by Jan Wolkers. The girlfriend of the main character in the book was studying Ethnology, and that really appealed to me as a field of study. I’d wanted to go to Amsterdam since I was 15 years old, so I decided to study there and complete the first year of higher professional education (HBO) which would let me move on to the Bachelor's Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at the University of Amsterdam.
I had no idea at that time what I would do afterwards. I was just doing it purely out of interest, and like many anthropology graduates I thought I'd join an organisation like Amnesty International or an NGO. After graduating, I initially applied to those types of positions until a job in the travel industry turned up. Because my final project had been on tourism in Indonesia, and I’d lived in Asia for seven months during that time, I got the job.
After working in the travel industry for six years, I went into teaching in higher professional education (HBO). The Tourism Management programme brought everything together: travel expertise, culture, tourism and anthropology, and I was able to share that with students. Fantastic! Our tourism programme includes explicit anthropological themes in modules such as Intercultural Communication and Cultural Tourism.
My current role, managing the whole programme, is even better and suits me well. Guiding a strong team of lecturers, consulting with experts in the field and with students to ensure the programme's quality and professional relevance, and working with the Tourism Management programmes at other universities of applied sciences at a national level – it’s all really interesting.
I can’t imagine that I’d be able to do this work without having done my degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. I didn’t streamline my choice of courses: I chose those that appealed to me such as the regional modules on the Caribbean and South-East Asia, as well as the more substantive modules on Medical Anthropology, Material Culture and Anthropology and Sexuality.
The programme taught me to work independently, which has benefited me in most of my jobs. In the first year of Anthropology I already had to do a mini research project, and I chose transsexuality as a topic. There I was, 18 years old, interviewing a respondent about her struggle with her identity.
I also learned a lot from the tutorials and from writing essays. One characteristic of anthropologists is their international orientation. They often speak several languages, are open minded, flexible and have analytical skills.
Don’t be too worried about your employment opportunities as an anthropology student. You’ll develop in a way that makes you suitable for many roles. I've noticed how our tourism students increasingly choose to follow up with an Anthropology programme. The programme fits well with Tourism Management, where we also encourage students to critically assess developments in tourism and teach them to operate in a socially responsible and innovative way.