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Master Cultural and Social Anthropology

Lisa Zitman: 'Working in the world'

Alumna testimonial

Lisa Zitman graduated in Cultural and Social Anthropology in 2007

Lisa (left) on a work trip in the Ivory Coast

I knew early on that I wanted to study Cultural Anthropology, because of my interest in people, societies and cultures and because I had my eye on a career in the development sector. But I was advised not to study Cultural Anthropology because of its limited employment opportunities, and I started on a propaedeutic year in Psychology. However, it soon became clear to me that it's important to study for a degree that best fits your interests, so after a year of Psychology I switched to Cultural Anthropology after all.

There was a lot of freedom of choice and plenty of courses to choose from, so I was able to follow a path in my studies that matched my interests. I took a year out during my degree programme to travel in Central America and Cuba to get to know those regions better. I learned Spanish in Guatemala and Mexico, and I volunteered in Guatemala to gain work experience. My volunteer work included time at a library project, a women's prison and a project supporting women's groups by offering microcredit and other services.

After that trip, I joined forces with two fellow students to establish a Netherlands/Guatemala foundation, which I worked for as chair for several years. The foundation worked to deliver education projects in Guatemala, and in the Netherlands it carried out fundraising and awareness raising about Guatemala. That experience taught me a lot about strategy development, project management and how to build and maintain a relationship with a local partner.

The Red Cross

After completing my Master's degree, I immediately packed my bags and moved to Guatemala, where I soon got my first job as a Monitoring and Evaluation coordinator at a Guatemalan NGO (Asociación Atz’anem K’oj), which focuses mainly on HIV/Aids prevention. I'm currently working for the Netherlands Red Cross (NRK) as a programme staff member in the International department. I started at the Red Cross as a Junior Professional (PSO Youth Zone programme) in Colombia and then Suriname. My current role is based in the Netherlands and my work focuses mainly on developing, supporting, planning, monitoring and evaluating NRK programmes in Latin America, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast and Zambia. 

Distinguish yourself

I would really advise any students interested in working in the development or humanitarian sector to engage in extra-curricular activities which tie into what you want to do. It's important to distinguish yourself from other people by showing you have language proficiency, work experience in the field, a specialisation or by really immersing yourself in a region you're interested in. Networking is also immensely important when you're looking for work, and extra-curricular activities help expand your professional network.

Work placements and vacancies at the Red Cross:

www.rodekruis.nl