From 2005 to 2009 Middelburg and the RSC were my ‘home away from home.’ I was working on a PhD project on Dutch-American relations in the 1970s and divided my time between Utrecht (where I lived), Middelburg and archives in various locations. It was a strange experience to suddenly no longer step on the train on early Tuesday morning, work and spend the night in Middelburg, and travel back to Utrecht on Wednesday afternoon.
Still working on finishing my dissertation, I started to teach more intensively at Utrecht University for History as well as Language and Culture Studies students. In the Spring of 2012 (my dissertation being done and defended) I got the opportunity to teach at my alma mater, University College Utrecht. The setting was very familiar: an introductory course on Modern History, the classroom, the handbook (although a new edition). Only now I wasn’t sitting in the classroom, debating the origins of the First World War with the teacher and my class mates, but standing in front of the group of students. It was a group not unlike the one back in 2000: varied, both with respect to nationalities and academic interests, most of them not even history students. Besides my love for the subject, this international environment and the Liberal Arts and Sciences educational philosophy made teaching this course both challenging and rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and realized how much I was shaped by my undergraduate UCU experience.
A year later, I became a tutor at UCU. As a tutor I assist a group of about fifty students in designing their curriculum. Students have quite a bit of free choice and exibility, and discussing their options with them in order to build a coherent study program makes this job very rewarding. At different stages I see all my tutees developing their focus. I am also available to them to discuss any other matter that is related to their academic work, such as exchange opportunities, doing an internship, or more personal issues. Of course, being able to work with students with so many different nationalities, ranging from French to Romanian, Chinese to Mexican, makes for a lot of variety, from which I continue to learn. The campus setting makes for a pleasant work environment, as it allows students, teachers and staff to interact easily. In addition, it’s a beautiful location. In that respect, it’s not the first time thatI feel lucky – thinking back of the days I spent in the Abbey of Middelburg!