My interest in US history and politics started in 2009, a few months after I had moved to Washington State for a gap year after highschool. That winter I read an Alexander Hamilton biography – which served as the inspiration for the current Broadway hit – and The Federalist Papers, and I was hooked. Although I started fantasizing about a career in US politics and had become rather ‘Americanized,’ the costs of education forced me to move back to the Netherlands in 2011.
Middelburg and University College Roosevelt seemed to offer the closest approximation both of the American liberal arts model and US college town life – and the university’s name helped, of course – so there I went. In 2012 I got involved with the RSC through a research internship; I studied the history of American campaign finance reform and organized an election night event as well as a couple of regular lectures along with my co-intern Jair van der Stelt.
Around this time, however, my interests began shifting away from US politics. Ironically enough, this shift was in part inspired by a class that was taught by an RSC-aliated professor, Giles Scott-Smith, who got me interested in international politics. This is the subject area I focused on from there on out, in part through a 2-year research-focused MPhil International Relations at the University of Oxford, which I have just completed. At Oxford I had originally planned to research something EU and/or Balkans-related, but over time I became more interested in understanding civil wars – by far the most prevalent form of war in the post-WWII period – and in particular what happens in societies after such conflicts.
Though far removed from subjects like American campaign finance reform and other subjects I focused on at the RSC, my life will still have an American dimension: this August, I will start a 6-year PhD in political science at Yale University. My plan is to specialize in the political science ‘subfields’ of comparative politics, political economy, and methodology. I am also involved in two side-projects, one with an Oxford professor focused on UN peacekeeping operations during civil war and another with Yale professor focused on the prevention of great power war.
With my research plate thus rather full, I doubt I will return to studying US politics or history anytime soon (though, given my history of jumping from one subject to the next, it wouldn’t exactly be a major surprise either). Still, my time at the RSC was hardly wasted: it made me appreciate the nuances of historical research, and the staff and faculty have been incredibly helpful in supporting my applications to Oxford and Yale. And, unless UCR mends its ways soon, I do hope to return to the archives one day in an effort to shift the university’s focus to the most fascinating yet most underappreciated of the Roosevelts: Teddy.