Alumni about their dreams: did they come true?
“Are you happy with the way you look? Well, I’d rather be 10cm taller and/or 5 kilos lighter, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I think I’m hideous…
Do you want children? ‘That’s just about the last thing I want to think about’ isn’t included as an option on this dating site.
Do you smoke? Shoot, there goes my chance of meeting the woman of my dreams I’d quit smoking for.”
Above is an excerpt from a weekly column Jeroen Postma wrote some ten years ago in Observant on his first time venturing into the world of online dating (“let’s call it a sociological experiment”), among other things. He’d already showcased his writing talent in the music section the year before, as well as the fact that he knew what he was talking about – especially when he was talking about innovative music.
His visits to the Observant headquarters never went unnoticed: he filled the offices with his loud voice, lots of opinions, a lot of humour and the latest news from the student community. He’s 35 now, working as a ‘Senior Policy Advisor Primary and Secondary Education’ at the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in The Hague. It’s quite a mouthful, he admits with a laugh.
“I took a long time to complete my studies,” he says over the phone. He devoted much of his time to student rowing club Saurus, where he sat on the board for a year (“I learnt so much there – how to reach consensus, how to convince people, how to make decisions that benefit the club”) and served as treasurer of the club. To him, studying International Business felt mostly like “a necessary evil. Many of the courses, especially the ones I had to take during my bachelor’s degree, didn’t really interest me. I envy people who studied philosophy of law or political science; those are subjects I now read about for fun. Those kinds of programmes would’ve been a better fit for me, but then I’m not sure I would’ve ended up in my current job.”
He didn’t really know what he wanted to do when he graduated in 2010. “My own expectations and those of the people around me were sky-high, but at the same time I was doubtful: what am I even good at? I was actually quite afraid to apply for jobs and risk rejection. I didn’t want everyone to see me fail.” So he hid away in ‘small’ jobs – at Observant, in the food service industry and as a tutor. In the meantime, he applied for a traineeship at the Government of the Netherlands. He almost made it on the first try. He succeeded the second time around, thanks to “the hard-core maths and accountancy courses I took during my Master in International Business”. Postma started his traineeship at the Ministry of Finance in June 2011.
The government turned out to be the right employer for him. By now, he’s worked at three different ministries. “There’s a good atmosphere. I meet like-minded people here: people with varied interests who are committed, driven, capable and generous and know that it’s necessary to put things into perspective sometimes. After all, we write policy advice here. We think it through and we have opinions about it, but other people – the minister and the Dutch Parliament – ultimately decide whether or not to implement our plans.” His current project involves the future of primary and secondary education in the Netherlands. Enthusiastically, he says, “The advice on the reform of the curriculum for primary and secondary education was published in October. We are now preparing the political decision-making process. I love doing this. I’m dealing with very relevant issues that affect many people. We’re doing this for 230 thousand teachers and 2.4 million pupils.” He doesn’t mind the fact that he’ll have to work hard until the end of the year. “We don’t fit the stereotype of the public servant who clocks out at 4:30 pm.”
He’s become more mature over the years, he says – more balanced. He lives in Amsterdam (“there’s more to do here”) and is single (again). He chuckles when he’s reminded of his columns on online dating. Then, seriously: “I had a hard time in the dating market back then. Girls didn’t start talking to me until I was about 26. As a student, I was insecure, overly enthusiastic, hyperactive and different from most people. I think it had a deterrent effect. I’m still not an average guy, but I do have an easier time in the dating market now.”
What about children? “As a student, I couldn’t even imagine wanting kids. I could barely take care of myself.” He’s changed his mind about this, though. With a sense of understatement: “I wouldn’t mind meeting a partner and eventually having children. How many? I don’t know. That’s not a decision you make by yourself, is it?”
He’s certain he’ll still be working at his current employer ten years from now. “I’ll be tackling relevant issues at the Ministry of Education, Social Affairs or Health. I’m very interested in public issues. And I hope to have achieved my goal of writing a novel by then. I’ve had an idea for quite some time, but I wouldn’t necessarily claim it’s a good idea.”
In 2003 we interviewed UM students about their dreams for the future. Now, in 2019, it’s time to check in with them and see where they’re at. They’re about forty years old now; did their dreams come true? We’re using this special year (Observant is celebrating its 40th birthday!) as an opportunity to find out. Former student journalist Niels van der Laan, who wrote the majority of the interview articles in 2003, is writing a fair share of this year’s articles as well. In addition to the previously interviewed alumni, we’re interviewing former Observant student journalists about their fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams.