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She got the job she wanted, but she didn’t like it: “It was a complete let-down”

She got the job she wanted, but she didn’t like it: “It was a complete let-down”

Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Ariane Hendriks

Alumni about their dreams

She was only seventeen years old when she came to Maastricht University to study Arts and Sciences in 1994. Very young, Ariane Hendriks (43) thinks, looking back now – especially because she went straight from living with her parents in Veenendaal, a town in the centre of the Netherlands, to living in Maastricht, almost two hundred kilometres away by car. It was a deliberate decision: after a relatively protected and religious upbringing, she wanted to go out into the world, see different things, meet new people, stand on her own two feet. And she ended up doing all that. “I’m a lucky person.”

Ariane Hendriks, Arts and Social Sciences alumna

When she arrived in Maastricht, she had no idea what she wanted to do in the future. It wasn’t really on her mind at the time. She was the first in her family to go to university. Studying Arts and Social Sciences (CWS in Dutch) turned out to be the perfect choice for her. Ariane Hendriks – “I was in the fourth cohort of CWS-students” – enthusiastically talks about the dedicated lecturers, interesting topics, exciting perspectives, inspiring class discussions and the friends for life she made there. She has nothing but praise for the programme.

CWS feeling

Hendriks gradually began to consider an academic career during the course of her studies, especially in her fourth year, when she went to the University of Jerusalem to study the historiography of the Holocaust. “Where better to do that than in Israel? Just like in Maastricht, we discussed historical issues and everything was relevant and of topical interest. I felt that same CWS feeling there, but on a larger scale. And everything is political in Israel, which added to the excitement.” She wrote about her experiences abroad for Observant and continued to write articles until after she graduated, when she received a scholarship to start a PhD project at the University of Jerusalem.


An Israeli professor offered to be her supervisor, but Hendriks wasn’t sure she wanted to stay in Israel. “It’s a difficult country. There are a lot of bombings and you never really feel safe there. I don’t panic easily, but the constant tension, always having to be on guard, wears you out. After two years – the second intifada was about to erupt – I wanted to go back to Europe, where everything is well organised and people usually aren’t yelling at you.” But to be completely honest (“I’m quite rationally-minded, so I didn’t want to admit this to myself at the time”), her main reason to go back to the Netherlands was the love she’d left behind. “I didn’t want to be in a long-distance relationship. Moving to Israel wasn’t an option for David. We got married and have a ten-year-old son together.”

She didn’t have much experience with love, she says with a laugh. “In my second year at university, I followed courses on ‘Sexuality in the Welfare State’. I read a book on cultural history and sexuality, but I had zero experience myself. I thought it was quite funny. I felt young in that sense, too. I didn’t have my first relationship until I was in my third year. I met David in my fifth year. I immediately knew he was the one.” She wasn’t thinking about having children yet. “I was busy growing up. All my attention was focused on that.”

Complete let-down

She secured a PhD position at the Faculty of History in Leiden. It was exactly what she wanted, but she didn’t like it. “It was a complete let-down”, she says with perfect honesty. “Extremely boring and stuffy. I missed the inspiring aspect, the social relevance, the excitement and the discussions I had in Maastricht and Jerusalem.” And it got lonely in those archives; she didn’t have much interaction with other people.

She quickly realised she would become “deeply unhappy” if she stayed. The only option – “I like radical decisions” – was to start over. “I had to reinvent myself. What suited me? What was feasible?” She ended up doing a part-time law degree while working as a legal secretary at a law firm. Just 4.5 years later, she had completed the degree and quit her job to work for a Socialist Party (SP) member of the Dutch House of Representatives. She later turned down an offer to be in an electable position herself. “I didn’t want to serve under the then-parliamentary leader, Jan Marijnissen. He’s a brilliant politician, but not the kind of boss I like. He ruled the parliamentary group with an iron fist. I also don’t enjoy the political game enough. It’s very hard work, so you have to enjoy it. I didn’t want to do something that didn’t suit me again.”

Frail, little woman

At 30, she became a lawyer specialised in family law. She wanted a practical specialisation involving a lot of contact with clients and a lot of variety. “I’m not interested in criminal law. And I’m too leftist for the Zuidas [the Financial Mile in Amsterdam, where many large law firms are located].” She’s happy where she is. “I love the independence, working together, doing something meaningful for people. I still write, but now I write about legal matters. I always insist on being called both a lawyer and an Arts and Social Sciences alumna. Maastricht taught me to look critically at society and issues like youth care, child protection and dynamics between men and women. I’m a proud Arts and Sciences alumna, not a failed one.”

She’s still “very leftist”. Her colleagues know her to have strong opinions and, yes, as a student she was very – sometimes maybe too – vocal. “I felt like I had to show myself, because I came from such a small world.” Her “sharp edges” are gone now, she chuckles. “I’m still this frail, little woman. ‘Oh, we’ll get her’, people think when they first see me in court. They tend to underestimate me. But once I start talking, that image vanishes.”






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