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“I love Limburg, but I also really wanted to leave”

“I love Limburg, but I also really wanted to leave” “I love Limburg, but I also really wanted to leave”

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Archive Jean Dohmen

Alumni about their dreams: did they come true?

When he was 18 years old, Jean Dohmen wanted to go to university in Groningen or Amsterdam. He liked the idea of being far away from Heerlen, where he grew up. He ended up going to Maastricht, only 25 kilometres away from his hometown. “I never regretted that decision.” Choosing between the busy Randstad and Limburg is a recurring theme in his life. “I’ve always felt both nostalgia and wanderlust. I love Limburg, but I also really wanted to leave.”

Dohmen was ten years old when his big brother Joep took him along to the office of regional newspaper Het Limburgs Dagblad. Joep, who is nine years older, was in journalism school at the time and doing an internship there. “It made a deep impression on me.” The idea took root in Jean’s mind: he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, Joep and Hub. “My mother wasn’t impressed. She said, ‘Just get an academic degree first. If you still want to be a journalist after that, we’ll see.”

He attended an open day at Maastricht University by chance. “The Problem-Based Learning system appealed to me.” He decided to enrol in the bachelor’s programme Dutch Law. “I’ve always hated injustice. Looking back, the programme mostly gave me a broad, solid education.”  He was “very shy” when he came to Maastricht, says Dohmen. “I lost my father at a young age, when I was nine. It had a major impact on me. I was insecure, didn’t really know what I wanted. My years as a student really changed me. I made good friends, began to discover who I am and what my outlook on life is. Things began to fall into place. I learnt to let go. Realising that there are no answers to the big questions in life was very liberating for me. You can only influence life to a certain extent. I never planned my career either, but impulsively decided to do what I felt like at that moment.”

He was still interested in becoming a journalist during his studies, so he started writing for Observant. “When I graduated, I enrolled in the journalism degree at Erasmus University Rotterdam. My mother advised me to do so, by the way. She had a lot of influence in my life.” He was about to start an internship at Dutch morning newspaper De Volkskrant when Dagblad de Limburger called him to offer him a job. “Joep was working there at the time. I had a girlfriend in Maastricht and I was chronically broke.”

Although he liked the job, he began to feel restless at some point. “I realised I’d reached a dead end. My relationship had ended by then. The new editor-in-chief was at odds with Joep and blamed me for that, too. He literally told me, ‘There’s nothing here for you’. And it was just time for me to spread my wings. There are a lot more opportunities for journalists in the Randstad.”

Dohmen left for The Hague to work as a parliamentary reporter for regional newspapers. Eighteen months later, he got a job at daily newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. That’s where he met his wife Sannie and began to think about having children for the first time. “I wouldn’t even have considered it when I was about 25 years old. Having children wasn’t for me at all. I still needed to figure things out for myself. Sannie used to have no interest in having kids, but when we met, we both thought, ‘You know what, this combination seems like a good idea’.”

They now live in Monnickendam, North Holland, with their three sons. Dohmen regularly visits Limburg and speaks the regional dialect with them. “It’s very important to me. And it’s funny, too, hearing them speak Limburgish to each other with their accents.”

After working at Algemeen Dagblad, Dohmen was responsible for the economic pages of weekly news magazine Elsevier. He currently works for business and financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad. “Some people go from one management position to another. I like to alternate. I now have time to write long articles again.” Limburg is still beckoning. Will he ever return? “Never say never. But I have a family now, and my wife would have to find a job there too. But you should always have something to dream about.”

(Un)fulfilled dreams

In 2003 we interviewed UM students about their dreams for the future. Now, in this academic year, it’s time to check in with them and see where they’re at. Did their dreams come true? We’re using this special year (Observant turned 40 in 2019/2020) 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.

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