Bram Zonderland

“I want to work on a better society”
Bram Zonderland
European Studies

Bram Zonderland (27) wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after completing his senior secondary vocational education (mbo). He was interested in politics and public administration, but was unable to find a course that suited his aspirations. So when the opportunity presented itself, he moved to Scotland for a job there. He gradually discovered that he was drawn to public administration and that many of the skills it required appealed to him. European Studies was just the ticket for Bram because of its international ingredient in addition to its administrative aspect. He looks back on his choices and explains his motives.

Deputy chair of the participation council

“In my first academic year, for example, I stood as a candidate for NHL Stenden’s participation council. Before long I was appointed deputy chair, which gave me an insight into the workings of the university of applied sciences. Consequently, I learnt a lot about operational management. And before I knew it, the merger between NHL and Stenden was upon us and I became a member of the merger council. Being allowed to be part of that as a student is phenomenal! And the study programme provided the knowledge to be able to fulfil the necessary duties. You gain an understanding of the various disciplines: that of lawyer, psychologist and statistician. As a result, you speak various 'languages' and are therefore widely employable.”

China, the Thorbecke initiative and useful work

“Besides all that, in 2017 I had the chance to go on a two-week exchange to a university in Guangzhou, China. It was an opportunity that I was determined not to pass up! I also started up the Thorbecke initiative together with a fellow student. It is a network that brings students into contact with companies and organisations. Just to give an example, we brought students into contact with the organisation of Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018. If you show that you are keen, the lecturers will know they can approach you if and when another opportunity presents itself.”

The perfect internship

“Sometimes an opportunity comes from the most unlikely place. I wanted an internship in the diplomatic service. My goal was to work at an embassy abroad. It’s what I had set my heart on and I had been preparing all year to work in Lebanon when the Covid crisis struck. Because of that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stopped working with students, so my internship was cancelled. I was eventually invited for an interview at Agentschap Telecom (which nowadays is called State Inspectorate for Digital Infrastructure). I didn't care much for telecommunication or government affairs - or so I thought. Once they explained what the intention was, I was enthralled. After my internship, they offered me a job in the Strategy and Communication department and we are now working on rolling out the 5G network in the Netherlands.”

Studying in South Korea

“I wanted my internship abroad to be an adventure; jumping into the deep end by going to a country I had never been to before. South Korea eventually piqued my interest and I could study Political Science and Diplomacy in Seoul. I wondered how many students would do something like this. It was an opportunity for me to stand out. Furthermore, East Asian countries are becoming just as important or even more so than the United States, for example. I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and it turned out to be one of my best decisions during my studies.”

Culture in Seoul

“Because of the huge cultural differences and because friends were always asking me what it was like, I decided from day one to keep a weekly blog of my adventures, which I later bundled into a book. One of the things that struck me there is that Koreans are much more collectivist than the Dutch. If you stick your neck out in Korea, you will undoubtedly receive criticism. Their response to technology is also entirely different; everyone is quick to embrace new technologies, whereas the Dutch are rather sceptical about novelties. Lastly, the pressure to perform is enormous in Korea. I had plenty of Korean classmates who attended night school after class to continue studying.”

Useful work

“I am now in the last phase of my study programme. I already knew before I started my studies, that I did not want to work in a commercial organisation. I want to work for a public cause and a better society. Then I can say in five or ten years’ time that I have done something useful with my life. Hopefully I will have been able to help someone and leave a better society behind. That's what I am aiming for in my walk of life."