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Interview: A lawyer and a marine biologist walk into a bar...

18 April 2018
Having some difficult times putting your finger on exactly what would make your career more purposeful? We all want to do as best we can, but there's a world of options out there that can sometimes feel a bit daunting. And on top of that, since people from different backgrounds might have different ideas of what makes a career meaningful, we've interviewed two of our student poolers with almost opposite backgrounds. An alfa and beta student, here to answer our questions on how they found their purpose so far!

Q: Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Sara: I’m Sara, a half-Spanish half-American student doing a masters in Marine Biology at the University of Groningen.

Pepijn: I am Pepijn Tielens, 23 years old and currently studying a year of philosophy, now that I've finished my bachelor International and European Law.


Q: What was your 17-year-old self thinking when he/she chose this degree?

S: Since she had learned recently more and more about the state of the natural environment, I think she was genuinely terrified (laughs) and decided to put away any dreams of going into art, in the quest of fighting global warming. Very noble, I know (laughs).

P: Law accidentally sparked interest when my 17-year old me was exploring different studies when he was in 5th grade of high school. Due to his high school thesis about the search for a universal criminal law system my 17-year old me became interested in international law. Still unaware of his specific motivation, he decided it was worth a shot to face the legal world by doing an four day internship at the public prosecutor in Amsterdam. Impressed by this experience (especially the tour with the police through the 'Bijlmer') he decided to study law in Groningen with International and European Law as his specialization.

Q: Has that vision changed at all with time?

S: Not the end goal, but how to do it. I learned a lot about how complex the issue is and how you can’t approach it simply through a scientific point of view. This is actually my second master’s as I have another one in Education of Science. Through this, and some other experiences in my life, like internships and projects abroad, I’ve come to realize that the more open-minded you strive to be, the better your solutions will be for more people.

P: Honestly I kind of lost my vision on the way. I enjoyed studying law but after my board year at the faculty association of law I had the feeling that the direction law pushed me in, wasn't my direction. I decided to study philosophy to concern myself with important basic concepts in law such as: What is justice? Why do we have a system of law? Is there anything like global justice? By accepting a critical stance towards these basic concepts I rediscovered my purpose: Contribute to the challenges of tomorrow in a globalizing world.

Q: Do you find purpose in your studies/future work?

S: I do. Sometimes it’s very hard, and discouraging. My last disappointing experience was in a stay abroad, during which I saw with my own eyes how the people in charge of protecting a beautiful landmark were simply profiting off of it instead of doing their jobs… and still taking credit. For a while this was very hard for me and made me question whether I will be able to work in environments like this. But in the end, it only fueled me to do my very best. When I feel discouraged again, the solution is always reconnecting with the sea -- be it diving, or just cleaning up a beach, or even simply playing Blue Planet over and over again. These things remind me there is so much beauty, so much worth working hard for.

P: Now that I've chosen my Master, which is Public International Law, I have the feeling that I can put my purpose to good use. Besides my study I learned in my work that I really enjoy to work in an international team. That is one of the reasons that I signed up for the Global and Intercultural Engagement Distinction (GIED) of the Faculty of Law. GIED is a extracurricular track where you are actively developing your intercultural competences by attending workshops, gain work and study experience abroad and learn a new language.

Q: What future steps will you take to pursue you goals?

S: The first step is to finish my master’s as best I can! Instead of my initial teenage dream of solving the global issue of pollution and climate change, I now see my role more as a cog in the machine, where every bit of effort counts. So I’d love to work at either at  a consultancy or an NGOs with a strong focus on education and engaging with local communities. I’d be very happy if I can help even a small group of people to have a healthier relationship with the ocean!

P: Hopefully my master and GIED are the right tools to fullfill my purpose. Due to my year of philosophy I took some distance from my legal way of thinking and stumbled upon a new future step. In the coming summer I will travel to Tanzania to attend a summer school of the RUG with people from all over the world. We will investigate a development program in reforestation and its effects on the local village life. Hopefully this will be a additional spark to my purpose, because contributing to the challenges of tomorrow in a globalizing world can start very local ;)!

Last modified:18 April 2018 2.05 p.m.

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