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Education Honours College

Meet Ellen!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

People, languages and patterns of thought intrigue me. I enjoy learning things, in the broadest sense possible, and so that is what I generally aim to do. A few years in the Netherlands have made biking another one of my favourite activities. I am originally from Finland, and have lived in a handful of countries since I moved away from there six years ago. Right now, I am 23 years old and trying to figure out where to go next.

The summer of 2021, I finished the LLB International and European Law programme in Groningen. In parallel to this, I followed the Honours Programme in Philosophy, as part of the Hawking cohort. I extended that into a BA Philosophy of a Specific Discipline (Economic and Social Sciences, to be precise), which I likewise graduated from in 2021. I also completed the Global and Intercultural Engagement Distinction during my three years of LLB/BA studies, because I find culture a fascinating concept.

Now I am once again in the middle of a combination of programmes, namely LLM International Human Rights Law, LLM Public International Law, and the Research Master in Theoretical Philosophy. The last of these is the latest link in a chain that began with the Honours Programme in Philosophy.

Describe your experience in the Honours programme.

Although at times challenging, I found the Honours Programme in Philosophy more than worth the time and effort required to complete it. The programme gave me the chance to study topics that otherwise would fall entirely outside the specific courses that formed part of my regular programme. In addition to that, the other students in the course were from various faculties of the university, making the in-class discussions the perfect place to discover arguments from the perspectives of different disciplines.

Overall, I found the programme to be well-rounded, with brief courses on practical skills such as teamwork, time management, the art of making choices etc. forming a nice balance with the philosophy courses. This provided tools to do something with the knowledge gained both in our regular programmes and in the Honours programme. Both types of courses were structured in a way that encouraged active participation, and the groups were small enough for everyone to ask questions and discuss the material we covered. I also found the plenary event on Academia to be helpful, since it gave me the chance to speak directly to people working in an area I would be interested in joining, and they shared their experiences directly with us who attended.

What are your favourite honours courses and why?

My favourite Honours courses were the ones that made us use arguments from our main fields of study. Since we come from different faculties, each of us could bring a unique perspective to the discussion, which made for very interesting philosophical debates. In a sense, the same was true for the skills modules, which brought students together who would otherwise most likely never have met. Especially in the course on effective teamwork, this proved to be difficult and hence also incredibly useful. We realized that people from different backgrounds, in our case specifically students from different main areas of study, have been taught various implicit rules of communication. The course gave us tools to implement, in order to overcome differences of this kind, and then asked us to do exactly that. Other Honours courses that required teamwork served to, in a similar way, force us out of our comfort zone to a place where we were able to collaborate with each other regardless of background.

What were the unexpected benefits you discovered about the Honours programme?

The programme surprised me by providing not only traditional education, but also practical life skills that can be applied to future endeavours regardless of the substantive focus of those, and fantastic little moments with strangers who became my friends. My favourite part of the programme was not any particular course or activity, but rather it was the small moments in between the formal parts of it; shared walks to the coffee machine in the corridor, long discussions that continued into late nights after our lectures had ended, meeting fellow Honours students in the street months later...

What is your passion?

My passion could be summarized as ‘understanding’. I want to understand humans and the way we behave, the reasons we act as we do, how we communicate with each other, and what lies behind the way that the society we created is structured and functions. This is part of the reason I chose to study law, since the law structures society and regulates, or at least shapes, our behaviour. For the same reason I chose to study philosophy, which approaches the same questions from a radically different perspective. The combination of the two, I hope, will help me understand why things are the way they are, and give me the tools to change the structure of society a little bit to make it better.

How have you been able to manage the lockdown?

What made the lockdown manageable for me was, strange as it may sound, my job. I work as a delivery person for a pasta place, which means that I bike long distances, fast and often. Thanks to my job, I had something that throughout the entire period of the lockdown forced me to be outside, to exercise a lot and to get some fresh air. This has been incredibly valuable, in general but especially as a balance to my studies.

Apart from biking, I used the unexpected extra time for online courses and learning languages, I spent a lot of time with a few of my close friends who, like me, stayed in Groningen. I read a few books that have been waiting patiently for me to find the time. I re-discovered audiobooks and podcasts, found a bunch of new recipes, and went for long walks in the early mornings, after the sunrise but before the city woke up.

Last modified:30 November 2022 6.35 p.m.