Ellianne Schultz, graduated in International Development Studies in 2008.
I chose to do a Bachelor's in Behaviour and Society (now Interdisciplinary Social Sciences) at the University of Amsterdam because the focus of the programme appealed to me. As a student, I also did a lot of volunteering for organisations for the homeless, prostitutes and the food bank, which enabled me to connect what I was learning in class to actual practice. In 2006 I started the Master's in International Development Studies and in 2007 a second Master's in Social Policies and Social Work in Urban Areas, which combines practical and scientific knowledge. When I began to look for a job in my final year of the programme, I applied for an opening as 'junior policy assistant for social affairs' advertised by Maandag, a staffing agency, and was hired. The actual role involved consultancy on the Social Support Act (Wet Maatschappelijke Ondersteuning) and Work and Social Assistance Act (Wet Werk en Bijstand). I enjoyed the work, which spanned several different municipalities, though I was disappointed that it didn't involve anything at policy level.
My biggest tip to anyone looking for a job is this: coffee breaks are a great opportunity to chat with potential employers. One professor I used to chat with over coffee passed on my name to the Christian University of Applied Sciences in Ede, who then invited me to come work for one of their interdisciplinary research groups, conducting Scientific Sociology studies. To the extent that it enabled me to utilise my education and experience, it was a fantastic opportunity, but it still wasn't my dream job because my research had to focus on 'Christian' themes, whereas my real interest is in the fringes of society.
To find that dream job, I dropped by the urban youth work coordinator's office to chat... over coffee. I pointed out that my qualifications extended beyond leading teen clubs, and was invited to apply for a job opening for a social work placement coordinator.
It's a fantastic job that I can shape any way I want – from the vision, policy and networking right through to the practical implementation. The aim of my project is to set up work placements for secondary school students in church-run social projects, like food banks. I have lots of contacts at schools and have already placed hundreds of teens. I also regularly speak with people who are homeless, poor, old and lonely, disabled and so forth. Basically, I'm a project leader, so this job aligns perfectly with my education.
Living in one of Amsterdam's worst and at the same times yuppifying neighbourhoods Bos en Lommer has opened my eyes to my own surroundings. As a volunteer, I'm currently working on setting up contacts with volunteer organisations, the city district and local institutes to launch a large-scale partnership. With my academic foundation, I'm ideally suited to this work.
I can also observe small things about my neighbourhood from a higher level. I can stake out a vision based on what my neighbourhood needs and draw on what the international body of knowledge says about what neighbourhoods like this need.