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International Relations (Political Science)

Wessel Catshoek: 'Get a work placement overseas and work your way up the ladder!'

Alumnus testimonial

Wessel Catshoek graduated in Political Science (Bachelor 's) in 2007 and Political Science:International Relations (Master 's) in 2008.

FMG Political Science - International Relations - Wessel Catshoek

I originally decided to study Political Science with the idea of working abroad either as a diplomat or in the development sector; I wanted to see a bit of the world and change it for the better. Although the UN was high on my list, first I spent some time working as an associate lecturer at the UvA. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the position, but ultimately I felt the need to be in the thick of it. That’s why I started working for a Swiss relief organisation in Kosovo. After the war, there was no government system left in Kosovo. Our organisation helped various municipalities to enhance their public service delivery, financial administration, and democratic processes.

Conversation skills

After a year, I was invited to work for the UN in Afghanistan. I currently live in Jalalabad, close to the Pakistan border. Our mission is to support the Afghan government, for instance with the peace process and elections. I often travel to remote areas to meet with religious leaders, tribal elders and politicians.

I see myself working abroad in the years ahead, since you gain a massive amount of experience that you would be hard-pressed to find in the Netherlands. This includes conversation skills: sometimes, you have to earn the trust of someone who would prefer to run you out of his country.

Lecture hall versus real world

A degree in social sciences is virtually always a prerequisite for a position in this field.

Contemporary topics in a study programme change rapidly; what was relevant in political science a decade ago has already faded in terms of importance. Plus, you can never fully capture the real world in a lecture hall. The analytical skills that you acquire during your studies are extremely valuable, however. My background in political science enables me to quickly assess and analyse situations, and put my findings in a solidly structured report.

In the development sector, experience abroad is often required in order to get a job. The best way to find work abroad is to go there; get a work placement overseas and work your way up the ladder!

The international job market is extremely competitive; therefore, try to do one or more work placements whilst you are still a student, and participate in other extracurricular activities. It also helps to specialise in a specific area early on; this will make you stand out when applying for a job.

Interested in a work placement with the UN? See the UN website