'Since we set up our own blog, The ProtoCity, I will fortunately stay in touch with most of my fellow students.' Read what Jorn Koelemaij tells about Urban Studies.
My name is Jorn Koelemaij. Prior to starting the Research Master’s Urban Studies in September 2011, I already did a Bachelor’s in Human Geography and Urban Planning at the University of Amsterdam. Particularly within the last year of this latter programme, when I went on an ERASMUS Exchange to Manchester for a semester after which I did finish my thesis, I discovered two things: first of all, my enthusiasm for conducting academic research. Second, I started to become aware of the fact how valuable and stimulating it is to meet peers from different countries. When I saw the curriculum of the Urban Studies programme I realised this was a unique opportunity: going abroad for another semester while being able to conduct international comparative research!
One of the other things that highly appealed to me was the diversity of academic fields that fall under the heading of Urban Studies. Apart from the cultural and ethnic mix within our group, we also all had diverse academic backgrounds, including sociology, urban planning and political science. At the start of the programme you get the intensive course called ‘Advanced Urban Studies,’ during which you get acquainted with all the different fields under the guidance of leading professors from the Urban Studies department of the UvA. Since the programme is highly-selective, every single student is well-motivated which results in lively discussions during the seminars. After this, and a number of methodology courses, one has to determine his or her particular focus in order to make a start with the research proposal for your thesis.
Being faithful to my background I decided to specialise in Urban Geography. For my thesis, which was about neighbourhood effects and social exclusion among youngsters in disadvantaged areas, I went to the city and university of Glasgow, which was another great experience, in which I definitely developed myself both intellectually as personally.
Now that I am graduated I am keeping my eyes open for interesting PhD positions throughout the world, but also for other interesting job opportunities, for instance at policy making or research institutions. One thing I know for sure after the past two years is that I would really like to keep working in an international environment. Since we set up our own blog, The ProtoCity, I will fortunately stay in touch with most of my fellow students. This is moreover also an advice for prospective students: get along with your peers as soon and as much as possible! This does not only result in more vibrant and fruitful seminars, but also enriches your way of looking at things. Together, you can achieve more than individually. Another tip I would like to give is not to wait too long with thinking about your thesis topic and exchange/ fieldwork destination. It is also important that those two connect to a certain extent. In this case, it really is true that ‘a good start is half the work.’ Internationally comparative research is widely propagated in today’s social sciences. Although it is generally quite a challenge for novice researchers, it is therefore also very relevant and it has been a magnificent experience for every single one of us. All in all, I can definitely recommend the Research Master’s Urban Studies to anyone with a broad interest, an international mindset and a fascination for social scientific urban research.