Who are you?
I am Margje Camps, I am twenty-one years old, I come from the south of the Netherlands, from Heerlen in Limburg. I study at UCR, where I do law and politics in Social Science. And I do the double degree in Liberal Arts and Dutch Law.
Does your being from Heerlen, Limburg, mean much to you?
It’s one of these places, in the deep South, where there is a strong dialect and where you are really connected. We’ve got our own habits, our own language, it’s such an important element of who we are—we’re together.
Why did you come to UCR?
That’s a funny story, actually. My parents, my brother, and I always go to Domburg in the Fall break. We’ve gone there ever since I was born and we’ve always visited Middelburg. In high school I did a pre-university track with the University of Maastricht, which was run by University College Maastricht. So that is how I got to know the concept of a University College. Now, obviously Maastricht was a bit too close to home; I wanted to be independent, I wanted to get away! So when we were in Domburg again, and visiting Middelburg, my mom said: “But isn’t there a university here?” We checked google maps and it actually said that there was. So I looked at my mom and I said: “They say it’s right here!” And my mom said: “That can’t be right.” Then we walked down the Lange Noordstraat and, indeed, there is was: University College Roosevelt. I got so excited because the building was really beautiful, it was a university college, and it was in an environment that I really knew and liked! So everything fell into place and came together. So, I applied, and now I am here.
Is the Maastricht pre-university track an answer to the question why Liberal Arts?
Well, that track was focused on World War II and many faculties contributed. That was nice, but my main reason for choosing Liberal Arts was actually that I did not want to choose just one discipline. I really like rhetoric: speeches, speaking, reading; I really like the language behind literature, and why certain authors make certain decisions; I really like law and politics, which come hand in hand; but then I also like biology. I felt it was too early to take any decisions for or against any of these interests.
And has that worked for you?
Yes, definitely. I had a real interest in language and literature when I came to UCR. I still like to read books but I have discovered that the language component isn’t really my thing. But I got a lot out of the rhetoric courses, they are among the most fun courses I did here, and I love how they combine with my main focus on law and politics. Furthermore I had hoped that I would be given real challenges; substance, fast pace, high tempo. And I got that. I like to invest a lot in what I do; as much as is humanly possible without breaking at some point.
Are we tough on students?
I’d say as tough as is needed. In order to learn something you have to put in real effort. It is healthy that you search your limits and see how far you can go.
Where is the dividing line between healthy challenges and going too far?
Well, as a student you should always be in control. When things get out of hand you have to say: “This is too much for me.” That can be through an extension, by not being able to finish a paper, or by saying: “I am not ready to put in more hours.” It is very much your own responsibility how much stress and unhealthy behavior you put towards school. For example, I really like to do sports. That is how I destress. I purposefully schedule in that time. That is my time and I put that first.
Do you as a student take decisions against perfection, as a way of managing stress?
I sometimes do. Sometimes I deliver good work, work that is not necessarily great. I look at my average for a particular class. I work hard at all my assignments and towards the end of the semester I give myself some room to move around. It doesn’t always have to be an A+ paper. I will never hand in work that I am not proud of, but this approach gives me a little leeway for getting enough sleep and prioritizing other things.
Are you a good planner?
I am. I plan my days, but that will include going for a run, cooking a meal. I could work more, but then I would work unproductively, my brain wouldn’t work properly. I have moments where it doesn’t work, obviously. But I try.
You do the Double degree in liberal arts and Dutch law? How is that going?
It is very exciting. It is also nerve wrecking. The Double degree program is still a pilot at UCR. It is done together with the department of Law at Utrecht University and with University College Utrecht. With one of my best friends I am the first to really do this program at UCR and it brings a lot of challenges with it. How much work do we put in? How do we communicate? How do you study in Dutch? The program focuses on Dutch Law, which you cannot study in our English-taught program. It also feels very exciting because we do something new. I like law and Dutch law, even if it is a lot of work.
How do you fit that in your UCR agenda?
The exams are in August — Dutch Public Law — and in January — Dutch Private Law — during our summer and winter breaks. That is convenient, but you need these breaks for a lot of other things. With the January exam I decided to not study at all during the Christmas and New Year’s season — the Fall semester had been tough, and I was floored. I then took two-and-a-half-weeks and prepared for the exam. And it went well! The UCR required courses in law —European Law, Constitutional Law, International Law — complement the Dutch law track well. The exams are pass/fail tests, so now I am done. After completing my UCR studies coming June with my Class of 2020, I will merge into the Law BA at Utrecht University. I will study Dutch law for a year and then I will have a double degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences and Dutch Law.
What is your greatest ambition?
Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to teach. I have helped people with math, but I have also taught dance lessons, I’ve been a gymnastics teacher — my mom is one and so was my grandfather. I am in a long line of teachers.
I definitely want to become a professor. It is humbling to be taught by professors who are really passionate about their subject and who know it inside and out. I think that knowledge of a practical field is important in teaching. I want to gain practical experience in the field of law and international relations for the Dutch government, and pass it on to my future students.
So a Ph.D. is on the agenda as well?
That’s the plan. Two bachelors, a master, a Ph.D. Maybe not back-to-back because I need some sleep in the meantime.
Do you have a message for our community?
We have such a unique community here. You should get the most out of it. And I don’t mean: go to every party — by all means, do go to every party you like — but for academic and personal challenges that you face there is actually someone who is going to help. It can be very daunting to go to university and be in this very driven, very ambitious academic environment — look what I just said about my ambitions. Reaching out for help and support is important. Whether it comes from another student, faculty, staff; they are kind and genuine. There have been moments where I should have reached out earlier, for help or just for reassurance. It makes things easier.
Are students hesitant in seeking support?
Well, I don’t know every student here. It’s more about the things I mentioned earlier. If you feel like you don’t know how to plan something, or if you feel you don’t have time to cook, remember that you are in a place in which you will find support. We can expect that from each other and that is a unique thing. It can be as simple as asking your neighbors: “Can we perhaps have dinner together once a week?” It can also be about going up to your professor and saying that you simply don’t understand how the textbook explains something. Or you can identify that you are more of a visible learner and see what you can do about it with the help of others. As I said, you are responsible for your own success, but that does not mean that you are the only one who has the tools to work on it. You have to connect.