Master Course or Crash Course?

But we know that the Bachelor is just the beginning of our education,” said the valedictorian during the Liberal Arts graduation ceremony. Wrong! This hopeful prediction would only work if I decided to follow a Research Master and pursue my career in academia. After two months of my regular Master program I feel like the end of my academic education is near.

One of my courses at the University of Amsterdam started just two months ago. The following seven lectures featured PowerPoint slides flashing as fast as Kim Basinger’s orgasmic slide show in Nine ½ Weeks. If Walter Benjamin knew that we devoted only one hour of our precious time to discuss his essay, he’d turn over in his grave. The “academic debates” could just as well be squeezed during coffee breaks. The course’s content comes down to a list of tools that is published online anyways. Remind me why I would drag myself out of bed every Monday morning again?

No wonder the course lasted for barely two months, if the whole Master program takes only one year. Actually, our education has to fit between September and December, because the second semester is almost entirely devoted to writing a thesis. Following a Master program feels like taking a crash course. No, worse: like being in a Benny Hill episode about taking a crash course.

It seems as if the universities have pushed the speed up button on their production line, trying to rush us out of the cozy confines of the university buildings. But if the speed gets too high, the tape will slip from under our feet and we’ll fall on our faces completely not specialized in, what should be, our area of expertise. Students might not be the perfect contributors to society, borrowing money and using all the possible student discounts, but a two year Master program would allow us to actually study what we study. Without the long study fine I just might take my time… <evil laugh>

Published: Univers no 5, 22 November 2012



You walk on campus and you see someone approaching from the opposite direction. You know that person from student parties, but in a state of non-intoxication you have no clue what to talk about. There is this awkward moment in which you say “hi” and hesitate for a split second whether to stop and talk or keep walking. The other person takes advantage of your indecisiveness and throws in the dreaded “what’s up?”  You have no choice anymore. You have to make small talk. Here are some tips on how to make the chitchat much less of a cliché.

When the conversation starts with a statement about an exceptionally beautiful weather, respond: “It’s not so great for me. When it’s warmer than 15 degrees I get incredibly sweaty under my armpits. Look, see it?”

When asked about your well-being, list all the things that go wrong in your life. Complain about your back pain. Complain about troubles in your relationship. Complain about a broken toe nail, and don’t forget to describe in details how much it hurts. Sharing is caring.

Give a backhanded compliment. Say that you love someone’s haircut, and that it’s sooo much better than the old one. So much better. Really.

When asked about your studies, describe in detail the progress of your thesis. Say what chapter you are working on, which paragraphs have you finished, and which sentences you find problematic. Don’t forget to list all the sources you’re using. They probably want to know all about it, they’re just too polite to ask.

When asked about your plans for the summer, say that you won a trip to the Caribbean in the Albert Heijn contest. You can’t stress enough the fact that they pay for the tickets, private bungalow on a beach, cocktails with paper mini-umbrellas, and a day spent with Captain Jack Sparrow.

Note: I shall not be held responsible for your social alienation and eventual loneliness.



Royalty Goes Down the Toilet

If you hadn’t been so drunk on Queen’s Day and able to watch the news, you would have seen the future crown of the country Prince Willem- Alexander performing a very peculiar ritual. He spent the birthday of his royal Grandmother by taking part in competition in throwing toilet seats. And, horror of horrors, he won.

Sadly, this seems to be the current state of European royalty. If that’s the case, what is left for millions of hopeful teenage girls longing for the prince charming? Having a Prince William poster above their beds is out of the question (sorry, ladies, he’s taken), so the only option left is to have one with the Dutch prince photographed in the most dramatic moment of his famous toilet swing. His eyes focused on the target, his muscles flexed, his wet lips slightly open…

Perhaps toilet seats will prove to be more than just a great source of entertainment, and will replace some royal insignia. Who needs an expensive throne, when the toilet seat is much more comfortable to sit on? With some small adjustments it can even serve as a means of transportation for the monarch, a much safer one than a galloping, wild horse.

So it seems that they only remnants of the fairy tale world we can watch in “Shrek” movie. It gives me hope, as it probably does to those millions of desperate wanna-be -princesses. There at least an ogre becomes a prince, and in reality a prince seems to turn into a toilet-throwing ogre. And I know they say that a lucky girl should wholeheartedly support her royal husband’s career choices.  But if the prince is concerned more with the sanitary issues of his kingdom instead of practicing his chivalry skills, I’d rather stay with the dragon.

Published: Univers no 13, June 7, 2012


Another protest? So what?

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About a month ago I spontaneously joined a group of friends going for a trip to see a Brazil-Scotland football game in London. Little did I know that I would find myself in the middle of the largest public protest since 2003- the demonstration against public spending cuts. There were 84 injured and over 200 arrested. 

Seeing London, a city usually hosting boring tours, in such a mess was nearly entertaining. There were people climbing the Piccadilly monument, yelling through a megaphone, and putting piles of trash on fire at the Oxford Circus. A group of trouble makers hiding their faces clashed with police officers on Trafalgar Square, throwing bottles and bricks at them. My gut recognized disaster when I caught a glimpse of a bottle with piece of cloth in it, stuck suspiciously in somebody’s pocket. A red flag with clearly communist symbols appeared above crowd’s heads. I run around with my camera immortalizing these bizarre scenes … but as soon as I got tired and headed to the bar instead.

It was exactly the indifference of bystanders (me including) that struck me most. People around sure did take many pictures, but showed little surprise. While showing some tourists the way, policemen maintained friendly faces as if they hadn’t just been in a middle of this massive demonstration. I couldn’t help but notice the grotesque combination of an angry crowd with Scottish soccer fans in blue kilts and ornamental hats calmly walking through the city. I also gave a head-to-toes evaluation to the girls in short dresses and high heels chatting outside of a club, ice cubes tinkling in their fancy glasses. The Saturday night fever was clearly hotter than the protestant’s anger.

It seems as if demonstrations run off us like water off a duck’s back. Mass media repeatedly expose us to scenes of protesting crowds, be it in London, The Hague or even Cairo, turning them into more familiar images. Will we soon be anesthetized?