I woke up really early that day. Well, earlier than I usually do. I don’t really remember my dream from the previous night, but I vaguely recall it to be about work. That week in particular had been a busy one. With the deadline nearing every single one of us felt this pressure that only grew with every day that passed. The race against time!
It’s the final quartile of the year so I reckon some are approaching their graduation while others are getting a year closer to it. Kudos! And as is usual, a closure brings an opportunity for sincere reflection. This time, it may be a purely academic look-back for some, whereas some others may prefer a more wholesome contemplation. It’s at such times, though, that I resume wrestling with my mediocrity and wonder if it’s similar for everyone else.
The time for a confession has come: ever since primary school I’ve been a fan of Feyenoord. Initially it was a bit awkward for my parents, and my environment also looked at me slightly flummoxed. After all, I’m not from Rotterdam or the surrounding area, but was born in Utrecht. Nowadays people around me regard it as a likeable flaw.
Throughout our student lives we have been programmed that academic achievements are all that matters, and that high grades and flashy scholarly projects will land us on the job of our dreams.
Truth be told, the Dutch language doesn’t exactly rank among the most useful ones. Being spoken in a tiny corner of Europe and some remote specks of land elsewhere coupled with the natives’ fluent English are enough reasons to never learn it. But the real virtue of a language isn’t in how it has spread around the world; ask anyone from places like India, many of us speak multiple regional languages.
Teachers regularly team up to reflect on education, educational innovation, on what works, what can be better, must be better. Lately we have also been talking frequently about what can go and must go faster.
When I first moved to America, I initially refused to speak English for the first 3 months because “Les Français parlent Français” or in other words, French people speak French. I was 3 years old. I soon realized that I had to ask for permission to go to the bathroom. Thus prioritizing dry pants over my French pride, my life as a bilingual began. Little did I know at that time that this new skill I was developing would split my personality in two.
Back in 1980, Greece and the European Union (that was called the European Economic Community/EEC) at that time were conducting final talks that led to the admission of Greece to the EEC the year after. One of these talks took place in Athens in the Greek capital. The EEC-delegation headed by a top civil servant -a Danish woman- was welcomed at the airport by their Greek hosts. These were all older men with grey hair and a bit of a belly (what the Germans appropriately call Wohlstandsbauch). While trying to identify the head of the EEC-delegation, they were obviously looking for the older man, a peer like them in that group.
Once I was awarded the first place in an entrepreneurship contest. I literally bursted with joy and felt that I had achieved something valuable for my career. However, happiness didn’t last long…
When I moved to the Netherlands, I was really looking forward to freedom from my parents, a new culture and bad weather. What I didn’t expect, was to be put in a box.
I have never had any surgery. Nor do I aspire to it. Still, should it ever come to that, then – apart from grilling the surgeon about his alleged expertise in the relevant cutting job – I will also ask him what is on the play list for that day. After all, the choice of music, as a recently published article in Journal of Organizational Behavior would have it, can ensure that the surgical team works together just a touch better.
Whom should I vote for, today? If this is your question, then read this article to hear my suggestion. This suggestion comes from a self-proclaimed, self-certified, self-accredited political science guru - ME. Take my advice seriously.
I receive between 100 and 200 emails per day. Every day. Whereas I may think that that is a lot, it does not appear to be exceptional. Once I have relegated the large quantities of spam, newsgroup facts and ‘reply-to-all’ mails to the digital Walhalla with a fine swipe, there are still dozens of emails left that I do need to do something with - read, a short response, a more extensive action, or in any case save them until I get round to them. If I do get round to them, of course, for there’s the rub.
The youth of today - always multitasking; sitting in lectures with one eye on their laptops, one thumb on their telephones; reading with both ears plugged into music. Distractions don't bother them, on the contrary they seek them out. Just take a look at our youngest employees, the PhD candidates: each and every one of them wears headphones.
My father used to work in an open office before the term existed. Some sixty years ago he was a young corporal and torpedo maker, active in the submarine service of the Royal Netherlands Navy.
We are almost nearing the end of January and I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. But it's way past January 6th, so if you think that ship has sailed, I'll wish you all the best for your exams. I know it’s not too late for that. One point to Akarsh!
Looking back at 2016, it was hardly a great year. David Bowie: dead. And Prince. And Leonard Cohen. Muhammed Ali, Alan Rickman, Johan Cruijff, and Peter van Straaten. The British who no longer wanted to be part of 'our' Europe. Not to mention the election of a narcissistic horror clown to the White House. Enough reason for the Executive Board to add another bottle of liquor to our Christmas hamper - for which, thank you - but the comfort of that 12 percent evaporates as easily as the alcohol itself.
No holiday season instills man with such fear as Christmas. Of course, I can understand how all these Christmas lights, along with Michael Bublé, attempt to magically ‘Expelliarmus’ the winter darkness. However, they fail to conceal the emptiness of our existence that is felt when going through the vast number of boxes in which our Christmas decoration is supposed to be stored. The embodiment of despair is adorning a Christmas tree, strengthened by the vocal exclamations of Mariah Carey in the background, worsened by the outlook of having to spend days of binge eating at every single branch of one’s family tree.
The fear of imperfection, atelophobia, is an epidemic our society is currently facing.
Last month I visited Japan for the first time. I was expecting to be stuffed into the metro by people wearing white gloves, expected to see robots walking the streets, and cool fashionable youngsters with dyed hair as in computer games. None of that, of course. The greatest differences are far more subtle, though much more drastic as well.
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What do you get if you merge a University of Arts, a University of Business and a University of Technology? This was the question on everyone's lips ten years ago in Helsinki. Under the motto ‘Just do it’, our cryptic northern neighbors went on to establish a veritable University of Multidisciplinary Science: Aalto University.
Sofia was a spontaneous, ultra-cheap one-day trip that my best friend and I planned during our exams. We saw the 15-euro deal (return included!), we booked the tickets, and forgot about it until two days prior to the retreat.