Emma Höngens. Foto | Bart van Overbeeke

Hot Seat | Small and sweet, with a big mouth

Many people who sit down for these interviews let out a deep sigh when they come across a difficult question. Or there is a long silence first. Or they say: “Well, that’s a tough question.” But not first-year Psychology & Technology student Emma Höngens. She is quick to voice an opinion, and she always remains fair and reasonable. Honest and straightforward. She is happy with the less serious final question though: ‘Who or what makes you laugh uncontrollably?’

Who do you most admire?

“I look up to my parents because of how they relate to the world around them. They are open to everything and everyone, and their passion for learning and self-improvement is something they passed on to my brothers and myself in particular. In fact, I admire people who achieve their goals and who are friendly, so that’s quite a few.

When I think about the ‘major figures,’ I admire Barack Obama. I like how he managed to inspire positivity in his countrymen. I like politics, to represent people and to articulate their interests. I debated a lot in high school. I would like to become active in politics, although I have no idea for which party. I don’t like compartmentalized thinking. Environmental awareness would be an important issue to me in any case.”

Are you afraid of death?

“I’m eighteen years old, so it’s never on my mind. I think we’re all afraid in some way. I expect that I will fear it less when I’m eighty or ninety years old, after I’ve completed some things in my life. I prefer not to die suddenly at an earlier age. I hope to be able to approach it as something beautiful. I don’t believe in an afterlife; I believe in science. So far, no one has ever been able to prove that there is life after death. And of course, science can’t prove everything, but the facts do enjoy the benefit of the doubt. Faith, whichever kind, is a beautiful idea and it gives many people hope, but it also leads to many conflicts.”

What does freedom entail according to you?

“Freedom can entail practically everything, especially if you grew up in the Netherlands. It entails being able to develop your character and doing what you want to do. There’s a limit to that, of course, it has to be socially acceptable. Complete freedom is never a good thing. To me, the ultimate feeling of freedom is that you can think what you want, no one can say something about your thoughts.

I experience both more and less freedom at the university compared to high school. The pressure to perform is higher here, especially during exam periods. On the other hand, the atmosphere is freer here, and you don’t have to take your fellow students into account so much because unlike high school, you’re not in a classroom with thirty students. The downside though, is that the relationship with fellow students outside your circle of friends is less intense.”

What is the biggest misconception people have about you?

“I’m quite small and young, and I come across as sweet, so people don’t expect that I can be pretty temperamental as well. I’m fine with that, I wouldn’t want to change it. Your appearance doesn’t tell the whole story. I used to debate a lot in high school and I had a big mouth sometimes. I expected this to change once I started at the university, but that’s not the case. I’m on the education council, where we discuss courses. And I will send an email to a teacher now and then when I think there are some points for improvement. They appreciate the feedback. I always remain fair and reasonable when I voice my opinion, it never results in a fight. It was always like that. My mother sometimes tells me that my brother and I always had an answer for everything, we never just said ‘yes.’”

Who or what makes you laugh uncontrollably?

“Ah, finally, a less serious question! I like to laugh and I find humor in many things. I can burst into uncontrollable laughter with friends, but also with my family. When was the last time I laughed out loud? Just a half hour ago! A friend does something funny, someone else takes it a step further. It’s difficult to recount.

I don’t necessarily look for humor, there is something funny about everything. Even thrillers. Wordplays might make me laugh when I’m with one person, whereas funny anecdotes will do the trick when I’m with someone else. I like all types of humor, I’m just not really into crude humor and cursing.”

For our column The Hot Seat we ask students and employees to pull five cards from our top hat full of questions. One question may be exchanged. 

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