Bouke Sonnega works in science communication

Profile picture Boukje Sonnega

"It was never the plan to enroll in the rMA Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The plan was to do a Bachelor’s in History at Utrecht University. The fact that I was able to explore my recently found interest in early medieval and late antique conceptions of sainthood was only just dawning on me - and with encouragement from the supervisor of my Bachelors’ thesis I decided to take the plunge." 

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"The best thing about the programme is that it’s almost entirely focused on what’s most interesting to you. If that’s a weird saintly niche in the early middle ages - great! You will be met with support, ideas and insights from both your teachers and fellow students, and will be constantly challenged to see things in another light, to read just one more article, one more book. And that’s - if nothing else - a lot of fun.

I got to do a research internship at the University of Amsterdam, even if I never left my kitchen table due to covid-19. This was a great hands-on experience, because it allowed me to see how research is informed by sources, how questions almost present themselves if you keer yourself surrounded by source material - and how sometimes focus, time and feedback are needed to get the best out of your sources, and yourself.

I do not work in academia, although that is an ambition I have not fully let go. I do work in science communication in a completely different field and I can say that this rMA is more than a preparation for a PhD. It trains your researcher’s mind, your academic instincts, and that’s a skill that is invaluable in my daily work. But above all, you get to spend at least two years doing interesting things with interesting people, and that’s the most valuable thing." 

Iris van Nederpelt is a student

Profile picture Iris van Nederpelt, Ancient Medieval and Renaissance Studies

"While I was writing the thesis for my History Bachelor, Prof. Josine Blok (my supervisor) asked me if I had thought about doing the RMA Ancient Studies. I told her that I did not necessarily want to pursue a research career and that I wanted to work at a (ancient) history museum and make exhibitions. This is when she informed me that there was now also a ‘heritage track’ within the RMA. I decided to apply, since the RMA would allow me to specialize in ancient history and teach me more about heritage management."

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"I have not regretted this decision thus far. I now have more in depth knowledge of ancient history because of courses like ‘Ancient Greek citizenship’, epigraphy and numismatics (a course I took at Leiden University). Besides, although the heritage courses still need some improving (it was the first time they were taught) they taught me about the Dutch heritage sector and broadened my horizon when it comes to career opportunities.

In addition, I was determined to get an internship at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (NMA), since it is my ultimate dream to work here as an ‘Exhibitions Project Manager’ one day. I took matters into my own hands and wrote an e-mail to one of the project managers (from the NMA). She was happy to receive my email and told me that I was more than welcome to do an internship at the museum. From February to the end of June 2018 I helped produce the exhibition ‘Two centuries young’ (‘Al 200 jaar van nu’) at the museum and revived the ‘Topstukken route’ (which allows people to do a short tour of the museum and see its master pieces). I think this internship is an important step in the direction of a career in the heritage sector. I worked on my network and gained a lot of practical experience, something courses at the university would not have been able to give me.

After my graduation I am going to work really hard to get a job as an exhibitions project manager, so I will be able to transfer everything I have learned to a wide audience and hopefully inspire others to also study ancient history."

Kay Boers is a PhD Candidate at Utrecht University

Profile picture Kay Boers, Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Studies

"As I completed my Bachelor in History here at Utrecht University, I was looking for a Master’s programme that would help me develop my own peculiar research interest in Late Antique history from an interdisciplinary perspective. As I was perusing through the various research Master programme's on offer, I noticed that none of them, but Utrecht, allowed me to borrow and switch between the Ancient and Medieval tracks. This was something I believed would be absolutely necessary for anyone trying to thoroughly understand the Late Antique world: after all, one needs substantial knowledge of both Ancient and Medieval periods in order to properly comprehend the one in between."

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"The Ancient and Medieval departments in Utrecht had this knowledge on offer and they had long since acquired international renown for their interdisciplinary focus. Utrecht presented itself as the best possible choice. But perhaps more importantly, I had come to know Utrecht University as a place where the lines of communication between student and supervisors were healthily short, and in which there had always been room for students to adapt the curriculum to their personal preferences. 

In the end, the choice was easily made and it is one of those choices from which I still benefit enormously as a PHD candidate and lecturer today. During the course of the programme, my supervisors indeed allowed me to switch and pick from the Medieval and Ancient tracks at leisure. And even though some of the courses that actually were compulsory may appear to have centred almost exclusively on methodological issues, I was always allowed to focus on topics which were relevant to my own particular interests. This flexibility, alongside the multidisciplinary focus of the curriculum, not only helped me to study what I wanted whenever and in whichever place I could find it, it also helped me discover what I am actually good at. 

Looking back, what I particularly love about this programme is that it not only managed to simulate the practical research endeavours and daily routine of my research job today, it always gave you the sense that your endeavours actually mattered. Yes, on the surface, of course, you were only studying to become a researcher, but you always felt that you were actually contributing to existing fields of study. Even better, sometimes you actually did, and supervisors would help you in any way possible to publish your findings and present them to fellow researchers."