Eva Zeilstra is Privacy, Security & Data Management Consultant at Cranium NL
"Although this programme focusses on the academia, I think most of the skills you acquire are applicable in several fields. In its essence, writing a good essay is about processing huge loads of information into well-structured arguments.
During the Research Seminar I participated in Dr Laurien Crump’s project A Common European Home? The Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as a Paradigm for Peace, 1973-1993. Together with two fellow students, I critically reconstructed part of the current understanding of the CSCE, such as the historiographical focus on the Western European integration of human rights, and the dominant neglect of efforts made by Eastern European countries.
Although the Research Seminar officially finished, our project was still in progress. My fellow students and I visited the Bundesarchiv in Berlin to further enhance our findings. Under the supervision of Dr Crump we have rewritten our Seminar reports into an academic article, which we intended to publish during the course of the current academic year. Conducting this research outside of the safe university environment was really exiting.
The Research Seminar enabled me to not only apply, but also to enhance the skills I gained previously during my studies. Using analysis of such a large number of primary sources in order to critically tie into a historiographical debate was challenging, but above all very instructive. As an assignment the Seminar is quite different from the average university task, since it not just requires you to answer a research question, but also asks you to constantly reflect on your methodological approach. Designing such a research on your own, while simultaneously being part of a larger project was very intellectually challenging to me, since the contact with my ‘co-researchers’ and our supervisor constantly stimulated me to enhance my individual argumentation.
After my graduation, I explored the possibilities at the academic job-market and non-academic job-market as well. Now I work as Privacy, Security & Data Management Consultant at Cranium NL.
Hans Rodenburg is a researcher at the Centre for Parliamentary History at the Radboud University
"The key feature of this Master’s programme is the high degree of individual freedom students are afforded with in following their own interests. I was encouraged to approach researchers from all over the country that were involved in the same research area. In addition, the teachers are highly involved with the activities of students, which is also encouraged by the small size of the working groups. An example is a research seminar I followed with a fellow student on Greenpeace International. At the end of the seminar our mentor Liesbeth van de Grift encouraged us to write an article on our research. She also invited us to organise a workshop at the international conference on environmental history in Zagreb where we presented our research.
Just when I graduated there was a job opening at the Centre for Parliamentary History at the Radboud University. The research topic perfectly matched my personal interests and I have been working there since. I am part of a research programme that studies the Dutch parliamentary history of the 1970s. My subproject covers the political struggle over financial and socioeconomic policy during 1981 and 1982. In the future, I hope that I can continue to work on interesting projects as a researcher or PhD student."
Iris Clever is a PhD candidate at UCLA
"One of the reasons I chose the Research Master’s programme History was because it allowed me to develop my own programme based on my research interests. This was imperative to developing my PhD project, as I was planning to apply to PhD programmes after graduation. Another reason I chose this Master’s was that I wanted to study abroad, and through the RMA I was able to spend a quarter at UCLA. This was a life-changing experience and made me decide to pursue a PhD in the United States.
After the RMA, I worked as a junior lecturer in the History Department, while I was applying to PhD programmes in the US. The application process is very different from the Netherlands, and since I had studied at UCLA with graduate students who successfully went through this process, I could ask them to look over my application materials. Their advice was incredibly helpful. I would advice all master students to talk to people and ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your application materials for any job you’re wanting to apply to. Reach out to people who successfully went through the process, even if you don’t know them.
I ended up applying to universities that seemed to be a good fit with my project. Luckily, my applications were successful and in September 2014 I started my PhD at UCLA’s History Department. Because of the various world-renowned universities and research institutes, Los Angeles is a very stimulating academic place which has allowed me to meet and build connections with scholars from all over the world.
What I love about writing a dissertation is that it requires you to be creative. You have to draw unique and important connections between events, developments, and sources. A lot of in-depth knowledge is required before you can establish what kind of intervention your work will make in your field of research, so it takes a long time and you have to be patient and persevere. The scope of the dissertation (and the subsequent book) is also quite challenging in this respect: instead of developing an argument for a small case study or paper, you have to draw connections between various chapters and argue how it all hangs together. Writing a dissertation is really pushing my creative skills. It is an exciting process."
Marijn Speth is First Secretary at the Dutch Embassy in Turkey
"My first, one-year Master’s programme (History of Politics and Culture) was over before I knew it. At that point, I didn’t know if I wanted to try to find a PhD position or a job outside the academic world. Because my first Master’s had been such a good experience, I decided to enroll for the Research Master History. With this programme, I could further explore whether a PhD position would actually be something for me, all while keeping all other options open.
I expected a challenging programme with lots of research assignments and individual responsibility, which is exactly what it is. I think students in the Research Master will obtain a good impression of what it is like to do a PhD, which serves as a good preparation.
In the end, after I finished the Research Master, I wanted to look for work experience outside academia first. Together with friends, I first set up the international youth exchange organisation Linking Europe. I interned with Human Rights Watch and later on worked for a Congressional office in Washington, D.C. through a fellowship offered by Humanity in Action.
The immediate post-graduation period is a perfect time to gather work experience in a variety of places. I took my time for this, which resulted in fantastic experiences that I would never want to miss. My one piece of advice: when in doubt, seize the opportunity!"
Alumna Kate Frederick is Postdoc researcher at Utrecht University
“When I was finishing my Bachelor’s at UCLA, one of my favorite history professors suggested that I consider taking up a Master’s in Europe to gain some international experience before pursuing a PhD in the US. He had particularly good things to say about the Netherlands and connected me with a visiting Utrecht University professor. Needless to say, I was convinced. In fact, I loved the Dutch academic atmosphere and lifestyle so much that I decided to stay and do my PhD here in the Netherlands.
I moved from the RMA at Utrecht University to a PhD position at Wageningen University. There, Prof. Ewout Frankema has built up a team of young scholars working on economic history with a strong focus on Africa. During my PhD I have had the opportunity to present my work in numerous workshops and international conferences. The experience has been invaluable to my career development. I feel that the treatment of PhD candidates in the Netherlands as young colleagues – rather than as mere students – has allowed me to quite rapidly learn how to operate in the “real” academic world. I am now a Postdoc researcher at Utrecht University, after having completed my PhD at Wageningen University.
During the Master’s phase, I learned to think very critically about existing historiography and theory. This prepared me to think more broadly about the vast possible historical “truths” that I could explore in my own PhD research. A PhD in history does not simply consist of learning about the world as it has already been reported (although that is certainly part of it), rather this work is about providing a fresh perspective on our past and, to a degree, our present. To me, this is the fundamental purpose of historical research.”