Elizaveta Shishlakova is a student of Religious Studies
"I chose the Master’s programme Religious Studies at Utrecht University because this programme would fit my career plans best: I would like to work on religion and videogames. I’m sure that the study programme in combination with courses of the Department of Media and Culture Studies will help me achieve that goal.
I had already spent a semester at a Dutch university before joining the Master’s programme, so that I had some concrete expectations: that the individual schedule would be flexible and the teachers would be eager to help in achieving personal goals and academic trajectories. At the start of the classes I felt immediately one hundred percent at place. I loved the atmosphere and the teachers’ and supervisors’ attitude towards us students as well as the study process.
Even though I just started, I have already learned quite a lot. For the most part I dived into the current trends and problematic questions of the study of the humanities. For the upcoming semester I’m really looking forward to the course on game studies, media and play, but I am generally happy with all the courses I have. Besides that, I especially appreciate the teaching techniques and styles of some professors.
I am now where all I had been thinking of and dreaming for can actually come true. I feel that I have a lot of possibilities open ahead of me. It really feels like I found what I had been looking for. In future I do dream of an academic career, therefore, I would be happy to apply for a PhD position after my graduation. However, I am also very open to other possibilities such as working in a museum or in a research center."
Aleksi Hämäläinen is a student of Religious Studies
"I chose the Religious Studies Research Master programme since I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures and religious traditions. I figured this programme would give me the necessary skills and knowledge to further explore these, and prepare me for potential future careers necessitating specialist expertise, i.e. NGOs or academia. The faculty and university have an excellent track record in this regard, so I chose Utrecht. I expected to engage with like-minded students and staff in deep discussions and tackle challenging themes and issues. I anticipated that the programme would be extremely challenging, yet rewarding in many ways. Once I started at Utrecht, I realised that these expectations were met fully, since all of my colleagues are fantastic and the course content interesting.
The master’s programme offers great opportunities to develop critical thinking and analytical skills, which can be applied broadly. I have learned more about relating different theories and methods in the study of religion, which will undoubtedly prove useful in future research. One of the major advantages of the programme is the focus on subtle nuances in society, religious traditions, and other relevant discourse. The religious studies programme offers such a diverse range of interdisciplinary approaches, which grant perspectives that might otherwise be disregarded in other fields of study. This flexibility and scope of approaches is in my opinion one of the greatest strengths of the Religious Studies Master’s programme.
I am not yet 100% sure what I want to become after I graduate. I am certain I would enjoy either working in the academia, or for governmental or non-governmental organisations, such as the UN or other organisations dealing with social and political issues relating to religious matters, religious extremism, and terrorism, among other issues. I certainly feel that the Religious Studies Master’s programme at Utrecht University will grant me the relevant knowledge and skillset that will prove beneficial in terms of these future plans."
Béracha Meijer is a student of Religious Studies
“After I followed some courses of the BA programme Religious Studies I became increasingly fascinated with the study of religion and I wanted to combine these interests with my previous studies in comparative literature. The Master’s programme would allow me to expand my interests in religion while I would also have the freedom to incorporate my own interests and methods of research.
This Master’s programme distinguishes itself from others because interdisciplinarity is at the heart of Religious Studies. The fact that it is such an interdisciplinary programme, which involves many different approaches and theories, helps me to connect different topics and fields of study that I would have never seen otherwise. The questions raised within Religious Studies are challenging and exciting. They do not only affect the academic sphere but also the everyday lives of many people all over the world. There is a lot to learn from this broad spectrum of approaches to religion, but also from the different teachers and my fellow students. Our group is very dynamic; everyone comes from different bachelors and has diverse interests.
Immediately upon starting the master, we were drawn into the research community of the department and encouraged to participate in everything. Next to regular classes there are often other exciting things going on such as going to a conference, visiting a museum, participating in research colloquia and organising our own student conference. So, besides reading, writing and thinking, we also get to experience a lot of the academic sphere and the possible futures after our programme. I consider academia as one of the main possibilities, but I also like to have an open attitude: you never know what you might run into.”
Jip Lensink is a student of Religious Studies
“During my bachelor in Cultural anthropology I discovered that I found religion a fascinating theme. I find it interesting to discover why people find things important, how they live and why things happen in relation to religion. That's why I visited the Master’s Open Day of Religious Studies and after that I felt constantly happy. The familiar atmosphere, the involvement of teachers and the study programme itself with so many possibilities (fieldwork, abroad, elective courses, internship) were decisive for registering.
I study together with a small group of enthusiastic people with whom I have profound discussions about what we learn. The atmosphere is great; I feel at ease. The texts that are treated in class are interesting and I like the themes, the seminars and even the assignments! Before starting the Master’s programme I was a bit afraid of the high workload, but that turned out not to be necessary: I like this study so much, that it is not stressful at all to work on it. Also the freedom of choice, particularly in the second year, caused some anxiety at first, but fortunately there is a lot of time to choose and all the teachers are very helpful to help me in this process. Moreover, the possibility to specialize is for me one of the nicest aspects of this master.
The study offers an extensive network of people, the teachers are really good and the quality of the seminars is high. We learn to look at the world around us in a nuanced way by understanding what is happening and reflecting on it, so we can really add something. During the seminars we discuss complex issues, we read various, difficult texts, we give presentations, write papers and do research ourselves. Especially because of the latter, this research master is distinctive: we are being trained to become a researcher. After my master I would like to do a PhD to continue my career in academia. An administrative function also seems nice, for example at an NGO or museum.”
Diotima Matthijsen is a student of Religious Studies
“During my bachelor research for Cultural anthropology, religion was part of my fieldwork. However, I was not able to write about this subject at the time because it did not fit into my theoretical framework. Within the master Religious Studies, I can dive deeper into the link between mobility, religion and power, that’s why I chose this Master.
It is interesting to know what the research of teachers and PhD students within the department entails, therefore I always look forward to the research colloquia in which their research is presented. I also enjoy the lessons in which we discuss the texts and themes of the week, especially because I like to 'play' with different point of views.
The most important thing I learned is that religion plays an important role in different ways and at different levels in society: in the daily life of people, in the media, in (inter)national politics, in the public space; in the world at large. I gain knowledge and tools to learn to understand these complexities. In many other fields, religion is often underexposed, or still seen as something inferior or immoral, while secularism is seen as the future, freedom and democracy. Courses and texts on post secularism help me to think critically about the role of both secularism and religion (as well as their entanglement) in the creation of power structures. As religious studies scholar I can therefore contribute new insights and perspectives to other disciplines, including activism.
In future I hope to be able to continue working on projects to bring people together with different backgrounds and from different geographical locations. If I stay in the academia (e.g. by doing a PhD) I would like to research academic places (such as conference rooms, workgroups etc.), especially with a focus on religious diversity, exclusivity and belonging.”
Birgit Meyer is Professor of Religious Studies
"In the early 21st century, religion appears to be a far more prominent and contested phenomenon than envisioned by theorists who understood modernity in terms of increasing secularization. At Utrecht University we take part in rethinking the study of religion from an interdisciplinary angle and against a broadened global horizon. Our staff members work on a broad set of exciting case studies, including commotions around blasphemy, contestations around religious architecture, the rise of religious reform movements, and new religious media. In my own work I explore the role of the body, sensations and emotions, and all sorts of artefacts and materials, by studying the politics and aesthetics of religious world-making. We are happy to welcome you into our vibrant research community."
Christian Lange is Professor of Islamic Studies
"In recent years, the study of Islam has been greatly enriched by impulses from the anthropological, sociological, political, and aesthetic study of religion. The Research Master Religious Studies at Utrecht University is a great forum for staff and students interested in Islamic Studies to combine text-based research with such novel, exciting methodologies and theories. In doing so we build on the expertise of our staff in the study of early, classical, modern, and contemporary Islamic traditions, from the Koran and Hadith to Islamic jurisprudence, theology, mysticism, philosophy, and the reform discourses of recent times. If you want to delve deeply into the foundational texts and practices of Islam and learn how to interpret them by applying up-to-date research approaches, Utrecht University is the place for you!"