Alumna Gaby van de Wal: 'Don’t worry, you’ll be all right'
'The kind of knowledge you gain in International Studies can take you anywhere,' says Gaby van de Wal (26, The Hague, The Netherlands), who graduated from the programme in 2018. Her own career path is proof that indeed, an International Studies degree comes with many opportunities.
For the last four years, Gaby has been working for Asica Group, an international trading company for exotic fruits. 'In this job, the international aspect is everywhere,' she says. Asica, which is headquartered in Germany, has offices in production countries like Peru and Guinee, as well as several branch offices in the EU. As key account manager in the sales department, Gaby is based in the Dutch branch office, and has contacts with colleagues, buyers and sellers all over the world. She uses the skills that she acquired during her BA International Studies almost on a daily basis. 'The fact that I speak various languages, of course is very helpful. During my BA and subsequent MA in International Relations I also learned to make connections between developments in economic, political and social realms and to see how these impact global trade.' All this helped her to smoothly settle in when she first started working for Asica.
That same international outlook was also one of the things that attracted her to International Studies. 'I have an international background as my mother is from Argentina. Maybe that is why I feel that concentrating only on the Netherlands would be a bit boring. The international scene is so much more dynamic, and also you encounter so many people with different world views. I find that very interesting.'
Looking back at her time in the International Studies programme, she says she learned a lot, maybe even more than she realized at the time. 'In the BA you acquire a lot of soft skills which are really useful, whatever your next steps will be. For instance, intercultural skills, the ability to look at cases from many different perspectives but also writing and presenting information. When I was still in the programme, I maybe didn’t fully grasp just how valuable these skills are, but now I realize they really help me in my job.'
PRINS: a highlight
Her internship in Argentina was one of the highlights, as was the PRINS course, Gaby says. The internship in Buenos Aires with an NGO for international students in Argentina gave Gaby the chance to not only get a taste of working life, but also gave her the opportunity to live in the country where her own roots are. In PRINS, she was in a team that developed an advisory report for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 'To everyone who at this moment is struggling to complete PRINS, I would like to say: Hold on! This is an experience that you can always refer to when you start applying for jobs and doing job interviews. It definitely is an experience that will help you a lot in your future career.'
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Indeed for Gaby, her PRINS experience proved helpful in securing an internship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the department of Foreign Enterprise. 'By then I had graduated from my International Relations MA, where I took the Global Political Economy track. My intern position was at the Latin America section of the Ministry’s Department and I was involved in organising the International Economy Week 2019. At the time, I would have liked to stay on, but that didn’t work out.' With hindsight, Gaby is happy about that, as the work and atmosphere at Asica suit her much better. 'That is the good thing about internships, they give you a chance to figure out which things you like and which you don’t like.'
All in all, her career so far did not follow a straight line and has brought her to quite a few interesting positions. 'I have learned that the kind of knowledge and skills you gain at the International Studies programme can take you anywhere,” she says. “And therefore, to all my fellow alumni or soon-to-be alumni I would like to say: don’t worry, you’ll be all right!'