AID 2016 will start in just over a week and Wageningen will be flooded with new, anxious and eager students. It’s the first time they’ll be meeting their course mates, some possibly bound to become best friends, or more. Who wouldn’t be excited?
But there will be even more of those with whom no connection will be made. Imagine leaving WUR in two, four or more years and realising that you barely knew anyone in your programme. In all the career events we’re drilled about networking networking networking… But what about networking with those sitting in the same classroom, writing their theses in the same building? One day one of them might become a government minister, a director of some important agency, editor of a relevant journal. Will a shared “Wageningen alumni” label be enough to connect then?
I consider myself really fortunate in this regard. I’ve made quite a lot of friends within my Forest and Nature Conservation programme from different specialisations (we have three!). But many of them don’t know each other.
Of course our programme is large; it’s just not possible to know everyone. I’m glad my friends are meeting, as they’re the best people. But it’s not just about that – how come I only know about research of other specialisations from stories? Why are we, nature policy people, not invited to final presentations of those doing ecology or nature management? Are those invitations even extended to students within the same chair groups?
All those missed fieldwork opportunities, research questions…Surely there must have been a single person in Gaia and Lumen interested in my experiences in Western Australia from an ecological perspective (fire! biodiversity! restoration!), for example. Same applies to the studies of many of my fellow classmates. Of course, those are great experiences for our personal development. But wouldn’t it be awesome if they were of some use to the other scientists within the same institution too?
And do we get informed on what kind of science they are doing? Of course not! Sure, sometimes some info is shared about talks, symposia and lectures. But somehow “Resource” and “Wageningen World” are my main sources on that research. Am I missing something here?
Enjoy your time in Wageningen new students. It’s going to be a blast! But don’t forget that important connections can be made on and off the campus. And things you can learn are not always in lectures, but can be found in people with whom you’ll soon be partying with. No matter how unlikely that might sound.