Key people: Valeria Puzzolo

‘I still regret that I stopped studying.’
Photo Guy Ackermans

They are indispensable on the campus: the cleaners, caretakers, caterers, gardeners, receptionists – the list is long. Resource seeks out these key people. This time, meet Valeria Puzzolo (34), who works in the restaurant in the Forum.

‘When I was 18 my family got into financial difficulties, and I had to work as well as go to school. I opted for catering because I liked cooking. But I was lazy and I stopped studying so I only had work left. I still regret that choice, but I’ve got to learn to live with it. I could invest time and money in studying again but the chances of getting a better job are small because my competitors on the job market are 10 years younger than me. I see them every day on campus. Maybe I will start a course next year, though; my child will start school then and I’ll have more time.

It took me a while to get the names of the coffees right

But I can’t grumble. I’m intelligent, but there’s plenty of challenge in this job too. And my contract goes on for another couple of months, so the Covid crisis hasn’t had a direct impact on my income. I came to the Netherlands from Italy last year; my husband works here at the university. The working conditions are much better here. In Italy I worked five days a week for 12 hours a day for the same salary I get here for three eight-hour days. I can spend more time with my family now.

I work in the Grand Café, the restaurant and the catering service. I enjoy it all. In the restaurant I prepare food, bake bread and keep the salad bar filled. Everything must be displayed clearly and attractively. The catering work appeals to me because you work independently and go to various different places. Working in the Grand Café is the easiest: I just have to know how the coffee machine works. Although it did take me a while to get the names of the coffees right. In Italy, café latte and latte macchiato are the same thing, but here they’re different. A student once asked me for a “latte” and I gave him a cup of milk, ha ha. I know now that he meant a Latte Macchiato.’

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