Humans of Humanities
In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week.
These portraits give you a look behind the scenes: Who are we and what do we do? That's how we give our faculty a face and tell the stories of those people who form the Faculty of Humanities.
For questions and/or suggestions, please contact our news editors.
'Students sometimes ask questions I have to think hard about' - Claartje Levelt, professor of First Language Acquisition
Claartje Levelt is professor of First Language Acquisition. She researches how babies and toddlers learn their mother tongue. Besides her work, she enjoys being involved with music.
‘I didn’t want to write about people, I wanted to give them a voice’
As a woman, working in Japan and Korea can be pretty tough, Yorum Beekman discovered. It prompted her to pursue a PhD on the subject: ‘I thought: hey, that’s interesting!’
‘My only condition was going on exchange to Leiden’
He studied Dutch Studies, did Dutch literature research for his internship, and worked at HEMA: Hungarian Márton Biró (26) came to the Netherlands on exchange and decided to stay.
‘I hope to keep doing this work for a very long time’
Aphroditi Zoulfoukaridis is the manager of LeidenGlobal, a partnership of several faculties at the University and other academic and cultural institutions in Leiden. In her free time, she enjoys visiting cultural events and loves to travel.
'The best part was being able to teach people something'
Betty de Jonge is a household name in our faculty. As the person behind AskBetty, she knew how to answer every question about Office. Starting this month, she has officially retired.
‘LGBT+ identities are not a burden but a source of inspiration’
Even as a teenager Asa Splinter was determined to study Japanese in Leiden. A HAVO diploma and a change in legislation threatened to throw a spanner in the works, but Asa persevered. After ten years of studying, Asa obtained a master’s degree in Japanese and was nominated for the IHLIA thesis award for the best thesis in the field of LGBT history in the Netherlands and Flanders.
‘I try to create a more relaxed atmosphere in front of the camera’
Thomas Vorisek is a video coordinator. He picked up a new hobby in his student days, entirely by coincidence, and now he makes a living out of it. Thomas likes to spend his free time on the beach.
‘As an expert in Dutch Studies you have the right skills to research hip hop’
Aafje de Roest turned her hobby into her job. She went from a teenager who enjoyed listening to hip hop music to a PhD candidate who focuses on how Dutch hip hop music shapes the cultural identity of young people in the Netherlands.
‘A nine-to-five job would make me miserable’
Rogier Creemers is a lecturer in Modern Chinese Studies. While he looks for challenges in his lectures, in his free time he much prefers to go back to basics and work with his hands.
‘What we do here today affects the world of tomorrow’
Rafaëlle Kwakkel is currently studying Literary Studies: Literature in Society. In addition to her studies, she works at Studium Generale and enjoys being creative.
‘Dutch is so much more than just spelling the letters d and t’
Femke is a third-year student of Dutch Language and Culture. She was a board member for a year, did an internship in times of COVID-19, and above all has a passion for her mother tongue.
‘I gave it my all’
Marnix van der Gun (42) has lived in The Hague all his life. He started his career as a professional football player and, after an injury, opted for a social career. Now he has been working at the university for almost eight years.
'I investigate where a strange story comes from.'
Peter Burger is a university lecturer at the master in Journalism and New Media and co-founder of Nieuwscheckers. He now teaches the course Factchecken at Leiden University. He also supervises theses and internships and conducts research into the trustworthiness of news and messages on social media.
‘I think writing is one of the most fun things to do.’
Anneloes van Iwaarden works part-time as a communications manager at the Centre for Linguistics (LUCL). She grew up in England, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where she eventually studied international relations. But her passion was always writing.
'There are so many questions I still want to ask’
The fact that Tim Meijers ended up becoming a philosopher came as no surprise. Even as a child, the university lecturer endlessly asked questions to himself and others. Now that is his job at the Institute for Philosophy at Leiden University. Tim Meijers researches sustainability and justice between generations. ‘Humanitarianism is central to my work.’
‘I’m looking forward to being back in the office’
Sarah Michiel is the Institute Manager of NIMAR and has been living in Morocco since 2012. Due to the coronavirus, she has been working in Belgium since 20 March, where she grew up. The NIMAR office in Rabat is currently empty and all visits and conferences have been cancelled. Sarah is trying to run things as well as she can from Belgium, even though she misses her apartment and cats in Rabat.
‘Art is the one constant factor in my life’
Anna Loh is a third-year student of the BA in Arts, Media and Society. We spoke with Anna about what it’s like to write a thesis during COVID-19, Instagram selfies at the museum and growing up abroad.
‘Have realistic expectations of what you can do in these difficult times’
Maxine David is a lecturer in European Politics in the Institute for History and is a busy bee when it comes to teaching. When countries started locking down due to the corona virus, she was in the United States. After some difficulty getting a flight back to her home country, the United Kingdom, she has been working from there since then.
‘Doing a PhD is a challenge but can also be a lot of fun’
Hao Liu moved from China to Leiden to do her PhD trajectory at the Institute for Philosophy. What is it like to do a PhD so far from home?
‘Online video classes give me a reason to change out of my pajamas'
Esa Kasmir (21) is a third-year student in International Studies and is doing a minor in Philosophy. How does he cope with the present situation and how does he keep in touch with friends and family?
'I'm sure we'll get through this together'
Rob Goedemans (52) is an information manager at the department Information Management and Facilities (IFZ) and member of the crisis team. He is involved in facilitating and providing information about distance learning. We asked Rob how he is helping our faculty through this hectic period.
‘Teaching keeps me young and sharp’
Associate Professor Asghar Seyed Gohrab considers it his role to tell students about Iran, the country where he was born and raised. His research focuses on the connections between the present and the past on the basis of the ‘magical triangle’: Persian literature, politics and religion.
‘We should be more proud of ourselves’
In times where there is a lot of pressure on the humanities, science communication is even more important, according to Christine Smittenaar, head of the Communication and Marketing department. ‘I think it's a nice challenge to bring out the pride we have and to show it to the world'.
‘It is very satisfying to help students on their way’
Her love for China made her study Chinese and go on an exchange trip in her third year of studies. As an Outbound Student Coordinator at the Humanities International Office, Karin Aalderink (45) now supervises students who go abroad.
‘Because of my job, I’m meeting new people, so it doesn’t feel like working to me’
Vivian studies the Global Political Economy specialisation of the MA International Relations and is the coordinator of the Humanities Buddy Programme. Originally from Malaysia, she has been studying abroad in various places. At Leiden, she focuses her studies on illicit political economy and ensures the internationals feel at home.
‘Egypte is not just pyramids and mummies’
Egyptologist Lara Weiss is curator at The National Museum of Antiquities and has been leading the VIDI research project 'Walking Dead' since 2017. The exhibition 'Saqqara: Living in a necropolis', which will be on display at the museum starting March 10 next year, is part of the project.
‘I have been restless for a long time, but that is over now’
Ferdinand Harmsen (49) is an ICT and Education Coordinator. He helps study programmes that want to use ICT to improve their education. He has been working with IT all his life, although it wasn't his initial calling: 'It turned out to be a very nice instrument to do what really fascinates me'.
‘At Japan Studies I felt at home’
Jemima Sint Nicolaas (22) is an East Asian Studies master's student. In addition to her studies, she is an intern at LeidenGlobal, a student assistant and has a job as a barista.
‘I see my true purpose in the classroom’
Before Maria Gabriela Palacio Ludeña became a lecturer International Studies at Leiden University, she was a public administrator in Ecuador. Her whole life she had a desire to teach and eventually she wound up at Leiden University.
‘I really enjoy the vibe of education’
Career preparation, whether or not present in the curriculum, is becoming increasingly prominent in many educational institutes. Atse Fokkens (39) notices this in his work as a career adviser and internship coordinator. He welcomes the fact that more attention is being paid to preparing students for the labour market.
‘I don’t always separate research and free time’
Andrew Shield (35) is a University Lecturer at Leiden University and the cofounder of the Leiden Queer History Network. History, migration and sexuality are all subjects he is passionate about and teaches in. He wrote a book about immigrants during the sexual revolution, as well as one on contemporary immigrants who use the gay dating app Grindr.
‘I like figuring out and solving problems’
Pui Chi Lai (35) has a lot on her plate, being a study adviser and coordinator of studies for two bachelor's programmes and two master's programmes. Alongside her job, however, she does not sit still and follows a PhD trajectory at the University of Macau.
‘Literature lets you live four times as long’
As a young boy, Gabriel Inzaurralde, lecturer and researcher in Latin American studies, wanted nothing more than to become a writer. He still writes and passes on lessons from Latin American literature and culture to his students. 'My lectures are a constant attempt to reopen closed minds.'
‘I love being able to work independently’
Between the humanities Dean Mark Rutgers and his busy schedule we can find board secretary Jonique van Hooff. Her task is to make sure that the Dean gets to smoothly do his job. 'I get very happy when, after trying to figure things out with busy schedules, I manage to properly arrange things.'
‘Delving deeply into something suits me’
She began as an IT professional but after 7 years in the business world, she devoted herself to an entirely different field: Islamic Theology. As co-founder of the Leiden Islam Academy, Fatiha Azzarhouni now works at Leiden University to increase understanding of Islam in Dutch society.
‘I want to make Leiden as enjoyable as possible for international students’
Two years ago, Danae Barboudi (26) moved from Greece to the Netherlands to study at Leiden University. Next to her studies, she is also one of the people behind the Orientation Week Leiden (OWL) – the introduction week for international students.
‘Just call me Patrick’
One of the familiar faces of our faculty is receptionist Patrick Moerland (39). He has been working for the university for 17 years and is clearly passionate about his work. You can visit him for things like lost property, difficult questions or if you can’t find your way to a lecture hall. Patrick's work, however, is much more than sitting behind a desk.
‘I am an idealist’
Marcel Belderbos (31) studied History and International Relations and for a year he has been working at the Faculty of Humanities as a research policy officer. He is fascinated by the cooperation between various actors within the faculty. And: ‘I truly believe that the world will become a better place as a result of the work that we do here.’
‘I grew up under the drawing board’
Architect Elisa Meijer is the face of the Humanities Campus. She knows all the buildings, from the Reuvensplaats to the Matthias de Vrieshof, like the back of her hand. In her role as Housing Adviser she has now spent more than three years dealing with everything necessary for the development of a new campus.
‘My goal is to help families break out of the circle of poverty’
Jaira Sona Chin (24) is a second-year student of the bachelor’s programme International Studies in The Hague. Three years ago, she founded her own NGO: the Sona Pushkar Project. With this organisation she helps families from an Indian village to break the circle of poverty.
'It all began when I saw Super Mario Bros at a friend’s house.'
He was so disappointed that he couldn't go on that archaeological field trip to the Caribbean, he spent most of his time at his computer working on his dissertation instead. But that didn't keep him from gaming from time to time, a personal passion that ultimately led to his current job. Since February of last year, Angus Mol (34) has been a lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities (LUCDH).
‘My research is kind of a me-search’
My name is Eliza Steinbock, I’m 38 years old and I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky in the United States. I started teaching and researching at Leiden University in 2014. I research and teach gender representation, mostly of transgender people, in media and culture.
‘I stuck around and I’ve been working here for 33 years now’
Every day, Arie Kraaijenoord (64) can be seen driving around in his little blue van, delivering the mail in and around the Lipsius building. He’s been with campus general services since the post of concierge was first created.
‘444 is an opportunity to show what Humanities represents’
In September 2017, immediately after graduating in Cultural Anthropology and Media Studies, Lyonne van Gaalen (25) became a trainee at LDE (the strategic alliance between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam). Now in her second and final year as a trainee, she is coordinating the activities for Leiden University’s 444th anniversary for the Faculty of Humanities.
‘I always knew I wanted to go into academia’
Art historian Elizabeth den Hartog has been studying medieval sculpture at Leiden University for 32 years. Like a detective, she searches buildings, books and archives in the hunt for the cultural meaning of unique sculptures.
'I want to go back to Ghana and use my acquired knowledge to make a positive impact'
‘I’m Erik Owusu, I’m 20 years old and I’m a student of the bachelor’s programme Urban Studies in The Hague. I was born in The Netherlands, but I’ve lived in Ghana for almost 7 years. Because of this, I was able to see a lot of different cities, cultures and social structures. That got me thinking: what if I could look further into all these things?’
‘I find our Faculty very diverse, unique and open’
‘My name is Karin van der Zeeuw, I’m 56 and I’ve been working in the Faculty of Humanities for 39 years now, in various positions. Alongside a full-time job as the Head of Educational Support and Educational Logistics, I also care for my mother-in-law, who’s 87, and my 76-year-old sister, who lives on a dyke in Zeeland.’
‘My signature is above Willem-Alexander's’
My name is Rachel van den Berg, and I’m 24 years old. Last year I received my master’s degree in Korean Studies, and I’m currently working as Logistics Officer at Hyundai Global Services Europe.
‘If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s dogmatic’
My name is Pepijn Reeser, I’m 34 years old and I graduated in 2008 as a historian. I’ve been working in the museum world for about ten years, mainly as a freelancer. My most important project is Het Taalmuseum (the Language Museum); I’ve been involved in that since 2016. Leiden University is one of our founding partners.