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Rachel van den Berg: ‘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.

From the countryside to the city

‘The best memory of my student life is my student association: Catena! I made a lot of friends there. I’m still a member because I don’t want to lose that friendly atmosphere and those ties. Living in a student house was also a very good experience. It was a bit terrifying at first: I had come from the countryside to the city where I didn’t know anyone. So what are you supposed to do? I was very happy living friendly house with a mix of men and women from different student clubs, and we did a lot of things together, like home meals, outings, and parties.  Now I have a flat in The Hague, but just recently I went out to eat with a few former house-mates. I have the feeling that I’ve really made some life-long friendships.’

Practically fluent after a year

‘I was already interested in languages and cultures, and in the last couple years of high school, I became fascinated by Asia. But it was a Korean historical television series that finally made me want to immerse myself in the language and culture. My parents were surprised at first, but I knew that I wanted to do Korean Studies. I ended up deciding to take a master’s in Korean Studies as well because I wanted to improve my knowledge of the language and to go into the country’s culture more in depth. During the master’s programme, you study in Korea for a year. When I came back after that year abroad, my Korean was practically fluent! It’s got a bit rusty since then, but I speak the language a lot at work because except for me, everyone on my work team is Korean. Correspondence with the head office in South Korea and things like our team meetings are in Korean. But fortunately, I’m able to keep up.’

A business-to-business approach is a good match for me

‘It was a conscious decision to work in the world of business. I don’t really think that academic research would be right for me. I worked as a barista at Starbucks and as a receptionist at the Korean embassy, but I wanted to do something more active. I like making social contacts, so a business-to-business approach is a good match for me. As a Logistics Officer, I’m responsible for the proper processing of an order from the point when it is placed to the time it is delivered to the customer. So while I work in the office in Rotterdam, I have daily contact with the head office in Busan, and most of my colleagues here are Korean. I can take a lot of what I learned at university and put it into practice: it’s not only the language that I can use but also things like what I learned about the business culture.’

Don’t allow others to hold you back

‘I’m quite happy that I took my own route and chose to get a degree in Korean Studies. A lot of people around me thought it was a phase I was going through or made remarks like “You’re not going to find a job with that!” But I have proved them wrong: I landed a good job in my area of specialisation within six months after graduating. It’s a shame when people allow themselves to be held back by what other people say.  So when I was able to put my signature on the wall in the Sweat Room, I felt proud. By chance, there was a rickety ladder there, so I asked if I could use it, and now my signature is above Willem-Alexander’s!’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

Suzé Klok
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