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Looking for happiness and personal development

There are not many classes in which students can talk about their fears, self-critique, or their own happiness. In the Bachelor Honours Class ‘Personal Flourishing and Happiness’, this is exactly the plan.

The last seminar of this class is on 13 December 2018. The students are in the Christmas spirit, and they want to bring this class to a festive closure. They brought treats and decorations. Pieternel Boer, initiator and teacher of the Honours Class, explains what Personal Flourishing and Happiness is all about: ‘This class is about three questions for the students: what do I like, what am I good at, and what gives meaning to my life? It is a course about personal development – with a scientific basis.’

The classes are experience-oriented. The emphasis is not on the transfer of knowledge, but on ‘insights gained by experiences’. Boer: ‘I started this class because I felt there was a need for a class that does not only speak to our heads, but also to our hearts and actions.’


The need for a personal approach appeared to be present. Criminology student Nikki Heijman is happy that she chose this Honours Class. ‘In my regular Bachelor’s and Honours classes, the emphasis is on professional development and preparing for a career’, she says. ‘That’s good, but I think this personal perspective is a very important addition to this.’

Because the classes speak to the ‘hearts and actions’, the students are every now and then confronted with themselves. Psychology student Lianne van Es laughs when she recalls a specific assignment. The students had to write down a list of self-critique. A fellow student then read this list out loud. ‘When I heard it, I was shocked. I was so mean to myself! I wondered why I did that to myself’, says Lianne. ‘If I had to make this list right now, it would have completely different content.’

Me, the other, and all

The students look at themselves in many different ways. ‘The class is built up in layers. We also look at the ‘Me and Other’. The students examine who they are in relation to the other’, explains Boer. ‘The third layer is ‘Everyone’. That layer is all about the question: what is my impact on and contribution to the bigger picture?’

Nikki notices that she is more aware of her position in relation to others. ‘I open up to people faster and more frequently than before’, she explains.

For everyone

At this moment, Personal Flourishing and Happiness is only open to Honours students, but the students believe this has to change. Wessel van Dam, Astronomy student, thinks this class could be very useful to many other students. ‘Maybe a smaller or shorter version, so that it’s accessible to everyone.’

Boer points out that she also thinks the accessibility is very important. ‘This class is not suitable to be obligatory; students really have to want to do this themselves!’

Text: Maxime Geervliet
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