Rogier Creemers: ‘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.
‘I would love to say that my career path followed a strategic master plan, but that’s obviously not the case,’ Creemers begins. ‘I grew up in a small Belgian village and at a certain point I decided I needed a change of scenery. But where could I go? I started reading more about different cultures at the local library. For some reason, I was particularly drawn to China.’
After studying Sinology at the Catholic University of Leuven, Creemers took a path that took him to China, Maastricht and Oxford, before arriving at his current position in Leiden. ‘I am one of those people who gets bored rather fast. If I had to do a repetitive nine-to-five job, I would end up miserable,’ he admits. ‘Over the years, I have gained some international recognition in my field, which leads to frequent invitations to fun and interesting activities. One day I’m briefing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or attending a stimulating conference, and the next day I’m teaching or working on an academic paper,’ says Creemers.
‘The main issue in contemporary science is that many people stick to their own subject, where everyone thinks the same. They use the same academic traditions, sources and methods. That’s a shame, because I think that many would benefit from having one foot in another department. Personally, I find interdisciplinarity refreshing: if you also have to explain your ideas to people who view the subject from a completely different angle, your abilities will only stand to grow. If you are an expert only on China, you can make a lot of statements about the region, but you need to be able to put things in a more general context as well.’
Although Creemers is involved in a variety of activities, he still takes great pleasure in making new students enthusiastic about his field. But he doesn’t like to make it easy for them. ‘Students often come to me at the start of the course saying that it is very difficult. I usually respond with something like: “Exactly, it’s supposed to be difficult.” If you work with a personal trainer at the gym, you can also expect it to hurt a little. You don’t just get better without the occasional muscle aches or occasionally being out of breath. The same applies to university. It’s about preparing students for everything that’s likely to come their way.’
And while Creemers mainly uses his head during working hours, in his free time he likes to work with his hands. ‘I like to cook,’ he says. He has explored almost every cuisine, but he holds a special place in his heart for Chinese cuisine. ‘I haven’t been able to go to China since 2019 and I miss the food. There are a few good restaurants in The Hague, but they don’t offer everything I like, so I have to help myself a little.’
As passionate as Creemers is about his field, sometimes it has to make way for the more important things in his life: his daughter. ‘You have no idea how much you can love another person until you have a child,’ he says. That is why Creemers tries to spend as much of his free time as possible with her.