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Enthusiasm for PRINS 2022

This year’s edition of PRINS, the International Studies’ consultancy course, proved to be an inspiring event for most of its participants. Students, coaches and representatives of organisations are looking back on this rollercoaster of a course and reflect on why the PRINS experience is so special.

PRINS aims to teach students how to put their academic skills into practice. In groups, they tackle a consultancy issue from an organisation in the international field. The clients vary from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Layla Kattermann

Layla Kattermann: “I got a taste of working in the real world”

Layla Kattermann, 22, Palestinian/German. Layla chose the Middle East as her region and French as her language. In PRINS she was part of one of the teams working on the project for Free Press Unlimited about exile journalism.

“The project for Free Press Unlimited was my first choice, and I was really happy to be part of it. I am very interested in journalism, and especially in independent journalism. I feel that most media today are not truly independent. National newspapers, for instance, often hold the same norms and values as the state, even if they are not based in an authoritarian country. Therefore, they do not really give a voice to the people but are in line with state interests.”

In the PRINS project, we were asked to interview two media in exile as part of our consultancy report. We decided to speak with two media that were not yet part of the Free Press Unlimited programme: Pars TV from Iran and Spektr from Russia. I feel I learned a lot in working on this project. For instance, I had never worked in such a large group before – we were 16 people. In addition, I also developed my research and presentation skills.

I feel that academia always focuses on the problem, while in the real world everything is about finding the solution. So, in this project I got a taste of working in the real world, while it also allowed me to experience what one can expect in a work environment. Also, at university, one doesn’t compromise, whereas being part of our team was a lesson in compromising in a respectful and fruitful manner.

To all second-year student who are ready to start PRINS in their final year, I would like to say: communicate with each other. Be open about what you can and cannot do and about what annoys you. Don’t’ let things bottle up. And be sure to enjoy the process! Even though some things may seem annoying while you’re at it, looking back you will realise that PRINS is great.

Lisa Wolring

Lisa Wolring: “I am proud of what the students achieved”

Lisa Wolring is a lecturer in the International Studies programme. She teaches Cultural Studies, Communicating across Cultures and Political Economy. Lisa has been involved in PRINS since 2019 and this year was coach to three students teams: one of which worked on the UNESCO case and two on a case presented by Free Press Unlimited.

“I have been a coach in four different PRINS editions including this year’s, but I also have another experience of this course. As an International Studies student, in my third year I participated in PRINS myself. I know how intense the course is for students, and how intimidating it can be. For instance, I remember how difficult I found it to collaborate with so many people on one single project.

My student experience certainly helped me to understand my student teams better, and I feel that it helped them to know that I have been through this rollercoaster myself. What was special about this year, is that the covid pandemic had diminished so much that we were able to conduct the entire course face to face, rather than on-line. However, contrary to my expectations, this did not make PRINS any easier or less intense. The group formation process remains the same, on-line or off-line, as well the work on the report itself.

PRINS teaches the students many different skills, including presentations skills. These are really important. The students learn how to present academic information in a form that speaks to a non-academic audience, which is a valuable skill to have in a work environment. I like seeing how creative some of them are in designing the power point presentation and the lay-out of the report itself.

An important part of my job as a coach is to create a safe environment in which the students feel free to discuss all the issues relating to the consultancy report. I am proud of what they achieved, and when they held their presentations, I was almost as nervous as the students themselves!”

Tim Schoot Uiterkamp

Tim Schoot Uiterkamp: “The PRINS process has been inspiring and energising”

Tim Schoot Uiterkamp, Senior Knowledge & Quality Officer at Free Press Unlimited. During PRINS, 6 student teams worked on the case on exile media put forward by the organisation.

“As an organisation, for some time we have been working to identify the contemporary challenges for exile media. When the International Studies programme last year invited us to take part in PRINS, we felt this would be a good opportunity to get more input as well as an outsider’s perspective on the issues involved.

We asked the six student teams working on our project, to not only do research and carry out a literature study, but also to do one or two case studies of exile media. We are particularly interested in the problems these media are facing and in the needs they have. The student teams all had their own perspectives and insights. While we still need to further examine their reports, it is already clear that many of them focus on the psychosocial aspects of working and living in exile, after having fled from one’s home country.

The students’ findings are in line with what we, as Free Press Unlimited, have been assuming for some time. More attention for mental health is needed. Journalists working for exile media often have been through traumatic experiences in their home country. Apart from this issue, many of the student themes also highlighted the value of networking and comparing experiences between individual exile media.

The student teams’ reports contain valuable information and advice that deserves further examination. I will be sure to share their findings with my colleagues working at our international hubs.

For me personally, the PRINS process has been an inspiring and energising one. It was well organised by the International Studies’ staff, and did not bring a lot of extra work for me and my colleagues. At the same time, the students’ open mind and outsider’s view was very valuable. They certainly inspired us to think outside of the box and to explore new ideas.”

Samira Benacchio

Samira Benacchio: “It was a lesson in teamwork and flexibility”

Samira Benacchio, 23, Italy. Samira focused on South East Asia during the International Studies programme and chose to learn Hindi. In PRINS she worked with her team on a report focusing on the international Climate adaptation negotiations. This case was put forward by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate.

“I am really interested in sustainability and climate issues. Ever since I started living on my own, as a first-year student, I became aware of my personal impact on climate change and thought of ways to diminish that impact. During the International Studies programme I took the opportunity to learn more about global warming by following courses on scientific approaches as well as social impact.

My PRINS team was one of the teams that wrote a consultancy report about issues emerging from the current Climate negotiations. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs asked us to not only come up with a general advice, but to also conduct case studies of Sweden, South Africa, Tuvalu en of the Netherlands itself. Every country is facing different challenges and is dealing with different aspects of climate change and it was interesting to compare them and to think about how the differences should be reflected in our advice.

In the beginning, I was a bit intimidated by being part of such a large team of 13 people, but it turned out to be a great learning experience. It was a lesson in teamwork and flexibility, as well as being open to what other people think and know. In this process I have really grown as a person. I felt that I was truly working on something important and relevant, and apart from that, we also had a lot of fun. Next year, I will be doing a Master’s in Governance and Sustainability in Leiden, and PRINS proved to be a great preparation for that.

My advice to next year’s PRINS’ students? Talk a lot! Meet and discuss things and be supportive to each other. The better the group dynamic, the better the final product.”

Maaike van Naerssen

Maaike van Naerssen: “The groups developed their teamwork skills”

Maaike van Naerssen is assistant professor Intercultural communication in the International Studies programme. She was a coach for three student teams during PRINS 2022: one team worked on a report about underwater cultural heritage for UNESCO. The other group worked on the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy’s case on Climate adaptation negotiations.

“Mentoring the student groups during PRINS was a real pleasure. It is totally different from teaching any other course. My expertise on intercultural communication and linguistics was not required here. What was important was supporting the process. I really liked being part of that, seeing that the student teams, who were somewhat confused and intimidated in the beginning, gradually developed their understanding and grasp of the project itself, as well as their teamwork skills.

In my view, it is entirely up to the students themselves to choose the approach and perspective to their project, within the PRINS framework. The case put forward by the organisations is quite broad, they need to determine their focus and the best way to come up with a good report. As a coach, it is part of my job to give them the confidence they need to do just that.

PRINS is a very special course, because it gives the student consultants so much responsibility. They have a shared group responsibility to produce a report that is academically sound. And at the same time they also have a professional responsibility towards the client to answer the questions posed by the organisation. On top of that, they have to balance their individual needs and opinions with those of the group, which is what happens in a real work environment all the time.

I am really proud of my teams, they managed to complete this complex course successfully! Of course, there were obstacles along the way, but they dealt with them in a very mature way. I can see that each student has grown both as a person and as a member of the group.”

Bastiaan Hassing

Bastiaan Hassing: “As an organisation, we got a lot out of it”

Bastiaan Hassing is leader of the Dutch government delegation at the Climate negotiations for implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Hassing works for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate. Six student teams were involved in the Ministry’s consultancy case about various aspects of the Climate negotiations.

“A large part of the Climate negotiations focus on limiting global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Apart from this goal, many participating countries feel the need to also formulate a global goal for adaptation. After all, climate change is already happening now. Globally, we are being confronted with effects of climate change that force us to make adaptations in our way of living and we need to think about that.

The Ministry asked the PRINS student teams to research and reflect on this goal for adaptation. One issue, of course, is that adaptation takes different forms for different countries. The Netherlands, for instance, which is below sea level, is facing other challenges than African countries that have to deal with extreme drought. So we also asked them to do case studies on several countries.

The student teams came up with valuable ideas and suggestions. One aspect that was part of the majority of consultancy reports, was the importance of transparent communication, involving all layers of society to create common ground. We certainly will be looking to implement this advice. Some of the teams also brought up the need to incorporate local knowledge. In some countries ethnic minorities have been living in harmony with nature for centuries. It would be good to make use of the knowledge they have, and we must certainly look at that.

The students brough us a fresh perspective on the issues surrounding climate change. I was impressed with how enthusiastic and how involved they were, offering some out-of-the box thinking. Some of their ideas will likely be brought up during coming sessions of the negotiations. I feel that for the Ministry it was worthwhile participating in PRINS. It doesn’t come with a heavy workload for us, as an organisation, and we got a lot out of it.

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