UTRECHT – “Is she the teacher?” A confused student asks another one. “I thought she was a student”. So it begins. Liedewij Vogelzang is a 27-year-old communication lecturer at Hogeschool Utrecht. In this interview, she gives us a peek into her teaching life and how she ended up there so young.
Currently in her second year as a teacher. She’s tall, blue-eyed, beautiful, with an almost model like appeal. One glimpse at her and it isn’t hard to question, what she’s really doing in a classroom. But, the 27-year-old has a bachelor, a masters and work experience already under her belt. So she’s more than qualified to be there.
We sit at Stef’s, the school bar on a table for two and right after ordering a black coffee she starts telling her story.
“I studied communications in the Netherlands. I had just turned 17 when I started and was 20 when I finished. I have always been the youngest one in class, ever since primary school. I chose the communication route because it was broad and later on you could canalize it in your field of preference.There’s always a place for it within organisations. During my bachelors I used to daydream a lot in class but that stemmed from not really knowing what I wanted to do. I’m going to sound old but, back then the whole “gap year” thing wasn’t as popular as it is now, I didn’t even consider it. So I finished really young.” She states.
Work and Masters
After finishing her bachelor’s, Vogelzang worked a little bit in the field. Including for a theater company and a film distributor doing marketing communications and public relations.
Then, she embarked on her adventure to pursue a masters. She says: “I moved to the city of Copenhagen in Denmark. I did Cognition and Communications which is a field of psychology that studies the way people learn in general. Which was a bit less commercial than what I had done up until that point. My masters was a different experience. I was a lot more focused, I saw it as a chance to truly better myself, a second chance at studying and learn. It was a very conscious decision.”
Vogelzang says that she doesn’t really think her age influences the way she teaches, or that it’s a disadvantage. However, she is aware that because the age gap between her and her students is often so small it can change the way they perceive her.
Still, there was something else that was the most surprising thing to her about teaching. She states: “I don’t think students care too much about age, as long as you have knowledge to offer. However, what was interesting is the way the dynamic changes depending on the class you have. Even though you are teaching the same subject. I don’t even know why it was so surprising, it actually makes perfect sense now that I think about it. It is just very different from class to class. I feel like the skill of the teacher is to be able to deal with that in a very organic way. To feel those dynamics and adjust your style accordingly.”
When asked if there was something about teaching she wishes someone had told her upfront.
She states that, she wished she had been prepared for how honest she has to be.
“You know students are developing their own academic identity. So you don’t want to be harsh. You want to be encouraging, but you need to find balance. Because you can’t have students thinking that they have everything under control when they don’t. That’s not always nice.” She comments.
Vogelzang says that she thinks learning is based in interaction. That the bad teachers, teach you something too, even if it’s just the way you absolutely don’t want to be as a teacher. According to her, teaching is definitely a two way street, students simply need to bring their input to class. In comparison to last year, Vogelzang is doing way less teaching this time around. As a matter of fact, teaching only fills two hours of her week at the University. The rest of the time, the communication professional can be found at the Pub Lab, researching and working on developing courses. Aside from that she also coaches internships and graduations assignments.
To wrap up, Vogelzang was asked what are her plans for the future.
To which she replied: “Maybe I’ll go abroad again, sometime in the future.
For now, I would love to continue working in an international environment. I think cultural diversity is interesting. It is a pleasure to be surrounded by people from so many different places. I would also love to keep on working on projects that have some social relevancy. In the Pub Lab, we are currently working on ways in which cross media communication could be implemented strategically to create a more sustainable society. How it can be used in such way, that it can influence behavior in the areas of safety, health, mobility, sustainability, etc. Sometimes I’m in a meeting and I find myself thinking ‘wow, it is so cool that we get to think about this issue’. “