You might find a PPE student in your class. Here's why


Forced to stay in Utrecht and struggling to find internships, PPE students are taking electives across UU to obtain the 45 credits required in their third year. Some of their choices are rather surprising: music, neuroscience, transnational crime. Our blogger Mario Pariolari talked to fellow PPE students to learn the reasons behind their choices.  

The academic year which started this September is for sure not a conventional one. The collateral effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are present in every sector of our society. As we have seen, the university world is not excluded from the turmoil. Exchange programs around the world got cancelled, and the restrictions imposed make it more difficult for students to find internships.

My program, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), allows students to fill their third year with 45 credits which can be chosen freely. With the impossibility to go abroad and the difficulties in finding an internship, electives became our main choice. Therefore, we infiltrated in several different courses across UU.

You may be asking yourself what a PPE student is doing in your music class. In this article, I’ve collected the unconventional experiences of some of my colleagues, who might answer you personally.

Passion for the arts
“I’m currently studying Music Science and Art History”, Thomas tells me. “I always wanted to expand my knowledge in the arts, with a focus on architecture. I don’t think that it will help me in my future career per se, but I believe that the ‘open’ part of our Bachelor’s should also give the possibility to learn something that one has an intrinsic motivation for.”

Literature is another art which captures the curiosity of many of us. While some take English literature courses at UU to strengthen their skills in that language, German student Niels made a different choice. “The course is called ‘Highlights in German Language Literature,’” he says. Learning about the literature of his country was not the only incentive. “The teaching modality was engaging: a reading circle with interesting lectures and many people external to the university. It was also an opportunity to get in touch with different people”.

Scientific curiosity
During quarantine, Christian and his roommate had a competition. They exchanged two books and decided which one was the most interesting. His roommate won with a “long book about neuroscience, specifically about a medical form of neuropsychology”. This reading triggered Christian’s passion for people’s behaviour. He then decided to take courses in neuroscience. “I am also taking marketing classes. Maybe I can apply this knowledge to my negotiation skills. Somehow these dots will connect in the future”.

Solving problems by studying them
Sylvia has always been interested in biology and humanities. As a perfect connection of the two, in the second year, she followed PPE’s Sustainability track. Studying the environment and its connection to human beings at a political level made her reflect on the core need for sustainability. “In my eyes, you cannot do policy-making if you don’t have full knowledge about the problem”. With this approach in mind, she went back to her passion, and is now taking electives in geography. “This block it’s ‘System Earth 1’ and ‘Palaeontology.’ The exact knowledge of science complements the philosophical part of humanities. It’s hard to get used to it after two years”.

The same reasons convinced Konstantin to follow “Transnational Organized Crime”, from the Minor Criminology. “The interdisciplinary approach reminds me of PPE, by interacting criminology, sociology and law”, he tells me. “The analysis of the structures and origins of these phenomena gives you insights on the political discourse about criminal organizations, way beyond Narcos”.

Sylvia and Konstantin hope that the knowledge and skills they’re acquiring now will help them to deal with these problems in practice, maybe at a political level – a different approach compared to students who see electives as an opportunity to pursue their artistic interests.

In the end, being forced to adapt to the pandemic in this manner has its pros. I’m sure many other UU students are finding themselves in the same situation as my fellow PPE students. This “cultural exchange” allows students from all over UU to enrich and be enriched by mixing different perspectives and backgrounds.

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