Student experiences

Jetse Jellema

Jetse jellema, msc

Finished the master PCRS in 2017

I enjoyed the year of my master in Conflict Risk and Safety very much. It was hard work, but I learned and achieved a lot. Overall, I learned about subjects of safety, social psychology, risk communication and public safety. I acquired skills to work like a professional during my internship and external thesis. I improved my presentation and collaboration skills and became enthusiastic about giving workshops/lectures.

Experiencing the courses
The master consists of three specific courses, a research course and one course of choice from another master specialization. All three courses specific for this master were extensive and required a lot of effort. In the course ‘Group dynamics and interventions’, we learned about the dynamics within (and between) group(s) by experiencing. In each lecture we were divided in groups and experienced the theoretic group effects ourselves. We also designed a training in which we, the students, taught the class. I’ve learned a lot about the subject group dynamics, but most of all I became enthusiastic for teaching others, training people, giving workshops, and giving lectures.

The other courses of the master are ‘Psychology and crime’ and ‘Risk and leadership’. Psychology and crime teaches mostly about crime and offenders and which psychological determinants influence the likelihood of a crime. Characteristics and weaknesses of the justice system are discussed. The course reminds me somewhat of Criminology. I found out that this isn’t the direction I want to be working in. However, there was one topic, rehabilitation, which interested me very much. Thinking about how we can help an offender, after finishing his sentence, to participate in the society yet again.

Risk and leadership handles the two subjects leadership and risk communication. Leadership elaborates on the different leadership styles, important leaders in history and the emergence of leaders. We discussed why someone would follow a leader and why someone would join the army. Due to the fact of self-preservation it is strange that anybody would join the army, there are however stories about soldiers that would even commit suicide for the good of their country. Another interesting topic we analyzed is the leadership of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. Risk communication is the other half of the course, which handles literally the communication around risks. A big issue in risk communication is the difference in risk perception between risk experts and citizens.

Internship & thesis
I have conducted an internship and my thesis on the subject risk communication. I’ve done this at the safety region Brabant-Noord, which is seated in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The safety region is a partnership between the municipalities, the fire department, the police and the regional medical emergency preparedness and planning office. Recently, the safety region inherited the responsibility of risk communication. It is tricky to make risk communication effective and it is prone to unintended effects. Therefore, my assignment was to do a literature study of risk communication to assist the risk communication advisor. This resulted in a little handbook which explained the main psychological principles that influences the way people deal with risks. For my thesis, the assignment was to find a way to properly communicate the risks to the people living around a railway on which dangerous substances are transported. The determinants risk perception and trust influences, among other things, the way people cope with risks. The levels of trust and risk perception of the inhabitants living close to the railway were largely unknown, therefore I decided to research these variables. First, I conducted two focus groups to get a broad idea of the attitudes of the people living near the railway. Second, a questionnaire was distributed to measure the determinants of coping with a risk, with more precision.

During my internship I had the privilege to shadow some experts within institutions which were connected to the safety region. I followed multiple people within the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Among other things, I went to a prison with someone who helped prisoners after serving their sentence, to participate in the society yet again. With another person I attended a meeting in which we discussed the influence of the Turkish coup on the schools and the kids that go there. Besides this, I also participated in a multidisciplinary disaster exercise, which was very interesting. Due to the fact that I didn’t know exactly which career I wanted to pursue, I think it was very beneficial to do the thesis and internship at an organization with multiple links to other organizations. A broad organization with many links helped me to get acquainted with a lot of organizations, subjects and career paths.

All the teachers of the master are very knowledgeable and passionate about their field of expertise. I experienced the teachers to be open and very interested in discussions. They were always reachable and their level of English was good. The mentor of my internship and thesis was very helpful, kind and delivered constructive feedback.

The master and the work field are very broad. This results in diverse and various opportunities for your future job. Your master thesis and internship are an opportunity to specialize yourself on a subject. The decision of your subject guides you to a possible work field, so choose wisely! I conducted an internship and an external master thesis through which I learned a lot about career paths within the government and specialized myself in the subject of public safety. The thesis and internship really gave me the opportunity to specialize in my specific interest.

If you want to be a researcher, I advise you to do your thesis internally at the University of Twente. If you don’t want to be a researcher, I recommend an external thesis including an internship at the same organization. The combination of an internship and thesis gives you room to explore the company. For the same reason, don’t choose a master thesis that is too complex. The internship gives you the opportunity to get to know a company, but this works both ways and it’ll be the easiest way to get your first job.

At last, a psychologist has broad knowledge about the behavior of people. Because of this, a psychologist fits very well within a broad function. In a broad function in which no specific education on a subject is needed, the knowledge of a psychologist will be very helpful and effective. The expertise of behavior of people will help you to solve everyday problems.

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