During his master’s Climate Studies Gijs tried to combine the topics of climate change, society and crisis. Now he is working as a crisis manager at the Crisis Management Centre of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (DCC-IenW).
When did you first hear about your study programme and what did you think about it?
During my bachelor’s, I was already interested in the link between ‘System Earth’ and society, especially during natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami’s). When I heard about the master’s programme Climate Studies, I knew this was the right studies for me.
In one master’s, it combines the various aspects of climate change, water management and human society. Also, there was enough free choice for courses I wanted to follow out of personal interests.
Could you tell us something about your study programme? How have you arranged it to fit your interests?
The best thing about Wageningen University & Research is that it allows you to create the set-up of your own master’s programme. At the same time, it provides you with enough guidance. While picking the free-choice courses, I tried to draw a picture of what I wanted to achieve with these courses. I did not pick them randomly out of interest.
When it comes to climate studies, I was not interested in research about what earth’s climate is in 100 years. It is the sudden, chaotic events that trigger me the most: natural hazards and disasters. So while following the obligatory part of the Climate Studies programme, I decided to focus on studying crisis during my free choice periods.
I followed several courses from the SDC-group about crises and disaster governance. In this way, I created my minor in disaster governance. In this minor, I tried to deepen out a specific question: What stakeholders are involved during a natural disaster and how do they interact/cooperate to minimize the impact of them?
Which part of your study did you find the most interesting?
As part of my master’s, I researched Sint Maarten (Island part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean). The island heavily relies on tourism revenues. My research was about the impact of climate change on hurricane formation and the way Sint Maarten prepares for and responds to Atlantic hurricanes.
Hurricane Irma, a category 5 hurricane, hit the island in 2017 and caused huge damages on the island. Especially the tourism sector was severely hit and when I visited the island for fieldwork, it was still recovering. During my thesis, I was able to apply the knowledge that I gained during my minor in disaster governance.
What do you think about the student life in Wageningen?
I loved studying in Wageningen, especially my master’s thesis period at the Water Systems and Global Change Group (WSG) was very worth it! During the process of thesis writing, I made friends at WSG with people who were in the same process. We had lots of fun together and this helped to finish my thesis.