During her internship, Nicky got the opportunity to gain a lot of practical experiences. Important knowledge she could use when the consultancy offered her a job after her internship.
How did you choose Wageningen University & Research?
"I have always been very interested in food, its methods of production, shelf life and the information on labels. During my search for a study, I came across Wageningen, Wageningen University and the BSc programme Food Technology. The programme is relatively unique and I really liked the application of a variety of different sciences (chemistry, physics and biology) in the development of food products. It is a very broad study and that attracted me a lot.
During this study I developed a preference for food safety related courses such as microbiology. In addition, I was interested in bringing safe and high-quality products on the market, rather than new concepts. The choice for the master's Food Safety with a specialisation in Food Law and Regulatory Affairs was therefore very easy."
How was your experience during your master's studies?
"At the time I started the MSc programme, it was not possible to choose a specialisation within the programme. The first year was set, I followed mainly obligatory courses. One of the courses was Food Law from the Law and Governance group. This course was actually my first contact with food safety legislation.
Before then, I followed a course for instance on the growth of a pathogen within a specific type of food. During the Food Law course, the focus was on the structure and content of food law in the European Union, including specific topics like labelling. I had to read and understand the regulations and directives. This requires a different way of thinking than I was used to, which was, honestly, quite a challenge for me. Especially analysing cases and formulating reasoning was challenging, but on the other hand also quite interesting.
I can say I have learnt a lot during this course. Food Law is the only course from the Law and Governance group I have followed, because there was no possibility from others within the MSc program, at the time.
The second year of the MSc programme consisted of a thesis and an internship. I started with my thesis at the Law and Governance Group for two main reasons. First of all, the topic of my thesis really attracted me. In addition, I was convinced that a thesis at this group would bring me a lot, both in personal development and in developing skills.
During my thesis I focused on the communication during the 2011 EHEC outbreak. The basis of my research was an article from the General Food Law. The article describes the need for public communication of food safety issues. I wanted to know to what extent the law was implemented and where improvements could be made in case of future issues. I wanted to identify how different stakeholders dealt with the outbreak.
This sounds quite easy but was actually quite challenging in itself. The reason for my troubles was the unwillingness of certain authorities to cooperate in my research, despite my persistence. It even came to a point where I had to invoke the law to get even the slightest bit of information. I can say that this was quite an educational experience.
I got a lot of freedom in designing and performing my research, making it my ‘own’ research. In addition, discussions with my supervisor made me think and create more depth in the research.
After my thesis I started my internship. I had deliberation chosen to undertake my internship at a consultancy rather than a research institution. That was mainly because of the fact that, at that moment, I had no business experience. I came into contact with a consultancy which was able to give me the chance to gain a lot of practical experience. During my internship my main assignment was to translate legislation into practice. The claims regulation is a very interesting regulation, partly because it provides room for national and own interpretation."
How did studying at Wageningen University & Research prepare you for your career?
"The consultancy where I undertook my thesis, hired me as a consultant in the area of food quality and safety. During my work as a consultant, I support clients in setting up, maintaining and improving quality systems. In some cases, the system is merely based on legislation, for instance, a HACCP system.
However, nowadays customers demand additional private standards like IFS or BRC. I support clients in understanding and meeting the exact set requirements.
I perform my current job with pleasure and I feel like the experience I have gained and the skills I have developed during the Food Law course and during my thesis and internship are essential in succeeding in this job. I would definitely recommend the education of the Law and Governance group to others; especially the thesis has been valuable to me."