Due to a combination of different factors I decided to follow the MSc. Leisure, Tourism and Environment (MLE) at Wageningen University.
The first factor was the fact that different courses offered in MLE sounded interesting. Already during the BTO I liked to learn about all the different facets of tourism and I could easily imagine myself doing that for a bit longer and at a bit higher academic level. Secondly, I really liked the idea of staying in Wageningen for the master. Due to the structure of the Bachelor of Tourism (BTO), I had to move to Wageningen in the third year. I cannot deny that one very important factor in choosing for MLE was that I didn’t have to move again, find new friends again, familiarize with a new environment again, and so forth. I like the student community and the village-style and yet international character of Wageningen and I was happy to stick around for a bit longer. Thirdly, I already knew most of the professors that are involved in MLE as well as the educational system of Wageningen University, so I knew what kind of study environment I would get myself into. I also considered other master studies of Wageningen University, such as Economics, Management and Consumer Studies (MME), but after all I decided to stick with the Cultural Geography chair group and MLE because I found it matched my own interests and character best. At the moment I am very enthusiastic about doing my own individual research project in form of the master thesis, in contrast to the group works that were spread over the last year. Speaking for myself, I really like to work independently and it feels good to get the chance to show what you are capable of and to take full responsibility for the project. During normal study weeks I like to go to the sports centre for a good workout, or to spend time with my housemates and friends.
Role of BTO in career development
Speaking about knowledge and skills, the BSc Tourism was the perfect preparation for MLE. Most of the topics that are addressed in the MLE classes already appeared in the bachelor courses, so many things that were completely new and difficult to follow for my classmates were already familiar to me. The other side of the coin is of course a certain level of repetitiveness that cannot be avoided. With the preparation of BTO I was often a bit ahead of my fellow classmates in understanding concepts and theories, which gave me the opportunity to really focus on what I find interesting and dive deeper into those topics directly. Moreover, I didn’t have to follow any refresher courses thanks to BTO, unlike most other students who came from all kind of different backgrounds. That gave me the space to directly fill the gaps in my schedule with free choice courses while my classmates had to take courses in e.g. statistics or research methods.
I think what I will remember most of my study time in Wageningen is the great group dynamics we had in our class of MLE students. It’s certainly an advantage of this program that the class size is very small, so that you really get to know people and become one group. This made things like our trip to the Hoge Veluwe or to the ITB in Berlin so much fun and of course also provided a good atmosphere for studying. Still now, in the second year, we regularly meet up with the MLE group for potluck dinners and Sinterklaas celebration.
My future plans are still rather vague, but basically I am considering two options: Either to do a PhD, or to find a job in the more commercial tourism consultancy world. I hope that my internship will give me a clue about whether I feel well in such a consultancy job or if it is really nothing for me. Doing a PhD certainly remains an option for me, but when, where and about what are questions that are yet to be answered.
Advice for future graduates
If you are a BTO student and considering to do MLE, my main advice is to reflect on the last three years, especially the time you spent in Wageningen, and to ask yourself if this is what you would like to continue for a bit longer. According to my experience, MLE is not fundamentally different from BTO, even though you would have a new group of classmates and study at a master level, etc. If you think that you totally missed some aspects during BTO, such as a stronger focus on management (rather than research), or if had enough of tourism and would like to know more about a different field, then you might want to find a master program that comes closer to your interests. If you can identify with the motivations I mentioned above, both social and academic, then MLE might be your thing.