Study choice: BA ES alumni Philipp Hermann & Christopher Dürr

20180224_140007By Afke Groen & Patrick Bijsmans

Study choice is a topical issue; for students, who want to choose a programme that suits them well, and for universities, whose financing partly depends on students’ enrolment in and successful completion of their programme. As a result, the topic of study choice has received ample attention. Scholars have, for instance, explored new and better ways to inform students and to ease transition to higher education. Universities themselves have broadened their range of activities, with Dutch universities having adopted Matching procedures to help students make the right choice. During Maastricht University’s BA Open Day on Saturday 24 February 2018, we spoke to BA ES alumni Philipp Hermann and Christopher Dürr about their choice for the BA ES.

Why did you choose the BA ES?

Philipp: I choose ES for its broad approach in terms of content – combining different fields – but also because it seemed international, interactive and interdisciplinary. This was very different to the situation in Germany, where I considered studying Law. There, teaching is based on lectures in huge halls in which people sometimes sit on the floor. In Maastricht, learning takes place in small groups. I thought PBL was “cool”. Within the first two weeks in Maastricht, I realised that this was what I was looking for: through PBL I learned more about history and philosophy in a month than during my entire high school.

Christopher: I went on exchange to the US in 2007/2008. At the end of high school, I talked a lot about my study choice with friends and friends of my parents, to find out what I like and what suits me. Because of my experience in the US, I was looking for an international classroom. I came to an Open Day in Maastricht 10 years ago with my godfather, and it felt very comfortable: nice people, a good and demanding programme. The atmosphere reminded me of my youth exchange in the US.

What did you learn in the BA ES that you use in your current job?

Philipp: In my job, we often need to be creative and skills acquired through PBL – problem-solving, critical and out-of-the-box thinking – come in handy. The interdisciplinary approach of the BA ES also helps to dare tackle new problems. When we get challenging assignments, I can put myself in the role of an “external spectator”: what “tools” do I need to approach this from a different angle? . For example, my agency was asked to provide a brief on financial regulations in the EU and others were a bit hesitant to do that (“so complicated!”). I simply approached it from a PBL perspective and took on the challenge. We learned how to analyse EU regulations in general, so I can also apply that to a new topic. Finally, I also learned how important a broad understanding of Europe is.

Christopher: I sort of follow the process of PBL in my job. First, I analyse the situation (pretty much like an assignment text). Then, I ask what questions I need to ask to solve the issue. Subsequently, I process as much knowledge as possible within my time constrains; and, most importantly, I select what is relevant in light of the questions that I had originally formulated. What I also took away is critical thinking and self-reflection: is what I am doing really the right thing? Finally, my work touches upon many different topics, including energy, chemical risks and waste. In Maastricht I learned how to approach different topics at the same time.

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Christopher: My “gut-feeling” was right. I think that is most important. When I visited Maastricht I got a positive energy. Coming from a smaller town, the “smallness” of Maastricht felt like “the perfect jumping board”. I think this was different for friends who went to study in a big city like Berlin, they “drowned” a bit there. When you make a pro/con list and don’t list that many critical aspects: go for it.

Philipp: I think you need to be honest to yourself. In the BA ES, you will need discipline. If you are not willing to commit to that, don’t do it. Be honest: is this international, demanding environment really something for you? Are you the committed person who can go that path? You also need curiosity and a curious mindset.

If you are considering to enrol for a programme at Maastricht University, have a look at the information opportunities offered by the university. If you are interested in European Studies in particular, have a look at this talk by Dr. Heidi Maurer, fellow in EU and International Organisations at the International Relations department of the London School of Economics and Political Science and former assistant professor at Maastricht University, who discusses a number of important factors to take into account.


Christopher Dürr graduated from the BA ES in 2013. After his BA, he did a joint MA degree in International Relations from the Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Universität Potsdam. Christopher now works as Public Affairs Officer at the Berlin office of the Knauf Group.

Philipp Hermann graduated from the BA ES in 2013. After his BA, he studied at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna (M.A.I.S.). Philipp now works in Cologne as Manager Client Experience at Weber Shandwick.