Personal experience

Lobke Wilmink – Chairman & Marketing 2023

When I started my studies in 2020, I immediately joined the VSAE. I already knew a bit about the association from people around me, and they persuaded me to become a member because it was thé best way to meet friends while also working on your professional and personal skills. After only being a member for a short while, I already figured that they were right: the VSAE is amazing for enriching your student life.

Even though a lot of events were canceled because of COVID, I still did a lot with the VSAE from the start. I was part of the Ranking Committee, which I enjoyed so much that I joined my second committee in February: the Introduction Days Committee. Over the next few years I worked my way through the ‘VSAE committee ladder’ so to speak. I was Chairman of the Sports Committee and Secretary of the Business Orientation Days. I always knew that doing a board year may be something for me, but being a part of the BOD committee persuaded me to do a board year. Organizing such a big event with a group of people that were just as enthusiastic about it as I was gave me a huge amount of energy. Oddly enough, when the event came closer and closer and the pressure increased, I just couldn’t get the thought ‘I want to do stuff like this all the time’ out of my head. I was sure of it: I want to do a board year, and I sent in my application a day before the BOD.

I do not regret doing a board year for a single second. I have always felt at home within the association and among its members, and getting to go to the board room every day to experience that atmosphere makes me extremely happy. Within the VSAE and especially within the board the nice balance between social and career is what attracts me; I have always been a serious, enterprising and ambitious person, although friendship and social contact are also high priorities for me. Obviously getting a full-time ‘job’ is a big step, but the fact that I enjoy the things I have to do makes it totally worth it. Luckily, I even have time to go to my hometown to meet with friends or work. 

What I really enjoy about being Chairman is the freedom and variation. As Chair it is your responsibility to make sure that the association as a whole is sailing in the right direction and that the long term vision is kept in mind. You do this by staying up to date on everything that is going, which makes being Chairman very versatile. Whenever one of the other board members wants to spar about something or just needs some help, I’m the first person they go to. This way, I get to experience a bit of being Treasurer, External Affairs & Internal Affairs as well. This is fitting to me as a person, since there’s always a lot of different things I like to do. Besides assisting the other board members, I am mainly busy with external contacts with other associations and the faculty. This includes a lot of emails and meetings with different people, where I am the representative on behalf of the VSAE. At first speaking on behalf of the entire association can be a bit scary, but after some time you get used to it and you learn what’s important to preserve the values of the VSAE and its members.

Something I also enjoy is the fact that I have quite a bit of time for innovations, improvements and extra tasks. I have for instance put time into making the systems we use as a board more efficient, improving some of our events and innovation regarding the recruitment of new members. Besides that, throughout the year I have been busy creating a more clear guideline on our marketing strategy for each event, which also links to my marketing position. At first I didn’t expect to become the Marketing Officer, but looking back I cannot imagine not having this position. I am a perfectionist at heart, so being responsible for making sure that all VSAE content looks representable and neat is perfect for me. I also work with design programs a lot which I really enjoy doing.

Long story short: I would advise everybody to do a board year. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to work on your personal skills before starting an actual job. During this year, I have learned things which others only learn once they start working. Besides that, all the activities and trips you get to go on (for free) are a whole lot of fun as well. I have met a lot of new people and made friends for life.

Selma Lindfors - Internal Affairs & Secretary 2023

I guess you can say I’ve been a loyal VSAE member ever since I set foot in Amsterdam. I actually even went to the August borrel the very same day I first arrived in the Netherlands! Since there were still quite a lot of Covid restrictions when I started studying I was determined to go to as many events as possible. Like many internationals, I didn’t really know anyone in Amsterdam before moving here, so I was set on meeting as many people as I could, and I can certainly say I’ve since then met some of my closest friends through the VSAE.

With all this in mind, it was difficult to say no when I was asked if I would be interested in applying to the board at the beginning of my second year. Still, I had some doubts. Wouldn’t it be smarter to do a board year more towards the end of my studies? Would it really be worth putting my studies on hold for a year? 

In retrospect I can with confidence say that I definitely made the right decision. Looking back at my time on the board, I have really grown as a person in a way I never would have if I hadn’t done a board year. Especially being Internal Affairs, I meet and keep in contact with a lot of people which is both a fun and rewarding task. My main task is forming committees, which means that I meet a lot of different people over coffee to determine whether or not they will be a good fit for a certain committee. I am also the first point of contact for all our members, so I often get people coming up to me with questions about the VSAE or the UvA which is something I really enjoy as well. Besides my main function as Internal Affairs, I am also the Secretary of the board, meaning I take minutes at the board meetings and general meeting, I maintain the member database and answer general emails coming in.

I guess in short you can say I’ve learned how to better work together with other people, how to confidently strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know and have never talked to, and how to work in a more organised and productive manner. I think these are skills you usually don’t pick up before your first “real” job, but I’m so glad I already learnt it now as it will be useful in my future studies as well.

Besides all of this the main thing I have gotten out of the board year is lots and lots of fun! I think one of the best things about the board is that you get to go to all events and trips for free, and because of that I’ve befriended people I otherwise maybe never would have talked to. The bond that you create with the rest of the board members is also something really special. Before this year I actually didn’t know the other board members that well, but now it’s almost like we’re a little family. 

As an international student, one of the biggest goals for my board year was to improve my Dutch. I already had a bit of a background from before since I had been attending Dutch language sessions and had some colleagues at my previous work who only spoke Dutch, but still I wasn’t very comfortable with speaking Dutch—let alone using it in a professional setting. The rest of the board were still kind enough to listen to my broken Dutch in the beginning so I could improve, and now I only speak Dutch with the board so I couldn’t be happier with the progress I’ve made!

Esmée van Keulen - Treasurer & External Affairs 2023

One of the first VSAE events I attended was the skiing trip. I liked it so much that I started going to more borrels and more trips, which I really enjoyed. During the summer, I started to think about a board year. I was already starting my third year and I had absolutely no idea what master’s program I wanted to pursue. Furthermore, I was looking for a way to extend my student time. Due to covid, I spent the first 1.5 years at home a lot. I was looking for a way to make the most of my time as a student, developing more practical skills while also having a good time:)

What I really like about being on the board is that I have already learned so much, met a lot of new people, and attended so many events. In a regular week, we have approximately two events, which can sometimes be a lot, but it is also very fun! It feels like a great accomplishment when the rest of the board, the involved committee, and I are planning an event that everyone likes!

Over the last year, I have met a lot of new people. But 5 days a week I am at the VSAE room with Lobke, Sven and Selma. I think it is really unique to work this close with a group of people. We see each other almost every day, sometimes they get annoying :p. But it is really valuable to work together, I have learned a lot from it. 

Over the last year, I have met a lot of new people, but five days a week, I am at the VSAE room with Lobke, Sven, and Selma (we don’t just sit in the room all day behind our desk). I think it is really unique to work this close with a group of four. We see each other almost every day, and sometimes they get annoying :p. However, it is genuinely valuable to work together, and I have learned a lot from it.

When I started my board year, I wondered how much work it would be. I thought, “Can you fill five days a week working on VSAE stuff?” The answer is YES, it is practically a full-time job. During these five days, we not only work hard but also engage in various fun activities, such as organising events with committees, attending these events and playing our favourite card game, klaverjassen. Of course, we also have holidays and weekends. I really appreciate that during my weekends, I literally don’t have to do anything VSAE-related. I have enough time to meet with my friends and family or do some work (that is not VSAE-related). During my time on the board, I also like to sport a lot. I try to go three to four times a week, and most weeks, I am able to do this.

As part of the board, I am the Treasurer and part of the External Affairs team. With being the Treasurer comes great responsibility; I manage the bank accounts and handle payments for everything. At the start of the year, this was a bit scary, but I actually got used to it. Accounting/bookkeeping was a hard skill I had to learn in the beginning, and it took me a little while. Now, I cannot imagine not knowing how to do these things. It is really cool to master such hard skills. As External Affairs, together with Sven, we visit a lot of companies (mostly during the summer). I think it is really cool to see all the small and big companies from the inside. At the beginning of the year, I had no idea what kind of company I would like to work for. After visiting many companies, I have a better idea of what I like and what I don’t. Furthermore, it is very nice to have such a broad network.

Sven Geerlings - External Affairs & Vice-chairman 2023

Since the day I started studying, I have been involved with the VSAE. It all began during the introduction days two years ago. During those days, I met a lot of new people, and these friendships are still going strong. Since that event, I've been an active member, participating in most VSAE activities. My first committee was for the skiing trip. In that committee, we organised the trip and had loads of fun with the group as well. After that, I joined the introduction days committee and the sports committee.

During those times, I never really thought about doing a board year or even knew what it was all about. So when Ira approached me about taking on a board year I was like, why not? When I sat down for coffee with Ira and Randy, and they told me what it was all about, I got really interested. But then the doubts came – is it worth a whole year? Should I just try to complete my bachelor in three years? Will I have enough free time next to VSAE things? I can now confidently answer these questions. First off, yes, it's definitely worth the time and effort for me. The benefits you gain from the experience are huge. For instance, the friendships formed within the board and the things I learnt from other board members are huge. I also learned a lot from working with people I otherwise would probably have never gotten close to. As for the third question, it's an easy yes! Since the beginning of the board year, I've been working a part-time job for around 12 hours a week, which is definitely doable. I'm also planning to do two courses during the second half of my board year since I haven't passed them yet. How that's going to go, I have no clue. I'm also not worried about the possibility of failing them again. After all, I'll be working for another 40 years after my studies, so I don't mind extending my study time. (actually might like it a little)

The actual moment I decided to go for a board year was at a VSAE party. It was the last night we could apply for becoming a board member, and there I was at the party with a few drinks in... Still with some doubt I sent the email to the zoekco email after Lobke gave it a spelling check (I don't recall exactly). I woke up the next morning with some doubts if it was the right decision, but those vanished during the interview. Since that moment, I've been sure that a board year was the perfect choice for me. (Those beers at the party did me incredibly well I might say)

So, let me tell you what I've been up to for the past six months. As part of the External Affairs team, we maintain contact with various companies and organise events with them. We interact with these companies in person, over the phone, or through email. Personally, I think face-to-face meetings with companies are the most interesting. It gives you a chance to meet a lot of people from different companies, expanding your network while also gaining insights into potential workplaces. Furthermore, I coordinate a few committees, which adds to doing even more different things as a board member, something I really appreciate and learned a lot from.

What I like most about the board year is the freedom to explore your own path and make changes based on what you think is best for the association. I for instance learned things about teamwork and working efficiently that I would otherwise only learn once I would start working in five years. I appreciate the fact that I get the opportunity to develop myself on a personal level as well  in a way I otherwise might never have. Besides that I’ve also met and become friends with people I would have never gotten close to if I would not have done a board year, including my fellow board members. In a way, you could say the board year really broadened my horizon (what a cliché). I also appreciate the balance between work, VSAE activities, and free time to pursue your own interests. 

If you have any questions about doing a board year, don’t hesitate to ask me! Last but not least, I would really encourage you to do a walk along day with me or one of the other board members as this is the best way to really know what to expect from a board year!

The VSAE helped me immensely in building a social life when I moved to Amsterdam three years ago for my studies. During the Introdagen and the Intreeweek, I gained friendships partly thanks to the VSAE that continue to this day. 

Since then, the VSAE has always been part of my life. This is of course because of the get-togethers but also all the other activities. Besides, from the beginning I have always been part of a committee. One of the things I like about the VSAE is the diversity of its committees. In my first year, I started with the ranking committee and also planned the year-end. After that, I thought it would be interesting and challenging to venture into a serious committee: the Actuarial Conference Committee. During this committee, I really noticed how much I enjoy working on a project together with a group alongside my studies. I also got some more insight into what the board is working on, which I secretly always thought was really cool. 

Besides these committees, I also served on the Almanac committee. What is really cool about that committee in my opinion is that you really learn a new skill by using design programmes. So it was during this committee that I started seriously considering a board year at VSAE. What finally convinced me to go for it was how enthusiastic all former board members were about their own board year. 

The great thing about a board year is that you get to know yourself better and develop yourself in many ways. On the one hand, you are job-specific, and on the other, there are always committees to be managed. The type of work is really incredibly varied. Personally, I find it most special that the five of you are ultimately responsible for the association for a whole year. As a board, you basically get to chart your own course entirely, so you have all the freedom to do things differently compared to other years. 

For my function(s), external affairs and marketing, on the one hand I am in contact with companies a lot about sponsorship contracts and other collaborations. Together with Randy, I have visited just about every relevant company in our field over the past few months. Firstly, this has given me a lot of insight into which companies appeal to me as an employer, but in addition, of course, it has also given me a super useful network. 

My marketing function mainly consists of overseeing the planning of the mailings, social media posts, and other messages we send out to our students. I have also experimented with some new ways of promotion over the past year. 

However, it should not sound like it is always just serious work. Besides all the daily work, there is a lot of room for fun things. For one thing, as a board, you'll experience almost all the fun activities and trips, and beyond that you'll also have plenty of freedom to plan your own days. 

In short: does a year like this appeal to you? Feel free to contact us or come and join us for a day, then I will be happy to show you what makes a year on the board so fun and valuable!