Let’s talk about… YOU! (3)
Bruges in December, cobbled streets, festive lights, mulled wine and ice skating, sounds perfect. This makes me think of Christmas, and hope that Santa will remember us and bring a change in the menu at the canteen, the little things that make us happy. But wait, we are still in exam period, and all this day-dreaming sounds more like procrastination. Not an easy period of the year, and I know motivation can be low sometimes, but don’t forget: we made it so far, we have to give it our best. There is only onwards and upwards. On that note, as you may be used to by now, I will present to you one of our most interesting students, David Jan Bosschaert, and Fiona Carlin, a distinguished professional whose career is a true source of inspiration.
David is an IRD student, and his close friends call him DJ, but be careful with using that nickname, he does not appreciate it being used by people he’s barely met (like academic assistants). He previously studied history and law, and is now looking to embark on a diplomatic career, as most IRD students here.
David was born in the Philippines but moved to Belgium at the age of 3. He is a mature student that decided to go back to studying in order to specialize in his chosen path. He was a Blue book trainee at the legal desk of the European Economic and Social Committee. He then moved on to do consultancy work before realising he needed more expertise, hence his choice to come to Bruges.
When I first met him I was slightly confused, because his English was impeccable with a very good accent. I assumed he had studied abroad, but then he told me that he pursued his entire education in Belgium, studying in French, Dutch and English. That was not all: when we started talking about languages, he managed to shock me. He speaks 12 languages; yes, that is correct, 12 (just in case you are re-reading this sentence). That is: Filipino, English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Polish, Russian and Swedish. He is also studying Arabic and Romanian at the moment.
Not only does he have unbelievable linguistic skills, but David is also a musician, and at the age of 18 he became conductor for the Polish amateur choir in Belgium. He was consequently awarded a scholarship (paid for by the Polish Senate) to attend 5 years of summer school at the summer conservatory in Poland, where all classes were taught in Polish. This makes me think about the times when we complain about French/English being our 3rd or 4th language. Try learning Polish, that’s a real challenge. Nonetheless, he made sure to specify that it is not all about the genes, it also required a lot of hard work and he was willing to do it.
This is probably the reason we don’t see him a lot around the campus, because he is always busy working on something. For the past few weekends he has been travelling to the UK to chair the annual Oxford International MUN (OxIMUN) and Cambridge University International MUN (CUIMUN). He actually got the first-ever (and only) Oxbridge Chairing Scholarship for his long-standing MUN merit this year, but strangely enough he failed to qualify for the College’s own MUN team. How bizarre. Funnily enough, students in the UK know him as ‘The Belgian’, which sounds more like a hit man name than anything else.
I also asked him if he wants to share any wisdom with you, and this is what he said ‘striving for excellence is always difficult in any circumstances, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Does that sound familiar to you? If you can guess where it comes from, send me an email and you get a chocolate from me.
PS: His favourite expression is ‘off the record’, and half the things I discovered about him cannot be published. He is a true politician, that’s all I can say.
Fiona Carlin is a partner at Baker & McKenzie, a global law firm. Not only is she a partner, but she also chairs the Firm’s European Law Practice that comprises 150 practitioners in 24 countries. She also represents the EMEA region on the Firm’s Global Diversity & Inclusion Committee and serves as an Advisory Board member to Catalyst, the leading research institute on gender diversity. I don’t know about you, but I thought that was quite impressive.
She studied EU law in the Christopher Dawson promotion back in 1988/89! ’It was a great year for reasons I don’t have to explain to the readers of The College Voice!’ Luckily for her, the market was very favourable for newly graduates in EU law at the time: ‘Back then, the single market project was just launched which meant that many of us from that promotion easily found jobs in Brussels and we remain very close friends after all these years.’ She then returned to the UK to qualify as a barrister. Nonetheless, Brussels is the place where she spent all of her professional life.
I also asked her what was the most memorable moment during her time in Bruges, and to my surprise, this is what she said: ‘The most memorable moment for me at the College was meeting Margaret Thatcher, the UK Prime Minister, when she came to Bruges to open the academic year. In front of the glitterati of Europe’s elite (and the students) she made her first major Eurosceptic speech that still resonates today against the backdrop of the Brexit debate. Here is a short extract but I would encourage you to read her speech in full:
“Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community… The Community is not an end in itself. Nor is it an institutional device to be constantly modified according to the dictates of some abstract intellectual concept…” Plus ça change!!’ At the time of the speech, nobody believed that it would become history in the making, yet here we are, 27 years later, talking about it. Will we have such a historical moment during our stay here? Time will tell. Make the most out of these moments here in Bruges, because we may look back in a few years and discover a completely different meaning to what we are living right now.
As always, I asked for a few words of advice for the future generation, and I believe her words apply to all of us regardless of what we study or what we plan to do with our lives: ‘The world is so fast changing that I don’t feel particularly equipped to be passing on words of wisdom to younger generations. If there is one thing that my experience has taught me, it is that a solid grounding in self-awareness, a commitment to your chosen career, and a large dose of perseverance will eventually pay off!’ Modesty and hard work – that’s what it takes to be successful. Some of us know it, some of us need a reminder and some are just too high up in the air, but at the end of the day, we all want to succeed.