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Precious Held

Precious Held
Photo by Robin de Puy

Who: Precious Held (1999)
Studies: Future Planet Studies
First job: Paper route
Favourite place at the UvA: the rooftop terrace above the library at Science Park
Essential: sustainability

Precious Held (1999) is a Bachelor's student in the Future Planet Studies programme. From a very early age, she was certain she would be going to university. Future Planet Studies caught her eye, but Precious wanted to be sure the programme was right for her. And so she attended the UvA Bachelor's Day, did a shadowing day and took part in UvA Matching – also known as the study choice check – and received a positive recommendation. She then became so fascinated with the three major sustainability issues that she began to adopt more sustainable habits herself. Ideally, she plans to study Marine Biology in New Zealand during her half year of free-choice electives.

Future Planet Studies: that sounds inspiring.

‘Yes, and it is. It's a very special degree programme. Future Planet Studies focuses primarily on sustainability. We address three vital issues: the food problem, the water problem and the energy problem. How do you manage food, water and energy more effectively, so that more people have access to it and so that it is not at the expense of the planet? My fellow students and I have adopted more sustainable habits, too. Some people bring their own mugs to university to eliminate the need for paper cups. One of my classmates started a metal straw business to replace disposable plastic straws. I try to live sustainably, too. At home, we rarely put the heating on, I always turn off all the lights, I try to conserve water and I recycle. I try to eat organic food as much as possible, too. The number of students who are vegetarians increases exponentially during the year. This is not because the lecturers tell you to be a vegetarian, but because, during your studies, you find out about the impact of the meat industry on the environment. I eat more mindfully now as well. When I eat meat, I cannot help but hear a little voice in my head repeating what I learned during the lecture.'

The world can still be saved, but a lot needs to change.

So you’re all going to go out and save the world?

'Well, the world can still be saved, but a lot needs to change. We are on a bit of a roller-coaster ride here: one day, we are pessimistic about the future of the earth, but then another day, we have an inspiring guest lecturer and we feel optimistic again. Sometimes, the lectures are about climate thresholds that we should not cross; if we do, there is almost certainly no way to stop global warming. In contrast, there are inspiring guest lecturers, such as the initiators of De Ceuvel, a sustainable breeding ground in Amsterdam Noord. They have managed to make their company almost entirely circular. After such a lecture, everyone wants to take action. Another inspiring moment was when I interviewed a farmer in Amsterdam West for the course "Dealing with Complex Problems". He explained how he tried to achieve "zero waste" whenever possible by turning almost all of his waste into compost. People can sign up for a subscription to his farm; you pay a set fee and get produce grown by the farmer. If the harvest is good, you will receive a larger volume of fruit and veg; if it fails, you share the risk. I think things like that are fantastic.'

I think studying abroad is an opportunity everyone should take.

Do you often take things outside the classroom?

‘Yeah – since not everything can be seen or experienced in books, we frequently learn by doing. So far, my favourite course has been "Energy Transitions". It lasted four weeks and was quite intense. We took a field trip to the brown coal mines in Germany. All participants were assigned an energy source (sun, wind, gas or nuclear) and an angle (technology, economics, political science or ecology). In groups of four, we wrote a paper in which we had to argue which energy source would be best for the future based on all of the various angles. It was incredibly interesting. We sometimes go on field trips, mainly due to the fact that not all of the types of soil that we study are found in the flat landscape of the Netherlands. That's why I collected soil samples not only in Utrecht and Limburg, but in Luxembourg as well. The soil there is different than it is here. The programme structure is funnel-shaped: you will gain increasingly more freedom of choice and specialise in the area that interests you. In the final year of the Bachelor's programme, you have half a year in which you take electives.  I think studying abroad is an opportunity that you should take: if it's possible, then why not?'

The UvA really stood out to me from the other universities.

Are you glad you chose the UvA?

‘Oh, absolutely. I initially chose the UvA because of this degree programme. I visited other universities, too, but the UvA really stood out to me. I attended the UvA Bachelor's Day and then did a shadowing day, which involved following a current student to a lecture and a seminar. It was nice to see the different teaching methods in place at the university. The Science Park is a colourful and enjoyable campus; I feel at home there. The UvA has a reputation for being a more informal university. Obviously, I don't know what it's like at other universities, but my fellow students are fun and outgoing. I've noticed that they have not just idly picked a programme; everyone is really interested in what we're doing. We also have a lot of contact with senior students, which is nice, because it will give you a bit of an idea of what to expect. The lecturers here know who we are; we can have a beer with them during field trips and have a laugh together during lecturers. Future Planet Studies is not a very big programme, which means you can get to know a lot of people.’