Helma and Ton, Bob's parents

It is difficult to remain truly objective and not impose our own preferences in our enthusiasm.
Helma en Ton, ouders van studiekiezer Bob

In this testimonial, Master's student Bob interviews his parents Helma and Ton about how they supported him during his choice of study.

Bob started a Bachelor's in History at Radboud University in the 2016/2017 academic year. In January 2021, he completed his Bachelor's programme and immediately started the two-year Educational Master's in Human & Social History. In retrospect, he is happy with his choice of study, but he can remember that there were many doubts during the study process. "I think your support was an important reason that I really chose what I like and not for, say, the biggest job prospects," Bob tells his parents.

How did you guide me through the study choice process?

Ton: To start with, we talked a lot with you about your interests, qualities, pitfalls, different studies, future plans and about life as a student in another city. We also encouraged you to visit Open Days, Experience Days, Try-outs and study fairs and supported you in this wherever possible.

Helma: In the end, the choice was yours and we tried to support and activate the selection process by evaluating and reflecting on the selection process and the possible options with you. Hopefully that's how you experienced it too!

How did it go with my little brother? Did you do things differently back then and if so, why?

Helma: With your younger brother, a very different process was desirable because there were a few clear preferred studies and the school had already been chosen by him. He felt less the need to reflect together and more the need for confirmation of his choice than encouragement to broaden or deepen the choice process. So everyone is different in this regard.

What did you like about my study choice process?

Ton: First of all, we really enjoyed being able to help! The study choice process gives in-depth conversations and fun days at Open Days. In doing so, it was nice as a parent to see what choices you made and what is important to you. It was also very interesting to be able to take a look at different universities and attend guest lectures there.

Helma: Besides being able to help you and learn something yourself, it also provided a lot of pleasant quality-time and new aspects to our relationship!

And what exactly did you find difficult about it?

Helma: What proved difficult was to remain objective and not impose our own preference in our enthusiasm. We never intended to influence the choice, but as a parent you also get more enthusiastic about one study than another at Open Days. It is also difficult to put yourself in your shoes and really see what is important to you in making the choice.

Ton: While we then try to support you as neutrally as possible, a torrent of opinions from friends, family, peers and society comes at you. Trying to protect you from these opinions so that you could really make your own choice was certainly not easy either.

Bob: Funny, I never noticed that. On the contrary, I was always very curious about your opinions as well. I think there was a nice balance in that when I think back. But what you say, Dad, about the opinions of others, I do recognise a lot. Especially when I mentioned History as an option, there would soon be a flood of doubts, which I didn't really want. Fortunately, you never did.

Would you have done the coaching differently with the knowledge of today?

Ton: We could possibly have looked at universities of applied sciences with you. You yourself were very quick to focus on research universities, but the more practical side of a university of applied sciences could also have appealed to you. You yourself later indicated that you had the image that after vwo you had to go to university, which of course is not necessary at all.

Did you find it difficult when I went into my room?

Helma: Difficult is not the right word here in our case. Rather, we were excited about how you were going to experience it, but also felt proud that you dared to take this step without hesitation and confidently.

Ton: Definitely! It already started when I dropped you off in Nijmegen for the introduction week where you went to stay with a complete stranger and wholeheartedly joined the student life and still enjoy it immensely to this day. At the same time, it is also hard to watch from the sidelines how and whether you are doing well financially and not getting into trouble with, for example, student debts. But during your time as a student, we especially see how quickly you have come to feel at home in student life and in a student city and how you have made the right choice for and by you!

Bob: That's cool to hear! I do indeed feel completely at home now in Nijmegen and have found my own turn. Although I have to admit that it could be difficult and exciting at times too, mind you. Luckily I could always go home in between, if only for the dirty laundry....

Ton: Fortunately, you now have your own washing machine. And you're also welcome without washing!

What role do you think helps best as a parent while guiding your child's choice of study?

Ton: We think the best way is to help by guiding and helping with gathering information, visiting Open Days, listening to what your child has experienced and what your child finds important, helping to organise the information and still see the forest for the trees. In addition, we think your child especially needs your support.

Helma: Support by showing understanding that it is difficult, by putting things into perspective and not dramatising the choice into 'the choice of/for your life', by supporting your child's choice, even if you would have chosen something else yourself. It is and remains your child's choice, so above all, try to help and not settle the process.

We talked a bit about 'others' just now. How did you think I dealt with the opinions and pressures of others? Think of statements like "you can't do anything with history anyway", "there's no money to be made with that".

Ton: Very strong and good. You ultimately chose what interested you most and not the job prospects or the big money. For yourself, you also know very well why and you will have a bright future as a historian.

How did you think I dealt with daring to let go of the old life in our hometown?

Helma: You did this very well, in our opinion. From the very first day you felt at home in Nijmegen and its student life, and I think you only liked it very much. Besides, you were already very independent: you could already cook, clean, wash and so on, I think that also helps.

Ton: In the meantime, you have also built your own social network in Nijmegen. I think your old life with us is also really over. It's very nice to see that you really have your own thing going on now!

Perhaps similarly, how did you feel I developed as a person and a student?

Helma: Again, just words of praise... You are very strong, full of self-confidence, entrepreneurial, have great adaptability both at uni and socially and know how to learn and keep going after setbacks or a bad result at uni. In short, we see a very nice development in you as a person and as a student!

Again, those are plenty of nice compliments. I really only have one final question: what tips do you have for other parents?

Ton: Above all, enjoy! Enjoy the joint search for a suitable study, enjoy the instructive moments together, enjoy the step to the next phase you are going to take together. Also know that your help is appreciated (even if your child does not openly admit it) and realise how beautiful and valuable it is to be able to do this together with your child and to be there for support and assistance. In addition, try not to put too much pressure on this choice and, above all, leave the choice to your child.

Helma: My tip is more of a practical nature: try to help with the practical things like learning to cook, managing money, learning to do laundry, etc. In short, learn to stand on your own two feet. There is already so much new coming your way, then it's nice if this has already succeeded!

Bob: Thank you, I think those are good closing tips! Nice to look back on this together again. I also remember this process as a nice period in which I felt supported and given the space to really make the choice myself. I think that only leaves me then to retroactively say thank you again for your support!