In the interview series ‘In the picture’ on the UM intranet Maastricht University puts their employees in the spotlight. On the occassion of Europe Day 2023 Frederique Huting (Letterdesk) interviewed Studio Europa’s programme maker and PhD researcher Job Zomerplaag. Photography by Joris Hilterman.
In the picture: Job Zomerplaag
Job Zomerplaag’s job as programme maker at Studio Europa Maastricht ensures he always has a busy schedule. And he’s also diligently pursuing a PhD at Maastricht University on top of that! His greatest passion? Discussing Europe’s biggest issues from a local point of view – and the rest of Maastricht is slowly joining him.
For much of his youth, Job lived in Meerssen, a village near Maastricht. After having lived in different European cities for a while, he decided to move back to the south of this country. “I had the opportunity to see many different countries for my studies as well as my work, but Maastricht is still one of the nicest cities I’ve ever been in,” says Job. “I was living in Madrid in 2020, but COVID forced me to move back to the Netherlands. I never regretted that, because Maastricht is a great base of operations: a historical city with a deep-rooted identity and culture, connected to the rest of Europe and the world!”
Marketing European cooperation
If you’ve ever been to one of Studio Europa Maastricht or UNU-MERIT’s meetings, you’ve probably met Job. Besides being responsible for preparing these gatherings, he’s also regularly on stage. “It’s important to us to make people aware of the role of European cooperation in our daily lives. We all have to deal with it, so we had better immerse ourselves,” says Job. “We bring science, policy, and society together with our activities. We do this through, for example, debates, podcasts, and exhibitions: all kinds of creative ways to bring the subject to people.”
Job’s doctoral research also has a European twist to it. “I’m focusing on the distribution and shift of responsibilities between governments, businesses, and citizens, in the context of making both the economy and society more sustainable. A lot of legislation on this topic comes from the European Union, but support for these societal changes depends on how we implement laws at the local level.”
Europe is the topic of conversation
9 May is also known as Europe Day, but “every day is Europe Day if you work at Studio Europa,” Job laughs. “It’s always great when people consider our Union more than usual, but that should be happening without a special day to help them along. Maastricht is a city where Europe is a topic of conversation anyway, because it’s so close to other European countries. Our city is at a crossroads point in Europe. There’s lots of languages spoken not just at the university, but also on the Friday markets. The Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union in 1992, still lives on in this city; it was, of course, negotiated and signed here and led to the introduction of the euro as well as European citizenship.”
At home in Maastricht
Maastricht is a true student city, found by young people from both inside and outside the Netherlands. “Our main challenge is that a large proportion of students leave once their studies are over,” Job explains. “In particular, graduates who want to work on European topics in business and policy areas can’t wait to leave. That’s why we should be working on creating ‘European’ careers in the region to show that that you don’t have to move away for those jobs. Young people bring creativity we really need. Maastricht University is trying very hard to match students with regional employers: students don’t just get to know the campus, they get to know the entire city. And if they know it just that little bit better, I’m sure they’ll feel at home here in no time.”
Tekst: Frederique Huting (Letterdesk)
Foto: Joris Hilterman