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As a study counselor, it is important to take initiative and to step out of your comfort zone

Amber Demulder has a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics and Literature (Dutch-German), a Master's degree in Linguistics and a Specific Teacher Training for Languages. In her current job, she is a study counselor, monitor and ombudsperson at the Faculty of Arts at KU Leuven, which makes her a first point of contact for students in various fields. As study counselor, she supports students in their study career at different moments, for example, with study choices and study career decisions, with legal and administrative aspects of their study career or with questions about their study career. As monitor, she provides a structured offer for first-year students in terms of learning process guidance. As ombuds, she acts as a mediator between examiners and students and is closely involved in every part of the examination organization. In addition to the three major components mentioned above, organization, consultation and administration are also three constants that recur daily, including in projects developed throughout the academic year. For example, Amber is responsible for the organization of the Starter Days, a large event involving several actors (teachers, central services, student circles, administrative services, communication service, etc.).


One of the most important Humanities skills Amber uses a lot in her job is the ability to take initiative to bring a project to a successful conclusion. Indeed, her job consists of a very diverse set of tasks that includes, in addition to the major main tasks, smaller and larger projects that are developed throughout the academic year. She works together with colleagues who all have a Humanities background, but who are all diverse. This entails that one person is more suited to work on a specific project than another, which often gives them the opportunity to work out a project that matches their interests. For example, within the team she is responsible for organizing the start-up days. However, the multitude of tasks also ensures that there are inevitably occasional tasks that are less to her liking. Even then it is important to take initiative and make sure that each task is carried out by someone on the team, Amber points out: "So taking initiative means on the one hand daring to jump in front of your own interests and challenges, but on the other hand also putting the puzzle pieces together with your team and taking responsibility to complete a task. The latter also ensures that you are pulled out of your comfort zone, but from which you learn something. That mindset is very much encouraged in our job."



Skills related to project management are also extremely important. For example, Amber argues that working efficiently is a must due to the wide variety of their job and the fact that some tasks are unpredictable and unplannable.

"Gradually, you learn exactly what 'working efficiently' means to you. For me, my online calendar, in which I work with a personal color-coded and drag-and-drop system, is a big support. By reflecting on my own way of working every now and then and consciously thinking about certain processes, a process is optimized and I make efficiency gains. It often happens that what was planned for a particular moment has to swerve for a more acute situation (e.g., a force majeure situation during exam period), or there are multiple tasks that need to be finished within a short period of time. In those situations, it is important to know your priorities and be flexible. That, too, is something related to working efficiently."


Lastly, Amber points out that the target audience their job covers is very diverse. As a result, she has to use her intercultural skills on a daily basis and take social diversity into account. Thus, during the contacts they have, they always consider the person sitting in front of them. On the one hand, they try to respond to the needs of that specific person; on the other hand, they also think together with the actors involved about how those needs can be met inclusively, so that a possible gap is reduced as much as possible. As ombuds, they facilitate students with the right to educational and examination facilities (e.g. the use of pre-reading software, the use of a translating dictionary for non-native-speaking students, the use of a low-stimulus examination room, etc.), always looking for support that is desirable and feasible for the different actors (students, teachers, support services). As study counselors, they pay special attention to pioneer students (i.e. a student with neither parent holding a higher education degree) and students with non-evidence-based prior education, among others. The growing internationalization also leads to active steps to be taken in our operation.

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