Refugee Coordinator at the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Organization

"Since I work with people from different cultures I get to use my education every day"

Maja-SCA-testimonialnieuwMaja Waters Senneseth, aged 31
Graduated in 2009 
Refugee Coordinator at the Norwegian
Labor and Welfare Organization

What do you do for a living?
I work as a Refugee Coordinator in a small commune outside Stavanger, Norway. I am the contact person for the refugees when they come to the commune.  I help them get settled in the town and provide them with general information about the rules and norms of the Norwegian society.
After the refugees become more fluent in Norwegian I will try to get them into a work-placement, and later on I will help them try to find a job.  This is a tricky task since the Norwegian job market often requires that people are relatively highly educated and the job marked usually require excellent understanding of the Norwegian language. However, most of the refugees are determent to find a job no matter what - and they usually manage in the end.

Did having this Master’s degree help in any way to get your job?
I conducted my fieldwork in Bolivia, a country very different from my own, where they were speaking a language I was not by any means fluent in. This helps me understand the frustration from the language barrier that the refugees face every day. I also know something about being a foreigner trying to adapt to a very different culture then my own. 
Furthermore, much of the curriculum during my Master was war-related articles and books that were obligatory to read. I believe some of the studying made me more prepared to handle some of the stories I have been told.
Since I work with people from different cultures I get to use my education every day. One of the most essential things studying Anthropology has taught me is the importance in being aware of the differences while at the same time focusing on the similarities. After all, there are so many more of them.

Why did you choose this Master’s, and what job did you expect to find with this degree?
Traveling - seeing different places and meeting new people has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Seeing the world from a different angel fascinates me and enriches my life. It was never a difficult choice to decide what I wanted to study when I entered the University.
After finishing up my bachelor degree in Anthropology in the University in Bergen, I knew I wanted to conduct my Master degree abroad. After considering many options, the program that VU University in Amsterdam offered appealed the most to me because of the University programs reputation, the structure of the program and the close follow up by the professors combined with relatively low tuition fees.

What should prospective student’s expect of the Master’s programme?
I came into a small class of 20 students, around half of us being international students. It was such an interesting group of people, and during the year we all become rather close. It was a very intensive programme; we were all relatively exhausted at times.

Do you have any recommendations for (prospective) students for their education or careers?
We all had to decide where to conduct our fieldwork and I would recommend every student to make a decision of where to conduct the fieldwork before entering the course; this is a hard earned advice… However, we all received excellent guidance from our teacher and supervisors.