Students

Three studies and council member

‘It’s impossible to get good grades’

Three bachelor programmes, two master programmes, a seat on a board and the city council? Carlo Schimmel is doing it all. Somehow, he has the time for it. ‘I just made it work.’
By Menno van der Meer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Twenty-six-year-old Carlo Schimmel is having a busy day. He’s just come out of a committee meeting at city hall and is on his way to discuss the new election programme for the Groningen branch of D66. After that, he has some philosophy texts to read, and in the evening he is working on his econometrics bachelor’s thesis.

Yet this is not the busiest he’s ever been; that honour falls to his second year in university. That year, he gained a total of 105 ECTS. This is almost double the amount normal students earn each year. ‘I had the time’, says Carlo. ‘I figured I’d better spend it well.’

Own choices

In 2009, Carlo started studying philosophy, his first course. As a young boy he was already fascinated by the larger questions in life. ‘We had some books at home, such as “Sophie’s World”. I read that when I was fifteen. I’d also look up some stuff online, and started reading Plato and Nietzsche.’

Back then, Carlo was still living with his parents in Rolde, Drenthe. Neither of them went to university; his father is an electrical engineer, his mother used to work at a post office and now works part-time delivering mail. ‘They never told me what to study. I had to figure it out for myself, make my own choices. As long as I worked for it and made sure I could handle it.’

You can’t study in the morning when you have a hangover, but afternoons are fine

Carlo moved out to live in Groningen in his second year. His philosophy grades were good – a 9.7 for Introduction to Logic – and he wanted to add a second course. He chose physics. ‘I wanted something tangible, to help me figure out how the world worked. I didn’t do too well in the sciences in high school, but that’s because I barely did my homework.’

A 9.5 for his first Calculus exam proved that Carlo could handle the extra work. In this, his busiest academic year, Carlo keeps earning credits. ‘I was also in Honours College and I went to all the classes. The latter has since declined, though.’

Good deal

Carlo also wanted to experience the student life. He needed a challenge and was interested in politics. Ever since he’d visited the Lower House during a high school excursion where he met Boris van der Ham, he sympathised with the political party D66. ‘Party membership cost sixty euros. But if I also joined the Jonge Democraten, it was 25 euros. That was a good deal.’

In 2011, he attended a Jonge Democraten meeting in Groningen, about legalising drugs. And even though he didn’t know anyone yet, he ended up going more often. ‘It really sucked me in. After a year I thought: well, I’m here every week, so I might as well join the board.’

Carlo attended every event, every social gathering. ‘Especially when there were constitution meetings, my fellow board members and I were out on the town until four or five in the morning several times a week. You can’t study in the morning when you have a hangover, but afternoons are fine. I’ve certainly not missed out on student life.’

Combination

Carlo never considered taking it easier. In fact, he decided to add another course: econometrics. ‘Statistical research methods allow us to study socially relevant subjects. Voter research, for example. I figured I had the time, since I was already halfway through my philosophy course.’

I just want to get the gist and pass my courses

The combination does have its advantages. Carlo was exempt from doing a thirty-credit minor for philosophy and physics, because he was already doing two courses. And the maths taught at econometrics looks a lot like those in physics, at least in the beginning.

The three courses do affect Carlo’s mentality. He stopped getting good grades on everything he does. He was also unable to attend all his classes. ‘I just want to get the gist and pass my courses. I just did the bare minimum to pass, except when it came to essays and theses. I worked hard on those because they were my own work; I wasn’t just regurgitating things I’d been taught.’

The council

Next, Carlo decided to run for a seat on the city council in March 2014. He ended up in seventh place on the list of candidates, with D66 winning a record number of nine seats that year. ‘I didn’t expect to actually get on the council. We celebrated pretty well that day. It was a euphoric evening.’

The first few months, his studies took a back seat to his council work. It took time to get a routine as a council member, which meant he only earned a handful of credits each block. But that was all right; his council work would keep him in Groningen for at least another four years, which gave him extra time for his studies. Financially, the delay wasn’t a problem either; his remuneration for his council work meant he didn’t have to borrow money from the state.

No one enjoys spending weeks in the library, but I get satisfaction from it

In the meantime, Carlo has started his master in philosophy, and he will start his master in econometrics in the new year. He plans to finish all his courses within ten years. He received an 8.5 and an 8 respectively for his philosophy and physics bachelor theses. He is currently working on finishing his thesis for econometrics.

How?

People often ask Carlo why he does so much, and how he manages to pull it all off. ‘I always give the same answer. That I’ve got the time for it, it’s actually possible, and that I made it work. I don’t really feel like explaining everything. I’ve had that conversation too many times.’

After a beat: ‘Look, no one really enjoys spending weeks on end in the library to study, but ultimately, I get satisfaction from it. So when I have some time left over, I feel like owe it to myself to use it well. Starting something new is a tactical way to force myself to finish it. I just have that urge, it’s what drives me. But I don’t have to get it all done at once. As long as I make it to the end, that’s the most important part.’

What are his plans for when he graduates? ‘I don’t know yet. I haven’t planned that far ahead. Maybe a PhD in Groningen, staying on the city council. Or maybe I’ll move out west and pursue a career in econometrics. But those are future goals.’

Studie

2009 – 2012 Honours College RUG
2009 – 2017 Bachelor philosopy RUG
2010 – 2017 Bachelor physics RUG
2012 – nu Bachelor econometrics RUG
2017 – nu Master philosophy RUG
In 2018 Master econometrics RUG

Werk

2011 – 2012 Student Assistant Philosophy (RUG)
2012 – 2014 Board Member Jonge Democraten Groningen
2014 – 2016 President philosophy study group Jonge Democraten
2014 – present Council member for D66 Groningen municipality

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