‘It’s inspiring to look at what’s happening in the world around you’

Alumnus of Erasmus School of Law Maikel Samsom has an impressive resume: three Bachelor degrees – in Law, Economics and Philosophy – and two Master degrees. One in Economics & Business Economics, and another in Liability & Insurance, from which he graduated Magna Cum Laude. All these achievements have earned him the Professor Lambers Prize: a prize given to an outstanding student with two Master degrees. We called Maikel to ask him about his plans for the prize money, how he experienced his student years at Erasmus University, and if he ever does nothing for a day.

Hi Maikel, congratulations on winning the Professor Lambers Prize. What are your plans for the prize?

Thank you! I was honoured to be awarded. Currently I’m working four days a week as a lawyer at Stadermann Luiten Advocaten. Next to that I just started working one day a week on my doctoral research on ‘Privacy and Personal Injury’. I can spend the prize money on lectures or courses in my area of expertise, or for example if I want to do literary research abroad or interview an expert. I haven’t decided yet, but it’s meant for academic research.

Working four days a week and doing doctoral research, that sounds intense!

It’s definitely a challenge, but for me it’s a very rewarding combination. The researcher in me loves being able to do both. As a lawyer, you’ll always have to make a commercial assessment. A client might not like me taking an extra three hours to really dive into a specific underlying question or problem. When I work on my doctoral research I’m able to really focus on answering the more fundamental questions thoroughly.

Could you tell us a little bit about your Master theses and your current doctoral research?

For my Master thesis for Economics I examined whether conspicuous consumption can influence happiness positively. My Master thesis in Law was on the question of how liability law should handle future possible claims of parents and children, in the case of children’s specific characteristics being selected by means of preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Looking back I see that ‘human life’ is a common theme in my theses. My Economics thesis was on a happy life, and my thesis for my Law degree was on the beginning of life. This illustrates the interface of the different disciplines, considering Economics and Law are in essence both behavioural sciences.

The subject of my doctoral research is ‘Privacy and Personal injury’. The main question is if, and if so in what cases, a violation of someone’s privacy could be noted as an injury. I’m at the beginning right now, trying for myself to answer the question: ‘What is privacy?’

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to excel as a student? Or did that take shape while attending university?

In high school I knew I wanted to study both Law and Philosophy. But some people around me doubted my decision to study Philosophy, because they didn’t see a practical future for that degree. I found myself susceptible to that point of view at that time, so I went with Economics and Law, both degrees that are more practical and come with a clear perspective for the future. The first three years at university I did these two Bachelors at the same time, but I noticed that the curriculum stopped when I started to get really interested. There was little time to look at the underlying questions and dilemmas. Also studying came pretty easily to me, so I saw a possibility of trying to get my Philosophy degree as well. 

But I did not spend all my time studying. I was active in the volleyball and ice-skating club, and in my first year I took part in a political youth organisation. I was also active in the study association In Duplo. Plus, I always had jobs next to studying, and I especially liked teaching. I thrive when I’m in all kinds of different surroundings at the same time.

Do you ever just stay in bed all day and do nothing?

I have to admit, I’m usually out and about. During the last few weeks I’ve been working on my new house, with the help of others. Thankfully, because home improvement is not my specialty. But if it wasn’t for our new place, I would be working out on Saturday morning, or doing fun things with friends. For me, that’s how I get my energy. I like filling up my entire day. On vacations for example I’m not one to lie on the beach all day with a coconut in my hand.

Do you have any advice for students that are inspired by your story to maximise their time at Erasmus University?

It’s a cliché, but do what makes you happy. And, very important: try to do it well. Do not start with a degree or any other activity whatsoever if your heart is not in it. It pays off if you do something with dedication and attention.

Personally, a tipping point in my life was when I intentionally started to focus my attention on the world around me. When you’re young you tend to prioritise yourself, and you care a lot about what other people think of you. But it’s so much more motivating and inspiring to look at what is happening in the world around you, and trying to really understand what is going on in the field you’re interested in.