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Geeta Nanda

Geeta Nanda studied Law at Tilburg Law School and graduated in December 2001. Her time at the Law School was different than for most other students. Coming from a culturally very different background, her talents and skills were actually developed after university, when she started working and struggled, both personally and professionally, to find her place in our Dutch society and at the same time honor her Hindustani roots. 

Geeta is a big supporter of the Tilburg Law School Fund. It took her years to find her competencies and talents. She supports the Fund since it offers the opportunity to students from other countries to come to the Netherlands, face a different culture and an academically challenging environment. She hopes these circumstances will allow young people to find their talents and skills at the University and to go out in the world knowing who they are. It took Geeta a lot longer.

 “I support Tilburg Law School financially, via their Tilburg Law School Fund. I contribute to creating opportunities for young students with a foreign background, to develop their hidden talents, in another country, in a stimulating academic environment. Talents and competencies should be developed in an early stage, and Tilburg Law School offers an unique opportunity to do just that.”

Why did you choose Tilburg Law School?
It was a natural choice. I always wanted to become a lawyer, but my Dutch language skills were not too good. I was raised in a strict Surinam-Hindustani family and I only spoke Dutch at school. I started my higher education with a disadvantage in Dutch, at a lower education level (MEAO). The director of this Institution, I still remember her name,  asked me what I wanted to become. I told her I wanted to be a lawyer, but that I could probably never succeed since I did not qualify for university because of my degrees.  She told me about the educational route to take, to go from MEAO to university.  From that moment on I was very motivated to follow this route, and I continued my education to University level. My parents  allowed me to study, but I was not allowed to board away from home. Since we lived close to Tilburg, I choose Tilburg University.

Who was your favorite professor, and why?
I don’t have a favorite professor. You must understand, I was the first person in my family to go to University. It was a World unknown to me and my parents. The academic world is typically a world with not too much guidance or direction from docents. Besides that, I was a shy girl. This combination caused me not to ask many questions or interact much with other students or the staff at the Law School.

Can you tell us an anecdote from your time at Tilburg Law School.
In my first year, I had to write an essay. It was far below standard, the docent told me, and she advised me to forget about studying at the Law School. Both language and academics were so far off, she said. I begged her for a second change and I got 2 weeks. I went into the library and I remember just walking up to a girl, a fellow-student, at the copier, asking her if she could help. She did, she showed me around and helped me put together my essay. She became a friend. And I got a big “thumps up” from the docent.  I also remember lying once to my parents. I desperately wanted to join a study trip to Oslo. I told my parents it was part of the curriculum, and they allowed me to go.

What does your career look like, and what’s your ambition?
I graduated and for my family, that was the moment I should get married and stop my public life. I did not think that was very fair. Marriage was my escape. I agreed to an arranged marriage. I married a man from Surinam, my now-husband. My husband and I liked each other from the first moment, fortunately.  We have been married for 9 years now and live in Oosterhout with 2 children (8 and 3).

I started work, at the courthouse in Den Bosch, section Immigration. I wasn’t very successful. I was too immature, and did not have enough (work-) experience and no understanding of administrative processes.  I had difficulty tackling the cases and wasn’t coached by the organization.

So I changed jobs and started at UWV, as an appeal officer. That was a much better fit. I learned so much about administrative procedures, about the gap between government and civilians, and I could really make a contribution.  Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, they had to let me go.
I put my CV on Monsterboard and I was contacted by Yacht BV, a company that specializes in interim professionals. I started to do assignments for them, mostly in governmental organizations and also for Yacht itself. I became part of the organization. I have made a lot of professional progress with them, I developed into senior roles and became mediator too.

Besides my professional career, I am politically active. I am a member of D66 since 2003. In 2010, I was elected as a council member for D66 in Oosterhout. Political life suits me. The combination between my work as a council member and my work as a lawyer in government organizations that deal with political decisions is a very fruitful. Experiences cross over. Together with my personal growth I consider myself to finally be a “whole”  person. I have 2 children, I work full time, I am politically active, my husband found a job and his place in this country. We raise our children with Dutch and Hindustani values. It is a challenge, but one I am ready to tackle.

“My ambition is twofold. I want to be a good mother to my children. Also, I want to continue combining my professional career with political work.”

My ambition is twofold. I want to be a good mother to my children, and to help them develop their drives and talents. My second ambition is to be able to work and be politically active at the same time. I want to become a director at a governmental organization. I know I have a lot of (project) experience as senior council and I am ready to make the switch to manage part of a governmental organization.

Does Tilburg Law School play a role in your professional or private life?
It most certainly does. I was contacted in one of their Telethons, when students call alumni and talk to them about the Law School. They also ask for a financial contribution. One of the projects in the fund really appeals to me. The fund supports foreign students with a scholarship, to come study at Tilburg Law School. I remembered my study experience in Oslo. To me, it seems to be the best way for young people, to be able to develop your talents and skills at an early age. The academic environment will challenge them, as well as the different cultural values. I hope it won’t take them as long as it took me to become the person I am now. I am glad that I was driven enough to keep on trying, I hope the young people of today are too. A scholarship will help them convert their drive into success.