From UT to the Dutch embassy in Malaysia

| Michaela Nesvarova

How does a student of physics become a diplomat? That might be the first question that comes to mind when you look at Karin Mossenlechner’s resume. Born and raised in Enschede, this UT alumna studied Physics in Twente and now she works as the ambassador of the Netherlands in Malaysia. When she visited the university this week, we simply had to ask her: What path leads from the UT campus to a successful career in foreign services?

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

‘I’ve always had very broad interests and it wasn’t easy to choose which field to focus on,’ says Karin Mossenlechner. ‘In the end, I decided to study physics, because I wanted to do something challenging and I heard that physics at the UT was the most challenging thing there was. However, I was also interested in liberal arts, history, languages, and so eventually I switched from physics to studying history at Leiden University and American Studies at the University of Texas. In any case, I’m so glad I studied in Twente. I learnt scientific thinking and got a really good base for my work here.’

‘Twente is where my heart is’

After many years of working at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Karin Mossenlechner was appointed the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Malaysia. She has been based in Kuala Lumpur for ten months and this week she is on an ‘Innovation Trip’ through the Netherlands. ‘When we were planning the trip, I said we have to go to Twente first, because this is where my heart is,’ smiles the ambassador.

After Enschede, Mossenlechner will travel to other Dutch cities. ‘I’m looking to strengthen cooperation between Malaysia and the Netherlands. I’m visiting Dutch universities, research institutes and businesses to see what type of knowledge we can offer as a country and how we could benefit from Malaysian expertise,’ she clarifies.

‘We’ve had a very diverse program at the UT. We’ve been looking at potential collaboration in the fields of water management, medical technology, nanotechnology, ICT and more. We’d like to establish exchange of knowledge and students, joint research projects and to boost entrepreneurship – because as an embassy we can form a bridge.’ 

Complete career change every three years

Has Karin Mossenlechner always wanted to become a diplomat? ‘My goal was to do something interesting and useful, which is why I decided to go into public service. Working in foreign services allows you to do a complete career change every three or four years,’ she says. ‘It’s one of the most fascinating working environments there is. You keep discovering new places and fields and, as diplomats, we can really make a difference. Especially these days it’s crucial to keep contact between people and keep the dialogue open.’

‘I’m not afraid of technical subjects’  

What should one do if they wanted to follow in her footsteps? ‘Broad interest is a good basis for becoming a diplomat, because you need to focus on many different issues throughout your career, for instance trade and investment promotion, as well as innovation and research cooperation. I also worked to promote disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,’ answers Mossenlechner. ‘Thanks to my UT education I’m not afraid of technical subjects, which is why I’m so glad to have this background.’   

 ‘My roots are still here in Twente,’ she continues. ‘I feel very much at home. The university still has the same atmosphere as it used to. Although it is more international, it’s still very entrepreneurial and it still offers a very secure and warm environment to students.’