‘I’ve always felt like we are one big family at ITC’

| Michaela Nesvarova

When Saskia Tempelman started working at ITC in 1977, she planned to stay for six months. Half a year turned into almost half a century, and she is now leaving the university after 45 years of service. ‘The world of ITC is really my world. I found my place here,’ she says in her farewell interview.


saskia tempelman

Saskia Tempelman has worked at various positions at the University of Twente, but dedicated most of her years to ITC (Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation). She began her long career at ITC as a secretary in 1977, helped organize many events and workshops, and later moved on to becoming Communications Officer at the Marketing and Communication department of the UT.

Her farewell reception is being held on 2 March in ITC restaurant (Hengelosestraat 99, Enschede).

What does it feel like to be leaving after 45 years?

‘It feels very strange. I have worked here my entire career. I only had some summer jobs when I was young, and I worked as an au pair in Switzerland for a year before I got my job as a secretary at ITC. I have always worked full time and I don’t know how it will feel when I’m at home, but I’m excited. I made a decision to retire early and now I’m focused on the next chapter.’

Did you imagine that you’d stay this long when you first started working here?

‘No, I planned to stay at ITC for about half a year, gain some experience in an international environment and then go back to Switzerland, but that didn’t work out. I ended up staying for a long time – just like many of my colleagues. There are a lot of people at ITC, both administrative and scientific staff, who have worked here for decades. I think that says a lot about ITC. It’s such an interesting place with a dynamic environment.’

What has been your role at the UT?

‘I was a secretary for a long time – at different positions and departments. I first worked as a secretary for course directors, and in that position I had contact with many students, which I really enjoyed. In the 1970s and 80s there were hardly any international students in Enschede, but at ITC I met people from the most exotic and far-away countries.

A lot has changed since I started working here. I first only worked with an ordinary type writer, not even an electric one. We had no computers or printers yet, just think of that. In 1980’s the first PC’s started popping up, but our students had no clue how to use them – they had never seen a computer or a keyboard before. They didn’t know how to type, they’d spend ages searching for the right letter on the keyboard. I was really interested in software and automation for administration. I was a trained secretary, I went to secretarial school and even learnt to type blindfolded. So I started giving lectures to students. At the end of 80’s, I started organizing seminars and workshops and other events, which eventually became my main task.’  

Have you ever considered switching jobs and leaving ITC?

‘Yes, of course, but I always realized that it wasn’t for me. I liked working in an international environment and didn’t want to give that up. I always liked learning new languages and working with different languages, whether that is English or Twents. I got this from my mother, who was also crazy about languages – and about atlases. She was really interested in geography. All of that came together here at ITC.’

What was it like when ITC joined the UT in 2010? How did you and your colleagues experience the transition?

‘Not much changed in ITC as such in 2010, but people definitely have more contact with the UT now and they look forward to moving to the new building on campus. I think this move will be quite a change. When we joined the UT, I was working at the communication department at ITC. Because the communication department was transferred to M&C at UT, I had to move to the Spiegel building on campus. This was a huge change for me. Campus is nice, people are nice, but I really missed the contact with students and other departments. I must admit that I found it quite difficult. I was happy that I could move back to the ITC building for the last couple of years, the atmosphere at ITC is so different and I really missed that.’  

What makes ITC so special?

‘There is a special community feeling. We all meet for coffee breaks, for lunches. All differences between people are dropped at ITC.’   

'All differences between people are dropped at ITC'

How has the UT and ITC changed over the years?

‘The students are so different than they were forty years ago. We used to send them lists of clothes they should bring. Students from other continents had no idea of what type of climate was here. Once they arrived, they had no contact with their families back home. It was too expensive to phone them, so they only received letters once in a while. That is why we have the mailboxes in the lobby of ITC building. Nowadays, that is of course completely different. Internet makes everything so much more accessible. 

The UT has also changed a lot. Because it is a technical university, there used to be almost no women at the UT. Now there are many different programmes that attract a variety of people. It has become a lot more international and diverse.’

Do you feel like ITC is now fully integrated into the UT as a whole?

‘I think ITC is still a bit separate from the rest of the university, but I believe that will change once we move to the campus. I think it’s good that ITC is moving to campus and I know our students are excited about it too.’

What will you miss the most and what will you miss the least?

‘I will miss the social contact with students and colleagues. I’ve always felt like we are one big family at ITC. There is no difference between professors, students and other staff. We are all together. I’ll miss that. I will not miss all the fuss with computers. Don’t get me wrong, I love using computers, but there are so many different systems and platforms we have to use these days – AFAS, UNIT4, Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint… It gets confusing. And we had to learn to use all this on our own once the pandemic started.’

What have been the highlights of your career?

‘I’m really proud of a big international conference that I helped organize in 2000. It took place in Amsterdam and hosted thousands of people. We made a profit on it too and then we set up a Trust Fund which we used for ten years to sponsor alumni in order to allow them to attend conferences. That was a really nice initiative and I’m quite proud of that.’ 

Do you have any parting advice for the UT community?

‘Have an open mind and never judge people – not based on colour, culture, gender or anything else. I feel like we are moving a bit backwards in this regard. The atmosphere in the 70’s felt more open that it does now.’  

Any last words about your time at ITC?

‘The fact that I’ve stayed here for 45 years says enough. I’ve enjoyed it. The world of ITC is really my world. I found my place here.’

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.