Last month, ILSA HHS organised its first Meet-A-Teacher session with Mr. William Worster, a lecturer at The Hague University and a highly-accomplished professional working in various fields, from academia to private practice to NGOs.
By Alexandrea Wagenaar
By the time Mr Worster arrived, the students had already taken off their warm winter coats and settled down to chat over hot cups of tea, excitedly nibbling complimentary biscuits. His presence immediately drew attention and everyone went to their classroom-style chairs to listen as he made his way to the front of the room, beside a board with a scribbled motivational message.
Entirely forgetting his cappuccino, Mr Worster commenced his story without further delay, speaking to the students with a casual yet charismatic air. He took them back to his agricultural background in Kansas, USA, to recount that his family was composed almost entirely of farmers, with the exception of his teacher parents. He gave an impression of honesty and humbleness, speaking to the audience as equals.
His first job came at the early age of 10, when he earned his lunch money at his elementary school’s library and later cafeteria. Working many part-time jobs to finance his tuition and housing fees, he decided to break family tradition and go to the University of Kansas to do an undergraduate degree in Architecture and European History.
With slight nostalgia, he told students that his favourite subject was European History, especially German intellectual history. Back then, he wasn’t yet very employable but already had early dreams of engaging on the international level. As such, he did an exchange to the UK and thereafter lived in Prague for a year. Smiling, he said he enjoyed the Czech Republic more.
In the States, he worked for three years at Barnes & Noble, a large chain of bookstores, moving his way up the levels until he was manager in the Midwest region. In a slightly lower tone, he explained how he could not afford to live in New York City when he was eventually transferred there. Regaining enthusiasm quickly, he told students that he came up with the idea of studying law, seeing it as a way to enter the inspiring international realm he craved.
Mr Worster amiably recommended that students should find the right partner in life, for support. He married an Italian consulate’s daughter, who worked at a publishing house. They decided to move to Chicago so he could attend law school there, with the full scholarship he (rather remarkably) won.
After a period, he returned to the UK to do an extended exchange in London. Working for a small independent solicitor firm in Waterloo, he gained valuable experience in litigation. As the UK had just become a part of the European Convention on Human Rights, he was responsible for large amounts of research in that regard.
Once home again, he started clerking at the Department of Justice while completing his degree, operating under a special license. He focused on deportation, asylum requests and claims of torture, gathering enough experience to get selected at a small law firm where he would work for a year before the next opportunity came along at a Swedish law firm.
Mr Worster was getting closer to reaching his ambitions. In his spare time, he took on pro bono cases in fields in which he was interested, constantly building on his experience. Looking at his role models, all of whom had LLMs in International Law, he chose to move to The Hague. He wished to study at Leiden University and make the right contacts. Meanwhile, he said amusedly, his wife became pregnant and went on a career break.
Halfway through the first year, he was honoured with a job at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He worked there for two terms, always uncertain as to whether his short-term contract would not be renewed without notice, as often happens at a tribunal where there cannot be too many permanent staff members.
His pathway to becoming a lecturer for the International & European Law Programme came through a former Leiden professor of his, one of the three co-founders, who mentioned the possibility to him in the Programme’s early days. He played a fundamental role in attracting other respected legal professionals to The Hague University of Applied Sciences, helping distinguish it from other similar institutions through innovative thinking. He is still working at The Hague University to date.
Currently, Mr Worster also operates a small law practice on the side where he occasionally sees private clients, international organisations or national governments. This is mostly in the field of expatriation, which he became well versed in due to the strategic passport dealings at the Swedish law firm, as well as immigration.
With a view to the future, he hopes to expand his research profile and obtain his PhD in Amsterdam where he got a grant to study part-time. He reminded students to be flexible and find a halfway point between what you desire and what you can realistically achieve, while always keeping the main goal in mind.
He ended by emphasising the wonderful opportunity IEL students have to do incredible internships that most Bachelor students around the world couldn’t even dream of, here in The Hague. He advised them to build a broad, diverse network, especially among peers. He also encouraged students to take advantage of the ILSA platform to strive towards their ambitions.
In all, it was a highly successful first event in the new ILSA Meet A Teacher series. Mr Worster provided an inspiring, and ultimately very accessible, insight into the career of a lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. The informal setting lended itself to down-to-earth discussion. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and receive very practical advice from this esteemed faculty member, making for an educational evening