Student - August 10, 2019

Student part-time job: paperboy, waiter or ... meteorologist?

Luuk Zegers

WUR students Philippe Schambergen (21), Brian Verhoeven (20) and Arjan Willemse (22) have several things in common: the bachelor’s programme Soil, Water and Atmosphere, a passion for weather, and ... jobs as meteorologists at Buienradar.

Brian Verhoeven during the Instagram weather report. © Buienradar

In the summer of 2017, Pyrus, the study association for Soil, Water and Atmosphere (SWA), published a vacancy for Buienradar. ‘Wanted: enthusiastic Soil, Water and Atmosphere students, must be in third year of their bachelor’s or doing a master's.’ Schambergen, Verhoeven and Willemse had just finished the first year of their bachelor, but they were very enthusiastic. And so, each of the three individually asked whether second-year students could respond to the ad. Schambergen: ‘We were the only second-year students who were given an interview. That was understandable, as we only get a single atmosphere course during the first year of the programme. All the other applicants were third-year bachelor’s or master’s students, but they eventually chose us.’ Verhoeven: ‘After that course in year one, I got hooked and really dove into the subject.’ Schambergen: ‘I’ve been interested in the weather and meteorology since my first year in secondary school.’

Arjan Willemse during one of his Instagram weather reports. © Buienradar
Arjan Willemse during one of his Instagram weather reports. © Buienradar

Web, radio, tv
During the application process, applicants had to take a test, write short texts for the weather report based on meteorological maps and do a radio and TV screening. ‘That’s because Buienradar is more than just a website’, Schambergen says. ‘We also take care of the weather for RTL and for several radio stations.’

A few weeks later, the three SWA students were working together on a project in the classroom when they received an email. Verhoeven: ‘Philippe and Arjan were sitting together behind a computer, and one of them saw that email; so they knew that we had been chosen. They said, “Brian, check your email!” I have to admit I did shout out when I saw it.’

Getting started
The three junior meteorologists were asked to keep their weekends in December 2017 free for training. Verhoeven: ‘It was a lot of hard work around the time our fellow students were enjoying Saint Nicholas and Christmas. But the idea was that we would be able to work individually afterwards.’ Schambergen adds: ‘Five weekends, both Saturdays and Sundays, eight hours a day. It was intense. But day one was a success. A weather front with a chance of snow was approaching, with a chance of freezing ice, but it could also simply rain. In short: it was very difficult to make a good map for the evening. We did what we could, and when we showed our map to the meteorologist who had to present the news on RTL in the evening, his reaction was: “Okay, that looks good. Save it!” And we really thought “Are you serious?” On day one?’

Philippe Schambergen during the Instagram weather report. © Buienradar

The activities of the three junior meteorologists go beyond just putting the weather forecast on the website and keeping it up to date. They also provide several radio stations with the weather report, keep the Buienradar social media platforms updated, write blogs, make weather maps for the weather report on the RTL stations and send their forecasts and weather maps to the meteorologist who presents the weather on television.

Meteorological footsteps
Do the bachelor’s students want to follow in Gerrit Hiemstra’s footsteps and become weathermen? Verhoeven: ‘It’s a difficult question. I do enjoy the work a lot. But I also want to teach, and I also like research. I have already assisted in WUR research project several times, like in the release of the weather balloons in Amsterdam recently. It’s clear it will be something with meteorology, but I do not yet know what it will be exactly.’

Schambergen: ‘I really like the practical side of meteorology. Intelligibly explaining and telling what will happen. I love doing the radio weather report. I could also become a teacher, but in that case, I’d rather teach in secondary school, as a geography teacher, for example. However, it would be amazing if Buienradar were to offer me a serious position.’

Instagram meteorologists
They do not appear on television yet, but the junior meteorologists have already been allowed to have a taste of the life as a weatherman on Instagram. Weather reports by Schambergen, Verhoeven and Willemse can be seen on their Instagram accounts (by clicking on their names).

Resource spoke to Schambergen and Verhoeven about their part-time jobs; Willemse was on holiday at the time.