On his return, we were lucky enough to spend some time with Aernout and ask him a few questions about how it feels to be back at the College he graduated from 44 years ago.
It is a little weird to be back, because the first I time I came back here I was 26, now I'm 62 and it's been 12 years since I was last here, but it is always nice to come back - you remember things from when you were a student here. I suppose when I originally came back I felt very close to the students and the student experience, so when I first spoke there was a little voice inside of me saying, "Aernout, what do you think you are doing? Go and sit with the students! I suspect that will not be the case anymore, when one becomes a little older...
On a serious note, it is always good to come back. I had a wonderful time here, two of my daughters also came here, and it's also great to bring people who have never been here to show them the College.
Some of the choices that I have made in life, and the way that I have looked at life and have looked at other people has been influenced and impacted by my time at Atlantic College. I would say that my experience at Atlantic College has shaped my views. It has certainly influenced my views of the world, and my personal friendships. From spending two years of my life living with people from all over the world had an immense influence on me and my views of life.
The fact that it was so international!
The fact that there are people here from all over the world. You learn from that, you learn from them, from living with them, having classes with them and socialising with them. That was an enormous experience which I enjoyed very much. I have kept friendships throughout my life that were formed at Atlantic College, and I am sure that my daughters would say precisely the same thing. It gave all of us a great deal, and I know from the friends I made during my time at Atlantic College would say the same thing.
For me, from living and studying purely in Western Europe to suddenly have people from all over the world around you, that opens your eyes to diversity and the richness of diversity, and it was a wonderful gift.
Also, Atlantic College is a pretty nice place even if it is in South Wales and it rains a lot!
Yes, similarly they have made friends here from all over the world and are still very much in touch with them. They had a great time here. Some of their best friends are from all over the world - something that they hadn't had before, they were previously limited to a European country, a European education. Here they got to see the world, and that's a very powerful experience for a 16 year old in my eyes.
Aernout then went on to give a brilliant lecture in the Bradenstoke Hall to the first and second year students, giving them an intimate account of his experience working in Afghanistan as a War Correspondent.
In his lecture, Aernout explained how he worked for many years with an Afghani Commander (who in his later years stood on a landmine and lost 2/3 of his foot), reporting on the war which was happening right before his eyes. Aernout would then sit on a rock, write all of his notes up in longhand, wrap it in a parcel and hand it to a man who would then walk to Pakistan, where it would be sent to the head offices in London. Aernout went on to confirm that of these packages, 95% were published in the newspapers.
Throughout his career as a War Correspondent, Aernout worked for many different media organisations in the UK and the USA, including the Washington Post, the BBC and Sky News.
Aernout is now a lecturer in Journalism and War Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands.