I was the archetypal yuppie - materially successful, driving big cars and had my apartment in the Netherlands yet I felt empty. I found myself soul searching. It was the early 1990s and there was war in the former Yugoslavia, a place where my family had spent holidays. I couldn't believe that this was happening in a country 24 hours' drive from home. I came to the realisation that when I reached 65 I wanted to be proud and say that I'd got out of life what I'd wanted. Up until then, my upbringing had been pretty straightforward. I had grown up in The Hague with many teachers from Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, who filled my days with stories about the paddy fields, palm trees and islands of their homeland. Even then I realised that I didn't want to stay in the Netherlands forever and that I'd go overseas. I don't remember learning or having to work much in those early days. My school days in the 1960s and 70s were fun, with the feeling that your whole life was ahead of you. The Hague is the administrative capital of the Netherlands and it was boring, unlike its rebellious neighbour Amsterdam or the port city of Rotterdam. What I loved about where I grew up, though, was that it was close to the sea and I'd spend time on the beach all year around except the summer when it became crowded. Secondary school was more difficult because we moved to the northeast, which was an agricultural area. It took one hour to cycle to school. That first year I missed my friends and previous life but I learned to adapt. Academically, I felt I was a disaster. Even so, my favourite subjects were languages and I liked to write in Dutch. At one point I even considered doing journalism. I also liked history: it was interesting to learn about the Dutch and their position in the world. However, I hated maths. My parents felt I had to keep doing it but the last two years in school I really struggled. I also thought most of my teachers were boring and grey. I couldn't understand why they weren't more motivated and stimulating. I questioned whether they really liked teaching and at the same time made up my mind that I'd pursue something that I wanted to do. I went on to read law at the University of Groningen and found that difficult too. I'm a hands-on person so I didn't take to reading books and studying theories at first. It was only when it became more practical that I found it engaging. It took me five years to complete university because I found myself caught up in the partying. The non-academic side to tertiary education is important. If you only study it's a bit narrow minded. I was a member of the student society and each year we were asked to do charity work so I worked with disabled children. After graduating I went travelling in southeast Asia then joined a merchant bank. I thought I could learn something but it was a negative choice. I spent 41/2 years there before moving to a Swiss management consultancy. Soon after, I realised that despite my success I wasn't happy - I'd done what was expected of me. As a result, I joined Medecins Sans Frontieres. We're a medical humanitarian organisation, providing medical assistance to victims of conflicts, man-made disasters and epidemics. Initially, I thought I'd try it for a year but I've been with it for 11 years. It's meaningful and I think I've really found my destiny. I love everything about it. The most essential thing for students today is that they realise they have a choice. There's a lot of pressure on them to become doctors, bankers and so on. It's much more important to do something that makes you happy. Earning a lot of money does not necessarily bring you fulfilment.