Life Science student Juana is happy in the Netherlands: ‘Despite the gray and rainy days’

Barcelonian student Juana de Philippis studies Life Sciences at HAN and is currently back in her hometown following an internship at the Pediatric Cancer Institute. It’s the place she already imagined herself working after her graduation. But first some nice years in Nijmegen. “I love the beautifully green nature and parks around there.”

For this semester, Life Science student Juana de Philippis went back to her family’s home in Sitges, a small town near Barcelona. At the Pediatric Cancer Institute Barcelona she  researches cell types that are resistant to Neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. “We’re trying to find the things they have in common, so it can help us attack the tumor in the future.”

Back in Barcelona

Juana is happy to be reunited with her friends and family, and to enjoy the Spanish climate again. “It’s a bit of a cliché perhaps, but it’s true. In the Netherlands there are periods where the days are just rainy and gray, and that really affects me”, she says. “On the other hand, I really love the beautifully green nature and parks around Nijmegen.”

The education she’s getting at HAN is very useful for her internship, Juana notices. “I think the Dutch education really encourages independence, and at HAN we’re spending a lot of time in the lab. My supervisor here is impressed that I can already do a lot of things by myself, and I think that’s an advantage I have because of my studies.”

Personal experiences

A couple of heavy experiences led Juana to decide she wanted to study Life Sciences. A dear friend of her, as well as one of her brother’s friends died of the same type of cancer. “At first I viewed it simply as something that can happen, however painful it is”, she tells. “But then I started reading about it and found out that the treatment for this type of cancer hadn’t been evolving at all. My thoughts shifted: I realised there’s something we can do.”

It's at that point that she knew: I want to aid towards developing treatments for cancer. And during her year working for the European Voluntary Service in Warsaw, she realized she’d like to study abroad. “My flatmate in Poland was so set on the Netherlands, that I decided to look there as well. And since HAN was the only college that offered the degree in Life Sciences in English, the choice was easy.”

My flatmate in Poland was set on the Netherlands, so I decided to look there as well

'Social, open and nice'

Apart from some struggles finding a place to live, Juana quickly felt at home in Nijmegen. “In Spain there’s this stereotype of people in northern countries being a bit closed off. But the Dutch are so social, open and nice. It surprised me how I’d walk into a supermarket, and people just started talking to me.”

The fact that she met her current boyfriend only a month after her arrival, of course helped with the integration process. “For example in dealing with typical Dutch directness.” She smiles: “if you’re not used to that, you can interpret it as rudeness. So he’d sometimes clarify to me afterwards that the person in question wasn’t being rude, but just trying to be honest and helpful.”

Future plans

After she finishes her studies, Juana will probably return to Barcelona again to work with her current employer or a similar institute. Because it’s the place she already imagined herself working as a teenager. “I used to volunteer for it, raising money at festivals for example. And I’m not the only one doing that. 80% of the institute’s funding comes from the community. Which is not ideal of course, because it should be more state-funded, but it’s beautiful that it happens nevertheless.”

But for the coming years she’s not planning on leaving her new home in Nijmegen. “I’m very happy with my life there. So I’d like to do a Master’s in the Netherlands as well, after I graduate at HAN. Also I haven’t visited the Vierdaagse yet, because I’m always back in Spain in the summer. So that’s definitely something I still need to cross off my list!”

Want a study that can contribute to research in diseases like cancer? This school offers the bachelor Life Sciences and also the master Molecular Life Sciences.

Photo by Juana