‘I traded the skyscrapers in Panama for the trees on campus’

| Stan Waning

We work together almost every day, but how well do we really know our colleagues? U-Today is curious about the personal stories behind the support and management staff and puts them in this series 'On the spot'. Speaking is International Recruitment Officer Luigi Etienne Richards, who celebrates his 37th birthday today.

Photo by: Frans Nikkels
Luigi Etienne Richards.

How long have you been working at the UT?

‘Since July 2019. I arrived two years earlier in Enschede straight from Panama-City. Getting used to it here was a process. Initially, I didn't like it here. Panama's capital has a crazy nightlife and it is cosmopolitan. I came here in winter and it was dark, cold and rainy. By now I am used to Enschede and don't even want to leave in the near future. What took me longer to get used to was supermarket closing times. Regularly, I had to hurry enormously. In Panama City, supermarkets are open 24/7. I can't say I am used to the weather in the Netherlands, but I have learned to deal with it.’

How does a man from Panama City end up in Enschede?

‘My partner came here in 2015 to follow a master's degree at the ITC faculty. Then I came here a few times a year, but in 2017 my husband was offered a job. We then had to decide what we wanted to do and went for it. We haven't regretted that for a moment. My lifestyle is much calmer here and I enjoy all the green. I traded the skyscrapers in Panama City for the trees on campus.’

What do you miss about Panama?

‘The obviousness of going to the beach any time of the year. I went to the beach here once. That was in January. I was wearing gloves, a scarf and a thick coat and I was still cold. There is a photo of that and I did not put on my happiest face ever. I also miss the food, though I am good at making Panamanian dishes. Panamanian cuisine is more about the experience and the feeling than the food itself. What I do appreciate here are the long summer days, I'm not used to that.’

I am a big fan of Argentina. I always thought that if I was going to move away from Panama, it would be to Argentina. That didn't work out, but I did marry an Argentinian. A nice compromise.

What does your current work consist of?

‘In July 2019, I started as an online marketer at the ITC faculty on behalf of Marketing & Communications. I did that work until April last year, when I joined the international team as an International Recruitment Officer. Every day is different. I am in frequent contact with agents and other partners in specific countries, and I get to interact with prospective students. I try to link students from Latin America, Bulgaria, Taiwan, Lithuania and Poland to the right programmes in Twente. Quality is more important here than quantity. A good match is leading.’

During the New Year's breakfast, you acted as host. Is that also part of your job?

‘No, but I was asked to do that and it seemed like a fun thing to do. In Panama I studied law, so actually I am a lawyer, but my passion lies in journalism. So sometimes I get asked for such jobs and I like to do that.'

What is your favourite travel destination?

‘That's a tough choice. Travelling is my big passion. I am a big fan of Argentina. I always thought that if I was going to move away from Panama, it would be to Argentina. That didn't work out, but I did marry an Argentinian. A nice compromise. I also love Cuba. Recently I visited Sweden and that was great too. I can’t choose, but would recommend Panama to anyone.’

In love, engaged, married?

‘Married since 2017. My husband, Lucas De Oto, works as a lecturer in the Geo-information Processing Department of the ITC faculty . We live nicely in Enschede-North. I enjoy the short bike ride to campus every day. The only disadvantage is that we live far from Schiphol. The stretch from the airport to home always feels longer than the hour-long flight from, for example, Panama of Argentina.'

Finally, what is important to you in life?

‘That changes over the years. For now, I would say I prioritise myself and my overall well-being. My relationship is also very important because it’s just the two of us here, so we need to take care of each other. Besides, my nephew and niece are an essential part of my life.  They are very close to me and sometimes almost feel like my own children. I can't wait to show them Enschede.’

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