‘I consider myself a Dutch citizen’

| Michaela Nesvarova

In the series The International, UT students from all over the world talk about their lives, studies, choices and passions. In this episode: Georgios Lappas (26), Master's student of Biomedical Engineering. ‘People here are kind. From the first moment they try to integrate you.’

Photo by: Yvon Gankema

‘I was born and raised in Athens, Greece. I need to refresh my memory about what it was like to live there. This is my third academic year at the UT. However, living in Greece was definitely very different to living here. The daily routine is much easier in Greece, but the quality of life is not. What I like is that we have a nice way to celebrate and enjoy life. We are able to just grab a coffee, sit down and stare at the blue sky. I like Enschede, though. It is not touristic, but it is big enough and there are opportunities. Not to mention that stress and air pollution are much higher in Athens. When I go back to Athens, it’s difficult to adapt to the habits of Greek people. Like their driving. It is crazy.’

‘The main reason why I came to the Netherlands was that I wasn’t satisfied with job opportunities in Greece, especially in the academic world. I found the right pathway here in the Netherlands. I remember the first day I came. I was so impressed with the flat roads, that you could see so far. I was on the train taking pictures and people were looking at me strangely. It took me some time to adapt. The most difficult part was the weather. It can be quite depressing sometimes – all the rain. But I adapted.’

Cycling and meeting new people

‘People here are kind. From the first moment they try to integrate you. I became a member of a cycling association here at the UT and that helped me to integrate a lot faster – thanks to all the activities and “borrels”, you know. I really love cycling. In Greece I would go cycling in mountains, be all covered in mud and so on. I enjoy it because you are with your friends, you are part of a group. You push yourself to the limit, but once you get up the mountain, you can just chill in the sun and enjoy the great view.’  

‘I’m an outgoing person, everybody says that. I always want to meet new people. I don’t want to just study and do research. Life is everything. It’s important to meet new people. Especially here, because I don’t have my family here, so having people around you makes it feel like home. I miss my family, of course. I go to Greece about three times a year and my family comes here too. My younger brother will probably also come study in the Netherlands. If you want something more for yourself and your profession, you cannot do it in Greece. Yet, not everyone has the means to come here, so I’m one of the lucky ones.’

PhD research

‘My goal is to stay here for at least the next five years and do a PhD. Even though you make more money in a company, I want to stay in academia for now and do research, because it’s important for me to help people. I want to focus on software for medical applications, because if you interpret human body in a software, you can solve or at least minimize impact of diseases. For example, thanks to such software, we are able to predict the probability to develop the Alzheimer's disease. My grandmother died from a brain disease, so I want to study brain or cardiovascular diseases. If you understand how a disease works, you can come up with better strategies and help a lot of people. I didn’t secure a PhD position yet, but I’m positive I will get one. I’ve had some negative responses already, but I believe that if you are enthusiastic about something, you will find what you want.’

Dutch nationality

‘I appreciate that I have the opportunity to work in this field in the Netherlands. The Netherlands wants a better future for their citizens and I consider myself a Dutch citizen. If you learn Dutch, you are fully integrated in the society. I would like to get the Dutch passport and have two nationalities. In Greece, I’ve seen that an economic crisis puts a lot of limitations on people and I want to avoid this in the future. Economy affects all other aspects of life, and so I think a Dutch nationality can help me in the future.’

‘To other internationals I’d say, be adaptive. Adaptation is very important. Secondly, you need to stay positive because you will face problems that you don’t expect. Always remember why you came here in the first place. That will help you overcome potential problems. I’m always positive, always smiling. I try to find a positive aspect of every problem.’