"The best thing about being an international student is getting to meet people with different cultural backgrounds. By meeting people with these backgrounds, and learning about their culture, I appreciate it more and can really have an open mind. I like to take the best parts of each culture and incorporate these in myself. That makes me who I am today."
During the Week of the International Student (16-21 nov) we will introduce you to five different international students who studied at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Today, we'd like to introduce Felisita Fideline Sinartio, who has just graduated from a research master Infection & Immunity at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.
When we meet Felisita in an online videocall, the international aspects of her life are hard to miss: she was born in Indonesia, lived there until the age of 7, moved to Malaysia, lived there for 6 years, moved to Angola, then back to Indonesia, then back to Angola, went to do her Bachelor's studies in Edinburgh in Scotland, studied abroad for a year in Miami, went back to Edinburgh to finish her studies and she now resides in Rotterdam - where she has just finished her research master's. Felisita tells us that her father works as a geophysicist for an oil company, which caused him and his family to move around a lot. Having lived in all these different places and moving around so much; how does that effect you?
"It works both ways. On the one end, I do get fidgety when I am sitting in the same place for a couple of years. I'm so used to moving around that you always expect to be moving soon. On the other end, I do get tired of constantly moving around. I have now decided for myself that I'm sticking around in Rotterdam, and I'm applying to positions in the Netherlands right now."
When we investigate Felisita's ambition to work in medical research more, we find that this also has an international outlook. Having lived in many different places around the world, and particularly having been in Indonesia during the outbreak of COVID-19, she did experience a big gap in access to healthcare. Felisita decided she wanted to do something about that gap during a rather intense experience in Angola.
"In Angola I volunteered to do a Polio inocculation drive by a company called Africare. There were a couple of students, a couple of expats as well, and we were divided into teams and sent into the city of Luanda. We got to go with locals who knew the area and we went with them to vaccinate children under 5. From that I could see the huge disparity in access to health: the mission was to only vaccinate children under 5, whilst a vaccination also has huge health benefits for children over 5. We had to ask the parents about their children's age an sadly reject some people because their children were over 5. It was a big shock for me, especially as I got to see a side of Luanda I didn't normally see."
In the conversation that follows, Felisita mentions that one of her sisters lives in the United Kingdom - who she visited for Christmas last year. It is clear that Felisita is not the only one in her family with an international orientation. When we ask her about it, it turns out that her father was decisive in this.
"My dad always wanted us to study abroad. He made a lot of sacrifices for us to be able to do that. In mean, international student fees are not cheap! My father also got to study abroad through a scholarship, he did his master's in Colorado in the US, and I think he realized it opened a lot of doors for him, in terms of being able to work abroad, get more opportunities to meet new people and get paid better. Education was really important for him, and he wanted the best education for us."
Needless to say, the experience of being an international student also brings some challenges to the table. Aside from the lack of proper Indonesian food (which is brought up by Felisita a number of times), Felisita also misses her parents that reside in Indonesia now. She mentions:
"The hardest part is being away from your family for so long. I really like my life here, but there's always something in the back of my head thinking I should be with my family. My mom jokes "if you can't find a job in the Netherlands, move back to Indonesia" so I know for sure they miss me too."
And then there's the Indonesian food. Our interviewer can't help but ask: where do you find the best Indonesian Cuisine in Rotterdam?
"It is actually in The Hague! It's called Waroeng Padang Lapek - my and a friend discovered it on a Saturday, and then went back to have another dinner on Sunday."
Felisita is set in Rotterdam for now and is looking for a job in her field of expertise. We'd like to thank Felisita for participating in the interview, her openness and a wonderful conversation!