Hannah feels that all that travelling has left its mark on her. “Particularly with regard to independence,” says Hannah, who only just turned eighteen. While she did most of her travelling with her parents and younger sisters, she went to Japan on her own. “I flew to Japan on my own, including a transfer, and before that, I got a visa on my own. Once you’ve done stuff like that, you’re no longer afraid of having to make arrangements yourself.”

She was eleven when she first went backpacking, but she does not feel that those experiences have given her a leg up on her fellow students. “The great thing about doing a degree in Medicine is that there are relatively many students who know what the world is like. We do not compete against each other. The general consensus seems to be that we’re all in it together.”

Hannah van Riswijk

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By now Hannah has made the switch from Druten to Rotterdam. She has a bedsit in Rotterdam-Alexander. “I’m really loving Rotterdam. My flatmates are nice, which obviously helps. When we come home after a long day’s work, we will often sit down and have a nice cup of tea together.” It takes her about half an hour to get to Erasmus MC by bike. She actually really enjoys the cycling, because she gets to see so much of the city. “Before I became a student here, I didn’t know Rotterdam at all. Now I’m getting acquainted with a new part of the city every day, and it’s just fab.”

Hannah does not have a favourite spot in Rotterdam, but she does have a favourite spot at Erasmus MC. “It’s the Albert Heijn To Go branch. It’s the only part of the building where absolutely everyone gets together. Doctors, patients, visitors, students… I can spend hours there, just watching people. Some people are just killing some time there, while others come in very quickly to get a quick bite.” Erasmus MC is the place where most of Hannah’s life will be lived in the next six years. “Thankfully, it’s an inspirational environment. After a lecture you’ll walk through the hospital and you’ll see all these white coats and all the patients. Sometimes they’ll look very happy, and sometimes they won’t look happy at all. It reminds you of what the future may be like.”