Hannah’s room is not particularly big, but it’s large enough for a double bed, sink, large wardrobe and sizeable desk. “My textbooks are absolutely humongous and frightfully heavy. I honestly can’t live without a big desk.” So how much time does she spend in her room, anyway? “Well, only a few hours a day in certain weeks, and when I’m asleep. Twice a week I’ll train with the EUR Roadrunners (the students’ athletics club – ed.). On Monday evenings we’ll start at the running track in Kralingse Bos, and on Wednesdays we’ll run a lap starting from the campus.” Two pairs of running shoes sit in a neat row under her bed, waiting for tonight’s training session, because runners are expected to train even when it’s snowing.


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Freshman Hannah: ‘Rotterdam is where I’m learning the basics’

The thousands of first-year students who make it to EUR each year all have plenty of…

But running is not all Hannah is doing on top of her degree, which requires her to attend classes for at least 23 hours per week. She is on the Public Health committee of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations Rotterdam (IFMSA-Rotterdam) study society. “We recruit donors, but we also organise the ‘Teddy Bear Hospital’, which allows children to take a look inside a hospital. In short, we do a little bit of everything. But I also attend the party nights organised by MFVR (Rotterdam Faculty of Medicine Student Society – ed.), so basically, I’m having it both ways.” In addition, Hannah spends two or three afternoons per month at Sophia Children’s Hospital, helping doctors conduct a study on intestinal failure. “First I’ll collect data at the outpatients’ clinic, then I’ll process it in the lab later that afternoon.” Furthermore, she has a ‘regular’ part-time job. She is a managing tutor,meaning she supervises other tutors.

Hannah van Riswijk
Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

She sounds really busy. Isn’t that a recipe for a burnout? Hannah doesn’t seem too concerned about the risk of getting burnt out. “It’s a subject that is discussed at the department with increasing regularity. The percentage of students suffering from burnout is very high among medical students.” It is to be hoped that the new generation of doctors will be spared this fate. “Before last summer I quit doing gymnastics, for the first time in twelve years. I knew I’d have to make some sacrifices.”


She looks around at the large number of medals hanging on her wall. Most of them were awarded after gymnastics competitions, while the rest pertain to running. “But they’re the kind of medals that mean, ‘well, you took part’.” Among the ones that mean the most to her is the one she got after completing the Bruggenloop (Rotterdam Bridge Run), because the banks of the Meuse river are one of Hannah’s favourite running routes. “When you see the bridges, that’s when you’re really aware you live in a big city. Rotterdam is a place where ambitions and dreams can come true. That’s the feeling you get when you’re running alongside the river.”


We hardly talk about her degree. Hannah simply says she is where she’s supposed to be and she’s doing just fine. “What I really like about this degree programme is that we’re still active in the same study group, and we really do help each other. For example, we’ll give each other study tips, or we’ll support our fellow students when they get really nervous about attending dissection classes. The number of students who drop out is very low here, but people are occasionally unsure they’ve made the right choice. And yes, we do discuss those things.”