Who? Consuela Cambridge (1993)
Alumna of: Chemistry & Master’s degree in teaching Molecular Sciences
First job: Promoting loyalty cards at the Lucky Store, a department store in Suriname
Favourite place at the UvA: At Science Park there is this kind of landing where in the summer you have a view of all sorts of different birds; a nice place to sit.
Essential: Variety, a dynamic and multicultural work environment.
Consuela was born and raised in Suriname, where she spent more time outdoors than inside. She fell in love with chemistry in secondary school. The combination of getting your hands dirty while at the same time engaging your brain was what did the trick. She moved to Amsterdam and decided to enrol at the UvA. And there's another thing she gets a kick out of, too: being a tutor.
You enrolled at the UvA because there was no Chemistry programme at the University of Suriname. Was that an easy decision?
‘Yes. I speak Dutch and have family living in this country, and my cousin was already studying at the UvA. The only obstacle was that the registration process for non-EU international students is rather lengthy. It took an entire year. I was lagging behind in physics because I had dropped the course the last two years, so I had to make up for that shortcoming in a pre-Master's year. In addition, I had to meet the income requirements and the university was obliged to apply for a residency permit on my behalf from the IND, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. A visa had to be arranged through the Dutch embassy in Suriname. Because I did not grow up with the internet like the average Dutch student, I quickly found myself overwhelmed. Luckily, I received a lot of support from the UvA, which helped tremendously.’
It's great to get your hands dirty while at the same time engaging your brain.
What do you like so much about chemistry?
'What interests me about chemistry is the question: Why do molecules do what they do? Whilst the lab work is fun, the theory behind it is what fascinates me most. I grasped it well and earned very high marks. I thought, Oh my god, I’ve found it. Chemistry suits me. Even though I played outside a lot when I was little, I am also intellectually oriented. In one of the practicals, we isolated the ammonium chloride from salty liquorice. We boiled the liquorice down, performed analyses, titrated, used dyes. Chemistry can be a bit messy, which actually appealed to me. Getting your hands dirty while at the same time engaging your brain. You do your research and then you go into the lab. That combination is what makes chemistry what it is.’
Is university life offering you enough opportunities for personal development?
‘I realised I love interacting with people and I need to have an outlet for that, too. I am good at conveying ideas. During the first year of my Master's programme, I was fortunate enough to be a tutor for two groups of fifteen to twenty first-year students. While it takes a lot of energy to mentor a group, it is energising at the same time. If I was having a bad day, the tutoring would cheer me up. Supervising students inspired me to pursue the major in Teaching within my Master's programme. I said to myself: I want to learn more about this. And I liked the fact that I could still change my mind and switch specialisations within the Master's. In that respect, the UvA offers plenty of possibilities to further develop your talents within the Master's programme as well.’
Supervising students inspired me to pursue the major in Teaching within my Master's programme.
How would you describe the atmosphere at the UvA?
'The UvA is very international. You encounter people from Brazil, from Peru, from Iceland. I would never have met someone from Iceland if I'd stayed in Suriname. Diversity and a dynamic environment are extremely important to me, and therefore the University reflects my personal values. The UvA is also a fairly informal place. Not in a bad way; I am an informal person, so it suits me well. The contact with your professors and your seminar instructors is very open. You can simply send an email, or pop into the staff rooms. The same goes for the students. Perhaps it differs according to degree programme, but in chemistry nobody is really a nerd who studies 24 hours a day, which is what you might expect. It's relaxed; everyone is themselves and is accepted.'