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Contributions to getting older and wiser – an alumnus story by Raúl Hernán

Alumni stories

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06.15.2020

Raúl Hernán came to the Netherlands in 2013 to follow the master programme Vitality & Ageing at Leiden University. After returning from the Netherlands, Raul started working at the Mexican National Institute of Geriatrics, where he is currently the deputy director of epidemiologic and geriatric research.  

Raúl started his medical career at Universidad La Salle in Mexico City. Although Raul participates only part-time in clinical work, this is something he is still the most passionate about. After doing his residency in internal medicine, he chose to specialise in geriatrics. “I think it’s important to help everyone, regardless of their age and condition.” Raul started the course for geriatric medicine in Mexico, and was informed in the second semester of his last year that he had the opportunity to pursue a master programme in the Netherlands. He had not initially planned to do a masters, having been busy with his clinical work and residency, but after a space for the master programme became available he was offered the spot, and within 3 months he was enrolled and on his way to Leiden.   

His choice to come to the city of Leiden was an easy one. “At the time, no other university in the Netherlands offered the programme, except here.  The master started with a private entity, the Leyden Academy for Vitality and Ageing, and was later partnered with LUMC. I quickly made the choice to come to Leiden because the programme sounded very good and was only one year.” Before coming to the Netherlands, Raúl was helped by the university and Nuffic Neso Mexico with his application and accommodation during his stay. He also attended several pre-departure meetings, so that he would be prepared for his stay in the Netherlands.  

After arriving in the Netherlands, Raúl was immediately charmed by the Dutch openness and culture. Although there are more than 5000 miles between the Dutch and Mexican coast, he could adapt very easily to the Dutch way of life. “If I had to name one cultural challenge, it would probably be language, but even with just English you can make yourself understandable and manage very well. I also took some Dutch courses, and I really liked it. Most international students had a hard time, but I actually think Dutch is a nice language, and I also enjoyed listening to Dutch music, such as Nick and Simon and Guus Meeuwis .”  

Raúl’s favourite thing about the Netherlands: openness, organisation and freedom. “For example, I enjoyed the ability to cycle everywhere, without any concerns for my safety, and the fact that the Dutch are very open and welcoming to foreigners. I felt very welcome. Not only has my time in Leiden made an impact on my professional career, but also on a personal level.”  

Raúl now works at the Mexican National Institute of Geriatrics, where he is the deputy director of epidemiologic and geriatric research. As the corona pandemic has swept through Asia, Europe and is now reaching the Americas in full-force, the institute has created a questionnaire for nursing homes to make an analysis of their preparedness and strategy in combatting the disease and also providing the nursing homes with guidelines and information. “As we have seen in Europe and the US, the disease has catastrophic effects when it reaches nursing homes, infecting residents and staff. This questionnaire should assess and assist the preparedness of the nursing homes, but there are over a 1000 nursing homes in Mexico, and it’s almost impossible to reach all of them, but we keep trying.” 

Holland Alumni network 

While he is still in touch with some of his classmates and housemates from Leiden University, he has also made quite a number of connections through the Holland Alumni network. “I have met several alumni from the Netherlands at events organised by Neso Mexico, and I met some of my closest friends through these gatherings”. His advice for incoming students: Live the full experience. Make sure you travel through the country and follow the Dutch way of living. Get a decent bike and use it to go everywhere, learn the basics of the language, be respectful and do your research on Dutch culture beforehand!” 


Raúl in short 

Portrait picture of RaulRaúl came to the Netherlands for a life changing experience studying abroad, and give his career a big leap forward by doing a high-quality master at Leiden University. 

His most important takeaway during his time in the Netherlands: “we are all more similar than we think and we can always find ways to communicate and coexist. Togetherness is essential in the era of globalization. 

His advice to incoming international students: Have a plan, but make sure that it is flexible enough to take whichever turns it might be necessary. Aim high, speak loud, be fair, work hard, play harder. Your career will require effort and sacrifice, but nothing is worth sacrificing your well-being. Your emotional stability and your personal life are just as important or even more so.” 

Find Raúl on the Holland Alumni network  


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