Interview with Jessica de Raaij

Jessica de Raaij (22) is currently in the second year of the HBO-V (accelerated) course. She follows the minor ‘Transcultural care’, in which she becomes acquainted with different cultures and the interaction and communication within them. She is therefore in Ireland for a few months. “You don’t have to go to the other side of the world for a unique experience.”


Why did you want to go abroad for your studies?

“By having an experience abroad, you literally and figuratively broaden your horizon. In addition, it offers you an opportunity to improve your social and cultural skills and to challenge yourself in various areas.

Through contact with other cultures/people you also get a mirror held up. You get to know yourself and your own norms and values within your culture better. That is why it is also a big part of personal development. I thought it was a great challenge to have to arrange a lot myself and to put myself in a new environment for the first few weeks, which makes it an exciting adventure.

In addition to the reasons for now, I can also see myself partly working abroad in the future. I don’t know exactly how I want to fill that in, but that’s why an experience like this looks good on my CV.”

Why did you choose Ireland?

“To be honest, I had my eye on another country at first. I have been looking for a suitable place since April last year, and initially I had contact with an organization in Indonesia, on Lombok. I was already well in the preparations, but because of Covid, unfortunately, a decision had to be made from school to give countries outside Europe a ‘no go’.

I still wanted to go abroad, so I started looking for a plan B closer to home. Ireland has always been a country that has attracted me, I had been there before. And despite the fact that it may not be that far away from the Netherlands, the culture here is also different.”

What exactly do you do in terms of internship?

“I work at a Cheshire Home, a residential group where people with a certain disability live independently and are supported in daily life. This could be an intellectual disability, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, there is also a man who is both visually impaired and hard of hearing and therefore needs support.”

What is everyday life in Ireland like for you?

“Every day is different here, partly because the residents can plan their own day. Sometimes I help with nursing tasks, other times I go somewhere with a resident and so I’m away for a while. The variety is also what makes it fun. Even my creativity comes out every now and then during Arts class. It’s very nice to see the residents being busy. There is a resident who loves to paint, and he does it with his nose! Oh yes, and I went to a farm to milk cows once. I did the nursing course right?” 😉

What’s the most fun thing you’ve done (so far)?

“St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland as standard on March 17; Ireland’s National Day. I was also able to experience this day. St. Patrick’s Day is mostly celebrated in green, with parades and a beer in the pub. What I really liked about this day was that after two years of Covid, the residents were finally able go outside and do fun things. The gratitude for that is very nice to see.”

What is the most important lesson you have learned (so far) during your internship?

“The first weeks took a lot of getting used to: a different country, a different language, a lot of new people, impressions and so on. By opening myself up, having an open attitude and letting everything come to me, you will come a long way. I am a guest in this country and a guest as a volunteer, so by adapting to my environment and moving with it flexibly, I soon noticed that I was actually welcomed with open arms by everyone. This has taught me that I have to be patient and not want to go too fast. The people in Ireland are very hospitable and want to make you feel welcome. I am very grateful for that.”

Do you have any tips for other students who want to go abroad?

“I don’t really have any tips, I can only recommend it. You learn a lot from such an experience, in many different areas and each country has something unique to offer. I found out that you really don’t have to go to the other side of the world for that. If you find it a bit scary to be away from home for a longer period of time for the first time, choose a country that is still fairly close. There are also plenty of opportunities to learn there! And don’t give up if it doesn’t work right away, I think that’s a very important one. There is a lot involved in arranging such an experience and I have had to arrange a lot myself, but in the end it is more than worth it. I think that just makes it a better challenge.”

Pictures: Jessica de Raaij