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‘Without Leiden University, I wouldn't now be living in Mexico’

When delegations from Leiden University visit foreign countries, they often arrange a meeting specially for alumni of the country. Mexico was no exception. On Monday 23 October, some thirty alumni got together in Mexico City.

Broadening your network, meeting familiar faces or getting to see that excellent lecturer again: these are just some of the reasons why alumni of Leiden University came to the alumni event in Mexico City on 23 October. They were welcomed by Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker and Leiden researchers who are currently in Mexico to extend and expand existing partnerships with Mexican universities and science funding organisations

‘We're not seeing the world of today at its best,' Stolker said when welcoming the alumni, having been introduced by alumnus Rafael Brambila Lopez. ‘And then it's great to meet alumni like yourselves, to see the good things that are also possible. I am convinced that international contacts help us understand one another better. And if I am to believe the stories I'm hearing about the Erasmus exchange programme, it can even lead to romance! All in all, there's reason for hope.' 

Crash course and networking

In an interactive crash course, Professor Jacobijn Gussekloo shared with the alumni the dilemmas of geriatric medicine. She explained that much of the care for the elderly is based on assumptions and not on hard facts. For example, doctors often use statistics from research on adults as a whole, rather than on data focused on the elderly. A high BMI is of concern in young people, but in the elderly it can often be a sign of good health. And what exactly does 'growing old healthily' mean: good physical health, a rich social life or keeping up with the times? The alumni didn't have ready answers either.  

After the presentation by Gussekloo there was ample time for alumni to renew one another's acquaintance or  get to know some new people. The discussions were animated and business cards were exchanged. Stolker looked on happily: 'It's fantastic that our alumni are so enthusiastic. Leiden really is a part of their shared history, and they bring that across to their friends and family. Enthusiastic alumni are the best ambassadors a university could wish for, so it's only logical that we should organise evenings like this for them now and again.' 

Natacha Buzalko

Natacha Buzalko (International Law)

‘In 2000 I met my current partner in a typical Leiden way, namely during the Relief of Leiden celebrations. Shortly afterwards he was offered a job in Mexico so I came with him. It's really good to get in touch with people who have also studied in Leiden, or who are working there now.  Actually, I've also got a hidden agenda.  I organise the Cleveringa lecture in Mexico every year and I'm always looking both for good speakers and for people interested in attending the event.' 

Raul Medina

Raul Medina (Master's in Vitality and Ageing)

‘During my master's in Leiden I often went to lectures given by Professor Jacobijn Gussekloo. Now's she's here visiting Mexico I can introduce her to my new employer, the National Institute of Geriatrics. Who knows, it may lead to a useful partnership. And we've arranged that I will come to Leiden in the near future and give a few guest lectures to her current students. I think it's a great idea for Leiden University to organise an alumni event in Mexico. My year in Leiden was by far the best year of my life so I'm really enjoying reliving it this evening.'  

Rafael Brambila Lopez

Rafael Brambila Lopez (European and International Business Law)

‘I've been the contact person between Leiden University and Mexican alumni for some time now. It's something I enjoy doing because I think Leiden deserves to be better known in Mexico. Not many Mexicans are aware of the high quality of teaching and research in Leiden. Those are the kinds of things that make Leiden an excellent alternative for the US or Canada, two countries where a lot of Mexican people still like to go to study. This evening was a good step towards maintaining the relationship between the University and alumni. For a first alumni event, there were a lot of people here, which is promising.' 

Lorraine Vermeulen

Lorraine Vermeulen (European Law)

‘Without Leiden University, I wouldn't now be living in Mexico. It was during my Law studies that I got to know my partner, who is Mexican. We decided to play it cautiously and at first we each went back to our own country after graduating to see how things would develop. We soon realised how deeply we care for one another and I've now been living with him in Mexico for two years. I work as a lawyer in competition law. I've mainly come to this event to make some new contacts and I'm also interested to hear about developments at Leiden University over the past while.'  

The value of an alumni network

From 22 to 27 October a delegation from Leiden University travelled to Mexico to initiate or strengthen collaboration agreements with universities and research institutes there. The visit showed how valuable a broad alumni network can be. The contacts with Mexican universities were in many cases made by former students or researchers from Mexico who had studied or conducted research in Leiden. Seven people from the Universidad Iberoamericana, for example, obtained their PhD supervised by Professor Raymond Buve.