Liza Diane Gordin (Belgium), University College Maastricht
The most valuable thing I’ve learned during UCM is that 'it isn’t always that deep'. Sometimes you need to let go of your extreme concernedness about certain things...

Liza Diane Gordin studied at University College Maastricht (major in psychology and philosophy) when she applied for a student grant from the University Fund Limburg/SWOL. She graduated in 2019. Recently, Liza Diane won the Incentive Award for her bachelor’s thesis ‘Equity in the transition to higher education of prospective first-generation students in Limburg’.

In which way did UCM or UCM courses help you to set up Foodcoop Maastricht?

At UCM, I mainly took courses in psychology (evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, connecting brains-to-computers, AI...) and philosophy (history and philosophy of psychology, moral philosophy, metaphysics...). The courses I followed weren’t that much related in me obtaining certain knowledge to initiate the Foodcoop Maastricht. Nonetheless, it was UCM as an environment that opened up many new doors to me. For example, it was only after coming back from my semester abroad from The University of Sydney, where I got familiar with food cooperatives, that inspired me to start a similar project in Maastricht. UCM made it possible for me to go on my semester aboard to Australia where I experienced another culture. Moreover, the support of my friends that I made at UCM enabled me to be courageous about starting this project with not much experience social entrepreneurship. And lastly, as much as it sounds a bit cliché, I think the years of PBL made me more self-confident to lead a group of people during the first phases of initiating the Foodcoop.

Could you please tell us something about your UCM experience?

My UCM experience was very daunting in the beginning but extremely stimulating and eye-opening in the years that followed. Coming from a family with a migration background and being the first child to attend university, fully taught in English, was overwhelming. I noticed that I often had difficulties navigating through the open curriculum at UCM, but the freedom that was given also enabled me to discover many disciplines.

UCM allowed me to have freedom over my academic choices and intellectual development, in an environment with highly motivated students, with the support of an academic advisor. These different sides of UCM made it both challenging as intellectually rewarding at the same time. This is something that I miss dearly now having graduated.

What are your plans now, after just graduating UCM?

After having graduated from UCM, I decided to take two years off. As enriching the education was at UCM, the pace of it was also high. As such, I decided to take some years off to get more experiences and take some time to decide on my future career path. My thesis and initiating the Foodcoop Maastricht allowed me to go beyond my concentration at UCM. Both undertakings opened up directions that I wasn’t considering before. Currently, I am doing a placement at a non-for-profit organization while exploring Berlin as a playground for my personal as professional development.

What do you want to have achieved in 5 years from now?

That’s a really difficult question. If I can dream big, I hope I will be working for a well-established not-for-profit or NGO working around topics or equality, social justice, urban-rural development, and/or agriculture and food justice. Of course, if I don’t find a social enterprise that fits my vision of meaningful work, I can always try to initiate my organization – but here I dream really BIG!

If you reflect at UCM, what is the most valuable thing you have learned?

The most valuable thing I’ve learned during UCM is that “it isn’t always that deep”. What I mean by this is that sometimes you need to let go of your extreme concernedness about certain things. For example, to be extremely concerned with all the suffering in the world will not resolve this suffering. It is only by taking a step back and approaching it pragmatically one can take two steps forward.

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