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Education Honours College

Wally van der Laan

Picture of Wally van der Laan
Picture of Wally van der Laan

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Wally but I think you already know that. I am Dutch. I am currently a 2nd year Medicine student. As of next year, I will also be studying the Philosophy of a Specific discipline.

I am originally from the east of this province, a small village close to the German border. It is the only municipality in the Netherlands that still has a communist party and so, it is rather conservative. Although I do not mind living in a village, I do prefer living in the city. The city is very open, libertarian and allows for a lot of things. I think being in the city helped me to be more nuanced. The city's filled with so many different people, cultures and attitudes that as a result you kind of built your own nuanced opinion. Whereas in the villages, it is really one-party vs another. And I don’t think it’s a matter of intelligence but attitude.

2. Why the Honours College and the Philosophy of a Specific Discipline?

What I think applies to the Honours College, is the freedom you have here. I feel like joining a study program with people from different backgrounds, disciplines and cognitive spheres, adds a lot of value to my education experience. Also, being busy with honours courses makes me more enthusiastic to also get back to work on my own studies. With the Honours College, I was able to do my research at the UMCG and take extra courses and meet people I would have never met. The Honours College and the university allow you to profile yourself and find out who you actually are and not who you think you are. Honours students are encouraged to take advantage of a variety of academic and extracurricular activities and opportunities.

Being an Honours student, I also get to listen to different perspectives than only Medicine. Immersing oneself in someone’s experiences is another great way to experience a different point of view. After all, our perspectives shape how we act and react in a situation. And there is a great value in recognizing different perspectives of people from different or even seemingly cultures, backgrounds, disciplines – which better enables us to find the root cause to problems and discover interdisciplinary solutions to tackle todays and tomorrow’s societal challenges.

3. You’re on the Board of the HCSA; can you tell us about your role and what it entails?

It’s very exciting. As a Board member you are responsible for a large group of students organizing events and below them, there is an even larger group of honours students that want to join your events with whom you have to communicate and engage. You also need to build a community. My specific function is the Commissioner of Internal Affairs. It means that I am directly responsible for the committees we have. I essentially ensure communications between these groups and that the events they organize are in line with the goals of the Honours College goals and our policy plans. In this role, you have to be flexible. That’s because there are a lot of people who will demand a lot of different things from you. Different committees attract different kinds of people. So you are dealing with quite a heterogeneous group of people. You always are the middle man and the messenger (laughs!).

4. Regarding community building, especially during COVID-19, how has the HCSA managed to engage with students online?

I think students are yearning, really yearning for connection. I think the HCSA played a good role in building community. There is high attendance for the majority of our events, our events are diverse and some people really acquire something out of it. We are also having our Lustrum this year, well technically last year, but it was postponed. Mental health is a priority of the HCSA. We received a lot of positive feedback on it. Meditation seminar is a part of mental well-being. There was ‘Be More’ Week about addressing mental health, acknowledging and reducing symptoms.

5. Your experience with the HCSA and the Honours College must have taught you a lot. What advice do you have for your fellow students?

If there is a conflict, the primary thing to understand is that it is rarely because person A hates person B. It’s usually because they want the same thing but have different perspectives. From what I’ve seen, conflict is usually two sides of the same coin. You have to get the two sides to talk and take occasional breathers.

Also, I think there are more people who might be suffering from boreout. What it comes down to is that you feel as if you have no challenge and as a result of that, you will stop doing things for your regular studies. The way I tried to solve that was by doing a lot of different things at the same time, such as the HCSA and the Honours College.

6. What are you passionate about?

Good question. I’m really interested in science and doing research, and I think that’s something I am really passionate about. Especially, pediatric oncology, so in other words cancer and children. What we know, for example, is that children with Down syndrome have significantly higher chances of getting childhood leukemia and depending on type and age, it can be 10 to up to 100 times more likely. I was like wait a minute, but why? There are some genetic aberrations that lead to the fact that they are predisposed to leukemia - but they have a very, very low risk of developing other types of cancer. I think it is really heartbreaking that you already have a child that’s predisposed to some negative aspects of life that the majority of people won’t experience and then they get cancer.

We know, for example, that although they get leukemia, in most cases they will survive. But I am interested in those who don’t survive. I don’t want to see an 80 percent survival rate; I want to see 100 percent. I don’t want anything less. I won’t compromise. So then you're gonna look at what causes the other 20% that does not survive and in most cases, it is treatment-related. Pretty ironic, so as a result of treatment, the majority gets better but some of them get complications and succumb to those. I thought we are tackling one problem at a time and so, I will start there.

7. When you are not busy with your studies, what do you do in your spare time?

I do not have many extra things I do besides this, which I do not think is necessarily bad. People say: “you just have your head stuck in a book, you never go out”. But I leave my window open when I study and so, it is not entirely true. I play the guitar and take singing classes. I do not intend to be a professional singer, but it is nice to have your breathing under control. It helps me with talking and being able to emphasize and pronounce things in a nice way. The guitar is really just for fun. I primarily like to play 80s Goth Rock, kind of like the Cure but also the Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Womack & Womack. Something I really like about this type of music is that it sounds very complex but as soon as you play it, there is a lot of things that you can improvise. For example, when I play some songs from the Smiths, I don’t have all of the chords exactly correct and I can just move my fingers a little and they will give very little accents and details to music, and it would make the music better instead of worse. So I like doing that. Otherwise, I am busy with my education or random YouTube videos I find online, like cops arresting traffic misdemeanour. So I often look at those shows to see what cops pay attention to, and what I should probably not do.

Last modified:30 November 2022 5.58 p.m.