Heera Dijk – 41 years old

I was born and raised in Delft. My mother was my teacher, even; I attended her primary school. Certainly when I was young, that was not always easy. While growing up, you hardly want your mother around all the time. I slowly came to realise it was actually quite nice. It meant I had a safe basis. 

My parents are not from the Netherlands; they came here to study. Actually, my mother came to the Netherlands from Curaçao for love. My father was already studying at Delft, when it was still called Technische Hogeschool Delft (Delft Institute of Technology). My mother also studied here. She even completed two programmes. 

My parents considered studying and working hard important for my brother and me. I didn’t always find that easy. I thought the bar was set too high. Now that I’m older, I appreciate their attitude. It taught me discipline and ambition. My mother often said: “A piece of paper in your pocket gives you more freedom”. She never stopped working, even when she had children. My parents taught me you can do anything if you set your mind to it. You have to go for it, and above all, persevere, and not give up. It is also my motto, ‘I just do it’. 

A few years ago, I fell ill. After my son’s birth, my intestines started to bother me. Tests showed I suffer from the chronic intestinal illness ulcerative colitis. It took me a long time to accept my illness. I am a positive person by nature, but this threw me off balance. It caused me lots of confusion and sadness. 

Eventually, I took up meditation. I took lessons and studied the Zen technique. Through meditation, I regained some balance. In fact, through meditation I apply my motto more often in practice. I start my day meditating now and doing yoga exercises, too. I also watch what I eat. I have a different diet and this allows me to better manage my illness.  

I have always considered my personal development important, whether it is by taking a course or reading a book. I have an open and curious mind, so I see opportunities and possibilities everywhere, even when I was very ill. I am aware that not everyone gets the same opportunities. It is why I am a mentor to a pupil here in Delft who can do with some extra guidance. I want to show her how things can be done differently, and that sometimes you just have to do it. That this is how you learn to trust and believe in yourself. 

I will soon start a position as a tutor at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. I look forward to passing on my knowledge and experience to students. I really want to be a coach and teach them how to make the most of themselves. Something my parents taught me and I still benefit from. Another new experience, but ‘I just do it!’