Now that she has returned home to Columbia, Maria Balcázar is working on a research proposal so that she can obtain her Master of Science from the Tropenbos Foundation in Tropical Biology.
Her time at the University of Amsterdam directly relates to this goal: she took courses on related subjects and was able to reinforce her knowledge in ecology and statistics by following the work of a Ph.D. student. She feels that these endeavors helped to strengthen and improve the content of her proposal.
Maria feels that her time studying in the Netherlands helped her to mature not only professionally, but also personally. Apart from academic learning, she was able to partake in a life-enhancing cultural exchange with people from all around the world. Experiences like this cannot be acquired from classroom learning – they can only come from first-hand impressions.
The quality of the fellowship, in Maria’s opinion, was excellent. As an independent worker, she found the minimal level of supervision she received to be perfect for her needs. She also found the university and city to be very accommodating to her as a foreign student. Furthermore, Maria had better access to information that she would have had in Columbia.
This was enhanced by the fact that she had a wider range of people to discuss her research with. As far as returning home to Columbia goes, Maria found it difficult at first. This is mainly due to the problems in her country such as high unemployment rates that she escaped while studying in the Netherlands.
Maria had her professional goals laid out very clearly before her journey to the Netherlands. The experience has only helped to reaffirm them. With hard work and dedication, she hopes to complete her Ph.D. within five years time. Within ten years she would like to be conducting research regarding sustainable use and development of the Amazon Region at a university or state institute.
Maria Paula Balcázar Vargas, Columbia
University of Amsterdam