“I am still on an impressive career path, but now ‘heanig an’”

One thing that has always been present in the life of William Sanchez, Diversity Officer and project leader International Projects and Innovation Support at Saxion in Enschede, is adventure. He moved from the Philippines to Amsterdam when he was 15 and to Delden when he was 30. He left his impressive career behind but got something in return that was worth much more: a home.

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“Adventure called when my uncle asked me, when I was 15, if I would come and live with him in the Netherlands. I only knew about the Netherlands because of its cheese, windmills and Sinterklaas songs at the embassy, but my uncle told me it was an amazing country. I was entitled to Dutch citizenship because of my Dutch grandfather, who met my grandmother while travelling through the Philippines. But a dual passport was not allowed. So I had to make a difficult choice as a teenager: do I stay or go and leave my entire life behind? My uncle told me about the high quality of education in the Netherlands and the opportunities a Dutch passport would give me in Europe. But despite being groomed for a top career in the Philippines at the best private school in the country, my decision to move to the Netherlands was driven by adventure instead of ambition. I wanted to discover my roots and experience life on another continent. It was a social experiment I couldn’t pass up. As was the chance to see snow. The year I arrived, 1986, saw a harsh winter. Amsterdam was covered in white snow and transformed into a fairytale world. I curiously set out to explore, dressed as the Michelin Man. A journey I continue to this day.”


“My family, even in the Netherlands, enrolled me in a progressive school since they still wanted me to have a successful career. As an Asian child, I was used to this pressure to succeed. But the older I became, the more I realised that my career wasn’t everything to me. The death of my father made me think about this even more. He was a provincial head of wildlife management in the Philippines and promoted the connection between people and nature. His passing made me realise that I wanted to positively impact the world as well. What do I add to the world with my master’s degree in economics? I left the path leading to a top job at Unilever, a big house and a fancy car and started walking a more social path. I specialised in development economics, advised the minister of finance on issues with social impact as a state budget inspector, and was among the top civil servants in the Netherlands. Until I fell in love with a Tukker.”

‘Heanig an’

“’It’s green, quiet, and safe’, is what my wife told me over 20 years ago about her home region of Twente. We met in Amsterdam, but she wanted to return to Delden before we had any children. ‘The only thing you’ll miss in the west is the hype of a career. We do it ‘heanig an’ (relaxed, ed.) in Twente.’ My friends told me I was crazy when I left my impressive career behind and moved to ‘the countryside’. I had a wonderful job, of course, but I could give my children a secure future with a secure social network by moving to Twente, and they’d be surrounded by nature. Values that had become more important to me over time. I was also convinced that Twente, as a border region, would have enough career opportunities; I would only have to discover them. Adventure was calling again.”


“In the years following my move to Twente, I set up a programme for the internationalisation of Twente entrepreneurs as an advisor on internationalisation and innovation at the Municipality of Enschede. I later developed a similar innovation programme as an independent entrepreneur, and I eventually met a Saxion employee who led me down a new path through that network. He told me he knew just the vacancy for me. As a project supporter, I would set up educational projects abroad and help (international) students with issues concerning studying and doing research in faraway countries. It was as if all the puzzle pieces in my life came together in one job. Education was a new field for me, but I would help educate people who would contribute to a better future. I could be active with Saxion as an employer, be close to entrepreneurship, and make an impact. Exactly as my father had inspired me to do. It is now almost ten years later, and this job is still perfect for me.”

New noaberschap

“I am now also a Diversity Officer, as an extension of my role as a project leader. In short, I promote themes of diversity, inclusion and equality. I used to be concerned with making economic connections instead of social ones. I hope to teach students that you can take advantage of more opportunities by understanding each other. We need each other to keep evolving. I believe that Saxion’s focus on diversity will make our entire region more hospitable. Twente is great partly because of its hospitality towards guest workers and entrepreneurs across the border. Twente’s concept of noaberschap (caring for those around you, ed.) is amazing, but the world is getting bigger, and our neighbours are changing. It is important to discover noaberschap together in this new context, in a time of increasing polarisation.”


“Looking back, Twente has made me a different person. I am less concerned with myself and care more for ‘the collective’. To be fair, my friends were partly right. Delden is duller than Amsterdam, but I got to know a new range of leisure activities: cycling and walking through beautiful country estates with castles, a rich culture with theatre plays and music performances from Twente, and I love Twente’s cuisine. The choices are fewer than in the Randstad, but the quality is no less. And that impressive career? I am still on that path, but I now do it heanig an. And when I tell people abroad about home, I tell them about Twente. Not about the Netherlands; Twente is my home.”

Twente is the ideal place to live and work, according to the talents we meet. Want to know why? Read personal stories about living and making a career in Twente on twente.com/twente-leeft. Want to look for a job immediately? Then take a look at our extensive job site.

Date: 23 June 2023 |

Source of tekst: Saxion |

Author: Jadrike Boels


Ko Wierenga
M.H. Tromplaan 28
7513 AB Enschede
+31 (0)88 019 8888 info@saxion.nl www.saxion.nl

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