Influencer Lizanne Espinal

Interview September 2020

Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I am 23 years old, I was born and raised on Curaçao and I have been living in Holland for my studies at the TU Delft since 2015. I have a Bachelors degree in architecture and I am now studying Management in the Built Environment also at the TU Delft. My brother, Christofer is also an engineer and studied Chemical engineering in Delft. He lives now on Curaçao along with my parents Jamila and Jorge. My parents were very important for in my upbringing. They both influenced my brother and I differently and positively. My mother is a hardworking Law graduate and is supporting mother and my father is someone who always loved nature and the beach and he always took us to hikes in the “mondi” in the weekends or snorkeling. Because he also worked in tourism and loved nature, he always educated us on the environmental issues of Curaçao. Both were important for balancing our development in our childhood years. 

You are a student and you are doing a Masters. In Masters in what kind of specialization?
For my Bachelors I studied Architecture in the Built Environment. This Bachelor was very broad and entails architecture, urbanism and management. After I finished the Bachelor I was quite sure that i didn’t want to continue with architecture, but I couldn’t choose between Urbanism and Management since I love both. After long debates, I ended up choosing Management in the Built Environment. The focus in this masters lies on management of the whole life cycle of the building. I am happy to report that so far the classes are extremely interesting so I think I made the right choice!

You are or were very active with ABC Compas. What is your involvement exactly with ABC Compas? Can you tell us more about “ABC Compas”?
Well, Delft is know as a student-rich city because of the university. Because of this there are numerous student and study associations for different students. In 2011 the “founding fathers”of ABC Compas paved the way for and started ABC Compas because they felt as though there wasn’t a place for students of the ABC islands to come together and socialize. Eventually the association grew and grew and different types of events are now organized such as ABC goes to Berlin or ABC goes to London, debates, game nights etc.

ABC Compas grew through out the years and offered new students a network in which they could ask questions to older students and contact each other when needed for help or just for fun. The association also provided us from the islands with the oppurtunity to mingle with our brothers and sisters from aruba and bonaire. Basically as Delft is not such a big city, ABC Compas offered the possibilities for networking for students with Antillian descent. I first joined as a member, after that I started joined the Social activities committee, afterwards I became a board member (secretary of the board) and then I was in charge of the Social activity committee. At ABC Compas we find it important to give new students the oppurtunity to develop themselves and gain managerial experience further by joing commitees and boards and therefore each person can only stay in the board for two years. So after doing my second year of board I joined the Media committee in 2019. This year I will be involved in a project that is still in the works in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of ABC Compas.

We were referred to you by Heliante Kuster. a mentor in Delft, as she considers you to be very pro-active. As you are doing your Masters, how do you manage your time to still be involved in ABC Compass as a voluntary?
At this moment I am not a member of the board and therefore I don’t foresee any problems in managing my time whilst being involved in the upcoming 10th year commemoration of ABC Compas. However, when I was a board member at times, it was quite hectic. There was one year specifically when I was in charge of the social activities, Next to that I also was helping with the organization of the reception of the students who come with SSC and obviously I had my classes next to that.

But I do a lot of planning. I would plan a Monday time sloth for example to work on my ABC Compas to do’s and on Tuesday a time sloth for the SSC’s to do’s and consistent planning makes it all manageable. The moment a board was formed, we would plan the days for our activities and this was very helpful. Next to this the members of the board and committees became some of my best friends and are like family. Because of this I looked forward to going to the meeting and events and I always had fun. This made all the work easy!

This planning habit, where did this come from?
Good question! I remember getting lectures about planning and the importance of planning back in High School, but it never made sense to me. I think this is because high school was relatively easy. It wasn’t until I started my studies at the TU Delft, that I started to do some serious planning. Mainly because the concept of self studying was introduced. I would perhaps have classes on Monday and Thursday and the rest of the time I had to read, design or do other tasks on my own. It is very tempting to fall into a lazy mode, but I soon realized that if I wanted to be serious with my studies, I needed to structure my life by planning my days. So I started structuring my days and started making sure that I was at school at 8.45 am and I aimed to have finished my school work at 7 pm. I would always anticipate what I needed to do the next day(s) and basically “plan”, as I was taught in High School.

Where does this interest come from ABC compas SSC?
Well, since I was in High school in Curaçao, I felt the need to be of service to the community apart from going to school and doing my homework. So I was volunteer and I was a member of “Brigada di Formashon/ Bos di Hubentut”. Brigada is very much involved in the extra-curriculum education of youth and I loved it. I noticed from those days already, that I love doing work as a volunteer. So when I arrived in Delft and I knew that ABC Compas organized events for us, I got involved in it. SSC’s introduction week and ABC Compas were the ones that picked me up and showed me the ropes when I was a new bie in Delft. They paved the way to make the transition from Curaçao to Delft smoother. So I considered it to be my duty to serve future students like-wise when they arrive in Delft for the first time.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
My BIG WHY is: I see myself as a “node” in a network of people. I believe that everything that I do should move myself and also the people around me in the right direction. I believe that contributing in this manner adds value to that network in the long term. Therefore, I try to do things that are not only good for me and my development as a student but also good for my other students, friends and family. In the future, I hope to see myself still participating in these types of organizations. If ABC Compas or SSC’s ‘opvangweek’ did not exist, my transition when I first moved to Holland would have been more challenging, my quality of life would have been different. As I have experienced these benefits, I would love to “pay it forward” to the next generations. This is my big why!

So basically you want to grow and serve?

When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
My short term goal is to graduate and get a job in the coming 2 to 3 years. This would be a transition phase for me. Once that is done, I will figure the rest of my career out. Next to this, there are 5 domains that I consider to be very important. These personal life domains are:

1. Family
2. my education/ work
3. Friends
4. Hobbies
5. Personal relationships.

And as long as I can keep each domain at an 80 %, this means my life is in balance and that is what I am aiming at. Reaching that would mean being successfull for me.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
At the moment as a student, because of the COVID-19 my home has become my work environment. I finished my Bachelors in February and I have only started with my masters now in September. I was not at all accustomed to follow my courses online. Next to this, I find it important to keep a good balance between school and my home life, and therefore I would always study from 8.45 till 19.00 at school and then come home and relax. The idea of sitting at home behind a computer all day long with little to no interaction with my peers has been a challenge for me to tell you the truth.

How are you dealing with it?
Well, I am brainstorming about this at the moment and I am contemplating different solutions with my closest friends. I am contemplating using my TV more instead of only the computer to watch my lectures in order to combat eye fatigue. I am also considering getting brighter lights and a proper working desk. Going on daily walks or bike rides after the classes to get fresh air has also been working very well. Next to this, I also ask myself every day what went right, what didn’t go so well in order to figure out what I must change in my studio to make “working from home” function better. It is all still “work in progress”.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
For sure! These past two years, I have started to look at myself more from the “outside – in’. Whenever I have a problem or dilemma I would separate the thoughts on this issue in terms of good or bad and I would try to see these thoughts as different personalities. After this, I would allow these thoughts to discuss with one another until it becomes obvious which thought is the prevailing one. That is what I do to develop my inner voice.

Over the years, I have developed my inner voice significantly. However, when I can’t figure out my own problems, I often go to my mother, as she is the wisest person that I know. I ask her advice on subject matters that I have little knowledge of such as finances. Challenges on a personal level I usually solve by myself and at times with the help of my close friends.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Of course, I don’t like sitting still and I love being busy doing different things. I am obsessed with “psychology”. My interest in psychology stems from the fact that everyone including me gets stuck in some way and I believe that I need different sources of knowledge to help myself overcome my obstacles when I get stuck. 

Somewhere a long the line, I came across Jordan Peterson, a behavioral psychologist that has his lectures online on YouTube. He became very famous because of his clear explanations and his eloquent speech.I absolutely love his lectures and I have watched many of them multiple times. He makes psychology so accessible for those whom are actually studying phychology.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
Well since I like psychology I am following a books list Jordan Petersons recommends. On his website, he has a list of books of almost all the best philosophers and psychologists of the past that he recommends for further reading. So I have started to read some of these books to increase my knowledge. The most interesting book so far has been The Gulag Archipelago which is the book that helped bring down the Russian Empire. Next to this, I also enjoy listening to Podcasts. I often find myself listening to 2-hour conversations about evolutionary biology, science, politics or psychology when I am doing things like cleaning, the dishes, biking or in transit.

What are your strengths?
I believe that I am quite friendly, humble, and supportive. Next to this, I also believe that I am a reliable person given that I have worked for 1,5 years as a waiter and I have never missed a day or arrived late, which on itself is impressive. I am a good planner. I am logistically and administratively very strong. Lastly, I believe that I am a team player because I love volunteering for example in organizations such as ABC Compas.

The reason why i consider these my strengths is because it requires effort from my part to be like this, which makes it extra meaningful.

Do you have more hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I have two other hobbies that I am passionate about, apart from of course psychology that I have mentioned before.

Firstly, I love making illustrations. In the Bachelor of architecture, you have to be good at producing beautiful graphics. Naturally, if you are designing a building for a client, you have to make a render in order to communicate with the client and for presentations you have to present those renders in a beautiful way.

I wasn’t particularly good at this, so I decided to put in some extra effort because as the saying goes:”A picture says more than a 1000 words“. So I developed my digital skills and started making lots of illustrations and I played around with the different programs during the holidays. After about 3 years of experimenting I got pretty good at graphic design and especially making illustrations. So to conclude a frustration turned into into a lifelong hobby. Another part of architecture that is extremely important is your observation and documentation skills. Whenever we travel we look at building, touch materials to feel different textures and analyse what we see. I decided that I wanted a camera and so I saved up money and with a little help of my parents, I bought my first DSLR camera. Ever since I have been taking pictures and learning about photography. I started taking pictures of events of ABC Compas and I have also done projects with a make-up artist who was looking into building up her portofolio. Next to this I also go on walks in the parks and forests near my house to take nature and animal shots. Photography is a very rewarding hobby.

I am also obessed with kinetic sculptures. Though I do not consider this a hobby yet because I am still learning about it. I have always been in love with crafting and craftsmanship. In my teenage years i loved origami and papercraft and recently I have made different automata to explore movement. kinetic sculptures however are often times bigger and more technical. The main point is to combine sculpture with movement in an artistic way and I find this amazing. I hope that 5 years from now I will have mastered the kinetic sculpture enough to be able to build one myself.

If you as Lizanne would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
My name is Lizanne, but my friends call me Liz, I am a student at the amazing university of Delft. I am always up for a party with my friends. I will tell them about my plants, that is a hobby I developed because of the Covid lock down, and I am very proud of my crops, mainly because I was always know as the person who could not keep plants alive! I don’t like sitting still so I am always busy with some kind of project.

How would you describe Lizanne in one word or one sentence?
For this year “Growing”.

2020 has been a strange year and I had to adapt and develop myself a lot. After being stuck at home the whole time, I had to figure out what to do with my free time and so I set new goals for myself. For example, I made a list of books that I would like to read and started going down that list. Next to that I also started planting in my small studio to learn more about different plants. And I started with my masters in September, which was also a new endeavor for me. That why I would describe myself as “Growing”.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Firstly, my parents. I have very good parents, althought both their influences had been totally different. My mother is a hardworking person that works a 9 to 5 job, she is disciplined and she has always focused on her personal growth and I admire her for that. My dad at the other hand has taught me to be myself and explore things. If I would start playing the piano he would join the lessons. If my brother would start playing baseball he would buy two bats and attend the training sessions.

Furthermore “Brigada di Formashon”, they taught me discipline, to take care of my myself and be neat. They taught me to be helpful.

Finally, I would like to mention a teacher in High School that gave us the assignment to write about our lives. We basically wrote our history from the point that we could remember untill our teenage years.

And of course I can’t leave the psychologist Jordan Peterson out.

What is a trait that is still work in progress?
Making the right sacrifices to reach my goals in the 5 domains that I have mentioned before. I know that when I set goals, I will be challenged to achieve these goals at times. It is a trade-off between what you need to change and how you need to change.

What was a defining moment in your life?
In my first year, I failed one subject matter. This was the first time in my life I failed a subject, that entailed big consequences, as I had to wait another full year to re-do the subject. High school wasn’t difficult for me and because of that I never had a philosophy nor theory on how to deal with “failure”. It took me over a year to figure out what went wrong and it was a hard lesson that I finally grasped. I mastered this new way to work on assignments at the university level. During that period, at times I taught myself to “take it day by day”, until I overcame that setback. I needed to learn how to apply knowledge and techniques instead of reproducing what I have learned by heart as is required in High School. I needed to be serious and focused on my efforts. I needed to change my working attitude. I needed to plan my work and work my plan, that is when my planning took off to new heights and there is where my grades started to go up. I have now completely redeemed that feeling of failure. It has made me a stronger person.

Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
This is a difficult question since I am still a student. As management is so broad, there are many options available after I am done with my masters. Once I start working somewhere I will figure out what I want and what direction I will go.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
Loyal, dependable, trustworthy and a good mother.

What are your links with Curaçao, although you now study and live in Holland? And what makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?
Firstly, I am a bit of an optimist, so I believe that in the end everything will always be fine, we will get through this crisis. I think that Covid has pulled the rug from underneath our feet and has pointed out all of our insufficiencies. However, I believe that Curaçao has a lot of potential and as long as we have potential half of the work is done.

Next to this I believe that we all have a role to play and as long as everyone assumes their own responsibility and work together for their own betterment and that of the group we will be fine. As a part of our Masters Degree for example, we need to read lots of articles and this is too much for one person to do. So they force us to team up with fellow students and share the reading-load. By sharing the load and exchanging the knowledge of the “quintessence of the article”, the knowledge of every person in the group grows exponentially. This only happens however as long as everybody does their part and everyone the rest is doing their part. By doing just that we can achieve amazing results as a group. I believe that as long as there are enough people as “nodes” in the network aiming upwards, their combined positive mindset and willingness to work together, trust one another, will make it that in the end everything will be fine.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
These questions have forced me to reflect a lot. They made me stretch my thinking about myself. I enjoyed it. 

More info:
– Insta account 
– ABC Compas
– Facebook Page SSC Opvang Haaglanden
– LinkedIn

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Lizanne Espinal is a passionate, disciplined and focused Engineering student, that is socially highly skilled that is living a balanced life. Because of her excellent planning techniques and resilience, she is able to always be busy doing the things that she considers worthwhile, like studying for her Master Degree in Engineering, volunteering and dedicating time to her passions. Volunteering to help other students is her way, in this stage of her life, to contribute and “pay it forward” the reception what she got when she arrived in Holland. But she also is passionately dedicating time on her three passions, namely psychology, making digital illustrations and creating kinetic sculptures. Her drive to learn and grow, her innate tendency to serve, her collaborative attitude and not being afraid to roll up her sleeves, makes her stand out as a vibrant “node” in her networks. To Lizanne the Arts in STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math) makes perfect sense to her because via Art one can make illustrations and as the saying goes:

“An illustration explains more than a 1000 words can explain”. For the future of Curaçao her vision that: “As long as there are enough people as “nodes” in the network aiming upwards, their combined positive mindset and willingness to work together, trust one another, will make it that in the end everything will be fine”. For all these reasons we deeply love and respect Lizanne and consider her one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao representing the Technology and Arts sector that we defintely hear more from in the future.

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