Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

“The sheer beauty of this city cheers me up even when I’m down

foto: Sterre ten Houte de Lange

It took just three years for Phyu Hnin Thwin (22) to fall totally in love with Utrecht. “It’s such an enchanting city. Small and compact, with old and new buildings close together.”

One of her secondary school teachers in Myanmar advised Phyu to apply to University College Utrecht. She was accepted for this prestigious programme and took a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts & Science, specialising in sociology and cultural anthropology. Now she has her diploma, the million-dollar question is: what now? Phyu lives in De Meern with her Utrecht boyfriend Rick Olupot, but her visa expires next summer unless she finds a job.

“I want to stay in Utrecht. I love the city, the people and the working culture. Managers in the Netherlands say exactly what they think and tell you what they expect. That’s great, you know exactly where you are! In Myanmar, you get indirect feedback, or you get it via via. If you’re really unlucky, people are mean to you if your work isn’t up to scratch. In higher positions, feedback is wrapped up in comments like ‘you’re doing all right, but perhaps you could think about this suggestion?’”

So Phyu is currently applying for jobs. “I’d like to do research, preferably for an NGO (Non-government organisation, ed.), although I’m not averse to commercial jobs either. My dream is to do something that helps other people.”

Looking for work can be stressful, but Phyu refuses to let it get her down. “If I have a long day applying for things, I go for a walk through the city and this cheers me up. You’re surrounded by beauty here: the canals, the woods close by. I love it!” At moments like this, she thinks about her motto: “Getting a job depends on so many factors. Once you’ve written a letter or had an interview, you have to let go – it’s out of your hands. The only thing I can do is to enjoy what I have now.”

Like everyone who first arrives in Utrecht, Phyu had to get used to the city. “People are so precise about things. If you have an appointment at three o’clock, you have to be there by three o’clock. And with cooking too; everything is weighed right down to the gram. Where I come from, you just chuck everything in together”, she laughs.

Food and ingredients were a bit of a challenge at first. “Vegetables are so expensive here and I couldn’t believe how shiny everything was, and wrapped in plastic. At home in Myanmar, vegetables are much more earthy.” But she soon discovered some Asian shops and got to grips with preparing her own meals. She still likes to eat her main meal at lunchtime. “All that bread! You can’t call a peanut butter sandwich a meal, it just doesn’t fill you up.”

Name: Phyu Hnin Thwin
Place of birth: Yangon, Myanmar
Date of birth: 11 September 1997
Motto: ‘Stay in control of the things you can control, but let go of the rest.’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.