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Own your city! – Dr. Ana Sandoval on her love odyssey with Rotterdam and a sense of belonging

Own your city! – Dr. Ana Sandoval on her love odyssey with Rotterdam and a sense of belonging

This might sound cheesy but I am gonna say it anyway: I think IBCoM has the coolest teachers in the world. In retrospect, this should be no surprise: a programme that encourages students’ creativity and diversity like IBCoM should have teachers who also live by these values. Therefore, besides their academic profession, our teachers can be a yogi, a hardcore gamer or even a DJ! And just recently, I have learnt about one more possible gig of our teachers: reporting. Of course, with my endless curiosity for academics, this is a perfect chance to learn more about them. So let’s explore under academic’s cover, who our teacher can be. 

The person in question today is Dr. Ana Sandoval. Besides being an IBCoM lecturer and frequent guest blogger for our magazine, Dr. Ana is a reporter for Spotted by Locals, a community blog where volunteer locals write about their favorite city spots. In the whirlwind of commercial tourism, this website is a savior to travelers who want to see a destination from a local’s perspective. As a reporter, she has written passionately about Rotterdam, showing the city’s hidden gems that even hardcore Rotterdammers can overlook. From the healthiest bakery downtown to a lovely ice scream shop, every corner of this city has a hidden beauty and can spark a new lust between her and Rotterdam.

Her ardent love for Rotterdam is obvious from the first thing she wrote in her Spotted by Locals blog: “My love affair with Rotterdam has been slow and a bit unexpected. But after years of looking each other in the eyes, now I can say that it’s one of the places that I see as the best in the world to live.” As a delicate storyteller in the form of written language, she sure gives the most beautiful words to this city: “Exuberant and unexpected, bold and delicate at the same time”. 

Given her expertise in and love for Rotterdam, it is surprising to learn that Dr. Ana only moved here 6 years ago at the suggestion of her partner, after a decade enjoying her youth in Barcelona. She admitted that at first, she did not have high hopes for this city; however, as she started living here and discovering new places, Rotterdam gradually charmed her and became “her city”.

What draws Dr. Ana to Rotterdam is the same as the praises people gives it: the city’s diversity, vibrance and modernity. “Where I live is one the diversity heart of Rotterdam and I love that there are always people and new food and new things to explore. Rotterdam’s diversity gives me the feeling that I am part of this multicultural community.” 

However, it is writing for Spotted by Locals Rotterdam that helps Dr. Ana embrace all the beauty that this city has to offer. She said: “I think that writing for a website about Rotterdam has made me much more aware of the city and trying to feel it as my city right and present and know it in a different way.” When she writes about Rotterdam, she imagines taking her family here and wants them to have an authentic taste of the city. “Therefore, besides famous places like Markthal, Central Station, you also take them to the small places, so they not only see the highlights but also have a sense of the feeling of the city itself.” This aim serves as her motivation to keep exploring the city and in return, her love odyssey with Rotterdam continues.

I think everyone who has lived in Rotterdam can agree that it is an amiable city, but it is rare to see people who give their highest praise and appreciation for it like Dr. Ana does. While we live in an increasingly mobilized world, we still get strongly attached to the place where we were raised and born. Learning to belong somewhere else can be challenging. 

Drawing on her own experience, Dr. Ana gave short but empowering advice: “Own your city. You have to explore a city that you live in and find your places there to really feel like you own it” That is why she thinks a sense of belonging shouldn’t be framed like “I feel belong to this place” but instead “There are places that belong to me, that are part of my history.” For her, Rotterdam has become part of her history as it is the city where she builds her family and does her dream job. “In that sense, I of course believe that I belong here.”

As the struggle to belong is particularly relevant for us university students, I find her frame of belonging is liberating. We often think of belonging as an attempt to try to fit in or assimilate, but switching to the mindset that “belonging means owning your city” frees you of the pressures. Owning something means you are an active agent in your fate and you can create a life in Rotterdam the way you want. So, go out and explore. In Dr. Ana’s words, be a “specialist” in your city, or even better, start your love odyssey with Rotterdam. 


Writer: Tra Mi Nguyen

Editor: Phoebe Elliott

Visuals by: Ira Lizenko

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