‘Going abroad can be challenging. But I think it’s very rewarding’

Make it in the North chats with Freya Eriksen from Dutch innovation and consultancy company Bioclear Earth.

Freya Eriksen

What’s your role at Bioclear Earth?

I'm interested in biology because I really like to solve problems. And there are a lot of situations where biology poses an issue, but can also be the solution to that issue. And so I really like microbial biology in particular, because there's so much that’s unknown and there's so many different pieces that you get to put together and really make a difference in the bigger picture.

I get to do a lot of different things while I'm here. But right now, what I'm mostly focusing on is anaerobic digesters. I'm kind of a microbial ecology specialist. So I'm trying to look into what the microbiome is in biogas producers and see if we can kind of improve that and find a more sustainable way to make biofuel.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Freya Eriksen, and I'm originally from San Jose, California. I decided to do an Erasmus Mundus master's programme. And it was a double degree programme. And part of my time in that programme I spent in Groningen and so I spent two full semesters here, but also a semester in France and a semester in Sweden.

What was it like joining Bioclear Earth?

So after I did my master's, I focused a lot on microbial ecology and microbe science in general. And I really liked that field. So I wanted to be able to find a job where I could do something in that same kind of field. And Bioclear Earth was one of the few companies in Groningen that really offered what I wanted to do. I interviewed and really liked it. And that's how I ended up here.

There was no job posting at the time. I was just reaching out because it looked interesting. And luckily, it was good timing because they were looking for someone.

How has your experience been integrating into Groningen’s community?

I would say that Groningen is a really easy city to integrate into because there's such a rich international community that exists here. Through my programme, which was already very international, I was able to meet people from a lot of different places and feel really comfortable. The city itself also has many people from different backgrounds and ages. It’s a very welcoming environment for internationals. So I actually found it really easy to get settled here.

What do you like best about Groningen?

I would have to say my favourite thing is just how close everything is in the city. I grew up in a really big city, and you had to drive to get to wherever you wanted to go. But being able to just hop on your bike and go see whatever you want, or even just walk there. It's really, really nice.

Also, if you have something you're interested in, there's a high chance that there's something for you in Groningen.

What are some of the challenging things that you’ve had to overcome?

The language difference is something that comes to mind. But the reality is, it's been pretty easy to get by with just English. I would say the administrative side of things can be a bit challenging, and you really want to be on top of, you know, visas or work requirements, and being able to have connections with other people who have gone through that process is probably really helpful. I had to do it mostly on my own. 

And what is your favourite thing to do?

I would say my absolute favourite thing is to just walk around the city. It's a really beautiful, historic place. And I still get amazed just by looking at the buildings.

The Noorderplantsoen is really nice and the museum has different things all the time. So there's always something to see there. If you don't know what to do, you can always climb up the Forum and look out over the whole city.

What’s something that internationals can use to their advantage when job hunting?

One of the main things that I'm able to bring to my job now is that kind of international perspective. We work with a lot of different companies from all over the EU and being able to kind of have maybe a different outlook can be really advantageous. Even though you might view that as a weakness at first utilising the fact that you are an international can really be an asset and a strength.

Any final words of advice?

Going abroad or being in an international place can be really, really challenging. But I think it's also very rewarding. And even if you don't stay in one place forever, just trying the experience can really open your eyes to a lot of different ways of life. And maybe there are companies out there that you never would have even considered that exist in places that are new to you.

Text by Christoph Schwaiger
Video by Julia Dumchenko and Daindra Utami.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. This article is part of Make it in the North‘s series that highlights internationals working in the North - Made it in the North.