For the second time, E52 organises the annual Expat Top-10. There are a lot of internationals in Eindhoven who have done a great job for the city, and by this, we put a spotlight on them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Sport & Leisure’. Every day we present you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, how they put an effort in the city and how they look at the Eindhoven with their international perspective. Today: Susan Lambriks.
Born in 1988
From Los Angeles, U.S.A.
In Eindhoven since 2008, In Maarheeze since 2012
#1 on bucket list: “go on a memorable vacation with my children, husband and parents”
As the wife of a Dutch man, Susan Lambriks knows what it is to immigrate to your spouse’s country. She also knows what it’s like to build up your social network in a country far away from home. That’s why she set up the International Spouse Program: a sports program where international spouses can meet each other, so they can build up their social network in Eindhoven.
“I was always internationally oriented”
But when you’re born in Los Angeles, how do you end up in a city as small as Eindhoven? “Los Angeles was already a melting pot of nationalities. I have always been a traveler and internationally oriented.” During her studies Lambriks met her husband. “I was in my bachelor’s and he was there for his last internship of his study, that’s how we met. I like new cultures and new places so it actually wasn’t very surprising that I went abroad. Now I see myself staying in this region of Eindhoven. Or perhaps later on moving to somewhere in Limburg where my husband’s family live.”
“Sport is the greatest bridge between people”
Like a jigsaw puzzle everything fell into place with Lambriks’ current job. “I studied sustainable development. It was not about the scientific, technical side, but about social science. Besides that I was already a sports trainer in the Netherlands. As the program coordinator of the International Spouse Program my social science background, my work in sports and my own international background is all working together.” Lambriks’ work doesn’t only consist of training people. “I work within the university’s internationalisation team here in Eindhoven, but actually this extends to internationalisation throughout our region, it’s such a big web.”
Most of all, the International Spouse Program has social value. “We create a connection. Spouses often tend to isolate and here at the sports centre we create a safe space where they get to know each other. So first the spouses can connect with each other, then to their environment and then with locals or other internationals, whomever they have a click with.” The program consists of eight weeks, where spouses sport two times per week under the guidance of instructors. There is a wide array of sports they practice and per lesson there are about ten spouses. “Right now it’s only for women taught by women. This is because of a practical factor that 99% of the spouses are women. We also don’t want to exclude any women. We can imagine that in some cultures it’s a barrier if you, as a woman, sport together with a man.”
Lambriks knows from her own experience the importance of sports when you’re abroad. “Sport was initially the thing that helped me to feel at home. Through the local gym I met new people in the group lessons.” The internationalisation team did research on the output of the International Spouse Program and they are more than satisfied. “The results are even better than we had hoped. The participants found the program to be one of the top three factors that helped them to interact with others and to feel at home. 85% of our spouses felt that the program helped them to overcome homesickness.”
“Sport and recreation is the true way to get to know each other and to connect”Susan Lambriks, – Winner Expat Top-10
“Eindhoven is going through a renaissance”
“Eindhoven is an expat utopia with concepts such as The Hub. I’ve seen it grow during the time I have been here. At the commercial, international and recreational levels Eindhoven is blossoming.” More people share Lambriks’ opinion. “I was at an European-wide presentation about progressive programs for expats and I told them about our International Spouse Program. Jaws dropped on the floor. Eindhoven is, on this level, really ahead of other countries.” Actually Lambriks is positive about Eindhoven’s international policy. “I know there is more work to do and that Eindhoven still has a long way to go. We are at the start of our story, but it’s going to be a very good one.”
When the girl from Los Angeles came to the Netherlands she had to relearn how to socialise. “With the Dutch you need a delicate approach. In the U.S.A. we hug each other more often and we are more open. Perhaps it’s a superficial openness but it’s easy to get to know someone. Here people tend to hold back on personal stories.” However Lambriks definitely has no lack of a social network in the Netherlands. “When I came here I had to overcome barriers, there was the language barrier of course. But Dutch people are really friendly and I thought, in the end we are all the same, all people have a beating heart.”