Humans of IHS: Diego Fernando Restrepo Zambrano

Humans of IHS is a mini-portrait series that features the people who make IHS a unique place. Many of the urban professionals with common roots at IHS, often describe it as a very welcoming, familiar space, where they not only acquired valuable knowledge for their career, but also formed solid ties and friendships with their peers. This is what drove us to create this mini-series: the wish to give others a glimpse of the amazing people that make IHS special.

Diego is a fresh graduate from the Urban Environment, Sustainability, and Climate Change Master track offered by IHS, Erasmus University. He is a civil engineer and water consultant from Colombia who has already studied in the Netherlands before joining the IHS classroom. “My first experience was in 2012 when I did a master’s programme in Water Sciences and Flood Risk Management at the Institute of Water Education (IHE Delft) where I had an unforgettable experience.” After working as a water consultant in Colombia for a few years, he decided to come back to Europe to study again and learn more about the role of nature and water in sustainable urban development. He would like to continue working in water management and disaster risk reduction, focusing on urban sustainability and development. 

“I believe that nature-based solutions offer essential tools to tackle all the challenges that the planet is facing, and this master gave me a fundamental and steady knowledge on it.” 

When asked about the urban issue he would like to solve, Diego instantly thinks of water. Urban water availability and floods are two of the most complex problems humanity will face in the next few decades. It seems the situation will worsen with the rise of temperature due to climate change. “I would like to be able to solve this urban problem using the support of nature by planning cities based on risk disaster reduction, making them more resilient and sustainable.”

His most memorable time at IHS was the time he spent with friends at the nearby park, Kralingse Bos. 

“Due to the pandemic, we didn’t get to spend much time on campus, but instead we enjoyed the lake at Kralingse Bos where we gathered, had some beers and played games. I think I will not forget this wonderful place in Rotterdam as it was so important for many of us during the strict and long lockdowns in the past year.”

Studying at IHS offers students a wide variety of cultures, languages and knowledge. The IHS classroom is very diverse, with classmates from every continent of the planet. 

“You learn a lot from others during class and outside of it. Workgroups were always full of new ideas, knowledge and different perspectives of life and development. The programme showed us worldwide experiences since we had lectures about projects not only from the Netherlands but from many other countries.”

When international students are asked about the one thing everyone needs in the Netherlands, the answer is always: a bike. “Riding a bike is very safe in the Netherlands, as Dutch have developed one of the safest and most amazing bike infrastructures of the world. Having a bike is a must, not only to move around but also to experience the real Dutch lifestyle and definitely, I will miss it a lot."

"I also love nature, and I find peace and connection with it through my favourite sport, rock climbing. Climbing is also a good way to travel and explore new ecosystems and places, learning directly from the source. So, working with nature is more than a job for me; it is my purpose in life.”

During his time at IHS, Diego became a cheese expert. “If there is one thing I like about Dutch food, that is cheese. I had more cheese during this year than in my entire life so far. I have learned how to eat it and to know which kind of cheeses I like.”

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