First-generation student Pavlos: “Focus on the solutions, not the obstacles. Thanks to that mindset, I was able to pursue a master’s in the end”

Trust in yourself and always think in terms of solutions. The principle of self-help is the most important lesson that Pavlos Liagkas learned during his studies. He is the first in his family to go to university, which was not a given. Pavlos obtained his Bachelor’s degree in his country of birth, Greece, after which he spent a few years working hard to keep his head above water and financially support himself. In the end, he still managed to find a way to pursue a master’s degree programme: Economics and Strategy in Emerging Markets in Maastricht. “The fact that people have faith in me motivates me even more to do my best.”

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

Upon obtaining his Bachelor’s degree, Pavlos worked full-time as a sales assistant for a few years, to support himself. Those years were difficult. “Both my grandparents passed away within the space of a year, which significantly impacted me. Their help allowed me to initially pursue my Bachelor’s. The Covid-19 pandemic also reared its head, which made it wiser to postpone major decisions, like doing a master’s degree.”

At the same time, his wish to follow a master’s degree programme persisted. “During my Bachelor’s degree programme, I learned that having faith in yourself is the best thing you can do. I believe in the phrase, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. Always try to make the best of what you have. That’s why I finally decided to pursue a master’s degree.” And that was the master’s degree programme in Economics and Strategy in Emerging Markets at UM.

From Greece to Maastricht

This is the first time that Pavlos has studied abroad. So far, it suits him well. “I continue to learn and discover new things, and I enjoy the interactive nature of the education.” Why did Pavlos choose Maastricht specifically? “The Dutch educational system is definitely well regarded”, he explains. “In addition, tuition fees here are reasonable. That is important because of my financial situation. What’s more, the problem-driven educational approach appealed to me, and I like Maastricht as it is a small city near the border and at the heart of Europe.”

Pavlos doesn’t often reflect on the fact that he is the first in his family to go to university. “I am a curious person and I always delved into other topics outside school, like philosophy and history. Studying felt like an extension of this curiosity.”

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Pavlos Liagkas 1st gen student

Recognising the grey areas

A weight was lifted from Pavlos’s shoulders when he heard that he was to receive the Candriam Scholarship; he had already taken a leap of faith and enrolled in the master’s programme. “I was so happy when I heard the news, as I cannot rely on anyone else financially. I find it an enormous honour that people have put their trust in me. That motivates me to do my best even more.”

And Pavlos is definitely disciplined. “University has taught me to always be open to new ideas and to fully delve into them. Nothing is black and white; there is always a large grey area. University teaches you to recognise these grey areas and to position yourself within them. That is what I really enjoy about studying.”

“There is always a solution”

After gaining his own experiences with starting a master’s programme, Pavlos is convinced that there are always solutions if you are wondering about whether or not to study. His advice to others is, therefore, “Always ask yourself ‘How can I make this possible?’, instead of immediately thinking ‘I can’t do it!’. Focus on solutions, not obstacles, and take some risks. Then the possibilities will come to you naturally.”

Pavlos also has another tip for his fellow students: “Always make your own decision. Your family and close circle might want the best for you, but they do not always know what that is. It is your responsibility to find that out and commit to it. That’s what self-help is all about. Take the first possible step yourself, and then go for it fully. Whatever you do, give it 100% and go all the way.”

Text: Romy Veul
Photography: Joris Hilterman

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