"Curiosity is important in a person's life. It helps you to keep going, progress, and grow."
Rafael Gubbels (Class of 2023) is an International Baccalaureate (IB) and a UNIS Hanoi student at heart. He was recognised with the Director Jim Ambrose’s Award last month for his persistence in achieving personal and school goals during the past two years.
Arriving at UNIS Hanoi in August 2021 at the beginning of the pandemic, Rafael still felt like a fish in water. He shared, "Everyone was welcoming, and they reached out to me even though we had never met before." He found the school community at UNIS Hanoi very special. "Everyone knows each other, and everyone gets along. I was able to make friends despite distance learning." Before Vietnam, Rafael has lived in Angola, China, Turkey, Singapore, and his home country, the Netherlands, which makes the transition into the School’s international community smooth for the globe-trotter.
Rafael loves sports, particularly swimming. He shared, "I started swimming in Angola ten years ago, and it has always been a big part of me." From daily training in the pool to boating to jet-skiing, any kind of water sport excites him. Rafael won three gold medals at APAC Swimming this year and was the first UNIS Hanoi student ever to win first place at this tournament. He also holds 16 out of 19 swimming records at school.
His passion for swimming steered the Dutch student to become an exemplified leader of the Swim for Life service learning group that teaches underprivileged children and Vietnamese students around Hanoi to swim. Additionally, Rafael’s involvement as a lifeguard and secretary of the lifeguarding organisation in the Netherlands shows his commitment to the safety and well-being of others. Rafael's exceptional qualities have not gone unnoticed by the UNIS Hanoi community. Teachers and friends alike describe him as "positive, caring, always smiling, and helpful to others."
As a hardworking student who has studied the IB for the past 15 years, Rafael excels academically, undertaking a challenging curriculum that includes physics, chemistry, and mathematics at High Level. His chemistry teacher remarks, "Rafael is one of the most pleasant, conscientious, and organised students I have worked with in my 20+ years of teaching." His dedication to learning extends beyond the classroom. Last year, Rafael self-learned the entire 4-year national curriculum of biology over only several months and passed the rigorous exam afterwards.
Now his hard work has paid off, and he’s accepted an offer to study Medicine at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, a renowned university in the Netherlands. The 18-year-old’s interest in medicine was inspired by his lifeguarding colleagues, many of whom are medical professionals. He said, "A lifeguard is classified as an emergency first responder, so following this path lines up naturally with what I love doing."
Being a well-rounded and curious student, Rafael finds interest in everything he does. "Curiosity is important in a person's life. It helps you to keep going, progress, and grow," he reflected. The young adult is excited that for the first time he will be spending more time in his home country, following his passion for making a meaningful difference in the lives of others.