ESP alumna reflection

Sonia Cristovao

Sonia Cristovao recently graduated from the three-year program of European School of Physiotherapy. She was born in Toronto, Canada, but her ethnicity is Portuguese. She has always loved to study and discover new places and decided to combine these and study abroad. After completing a 2-years Master’s degree in Sweden, she knew that she wanted to be a physiotherapist and wanted to stay in Europe which is what brought her to Amsterdam. Read her story and be inspired!

Why Physiotherapy?

Aside from the fact that the human body and how it functions is extremely interesting, as physiotherapists we get to help and heal people in a meaningful way. I especially reflected on this during this year’s World PT Day, of which the theme was mental health. Mental health is important to me because I realize: there is no health without mental health!

Physiotherapy in mental health

Did you know that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition?

PT’s often work with people who might suffer depression or anxiety alongside their injuries or chronic health issue

PT’s can use exercise to help improve quality of life and wellbeing

The World Confederation of Physical Therapy made “Physiotherapy and Mental Health” the theme of the 2018 edition of World PT Day

My experiences  as a physiotherapist
Now that I am finally working as a PT I get to experience this, process this, and try to make a difference within my own practice. I encounter patients with different stories, histories, journeys, experiences, struggles… and as I build a rapport with my patients I get more and more insight into how they think and feel. Some patients open up to me about things that I never would have imagined. And it is easy to get stuck in the story, but I always try to understand in the context of the person. Why are they telling me this? What does it mean to them? What does it mean to their treatment? What does it mean to me? Sometimes what it means is spending half my session listening to my patient’s story – because 15 minutes of unleashing their worries and fears, their stress and anxiety is what they need that day for their neck pain and headache to go away. And then it’s my job to find a creative way to use this new information to get my patient moving and feeling better.

“This is the first year I can proudly represent this great profession and all the strong, caring, intelligent colleagues I have”

– Sonia

Sonia together with Istvan, one of our clinical instructors with is own physiotherapy practice, Corpus Vitae in Amsterdam
My tips and tricks for ESP students
  • The new generation might not get to hear this from Mighty Bob, so: “there’s a correlation between how close you sit to the front and your grade in the class.
  • Be proactive. Internship. Housing. Electives. Reading course manuals. Start now, start months in advance, the earlier it’s out of the way the better. It’s literally never too early to start looking into things… at the minimum, you are informed and know what to expect. This goes for life in general. I started looking for and applying for jobs 3 months before I even knew if I was graduating. I started working the week after
    graduation. You can make anything happen if you’re proactive.
  • At the end of 3 years you look back and realize it was all worth it, and it goes by quicker than you think! So enjoy it and make some lasting memories and friendships!
Physiotherapy registration in  Canada, Portugal, Sweden or The Netherlands?
I’m not 100% sure, as I will either stay in the Netherlands or Sweden. For Canada, you need to have the credentials evaluated (for which ESP passes all requirements). Then you need to do the board exam, which consists of a theory and a practical part completed on different days. I believe there the many Canadian alumni that have fully registered will have a better idea of the process.


Canada is one of our top-5 countries in terms of the number of alumni and students combined. Traditionally, many Canadians find ESP a very attractive program. They often have completed a Bachelor in Kinesiology in Canada, before they join ESP. Most Canadians receive excellent grades, are true professionals and graduate within the designated three years. Thanks to our connections with the University of Alberta and clinical internship sites, we have all the inside info and can guide many graduates in the registration process.
Are you Canadian and interested in ESP? Please let us know and we can connect you to some of our Canadian students and alumni!
What’s next?
I am currently building my experience in a private practice in Rotterdam and working towards B2 level Dutch to register myself in the Netherlands. After that, I hope to dedicate more time to developing my own company: The Wandering PT. The plan is to stay and work in the Netherlands for a few years (at least); continue growing, learning and developing… then we’ll see what adventures my wandering takes me on next!

with love, Sonia

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