A student's experiences
Bas van Haaren
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Bas and I am a Civil Engineering student. After choosing the University of Twente, I moved to what was a completely new part of The Netherlands to me: Twente. I share a house with four roommates in Enschede, about a 10-minute bike ride from the university. Until I was 18, I lived below the big rivers in the southern half of the Netherlands. I quickly lost my accent and now whenever FC Twente scores a goal I even cheer for them.
When did you know you wanted to study Civil Engineering?
During the summer, I worked as a guard along the 21-kilometre beach stretching between the Brouwersdam and the Oosterscheldekering in the Netherlands. Those are two Dutch showpieces of civil engineering, and in between them lie many more interesting civil features: the sea bed, the beach, the dunes and, of course, the sea itself. At the time, when I was still in vwo 4, I discovered that I was interested in civil engineering. I chose this programme on the basis my interest in civil engineering projects. Also, during secondary school, the scientific subjects like mathematics and physics appealed to me. Even when I struggled with them, they challenged me. This comes in handy for an engineering programme. But the fact I wanted a more colourful curriculum made me decide to come to the University of Twente: alongside the more technical subjects, like mechanics and mathematics, the Twente programme also offers subjects like law, management and building processes.
How did you prepare yourself for this decision?
The process started with the choosing of my profile at secondary school. I chose a Natuur & Techniek (nature and technology). Unconsciously, I was already pushing myself in a certain technical direction. The first time I started visiting Open Days was in my fifth year of vwo. This allowed me to get an idea of the different technical universities. What I noticed immediately is that every university has its own character. For that reason I recommend that everyone looks at several universities, regardless of the degree you choose. The University of Twente's character really appealed to me. During the Open Days I got to ask students lots of questions, but the teachers also actively tried to talk to me. So then I signed up to be a Student for a Day. During this day, the university's character shone through again. Where at another university I walked around with a group of 10 students, at Twente I received a personal e-mail from the student who I was to accompany, wanting to arrange with me which day would work out best. The impression I got during that day is the same one I have now as a student. Nothing is hidden or embellished for visitors. I think it is great that you are reading about my experience, but don't just look through university websites. At Open Days and especially by being a Student for a Day, you can really get a feel for a university and its programmes.
Why did you choose the UT?
Twente's atmosphere and the university's character appealed to me immediately: it offered an informal environment with a small-scale approach. This was especially reflected in the closeness between teachers and students. You can see it in the communication that goes back and forth between them. But interaction among students is friendly, too, and wherever you go you meet someone you know. To me the campus also had something special and attractive. We joke and say that the campus resembles a Center Parcs holiday park, but it is more like a village full of students – which is unique in The Netherlands! As well as studying, I can also play sports, drink a beer and hang out with several friends living on campus. When you are at your studies the atmosphere is very friendly and many of the teachers know the students by name. I have found lecturers here to be very approachable and open. They always make time to help you and if you are lucky you even get a cup of coffee first. This gives you a warm feeling – figuratively, but literally, too, if you’re given a cup of coffee.
Which areas, subjects or projects interest you the most?
The programme really suits me and the subjects appeal to me. It is technical, but because at Twente we look at civil engineering from a broader, societal perspective, sometimes it is less technical. For me, this makes the programme broad and challenging. What also appeals to me are the various projects that make the programme up-to-date. For example, in my first year I made a computer simulation of the traffic in Enschede for a project on traffic diversion. In order to get the necessary data we had to count cars – like in the street where I live. Aside from engaging us with a current issue, this approach made the project hit a lot closer to home. It made that much more interesting.
What advice would you give prospective students about choosing their degree?
To my mind, the most important thing is that you do something you enjoy and that you study something you find interesting. Don't let yourself be influenced too much by career prospects. I think questions like 'what can you do with this degree' should be banned. Besides, companies are still saying that there is a shortage of highly trained engineers, so with an engineering degree you should be fine. But what I really want to impress on you is that you do what you enjoy doing. When you study, your day does not end at 5:30 at the university. Whether it is sports, studying, doing something for yourself or hanging out with your roommates and drinking a beer, always choose what makes you feel good. If you are living away from home, then look for a student house that suits you. Whether you just have pizza in the evening or spend time over an elaborate meal with your roommates, it doesn’t matter: it is all here. Distance certainly should not matter; it is just a matter of braving it. Dare to go for it and dare to give some things up. After the introduction week and the first week of studying, you will already be used to student life. Any disadvantages? Of course! The first time your parents come and see where you live!