The fifth semester of ATLAS is completely blank. There are no courses, no projects and no exams for the third-year students in the first half of the year. Most of the third-year students are not even physically in Enschede! For everyone from outside ATLAS who is reading this: ATLAS doesn’t neglect their students, there is nothing to worry about! These academics are all expanding their comfort zone by hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles by going on their semester abroad. Isabel and Milou just came back from Australia, exited to tell us all the stories about their big adventures.

 When they had to choose where they wanted to go to in their second year, Isabel wasn’t quite sure in the beginning. She knew that she wanted to explore a new country and culture but going to a non-western country with a big culture-shock seemed like a step too far. She ended up choosing between Singapore, Seattle, Japan and Australia, since these are places that are semi-familiar compared to western culture. Eventually, she chose to go to Melbourne in Australia. First, she wanted to follow a minor at the University of Melbourne because it is highly ranked when it comes to her expertise, civil engineering. However, she chose to go to the RMIT University after talking to the coordinator for the semester abroad and an ATLAS student who were both really positive about that university. During her semester abroad, she followed courses that line up with her interest in civil engineering such as the course Sustainable Infrastructure & Design and Structural Analysis. The type of education really suited her since they emphasized the practical approach where real life issues had to be tackled, which is also something that ATLAS values enormously.

Absolutely amazing, unforgettable experiences! 

Milou on the other hand, wanted to go to Australia ever since her parents started telling her these amazing stories about their big trip there. She had done her third semester project about Quantum Computing with Floris Zwanenburg from the University of Twente as supervisor. He had worked at UNSW in Sydney for research as well, and advised Milou to go to this university. Due to getting involved with the Biophysics research group, she was also able to get a first taste of combining biology and physics, which is exactly the direction she is aiming for. UNSW is also a lot more focused on scientific research, whereas Twente is more focused on innovation and education. As Milou thinks that she wants to continue with research, UNSW was the perfect fit.

Studying in a different educational setting had both advantages as disadvantages for Milou. The facilities at UNSW were ‘absolutely amazing’. For example, she got to use a Scanning Electron Microscope for one course, and teachers were often open for individual questions and so more.


Besides the academic growth, the time in Australia contributed a lot to both of their personal development as well. The main reason for that is that it was a huge step out of their comfort zone on their own which required them to become a lot more independent. Suddenly, you have to tackle all these problems on your own, such as a cancelled flight, and a sim card reader of Isabel’s smartphone that stopped working. It was also valuable to engage deeply in a different culture because it gave them insights in other values and perspectives. On top of all of this, they both traveled in Australia after they finished their exams and experienced the beautiful nature with the waterfalls, mountains and animals. They did the coolest things: Isabel joined a surf camp and Milou tried swimming with crocodiles! However, they admitted that they missed back home as well and didn’t mind at all returning to the ATLAS community.

Some last pieces of advice from these globetrotters: don’t let fear hold you back from going on an adventure like this because you will learn so much and have so many unforgettable experiences. We, the ATLAS community cannot wait to welcome Isabel and Milou and all the other third year students back in Enschede and are immensely proud just like they are (and they should be!). These stories of these incredible people define the character of the ATLAS community where I am so proud to be part of. This was just a little insight in the world of the adventures of the ATLAS academics.

University College Twente offers a unique bachelor’s programme, Technology, Liberal, Arts and Sciences, to top students. Visit the University College Twente website for more information about the college and Technology, Liberal, Arts and Sciences website for more information about the bachelor program. Or visit us during the open day, a student-for-a-day or an insight-day.

Lieke van de Donk
Writer, Class of 2021
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