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Life long learning and live life as a game

Brolin, born and raised in Mumbai – India, decided to spread his wings, looking for greater scope in the fields of work that he was interested in and take up a challenge in the Netherlands.     

“This programme has given me an understanding that the user’s perspective and requirements is the foremost element to design technology.”
Brolin Fernandes, Alumnus Interaction Technology

Brolin chose the Netherlands to follow his dreams because of several reasons. Brolin: “Here, I see a focus on quality, originality and creativity, and we are rewarded accordingly. It was hard work there versus smart work here. Also, it is a safe, happy country, where people are friendly and almost everybody can speak English. This would be helpful in the years in which I can learn to speak Dutch while being here. Also, there is scope to travel freely, watch football at stadiums and enjoy life, in addition to academics.”

How did you become acquainted with Interaction Technology (i-TECH) at University of Twente and why was this the right programme for you?

“I was interested in several fields before deciding to pursue my Master degree. My main interests include music, sports and gaming. Having a technological background, I decided to pursue a Master in which I can incorporate technology in my fields of interest. When I came across I-Tech at the University of Twente (UT) at an education expo in Mumbai, it seemed to be an exciting prospect and the courses all seemed interesting and relevant for me. I-Tech could help me bridge the gap between technology and humans, in line with my interests.”

In the master programme I-Tech you learn e.g. to develop pioneering interactive technologies, while also engaging with societal needs, customers and end-users as well as analysing human behaviour and exploring user contexts.

What has the programme learned you concerning these aspects?

“This programme most of all, has given me an understanding that the user’s perspective and requirements is the foremost element to design technology, as in the end, they will be using it. Technology should be such that it lends a helping hand to people in the most intuitive ways possible and it should come naturally to humans to know what to do when they come across a technological interface. For example, in my master thesis, I created a framework of various elements that can be incorporated in breathing exercise games for several purposes – singers, mindfulness, therapy, etc. This includes the visuals, audio (music) and game controller (breath sensor). The games created should be such, that by listening to the in-game audio/music, and/or by looking at the visuals on a screen, individuals should be triggered and encouraged to breathe in a certain way (sensed by the breath sensor), such that they perform their breathing exercises and progress in the game. As I said earlier, such an intervention could make individuals perform their required task with the help of technology, in a fun, interactive, intuitive and effective way, thereby benefiting users.”

You mentioned your graduation project. Which subjects, in particular, have brought you a lot, so that your assignment was easier to carry out?

“Almost all courses helped me in some way in my thesis and it is tough to pick one. ‘Human-Centered Design’ helped me knowing the importance of involving users in the design process and provided some methods on how to do them, which I used in my thesis. ‘Storytelling through sound’ helped me understand how to design meaningful audio for listeners, which I translated into the audio for the game prototypes that I created in the graduation project. The several courses that involved programming helped me write code in a better way in this project. My internship and the ‘Virtual Reality’ course helped me with some base knowledge of Unity, which is a game development software, which I used a lot in the project. The list goes on.”

During your I-Tech programme, you performed an internship at Heemskerk Innovative Technology BV (HIT). On their website, they mention that they are ‘bridging the gap between science and industry. Making complex technology work’.

How did you – as an I-Tech student – follow up on that during your internship?

“My project at HIT was to create an interactive virtual environment to simulate maintenance tasks at a thermonuclear plant. This simulation could be used to train individuals to perform the maintenance tasks in virtual reality, with virtual telepresence and having haptic feedback, thereby getting a virtual hands-on experience of their task, without running risks of damage to life and costly equipment. In this project, users could ‘interact’ with technology to get know-how about their tasks, with the virtual realism of VR technology and haptic feedback.”

Master's programmes at UT are all taught in English. Students, therefore, come from all over the world.

“India will always be my home, but I think I can call the Netherlands my second home.”
Brolin Fernandes, Alumnus Interaction Technology

What about making new friends or feeling that you belong?

“I think there are about 20% international students at I-Tech, or at least that’s what it felt like. In my batch, there were 2 other Indian students, a few Germans, a few other Asians and I remember one person each from Finland and Estonia. However, the Dutch people were friendly and made us feel we belonged here. I do have many friends, both Dutch and from other countries. But my closest friends with whom I hang out the most have mostly been Indians. In general, I felt pretty welcome, with the understanding that people from any country would prefer to speak their own language and have their own inside jokes with their own people. So I didn’t feel unwelcome if I am the only non-Dutch speaker among a group of Dutch people (or any other country for that matter), because that’s the way of the world. Yet, I have never had trouble communicating with anybody as they all speak English too! Plus, I had my fair share of fun hanging out with people from different countries. After a while, the Netherlands started to feel like home. I went on a trip to Italy once and when I returned, it felt like “Wow, I’m back home”. While India will always be my home, I think I can call the Netherlands my second home. Well, except the fact that it is very rare for a non-Dutch speaker to easily find a place to stay here.”

Student life does not only consist of studying, of course, but you also have free time. During this time you can meet other students, participate in activities of your study association Proto, or enjoy sports and/or culture.

How did you spend your free time?

“I was part of Proto, but not a very active member. I believe I only attended 3 events. I was more involved with football, dance and theatre. I played for vv Drienerlo (the football club at University of Twente) in 2018-19 and was part of the theatre act ‘Westside Story’ in 2019. During my internship, I learned some salsa and lindy hop and thereafter during my Master thesis I have been a football trainer at vv Drienerlo. It is not very easy to interact with different people, except for project group members. I remember there was one event where  I-Tech students got together for a drink, played some games, etc. which was really fun. Having such events on a more regular basis could enhance the social experience for internationals."

"Dutch food doesn’t seem very appetizing to me, especially coming from where I am, I also don’t like the music tastes of most people here. But these can be taken care of by just cooking what I like and listening to what I like. 😊 The student life is really cool though. I didn’t quite live the typical partying and beer drinking student life, but I got to do so many activities because I was a student. All in all, it was a fun, interesting and fruitful experience.”

In January you completed your studies, so now it's time to take on new challenges. Have you thought about what you will do after graduation?

“I need to never stop learning. I have already begun pursuing some free online courses and practise some Dutch with the Duolingo app. I am also working on making my CV more attractive and maybe creating a portfolio with my projects. After I get into a flow of job applications, I plan to pursue an official A2 level Dutch language course. Maybe also get a driver’s license? I have a part-time job as a football trainer at vv Drienerlo too, but that is off at the moment due to corona. If I have more spare time, I might take up another part-time job as well. And of course, focus on me, stay healthy, eat well, exercise, play music and enjoy life.”

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