Fun, food and not-so-fair weather

They’ve got their nose to grinder and their minds heavy with research, but these Bangladeshi students are never short of a story or a smile. Meet Sayeda Nowrozon Nahar, who is doing her PhD in Structural Mechanics, and Tarikul Islam, a second year student of MSc Tele Communications.

Here for the past two years, Nahar and Islam have quirky stories about their encounters with Dutch food and weather. While one of them almost flew off with the wind, the other had a mind-boggling moment at a grocery store.

What drew you to Delft?

Nahar: I began looking for a PhD position while completing my MSc in Germany, and was keen on staying in Europe. I loved TU Delft when I came down for an interview, and really liked my research area and the team I was to work with.

Islam: It’s among the best universities in the world and the tuition fee is less compared to London. The application procedure was also easier. With American universities, one gets lost navigating through their websites, but the TU website is really user friendly and people are responsive.

How does doing PhD/MSc here help in the long run?

Nahar: Unlike other universities, here the PhD is not broken up into small projects each year. Instead, we indentify a project at the outset and really soak it in for four years. Also, academia doesn’t exist in isolation; we constantly interact with the industry and the government and have a more holistic understanding of things.

Islam: Doing our MSc projects with companies helps us understand our work outside the classroom. We get a sense of the work culture in the Netherlands as well. But, one of the best things is how the university encourages entrepreneurship. Not only are we given tools to be independent researchers, there are also initiatives in place to help students set up their own companies.  

What are your interests outside the classroom?

Nahar: Though it’s always a struggle to find the time, I love painting and try and spend some time on a canvas now and then. Back in college, I was the drummer in a band called Cocopaly. Given the present workload, I practise playing drums at the Cultural Center whenever possible.

Islam: In my first year, I enrolled in the gym, played Table Tennis, and even cricket sometimes. There was a Salsa Dancing course at the Culture Center, which was great fun. Now, of course, I’m working on my thesis, so there’s no time for anything!

What was the biggest adjustment problem you faced when you first arrived here?

Nahar: By the time I got here, I was very used to Europe; everything, except the wind. I could barely cycle against it and there remains a constant battle to ensure that I don’t get blown away!

Islam: Back home, I had never been grocery shopping. The first time I went here, I had no clue as to which oil one uses to cook. There were so many varieties of oil in the store that I was confused! Finally, I asked some other shoppers for help. Another thing that really baffled me is Dutch food. In Dhaka, we like to eat hot food. Here, even if the temperature is -4, people eat cold sandwiches.

Any survival tips for new Bangladeshi students?

Nahar: No book can give you the experience of sitting down for lunch with people from five different countries. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the world, and see another culture up close. Meet your community, but also try and understand and respect the local culture.

Islam: Go out, attend parties, host parties, meet new people. It’s all part of being here. Definitely go to Speakers once. But, work-wise, always stay on top of things. Try and ensure that you finish your class work on the day of the class; else your work will pile and become overwhelming in the end.

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