Nerds 2.0

Ik werk aan de Jaffalaan, bij TBM. Het is een prettig en licht gebouw. Alleen de kantine is als een tochtige straathoek waar niemand lang wil verblijven.

De bewoners van deze faculteit zijn, zou Vuijsje zeggen, ‘allemaal nette mensen’. De heren veelal in pak met stropdassen en dames in ton-sur-ton ensembles. Als er gasten komen, schenken we koffie in designkopjes die wel mooi, maar niet handig zijn. De studenten zijn vriendelijk en verre van spectaculair in hun outfits. Ze lopen in spijkerbroeken en de enige frivoliteit bestaat uit hun felgekleurde gympen. Ik ging er een beetje vanuit dat alle faculteiten aan de TU soortgelijke bewoners zouden hebben. Tot ik bij technische natuurkunde belandde.

In een hal wachtte ik op Cees Dekker die in een vakgroepvergadering zat. Hij gaat een lezing verzorgen in de Elsevier Technologiedebatten. In de wachtruimte stond een studentikoos afgebladderd skailederen bankstel. Toen ik erop ging zitten, zakte ik een halve meter weg. De meisjesachtige secretaresse was even informeel als vriendelijk, en gaf me vers gezette koffie in een grote mok. Aan een tafeltje zat een slanke jonge man met verzorgd afrokapsel. Volgens elke standaard een elegante man. Hij droeg een geruite broek, met hip overhemd en precies goede trui. Cool. Hij werd begroet door een Chinees die voorbijliep met een jojo aan een lang touwtje, alsof hij een hondje uitliet. De twee maakten een praatje terwijl de Chinees ongelooflijke trucs uithaalde met de jojo.

Opeens stroomde de hal vol: het vakgroepoverleg was ten einde. Er werd ontspannen gekletst en gelachen. De helft ging koffie halen, de andere helft ging naar een zaal waar een tafelvoetbalspel stond. Ook deze groep was aanmerkelijk hipper dan wat ik dagelijks aan de Jaffalaan zie.
Is dit de Nerd 2.0? Slim, wellicht briljant, en ook nog eens goed gekleed?  

These are questions every MSc student at TU Delft faces, not only as a new international or Dutch student, but continuously throughout the MSc degree programme. I’m certainly one such student. I started my MSc studies one month late, did not have any ideas on how to find an interesting subject for my thesis, and thus did not even stand a chance to substantively answer these questions. 
Soon enough I found out about all the resources available to students at TU Delft. I found I could devise a plan and design an ongoing process to ‘Challenge the Future’’. As you probably noticed this is the TU’s motto, and I must admit I was puzzled by it at first. Although it was exciting to have an open and promising future, I had to get moving. So I decided to make the TU’s motto my own. Now I’m challenging you to do the same. Conferences, internships and study abroad experiences are important in challenging and mastering your future. Such experiences can help you answer difficult questions like those posed here at the start.
So back to my story. I decided to take my chances taking the examination in the other. To catch-up I decided to find out everything I could about my study programme and about the TU. I asked professors and second-year students about upcoming courses, reviewed course programmes, assignments, exams and schedules. I reviewed the relevant information I found online about the TU, its faculties and research, and about courses in its different MSc programmes. Information on courses was conveniently accessible in the digital study guide and therefore on Blackboard. After studying all this information, I started making plans.
Come November I was up to speed with my MSc programme. By then I had designed my own study and development programme. It was perhaps risky to plan for additional coursework, but discussions with my supervisor helped me to make good decisions afterwards. Starting out fresh from the second quarter, but with the self-imposed burden of additional coursework, I forced myself to stay on top of things. I thus started searching for opportunities based on my interests and study programme. I also devised a simple process: 1) Pursue interests simultaneously, as much as possible, to create and/or gain access to options and opportunities in the future, and 2) Adjust plans accordingly and continuously.
My plans and process were first tested in the search for conferences. A problem however, is that attending such events is generally expensive for students. My approach was to email conference organizers and inquire about staff volunteer opportunities. After a couple of failed attempts, I received a positive response and was able to attend the ApacheCon Europe conference in Amsterdam, where I handed out t-shirts and conference programmes, introduced speakers and helped out with the wireless network setup. And surely enough, attending the conference resulted in new options and opportunities.
Then came the search for summer schools and internships. I found interesting summer schools in Utrecht, Cambridge, UC Berkeley and Stanford. The Utrecht Summer School was less expensive than Berkely and Stanford and closer to Delft. I also applied to exciting summer internships with IBM, Yahoo! and Google, which I found on the Internet and on posters and magazines. I ended up being accepted to Google’s Summer of Code programme. This programme had a profound impact on my selection of specialization courses, on the focus I gave to research assignments, and ultimately on my MSc thesis.
This year I continued pursuing
options and opportunities. I attended ApacheCon Europe, again as a staff volunteer, but this time with my MSc thesis in mind. It occurred to me I could propose the empirical part of my thesis as an internship project for Google’s Summer of Code. My proposal was accepted and I am now working on my MSc thesis with the goal of writing a paper and presenting my findings at the next
My experience is that an MSc programme can be approached as a project and as a process. It benefits from personalized refinement and specialization. Hence you should consider designing an individual study and development programme based on your interests. You can enrich such a programme with internships, study abroad experiences, committees, volunteer activities, conferences, research assignments, projects, and many more activities that serve the goal of your self-actualization. Furthermore, as an inquisitive student you can steer such a programme through your active involvement in the search for opportunities that will make it a comprehensive learning experience. TU Delft offers numerous resources and opportunities to create such an individual study and development programme, and this is one of the reasons why it is such a great university. I encourage you to follow your dreams and be creative in your MSc studies. Now is the time to explore, inquire and challenge the future!

Editor Redactie

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