A group of 15 international students who lived in the Netherlands for six months as part of the European Project Semester will be presenting their final results on Monday, along with two Avans students. It was supposed to take place physically, but due to the number of Covid infections in the group, the decision was taken on Sunday to give the presentations online.
The original intention was to get everyone together to close off the project in a social way, but Covid put an end to this plan. “A real pity, we had been looking forward to something completely different”, explains Bob Bus, lecturer in Business Information Technology and one of the prime movers behind the project. Now only the lecturers were at Avans in Den Bosch, with all the students being in their room in Tilburg.
The European Project Semester is an English-taught programme for students in Engineering and Business, with participants from institutions of higher education right across Europe, including Avans. The other participating institutions are in Norway, Denmark, Poland, Germany and Spain. For one semester, the students work in small groups for clients Heineken, BERCO, Caradt, ATS, and the Avans minor Emerging Technologies Playground.
Theory and practice
German student Julian Holz was one of the participants in the project. He was in a small group with Sofia Fernandez Sanz from Spain and Francisco Almeida from Portugal and worked for six months for BERCO, designers of truck interiors and car mats. The students had been asked to collect data the company could use in the future to become more sustainable. “We laid a good foundation for them, so they can get moving on it themselves in the short or long term. It was a really interesting assignment’’, Julian says.
He is clearly enthusiastic about the project. “I worked on this project for six months with a great deal of pleasure. It was really a lot of fun. I’m required to do a period abroad. When I read about the EPS project, it caught my attention right away”, says the student in International Economics Engineering. “The combination of theory and practice, working with other international students, that really appeals to me. I think it’s important.”
All the foreign students lived on the Cobbenhagen campus in Tilburg for six months. They could take their time to get used to Dutch culture while living there. “All the things that irritate me about Germans, are missing in Dutch culture. Everything is somewhat less hectic here. I love that”, Julian says with a laugh. “I also really enjoyed living in Tilburg. It was great.”
The only thing he found disappointing was that many lectures and tutorials were online, and they could only spend little time on the Avans campus or with the client. He would have liked to give the final presentation physically, with drinks afterwards. “But that’s how it goes, you can’t do anything about it.”
The students were evaluated on their report, presentation and collaboration – as a group and with the client. They had to give each other feedback on the report. “That was funny, because many students from abroad aren’t used to that. You could see that they found it quite difficult”, lecturer and evaluator Stefan van de Wal explains. “They’re also not used to calling their lecturers by their first names. You could really see these differences while they were working on the project, which was really good and educational.”
For Mireia Domenech Albiol the project ended on a down note. That’s because the student in Electronic Engineering from Spain is one of the students who caught Covid. “It really made me nervous about giving our presentation. My throat was still bothering me”, she says laughing, “but luckily everything went fine” with a scarf on during the presentation. “It’s a pity that it had to end this way, and not with a physical get together with drinks at the end, but it all went fine online.”
Along with her fellow group members, she has been working for the Avans minor Emerging Technologies Playground over the last six months. The assignment was to improve the working environment. “Like coming up with an interactive map so you can see which students are enrolled in the minor at a given time. Doing research was fun, making the map was hard at first. We didn’t have the right tools, but we got help from other people. Then it also became fun to do. Especially the programming.”
Just like the other international students, Mireia can look back on a successful project. She found the lectures interesting, thought the practical assignment and supervision she got was good, and in between there was enough time to explore this country. “It’s a beautiful country, very different from Spain. Cities like The Hague, Utrecht, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Rotterdam, which we visited with the other international students, are really green. And the buildings here are so beautiful. I can really recommend enrolling in this project”, she says with evident delight.
The students will be returning to their own countries before the end of the month. A few of them, however, won’t be able to return just yet, even if they would like to: they’re in quarantine due to contracting Covid.