Meet Dio at Eindhoven University of Technology!
Name: Dio Helmi IJsseldijk
Nationality: Indonesian and Dutch
University: Eindhoven University of Technology
Degree: Bachelor of Psychology & Technology
Current Year of Study: 2nd year
How did you choose your university destination and course of study?
The reason why I decided on the Netherlands boils down to a couple reasons. Growing up my entire life in Asia, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I wanted to experience a different culture and environment to what I was used to. Being half Dutch and reaping all the benefits that came with it, such as free travel, student loans, EU tuition price etc, made the Netherlands the obvious first choice. In terms of quality of education, the Netherlands ranked pretty highly and was almost exclusively taught in English. Not only was university taught in English, everyone in NL could speak English which is fairly uncommon for European countries. It was reassuring knowing that I could connect to everyone and a language barrier wouldn’t be an issue during my study or in a work environment.
I initially decided to study computer science and engineering at TU/e. As to the motivation behind why I chose this bachelor, in all honesty, I winged it. I liked ICT in highschool and I was qualified for the bachelor and the university’s computer science webpage sounded interesting at the time. This ultimately, as I’ll elaborate more later, was obviously not the right approach and definitely had its fair share of consequences. I was a lost high schooler with close to no preparation before I was thrown into the “uni life”.
After a year of doing something I had no passion for, I knew a change was needed. It was either to drop out and work or find something that I truly enjoyed. Long story short, after many stressful nights and numerous meetings with academic advisors, I switched majors to Psychology and Technology. I found that the human elements that came with the new study were way more engaging to study.
What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?
In terms of academia, I only started to enjoy studying in my second year when I started to gradually switch to psychology and technology. I enjoyed the psychology courses the most. Behaviour, cognition, attention, perception, emotion, the way the mind organises information, all of it was really appealing to me and a refreshing break from the technical courses I was used to. However the most appealing part wasn’t reading and memorising these concepts, it was seeing them applied in real life, with friends, family and even strangers. Seeing how people act unconsciously biased in an argument or seeing friends use different persuasion techniques, what I was reading in my books was observable in my day to day life.
What do you enjoy most about living in Eindhoven?
Being bluntly honest, not much. Eindhoven itself is a pretty small student city and although it has its cool quirks, it’s not the most interesting city. It’s a ‘new’ city so it misses that charming old Dutch architecture you see in other cities like Amsterdam. I find that the best part of living in Eindhoven doesn’t have much to do with the city but rather my lifestyle and the friends I made there.
How supportive is your university to international students?
In general, the university is very supportive to all students. They help with housing when they can and have resources such as student psychologists, academic advisors, counselors etc. The university takes extra measures for international students to make sure they feel welcome. Housing on campus for example, is exclusively for 1st year internationals who often struggle the most with housing.
What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?
Dealing with self-doubt. As someone that didn’t work that hard in high school and still received decent grades, I struggled dealing with the jump in workload. University was extremely demanding and I wasn’t used to studying everyday for hours and hours on end. I struggled to keep up with the demanding work and failed exams along the way. I had never failed a final exam before and the disheartening feeling that came with it had me doubting whether I would be able to do this for the next 3 years. However, as time went on I started getting more efficient at studying and better at dealing with the workload. I came to understand that failing was part of it and it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always a chance at a re-sit exam and if you failed that, just retake the course. Even if it meant taking an extra year, I found peace in the fact that it’ll be fine in the end. The key is to just keep going.
Dealing with everything all at once. Moving to a new country, finding housing, starting university, living alone, adjusting to the miserable weather and dealing with any other personal things behind the scenes. It was a lot to adjust to in my first year. It was difficult enough to keep up with my studies that finding time for myself was near impossible at first. But as I got to know the city, got used to the cold, got into a study routine, it all became progressively easier and less demanding. The adjustment period was taxing but step by step it became manageable.
Inability to stay focused. I would consider myself a ‘bad student’. I often struggle to stay focused and get easily distracted even when learning about topics I found interesting. Without an immediate deadline I tend to procrastinate and end up spending the last few days working long hours to complete assignments. I always feel like I have more time than I actually do which causes work to pile up. Before you know it, I would be behind in all my classes and drowning in work. It would stress me out, which would cause me to avoid doing it which just led to more stress, a vicious cycle. Although I’ve gotten better at dealing with stress and maintaining focus, it’s still something I struggle with today. I find that having the right environment helps a lot, whether it’s a bustling cafe or a dead silent library, find what works for you.
What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?
I spend the majority of my free days in Amsterdam with my friends, whether it’s chilling at the park, going on a night out, laser tag, bowling, there’s always something to do. My free time during the weekdays revolves around my studying but I try to explore different activities offered by the university’s sport center like kick-boxing, volleyball, hip-hop dancing, brazilian jiu-jitsu and pilates. Training brazilian jiu-jitsu is the only one that has stuck by till now, but it’s been fun trying new things.
I also participated in a student team in my third year where I worked closely with 2 friends on a photo-sharing app as a mock start-up. I got to experience what it would be like to have a start up and got the chance to talk to various companies. Working closely with experts in innovation and start-ups was insightful. It was also just fun to have the creativity to explore your own ideas without the monetary risk.
How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?
Anyone studying in the Netherlands will tell you the same thing, housing will be the death of you. It will be one of the most stressful and taxing things you’ll have to experience when studying here. The Netherlands housing crisis is a big problem and being a student doesn’t make your life any easier.
I have experienced many living arrangements in my time here. I’m extremely lucky to have my grandparents close to Eindhoven where I initially stayed for a couple months. I then managed to live in a shared apartment with 2 of my closest friends, albeit I did sleep on the couch. I continued to bounce around different living arrangements for the entirety of the first year before finally getting a studio apartment for 2 years where I lived alone.
My best advice would be to start early and be annoyingly persistent. Message, email, call and any other method to contact landlords, do it. Don’t even look at the apartment, just contact as many as you can that fall within your budget and only look at the apartments of the ones that respond. Go to every viewing they offer and act like the perfect tenant. It’s hard but not impossible. The more people you get to know, the easier this process will be. I found my apartment through a friend who gave me the landlord’s email so I was able to get in direct contact with them.
Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working world and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?
Yes and no.
It prepares you in the sense that studying often feels like a full-time job. Having the discipline to stay focused for hours, working with different types of people for group projects and meeting strict deadlines are all factors that prepare you for the working world.
On the other hand, TU/e is a technical university which differs from traditional universities. Its focus is heavily on the technical side and less on the practical side. You are rarely put into real-life situations where you apply the knowledge you learn. The education is mostly theoretical and practicing it yourself. Internships for example, are not mandatory and not strongly encouraged either. However the university does have a lot of connections with businesses and programs exist to help you find jobs and internships.
What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?
In general it is very easy to travel within Europe, with the exception of the COVID years. Flights are short and cheap most of the time. Besides exploring different cities in the Netherlands, I made little trips to Spain, France and Greece. I haven’t explored Europe nearly as much as I want to primarily because there aren’t many holidays. Summer break is the only holiday longer than 2 weeks which I always spend going back home to Bali.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to Eindhoven and The Netherlands to study?
- Enjoy what you do. It sounds simple but it’s important for longevity. What you study in university will potentially be what you do for your entire life, it doesn’t just stop after you get your bachelor. Make note of what courses you liked the most and see if there are related or follow up courses. It’s unlikely you will enjoy every single course but make sure you enjoy the majority of it. If you don’t enjoy the majority, start looking at other studies, other universities. It’s better to spend an extra year or two to really find something you enjoy than being locked in with something you hate. Don’t stress about ‘wasting time’ because it’s better to figure it out now than in 10 years. Enjoying what you do will give you the motivation to keep going.
- Balance and routine. Balance studying, time for hobbies, exercise, sleep. If all you are doing is studying then you’ll burn out. It might take a couple weeks, months or maybe even a year but from my experience, it will come eventually. Having a routine regardless of how strict you follow it helps a lot. Even if it’s as simple as; morning study, afternoon see friends, evening gym and at night chill. Having some form of structure saves you time and effort thinking about what needs to be done.
- Be proactive. The university will provide you with endless resources. From honors programs, exchanges, help with internships, sports associations, student contests etc. You just need to be active in utilizing the ones that benefit you. The culture of university, at least from my experience, is that people will be there to help you if you just take the initiative to look for it. This also applies to outside of academia, be proactive with looking for housing, when making friends and trying out different sports associations.