Broken notes to TU Delft prospective students

Dear fellows,

You just received that email you were anticipating for days/ months and maybe even years. It starts with “congratulations, we are glad to welcome you to the Masters of…”. Well done. You are jumping, so are your parents/ guardians. Your siblings are teasing. Your friends have mixed feelings. Your cat is shitty as usual. Sharma ji is pissed, though his son is assistant to Jeff Bezos. But still it is nice, overall.

And then the reality kicks in within few hours - ‘I need to resign/ leave/ travel / accept / become..’ - everything in few weeks. I know it is a lot. So I thought I would help/ make it more complicated for you by being slightly technical at points, and utterly vague at many ( come on, I was trained as a policy analyst).

PC: Vinay Bhajantri

PC: Vinay Bhajantri

First things first, Logistics:

1. Get over food!

I know if you are from a spice-filled nation like India, that is the first thing that comes to your mind (and my mind), but people - the world survives without Roti and Dal everyday, so take this as an opportunity to explore new cultures and cuisines (Dutch have every possibility of boiled/fried potatoes and combinations with anything else edible, sorry for you already: croquettes are not that bad deal though, and then there are bonus kruidnoten Sinterklaas times). If you are moving to Europe, you have Asian and Indian stores in almost every city (max. 30 min from wherever you are at). So chill. Or just look in the maps, if you are so obsessed. Having said that, if you want to, bring a pressure cooker, that shit cooks everything to heaven in minutes. There are doner shops and nice cafes in the university, so you can buy food at campus as well.

2. It is the cutest town, but weather is cursed.

In terms of location, Delft is busy like crazy when it comes to housing, choosing something close to university is wise but costly - and you can always ride the bike - trains your endurance. Delft is super pretty with the cutest square possible called the beestenmarket. You would find students crying there about their theses all the time, so you would have enough social support. Be ready for all time rains, and winds. You can buy everything in the shops at Delft - but a raincoat/ windcheater would be useful (screw umbrellas, they are useless here). If you do not/ cannot use a bike, you have good public bus/tram services - it is just costlier as it is charged per trip. For that you need an OV chipkaart, get it some time - and a personal one is better as it offers discounts, and reimburse options in any issues.

3. Euros (“look at that conversion rate rising”)

In my estimate, you would not be spending more than 100 Euros a month on food - but this is highly subjective. Expect something like 400-600 Euros per month for housing. You need a bike, so add - 100-150 Euros for a second hand bike (remember this is one time cost, till it gets stolen - get the best lock possible - and lock it, don’t get high and forget about it). You need insurance of around 50 euros a month. You need to get an OV chipkaart and load money in it for every travel. You need miscellaneous charges of about 100 euros (extreme, but still helps to keep this especially in the initial settling months). As many of you have taken loan, I can imagine it is difficult to let go of the conversion rates to INR on every product, but try to stop comparing as soon as you can - it will just give you some mental relief. You are here to learn more, and you will pay it off. Trust yourself. Try to enjoy what you have. Easiest way is to keep a budget for every month and maintain it with apps like “Grip” by ABN AMRO or other third party apps like “spendee”.

As you pay a year’s expenses anyways with your tuition fees, you should be able to manage with it for a year. In many cases, you might also end up saving these expenses for next year. So don’t worry too much for the expenses when you enter - just focus on your studies. Everything else is there in your bank ;)

Next, monetary supports:

1. Scholarships

They are tricky, if you don’t get one of them while your admission (which are anyways limited). You can find them anyways on the TU Delft page. There are some external ones to help you during your coursework, but they are not available for everyone and all the time: they are called Nuffic scholarships. There are few more external ones like SSVO, but they are very competitive, so keep this in mind - and oriented towards specific requirements (e.g. during the ending of your masters). RAS is another system which helps similarly during the end of the education, but please apply only if you meet the conditions/ eligibility. Overloading applications doesn’t help anyone.

2. TAship/ RAship

This is handled very differently than US schools, so many students come with the perception that it will compensate for your tuition fees. Keep in mind that the tuition fee is mandatory for TU Delft, till you have a scholarship which specifically waives it (unlike Holland Scholarship which just helps your expenses). So TA or RA position is obtained only after you ask a professor on your own and discuss with them. They are not always available with every professor, but sometimes there are advertisements, so keep your eyes and ears open. Also, note that this takes a good amount of time, additional to generally demanding TU Delft courses. So think if that additional income is worth the time you cannot spend on your work or not (but this is totally personal).

Note an important thing - Your insurance usually changes as soon as you get such a position, so do write to sucsez about it. You pay much more then, but then you can also apply for the health allowance to get back a lot more : It is called zorgtoeslag (as your income is not very high as a TA/RA).

3. Student bodies/ activities

Almost every student body in the university is unpaid work, so keep this in mind (unless a few like Energy Club - at least till the time I was involved). Do not enter to get monetary benefits, but I assure you will get a great international team experience - so I highly recommend them for letting some steam off from the studies. But consider the time constraints, nevertheless. Some student bodies allow some credits, but I am not an expert in it: it is better to go on their websites and contact them directly.

4. Internships/ Thesis

Internships are usually credited in the university and also there are good affiliations of universities for doing them. There are sometimes restriction that if you do an internship, you cannot do a company thesis. So check this with your department. They are usually (should be) paid. They are great way to know Dutch working culture as well, if you plan to work in the Dutch environment. Learning the language is a great asset to socialize with everyone around in the workplace.

Then, Research/ courses:

1. Courses

You are expected to work on 120 credits as a master student - out of which usually most demanding is the thesis work of 30-60 credits, depending on your department. The rest of the course work is usually time consuming as well (you would find TU Delft library usually full with students working on assignments) - every course is 3-6 credits, were every credit counts for usually (more-ish) 28 hrs of work. TU delft stresses on groupwork, so get used to fights, disagreements but much better quality work in most cases.

2. Research/ Thesis

As mentioned this is the most intense time of your masters - it can be quite a roller-coaster ride. Be ready for it, it is okay, it happens for everyone. It is good that many students start their thesis almost at the same time, giving a nice cohort support. So use it for sharing frustrations, and usually supervisors/ professors are good way to go if you feel completely lost. They wont judge you (mostly) and support you, as a good thesis helps the department as well. So lose the fear and discuss, research will follow well.

RAships are good way to extend your research. You can get them after your thesis (I would personally avoid them during the thesis time), or even before. Always discuss the possibilities before thesis is going to end with your supervisor, if you are interested. These can be full time employment positions as well (but they are uncommon, usually it is a part time activity which students take while applying for full time opportunities in research or industry).

Finally, jobs/ PhD.

After the master thesis ends, and as you are no more a student, the visa status changes and you would have to apply for a zoekjaar, or a search year to stay in the country (if you would want a job/ position there). It is costly affair, but highly recommended because if you are really aiming for a job, there are high chances industries would give you a chance based on this visa. I do not have much experience in applying or using them, but I have found most of the people getting them have found a job. The reason is that usually you get / need time for preparing your application which you would get in this year and on-average you would get a position in 6-8 months. Also, traveling back for an interview from your home country on a tourist visa is usually cumbersome and difficult (employers do not prefer such candidates as well).

For a PhD application as well, if you want to live in the country to apply, get the zoekjaar. Usually, students start their applications before they finish their masters, but it can be time consuming. So chose what you prefer most. There are advertisments on the university pages for Europe schools. For US Schools, you would need to give more exams (GRE-TOEFEL) and apply to the department website and not the group (which is the practice for Europe). You would need similar letters, CV, and details as you did in your masters.

For every field, the opportunities vary, so do not judge one field as another (e.g. renewable energy is a hot topic everywhere in West Europe, but specifically wind is great for Denmark - so check where you actually fit) . Talk to your seniors in that specific field and try to understand what are the best estimates for time of application/ opportunities. Do not rush, you are from TU Delft - you will get something nice, for sure.

All in all, believe in yourself. All will be well. Get ready: You will lose a lot, gain much more.



Edit (addition on 12.04.19): I forgot about adding the startups as a trajectory out of TU Delft. So here is a small introduction to what TU Delft promotes and how it helps startup enthusiasts. For that you have

  1. Yes-Delft - a great incubator which helps you with some great courses and also incubation programs if you actually are ‘ready to startup’.

  2. Startup visa - Similar to zoekjaar, there is a nice provision for staying in the country for at least a year and prove yourself (and your startup). I do not have complete details (though you need to show that you are monetarily stable and need to prove your startup is something actually workable), but there are startups like Envision, who have made it as a successful startup in Netherlands, with only international co-founders. So, sky is the limit :)