Bingxin - Technical University of Delft

B Engineering
Semester 2, 2018
Going exchange makes you feel like you have sailed through the seven seas, and future obstacles in life might just appear to be mere creeks to you.

Academic experience

The full study load in Delft is 30 ECTS, however, it is difficult to get exactly 30 due to limited courses that match the requirements of my program in UQ. I eventually did 36 ECTS worth of classes, due to failing a course in the first quarter and I tried to make up for it by picking up a similar fulfil in the second quarter. Out of the 9 courses I did, 6 of them were master level, where the content is not really much more difficult than bachelor level, but the expectation and teaching approach is a lot different. There was minimum help from lecturers, and there were no tutorial sessions, often there are no tutorial questions to check my understanding along the semester. I was challenged to learn more independently and figure out things on my own with the help of internet. 
I did the equivalent courses for Mech3750, Mech3200, METR4201 and an elective course. the content for Mech3750(WI4014TU and TW3730TU in Delft) gave me the most problem, mainly because the course was from a different faculty, which was the mathematics and computing faculty. They have different expectations in terms of learning outcome and assumed knowledge, which I experienced quite a gap. The courses expected to gain a more mathematics understanding rather than applying it on engineering problems. There is an applied numerical analysis course in my own faculty(aerospace engineering), but it in outside my exchange period, but you can certainly go for that if you go to Delft in February.

I first took the course TW3730TU, despite many consultations with the lecturer, I failed the course in the first quarter, which I then did some research and found out about the course WI4014TU. I picked up the course right before Christmas break, which was towards the end of my exchange, the course was partially overlapped with the previous one and I did lots of self-study to eventually manage to pass it. 
The enrollment process in Delft is different from UQ, as school fees are paid by semesters and not by course. Enrolling in courses are also done online which was very easy, and you can technically enrol in 100 courses because the enrollment does not mean anything but getting access to the course materials. The important thing to do is then to register for the exam, you can look at this as the "real courses" you are going to do, because once enrolled in a course, there is no easy way to "drop" the course like UQ(as far as I know at least), the dropping course process is done by not registering for the exam, and the course will not show up in your study report. Knowing this, I was able to go to a few different courses in the beginning when I was looking for filler to get me 30 ECTS, and later on, decide which one to really go for the exam.

Personal experience

Delft is a small university town, and the residents are used to the presence of international students, therefore, with only English, it is perfectly fine to live in Delft, as well as most other Dutch cities. There is an option to learn Dutch in TU Delft, but as far as I have heard it was time-consuming and not easy at all(as a course). I picked up a minimum amount of Dutch words, and they mainly come from grocery names in supermarket, and restaurant menus. Dutch students are generally friendly, but I was able to know many other exchange students from countries all over the world. Travelling in Europe is probably the most anticipated thing about going exchange, I was able to visit about 9 cities within the Netherlands, and 7 places in 3 other countries. I have never done so much planning and travelling on my own so that was definitely memorable.

Interacting with other students in Delft has both motivated me to strive for the best I can do and also gave me the confidence to pursue anything I love to do.
I was motivated as I realized there are many more skills out there that are essential for engineers or a person in the workforce in general, I genuinely feel that there much more I can do because I have seen some others done it.  On the other hand, I also gained confidence from my experience. After seeing the program in Delft, and getting to know the programs that other exchange students do at home, I realized that what we learn has a lot in common, and I am not studying anything less than other students in the world. I was also more confident about myself as I took the step forward to take on the challenge of studying at Delft as an exchange student, which many others might not have done so, this further encourages me to not turn down any opportunities feeling that I might not be capable enough to fulfil the demands.

Accommodation

I got my accommodation with DUWO, which is a nationwide student accommodation agency that is in collaboration with Dutch universities. It is the easiest option to secure a place, and from what I have seemed after visiting some of my friend's DUWO rooms, they have all been pretty spacious and well equipped.
My house was less than 10 minutes ride to the library, but the campus is a long stretch, so depends where your faculty is, but I studied in Aerospace faculty which is by far the furthest building, and it takes about 20 minutes which was still Through. The complex was excellent, and I was paying 496 euros per month for a decent sized room with my own bathroom and included all utilities, I really could not ask for anything more. 

One thing to note though, if you do choose to live in DUWO's place, try to send them money as soon as they give you the financial letter, as DUWO's houses are chosen based on the time they receive your payment. Some of the exchange students were only able to choose houses in the Hague and Rotterdam, where it takes about 30 minutes to come to school with a bike, trains are pretty fast but a single trip is 3 euro. 

However it is not the cheapest option, you are able to save about 300 euros for a one-off service fee, and around 50 per month in rent for similar quality housing condition if you look for your own place. I have tried to explore a few websitesTravellingbut mostly they are not free, and not having any connection in the Netherlands also meant that I was not able to inspect any of the places. 
Another benefit of finding your own accommodation is that DUWO typically has housing in relatively new buildings(less than 100 years of age by Dutch standard) that has lots of rooms(more than 50). But you are able to get places with more characters, such as traditional canal houses, or houses in the farming area.

Costs

People do tend to think Europe is an expensive place, and Netherlands sits at the more expensive end of the spectrum among European countries for living cost. However, as an international student in Brisbane, I do find Delft can be significantly cheaper to live in as compared to Brisbane, this could be another reason to live in Delft instead of the bigger cities nearby like Rotterdam and the Hague. 

If you cook most of your meals, groceries should come about 50 euros per week, for a good range of meat, vegetables, fruits. Depends on where you shop, this number could fluctuate around 20 euros, but even 70 euros is still not more expensive than Brisbane. There are quite a few markets around Delft, Jumbo is probably the one most people would use, it is moderately priced and closes at 10 pm on weekdays.Albert Heijin is somewhat an high-end supermarket, and if you choose to always shop here your cost might come to 70 euros per week, but you probably do not mind spending that extra 20 if you do choose to shop there. 

There are also other discounted supermarkets like ALDI, LIDO, and even Turkish grocery shops.
Traveling in Europe is also easy and affordable, Ryan air flies from Eindhoven to many destination for real low price, if you do manage to get the train season ticket(will mention this later), getting to places from Eindhoven can be pretty easy. 

Entertainment cost varies, a good bottle of Belgian beer at a bar in school cost you about 2-3 Euros, but other forms of entertainment like bowling can be expensive, but I really don't see the reason to do those things in Delft, since traveling around is much more meaningful, and surprisingly not more expensive or time consuming. 
Getting a bike is a must-do in Netherlands, there are generally two options to go with, buying or leasing. I chose to lease which was 12 euros per month, including all kinds of repairs or maintenance that might require. Buying might save you some money if you manage to resell them at a good price when you leave. Selling the bike is usually not a big problem, however it could cost quite a lot if you don't know what to do when the bike breaks down(not working brakes, punctured tires etc), it could cost quite a bit to repair. Bike thieves are also common in Netherlands, two of my friends got their bikes stolen a few weeks into the semester in Rotterdam and the Hague, but in Delft it is less of an issue, and thieves usually leave the leased bikes as they have a distinct look.

Challenge

My biggest challenge was with the studies. The failure rate for many courses in TU Delft is extremely high as compared to UQ's standard, one of my courses with about 300 students has a passing rate of 50%, while I have heard numbers higher than that from my friend's courses. Delft students get unlimited attempts to exams for free, so failing a course is common in Delft. However as an exchange student, it is a different case, we do get a resit attempt for courses taught in the first quarter, however there is no time for us to do resit for second quarter courses. 


Secondly, the learning here require us to be a lot more independent. Minimum feedback was given for most of my courses, especially for many master courses where it is simply lectures and then a 100% finals in the end with no tutorials questions and no tutor for help. Given that their bachelor program is only 3 years, so taking some master courses here and there might be inevitable. 


I also struggled a bit to understand UQ's policy, due to misunderstanding the rules before departing to Delft. I had to change my study plan multiple times throughout the semesters, and it was difficult to cope with studying while getting distracted fulfil what courses to do. 
With all that difficulties, I had to gather all forms of help I could. I approached professors like never before, I did research on the study focus of some professors that did not teach me so I can get help from their for difficulties I encountered working with assignments. I also made use of a lot of online resources for programming courses which assumed higher level than what I have learned in UQ. 


There are also resources available from previous students in Delft in the form of revision packages, these are usually spreading among Delft students, but I managed to get one of them from another exchange student and it helped. 
Overall, I became more pro-active in approaching and tackling the difficulties I encountered in school.

Professional Development

TU Delft's engineering department is a lot bigger than what we have in UQ, its aerospace engineering faculty is world class, and has a strong connection with the industry. During their aerospace career week, I got a chance to meet the representatives from Rolls Royce, in an one to one mock interview manner. I was able to get some feedbacks on resume writing, and some tips about how to do well in their online assessments. Although I did not make it through the second round of recruitment cycle, it was an good experience, and I was able to learn more about the international engineering job market. 


TU Delft also uses some different softwares from UQ. LaTex is apparently the more popular choice among European students over Words when it comes to report writing. I was also challenged to learn a relative new package in Python that is called FEniCS, which was used for finite element analysis. Learning to operate with these softwares based mostly on self-study, because they were either assumed knowledge, or there is just no tutorial in Delft. Working with new software does expends my skill sets for a bit, but more importantly, I worked with students coming from different parts of the world and different Universities, which is much like what we might see in a real-world engineering environment. The ability to communicate and cooperate with them effectively would be an essential skills in my career.

Highlight

Being able to learn the rich culture and history Netherlands has to offer is my biggest highlight of the trip. Delft is a small town but it has such an important presence in dutch history. While I was visiting the museums around the Netherlands, I was fortunate enough to see some of the world-famous masterpieces and architects. Surprisingly, many of the artists were born or have lived in Delft, many of their works also reflect the life back then in Delft. 

Despite visiting many places in Europe, ranging from Amsterdam to Santorini, I would not hesitate to say that by the end of my exchange my favourite place by far is the small town Delft. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to live in such a place for 6 months. Delft is such a small town that I would probably never know anything about it if not for University, it is unique because it has all the traditional Dutch elements you can think of, but also combines with a state of art technology university.

Top tips

*Discuss the study plan with both your academic advisor and exchange coordinator, to make sure you understand the UQ policy correctly. This would prevent you from changing your study plan midway through the exchange, which I had to do multiple times due to misunderstanding how the credit transfer would work. 
*Cherish the summer time in Delft, do make use of those time to travel around when the sun sets at 9 pm. Because winter in Netherlands is not the easiest time to travel around, early sunsets at 4 pm, rainy and humid weather plus low temperature. 
*Definitely get a bike even if you live close to campus. 
*Make use of the "NS Flex" season ticket to do some travel around the Netherlands. The train system there is convenient, fast and comfortable, the only downside being it is quite expensive too. With the season ticket though, you get to travel for free during certain times of the week, with a fixed monthly price depending on the plan you choose, but the one I used allows me to travel with NS train for free during weekends with 30 euros per month. Given that a single trip from Delft to Amsterdam is about 13 euros for a regular priced single trip, this is a really good deal. It is not always available though, I have heard it is only offered in the second half of the year but I am not sure about other times.
*If you are looking to explore the Netherlands or Europe for a little bit more, do try to apply for a reduced study load from UQ if you can. Otherwise, you can also make use of the courses in Delft that are assignment based with no exams. These are the courses that generally has a higher passing rate, as the study load in Delft is seriously not easy, even if you are just looking to pass. So you might want to look elsewhere if you think you could visit 20 countries in Europe while passing 30 ECTS with 6 - 7 final exams(split into two quarters) that are 100% of your grade(exaggerate but you get the idea). 
*Delft might not be the perfect place for partying, but if you are up for pushing yourself right to the edge of your limit, Delft is a good choice, and you will learn a lot from it for sure.