Let me tell you an amazing story. This past summer I was invited to a wedding. Not very uncommon, I hear you say. True, but the groom in this case was a student refugee from the Middle-East. Aha… that is less common, right? And so was the bride, although she had left her land (the same one as the groom) years ago and was now a citizen of a North-American country. So diversity first.
It is around 4pm on an ordinary day when you suddenly find out that the film you have wanted to see for ages is on tonight in town. But only tonight. And since you cannot download it from any internet source, you will have to go to the movies tonight. “Fine”, you think, as you wanted to go out with some friends anyway.
Back in 1980, Greece and the European Union (that was called the European Economic Community/EEC) at that time were conducting final talks that led to the admission of Greece to the EEC the year after. One of these talks took place in Athens in the Greek capital. The EEC-delegation headed by a top civil servant -a Danish woman- was welcomed at the airport by their Greek hosts. These were all older men with grey hair and a bit of a belly (what the Germans appropriately call Wohlstandsbauch). While trying to identify the head of the EEC-delegation, they were obviously looking for the older man, a peer like them in that group.
“But if there is no selection to get admitted, what is this study program worth?”, someone suggested at an international forum on academic matters. This point of view is typical of some cultures in which competition, selection and individual rewards are quite common.
You arrived late in class and although you managed to sneak in via the door at the back, the teacher spotted you and shouted at you “Make sure you are on time, next time” while you were trying to mumble some excuse. As a result, you felt excessively individualized and ashamed, and experienced a loss of face for this unexpected feed-back. Indeed, in your culture you would have been able to enter the classroom unnoticed.
We are all coaches. Good parents coach their kids in a way that they become more friends than parents; inspiring leaders and collaborative managers coach their employees into being responsive and responsible team players. At the TU/e, versatile teachers now coach their students in their educational and personal development, and some Dutch students at TU/e also coach their international peers to help them integrate more quickly and better into our community. And let’s not forget that 17 million Dutch people often act as the coach of the national soccer team. Incidentally, it’s rather quiet in this respect at the moment…
"Les 12 points du jury français vont à la Chine!" France’s maximum points going to China in the Eurovision song contest is still fiction. But as we just saw last Saturday with Australia as a guest participant, there’s already some opening to globalize this annual mega-show. This year’s vintage largely turned into a platform for predominantly Anglo-American loud music again supported by swinging and swirling dance, and flashing and sparkling light shows, next to a few bizarre solo national(istic) performances. And again, the results proved to be a mix of predictable attitudes by countries casting their votes based on (past) political or cultural affinity, and of more objective and only artistic considerations.
“We all need symbols in life. Whether animals we venerate, monuments we admire, or real or fictive characters we worship”, I wrote in a previous column when I was trying to identify the Dutch symbol par excellence: the fiets.
“Do you have anything else other than milk?”, I cautiously asked looking at the range of milk but also cartons of fruit juice and of course the standard coffee and tea displayed on the table in front of me. “Oh yes, sir, we also have butter milk”. I silently sighed and ventured to ask for just water with some sarcasm in my voice. “Oh I’m sorry, but we don’t have water”. No water for lunch? After insisting a bit, I finally got some water from the faucet in the nearby pantry, along with lots of apologies. Probably a recognizable situation for many internationals in the Netherlands.
In the past months, as I was cycling past ‘Parkview’, the new student housing building on our TU/e-Science Park, I’ve seen the building rise at the high speed of one floor a week. The weeks passed by until the 13th week when much to my surprise construction suddenly stopped. I counted and recounted the numbers of levels, indeed thirteen (13), no more and no less. I immediately wondered who would like to live on the 13th floor of a housing building here in the Netherlands.
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Bij de eerstvolgende TU/e-verkiezingen doet een nieuwe studentenpartij mee. Een partij die zich richt op de ‘ambitieuze student’. Een term die bij mij nogal wat vragen oproept. Naast ‘wat’ ambitie nu eigenlijk is, vraag ik me ook af waarom we deze eigenschap vooral de laatste veertig/vijftig jaar als iets positiefs zijn gaan beschouwen? Voor wie is ambitie uiteindelijk goed?
Before you google yet another one of my invented diseases and subsequently begin to question the title of this story, let me tell you this. With a new academic year having begun and a shiny new batch of freshmen accompanying it, the university is full of people suffering from the so-called octopus syndrome.
Stel je voor: je kunt naar een universiteit waar je geen collegegeld betaalt, gratis huisvesting krijgt, nooit naar colleges hoeft, geen tentamens maakt en zelf bepaalt hoe lang je over opdrachten doet die vervolgens door medestudenten worden nagekeken. Mocht je één van deze opdrachten niet leuk vinden, dan verzin je gewoon zelf een nieuwe. Oh ja, en als je uiteindelijk klaar bent met studeren kun je lekker aan de bak bij Google, of Facebook, of NASA, net waar je zin in hebt eigenlijk.
Hoe sexy is jouw tak van de wetenschap? Als je niet weet hoe je dat moet meten, vraag je dan af hoe vaak op TV aantrekkelijke blanke acteurs in witte labjassen jouw vakgebied uitoefenen. Een andere manier van meten, is het tellen van verwonderde ‘oohs’ en ‘aahs’ wanneer de faculteiten hun favoriete stokpaardje laten zien op de open dag.
De allereerste computerprogrammeur was een vrouw. Augusta Ada King-Noel (geboren Byron), gravin van Lovelace, leefde in Engeland in de eerste helft van de 19de eeuw. Het was een tijd dat het voor vrouwen bepaald niet vanzelfsprekend was om hoger onderwijs te volgen, of om zichzelf professioneel te ontplooien - en al zeker niet in de exacte wetenschappen.