Friday, 18 November 2016

Stepping stones

My blog must feel like an abandoned cave: from time to time you'll find a campfire flicking shadows of the past on chalk-clad walls, otherwise it's nothing but an empty space, my escapade. There's always something much more pressing than updating a silly online diary, something that justifies existence. Tell someone about a gap-year, they'll ask what you're doing. Tell someone about your ambitions, they'll wonder what you've already done to get there. Let's talk about less tangible achievements, for once.

My Summer at King's

My time at King's was majestic: the knowledge I gained through the module "Healthcare and Technology" has certainly been a worthy asset, but I learnt most from being exposed to various cultures.

London was amazing, so was King's College. It only took me three weeks to fall in love, and I can't deny how fortunate I was with my family's support to study abroad again. Hard work paid off, yes, I will take the credits for my grades and motivation if I must. But both of them would be useless if I wasn't lucky enough to be born in a first-world country, and if the whole family didn't work so hard to survive in a country in which some people still don't believe it's supposed to be our home. 

I learnt a lot from London, most of all to feel grateful. I am by no means a clever person by nature: during high school and university I invested a lot of time in just catching up with the level of education I was granted access to. Yet, there will always be those who have it tougher. 

During my summer course I became friends with many people from China. Coming to London must've been an even grander investment for them than it was for me. Money issues aside, they had to struggle with language-issues too. Being born in the Netherlands meant that English was like second-nature to me. Whilst I happily sat back in my chair listening to the professor's story about biomechanics, my foreign friends were actively taking notes with Google translate by their side. 

There's this odd thing going on in society where people decide over their level of respect to you based on your proficiency in a particular language. My parents face a lot of disrespect from customers due to their lower level of Dutch, but they forget that my mother speaks five other languages fluently. My friends from China tried very hard to communicate with me in English and to catch up with the lectures, but I can tell you that their intelligence surpassed mine and I wished I could've adapted myself to speak to them in Mandarin instead. 

My Bachelor's Degree at TU Delft 

These wackos have been here with me through thick and thin, from the beginning till end.

Let's face it, there's not much to be found about me regarding an awesome portfolio or curriculum vitae. Yet, two weeks ago I could finally hold that firm Bachelor's certificate with my small hands: a proof of survival. Yet again, I'm mostly grateful. Just a few paragraphs back I said I'd take the credits for my grades and motivation, but truth is that I couldn't have done it without the help of my fellow wackos. When I came to the faculty as a freshman, I had zero designer's blood and only a poor knack for engineering. If I had to brag about achievements I'd say that my biggest achievement is keeping these crazy guys with me, and many other friends who were supporting me through this struggle.

The Dutch culture is very different from foreign ones: we don't seem to be that proud of a Bachelor's degree. No big ceremonies or social-media spamming, "it's just a bachelor's degree". I honestly still feel that way, I don't feel any more intelligent than people who do not have a degree. Remember, both my parents barely finished high school. 

Some may say it's a matter of insecurity, but I simply can't be proud about a silly paper when I'm still not the very best version of myself in terms of my personality. If I could go back in time I wished I had focussed less on academic achievements and more on my people's skills. Throughout my degree I have learnt a lot about teamwork and design engineering, but I feel like my personality truly blossomed when I went to Australia.

The cultural atmosphere in Australia was inspiring, I have never felt so motivated to go out: the poetic events in Sydney pushed me to go further with my creative passions. When I came back to the Netherlands, I started to seek out the same kind of Spoken Word events. They've always been there, even before my exchange, but I just never thought they would be there because they are not as widely promoted in my own country. Sydney has made me more assertive due to my exposure to cultural events, it has pushed me to not blame a country's culture for not sharing my passion, but to seek it out myself.

How about now?

I'm getting out of my shell and becoming more assertive: these are some Humans of ESN Delft I've interviewed.

I have become more assertive and built up some design engineering skills during the past three years, but I'm nowhere near where I want to be. In terms of my personality, I wish to be more open, less judgemental, less biased and more positive. Sometimes I can be so critical and sceptical that people wonder whether I have anything positive to say, but sometimes I am so naive that I wonder what good my degree has done to me.

Currently I'm taking a gap year, and I honestly have no idea where I'm heading. There's still an urge in me to become a full-fledged engineer, yet here I am, doing an internship in online marketing and joining the Erasmus Student Network's PR Committee. It was time for me to get some real life experience, but I also needed to find myself. As of late I have been more interested in communication, hence the heavy switch.

The PR and marketing world has a whole different perspective to what I'm used to. At the TU Delft they stimulate us to be socially responsible and to create innovations that have an impact on the world. I've always wanted what's best for the user of a product, not necessarily caring about what it might entail for a company, or whether they will even get any concrete benefits out of it.

The last couple of months it has occurred to me that I'm incredibly naive. In my eyes, a product should be good and the user should be the first priority, feasability in terms of manufacturing comes second. In reality, profit should be amongst the top priorities, whether it's in the shape of money or brand awareness. An unknown product cannot do its job because nobody knows about it, and a product that doesn't make money will make game-changers starve.

Naiveté and dreams

New skills are valuable, but a new perspective is worth gold. Photo credits go to my sister who's just as weird as me.
I'm the kind of girl who doesn't enjoy shopping: a closet full of unworn clothes makes me feel guilty, and seeing unnecessary products frustrates me. Even though I'm aware of my own unrealistic moral standards, it doesn't stop me from dreaming. Gaining a new perspective doesn't mean I should bow down to it fully, it only means that I have to take it into consideration with whatever I do and tone-down a few stubborn thoughts.

Yes, I'm stubborn. For a long while I refused to go into social media, and even when I did, I'd share pictures sparingly. Look at this whole blogpost full of boasting and pictures of myself: it still feels odd to me. Did I sell my soul? Perhaps. I'd like to say that I'm just getting to know the game rules of real life, only then it's possible to become a game-changer.

I'm still a lunatic, I'm still a dreamer. I think a lot about the future, and it seems to change day by day, but for now, I just want to stick to this phase where I still feel like things can be changed. For me, for anyone. The past has shaped my frustrations, and therefore also my ambitions. Here's to naive life goals and fine-tuning them to reality. But in the meantime, let's acknowledge our small achievements. My academic road has opened many opportunities for me, but the achievements weren't in numbers, they were in personal change and the people who were with me during that road.

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