Report on study abroad for one semester at KU

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					                        Voorblad TUD-REISVERSLAG

Naam                               Rombout Klunder

TUD-studierichting                 Aerospace

Studienummer                       1172824

Naam universiteit (faculteit en vakgroep)/bedrijf in het buitenland

University of Kansas, Engineering department, Aerospace

Land en stad

Lawrence, KS, USA

Periode

van       06   -   08   -   2009          tot   22   -   12     -   2009

Samenstelling studieprogramma: vakken/project/stage/afstuderen of anders

Drie vakken: Statistical Orbit Determination, Spacecraft Systems and Rendezvous of Satellites

Hoeveel studiejaren had je voltooid voor je vertrek?          3,5    Jaar

Hoeveel geld besteedde je per maand totaal aan levensonderhoud ?

Huisvesting                        € 255

Voeding                            € 150

Verzekeringen                      € 120

Reiskosten ter plekke              € 20

Studieboeken/studiemateriaal       € 42

Uitgaan                            € 80

Overig                             € 100

                                   €

                                   €

Totaal                             € 767
Report on study abroad for one semester at KU.

For one fall semester I was a student at the University of Kansas. The University of Kansas lies of
course in Kansas. The city which houses the University is called Lawrence. Lawrence is a small town in
between Topeka and Kansas City. It has roughly 88 thousand inhabitants and is a typical college
town. This means that there are lots of restaurants and bars, and an overall liberal atmosphere. I
went there to study Aerospace courses, in particular space oriented courses which I intend to use for
my electives back in Delft.
          The first thing I did once I´d decided to go abroad was visiting the abroad office at my
faculty. Here they told me that among other things I should take a look at the website of study
abroad and decide to which University I wish to go. The Universities marked on the website are those
who have an exchange program with the faculty. After I narrowed down my search I took a look at
the websites of several Universities in the US. I choose the University of Kansas. The study abroad
manager at Aerospace immediately made contact with the KU study abroad office and the sending
back and forth of emails started. They also put me in contact with an Aerospace Professor in Kansas,
Dr. Barrett, who had spent a sabbatical in Delft. He and his wife, who is Dutch, provided me with lots
of information about housing and general living in Lawrence.
          Making sure you get the points is the hardest thing to arrange in the whole study abroad
process. There are two different systems of rewarding obtained courses; credit hours and study
points. These are not compatible and therefore the board of examiners has to be convinced that the
credit hours are valid. I searched for a relation between them and found one on the website of the
Fulbright institute in Amsterdam. With this equation I convinced the board of examiners that I should
get the fair amount of study points once I get back and complete the courses. I have yet to receive
official documents from Kansas and thus also the ECTS from Delft.
          I was very pleased with the progress and the attention I got from both the study abroad
offices, but unfortunately Ms. Vrijens the manager study abroad in Delft left for a new job in
Groningen. Since there was no direct substitute for her I had to finalize the exchange myself.

The reason I wanted to study abroad is because I wanted to explore two things. The first thing is
myself. Ever since I moved out of my parent’s house I lived with 14 other guys. This means I have
never actually lived on my own. Being in a different country even if you have roommates is harder
than living in a nice comfort zone back home. Furthermore I wanted to have a different setting, new
University, new people and new ideas.
         As I mentioned earlier I took Aerospace courses at the faculty of Engineering at the University
of Kansas, to be more precise, in total I took three courses; Statistical orbital determination,
Spacecraft systems and a Special topic course. The first two courses are of a normal nature; you have
classes, assignments and a final exam. The last course is a course which is tailored to the student,
Professor and topic. This is a course in which the Professor is a consultant and where the student
must research a topic.
         My expectations of the American University courses were somewhat different than the actual
thing. Basically I imagined the same thing as in Delft, taking classes, the occasional assignment and
an exam. The reality was a bit more like Dutch high school. I had to do homework in order pass the
courses every week, on top of that we had lots of assignments for each course. Furthermore there
were multiple exams per course. This made the learning of the topic more intensive. What it did not
necessarily do was making the level of education harder. On the contrary the level of education was
comparable or even a bit lower than the level at Aerospace at the TU. It was just more work and
effort.

The nice part of the exchange program was that the study abroad office in Lawrence paid my tuition
up to 10 credit hours. The three courses I took were together 9 hours, which meant that I could do an
extra one hour course for free. I would recommend if you go to the US to take this opportunity and
do an extra course. The one hour courses are almost all sports courses. The course which fitted my
schedule and I liked to do was bowling. Therefore besides my academic space oriented courses I took
an academic course in bowling.
        The counseling was very good in Lawrence, besides an office for every international student;
ISS, was also the study abroad office for students that are in an exchange program. Both offices
helped me with everything I wanted to know, everything involving the study program but also which
grocery stores were the best or cheapest and other miscellaneous things. Because the courses I took
in the US are my electives, there was no real guidance or communication needed between my course
manager back in Delft and myself when I was in Lawrence. When I came back I visited him and told
him about experiences.
        The one semester I spend in Lawrence was just enough for me. I made a lot of friends, a
great many of them were other international students. Most of these students are staying a year or
more in Lawrence. If I was not in a committed relationship here in the Netherlands I might have
wanted to stay longer. But this would mean postponing my educational activities in Delft, which would
also mean a delay in my Master program. Therefore I’m not sure what I would have done. To stay
longer than a year is totally out of the question. Lawrence is a nice town but the closest real city is an
hour drive away. I could see how people can get enough of Delft but within a radius of an hour travel
there a many cities rich in culture and fun things. This is not the case in Lawrence.

The best financial fortune I had was that I just had to pay my tuition in Delft, the tuition in Lawrence
for the courses I took for one semester was around $5,000. But I still had to go there and live there.
Therefore I did apply for a scholarship. I applied for the STIR fonds scholarship which I got. They
offered me a sum of €1,135.
         The cost of living was in most cases very similar to the costs in Delft. As you can also see on
the coversheet the total amount of spending each month was around €750. That is just a bit more
than what I used to spend in Delft. The only difference is the expenses of the ‘other’ row. These
include stuff I had to buy for my room and travel expenses to see a bit of Kansas besides Lawrence.
What was funny to me, are the little differences. Meat was a lot cheaper and better over there than in
the Netherlands, but some of the vegetables were much more expensive. Like I mentioned all in all it
pretty much evens out.
         The nice thing tough was that I could pay with either my credit card or my debit card from my
own Dutch bank. First I wanted to open an account in America like most international student do.
Then I could transfer money from my Dutch account to my American account. It turns out that no
matter the amount of money you transfer, the cost of doing so is something like €30 each time. Thus
I investigated how much it would cost me to get money from an ATM. It turns out that there is only a
one percent exchange rate fee that the Rabobank charges. For instance if I would get $1.50 per Euro
I would receive after the bank charge $1.485. This was very much acceptable for me because this
meant that I could use my debit- or credit card everywhere, not only at ATMs but also in every store,
restaurant and bar.
         The only big financial issue I had was that I almost had to pay a student healthcare package
of several hundred dollars. There was an option to obtain a waiver so you did not need the mandatory
healthcare insurance if you own insurance was good enough. So I opted for one but it was denied at
first. My insurance company in the Netherlands gave me a standard document, stating that I am well
insured in foreign countries. This statement was found insufficient. When I arrived in Kansas I
arranged a meeting with the lady who denied me the waiver. During the meeting she was still not
convinced that my Dutch healthcare insurance was more than sufficient. Not until I spoke with her
supervisor explaining the benefits of the Dutch healthcare system over the American one, he agreed
that I was eligible for the waiver.

Housing was not that big of a problem. When I was accepted the University offered me like everybody
else a place in the dormitories or in an apartment complex. The system runs on a first come first serve
bases, and I was on time to be placed in a doorm or in an apartments. However this is not what I
wanted. I wanted to live off campus. I did not want to share my bathroom with a whole hallway, or
not be able to cook a proper meal for myself. Therefore I asked Dr. Barrett for information. He came
up with the international house. Unfortunately I could not stay there because I was not a researcher
or teaching assistant. The manager of the house did refer me to a Co-op organization. A Co-op house
is a house in which the tenants are the owner of the house and therefore have an equal say in what
happens in and with the house. This small democratic utopia is where I lived. I lived with 30 people,
who come and go. The whole idea behind such houses is memorable but in real life it does not
completely work. It did remind me of many student homes here in Delft. It is actually the closest thing
to the Dutch student homes. If you live in a Dutch student home, and you don’t mind the occasional
dirty dishes in the sink, a Co-op house is the way to go. I may have sounded a bit cynical about the
utopia but I really enjoyed living there. The people were really nice, interesting and had an opinion
which was not always the case for the rest of the domestic students. Living with 30 people may sound
like the house is a busy place with lots of noise and happenings but this is not true. In my room I had
my privacy and the peace and quiet I needed for my studies. Another option is to live off campus and
rent a house or floor of the house with one or more friends. This is very common in Lawrence and lots
of my friends lived this way. Downside is that it is also more expensive than the Co-op house.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to the States was because they speak English. I did not want to
learn a new language while I was also taking courses in Aerospace Engineering. Since the study of
Aerospace in Delft is almost exclusively in English, communication on campus was no problem.
Everybody understood me and the technical terms were the same ones we use in Delft. Outside
campus the interaction between me and other student was just as good. My English was more than
sufficient in order to have normal conversation, make jokes and laugh.
         I did have to take an English exam because I did not do the TOEFL test. So they needed to
check whether or not my English skills were sufficient. I tried to get a waiver because I took my
Bachelor of Aerospace in English but they did not bought it. I did pass the test.
         As I mentioned earlier I made several international friends. These friends were either from
South America or Europe. Besides my 30 roommates I made few American friends. Americans have a
pretty rrestricted view of the world. For most of them the world is Kansas or the USA. They don’t
know a lot about the rest of the world or world history. This was annoying from time to time. It is not
that I know everything there is to know about the world and its history, I do think that academic
Dutch people have more knowledge about it. When I introduced myself as a student from the
Netherlands, they replied by saying they know Ronja and Bjorn who live in Stockholm. I thought
people in the States at the University were more educated in general areas.

My off time I spend with my friends. We often went to American football games, or played flag
football ourselves. Furthermore we went to nearby lakes to BBQ and chill. The other thing we did is of
course going out. In Lawrence there are enough restaurants bar and discotheques to have a lot of
fun. Every so often we went out in Kansas City where the clubs were less student like and more high
end, which was also fun. When you go to Lawrence you don’t need any directions from me. There is
one street; Massachusetts Street where all the bars en places are located, you cannot miss it.
         Transportation in Lawrence is well organized, as student of KU you are allowed to travel for
free in all the busses, the busses on campus and the busses in town. However if you want to travel
outside Lawrence a car is a necessity. The Greyhound bus and the Amtrak train are a total disaster.
Besides being ridiculously expensive they have weird departure times of 5 or 6 in the morning and
they only arrive once a day. I did not have a car but many of my friends did. Therefore I was able to
go to places. But if I had to do it over I would have gotten a car from the beginning. Air travel within
the States tough, is pleasant. I got my Kansas driver’s license for $36, which also is good enough ID
to travel by plane, furthermore in Kansas City Airport there were no long queues like at Schiphol.

Overall I had a great time in Lawrence and America. The possibilities of finding a job once you are
done in Delft are high I would presume. They appreciate academics in engineering. Furthermore it is
customary for American student to stop studying once they obtained their Bachelors degree.
Therefore being a Master graduate in Aerospace Engineering will give you an edge.
         America is a nice country, which has a lot in common with the Netherlands. It also had a lot of
differences. This paradox makes it pleasant to be there because many things seem familiar, but you
still get the foreign country experience. I learned allot about America and the American people. I
enjoyed discussions on things like healthcare and capitalism. I have to say that more often than none
people are interested in what you have to say, which allows a nice atmosphere for discussion. I really
value my exchange, not so much on the academic education level but more on the social level.
Meeting other people, not only from the States, who have different perception on things is refreshing
and I would recommend it to everybody who studies in Delft.

				
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