dinsdag 26 mei 2015

Even more opportunities!

Dear reader,

The last weeks where buzzy as well for me, so I lacked the time to write another post for this blog… But I have experience so much!

First off, my trip to Ouro Preto with Marijn; after two weeks in Belo Horizonte, it was about time for me to get out of the city. And what better way to do that, than with a road trip! For R$ 180 (about €60) we rented a car (FiatPalio 1.0 Fire! Sounds fast, but wasn’t) and a hostel in Ouro Preto for two persons. Really cheap!
The rural roads of Minas Gerais
Because we both loved to travel, we’ve planned a route through the mainland of Minas Gerais following the MG-030. Once in Ouro Preto we have left our baggage in the hostel and did some sightseeing of the city. This meant seeing a lot of minerals, old buildings and loads of churches. Combined with the landscape it was a really nice place to stay!

Beautiful colonial architecture in Ouro Preto
After this nice break, it was time for me to go to Viçosa. As a foreigner who can’t speak any Portuguese, it was quite an experience to book a bus ticked to Viçosa. But fortunately I had some instructions from the Living Lab students about the bus system.
After a trip of six hours through the curvy roads of mainland of Minas Gerais, I arrived in Viçosa where a student ambassador of the UFV was already waiting for me with a sign “Mr. Hoek”. He walked me to the student apartment where the other students where already waiting to give me a warm welcome.

Classic buildings on the UFV campus
After a good night sleep, I was welcomed to the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV) by the people of the DRI office (international office). They had made a quite impressive meeting schedule for me, in which I met 18 professors in the three days I was there!

But because everybody was so kind and welcoming to me, I had a really good time in Viçosa. I’ve even had lunch at a professor’s home, spend some time with the (international-) students and represented the Netherlands with Robbin & Hannah (VHL students) on an international fair. But ontop of that, I've seen loads of oppurtinities for Dutch Universities!

Some of the internationals at UFV, spot the Dutch!
But when I left Viçosa on Friday afternoon, I realized that my time in Brazil is almost over! But before I could go home, I had to visit Inhotim! Using all my acquired culture skills of (almost) 3 weeks Brazil, I’ve gotten in a bus towards Inhotim and make some friends to explore the park with me. And what a park it was! Beautiful landscaping, impressive size and beautiful pieces of modern art. A real pleasure for anyone who loves modern arts or nature on its finest.

One of the outside pieces of art, Troca-Troca
After Inhotim, all what was left was a goodbye-lunch with Marijn and Bella and go back to the airport, because the Netherlands is already waiting for me and my experiences!

And there I am, sitting in my chair on the HZ University of Applied Sciences, thinking back to my time in Brazil and missing it already! But I’ve had a really great time, thanks to everyone around me! Whenever I come back, I will make sure to bring even more stroopwafels for you.

In the coming weeks, I will transfer all my experiences from notes to journals and reports and share them to everyone who wants/need to know more about Brazil. In a few weeks I’ll hope to tell you about their reactions to my findings and the first spin-offs of my research.

Until then!


woensdag 13 mei 2015

Meeting new people

Dear reader,

Due to a really full schedule, I was not able to give you an update about my experiences in Belo Horizonte. But that’s a good thing, because it indicates that I was able to do a lot of research!

But before I could attend any meetings, I had to fill the long weekend. Bummer!
To make my time still productive, I arranged a few interviews with Brazilian students from PUC Minas. These give me a good indication about the inner workings of the Brazilian education system, but more importantly they explained the importance of an international experience for Brazilian students.

Besides these interviews, I’ve found some time to explore the city of Belo Horizonte some more with Marijn. Like true Dutchman, we rented a bike and cycled our way around Lake Pampulha. This lake was created in the early 40’s as a Recreation place outside the city of Belo Horizonte and is known for its (beautiful) buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Nowadays the city has expanded so much that Lake Pampulha lays in the north-western part of the city.

The famous church of of Saint Francis of Assisi

By Monday I’ve gathered enough Brazilian knowledge to visit the (beautiful) PUC Minas campus on Coração Eucarístico  by public transport. Just to give you a feeling of the size of Belo Horizonte, it will take you 1.5 hours to travel from the city center to the campus by city bus! Speaking of that; the bus system is quite good in Belo Horizonte! Unfortunately it’s quite complex… Luckily Google Maps can always help you with this, even in Brazil.

In the meetings at PUC Minas I’ve met the head of the SEPLAN (international office) and some professors, who have been really hospitable to me! This included a tour of the engineering labs at campus and a lunch with the professor’s family. They even introduced me to the Director of the Mechanical department and the students of PUC Minas.

The inner garden of PUC Minas
Besides PUC Minas, I visited the UFMG campus. And this university is big! For the Dutch guys, think De Uithof (Utrecht) times 2-3! Here I spoke to a student who have done an exchange at the HZ University of Applied Sciences and had some meetings at the DRI Office (international office) about the possibilities for foreign students and their reception at UFMG.

Beautiful light in the UFMG buildings
After these meetings, the week was already over! So I went with Marijn on a road trip to Ouro Preto! This is the original capital of Minas Gerais (before Belo Horizonte was build) and is well known for its mining for minerals. The marks of this mining are still to be seen in the landscape, what was sometimes just breathtaking!

Portuguese colonial buildings in Ouro Perto
After this trip it was already necessary to prepare to my trip to Vicosa, where I’m going to visit the UFV. In the next blog I will tell you about my trip and the experiences I’ve had.

Stay tuned!


donderdag 30 april 2015

Exploring new places

Dear reader,

While my last post was created in Vlissingen, this post is written from Belo Horizonte, Brazil! Last Monday I departed from Amsterdam, by Lisbon to Belo Horizonte. All in all a flight of 14 hours, but without any delays (fortunately!). At arrival in Belo Horizonte, I was picked up by two members of the Living Lab Student Team; Marijn Maas and Izabella Zschaber. They brought me to my hotel that I will call home for the coming three weeks. Because it was already 22:00 and my biological clock said 03:00, so I had to wait for the next day for my first Brazilian experience.
Beautiful sight over the Atlantic Ocean
The next day I waked up very early (due to biological clock) and I went outside and I was in luck, the traffic jam of that morning has just started! Loads of cars moving through the one way roads that formed a grid (just like Washington DC) and the pedestrian paths filled with people going to work or school. The atmosphere was just alive! Not in a strictly organized way (like we are used to in the Netherlands), but in a relaxed way.

You can find that relaxation everywhere. If you go for lunch here (the most important meal here), everybody is taking his/her time. Paying the bill? Why hurry? We just stand in line some longer (up to 10 min or longer). Because the Brazilians are the same way in planning meetings etc., it took some real adjustment for me. I’ve had to learn to go with the flow, not planning in a tight way (like I was used to) but more globally.
Even the Policia Federal Brasil looks relaxed sometimes
The second day I had an appointment with Nuffic NESO, NBSO and the LivingLab Biobased Brazil, before going together to the Kingsday Drink. Everyone who had a connection with The Netherlands was invited, so their where former exchange students, people who immigrated to Brazil and starting businesses from The Netherlands. All in all a great bunch of people, with created interesting conversations and new network connections.
Me and Marijn with some Brazilian exchange students, excuses for the bad quality…
Because of Labor Day (May 1st) the weekend is already here! That means the accommodation and preparation days are over. Next week I will conduct my fist interviews with students and professors at PUC Minas and UFMG.

In the next post I will tell you about these interviews and my other Brazilian experiences.

Until then!


maandag 20 april 2015

Ready to go

Dear reader,

In the previous post I’ve told you about my research, what was still a bit theoretical... But in these weeks I’ll be conducting the practical part of my research; the actual interviews with students, lectures and businesses.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve interviewed several Dutch students who are following the Energy- and Process technology study program. The topics in these interviews were the way they saw their own study program and there view on international experiences within their study. The results were very promising; all the students saw the need for international experiences, but saw some obstacles in their way towards a research or minor abroad. In the following interviews, I’ll try to find a suited solution to these obstacles.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be in Brazil for the Brazilian side of the story. What do Brazilian students want and what are the possibilities for an international exchange in Brazil?
With the help of the Living Lab Biobased Brazil and Nuffic I’ve made several appointments with the UFMG, PUC Minas and UFV. I’m also trying to visits some local businesses the the help of the NBSO office.

But before I could have booked my ticked for Belo Horizonte, I’ve had to do some preparations. Firstly a travel visa; The Brazilian Consulate in Rotterdam pointed out to me that as an Dutch Passport holder I don’t need a travel Visa, because my travel purpose is purely business related and under 90 days.
Secondly tickets and accommodation; It turned out that TAP has a daily connection from Lisbon (Portugal) to Belo Horizonte, so it wasn’t hard to find the right ticked. When the ticked was booked, I could make a hotel reservation at the Ibis hotel.
Lastly the incurrence; because I’m traveling for the HZ University, I’m covered by their incurrence. But normally you have to arrange this for yourself.

With all the preparations ready, I’m ready to go! But if you found something that I’ve might have missed, please let me know!

In the next post I will tell you about my first impressions of Brazil.

Until then,


maandag 13 april 2015

A time to plan

Dear reader,

Due to the celebration of Easter (and its aftermath), this post is a bit later than you normally would expect from me. But like I said in the first post, family is important! In the previous post I told you about the reason behind my research, in this post I will enlighten the method of research in more detail. As a summarily you can also view the general presentation about EPT goes abroad.

But first we have to look closely at the phenomenon of knowledge exchange between Brazil and the Netherlands. What types of knowledge exchange are there and what would be the most suited to the Energy- and Process technology study program?

In this research we specify three important questions;
·         What does the student want?
·         What are the connections between Brazil and the Netherlands?
·         What would be the best program for the Energy- and Process technology study program?
In the coming paragraphs I’ll explain each of them and what my method of answering them will be.

Firstly, it’s important to understand what the student wants, because they are the reason to participate in knowledge exchange. The literture review shows that students desire knowledge, unique skills and experience abroad. For that, students need ambitions, support and funding.
But these are quite abstract definitions, so I will conduct interviews with the three student populations (Dutch, Brazilian and current exchange students) to explore the exact definitions.

Secondly, the connection levels between Brazil and the Netherlands. Our opinion is that a multistage connection between countries is important for a good working exchange program. This means that there have to be connections between universities (Living Labs, combined research), business  (NBSO) and students (exchange programs). By interviewing steakholders I’ll try to make an estimation of the possibilities that these connections offer.

From the outcomes I’ll advise the study program in the best exchange program. This program needs to suit the student’s needs, fit in the current study program and be useful to the local business.

To explore the Brazilian side of this story, I’ll be in Belo Horizonte form April 28th till May 18th. If you are in the facility or have any useful connections for me; please let me know! Maybe I can make some space in my agenda to meet you.

In the following post, I’ll tell you about my travel preparations and agenda in Brazil.

Until then,


vrijdag 27 maart 2015

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed reading the last post! As promised, I’ll give you some more insight in the research and the reason why I will be going to Brazil. But before I can do that, I need to give you a better understanding of the HZ University of Applied Sciences and the international ambitions of the Energy- and Process Technology study program.

The HZ University of Applied Sciences is a relatively small university in the south-western part of the Netherlands. With some 4.500 students (both national and international), the university is keen about its personal connection to each student (as a student from outside the region, I can say from my own experience that the school soon feels like home!) and its strong international orientation.
This international orientation is shown by the number of study programs that are internationally offered and in the international components in each study program (even the Dutch only programs).

In order to create  more possibility’s for international students the HZ University wants to make all unique study programs accessible for international students, this means that the Energy- and Process Technology has to change in order to accommodate international students in the best way possible.

This means that the changes in the study program have to be made with the future student in mind, but also the possibilities for these students abroad. This is accomplished by giving them an extra dimension on a specific subject that is related to their current study program.

In the exploration for possible subjects, I came across the Centre of ExpertiseBiobased Economy (Dutch site). This is a knowledge centre with specializes in the transition to a biobased economy, and is a collaboration between the HZ University and Avans University of Applied Sciences. As part of the LivingLab Biobased Brazil, the centre has strong connections with universities, government agencies and company’s in Brazil.

Using the knowledge and connections of the Centre of Expertise, I’m going to conduct a series of interviews with Brazilian students, program coordinators and businesses to understand their affection with study/students abroad and the possible collaborations between Brazil and the Netherlands.

Next week I will be telling you some more about my trip to Brazil.
Until then,


donderdag 19 maart 2015

Introduction to me and my research

Dear reader,

Before I begin about the current state of my research and the experiences I have while traveling to Brazil, I shall make a small introduction about my research subject and myself.
If you have read my introduction on the Living Lab Biobased Brazil page, you probably know that my name is Thijs Hoek. My origins lay in the middle of the Netherlands, close to the city of Zwolle. Because I have an great interest in every big and technical, I have made the choice to follow the study Energy and Process Technology at the HZ University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen (Flushing), The Netherlands. If you look at the map of the Netherlands, you will notice that Vlissingen is not exactly close to my home town, acutely it’s quite far away (about 200 km long directional).

Distance between my hometown and Vlissingen
This distance means a travel time of 5 hours between home and school, so I moved to Vlissingen and enjoy the student life there. But every weekend I try to get home to visit my family and friends, because they are the most important in life. Besides studying, working and traveling to and from home, I really like to capture my surroundings by photographing it or just sitting somewhere with friends and enjoying the moment. Especially the sea surrounding Vlissingen always gives my time to reflect and think.

Some examples of the sea surrounding Vlissingen
Because some of my friends are quite venturesome, we often talk about our possibility’s abroad. During those talks it struck me that my study program didn’t had solid connections abroad, but the possibility’s where out there! So I started researching what could be the possibilities for me and my fellow students at Energy and Process Technology.

During this research I had some discussions with study coordinators and lectures at the study. These saw the same opportunity’s as me, but they were never (officially) examined. Due to my interest in the subject and the possible outcomes for the study, they give me the chance to conduct an official research to the international possibilities for the study during my minor slot in the study program.

And so I started researching the possibilities!
Next week I will tell you more about the outlines of my research and the way I got connected to Brazil.

Until then,