Life of a student - Going to a University of Applied Sciences

The story of HAN student Tommie Maas

HAN Student Tommie Maas

HAN Student Tommie Maas


Tommie Maas is in the final year of his Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree at the HAN University of Applied Sciences. Before embarking on this study programme, he earned his VWO (pre-university education) diploma, went to Eindhoven University of Technology and delivered pizzas. "I don't regret any of the steps I took."

How did you explore your study options when you were still at secondary school?
"I used to be highly indecisive; I didn't know what to choose. My interests could change from one month to the next. There came a point, however, when I needed to decide. That moment came in the fifth grade of VWO; that's when I visited a number of open days. I went to one at the Radboud University, one at Utrecht University and one at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)."

What made the biggest impression during the open days?
"When I went to Eindhoven, I was made aware of the Electrical Engineering study programme and I was instantly enthralled by it. Since that day, my interest in that field has never gone away. It allows you to take control of your environment in a way that's quite rare. At TU/e, there's a special room in which lightning can be generated. That was so interesting to me. I thought: I want to be able to do that when I grow up!"

You started out with Electrical Engineering at TU/e, but also gave that up again. Why?
"I never really had to work to get good grades when I was doing my VWO. This resulted in me never really developing a good work attitude that would allow me to, for instance, do forty hours of schoolwork in a week. So, when exactly that was expected of me at university, I couldn't make that shift quick enough. I found it difficult to focus on my studies for that many hours and started to fall behind. I got really stressed at one stage, as I couldn't keep up. This resulted in many sleepless nights. It's quite confronting to actually take that step to de-enrol."

In the end you took the plunge and quit your university study programme. What did you do after that?
"I quit after six months, and I took on a simple job: delivering pizzas. In that period, I realised that fulltime employment wasn't a great option for me either. That's when I started looking at study programmes again; also including programmes at universities of applied sciences this time around (HBO programmes). I was still interested in electrical engineering, so I started looking for a place that offered a programme in that field at HBO level. I found it in Arnhem."

You went with the HAN University of Applied Sciences. Why was that your choice?
"My choice was mainly determined by the topics covered by Electrical Engineering at the HAN. I am interested in high voltage, energy transport and energy generation. It seemed that those themes were covered most at the HAN."

You are currently in your fourth year of study. What are the most interesting projects you took part in?
"At the end of the last academic year, I was working on a project for an industrial park in Arnhem that wants to get rid of its grey energy. We carried out a viability study, to see whether the park can become energy-neutral with the help of four wind turbines that will be installed there. We researched whether the energy could be stored in hydrogen form at times when there is leftover wind energy. It was a very extensive project, in which I contacted a great number of companies and was involved with developments on the level of detail. Furthermore, I worked on an electric tractor project and other automotive projects, such as a test configuration for self-driving cars. We wanted to simulate a situation in which a pedestrian crosses the road, and we would test whether the car would brake on time."

Do you find your study programme to be challenging?
"Sometimes I would like there to be a little more depth. I think there's a reasonable chance of me going to university after I graduate from the HAN."

Are there any activities at the HAN that you can partake in to make your studies more challenging?
"I am a member of the student organisation of the Engineering and Automotive Academy: SV Amoras. I've been working hard for Amoras, organising events such as the introduction week. This year I moved up and into the position of chair. Does that make my study programme more challenging? Not necessarily. It does make my spare time a lot more challenging. Amoras takes up quite a few hours every week, and I really need to plan ahead. It increases my workload, but I am happy that I made the choice."

Do you ever regret your choice of doing an HBO programme?
"I don't regret any of the steps I took. Both at university and at the HAN, I learned skills that I will benefit from for the rest of my life; I am grateful for that fact. My ancillary activities during my HBO programme have really made me progress as a person. I have gained a huge network, learned to speak in front of large audiences, I have organised activities for two hundred people; these are things that have led to my personal social evolution and I am really appreciative of that fact.

This article is part of a series of articles. The Sustainable Electrical Energy Centre of Expertise (SEECE) interviews HBO students with a VWO background and asks them how they are experiencing higher professional education. The conversations with students show that a technical HBO degree can be a highly valuable option for VWO pupils.

This is a translation. Click here for the original Dutch article