Civil Engineering: Nikola about his studies

Why did you decide to study at HZ?
"I choose HZ University of Applied Sciences in particular because all its aspects were perfect for my needs. I also watched videos about the HZ and decided to apply. I contacted University for You in Holland (UNIFY), who helped me to prepare my documents, and informed me about the HZ Open days. Without any hesitation I decided to visit Vlissingen. The town was really picturesque with beautiful houses and arraying boats. I was offered a tour around the university and attended presentations related to my study choices. I also met new people who helped me to choose my Bachelor Programme. The university is practically-oriented with new facilities offering modern education. I was deeply impressed by all laboratories with microscopes and aquaria. In addition, the location of the university reminded me of my childhood spent in my grandparents' town Nessebar, and the positive energy that the sea always gives."

Why did you choose this specific study programme ?
"As to my choice of Civil Engineering, I decided to apply for it because I am good at Maths. I believe that my mathematical skills are advanced, especially in Solid Geometry and I am good at solving Maths problems. Challenging tasks stimulate my thinking even more. Besides, due to the interaction between sciences, I was also going to study Physics. These sciences, complementing each other, fascinated me even more because I would understand their application in the real word. I think that civil engineers will be in great demand in future, especially in countries with underdeveloped infrastructure, helping them improve their standard of life. This motivated me to learn more, to think creatively and fulfill my plans. Since I was a young boy, I have created structures like shelters in my grandparent's backyard. I was interested in house plans and when my father started building our new house I just looked at the sketches and thought about how everything was made possible and why the house did not collapse. I talked with the workers, asked questions and learned new and interesting details related to various configurations. This is when I realized that I wanted to be an architect. Yet, being an architect was too obvious for me. Therefore, I chose Civil Engineering because of my fascination for Maths, my interest in construction, as well as the opportunity which I have to build structures over and under the ground."

Can you explain what the study is/was about?
"Being a student of a university of applied sciences, I have had numerous course assignments to apply theoretical knowledge to practice. Furthermore, during my exchange period in Denmark I was taking a course called “Experts in Team” which was making me better at teamwork by letting me collaborate interdisciplinary and preferably cross culturally. Until that year I have completed a variety of subjects that give me a good foundation to step on – core structural engineering subjects, soil mechanics, fluid dynamics, as well as more specialized courses - canals and harbors, coastal engineering, underground technology and dredging. Also, I was student assistant for structural engineering courses. I gained a better understanding of static and dynamic forces, practical aspects of related designs, detail considerations."

What did you think of studying in Zeeland, the Netherlands?
"Zeeland is a really nice place for studying. For me personally, it suited me well because it is really calm and a safe place. Everything is super close and there are no traffic jams. Finding accommodation is much easier than in other major cities in the Netherlands, especially with the help of APV housing. There are really nice places and the beaches are amazing during the summer. During the winter it is not that pleasant due to rain and wind, however I was seeing this as an advantage because you can concentrate on your study."

What was the most valuable part of your studies?
"I can say for sure that the most valuable part of my studies at HZ was the opportunity to do two internships in two different countries and a minor in a third one. The projects were the other part of my studies which gave me a lot of knowledge and unforgettable moments with my working colleagues. I remember that during the second year, we spent so much time together that at the end we formed an incredible working team which made all assignments easier and way more pleasant."

In what subject did you specialise?
"My specialisation subjects during my fourth year were underground technology and structural engineering. Those courses where really interesting and I managed to learn a lot form them. I obviously took structural engineering because I had also studied it during my minor/exchange period in Southern University of Denmark. In addition, I chose underground technology because it just looked interesting. Also, this course had some management parts in which I was really interested in."

    Tell us about your internships and your minor? how did you experience these semesters?
    "I had two internships – The first one for mainly working experience, the second one for my graduation thesis. I did both of them in a same company but in different countries/branches. It was a construction company which was acting as a general contractor and always strives towards quality in all construction works. It was mainly constructing office buildings, logistics centers, bridges, shopping malls, production and apartment buildings as well as hospitals, schools and sports infrastructure. Those internships allowed me to gain general knowledge in project definition, analysis of the requirements for project execution, feasibility studies and budget analysis of the investment, design, engineering, time table preparation, assistance in working with architects, engineers and individual suppliers, obtaining design and construction permits, turnkey construction, follow-up control, testing and commissioning and maintenance of buildings in operation. Also, I managed to do a really innovative final graduation project with the company about one of their new pre-fabricated concrete building systems since in the recent years prefabrication is a tendency in the construction industry."

    "I did my minor/exchange semester in Denmark. I studied mainly concrete and steel design engineering. It was really interesting but at the same time really challenging. Denmark as a country was really close to the Netherlands and I didn’t experience a huge cultural shock as some of my collages who went to Thailand. There, I also had the opportunity to work for the project “North Sea Wind Power Hub” which is a really spectacular project involving an artificial island in the middle of North Sea and multiple huge western European countries and private shareholders/stakeholders. My advice is to check it and read about it, it’s amazing."

    What did you do after graduation?
    "After my graduation I simply continued studying for a master degree in Construction Management and Engineering. As I said above I had two internships in a construction company and I really enjoy them so I made my decision to continue in this field."

    What would your advice be to a student applying to HZ?
    "My advice to all student who are applying in HZ is to know what they want to study and to think in advance what they want to work in future. Every programme can be divided in different branches and each branch can be divided in more specialised one. With civil engineering the main branches are project design, project execution and project maintenance. During my studies I gain knowledge in all three of them but it was up to me to decide in which branch I wanted to go and specialise with my minor and my internships. At the beginning I was really interested in project design, as a result I went to Denmark and I specialised in concrete and steel structures. Later I decided to try the project execution with my 1st internship because I was not sure what I wanted to do in future. This way, I managed to find which branch was best for me and I went for it. So shortly, try to discover what you want to do later and I know this is not an easy task especially when you are 18 years old."