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From nice to amazing: my experience with photons.

Tanvi Pradhan, one of our first-year master students, wrote down her experience and looks back at her first couple of months in Belgium. Read her enthusiastic journey from Raipur 🇮🇳 to Belgium 🇧🇪 below!

“Congratulations! You have been academically accepted for the European Master of Science in Photonics (EMSP).” The day I received this email was the happiest day of my life. From the day I received my admission, I started counting days to go to Belgium. To be honest, I did not have any information or contact in the programme so I could not rely on the opinion of someone with experience in this master program. I just googled ” Master courses in Photonics in Europe”, and EMSP popped up. I read the information given on their website and the reviews online – and was excited to apply (this Master Program was gonna be exciting, and this is exactly true, I am not bragging about it).”

“I took a flight from Bangalore to Abu Dhabi and from Abu Dhabi to Brussels (the capital city of Belgium). I had a layover in Bangalore too, as I come from a mediocre city, Raipur, in India, which does not have an international airport. While I was sitting in Bangalore airport alone, a weird feeling cropped up inside me, thinking about how everything would go, how the new culture would be: a new country, a new way of living far away from home, 8000 kilometres away across the ocean. Leaving your parents and home country is definitely difficult. Because of the huge distance, you can’t visit them often. But deep inside I had a feeling too, I was going to join one of the best Photonics programmes in Europe, so everything would be nice. It turned out to be amazing.”

“The initial days I felt a little homesick, but thanks to my classmate Nikhil I felt at home in Ghent. I was also lucky enough to get accommodation from my home country, which made my life here much easier. I would like to mention that finding accommodation in Ghent is so difficult, so make sure the first thing to do after you get an admission is search for rooms. I always had a fear of living in a European city because of the language barrier. I thought I would always feel left out among the locals because they would talk and laugh, and have fun in a language you would never understand. But, Ghent and Brussels are truly international cities! If you love parties and socializing, join the Erasmus Group. They are a group of exchange students from across the European Universities. Also, in EMSP there is a good diversity and we are like a family, we do help each other. “

Studying in Ghent

“I love this medieval ancient, yet modern city of Ghent. Ghent is one of the charming “darlings” of Belgium. It’s so different than what I saw on the internet. The internet can’t do justice to any place and this is quite true. The Gothic Architecture of the Cathedral, the eternal silence of sunsets across the river, and the colourful bubbles at the city centre are some of the things I keep falling in love with. Graslei and Korenlei are two of my favourite streets. They are so magical during the day as well as at night. Also not to forget the amazing fries and waffles. If you love chocolate, trust me, you will love Belgium. If you fancy student life, just go to Overpoortstraat, grab a beer and you will find the craziest of students there. I had the assumption that no one here would speak English because their native language is Dutch, but this turned out to be a misconception. Almost everyone, old and young can speak English. So, whenever you get lost, don’t worry. Belgians are among the most helping and friendly people. With Belgium lying at the centre of Europe, it’s so easy to fulfil your dream of travelling to all the European countries. Paris and Amsterdam are just two hours away from Brussels.”

“Ghent University is one of the best-ranked universities in the world and our professors are so friendly, nice and their knowledge is amazing. The academic staff is helpful, caring and making your arrival in Belgium so smooth. When in trouble, they are always there. There is an introductory session by the university common for all students and also some fun activities. There also was a kick-off event by Photonics Group. All detailed information was given, which made me comfortable enough to plan out my studies for two years (this really isn’t a piece of cake). The professors are so kind and they reply promptly to every question you have. So the transition from the culture in my home country to the European culture was so smooth. Now I feel so confident about the perfect career choice I made. In the kick-off event, the information was crystal clear, so I could figure out my way through these two years. I have a sound plan of going for an international internship to CEA-LETI in France. I will share my experience if the Coronavirus outbreak doesn’t screw up my plans. Also, since our program and our professors both at UGent and VUB have so many industrial contacts, getting a job won’t be like walking through thorns in a garden of roses.”

Balance your time

“With an Engineering background, the first semester courses are very challenging and difficult. The first semester courses are fundamental physics and some mathematics. I have a “math phobia”, but thanks to Professor Peter those lectures were amazingly well planned and easy for me to study. The courses are difficult but not impossible. Everyone can manage it because the professors explain the concepts very well. They are brilliant, experts and genius, I would say. Although, I would like to mention that balancing your time is very important. I did six exams in twenty days, so that was a bit more challenging.”

“The second semester is rather easy and less dense. It’s manageable, but you have got to do more lab reports. For me, concepts like Fourier Transforms and Periodic Structures were abstract and imaginary, but when I actually did them in labs, I realised how fascinating they are. I couldn’t say much about the second semester now, because it went all online because of this Coronavirus outbreak.”

“After one semester in Belgium, you get used to the culture and the lifestyle, which makes life so easy. To get a truly international experience, this master program offers many exchange opportunities at almost all of the Best Universities in Europe like ITMO, EPFL and DTU. That way, you also have a chance to experience another European culture. All the professors have a extensive industrial network, so finding an international internship is not so difficult. I got one in my first semester!”

This post was published on Tanvi’s personal blog. Read more and ask her a question!

Byadmin

VUB PHD LIEN SMEESTERS IS FINALIST FOR GLOBAL EDMUND OPTICS EDUCATIONAL AWARDS

phd-lien-smeesters-photonics-b-phot

Lien graduated as MSc. in Photonics and is pursuing a PhD where she studies optical techniques to pave the way to increased food safety.

Thanks to her innovative technique, several tons of natural products can be screened per hour, without the use of any chemical additives.

Think of delicious tacos or nachos. Using Lien Smeesters research results, the corn being used in the production process can be scanned on carcinogenic toxins, right from the fields. Particularly, she enables to scan every individual maize kernel in an efficient, accurate and non-destructive way.

As Phd at VUB B-PHOT Brussels Photonics research group, she studies different spectroscopic techniques, including absorbance and fluorescence spectroscopy, for the optical detection of carcinogenic mycotoxins and the prediction of the harmful acrylamide formation in food products. She aims to integrate these sensing techniques into laser-based scanning platforms, to enable a rapid, accurate and non-destructive detection of contaminants.

The award

Edmund Optics Educational Award selects applied optics-related research projects that are expected to have a high impact on tomorrow’s applications, like Lien’s project.