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Belgian Interest

  1. Jan 15, 2008 #1

    Currently I'm still in high school (I turn 17 in februari), but soon I'll be going to college. I live in Belgium (the Flemish -- also known as the Dutch -- part) and we have about 4 universities. I have a very strong interest in mathematics, physics and chemistry, more specifically quantummechanics and just generally physics & chemistry on a very tiny level. My interest is also very theoretical, and not as applied as nanotechnology etc.

    I've considered going abroad and I think I could get the support of my parents if I'm really convinced, but first I need to know what the best option would be. I don't know how detailed the courses are on quantummechanics over here and I was wondering if I could get some information on universities in The Netherlands, Canada, America, etc. (mainly something either in Dutch or English) that may offer what would suit my interests.

    I'd also be interested in just hearing previous experiences of going abroad to study and other related subjects. I'm also pretty much a total nitwit when it comes to universities. I have no idea that if you want to specialize in Quantummechanics, for example, what special measures you must take.

    Any input available?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2008 #2
    First of all, your parents have money? They can afford the $20-40K per year it will cost, right? (Limited financial assistance is available in the US for foreign undergraduates.)

    Secondly, US students do not specialize in quantum mechanics at the undergraduate level... the degree would be physics, which would most likely require only one or two courses in quantum mechanics.

    In general, I'd suggest getting your first degree locally and coming to the US for graduate studies. That is when you begin to specialize, and there is much more financial support available as well.
  4. Jan 15, 2008 #3
    I have a friend who studied at Liege for Engineering and he turned out very successful.
  5. Jan 15, 2008 #4
    Hi, ik woon dichtbij je - in nederland!

    Let me first say that it will be MUCH cheaper for you to stay in the EU for your undergrad. As a foreign student in Canada you would pay about $20,000 CAD/year for tuition and about $12,000 - $15,000/year for expenses. In the US you will pay at 1.5 to 2.5 times that amount and costs in the UK will be similarly prohibitive.

    If you would like to go abroad you should look for scholarships offered by universities you are considering applying to as well as scholarships offered by the Belgian government. Your teachers are probably in the best position to assess whether you are a good candidate - ask them what they think of your proposal to go abroad!

    I would speculate that the quality of the undergraduate course in the Netherlands is comparable to the quality of a really good US school or a Canadian school which offers an honours program and separate/honours classes for physics specialists in the first year. (At most US and Canadian schools, life science students are obliged to take first-year physics - so any school which has separate first year physics classes for physics majors usually offers a much more valuable and rewarding program). I don't think you need to worry much about how "detailed" the courses are. You won't specialize much until after your undergrad.

    Unless you get into a very good school with a very large scholarship it does not make much sense to go out of Europe. If you are interested in traveling a bit, you can always see about student exchanges (which usually happen in your third year). When I did my undergrad in Canada there were loads of European undergrads studying on exchange programs.

    Leiden and Utrecht are the two most obvious choices for a physics degree in the Netherlands. I work with two Dutch PhDs, one of whom did undergrad in Leiden and one of whom did undergrad in Utrecht. The student from Utrecht enjoys complaining about his undergraduate preparation (but really, he is a smart guy who just likes to whine). Anyways, you can look to see what elsevier says about Dutch universities:

    http://www.elsevier.nl/nieuws/wetenschap/artikel/asp/artnr/174183/zoeken/ja/index.html [Broken]

    Finally, I can see you are very enthusiastic about quantum mechanics: this is wonderful! (You remind me very much of myself at age 16!) I encourage you to keep on being excited about QM, but I also encourage you to allow yourself some space for your interests to change - there are some pretty neat experiments out there - and particle physics and stars and bose-einstein condensates and music and literature and art! So, just keep on keeping on. :-)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  6. Jan 17, 2008 #5
    TMFKAN - Wow, that's damn expensive. I follow your logic.

    maas - haha, hey, bedankt voor het uitgebreide antwoord.

    I recently spoke to my mathematics teacher about that I really wanted to continue math in college, on which she replied that applied it would be engineering, and theoretically, well, theoretical mathematics. I showed special interest in the latter, but she said that 90% ends up as teachers (not that I would mind, but rather not as my main profession). Hopeful I inquired about the other 10%, expecting theoretical thinkers that developed theories etc, only to hear "well, doing math in companies". That sounds so unambitious. Is it silly to want to go for an other way? Silly as in, unrealistic. My dad assured me that that would require me to be incredibly good -- something everybody hopes to be(come), but, of course, you often get disappointed.

    The allure of going abroad to study, is to study in an environment like you see in the movies -- not sure how trustworthy that is though. You walk down the corridors and see some poster of a lecture on "The Inflation Theory" and walk outside to meet with people that have the same ideas as you -- or sometimes the opposite ones, looking for an exciting debate. I'm not immediately the most social person (suppose that is an understatement), but such an attitude really seems stimulating. You just don't have that over here. And I imagine the studies to be better, although that may be a false assumption -- I think universities in Belgium are of a great standard. Ideally, I'm looking for such an environment that allows a great mixture of mathematics and the aforementioned physics and chemistry applied in ridiculously large or small settings.
    You made an interesting proposal with Utrecht, although it's hard for me to judge it, especially as I'm Belgian and so even more out of touch with universities in the Netherlands. (which will be the fact for any university abroad, of course)

    And you're right, I'm very enthusiastic about quantum mechanics, and happy to see you were the same at my age. I often try to google aspects of it, but it's quite hard to selfteach, lol. I've even read about the bose-einstein condensates -- well I'm thinking about the fluid Helium forms near 0 K, with no viscosity etc, which could be something different.
  7. Jan 17, 2008 #6


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    Did you know that this is what university teachers do when they're not teaching? This activity is most commonly referred to as "doing research".
  8. Jan 18, 2008 #7

    Ik studeer momenteel Informatica aan de KU Leuven. Ik heb minor fysica en we hebben redelijk wat vakken gemeenschappelijk met wiskunde en fysica.
    I think the university in Leuven is a great university. Belgians have a good way of teaching in high school, and that also applies to the university (I can compare since I'm Dutch and I've lived both in Holland and France).
    We have some great students over here (a few from the belgian team of the international mathematics olympiad) and even for them it's not that easy :-). You can have a look at the course here: http://www.kuleuven.ac.be/onderwijs/aanbod/opleidingen/N/CQ_50074218.htm. If you want more maths, you can choose the minor maths. If you are very interested in for example chemistry, you can choose that minor as well.
    I know that Utrecht is a very good university as well. It has a Nobel prize winner... (Gerard 't Hooft). But I don't think that where you do your undergraduate studies are too important. You hear often of people who start at "small" universities and eventually end up at MIT or Stanford in graduate school. What you really should consider is what is more practical to you. First of all, as said before, money is very important. If you study in Belgium, it would cost you (more precisely: your parents) a lot less than if you'd go abroad. You may also have the opportunity to come back home every weekend. Maybe you don't realize it, but it's not easy to be away from your family and friends for several weeks and to be on your own in a country that isn't yours, especially when you're 17 or 18 years old. You may want to see your girlfriend some time to time :-).
    Well, I hope this can help you.
  9. Jan 18, 2008 #8
    quaser - but that isn't what the university pays you for. Then it's more like a hobby in your time off--if you have enough time off, and that gives the risk of eventually not seeing the point in it, getting discouraged etc

    yoran - Hey, thanks, that actually did help. After I get my undergraduate studies, I can always still go abroad and then I'll probably have a better idea of what's there to offer. And if I'm able to proove myself, the university might offer a scolarship or support.
  10. Jan 18, 2008 #9


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    Er.. no. In most universities (and certainly here in the US), faculty members are expected and often paid to do research. Research grants that they try to get often includes salaries for those involved. In fact, if you want to get tenure or promotion, your research work and what you have accomplished scientifically are what often considered highly.

  11. Jan 18, 2008 #10


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    Not true at all. University Professors usually teach at most 2 courses a semester, and most of them have grad students to do their grading for them. They hold office hours for only and hour or two a week. That's about 10 hours a week spent on their teaching duties depending on how much they prepare for their lectures. They certainly don't spend the rest of their time sleeping in their office
  12. Jan 18, 2008 #11
    Oh, I see. I was mistaken then. I took one person I knew as the standard. But I must say I'm happy to see I'm wrong.
  13. Jan 18, 2008 #12
    I must agree with the rest. The main duty of a professor is to do research and to publish papers, even though he's supposed and he has to share his knowledge as well. But a professor is in the first place a scientific researcher.
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