On the 25th of September we sat down together with Utrechtsch Studenten Corps (USC) and with their member Stijn Toonen, who recently graduated from TIAS. Find out what Stijn has to say about his time at TIAS.
Why did you decide to join TIAS Business School?
There were numerous reasons. In the first place it made it very easy for me to go from the HBO Bachelor to a universal Master. This saved me one year of doing a pre-masters. In the second place, the international aspect. I wanted to experience that because I did not have any international experience yet. In the third place, I knew some of my friends were going to TIAS, so that helped also.
Can you tell us something about the application procedure?
It was really smooth. It is not easy to get in but the process itself was well designed and made it very clear for me what was expected and how I needed to perform to get in.
What did you enjoy the most about your time at TIAS Business School? What are the things that helped you to blend in?
Well everybody has to blend in when you get here and it’s a very special environment. You have all these people from different cultures with whom you have never spoken before, and you have to work with them immediately. You don’t have time to adapt to the differences, you just get thrown in the deep. That can be hard. But I guess everyone just goes with it and TIAS provides good guidance and assistance and that was the main reason why I could just blend in.
What was the most valuable thing you learned at TIAS and what had the biggest impact on you?
I think there were two things: the way of problem solving, the way of getting to a solution and the way of using information to get to a right conclusion is something I really improved myself on. In addition, I found out that Dutch people have the tendency to think that they can blend into every type of culture. That’s all true and fine if you go on vacation and you want to order a drink somewhere then you will manage that, but once you really have to work with each other and once you really are dependent on each other, it is a completely different story. Dutch people are used to a type of directness. If you use that directness in groups here, some of the students from other cultures will be shocked or offended and think that you are a scary person. Some will not even mention that to you or avoid you so you have no idea what you’re doing wrong.
Who would you recommend this course to if you recommend it at all? What type of person should be considering TIAS?
Well, I think anyone who wants to do a master, but doesn’t want to do a purely academic study. At TIAS the program is more of an applied master with a theoretical base but also practical aspects. So, I would recommend it to every university bachelor student who falls into this category.
You had a quite intensive year here at TIAS, but at the same time you had other responsibilities. How did you manage to combine those?
It was really tough. I’ll just be honest, you have to make sacrifices. There were a lot of parties I couldn’t attend, because I had to be in class the next day or I was working on a paper and I couldn’t miss a night and a day of work. I don’t know if that’s the same for everyone, but for me, my mind-set changed. I came here with the idea: “I’m coming to the end of my student days” in terms of studying, not in terms of our fraternity. I really wanted to make the most of my time at TIAS.I wanted to get good grades, so I wouldn’t be limited fort he jobs I can apply to.
It is an investment?
Yes, it is an investment. I would say, if you are not dedicated to that investment, don’t do it. Because it would be a big mistake to come here and not be 100% committed. It would be a shame if you only make half the effort.
Universities normally provide, for example, a two hour class on a Monday and then students won’t see the professor again for another week or so. At TIAS, however, you spend literally the whole week with one professor. Did you ﬁnd that valuable?
Yes, you really get to know a professor. You know what to expect, you get to know his way of teaching much better, and you know when you have to pay attention! In addition, it’s a great networking opportunity.
Can you tell us more about your classmates, they are from very different cultures. How is the collaboration with them?
Most of the work you do yourself, all the exams you have to do yourself and every course has at least one assignment that you have to do yourself, and some have group assignments. The group work, as I said before, can be really challenging. I remember when we had our ﬁrst course which was Marketing in the Service Economy. We had to do all these ﬂip chart presentations and the ﬁrst one that we did was a disaster, because we were just miscommunicating with one another. But it is just a learning curve. You have to be clear in what you want, you have to stick to the deadlines and then it will be ﬁne. But in the beginning, yeah (Stijn laughs), it is really challenging, especially with all the different cultures.
What is your message to people who are starting TIAS next year? What is your message to them, in terms of preparation, in terms of dealing with an international environment. What is the key message?
I don’t think there is a lot of preparation you should or can do. You cannot prepare yourself if you have not experienced different kind of cultures before. You cannot prepare yourself for working with someone from a different culture. I think the best approach is to just start and work hard from the ﬁrst second. That is something that I would like to say. If you start sloppy, the framework that you think in is changing. If you start by working hard you enter in a higher framework. I started TIAS with the mindset that I wanted at least a 7,5 on average at the end of the year. So I would really be angry at myself if I got a 6. As I said before, I think it would be a real shame about the effort, time and the money that you spend here, to do it just to ‘just’ get through. I think that would be really a shame.
So you handed in your thesis 2 weeks ago. What’s happening now?
When you add TIAS to your LinkedIn, recruiters show up in hordes, it is completely crazy. The current environment for recently graduated students is great because of the large amount of vacancies that are out there. TIAS helped me in coming into contact with some companies and even provides training sessions for job application processes.