Tips for new Industrial Ecologist & Circular Economists Students!

Welcome to this amazing family of Industrial Ecologists and Circular Economists, we are excited to make the world a better place together! My name is Wenhui Shan and I am studying Industrial Ecology at TU Delft/Leiden. I spent my first year online in my home country, and I just arrived in the Netherlands to start my second year. To help you on your journey, I wanted to share a few tips for students just starting your experience. 

Tips to ease your nerves

We are passionate, we are the world.

You may have a lot of concerns before meeting everyone in the beginning. As the epitome of the global village, we come from all over the world and have different cultural backgrounds and professions. But we are all here to change the world. The chemical reaction of differences will blow your mind. But you are going to meet the loveliest group of people who are always willing to share and help you. Even during online education in the pandemic, I have found an awesome team that would always back me up throughout the pandemic period. Just relax and join in, you will find your place, and this is going to be a wonderful experience.

We are ambitious, we face challenges.

Climate change, yes! Resource crisis, yes! Energy shortage, yes! Be confident and go for it! Every effort counts, your actions will never be too small. We welcome and appreciate every idea and opinion and we are eager to find new challenges. Each sparkle could initiate the chain reaction leading to a revolution. In my first-year experience, I have gradually tried to fit my personal knowledge within a global context and though it didn’t result in any advanced research, it did give me inspiration about my future plans, as well as my attitudes towards life. Meanwhile, I now carry a greater sense of responsibility for making our world more sustainable.  I hope and believe these will also change your life towards a brighter side!

We are strong, we embrace the frustration.

Even though a lot of effort has been devoted, the exploration of IE & CE are still at an initial stage. There are many technological barriers, and there is still a resource crisis, social conflicts and humans’ greedy demands which are hindering the achievement of sustainability. You may find some “ugly” numbers in the research, or there may be a complete lack of knowledge within the subject that you are interested in. This may make you question yourself, or debate if you should have studied this program or lead you to be doubtful about the future. But these frustrations will gradually disappear with deeper research, I have gradually fallen in love with the programme. Additionally, as an individual, you could also be faced with a lot of difficulties in your study and research topic under the interdisciplinary context, which may make you feel particularly frustrated as a student. I felt the same in the beginning, but it’s a good opportunity to broaden your horizon and dig into your specialty. Sometimes you just need to hold on a little more to go through the choke point, which will demand some effort to see the results. Just believe in yourself, we are strong and we are detecting an iceberg from the bottom to the top. Be brave and we are going to see the light.

Tips to help with study life

Be prepared to have a challenging beginning of the Master.

As an international group, most of you would be international students just like me. For a large number of us, we need to use a second or even a third language to study. In addition to a new curriculum and unfamiliar teaching and learning methods, you may completely fall behind the progress of the courses. I had a lot of difficulties following the course for the first month, especially with the online mode. I was super panicked and lived with anxiety every day during that time. But all you need to do is relax and realize that you just need some time, and try not to sink into the anxiety of falling behind. Meanwhile, it is recommended to spend some extra time after class to refresh your memory with your notes and lecture slides. Right now, most lectures provide video recordings, so it’s important to rewatch the parts you might not have understood while it’s happening and not waiting until the finals. 

Additionally, as an interdisciplinary programme, you might need to learn some new information, which is pretty challenging. For example, we were required to use python to solve some class exercises, which was new to most of us. I was not really satisfied with my first python project, but after a couple of projects, I started to be interested in programming. I’m now really fascinated by the possibilities of the python language, which was not expected before the course. Additionally, you might experience an intensive schedule and endless reading tasks, but don’t forget to remember to balance your work and take some leisure time. Learning would always take some effort, but you will find your potential, just enjoy!  

More importantly, don’t stress out too much about your results or grades. The grading system may be different from your previous education system, so it’s important to realize the differences. As long as you and your team enjoy the working procedure, then it is worth it and every effort counts. I have found the joy of learning and exploring during the programme, and I hope you will feel the same!

Prepare some background knowledge in advance

It might be good to prepare some background knowledge on IE/CE related content knowledge if you aren’t very familiar with it from your previous experience.  This might help you know more about your needs of the course, and it could allow you to build a stronger connection with the previous knowledge. But if you don’t have time, that’s okay! At the start of the program, the program will help you become more creative and explore your potential outside of your own framework.

You need to make decisions all the time. Don’t be panic, take your time, and everyone will help you.

You need to make hard choices all the time, from a case study to electives, from thesis topic to your future career option. You may always be faced with dilemmas in an interdisciplinary program. But we can always find solid support around us, from professors, TAs, study advisors, senior students, and our classmates and everyone is always willing to share and could give you inspiring advice, helping you to find your answer.

Additional Tips!

It’s your best time to try new things

Stay close to the news

Some books to read: silent spring, doughnut economy, the best of the time, the worst of the time …

Learn some python or any other programming language 

Go through the pre-module if you have time, it could help a lot

Written by: Wenhui Shan

BSc. Environmental Engineering MSc. Industrial Ecology at Leiden/TU Delft, Netherlands

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