Published on: 07 November 2019
Written by: Sven Berberich
Welcome to this Interview. Could you introduce yourself and tell us something about you?
Well, I am Fien, I am 21 years old and I am in my fifth year of the AI study and in my second year of the master. I am from a little town called Druten, which is close to Nijmegen which is also why I went to high school here and why I was already pretty familiar with the city when I started my studies.
Where do you live then? Still in Druten or in Nijmegen?
I have a room in Nijmegen. I moved out in the beginning of my second year and I live quite close to the city centre, which is nice. It is not really a student’s house because there are also people living there who work full time and there are 18 people living there, which is a lot. That is usually no problem since everyone is pretty quiet. Well, I had one roommate that sometimes came home drunk and then made a lot of noise when it was five o’clock in the morning, but he moved out, so that’s cool.
Do you have any pets? And if not, would you like to have any?
No, I do not have any pets since I don’t think it is allowed and also my room isn’t big enough to entertain a pet. But later, when I have my own house, I would like to have some pets. Maybe some cats or some of those big fluffy bunnies. And then I would want at least two bunnies, because I once learned that you can teach bunnies how to play football together and they can actually do that! And I think this is really cool.
Here Bas notes that it is good to know that Fien is more of a cat person than a dog person, unlike him.
What do you do if you are not at Uni? What kind of hobbies do you have?
Currently, when I am not at Uni then I am at my internship, but this is not really a hobby of course. But in my free time I like to read or listen to audiobooks (which is really easy to do in the train whilst commuting). I also like to do yoga every once in a while, usually in the weekend with my mom. Sometimes I also go to the gym and do either fitness or just run on the treadmill. I find running of a treadmill surprisingly fun since you can watch Netflix or listen to an audiobook while keeping track of how far you have exactly run and how fast. Because when I am running outside, I always overestimate the distance and then I feel disappointed when my phone tells me that it is less than I thought.
But I also like to play board games or video games. Although that is difficult since I don’t really have a gaming console. And I like puzzling!
Just classic puzzling, with a lot of small pieces?
Yeah, the ones with like a thousand pieces. I made one from Disney before and now I have one with Snow White and the seven dwarfs. I believe it was before the summer holiday when I decided I am going to like puzzling now. So, I bought a puzzle and now that’s my thing. After I finish them I either glue them on a canvas or put them back into the box. But I have never redone one so I am not sure if that would be fun.
You also mentioned that you like to listen to audio books. Where do you get them from?
Well, I have the app from the library in the city where I have a subscription. The life hack about this is that if you are below 21 you get the subscription for 24€ a year, which is a 50% discount. So I did that and then you can reenrol every year and you still get the discount even if you are not below 21 anymore (however, don’t keep me accountable for this).
With this app you can then listen to books where some are free, and some are only available with a subscription. But there are a lot of random books on there that one might call B-literature. So I just download some random books and just keep the ones that seem interesting.
Here we talk about what a good deal this is and that you can even share this account with other people.
Tell us a bit more about your study, which master do you do and when will you likely finish?
I am doing a double master’s degree, so I am doing an AI master that in my time was called Interactive Agents and that is now called Intelligent Technology, so I have no clue what will be put on my diploma. Additionally, I am doing the Data Science master from computer science. They both take two years and if you combine them you can do both in three years since a lot of courses overlap. So, I thought why not spend the extra year and get an extra degree.
How is the master program so far if you were to compare it to your Bachelor?
It is in the same line as the Bachelor. Although it is more group work and more practical assignments. Mainly projects that you have to do in a group and where you get a bit of information in the first half of the course if you are lucky. One course for example, I didn’t finish because it had three lectures with very basic information about speech recognition but did not contain any code. And then I had to do the project by myself and all the lecturer said, “I’ll see you in three months with your research thesis.” I was just like I can’t do shit yet so… I quit.
Courses like that I don’t really like since figuring all the stuff out by yourself takes a lot of discipline. If you are alone and not in a group, it is much more likely that you just start to procrastinate. Aside from that I am still enjoying my master, but I will also be happy if I make it through this year.
So, you told me before that you are doing an Internship right now. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Yes, I am doing it at PTTRNS.ai, which is also a sponsor of CognAC. Their previous name was Simon and they are a spin off of a bigger company, ISAAC. PTTRNS.ai is really focused on developing AI solutions for companies while also sometimes making products. They consist of two parts. One is the AI department and the other is the VR/AR department. These are also clearly divided since the AI people sit on one side of the room and the visual designers/artists sit on the other side.
I do it for four days a week, so 32 hours, which I would recommend to anyone doing an internship since five days a week is just way too much, especially when combining it with following courses. You really have to get used to concentrating yourself for 8 hours a day, unlike with studying where you can take a break and just chill out and watch a movie.
Ok let’s move on to the CognAC related questions. What kind of things have you done within CognAC?
At the start of my study, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to join a committee but then I saw the monopoly committee (which is now a part of the CTC) which was a more low-key committee. I was like, yes, let’s do this. And that was quite fun. The year after I joined more committees. I always liked that you get to know people through a committee. I am now in the PaparaC for the fourth year where I also get to know first years, because I am like “Who this?”, which I find really fun!
But I also really like setting up a big event like in the Symposium Committee or the External Committee. It’s always striking that from the outside, when you, for example, go to the Symposium, everything just seems to flow and to be properly organized and then if you are in the committee you feel like, we don’t have that and we don’t have this, its total chaos. It’s cool to see that balance.
But aside from all these committees you have also done a board year in the last year, if I am not mistaken. Could you tell us what you did there and what function you had?
Yes, I was the Chief of External Affairs and as people might know that was my least wanted function. But then I became it and I had a lot of fun in the end. You spend a lot of time going to companies, talking to people there and for me that also a big push to get out of my comfort zone, meet different people, go to companies, just be the social butterfly that I once have to be.
And it worked out pretty fine, although you might think that there is a lot of pressure to get all the money, companies are ready to spend money. So even if you would be unsocial, they would probably still give you money anyway.
How was the board year aside from your function specific tasks?
I really liked it, although there are ups and downs of course. You are just so close with a group of people and are trying to fix everything. And then there is the same thing again that you think that things aren’t perfect, but members don’t really notice it that much.
For this year it was quite weird getting used to not meeting every week and all of these weekly tasks being gone.
So even though you already did so much within CognAC, I was wondering whether there is still something on your To-Do list?
At the beginning of the year I wanted to join the website committee, but then I saw it was pretty popular and they meet weekly, which I think is great since you need that if you want to learn stuff. But then again, I thought, how viable is this for me, to be able to be there weekly. Since I also can not really make my weekly dancing classes either. But aside from that there are not really any To-Dos left on my list.
You just mentioned dancing, what kind of dancing do you do?
So, last year I did Ballroom dancing with Bas, but we weren’t the best unfortunately and didn’t continue. This year I am taking the beginners courses for hiphop, modern jazz and ballet. I am liking them all, but finding time remains difficult, especially as there is always something to do on Thursdays.
What kind of thing does CognAC need?
Oh, … I mean I have also done these interviews last year and then I am not prepared for this question, I could have known.
Maybe it would be fun to have like a CognAC tinder. Because I have noticed how many people are always dating within CognAC and I don’t know why. Maybe it would be fun to have some kind of tinder to meet up with fellow CognAC people. It can also help just finding friends within CognAC so people can go to activities together. Since I think there are quite some people who want to go, but their friends don’t or they don’t know anyone yet, and going to an activity alone can be quite a difficult step to take.
Well then, another typical question. What pet do you think CognAC should have?
I think it would be fun if CognAC had a baby elephant. Because I think baby elephants are super cute, then everyone could come and cuddle the baby elephant. We would need some more room for it, but maybe in the next building there will be. And then you could do an activity where a zookeeper is filing the nails of the elephant. Yeah, I just like elephants.
Here Bas throws in that the elephant will not stay a baby forever. Then we discuss plans to swap out the elephant with another baby, so there is always a baby elephant.
Then for the last question, do you have any shout outs?
Shout out to the current board, of course, for keeping CognAC going, so we don’t have to do it anymore. Shout out to my board because it was a great year and they are the cutest! And shout out to Bas because he is here.