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AI* of the month May: Sander Engelberts

AI* of the month May: Sander Engelberts

Wed, 30 May 2018

written by Lennart Geertjes

Today I had the privilege to sit down with Sander. Always around with a smile and a bit of love for everyone, I had the pleasure to get to know him a bit more during this interview. Of course we also got to discussing his new position as candidate chair of our lovely study association. Let us start!

Hey Sander, I am happy to welcome you here in our cozy board room for this interview. I propose we start right away, could you start by introducing yourself?

Hi, I am Sander, I am a first year student and this year I did quite some committees at CognAC already. Originally I am from Bussum, which is between Amsterdam and Utrecht in the middle of ‘het Gooi’. I like racket sports such as tennis and squash, but I also like yoga. Furthermore I like to read and meet with friends, doing  ‘gezellige’ dingen.

Sander wishes me luck with translating ‘gezellig’ which is almost impossible. Still for the sake of our international students I will try. ‘Gezellig’ is a combination of cozy, social and intimate, it refers to a general mood of an activity. Still very vague but now I can say I at least tried. Back to the interview!

You mentioned that you like to read, what kind of books do you like?

It differs, I read almost everything. The only things I do not read are Fantasy and Sci-Fi, but besides this I read a lot of different things. I like good stories, sometimes also historic stories.

Nice to hear! Do you have a favorite writer or maybe book?

Sander takes a moment to think hard.

At the moment I am reading ‘Call me by your name’. It is really nice and I could really recommend it, but if I am honest you can also just watch the movie. I basically watched the movie twice first and then I was curious about the book!

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

I have one sister, who lives in Amsterdam, she also studies medicine there. She is about 1 ½ year older than I am.

You mentioned you live close to both Utrecht and Amsterdam, both cities have Artificial Intelligence studies, which makes me curious. Why did you choose for Nijmegen?

Good question. At first I did mainly visit Amsterdam and Utrecht and I quickly found out that I was mostly looking at Medicine and Psychology studies. So when I came here I concluded pretty quickly that I was interested in the psychological side of AI here in Nijmegen. This was the main reason why I chose Nijmegen over Amsterdam which is more technical or Utrecht which is more philosophical from what I have heard.

So the psychological approach really helped and another thing is that I also participated in the ‘vierdaagse’ 6 times. So that made me consider Nijmegen in the first place, even though nobody else I knew considered it. The results is that I am the only one that went to Nijmegen from my high school.

Now that you have been studying for some time, do you feel that the psychological side still interests you?

Yes of course, but it is mainly the combination of disciplines that makes it interesting. In the first part of the year you had a bit of everything at the same time and I really liked that. It was not exclusively programming for example.

Sounds like you made a good choice regarding the study. However I am going to make a shift of topic, but this is something I am personally also very curious about. What kind of music do you listen to?

First of all, I have a record player at home. So when I went out yesterday to get some groceries at the market, I ended up at a record market and I came home without any groceries.

I listen to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, also Elton John. Mainly within those genres, but I also like Neil Diamond and Madonna for example!

Do you have a favorite record?

The record ‘Concert in Central Park’ by Simon and Garfunkel is my favorite I think. They are very good live and they play their best numbers there.

I might put it up after this interview, but for now let us move on. So I did a bit of research (read ‘facebook stalking’) and I saw you have about one post per year. Which is about you participating in the vierdaagse. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

Sander jokes a bit that he is aware about the fact that he uses Facebook with the sole purpose to post about the vierdaagse. Then he starts telling about it.

My father walked it once with a companion from America. His companion was interested in walking so my father invited him to the vierdaagse because it is the largest walking event in the world. My sister and I visited to watch but we immediately decided that we wanted to participate the year after. Unfortunately  we were not chosen to participate the next year(there are so many participants that people are chosen at random each year to participate). But the year after that year we were chosen for the first time, this was at the beginning of high school when I was just 14 years old. Now I have participated for 6 years in a row.

The vierdaagse is quite a large venture which is very exhausting. Have you reached the finish every year?

Yes, I did! Every year you encounter new problems and pain in different places (Sander says with a smile). You really learn a lot about your body and what can break down (still talking with a smile and a laugh).

One of the recent years was very warm right?

All of the recent years were very warm! Only the first year when I participated it was rainy, but the rest of the years were really warm.

Last year was tough because I almost had an infection in my leg, and it was 50 km instead of the regular 40 km in other years, but I still finished it!

Despite this I still enjoy it very much and I also really enjoy training for it with my father and sister.

Yeah, I am really interested about that last statement. What drives you that you return to the Vierdaagse every year?

It is a good question why after the pain I would do it again. The people really help, you really do it together. You feel very connected with everyone.

Also crossing the finish gives you such a large amount of satisfaction, enduring it all and making it to the end. Every year you have a feeling ‘I made it last year, so now I should be able to do it as well’.

But this year we are taking a year off. I also want to experience the event surrounding the walking and go partying, but probably when it starts I will get excited again about participating the year after.

So now that we know a bit more about you I am also really curious in everything you do within CognAC.

Well this year I started with the study committee (SC) and the first year committee (1C) which later turned into the 1MCA. Then at the second committee picnic I started with the Discussion committee (DisCo), living monopoly committee (MoC) and the Almanac Committee (AlmanaC). My idea was to do one extra committee in the second semester but it turned out to be three. Those things happen.

Do you have a favorite committee?

I am not sure, I do not think so. They all have their own charm, you organize so many different things. But I do tend to be more active in the more formal side of CognAC. There are still plenty of other committees I still want to do. So those are for next year… never mind, not next year but the year after.

That is a wise choice, most of the times I ask people what committees they want to do next year. Your case is a bit different because you are candidate Chair of our association. I am still interested what committees piqued your interest.

First of all the Symposium Committee seems interesting. Also the Parents Day committee and the Weekend Committee are interesting. Lastly I would also like to join the Orientation Committee.

But for now your focus will mainly be on the coming year in which you hope to become the Chair of the board. First of all I am really interested at what point you started considering doing a board year, especially as a first year student.

I have been interested in a board year in general for some time already, and when I started here at the orientation I knew I wanted to do it at CognAC. The people were very nice and along the way I started to notice even more how nice CognAC is, and at one point I thought to myself ‘why wait?‘

But you knew about the concept board already before you started?

Yes a little bit, but you(the board) really helped me get a better understanding.  I have always been doing things next to my school work, such as excellence programs or the ‘Technasium’.

Okay, and now you are in the candidate board. This is quite an intensive period. Could you talk a bit more how you are experiencing it?

It is really cool, you are really anticipating towards it. You go to the information lunches and you apply with your motivation and CV and you keep getting more hyped. You talk a lot with the current board and you are trying to figure out what you think are interesting functions. You think about it quite a bit and then at some point you have the interview and that is the moment you are waiting for. Then afterwards when you hear you made it into the candidate board it is really cool.

Now that you are a candidate board you will slowly get more involved in everything. You will attend board meetings, the candidates are trained by the current board members. You will also go to constitution drinks and meet new board members, and most importantly you wrote your very own policy. How are you experiencing this?

You really start to form your own vision for things, and in two days we tried to form the rough sketches of our policy. We sat together with each other for two days but that was also really ‘gezellig’ (there it is again!). In the evenings you get to know each other so it is a really cool experience.

This bonding will of course continue when you will visit your first constitution drink, are you looking forward to this?

Yes, I am. It is a new thing which you really look forward to.

During your board year you will have many more of these moments and I really hope that you will enjoy them!

I am really looking forward to it! I have to say, when I heard I was chosen for the candidate board it really hit me, in a positive sense, that my live would change quite a bit for the coming year. It is a really different step in my life.

Last CognAC related question and it might have been better to have asked it as the first question but I will still ask it anyway. Why do you think we made you AI*?

That is a good one. In his speech Bram mentioned that I stood out during the orientation already. I have been busy during this year and I have always tried to help within CognAC where I can and to assist as much as possible.

What Sander describes is definitely one of the factors that played a role but for the board it was actually not the deciding factor. The thing that stood out the most for us was his positive appearance, Sander is a person that really emits a positive appearance. He is a happy face within our association and we noticed that this was something that he also really passes on to the people around him. For us that was really the deciding factor. Also being the candidate Chair did not hurt his chances ;).

Well that brings us to the last couple of questions of the interview, these are the classics however. First of all, what is your favorite Disney movie?

I will answer a cliché, namely ‘The Lion King’. However I do want to call out all three parts. I watched them with my nephews and nieces.

Another classic question, what kind of pet should CognAC get?

Let me think about this for a moment, maybe a chinchilla?

We google some chinchillas but we come to the conclusion that Chinchillas can be quite ugly and we cannot have an ugly pet so Sander searches a bit more.

Okay I would like to change my choice to a flying squirrel they are more cute.

I think sander made a solid choice and for the people unaware of what a flying squirrel is I have a link https://kigurumi-shop.com/Flying-Squirrel-Kigurumi.aspx .

That brings us to the very last question. Do you have any final remarks, or famous last words?

I think this is really nice and I want to thank you all. I love you all and we should definitely do this again.


I want to thank Sander once more for the interview, I thoroughly enjoyed it. To the reader, thanks for making it this far into the interview and if you have a suggestion for the next AI* you can send it to secretary@svcognac.nl