Life After Delft: No more Suriname food

Delta nr 29, September 2006

Norwegian aerospace engineer Jørn Arild Hennum graduated from TU Delft in September 2002, and returned home to Norway a week later. He now works as a system engineer and system administrator on the Norwegian Navy's 'Naval Strike Missile' development project. Although happy to be back home, he does miss the multicultural society, Suriname food and low beer prices in the Netherlands.

"After graduation, I returned home as soon as possible. I had been living in the Netherlands for eight years at that point and was actually quite eager to get back to Norway. In fact, I had been away from my family for ten years, because I had been in the Norwegian army for two years prior to coming to Delft. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Netherlands, I had missed the tranquility of life in Norway. The solitude of hiking in the Norwegian mountains, for instance, I love that.

During the final months of my studies, I had been contacted by a Norwegian acquaintance who had received his PhD at TU Delft's Faculty of Electrical Engineering. When he had returned to Norway, he got a job with Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace (KDA). His department needed someone to work with reliability analyses, and I was invited over for an interview in May 2002. Unfortunately, they couldn't wait until I was done with my thesis, and hired someone else. However, six months later, Kongsberg contacted me again, as they had an open position in their Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) department.

By that time, I had graduated from my TU Delft aerospace engineering program specializing in logistics and management, and was living in Norway again. I applied and started working at Kongsberg in January 2003."


"I've been working on the same project since 2003: the anti-ship missile called the 'Naval Strike Missile' (NSM). It is a cruise missile powered by a jet engine, which gives it an extremely long range. It's state-of-the-art technology and extremely interesting to work on.

I started out doing typical ILS tasks, such as making maintenance plans, spare parts optimization, life cycle cost analyses, availability analyses and so on. After about two years, I was asked to focus more on systems engineering. This suited me perfectly, since my interest in systems engineering was the reason I chose the specialization I did at TU Delft.

The change in departmental scenery meant that I started working with things like requirements tracing, system specifications and system design documentation. In addition to that, I began working as the administrator for the systems engineering tool that is used for modeling and requirements trace-ability.

I love working with a birds-eye-view of a system, and doing so on a system that is as complex as the NSM, is a huge and interesting challenge! The work also lets me use all aspects of the engineering education I got at TU Delft, since I must be able to understand and discuss all the different types of problems that arise in a huge development project such as this."


"I do miss certain aspects of living in Delft. For instance, I miss being with people from all over the world. The Netherlands is culturally so diverse: there are people from all sorts of cultures living together there. You don't have that in Norway. Oslo, our most multicultural city, doesn't even come close. Also, the Netherlands is a very open-minded country, almost everything goes and it's accepted that people are different.

In Norway, the socialism equality principle runs deeply, as well as 'Jante's Law', which states for instance that you should not think too highly of yourself. Telling other people about your accomplishments is simply not done. Another thing I miss about the Netherlands is eating Suriname food and going to salsa parties.

Speaking of parties, one big difference between Norway and the Netherlands is the drinking culture. In Norway, partying equals getting very, very drunk and Norwegians usually drink until they drop, whereas in the Netherlands it is quite common to go out on, say, a Tuesday night and have just one beer. That is simply not done here, as alcohol is extremely expensive and you don't 'waste' your money on a single beer. Buying a round of drinks is something you won't see in Norway either, as it would set you back a fortune!

To illustrate this point, a Dutch friend of mine visited me in Norway. We were going to a party, and went to the store to buy some beer. Although I had warned him about the prices, once in the store, he thought: 'Well, that isn't too bad'. But then when he had to pay, it turned out that the price he had thought wasn't 'too bad' for a six-pack was indeed the price for a single can of beer!"


"As learning Dutch was mandatory for international students when I came to Delft in 1994, I made a lot of Dutch friends during the eight years of my stay. Within six weeks of arriving in Holland, I was able to have a normal conversation in Dutch, but probably part of this has to do with the fact that Norwegian is a Germanic language too, and Dutch therefore was an easy language for me to learn.

I remember that I arrived in Delft on a Thursday. On Friday, I got the books for the two-month Dutch crash course and was told that the first four chapters of the book were homework for Monday. Then, come Monday, we were only allowed to talk Dutch in class. That was a very hard start, especially since I had ended two years in the Norwegian army just five days prior to coming to Delft and really wasn't in a studying mood.

But it was all worth it. I'm still in contact with some of my Dutch friends, and I write at least a couple of emails in Dutch each week."


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