The TV reality of TU student life

Delta nr 1, January 2006

Even without being able to understand Dutch, the TU's foreign students should enjoy watching the new Dutch TV reality show, 'Delft Blauw', which follows the lives of eleven TU students in Delft. This real-life series aims to give viewers a glimpse of what student life at TU Delft is really like.

In the Netherlands, studying engineering or other technological subjects is generally considered to be rather nerdy and dull. To change this image, Marco Waas, dean of the Faculty of 3mE (Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering), and Helmi Geeve, head of TU Delft's Marketing and Communication department, came up with the idea of making a real-life, reality TV series about TU Delft students.

The television series is called 'Delft Blauw' (Delft Blue) and is intended to give prospective students insights into what studying in Delft is like - presumably, ‘not nerdy’ and ‘not dull’. The series hopes to convince more Dutch high school kids to choose a career in science and technology. The first of 13 episodes aired on RTL 5 last weekend.

The show, which features eleven TU Delft students who share a student house on Delft's Markt Square, does offer a realistic view into their social and academic lives. The cameras not only follow the flat mates at home and at university, but also follows them when they are out and about town and socializing at their student societies. And there is more to it than just that.

As the series was designed to promote and encourage others to pursue technological studies, the students have been divided into two competing teams and are set a challenging technological task each week. These tasks, which require technical skills to complete, range from figuring out what the fuel of the future will be, to designing the ideal mobile phone or determining if wave-surfing on really big waves is possible on Dutch shores.

In their quest for technological solutions, the students make use of the expertise available at TU Delft, and in this way, the series gives the viewing public a glimpse of what it's like to study at a technological university. Each week, the participants choose to what extent they want to participate in the challenge. If they have a busy schedule at university, they can focus on their studies rather than the challenge, and they are also paid for the time they spend trying to solve the week's technological challenge.

International atmosphere

According to the program makers, finding a suitable existing student flat in Delft wasn't easy. The TU wanted a house with mixed sexes, and with students who were not only studying at different faculties, but also who had been living together for quite a while, so that they knew each other well.

"Delft Blauw isn't another Big Brother, where strangers are thrown together and then go on an emotional roller-coaster ride," says Ron de Koning, of the TU's Marketing and Communication department. Markt 9, the student house that was ultimately chosen, is currently the residence of five women and five men, eight of whom are TU Delft students.

This student house moreover is linked to the university's two largest student societies, DSC and Virgiel, which means all the inhabitants are members of one of those societies. And that's no coincidence. "Communication was so much easier with houses that are linked to student societies," De Koning says. "But we deliberately looked for a flat where members from more than just one student society lived."

Although the series is in Dutch and all the students living at Markt 9 are Dutch too, Delft Blauw does show something of the TU's international atmosphere as well. "We wanted to underline the international environment of our university," De Koning says. "So a lot of the footage that was shot at the various faculties shows international PhD students, and, consequently, the students featuring in Delft Blauw also speak English when interacting with them."

Choosing a student house where one or more of the inhabitants was a foreign student was never considered, however. De Koning: "That would just be too difficult, when it comes to the challenges the students must perform." And of course, the show is particularly aimed at Dutch high school students and the country's general public, so 'all Dutch' was the logical choice.

When asked whether the TU intends to use Delft Blauw as international promotional material, De Koning replied: "That's something we could think of, but we'd have to use subtitles. However, when it comes to international promotion, you must be very aware of what it is you want to show. Showing a student culture that is difficult to understand, even for the average Dutch person, might not be the best way to promote the university internationally."

A good point, since, after all, only a small percentage of the Dutch public actually knows firsthand what university life is like, and up until now, student life has rarely ever been shown on Dutch TV.

But De Koning does think that the show can be interesting for international students who are now studying in Delft: "They will recognize the university and its students, as well as the city of Delft. For foreign students who don't speak any Dutch, it might be difficult to follow the conversations. But I think a lot of it, especially the social side, will be rather easy to understand, even without speaking the language."

'Delft Blauw' is broadcast on Sunday nights at 18:50 on RTL 5. The show is repeated on Mondays at 23:30 on RTL 7. For more information on the show and its participants, visit (in Dutch only).


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