Blog post by Tobias • November 11, 2022

It has been four months since I last wrote a blog. A lot has happened in that time, as I said goodbye to secondary school and moved out to study in Vlissingen.

The summer was a time of fun mixed with a bit of sadness. Some friends and I went camping in Belgium. We had a great time and promised each other we would stay in touch. It will probably not be possible to do so with the whole group. One of the things I took away from School at Sea was knowing that it is possible to be very close to people and still lose touch with them once the circumstances change. However, my best friends and I are still seeing each other so we are working on it and if we make an effort, we will be able to stay in touch.

During the summer holidays I went to America and also to Cuba for a second time. This trip was something that I was really looking forward to, because I have always wanted to go to America. Visiting Cuba for the second time was just as beautiful and relaxing as when I went the first time with School at Sea. I really wanted to go again because I wanted to show my family where I had been and what I loved so much about it. Three out of the four places that we visited were the same as during my first trip.

It was just as interesting and refreshing to be without the internet for ten days, as it was on my first trip. It was also amazing to see how some parts of Cuba have stayed the same and how some parts are completely different from how I remember them. Havana, for example, the capital city, hasn’t changed much. The main difference was that some shops I went to on my first visit were not in the same place anymore. However, the natural surroundings in Viñales had changed quite a bit. A trail we walked with a guide was the same trail I did on horseback, but part of it had changed because of a blockage. Being in Cuba brought back a lot of good memories of this interesting and remote country. It was good to be able to share them with my family.

Since the summer I have moved to Vlissingen and completed my first tests at the nautical programme in Vlissingen. It was quite a sudden change and although I knew I was ready I did not feel it at first. However, that has changed. Already some of my class have decided not to continue but I am really enjoying the course and I did quite well on my first round so I think I am finding my feet.

I love the combination of practical subjects such as engineering, where we learn how to work in the engine room, with more theoretical subjects such as calculating water displacement and ship stability. We also have project weeks throughout the year. The last project was all about building autonomous vessels. The group that I was part of was tasked to design a communication centre and an autonomous boat for surveying and researching the Western Scheldt. These projects are interesting because we work in teams with students from different courses and we have to combine our knowledge to make it work. These projects are for real companies who are working on a job for a client and want to have some research done from a different perspective. While working on the project I noticed that I have more experience in this type of work than some of the second and third year students. Especially, when it comes to the communication skills needed when working on the project.

The mix of different types of students is also what I enjoy about the student hall where I live now. It is an international hall so there are students from France and Spain but also from Poland and Bulgaria and many other countries. In fact there are only three Dutch students in the building. So we have lots of interesting conversations about expectations, values and traditions. I feel right at home there.

I am looking forward to next semester, because we will start training on the full-scale bridge simulators the school has. Next year I intend to join the Student Council so I can get some insight into how HZ Vlissingen works. I am also looking forward to finishing this year so that I’m one step closer to my end goal of going out to sea again.