How Eindhoven becomes your second home

Fontys-alumni Nikolay and Leke found a job at Science Park

During the ‘Week of the International Student’ (November 13th-17th) Bron puts the spotlight on foreign students. Why did they choose to study in The Netherlands and specifically at Fontys? Today’s story: expats Nikolay Mihaylov from Bulgaria and Leke Raifi from Kosovo.

Two young, foreign men travelled the same road that led them to Eindhoven in 2011. Nikolay Mihaylov and Leke Raifi both started studying Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Fontys University of Applied Science. After graduation in 2015 they found a job at Science Park Eindhoven. Both expats think they will still work in The Netherlands in a couple of years.

Mihaylov (25) wanted to study engineering abroad, because in Bulgaria education is more oriented to theory. "There are less opportunities for internships. Starting to work as an engineer is a bit more difficult than here. Fontys was the only option for me because it had mechatronics in English. And I read Eindhoven is the Silicon Valley of Europe, with a lot of related companies here."

Raifi (24) agrees: "Philips is known worldwide and other companies like ASML are getting big as well." His goal was to come to TU/e (University of Technology Eindhoven), but back in 2011 that didn't offer any English department. "But I'm much happier I decided to go to Fontys, because it's more hands on. Maybe you don't get as much theory as at TU/e, but you also get the practical knowledge, lab works and a lot of other tools."

Both men are also grateful Fontys made them part of the PROUD-organization (PRogram OUtstanding Development). This offers ambitious engineering students like them opportunities to work on extra profession related challenges.

At the moment Mihaylov follows a master course at TU/e. How come the Kosovar doesn't? "I chose to work a couple of years first and develop myself more into a engineering professional. But it's one of my short-term goals to start my masters at TU/e." He now works as a test-engineer at Neways Advanced Applications. His Bulgarian fellow student found a job as a part-time engineer at Prodrive Technologies.

Is wanting to study the main reason why they're still working in Holland? "No, even though the university is very well known", Raifi says. "But I really fit in with the working environment and culture in The Netherlands. The people are more direct. This is my second home." Laughing: "I even got accustomed to the weather, which is ridiculous." Mihaylov also thinks he's going to stay longer: "For at least five more years. During my graduation at Fontys I decided to continue with a master at some point, so I planned to stay here and work. Even when I have finished my master."

Going home is not an option at this moment, he explains: "It's not impossible for me to work in Bulgaria or maybe found a company myself there. But it's much more difficult. You have to start from scratch, unless you come up with something really good." Raifi adds: "What do I offer Kosovo? A diploma? To take someone's job? My goal is that when I go back to Kosovo, I open my own company and provide job opportunities. If I do it now, I see myself as a burden. Because Kosovo can't match what The Netherlands are offering me."

It's clear, both like it here, although the Dutch do have some strange habits. Like carnival, Mihaylov says. And Raifi doesn't understand why they put butter on bread and then hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles). "My bike got stolen twice in one year!", the Bulgarian suddenly cries out. "Mine too!", the Kosovar replies. "Thank God they're so cheap. Here it's much more handy to have a bike than a car." [Tim Durlinger]

Upper picture: Leke Raifi from Kosovo at the right and Nikolay Mihaylov from Bulgaria at the left.