Illona Hartman – part 1

Studying in America, where two worlds collide

By Illona Hartman (21), Sophomore Civil Engineering at Ohio University, Athens OH.

June 18th, 2016.

Hi every one of the lovely Built Environment, I hope you all did well on your finals and are now happily celebrating your Summer Break

How it all started

My name is Illona Hartman and I am currently studying Civil Engineering at Ohio University (OU), United States of America. I started college just like most of you guys. I started studying ‘’Architecture and Built Environment’’ as a little freshman at the Eindhoven University of Technology, exactly two years ago. I might have been a little older than when you started college, since I ‘’planned’’ a gap year after High School to travel to Africa while doing some volunteering in Swaziland. Lovely place. Anyway, roughly one and a half year ago I got recruited by the Ohio University Field Hockey (OUFH) Head coach Neil MacMillan. So I moved to the states while continuing my (civil) engineering degree and playing field hockey for the university. I also got an Athletic Scholarship which made my American Dream complete. It has always been my biggest dream to study abroad since my English really sucked at High School. To combine my studies with my biggest passion field hockey, is another dream coming true. During my time in Eindhoven, it was extremely hard and challenging to maintain high grades while participating in field hockey on a high level. During the week, I practiced with a team in Eindhoven and for the weekend practices and games I had to travel to Bloemendaal to compete with my team in the second highest division of the Netherlands. To play and study at the same place in America and for the same goal is amazing and ideal for me.


The Ohio University Field Hockey team including staff.

So, when I got the call from my now current head coach, I did not hesitate at all.  At the beginning, my parents and close friends did not really like the idea, but they respected my decision and have been supporting me ever since.


The National Anthem and line-up on September 11th before starting our first home game vs Liberty.

Currently, I am hanging out in my home town close to Haarlem after I finished my first year at OU last April. In America, they use a different education system than we are used to as Dutchies. An American Undergraduate degree (the Dutch bachelor phase) takes four years instead of three. This is mainly because of the fact of the longer winter (one month) and summer breaks (three and a half month) meant for additional internships or summer classes. The General Education system is another reason that requires students to study a year longer than Dutch or other European students.


 The infamous bricks of Athens.


America’s General Education System

As an American freshman, it is not mandatory to choose your major yet. During this first year, you are able to orient different majors by choosing the four so called ‘’Tier II’’ classes. To meet the Tier II requirements, which is mandatory to graduate for a major, you get to choose a course covering either Applied Physics and Mathematics, Cross-Cultural Perspectives, Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, Humanities and Literature, or Social Sciences. I have already passed the second and the latter during my first semester. I participated in an Archeology course and a Sport and Leadership course which were quite funny but not that educational for an engineer with a passion for architecture and structures, haha.


OU’s historical gateway to College Green.

Next semester I will be in a public speaking class and the semester after I will be learning about Interior Architecture (yay!) to finally fulfill my four Tier II’s. By then, I will be taking real Civil Engineering classes like Engineering Materials or Water and Waste Water Treatment. Before then, I will be taking a lot of General Engineering classes like Calculus, Physics, Dynamics, Strengths, etc.


Lots of greenery on OU’s beautiful campus.

The good thing about this system is that you get to know a lot of other students, mostly engineers of course, which is different from the Dutch system too. I have my classes with all different kind of majors and students, also age wise. During your first two years, freshman and sophomore year, we don’t have a class of just your major who you have all your classes with. However, the university considers all starting freshman as one big class of 2019, in my case. This means all starting in 2015 will be graduating in 2019, which explains your class ‘’number’’. Just a different approach, but great for networking. Thus, I concluded a lot of the American Culture is based on networking, even the way they live and built which might be quite interesting to know as a Built Environment student like you all. So, stay tuned so you get to know more about this later, since this first blog was supposed to be ‘’just a short introduction’’ to my life as an engineer studying abroad in combination with college Athletics, haha.

Thanks for reading! To be continued …