Interview: Tim Winters
My name is Tim Winters, I am 23 years old and this is my fifth year in Groningen. Currently, I am doing the Master International Economics and Business.
What made you apply for IFP?
When the Chairman of IFP told me that the application for IFP participants opened, I was not really aware of the project and was mainly interested in focusing on my masters which would start in September. At that moment, I was in Taipei for my exchange and got really passionate about travelling and experiencing other cultures. In addition, I have always done some extracurricular activities besides my studies to develop myself further, so I thought why would I not combine it now. I also discussed with my program coordinator the possibilities of combining IFP with my masters and missing five weeks in the last semester. That helped me to see that combining the two was doable. And after I heard that the aim for IFP participants is Master students, I was sure to apply!
This made it a perfect destination for me to experience with a research project such as IFP.
How important was the destination for your whole IFP year?
For me it was very important that I never visited the country before. As I mentioned before, I was in Asia when I applied, and already had some time to travel in the area. The countries I traveled to there are not comparable to India. Moreover, it is not a country that I would have visited any time soon when travelling. This made it a perfect destination for me to experience with a research project such as IFP.
Can you shortly describe what the year of an IFP participant entails?
My year started with a Skype application from Taipei, a week later I heard that I was selected. That evening the others selected participants had a ‘get to know dinner’ with a social. Unfortunately, I only met the group in September. The process of getting to know each other better went really fast, because Mondays we had dinner together and every two weeks we had a social in De Doos. At the end of October, we also went to Schiermonnikoog, which was an amazing way to bond. After that weekend we were a really close group.
Fortunately, I never did this on my own, most of the times we were with more than five people who were calling at the Active Member’s Office of Risk.
The acquisition period started in September with a training. Thereafter, I called each week for 10 hours to companies to interest them for IFP. Fortunately, I never did this on my own, most of the times we were with more than five people who were calling at the Active Member’s Office of Risk. This resulted in serious phone calls alternated with some laughs. Just before the Christmas holidays we stopped calling companies because we attracted five projects and got a green light to travel to India.
This brings me to the next phase of IFP, namely the desk research. When the research groups were announced it felt if it was really starting, because now we finally knew for sure that we could go to India! I’m doing research for Cognizant, one of the largest IT consultancy firms in the world. My group is looking into the disruption that Fintech can cause in the banking and insurance sector. On average we conducted research for about 12 hours a week. Our research mostly consisted of gathering information, conducting interviews and planning interviews in India.
There it was! The unforgettable day that we would travel to India, which is always the Saturday after the third exam period. After the next interview we finished our 2,5 weeks of research in India and are leaving for our 2,5 weeks of travelling. All the necessary knowledge has been acquired. We will finalize the report when we are back in the Netherlands, to finish the project with a presentation to the companies at the end of June.
How do you combine IFP with your master?
Combining the two is definitely a challenge, because a master easily asks 20 hours a week and IFP is 10 hours. However, I like taking on challenges and with some good planning this is definitely possible. Especially because the IFP hours are somewhat flexible (when you communicate clearly, everything is open to discussion), which results in almost no overlap. Therefore, I am still on track for obtaining my master degree in a year.
During the year you become closer and closer because of the socials, weekends and by spending hours calling companies together.
What do you think of the group?
I think it is terrible! Haha no sorry, that was maybe my worst joke ever. The group is amazing! You start the year with 21 students who do not really know each other and you can only hope that you will have a click. During the year you become closer and closer because of the socials, weekends and by spending hours calling companies together. This way I know them both on a personal as on a professional level. And adding up the fact that we are in a new country and depending on only each other, this results almost naturally in a close group of friends. I am certain that we will stay in touch after the project!
Can you describe an average research day in India?
At 07:30 my alarm goes off and I drag myself downstairs for breakfast with the whole group. While eating, we discuss what will be the planning for that day. When the Uber picks us up at 09:00 the research day really starts. We go to our first meeting to conduct an interview. Here in India the interviews consumes a lot of time, because it takes forever to reach your destination in a ‘million people city’. Around 12:30 we try to meet up with the whole group and have lunch in a local Indian restaurant. Thereafter, we go to our second interview of the day or work out our interview of that morning. Around 17:00/17:30 the research day is at an end and we come back to our hotel, which is way too luxurious for students. Most days we dive directly into the infinity pool, but sometimes we exchange this for the gym. Thereafter, we have dinner with the whole group and we end the day with some drinks. At 01:00 we go to bed to ensure a fresh start of the next research day.
With my travel group I will go to the Himalaya and thereafter travel to the south of India.
Do you get enough opportunities to experience the country and what are your travel plans?
Yes, IFP consists for 50% of research and 50% of travelling, so I have nothing to complain about! In the weekends of the research period in India, we already did some trips. For example, last weekend we visited the Taj Mahal! After the research period of 2,5 weeks, we also have 2,5 weeks to go and stand where we want. With my travel group I will go to the Himalaya and thereafter travel to the south of India. After spending 2,5 weeks in large and busy cities, I am very curious about the India’s nature.
What is something you learned from IFP what you did not expect at first?
Hmm, this is a though one! I think that I did not expect that you can do as much preparation and reading beforehand, but that you learn 10 times as much in 2,5 weeks of research in the country than the 3 months desk research at home. Both on professional as on cultural aspects. The experiences that you gain in India are essential for the total picture.
What would you like to tell to the new IFP participants?
Do not let yourself be discouraged by the time IFP will possibly cost you. Getting to know this group and all the experiences you will gain are well worth it!