Published on: 23 January 2022
Written by: Fenna Rasing

Congratulations on becoming AI* of November! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hello, I am Maike, I am 24 years old. I am currently in Baarn, which is a small town in the middle of the Netherlands, it is where I grew up. I lived here for 20 years, and then I moved to Nijmegen to study AI. Which I have been doing for a bit more than 4 years now, so I am in my fifth year and I’m really enjoying it so far.

So you have been studying AI for a long time. Why did you decide to study AI?

Well, that’s a funny story, at first when I just finished high school I actually started studying Humanistic studies in Utrecht, which is a bit philosophy/religious studies. I thought it was really cool but it was also really spiritual (zweverig). And I actually wanted to do something more practical, but I really didn’t know what because I didn’t really think I was good at anything. But then I ran into a guy from my high school when I was doing an elective for Humanistic studies and he said he just quit AI, and I was like: ‘you can study that??’. And then it just stuck in my head and I quit Humanistic studies and I checked it out. And then I was like, yeah sound pretty cool, I don’t really know anything about it but it seems that I can enrol, so I’ll just do it and now I’m still here.

That is indeed a nice story. So why did you want to do it in Nijmegen and not in another city?

Well, my best friend from kindergarten started studying in Nijmegen immediately after high school and I visited her once and she sublet a room in the gouverneur. And I was like, they really have good student housing there, sounds really nice. And then she always hyped up Nijmegen as well so she primed me, I was like yeah that’s a good city. And then I checked out the study here as well and I really liked it. I probably also liked the talk from Franc Grootjen.

Do you have a favourite course?

Uhm, that is a hard question, because like most times when you talk about courses you're kind of shitting on them. But I think my favourite course is OOP, because I’m a TA for that.

Oh cool, what is it like to be TA for OOP?

I think it is really fun because somehow that course just clicked for me but a lot of people find it really difficult so it’s really nice to constantly start seeing the light in people’s eyes when they finally get it. Well, it is not literally their eyes, because I don’t see them because it is always on discord, but still fun.

So now maybe an easier question: was there a course which you really disliked?

Yes, I really really disliked professional skills 2. Did you do that last year as well?

Unfortunately yes.

I just felt like I don’t know what those teachers were doing but it was like, why are you treating me like that or something? And there was also the last exercise that you had to do, and it just said CV and you just had to upload your CV and that was it, like what am I supposed to learn from that?

Ah, this is very relatable.

I also really disliked Signal Processing because I just thought it was too difficult, I did pass though! I followed that course and I was like, why is that course so much? But it was still pretty interesting, like how BCI worked and stuff but I think it just went a bit too far for me.

So you had your bachelor graduation recently (which I know because I was there as CognAC board :)). So you obviously wrote a bachelor thesis, can you tell us a bit about that?

Yeah sure, when I first had to start looking into my thesis, I was like shit, I’m really scared of this I don’t know how to do it. I think everyone has that experience, your thesis just sounds scary. But actually, there were a lot of interesting topics. I immediately knew I wanted to write my thesis at Pim because that just sounds fun. Everyone that I spoke to was like, yeah I also put Pim on number 1, and I was like ahh fuck, I'm never gonna get him, but I did! I’m not sure why though. I just hung out with Pim for half a year and in the end, I made a chatbot that was supposed to help students with talking about their stress. That was very fun but I think in the end the chatbot didn’t really work that well and it was pretty shitty. But all the work behind it was really cool so I still really liked it.

That sounds very interesting! So you are now a master student, is it very different from being a bachelor student?

Yes and no, I feel like the vibes are a bit different because everyone is a bit more serious about their studies instead of everyone just dropping courses here and there and being like oh I didn't really do anything for this course. Or maybe I'm just talking to a very distinct group of people, that is also possible. But I feel like everyone is a bit more mindful about what they are really doing and what it means for their career. Which can be a bit stressful because sometimes I'm still drinking until 3 am and being like how am I gonna pay attention? But I think the main difference is about how serious people are about their studies. But still, you're just doing courses, you're still working in groups, you're still sitting in the TK sometimes. So that's pretty similar I guess.

Do you already know what you want to do after you graduate?

Well, no, I recently found out that I had to start looking into internships in like a month. That kind of means that you have to know what you have to do because you don’t want to be stuck in an internship where you just don’t like what you’re doing. But I think I want to do my internship at a large company because I mostly know large companies. I feel like you have a bit more freedom to go in different directions instead of having to be stuck in a certain position, although that would also be very interesting so I really don't know. I feel like I'm just gonna end up sending an email to Nedap.

Well, either way that is very exciting. So let’s move on from studying to Nijmegen. What do you like about living in Nijmegen?

I really like that the city is not that big, so you can kind of have an idea of what the entire city is like. I was just talking about this with a friend of mine who lives in Amsterdam, and his sister lives on the other side of the city, which means he has to cycle for an hour. When I cycle for an hour I think I'm in Arnhem. I lived in four different houses and it is just very doable and there is a lot of nature of course, which is very gezellig.

What can you tell us about your family back home in Baarn? 

I have two parents, a man and a woman (I think, I actually never asked them, maybe I should). And I have a sister, she is 28. It is very quiet and peaceful here always so that’s good. I also have two dogs. We adopted them from Spain and Cyprus, so they are vuilnisbakkies and they came from the streets (Maike shows pictures of her very cute dogs Teun and Pip). They are very cute but they bark a lot though, last night I was awake and there were fireworks outside. They started barking like they were going to die or something, so that’s pretty annoying. I don’t know why I said it was peaceful here. 

Do you come to Baarn often?

No actually, I am here now for a week because I felt sad about not being home much. But my mom has MS, I feel like she’s a vulnerable group, especially now with covid and I don’t really feel like doing a PCR every week to come home. I just call them a lot, it is not like I don't speak to them.

That is very understandable. 

(at this point we have technical problems: “I can’t hear you”, “Can you hear me now?”, “Wait now I can’t hear you”, love online :))

Let’s move on to your hobbies, what do you like to do outside of studying and being active in CognAC?

I like to hang out with friends a lot. I usually have entire days of studying and at night I eat with a friend, but if I don’t do that I like to listen to or make music, I have a ukelele. Sometimes I play songs on it, I’m not really good though because I taught myself. But it is still very fun. I also have a guitar but I just bought that because I was like, yeah I can probably play that too because I play the ukelele. Apparently, it doesn’t work like that so I can’t really play the guitar. And I like to go for walks occasionally as well.

Very cool! How long have you played the ukelele?

Like 6 years or something? I had a twenty-one pilots phase when I was 17ish and they are partially known for their ukelele songs so I was like, I need one. So I just bought one and then it all happened.

Do you play a lot of twenty-one pilots songs on your ukelele?

I used to, but now they are not really my thing anymore. But sometimes I still do, because of course, I know them so I sometimes just start playing songs that I know. 

What kind of songs do you like to play now?

I really like playing toxic by Britney Spears, because you don’t expect that from a ukelele, but I do it anyway, it is like an element of surprise.

Epic, what music do you like to listen to?

A lot of different kinds of music. I am very ashamed of this but my number two song on Spotify this year was “Ik ga zwemmen”, but that was just because of the intro. I really like the 1975 and Froukje and other Dutch music and semi alternative stuff like that.

Do you have any new year resolutions for 2022?

No actually, I talked about this with my aunt yesterday and she suddenly started telling me all her new years resolutions and I was like oh yeah, you have to do that. But I feel like every time I think of a new years resolution I just don’t really do it because it’s just too big of a goal and I think small goals work better.

Let’s move on to the exciting part: CognAC. You have been a very active member for many years, as a committee member and a board member. How is it to be AI*?

It is funny because in the orientation week this year, Evelien and I started talking about how it is kinda weird that we were never AI*. So we’ve been teasing each other about it for a while. And it feels good to finally be an AI*, although we also thought that it would be really funny if we just didn’t become AI* as a sort of outlier.

You definitely deserve to be AI*! So why did you decide to become an active member?

I felt like it was just the way to go basically. In my orientation week, I, and a lot of other people I think, just thought CognAC was very cool. So then I thought I had to join a committee to be part of this and then I did. I remember that the committee market was very well visited in my year so then it was even more like, wow this is really cool and all the cool people join the committees. Ever since that year, I felt like that vibe from the committee market never really came back, maybe that is because some had to be online.

It is definitely very cool to be in a committee! What committees were you or are you in?

I was in the 1C, SC, InC (when it first started), WkC, WebC (as a board member), and the BAC. Right now I’m in the TraC and the OrC.

The BAC is very different then the other committees what was it like to be in there?

I think it is really fun because obviously you are doing a big thing and you only have one goal. And your committee just kind of falls apart after that because you don’t need to do anything anymore. But it feels like being part of a special secret cult or something. You just have some meetings, no one can know what you’re doing. And you have these secret interviews and no one can know what happens there.

That sounds very exciting :) Do you have a favourite committee?

Well each new committee that I join, is my favourite. Just like when every last movie you see is your favourite.

Do you have a favourite CognAC memory?

Anything from my first year probably, because after that it just became sort of a habit being in CognAC. All the firsts were my favourite, so the first time I went to a CognAC evening, the first time I went on a CognAC weekend, the first time I had a cantus. I just wish I could do everything for the first time again.

I guess it doesn’t help that everything is different now with corona.

Well, it does mean that it makes some things a first time again because it is different, but not really yeah.

Let’s hope we will not have to deal with corona for much longer. What are you most looking forward to in the future of CognAC?

I think it will be fun to have a CognAC open party again. I hope that is still going to be possible because I thought that was really fun, especially if you know a lot of people from other associations and then they can all come to your party.

So you are now organising the trip to Vienna, how is that going?

It is very fun actually, however, yesterday I found out Marie Curie was also going to go to Vienna or people from Marie Curie, I’m not sure if it was an official activity, but they cancelled their trip. So that made me really sad but they made a good meme about it, so I was like, I’m gonna steal this meme if our trip gets cancelled. Anyway, the committee is very capable so that is very nice, people are always just doing their stuff and you never really have to be annoyed.

That’s good! So you did a board year. Why did you want to be in the board?

Well, I did not actually, I had dinner with Sander sometime in February because we were friends. I didn’t know he was going to recruit me. But then I started talking to him like, studying full time is so much I think I’m just gonna take it slow. Just because I was really overwhelmed with all my courses and student life can be a bit much sometimes. My point was that I was just going to chill, I’m not going to do everything, but he heard, oh so you’re going to have time for a board year, what about that? And I was like, I cannot do that, I can’t be in a board. And then he was like, yeah sure you can. So he planted the seed and I applied. I think Sander recruited most of my board actually.

So why did you become secretary, was that your first choice?

In hindsight, I think every function would have been fun. Except for intern, I really would not like to be intern, I don’t know why. At that point, I really liked to do my own thing and I really liked that about being a secretary. You have a fixed set of tasks that you have to finish each week. Then you can just take up random tasks besides that. And you don’t really have to deal with other people, only through email. I also really wanted to learn new stuff and that is why extern was my second choice. But I feel like I kind of ruined that in the interview, because I didn’t really prepare for extern. I just thought like that would be fun as well, but then they started asking me all these questions about it. 

Luckily everything worked out in the end. What was your board year like?

It was really fun, I really appreciate that I still had a physical part of the board year, until March but that is a lot actually. The most fun about it was hanging out with other board members. And of course, making sure that the association is blossoming. But I really like that you get to know so many new people and I still hang out with some of those people now. I was actually going to Prague with the seccies the weekend that covid happened. So then we couldn’t go. But we went to Arnhem in October.

Also exciting???

It was the most depressing weekend that I ever had but it was really fun, because I was with friends so then it is good.

That is the most important thing indeed. In your board year covid happened, what was it like to deal with it, because then it was all very new. 

At first, it was still a nice challenge, because we were like, okay everything is new, what do we do. We had to think of things to make sure that everything would be able to go on online. But when the thinking of things stopped, it became really depressing, because then you were just in discord with 3 other people because no one really wants to do online activities. Afterwards I just really appreciated that I could still have a board year that was offline for the most part. In hindsight, it was nice that we had a tiny part of corona that we could take care of because then it felt like we really did something good still to save the association. I feel like we did a decent job, but it was also just really difficult.

You definitely handled it well! So the most important task of the secretary is, of course, making the meme for the weekly mail. What is the secret to making a good meme?

I am not sure if people agree on this. But when I had to make a meme and I didn’t really have direct inspiration from something that happened, I just put random shit in paint and then made it really small and then really large again so it was really pixelated. And to me, that was automatically funny.

What is your favourite meme that you made?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly this interview has come to an end. Do you have any last words? Any life advice?

Follow memegnac on Instagram, that is my biggest advice if you like memes and CognAC. I think a lot of people follow the account (that is definitely not mine btw). And just look at memes every day, I think that’s healthy.

Thank you for the great advice! Do you have any shoutouts?

Shoutout to my board and all other CognAC members so I don’t forget anyone. Also, shoutout to my parents because they own CognAC sweaters which is pretty cool.

Thank you for the interview!