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“We all see the world in different colors”
17 april 2008 - Nicolas Gevaert (37) is the first international intern to work at the TU/e Communication Expertise Center (CEC). As a French high school teacher of philosophy and literature, Gevaert decided he wanted to branch out and do a two-year Master’s degree in communications. The CEC has asked him to work on a strategy to improve the promotion of the TU/e’s Master’s programs internationally.
Nicolas Gevaert, intern at CEC, in a Tai Chi Chuan pose. Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

“I am going to be talking to all nine departments at this university about how they would like to be known abroad in the context of TU/e as a creative and innovative organization. I want to know what they are proud of. To find out what kind of image they want to project and what message they want to send. The CEC sees this as a bridge project,” the intern explains. “I will also be looking at the issue from the other side of the fence: what do international Master’s students expect when they come to the TU/e and how do they feel about the program and their experience of Dutch culture when they leave?” he explains. Gevaert wants to talk to people from at least 12 different nationalities of the 40 represented at the TU/e.

The CEC will be promoting the new Automotive Master’s program starting at the Mechanical Engineering department in September in a new way. Gevaert (and others) can try out a few new ideas in this promotional pilot project. “The TU/e will be promoting Master’s programs in Germany for the first time. This will be very different than, say, in China where scholarships are offered,” says Gevaert. “There is also the question of how to approach people in different cultures, to understand what foreign students want. For example, in Germany people are even more direct than here in the Netherlands. The Chinese are less demanding. But we want to reach both demanding and less demanding students.”

Because of his background in languages and philosophy, Gevaert has an interesting take on communications. “It’s all the same thing really. Communications strategy is about the words and images you use and how and where you use them. Therefore it is also about the culture or philosophy behind the language of the people you want to reach,” he states. “I personally am fascinated by the Chinese culture, I have quite a few Chinese friends in France and am a practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan. I’m a big fan of F. Cheng, a Chinese Nobel prize-winning author, who tried to catch the Chinese spirit in French. He even went so far as to work on developing a French calligraphy to express himself, because he felt that French was not a strong enough vehicle.”

“Sometimes a language contains such strange concepts, that you have to conclude that another culture sometimes sees the world in different colors than you do. I think this is a very important thing to keep in mind when trying to communicate on an international level. To me, the idea of such differences is also attractive. I am drawn to what is not mine. I like to contemplate the power of strange and foreign things.”

Gevaert is settling in well at the TU/e. He did some intensive Dutch language courses beforehand, but still finds it difficult that there is so much paperwork in Dutch at the TU/e. “But I feel very welcome. Things are far less official here than in France, people leave their office doors open and call each other by their first names. I like the feeling of freedom and openness here,” he comments.

Gevaert is doing his Master’s in External and Internal Communications at the University of Lille III and if all goes well will be graduating this year. He hopes to stay in the Netherlands and find employment in communications or as a teacher, combining his language and communications skills./.

Foreign Master’s students who would like to tell Gevaert about their experience of the TU/e can reach him at