Free Beer, Train Rides and Sustainable Design

Autumn announced its official presence by a short one-week break from my Erasmus exchange studies in The Hague University of Applied Science (THUAS), The Netherlands. Half of the study term had swiftly passed by with time packed with lectures, discussions, mind-mappings, visits to design companies among many others activities on and off campus.

Making The Netherlands as my Erasmus exchange destination is no trivial as THUAS offers great academic design subjects such as Service Design, Information Visualization, and the very interesting Sustainable Design. One of the many 'shocks' that students usually thrive to adapt during exchange studies is the new learning environment. The Hague University of Applied Science has a rather huge campus located in Laakhaven and easily 10,000 of students and staffs passed by in this 8-floor mega campus every day. To navigate around and find the classroom was my main tasks during the first week! Another shock I experienced during my first week was a group of us international students sitting in a bar with lecturer, Jaap DeBie, who was so generously buying us a round of beers!

Central point of Laakhaven campus, the Oval. (Photo taken from

THUAS is located in the city of The Hague, which is known as the International City of Peace and Justice, and famous for its multicultural society of more than 145 diverse nationalities. I have the honour to be greeted by The Hague Greeters as part of my Service Design project: To design a new and sustainable service in the domain of tourism in The Hague. It was great to walk around the city and be told about the hidden church, secret passage, and unheard stories of places in The Hague with greeter, Maarten Kop. Having said so, the assignments are exciting and using user-centered design mindset to approach the tasks has sparked great learning motivations. Getting-out-of-the-building is definitely the best learning method!

Secret courtyard of Rusthof, a female-only residence area. Left to right: Hyungjee, Joanne, and Maarten. (Photo courtesy of David Manfred Johansson)

There are 7 international students in a small group put together as a class where interactions between lecturers and us students are very friendly and personal. Lectures are conducted in smaller classroom and active participations during classes are very encouraged. International coordinator, Jannie Oosting, has been very attentive with making sure that we international students in the Communication and Multimedia Design faculty are coping well with the studies. A spontaneous Dutch language lesson is even arranged thanked to the passionate lecturers which I get to learn basics of Dutch language once a week. Yes, the Lowlander's mother tongue might sound rather harsh for the ears with the profound pronunciation of 'g' in the sentence, but nonetheless it is great fun to learn a new language!

One of the best things about my exchange studies is the frequent visits to local Dutch companies for our Design Methods class. We would take trains from cities to cities each week to visit digital design agency that produce best websites in The Netherlands, service design agency that shared with us their working methods, and it was great experience to have our lectures set in different locations conducted by various professionals from the industry. We get to visit Rotterdam, Utrecht, Delft and Amsterdam which we had a great time. 

Ingrid Wendel, Senior Design Researcher giving pointers about Design Research process at STBY office, Amsterdam. Left to right: Ingrid, David, Kaat and Alfonso.

Another best thing in this studies so far was making counts of ALL THE STUFF I OWN during Sustainable Design class. The lectures focus on Sustainist Design which Sustainism was the name of such movement. Sustainable behaviours and collaborative consumptions were among the topics discussed. The final assignment of making sustainable design concept using business model canvas with slight modifications brings us into looking at the future of humane design. Second half of term will starts soon: time for sprinting to make sure projects are presented before deadlines!

Do I need everything I have? Thinking in sustainable way via counting the stuff I own gives good overall impressions about myself.

Written by Joanne nh Wong, a third-year TAMK Media student currently on exchange in The Hague University of Applied Science.