What I Learned in 4 Years as an Applied Computer Science Student

What I Learned in 4 Years as an Applied Computer Science Student

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Hi lovely readers,

I’m about to graduate this summer, exciting right?! I’ve followed a lot of courses these last 4 years to get ready for my graduation thesis. Because I know there are people that are having doubt about how to get into tech, I wanted to tell you about what courses I followed with which technologies. Let’s get started!

General info & the education system

I follow the study Bachelor of Science Informatica in The Netherlands. I do this at an University of Applied Sciences. These two statements are probably confusing to non-Dutch people so let me explain.

University of Applied Sciences vs. Research University

In quite a few of Germanic, or Nordic European countries you as a student get to pick between studying at a Research- or Applied University. It can also depend on your level of education before you started university.

Universities of Applied Sciences studies take 4 years. What’s great about this type of university in IT is that it’s more practical. I could skip the DSA classes, making long research papers, and looking into extensive math. Instead I had to focus on doing projects in teams, and coding assessments.

Research Universities mostly focus on, surprise, doing research. Their degrees take 3 years. You look into what different programming languages do and why, Data structures, algorithms, math and lots of research based courses.

If you join a study that ends up with you (hopefully) being a wellrounded developer at an Applied University, this study will probably called Informatica. If you follow it at a Research University, it’s probably called Computer Sciences. A degree at a Research University is technically seen as of a higher level than an University of Applied Sciences. However, I’ve only seen some banks and insurance companies that have a hard limitation on only wanting Research Uni graduates. So if studying, like me, at an University of Applied Sciences fits you better then don’t worry about the difference in level. There’s plenty of job opportunities. In foreign countries they don’t care at all, in The Netherlands, barely 😛.

Studying in the Netherlands

I pay close to 2500 euro’s a year to study at university. I can pick at every start of the year if I want to pay for this pieces, or all at once. If you’re an European citizen, this will be the same price for you as well. If you’re not, then it might be a bit more but definitely not as expensive as studying in England or the United States.

Almost all Dutch people speak English, I’ve never heard any of my international student friends complain about not being able to do something because of the language barrier. We like to bike and walk, making us the healthiest and tallest country in the world. We also have a great public transport system which is very helpful to get to the university.

The biggest issue in the Netherlands right now is the lack of housing. If you want to study in the Netherlands, and you don’t have connections or lots of money, good luck with finding a room or house. It’s not easy, definitely not for international students. Be prepared to look for housing like crazy before you get started at uni.

The first year

The first year is the introduction year. It’s sometimes called the propaedeutic year, because you can get your ‘propedeuse’ if you finish and pass all your first year study courses. This ‘propedeuse’ is a certificate you get from your certificate to proof you finished your introductory courses successfully.

In the first year I followed the courses:

  • Intro to programming 1, 2, 3
  • Design patterns
  • Web Markup
  • Web Design
  • Interaction Design
  • Intro to mathematics
  • Intro to Linux
  • Intro to UML
  • Intro to databases

I also had two mandatory group projects

Intro to programming

My introduction to programming courses were done in C#. Why C#? My best guess is because most of my teacher are- or have been .NET developers.

In the first course I learned the very basics of programming. We covered topics like variables, math, conditions, loops, and arrays. In the second course we went into namespaces, access modifiers, methods, parameters, and return types. In the last course I learned how OOP works, how to create objects, what constructors were and how to deal with getters and setters.

Design courses

Yes, design courses are mandatory in this study. Along with learning how to write HTML & CSS in Web Markup. I also had to learn about how to design websites based on your target audience, what colors and fonts work with your idea and also how to keep it accessible. For interaction design I learned how to deal better with target audiences, how to create persona’s, how to make digital wireframes and to give my products a design that makes sense to the user.


In the last semester of the year we had to do group projects based on our courses. For the first project we had to edit an already existing C# WinForm application and add new functionalities to it. We did this with SQL, because of our intro to databases course.

With the second project we had to design a WinForm application that could function as an order system for a restaurant. In a group we had to design and code the application, and demo it to our teachers.

The second year

In the second year I went a bit more broad and also a bit more in depth about what I already learned. I also had more coding assessments instead of exams.

In the second year I followed the courses:

  • Java Fundamentals & Advanced
  • PHP Fundamentals & Advanced
  • User Interface Design
  • Presentation Skills
  • Advanced English
  • Project Management
  • IT Service Management
  • NoSQL
  • Social Ethical Research

Java Courses

Java, next to PHP and C#, is a big player in the Netherlands when it comes to job opportunities. That’s why it was added to the curriculum.

For the first Java Course we focused on JavaFX. JavaFX is a widely used software platform for creating and delivering Desktop Applications. With some text files and a product description I had to turn in an application with which you can order guitars from a guitar shop.

The second Java course focused on Spring Boot. I created an API with Swagger Codegen and Spring boot. At the end of the course me and some classmates had to turn in an API for a bank system made with those technologies.

PHP Courses

PHP is another big player on the market. We learned pretty much everything about what we learned in intro to C# in PHP, and also how to work with it with the help of HTML and JavaScript. At the end of the two courses me and my classmates had to turn in a fully working festival web application which you could buy tickets from. Together with automated emails and Molly.

Management Courses

I learned how to deal with IT projects in a good way. I learned how to plan and set up a project, how to keep the project going, and how to deal with setbacks / hard deadlines.

The third year

The first semester of the third year I did an internship. In this internship you get the opportunity to work with developers, and see how it’s like to actually work in tech.

The second semester of the third year I had to pick what academic minor I wanted to focus on. I picked for that year the topics:

  • UX Design
  • Big Data & AI

In UX Design I did three projects for real clients on something they wanted to have designed. I worked on two projects for my own university, which is opening a new location. I also worked on a platform focused on accessibility. I followed more classes in design, psychology behind design, and how to user test products well.

For Big Data & AI I focused on a project for number plates recognition and estimating which side each car should go. I learned a lot about statistics, computer vision, AI, and contributed systems.

The fourth year

The first semester is again another academic minor. Because I always wanted to experience what it’s like to teach in IT, I decided to go for an educational minor at another University.

I intern at a school as an IT teacher, teaching pre-university students. Next to that I studied about how to prepare classes, host better classes, and how to deal with teens as a teacher.

The last semester of the fourth year is graduation!

I still have to get started as of now (december 2022), but I have to research something that fits into the subject of software engineering. I have to focus on both desk- and field research to find the best conclusion and solution for my research. In the end I have to turn in a thesis paper of atleast 15 thousand words, and I have to defend it at school. If I pass all of this, I’ll be done and finally have my degree.

#That's a wrap! That's it for this blog post. I hope you found this insight of what you have to learn at an university of applied sciences interesting! If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply or contact me on Twitter. Thank you!