This post contains my second impression of Delft, a set of noticeably different things between Delft / (some town), America. I'll go over the canals, the apartment buildings, and some of the differences between TU Delft and MIT.
Ignoring the bicycles' effects, the canals are the main difference between Delft and an American city. There are canals of all shapes and sizes over here, ranging from small canals, which are a meter wide, to the large canals. I walk on Abtswoudsebrug (Abbot's wood bridge) over a 20m wide canal every morning on my way to work. The bridge across the canal is solely for bicycle and foot traffic. When a boat needs to pass, the bridge turns sideways. You can see some pictures below of the bridge turning. There are also standard raising bridges. The charm of getting stuck while a boat passes has yet to wear off, though I'm sure some morning the waiting will ruin my day.
The water in the canals is surprisingly clean. When I first arrived there was no duck weed covering the canals. Over the course of a few weeks duck weed grew, and then suddenly disappeared. Obstensibly the city scrapes the duck weed off of the canals.
Water is both a resource and hazard in the Netherlands. A section of land completely protected by a dike is a polder. Flevoland, the newest province, is a polder. Regulating the dikes and water level is obviously critical to the well-being of all the polder's inhabitants. There is a special governmental division, the water board, to regulate all aspects of water. All utility bills in the Netherlands include a water purification tax paid to the water board. The water board also regulates drainage during the wet season, and ensures enough water is in the canals during the dry season. The water boards are important enough that one usually hears of four levels of Dutch government: federal, provincal, municipal, and the water board.
Short aside: I think water will slowly become a much bigger deal in the states. People already have blogs about water.
After the canals (and the bicycles), the next thing I noticed was the apartment buildings. All of the apartment buildings in my area of town are massive. From my windows I can see 4 >15-story apartment buildings. There are probably 10 or more 15-story buildings within a few square blocks. This area of town is very unique, as I haven't seen any large apartment buildings across the canal or in the older section of town. There are at least 5,000 residents in these 10 buildings. I was surprised because Delft is a town of only 90,000. My section of town seems to be the only one with large residence buildings. I wouldn't want to be a real estate developer around here - the bike lanes in the road, the specific structures in specific parts of town, and the water boards all imply heavily regulated development. Although a picturesque landscape (when it isn't raining).
Finally, I'll be talking about a few differences between TU Delft and MIT. I think MIT's excellent handling of the campus card, email account, and class registration spoiled me. I was pretty annoyed at the poor handling of this at TU Delft, though I did not come through the standard channels so I might be an exception. I did not receive any information about a campus card on arrival, all information I gathered was from word of mouth. My email account was not activated until the 3rd day after my start date, and only after I had pestered HR several times. No one gave me any information about class registration.
The point about class registration became clearer when I learned that I am technically an employee of the Universiteit, not a student. When I take the Dutch class next quarter I'll have to pay, because I'm an employee, not a student. When TU Delft professors talk about who should be taking their class, even graduate courses are geared towards MSc students. I can register for classes, but this is very informal. The lack of a student distinction is surface deep, but small nudges have a large effect on human behavior.
TU Delft does not have a housing department. The Universiteit has close links with DUWO, which is a housing organization for students. I still don't have internet at home, which continues to be both frustrating and liberating. I'll be writing about my housing situation in a later post.
(this post was written on my laptop, and I still don't have internet at home as of the time of posting)