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Rutgers Engineering senior prepares for advanced degree overseas

Four years at Rutgers culminating in an undergraduate degree do not mark the end of Tal Ben-Gera’s education.

The School of Engineering graduating senior will strive to learn more, and he will do so far from his alma mater. Ben-Gera plans to move across the Atlantic to study structural engineering at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

“I visited the Netherlands in January — I did a trip with my girlfriend to Amsterdam — and I kind of fell in love with the people and the culture," Ben-Gera said. "And my grandmother is also Dutch, so it kind of brought back good memories of time I spent with my grandmother. So I knew that I wanted to study there."

In addition to his professed love for the European nation, the relative affordability of an education abroad proved enticing to Ben-Gera.

“The tuition for the Netherlands is very cheap — it's about €2,000 a year — so that's basically the main reason I left the United States to study, because it's very expensive here,” he said. “I got into a few schools in Germany as well, but I just got a much better vibe from the Netherlands.”

With the current exchange rate, €2,000 is roughly $2,275. A graduate degree at Rutgers costs at least $8,000 per semester, according to its website.

Ben-Gera, who aspires to be a professional engineer, will spend two years studying the designs of various structures and the forces that might cause those behemoths to crumble.

To keep a building, or a bridge, from collapsing, there must be balance, Ben-Gera said.

“The goal of structural engineering is to basically understand the forces and stresses that are acting on a certain structure, and then knowing how to use certain materials to build against them, be able to resist all these different forces so that the building doesn't, you know, collapse on you,” he said.

For underclassmen, Ben-Gera had two pieces of advice: study hard and focus yourself if you plan to pursue a higher level degree.

“During your undergraduate studies, I think it's important to pay very careful attention in your classes to see what you would really want to spend two more years studying, and to maybe gear your resume towards that one particular major,” he said.

For Ben-Gera, that meant focusing on design work that would help him land a spot in a structural engineering program.

But it also meant pursuing what he found most interesting, something he would not have been able to do had it not been for his diligent studies.

When he began his time at Rutgers, Ben-Gera said he was less studious than he should have been. His GPA suffered as a result, but Ben-Gera was able to salvage his grades through hard work and graduating with honors.

“Walking in and getting that honors cord, it's just kind of like a symbol of my achievement, because I worked really hard in the last two years to bring up my GPA. That was probably my favorite memory that I'll remember for a long time,” he said.

Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.

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