Dirk Frimout wrote a letter to his 17-year-old self. What advice does he have for the young Dirk, as he takes his first step on a path towards unknown heights?
It will be about a year ago that you were sitting in your room, with your ear glued to the radio. You listened with such excitement, although there was sometimes nothing to hear but a ‘beep beep’. The launch of the first Sputnik in 1957. It was the start of space travel and you experienced it live, on Radio Moscow. The coming years were then extremely exciting. Filled with lots of opportunities to be conquered, and finally the first person in space.
You will never believe it, but the step you are now taking, aged seventeen, will put you on a direct path towards space. Engineer in electrotechnology. Without a moment’s hesitation. It immediately came to mind. Without the need for advice or guidance. Admittedly, you don’t know exactly what’s involved. But it’s the logical step. Maths and science have been your hobby for so long. And you know Ghent like the back of your hard, since you left Poperinge for boarding school when you were only fifteen.You will never believe it, but the step you are now taking, aged seventeen, will put you on a direct path towards space. Engineer in electrotechnology. Without a moment’s hesitation. It immediately came to mind. Without the need for advice or guidance. Admittedly, you don’t know exactly what’s involved. But it’s the logical step. Maths and science have been your hobby for so long. And you know Ghent like the back of your hard, since you left Poperinge for boarding school when you were only fifteen.
Looking back I can only confirm that it’s the right step to take. If I could do things differently, I don’t believe I would change a thing. It’s a very broad education and there will always be subjects that are less appealing. Like chemistry or construction, which are less in line with your particular interests. Yet one day they will serve you well. For example, when you start working as a scientist at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy. It is there that our dream to go into space will truly start to take shape.
It will sometimes be tough and challenging. Taking exams four times a month from now on. That means studying for the entire week, again and again. But I know you well enough to realise that you won’t mess about during these rehearsals. It is hard work, but when you enjoy something and you have set yourself a clear goal then you’ll do everything you can to achieve it. And it helps when you are taught by inspiring professors like Marc Vanwormhoudt.
The next five years are the most important in your life. They are the foundation for everything that follows. These days, when I do talks at schools, and address people of your age, that’s my most important message. That they think carefully about what they want to do with the rest of their life. And that they believe in themselves, in their own abilities. That they don’t give up too quickly and, above all, do what they like doing.
That’s what I did too. Mind you, it won’t be easy. There’ll be disappointments and it will take a long time. It’s not yourself you’ll need to convince, but those around you. Defending why you never lose sight of that one particular goal. Space. Yet one day, Dirk, the time will come when you land back on earth and your first thought will be: “What can I do now? I’ve achieved my ambition.”
There will be a bit of luck involved and even some politics. After all, we are ‘only’ Belgian. Yet most of it is down to you. The fact that you start a scientific career, that’s your own decision. And it’s this decision that makes the difference. At a certain moment the realisation will grow that not only pilots are necessary in space travel, but also scientists. That’s your opportunity.
It won’t make you rich, but that has never been important to us. Instead, opportunities to learn and always making positive choices. After all, the day you stop learning is the day you lose your value..
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