Thursday, August 6, 2009

Studying in Germany - During

Disclaimers: If you have read the previous posts in this category, then you will know what I mean. All disclaimers stated there are applicable here too.

Now that you have arrived and successfully enrolled, what are you expected to do ? Study and be a model student....oh...well...easier said than done, eh ? well, here are some pointers, and examples in all cases refer to the University of Stuttgart.

Lectures and Lab: Your would be required to complete some credits to earn your degree. You can choose the subjects you want to earn these credits. However, depending on your major there might be a couple of mandatory courses and labwork.

Professors/Lecturers will not usually worry about your attendance, it is upto you to do that. Assignments are usually not graded. You would be well advised to solve the assignments not just to do well in the exam but also to understand the subject.

Labwork will usually involve some preparation before hand - learning about the equipment, its usage etc. In some cases, you might be asked to take a short test to verify that you are really prepared to handle the expensive equipment.

Exams and Grading: Written exams usually last 45 min to 1.5 hours. In some cases, Professors may offer oral exams which will also last as long.

Plan your coursework in such a way that you are not overloaded (3-4 subjects a semester is a good rule of thumb). If you take 3 subjects, try to write the corresponding exams in the same semester, even if you have the option of taking the exam in the next semester. Your preparation will be so much easy when you finish the exams along with the lectures. Note: Some subjects may be available only in the summer or winter semester. Be careful to choose them correctly to avoid waiting an extra semester.

Grading system in Germany is usually on a 4 point scale with 1 being best and 5 being fail (This is completely opposite to the system in the US). Finishing your course with any grade less than 2 is considered really good. Note: Many exams will also have relative grading where the highest scorer will get 1 and the others will be graded relative to his/her score; the highest scorer could have scored 90/100 or 50/100.

HiWi: Working as Research Assistants is a good way to learn, have something useful listed in your resume and finally to make contacts with Professors. Even if there are no HiWi Ads in the website you can contact lecturers in the department of your choice and ask them for a position. An email with a brief resume (2 pages utmost) would suffice. Note: Send an email to the lecturers, not to Professors - they have no time for applicants.

If you have worked as a HiWi for a long time on a project, your supervisor will know your capabilities well enough to get you some contacts in the Industry for an internship or maybe even for a job.

Internship and Master thesis: Most courses ask for a 3 month internship as a requirement. Internships are a win-win situation since companies get a cheaper workforce and students get training on-the-job. So getting an internship is relatively easy if you apply right and can speak some German. Most companies pay somewhere between 500-800 euro per month for an internship and students often end up doing a 6 month internship.

Most course also require the students to do a 6-month master thesis. The topic should be approved by your Professor. Usually Universities prefer that the students do the thesis in one of their departments. Students choose to do it in a company because they want to get paid for the thesis.

If the University has no rules about the master thesis being done in a company, then the internship tenure can continue on to a 6-month master thesis in the same company. Note: Since the company has had a year to observe your competencies, getting a job in the same company would be a strong possibility. So do well and make more contacts (always needed !)

Extracurricular Activities: Being a student, you should take advantage of the various extra curricular activities the university offers either for free or for really subisdised rates. These activities would involve everything from swimming to dance lessons to language courses. These places are also great to make new friends.

That being said, there are a few things you must take utmost care about

Personal Hygiene: You could have been a pampered child at home where your mom washed, pressed and even handed your clothes to you but now that you are on your own, its time you learnt to take care of these things.

Because of the weather, Germans may skip a shower or two and when you are tempted to do the same, remember that your sweat glands are a lot more active than theirs. Using a mild deo or perfume would also be a good idea. One does not have to smell ''nice'', one just shouldn't smell, catch my point ? Along the same lines, it makes sense to wash the jackets once in a while even if you wear mutliple layers of clothing inside.

The same rules apply to one's breath. If you have had garlic or onions for lunch, have some pity on your lab partner and chew some mint !

Health: If you have never cooked in your life before, never mind, now is the time to learn. Google can help you find the simplest recipes. The key is to eat healthy food. So unless you can manage all the time with cereal, salad, milk and fruit, its about time you start cooking at home.

Many students make the mistake of eating junk food since its cheap and pay the price, in the long run in the form of over-weight and/or deficiency problems.

Do not use your course as an exercise to sit in front of the laptop all the time. Take some exercise. If you have time to chat, watch movies, gossip, then you also have time to go for a run. Another good way to get some exercise and have some fun, would be to get a bicycle (second-hand ones can be purchased in flea markets for reasonable prices)

Home country's Image: The moment you step outside India and come to live in another country, you are an Indian ambassador ! Anything and everything you do will not trace back to you but to your country. If you are late for a couple of meetings, the consensus would be ''Indians are never punctual''. If you get caught without a ticket in a train, the ticket collector will pay extra attention to ''Indians'' the next time.

Its human nature to generalise and create prototypes. If we saw a couple of Germans walk into a temple with their shoes on, we would immediately complain ''Germans do not respect our culture''....see what I mean ?

Even if one is not extraordinary and bringing India glory, the least one can do is be ordinary and not stick out as a rule-breaker !

What you must do

Travel: If you are a student living in Europe and are not traveling, you are missing out on one of the greatest opporutunities in life. Many people say that the only way to experience Europe is by living in it for a couple of years. When you already have the chance, use it, use it, use it !!

It is so nice to travel to different countries - trying to figure out the language, trying to get by with a few phrases that one learns from the internet, tasting a new cuisine, listening to new music...the list is endless. With every trip, you will grow and learn and whats more you will have a lot of fun in doing so !

Learn something new: Choose a hobby - something you will only get to learn to Europe - and pursue it, you will surprised at what you are capable of doing. This would be the best time to do it, before you join the rat race and start running behind projects and deadlines.

Some examples would be
- Learning a european language: learning French and going to Paris to try it out on the French is more fun than just learning French
- Taking dance lessons: Imagine dancing along in a Flamenco show in Spain
- Diving, Skiing, Tandem biking etc..etc..etc...manam irundhal margabandhu :D !

Use your time here wisely ! Have Fun !

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