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Nesting place for tech-birds

Our professors ensure open communication with them, says an Indian studying in Germany reports Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Jan 12, 2011 09:23 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Vikas Shabadi is pursuing a fast-track PhD programme at the Institute of Materials Science, Technische Universität Darmstadt (TUD), Germany. A BTech from the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal, he talks about his experience so far in Germany

Germany is a great destination for engineering sciences and technological studies. The Federal Government of Germany and the European Union are investing increasingly huge amounts of capital into technology-based research and product development.

The excellence centres at the Universities of Technology are all world class with state-of-the-art research facilities for all branches of study, including technology, social sciences, humanities, literature, health and life sciences. The teachers are indeed among the world’s best in their respective fields.

With all this on offer and my personal motivation to pursue technology-based research, choosing Germany was indeed a straight-forward decision.

Since 2008, I have been a visiting student at the TU Darmstadt working as a part of a research group here. In 2009, I was awarded the DAAD WISE Fellowship which supported me to continue my research during the summer. These short periods of study in Germany have also been a great source of exposure to German universities, German culture and lifestyle. And this has also been one of the main reasons for me to return to this country to continue my education. It was also a part of my personal strategy to stay close to India, with a time difference of just 3.5 hours.

In Germany, your classmates are from different parts of the world like USA, Australia, Spain, China and Russia. Classes are highly discussion oriented. And every theoretical lesson is equally followed up with practical testing. Especially interesting is the intercultural training about cultural and social habits of different parts of the world.

My study experience is very good and with our professors, no question remains unanswered. Students can communicate with the professors at a very personal level. If a professor agrees with the views of the students he/she can fine-tune that particular course teaching system according to the students’ needs. The education system is very flexible.

Communication channels and method of approach with the faculty differs with the universities and their long-established systems. In my case, it is very good and transparent. One thing I like is the respect that the faculty gives to students here. The teachers speak to students with a lot or personal concern and regard.

When it comes to the language, as long as you are a part of an international study programme, it is not mandatory to know German, since classroom teaching is usually in English. Also in research departments these days, there is a huge mix of students from all around the globe. Most administrative processes are standardised. However, it is always recommended for students to pursue language courses during the study periods in Germany to be able to integrate into social life. Once you register as a student at a German university, in most cases you are offered a professional and free language course through a semester parallel to your core study.

What about everyday life? Once you have lived in India, then coping with life here is relatively easy. Your days usually go quite smoothly. The public transport throughout the country is excellent. So, you don’t waste much time in commuting. Sometimes weekdays could be quite hectic and it could sometimes get tough to balance your time between academics and chores like cooking and cleaning. But you can make up for this during the weekends.

Weekends in Germany are a great opportunity to enjoy the culture and relax. Most weekends usually have some vibrant fests in the city centres with music, food and wine. Even shopping at the weekend markets or shopping centres in the countryside is fun.

Being a university student in Germany gives you a lot of perks. You usually get a semester card with which you can freely travel with all modes of transport throughout your Federal state. Universities have very good facilities for sports and games. In the summers, we often have barbeque parties at universities which are attended by the faculty as well. These are good icebreaking sessions. Sometimes you also have day-trips for hiking or also extended student holidays where the faculty and students go out for leisure. Not to forget that there are a lot of campus parties which are great to relax and interact with friends without hitting your pocket. Besides, the life at a “studenten-wohnheim” (student dormitories) is a lot of fun.

As regards money, the cost of living varies from one place to another – slightly more expensive in bigger cities like Berlin, Hamburg or Frankfurt. A student may require anywhere between 500 to 700 euros a month. In terms of food, interestingly I have never felt far away from India. If you wish to cook at home, you can mostly find everything you need to cook typical ‘Indian khana’. There are also many Indian stores around where you can buy things like spices, wheat flour, pickles and everything else you need. At restaurants, the vegetarians might have fewer things to tuck into but the options definitely exist, although eating out too often can be heavy on the pocket.

What about career prospects? If you perform well at the university and back up your application with appealing projects, you usually stand a great chance of finding a job. A lot of newspaper articles indicate that Germany needs a lot of qualified engineers and professionals. To find a job, knowing German language is preferred as it can greatly increase your chances of employment. In special cases, multi-national organisations ignore applicants’ German language skills at the time of employment, but you are surely expected to pick up Deutsch soon to be able to integrate well in the environment, especially if your job involves communication with local people.

As told to Vimal Chander Joshi