It’s been nearly three and a half years since I finished my bachelor’s degrees (B.S. Public Relations, P.S. Communication Studies, Business Foundations Program) at The University of Texas at Austin. Promptly after finishing, I packed my bags, traveled for a month, and never moved back home. Karlsruhe, Germany, instead, became home. Things change, I changed, and as much as I loved my carefree lifestyle at the pub, I needed something more to feel fulfilled. Germany’s best kept secret is that it offers free* education at each of their world-class institutions. Before even beginning my bachelor’s, I knew a master’s degree was in my future. However, after finishing my bachelor’s, more school was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to see the world and earn money. The last three years, I scratched that itch until it bled and decided it was time to make a life for myself. The plan? It’s not exactly spelled out, but it would all begin with a master’s degree. Germany offers tons of study programs, in both English, German, and a mixture of the two languages. I searched through them all seeking out the perfect program and when I found it, I knew it was the one.
I put all my eggs in one basket and applied for the Masters in Consumer Affairs (MCA) at the Technische Universität München, which so happens to be the 54th ranked university in the world. Fortunately, someone decided I was qualified and next thing I know I was moving my butt to Bavaria. There were lots of nerves involved: moving away from my Karlsruhe comfort zone, beginning a long-distance relationship, learning a new city, and making new friends, all come to mind. Despite nerves, life happens no matter what and Monday, October 6, kicked off the semester and after a week of class. Here are some things that stood out on my first week of school.
Unlike every campus that I’ve been on in the U.S.A., the campus at TUM is very spread out with different campuses spread out across the city. This makes sense when you consider the age of the university (established 1868) and its location smack-dab-in-the-middle of Munich, making expansion difficult. Three of my courses this semester are at the Weihenstephan campus in Freising, which means all of us have to travel to what is basically the airport every day. It takes an hour to get from my apartment to the campus. Then, once we get there, we have to schlepp our asses up a huge hill. Come winter, we shall see if I’m in class or still cuddled up in bed. Fortunately, my other two classes are on the main campus in Maxvorstadt. My attendance skills weren’t stellar during my Austin days, so I’m hoping to improve them.
The Mensa, or school cafeteria, is glorious. Actually, I should say are glorious because there are locations across the city. Lunch and side dish offerings change daily and you can easily eat a full meal for under 2 Euros. It’s even pretty good, although we do joke that the price makes it taste so much better. If that’s not a student’s dream, I don’t know what is.
Other glorious things: Weihenstephan, the Freising campus, is home to the oldest still-operating brewery (you can also major in brewing) in the world and hosts a free beer festival every year. My classmates are the best I could have asked for, which is good since we four out of five classes together. And student discounts are gold here, like the full network MVG six month ticket for only 144 Euros (this ticket would cost a normal person 204 Euros per month!).
My lecturers consist of three Germans and one Japanese, most (1 fantastic exception) of whom’s English at the level I imagined it would be. I know I should not talk, as their English is still certainly better than my German. I event felt bad thinking this, until my German classmates discussed their same displeasure recognizing that every international student in our program speaks better English than our professors. The spelling mistakes on the slides, which they tend to read directly off, are the worst part though. Spell check!
Speaking of lectures, the lecture halls are totally old school with the wooden chairs in rows along long writing tables, which is neat in theory until you have to sit in one of those chairs for a four-hour lecture and realize it is impossible to get comfortable.
Last note about lectures: when class ends, students knock on the tables instead of clapping to show respect.
We don’t have to buy books which is fantastic. The library usually stocks enough to use, but the reading is not required, rather a supplement to the lecture. Many professors also choose to provide PDFs as required reading material instead of a textbook.
The final exam is 100 percent of your grade. This is good because you really can do as you like during the semester. The bad news is come finals time, you will be hitting the books like no one ever has before. We all optimistically enjoy thinking we will stay on top of school work, but we all know the truth.
MCA is a four semester program; the first three semester consist of 5 courses each semester, taking 20 hours/week and the final semester is dedicated to our thesis (what the hell am I going to write about?). The first week eased my nerves quite a bit, seeing the syllabi and meeting my new friends, who are also in the same boat. The program is about half-Germans and half-internationals, which makes for a very unique makeup and the older students in our program organized lots of events to integrate us and help us meet new people. Every thing still feels new, which is exciting and I’m looking forward to see what my future at TUM and in Munich holds.
*There are student union fees of ~115 Euros per semester.
Have you studied abroad? What stood out to you at your international university?