Darren - Technical University of Munich

B Engineering (Hons)/Science
Semester 1, 2019

Academic experience

I'm a software engineering student back at UQ, so the courses I studied at TUM were all from the informatics department. I took 4 courses, which was enough to cover the 20 ECTS full load recommendation for exchange students. 

The courses that I took were:

 - 3D Scanning & Motion Capture
 - Algorithmic Game Theory
 - Autonomous Driving
 - Deep Learning
All of these were at masters level! For software / computer science students, there is an incredible number of very advanced and highly interesting courses offered by the informatics department here. All of these are taught in (very good) English, and available to exchange students. Without a doubt, the courses that I took at TUM expanded my perceptions on computer science beyond what I had seen from undergraduate courses at UQ.

With that said, there were definite differences in studying under the German academic system which gave way to their own challenges. For a start, all but one of the courses that I took had 100% exams at the end. This system leaves you with a lot of freedom for how you'd like to arrange your time over the semester, but realistically, it was quite important to follow course exercises each week to pass the exams at the end. Past papers were also not provided for any exams, making it difficult to get an idea for what you'll be asked to do on the exam date. The students here study very comprehensively through all the provided material to prepare themselves for the exams.

Personal experience

I tremendously widened my view of the world by coming on exchange to TUM. Due to the very flexible structure of the semester, I was able to spend most of my (long) weekends travelling everywhere around Germany and Europe while keeping up with my courses over the week. Many exchange students from around the world come to Germany to do exactly the same thing, and because of that I was able to meet friends from all around the globe while visiting so many countries around Europe. My step counter says that I have walked at least 2 million steps over this continent!

As I hadn't travelled much around the world before this trip, I learnt so much about geography, languages, culture and history that I had never been exposed to before. I developed an appreciation for human history, and a curiosity for how the world came to become the way that it is today. Every place that I went to had so much to see and learn from, it was a bit humbling to realise that there could only be so much of the world that I could understand in depth.

Going on exchange was also my first time living on my own, and also my first time living in a country where I knew very little of the local language. This was definitely something that I saw as a major challenge to start with, but now at the end of exchange I feel a lot more confident of my independent abilities. I've gotten a lot better at managing money, cooking, traveling...etc.

Moving to a foreign country for a period of time also allowed me to learn about myself and develop an appreciation for why Australia is such a well-loved country around the world!


Accomodation in Munich is quite expensive if you try to find something on your own, but luckily if you are an exchange student, TUM provides you with an option of student accomodation with the Studentenwerk (student union), at around 350‎€ per month. 

I was assigned a two storey, self contained 'bungalow' in Olympiadorf, the olympic village in Munich now occupied by students. This was perhaps one of the best places I could have ended up living at. Relative to the other student accomodation arrangements, my accomodation in Olympiadorf was close to the city, lively with student life and very modern. Olympiadorf is also right next to the BMW factory and museum. Grocery shopping is only a few minutes walk away, and Olympia-Einkaufszentrum, one of the larger malls in Munich is only 2 stops away on the U-Bahn (metro).

The only disadvantage to living at Olympiadorf would be its distance from the informatics campus, which was approximately 40 minutes by U-Bahn.


I do not feel like this has been a cheap trip, though the main reason for this is the extensive amount of travelling which I did almost every week.

In Munich, your bare minimum costs each month would be rent, mandatory health insurance and groceries. Rent costs about 350€ and health insurance about 100€. The average week of groceries cost me 50€. This comes to about $1000 per month. 

Realistically I think I spent around $2000 per month, including all my costs for travelling and additional costs in Munich.

Other costs you should know about include the MVG (public transport) semester ticket (200€), Rundfunkbeitrag (160€), German residence permit (100€) and the difficulty of resisting more pastries at the Rischart bakeries.


The biggest challenge was probably following along with the masters courses here at TUM. Just like with studying at UQ, passing these courses came down to interest in the material, effective study habits and making friends with people in my courses to give me guidance where needed.

Also a big challenge was dealing with culture shock after moving to a foreign country speaking a different language. As opposed to Brisbane where I've lived for many years and know what/where everything is, it can feel disorienting walking around and seeing that most signs are for businesses/organisations/services that I don't know well or have never heard of before.

Professional Development

One of most common things that you do during exchange is forming friendships with people that may have a different background from you. This may be a different culture, a different field of study, different life experiences...etc. I can see a skill like this being very helpful for my career, for communicating ideas and establishing connections with people.

Other than that, the part of this exchange that benefitted me the most in terms of professional development would be a TUM career fair that I went to on a whim one day. I learnt about the massive startup community in Munich, and also saw the scale and high level of connection between research and industry that exists here. One of the students taught me how to pitch myself to companies, and I ended up interviewing and getting an internship at a major international company in Germany!


There have been many amazing things that have happened over the past few months, but one that comes to mind is the time where I led a group of 50 other students on a trip to Berlin without ever having been there myself. This was a TUM organised trip where in signing up for the trip at the last minute, the university had run out of student spots but still needed an extra 'tutor'.

I was asked to be one of the tutors, leading and taking responsibility for the group as we travelled to Berlin and organised various group activities over the 4 days we were there! Initially I was hesitant to take on the role, but in the end it was great fun with the other German tutors helping me throughout the way. I even occasionally offered solutions to problems that they had not thought of themselves.

Top tips

- Open an N26 account to pay rent and insurance, and use an Australian Citibank account to withdraw from ATMs with no fees
 - Be prompt about signing up for TUMi events early in the semester! Spots run out very quickly.
 - Sign up for TUM German courses at the beginning of semester
 - Budget plenty for travel around Europe
 - Life on exchange can be very hectic, it's alright to take a break on some days and just relax