Richy - Technische Universität Berlin

Bachelor of Engineering (Hons)
Semester 1 and 2, 2017

Academic experience

The academic system at TUB is very different and in general the system seems to be a lot less structured and more flexible than at UQ. Typically to sign up for a class you just go to the first class and make yourself known to the lecturer that you are an exchange student and want to take the course, instead of having to enrol online and constantly refresh SI-Net for sign-ons to make sure you get a good timetable at UQ. The classes are also all divided into 2-hour blocks where the classes themselves take up 1.5 hours which start 15 minutes after the hour and finish 15 minutes before the hour (confusing at first but you get used to showing up at quarter past for a class scheduled to start on the hour).

Undergraduate courses are mostly only offered in German and a full-time study load (30ECTS/20SWS) for undergraduate courses is generally 5 courses unlike the typical 4 courses at UQ. Many post-graduate courses are only worth 2-4 ECTS so more courses would be required for a full-time load if taking those. I was on exchange for a year and took 10 undergraduate courses over the two semesters. I ended up taking 3 language courses and 7 engineering courses, only one of which was offered in English.

A big challenge for me was that most of my courses were taught in German, but I learnt German in high school and this exchange was a very good opportunity to use a skill that I otherwise would never use. When I arrived, I realised that it wouldn’t be too difficult to take the courses in German because I prepared well before going there by taking two German courses at UQ and I was also allowed to write my exam responses in either English or German.

Personal experience

Exchange is such a great opportunity to meet new people from all around the world, and they’re keen to meet you too! You’ll definitely become really close with a lot of exchange friends, spending basically an entire semester together in a new country, going through the same challenges together. You’ll learn so much about all the various cultures around the world (especially Spanish if you go to Berlin). I took a Russian course at the university and I also learnt small bits of Spanish, Portuguese and of course German from various friends who I met throughout the semester. It was the first time living away from parents, so this experience has definitely made me more independent.

The great thing about going to Germany for exchange is its central European location, making weekend trips to other countries like France, Austria and Italy very easy. Travel was definitely a big part of my semester as I took a long trip around the Mediterranean with a friend over the Summer holidays.

Accommodation

I stayed at a student dormitory called Coppistraße Studentenwohnheim in East Berlin for my first semester and shared a kitchen and bathroom with two other exchange students. The rent was exceptionally cheap (€170 per month) and the journey to the Uni was about 40 minutes by train. The application for the dorm was also straightforward with all the information listed on the host university website. For the second semester I decided to move to Steglitz which was closer to the University and found a WG (Wohngemeinschaft [shared appartment]), which is a very common student living arrangement in Germany. This WG was also quite cheap for Berlin at (€300 per month).

Costs

Berlin in general was much cheaper than Australia. Food at the university was also very cheap with decent meals served at the cafeteria partially subsidised by the government. Groceries were cheap, and I would also highly recommend getting a Berlin Döner (kebab) for when you are too lazy to cook something. Transport was very easy in Berlin with trains running all night on weekends and holidays and every 3-5 minutes during peak time. You get a semester ticket valid for 6 months for use anywhere in Berlin when you pay your university contribution fees.

Professional Development

The main skill that I have developed during my exchange experience is my ability to work with people of a different culture and in a different language. This is definitely a useful skill in an international professional environment.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was being able to travel to so many different places with different cultures. Europe is such a dense and diverse continent and Germany’s central location made it even easier to travel around. My first weekend trip was to Hamburg, but we spontaneously decided to go to Copenhagen in another country as well. That’s something that’s only really possible in Europe.

Top tips

Definitely do it! It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I would recommend doing some research into which country you’re interested in going to, so you can make the most of your experience. But no matter where you go, you’ll make lifelong friends and expand your professional network internationally and have the time of your life.