Krishna - Technical University of Munich

B. Science
Semester 1, 2018
My time on exchange was the widest range of experiences I've ever had in such a short period of time, it definitely was some of the most enjoyable I'v ever had so far.

Academic experience

In the first semester I took "Internet Lab" and "Introduction to Deep Learning". In the second semester I am taking "Machine Learning", "Natural Language Processing", "Distributed Systems" and "Advanced Algorithms".

One thing I love about TUM is the concept of lab classes, which involves a standard lecture and then an accompanying day-long lab session along the week. This gives you theoretical knowledge and really pushes you into the practical understanding and seeing the usefulness of the information too!

The academic system as a whole is very different, all the classes I took were masters courses - so perhaps that's part of the reason why it is so different. But all lectures were conducted for two hours long - not recorded, there were no tutorials, and exams were 100% of the final grade!! This can be very daunting. But this gives you a lot of control on your own time, so this can be quite liberating if you like being responsible for your own time management in studying, otherwise it will be your downfall, so be warned!!

One other amazing thing is the examination structure - you can pretty much choose which course you want to take up until examination periods, re-taking exams does not impact your grade at all, and no failed grade will show up on your transcript!!

Personal experience

The greatest thing about going to exchange in Europe is being able to travel everywhere in Europe with cheap transport, accommodation and easily at the drop of a hat. To that I was fortunate enough to spend an entire month living in the Netherlands before the semester started. I stayed in a small, but lovely, student city called Delft, giving me the ability to see so much of the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium by rail. As for normal travelling I got to do about one and a half months of that so far - mostly with company, seeing Berlin, Salzberg, Vienna, alot of Switzerland, Prague, Paris, London and Milan. Not to mention so many attractions close by to Munich from neighbouring towns to the alps.

My favourite experience was during the break between semesters, I had the opportunity to really bond with a fellow exchange student as we both had all the time in the world and the whole city to explore, experience and re-experience.

I had the opportunity to met a variety of people in Munich. On one end there were so many exchange students, who showed me all the chill places in Munich and one of whom gave me the opportunity to go fishing in Lake Geneva. The other end of the spectrum there were working German researchers in computer science with whom I had many long conversations about education to NLP (Natural Language Processing).

Accommodation

I lived at Studentenstadt, a government student accommodation in Munich which is mostly occupied by exchange students. It is essentially a studio apartment in a great location that comes at an extraordinarily cheap price, the only downside is that it is in fairly poor condition. Having said that, TUM arranges it for you and finding a room elsewhere in Munich is very difficult and expensive, so this is truly a lifesaver. My advice though is to go on the winter semester if you're going for a year, as then you get a room at Studentenstadt, otherwise you only get it for half a year.

Budget

Things were fairly cheap, rent came in at 300 euros a month at Studentenstadt, but it isn't so rosey outside there. Transport was around 300 euros for unlimited public transport per semester, which is great but health insurance is a killer - taking 80 euros a month. As for food and entertainment, that really falls on how much you eat out and drink, but I could normally make do with 50 euros a week. I had Centrelink, but I found that alone wasn't enough, while it covered most of my expenses I definitely recommend having savings going in, especially if you plan to travel.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I had during my experience was navigating through the German system quickly. Once you arrive you only have so many days till you have to start paying rent, for which you need to have a bank account, for which you need residence registration, and of course you need health insurance to stay as student and a visa to stay in the country! All this paper work needs to be done while you're still settling in and not understanding how transportation works, not having a sim nor any wifi in your room. It is very daunting, especially when so much information is presented in German. One thing I found that really helped is opening a bank account with N26, which is an online bank, this really sped up my overall progress. Beyond that I'd really recommend reading, planning and approaching everything with a cool mind. Of course getting internet access as soon as possible is just so necessary!

Professional development and employability

I would like to share two outstanding skills I have gained separately; one personal and one professional. Personally I learnt how to settle down in another country and navigate through a non-english speaking country system, with provided safety barriers and support from TUM and UQ. As I am planning on moving to Japan after I graduate, this developed skill allows me to be more confident, calm and clear for that next upcoming experience. Professionally I did some fun technical interview practices by going to job interviews I was shortlisted for during my stay. Builing on those professional skill requires technical expertise, communication and pattern identification, which will probably be required towards and throughout my career.

Highlight

Some of the highlights or recent moments that come to mind during my trip:

  • Pizza in Milan - godly
  • Driving down the unlimited speed zone of the autobahn towards the alps.
  • Wine and Pasta near Friedensengel as the sun set over Munich.

Top tips

TUM offers pretty much complete educational freedom, and Munich offers the best beer in the world. Definitely try to find a balance.

Also - go on exchange, it is an incredible experience you can't hope to have once you graduated.

Krishna - Techinical University of Munich