Bachelor of Engineering
Bachelor of Engineering

I remember skimming through so many of these testimonials before leaving and wondering how mine would read. Clichéd, overflowing with fond memories and stories of adventure and discovery? Or maybe the place would fall short of my hopes and expectations or, worse still, I would!
For my exchange I chose to venture to the Technical University of Munich during the Winter semester of 15/16. I had never been overseas before this trip so to say that I had no idea where I wanted to go would have been an understatement. I settled on Munich as it is very central in Europe, near to the Austrian Alps which I viewed as vital for my skiing aspirations and an English speaking university in a country with strong English skills with the opportunity to learn a new language. I was also curious to see the renowned German engineering and learn more about the system in Germany as it is a country I would like to pursue my career in in the future (a desire I had before exchange and maintain now).

Academic Experiences 

Looking back now I can say without a doubt that I have no regrets about my choice of university! TUM is an ancient university in comparison to UQ with claims to fame such as the oldest brewery in the world (founded in 1044AD) and past professors with names like ‘Diesel’ (as in the man who invented the ‘Diesel Engine’). It has been growing rapidly over the last decade particularly with the number of international students studying there so offers an amazing opportunity to meet fellow students from what felt like every country on the planet. As a Mechatronic Engineering student at UQ, I chose to study in the Electrical and Computer Science department at TUM.

There are some drawbacks with studying at TUM, most notably the 1 hour long, 100% final exams and lack of resources and support (education is free so not as well funded as Australia and German’s have a very independent approach to study). However, this is good for giving you a different perspective on studying not to mention that (at least for engineering) TUM offers a far wider range of courses than UQ! One further thing, if you are studying courses in English expect it to be dominated by fellow international students as the Germans tend to take primarily courses delivered in German.

Personal Experiences

Besides study, the opportunities of what you can do is overwhelming and limited only by imagination and money. I did not expect to do an exceptional amount of travel as I was very keen to try and integrate into Munich culture spending a lot of time there, learn German, undertake copious amounts of skiing and build some very solid international friendships. By the end of my time in Germany I had accidentally travelled to a grand total of 9 countries many of which I had had no specific desire to go to before arriving (Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia) and still managed to do the other things I wanted (friendships, learning German and ample skiing). These turned out to be some of my most outstanding adventures throughout my whole experience and always resulted in building stronger friendships and fond memories.

Accommodation

There is a lack of availability of accommodation in Munich if you miss out on the student accommodation (which noone from UQ did unless they were studying Architecture or turned down the offer).The cost of accommodation off campus is easily €500 to €700 although I know of a few extreme cases where it was even more than that!

Budget 

You will require German Health Insurance and it is a minimum amount of €80 per month.

Academic Development and Employability 

I also was able to undertake two internships within the duration of my 7-month stay. I arrived in Germany two months early to do an internship at the Technical University of Dortmund (separate to my official exchange but I was able to do it as I was already going to Germany). This was made possible with a scholarship from UQ which I am incredibly grateful for. I then undertook a part-time internship (14 hours per week) at the nuclear reactor FRM2 at TUM’s Garching campus while I was studying. This was an unparalleled and unexpected opportunity to gain experience in a career path that I hope to pursue. UQ Abroad and the EAIT Faculty was also very supportive of this endeavor.

I was not the only person that I know that took advantage of similar opportunities. Germany is in general great for internships (much, much better than Australia at any rate). They recognise that students need money to live and experience to become professionals so there are an enormous variety on offer. Munich is particularly ideal for acquiring an internship. There is a strong investment in research (particularly around Garching) and several prominent companies’ headquarters such as BMW based there along with its main manufacturing facility in Europe. If it were not for the fact that the semester following my time in Germany was a particularly important semester, I would have undoubtedly stayed for another 6 months!

Highlight 

The international student ‘society’ TUM runs, called TUMi, was also a highlight and through it I met most of my best friends from exchange. The highlight of TUMi events was undoubtedly the ‘Landesabend’ where TUMi provides a group of students from the same country a budget to cook some cultural cuisine for the rest of the group (we even did an Aussie one with… Vegemite Sangers and ANZAC Bikkies). They also run a variety of trips and activities at the beginning of the semester which are the perfect opportunity to meet your fellow exchangers while getting cheap, organized trips to typical ‘must see’ destinations such as Neuschwanstein, Salzberg and Zugspitze.

Top Tips

My best advice for anyone going on exchange, would be to set off with the mindset that anything can happen and when it does you’ll give it a go. Having a bucketlist is great for guiding what you want to do and having expectations is great for guiding what kind of experiences you want to have. The problem with these is that they can lead to disappointment and prevent you from appreciating the most valuable part of exchange: expanding your horizons. Going to a country that you know nothing about or letting your train leave because you are enjoying chatting with someone you just met could be that decision just before a moment is made that you’ll never forget.

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