On August 31st, 2016, the tires of Flight 9W8753 of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines hit the tarmac at the Stuttgart Airport and moments later, I set foot in Germany, the Land of Ideas. Quoting Neil Armstrong’s famous words ‘a small step for man, a giant leap for mankind’ may sound a bit exaggerating. Yet I believe in the grand power of thoughts and would like to think no less of my first step on German soil than that of Armstrong’s on the Moon.
Fast forward more than 6 weeks and here I am, quite comfortably going about my daily routines and putting my heart and soul into the purpose of my arrival here – Master of Engineering in Automotive Systems with a specialization in Vehicle Dynamics.
About the University and Course
The Automotive Systems Masters course at the Hochschule Esslingen – University of Applied Sciences is a 1.5-year (3 semesters) programme. While the first 2 semesters contain coursework, the 3rd is for completing a Master’s Thesis, which can be likely at one of the world-famous automotive enterprises such as Porsche, Daimler and its suppliers such as BOSCH, EDAG, GETRAG and several more. A few weeks into the course and it is very evident for me that the compact and well-paced course requires constant, sincere and focussed efforts to make the best of it. Just the right mix for me.
The University itself has earned a strong reputation among the industries in the neighbourhood. Even more heartening is the experience and friendly-nature of the Professors and highly supportive non-teaching faculty. Every Professor is a storehouse with years of rich industrial experience and well updated with the latest technology trends and teaching methods. Almost every course also has additionally speakers from Industry to speak on the happenings of the today and the future possibilities.
A Master of Engineering in Design and Development and an MBA course in Industrial Management are other International programs offered. All the 3 aforementioned programmes have English as the Medium of Instruction.
Excursions & Explorations
Thanks to a long standing practise of Excursion programs being organized for incoming Graduate students, I was lucky to visit around 8 cities in the Baden-Wuerttemberg state, within just 3 weeks of arriving at Germany. It almost felt like being on holiday and exploring Germany. The first of them was castle and city of Heidelberg, then the University-City of Tuebingen and Castle of Hohenzollern. Then followed a trip to Ulm where I climbed the 768 stairs of Ulm Muenster, the tallest church in the world and Ludwigsburg Castle and Garden. My holiday season (sadly) came to an end with our last, yet the best, trip to Constance and Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen. The trip across Lake Constance on the Katamaran, with cold breeze rushing against my face was an unforgettable one.
To top all these, the visit to Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart was a breath-taking experience and truly inspiring as I got to look back to the days Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and William Maybach set things in motion with their inventions of the engine-powered automobiles.
This was also accompanied by free German classes to further advance our skills in the language. A visit to the Esslingen Drama Theatre proved to be a wonderful chance and I was also present at the Matinee show of a new play that is premiering this month. Undoubtedly among the best places to hear German and maybe even get to know a few German locals.
The list of topmost things that caught my attention in Germany
- It is not uncommon for a passer-by to greet and wish you a good day with a smile. (Can’t imagine that happening in a highly populated city like Chennai!) A man with a smile on my face (almost always), I am already living the German way, greeting people whenever I look them at their face. Everyone is a well-wisher here! (Well, if they wish you well, they are well-wisher, aren’t they?!)
- Vehicles and Pedestrians always use road-crossings and wait for the green signal. Even on an empty road, drivers do not hesitate or turn impatient to stop at a red signal.
- Public transport system is wonderfully planned. Railway stations and key bus junctions are well connected. Be it wheel-chaired travellers, old people, parents with kids in a trolley or students with suitcases, there is designated spaces for every one of these.
- The timings of trains and buses are all pre-determined. One has to plan their trip well in advance, to be sure that travel can be stress-free.
- Trash is separated right at the source as Paper, packing material and residual wastes. Every key public spot has trash bins to collect every one of these.
- Postal system in Germany is very well-established with collection points in every nook and corner. Exchanging postcards is still quite common in Germany, even in today’s digital world. Thanks to my German teacher back in India, I too exchange Postcards regularly now
- Supermarkets and smartphones go along well, with names being in German mostly. But it is no challenging task to buy what is needed. Caution: If you walk into one, make sure to have a list and buy only that. Else you might ail from Obsessive Buying Disorder (At least as a student, that can have side-effects)
- Weather has been good and manageable with the mercury levels going lower than 5 deg C in the last week or so. Just make sure to be clothed properly. Affordable, quality ones are available here for sure. “Winter is coming” and I braze myself to face it.
- Every weekend has an event happening in the neighbourhood. With food or some sales and city explorations. I make sure to mingle with the locals at one event or other (and not just stay locked indoors watching TV series and Movies, which I could as well do anywhere else)
- Germans are proud of their language and country. Any attempt by you to explore and learn these pleases them and they are more than willing to help.
- A dreamland for those who love to see the fascinating cars. One may never get tired of spotting an old model or a modern speedster on the roads
- A vegetarian for the past 24 years (and still am), I have had few challenges with managing food. Of course this can be a result of being flexible about when and what I eat. Culinary skills are good to have. (Else, you will just end up getting better at it once here). My experiments with German and other European cuisines have been limited hitherto but are sure to widen
- I am not a party-goer and have hardly anything to share as an experience. But I can sure tell that there is one almost every other day. Beer jugs and Dance Floors are in plenty.
A few of my observations and contemplations of the not-usually-evident things
- I deem it important to arrive in Germany with limited expectations and maximum dreams. Look at things like a critic and you can end up spoiling the small pleasures life here has to offer
- Population in Germany has been remained almost constant for the past few decades. The society has been developed enough to cater to possibly every need of any person, from new-borns to the elders. It can be realized that the key task is to sustain life as it is, unless there is an external event that triggers need for changing the societal setup.
- Technology has eased the challenges a lot. People who grumble about life in a foreign place being challenging, should think about the times gone by, when smart phones and internet didn’t exist. On a lighter note, Pokémon Go is a craze with the kids and youngsters here as well. Gotta catch’em all! 😉
- Library, Student activities, Sports, Music, A new language – Name your interest and there is an activity going on in Campus or in the neighbourhood. Time is a limited resource. 24 hours it is, for every human. How you spend it, is a challenge in hand.
Learning to say ‘no’ can be the most difficult lesson that one can learn here
(at least as an Indian, I think so)
- The way of life here is quite monotonous with nothing much new happening or limited challenges. For the well-settled, this can spell disaster as idleness can wreak havoc. This is probably the reason why every weekend has a festival or mini-celebration
- The worst way, in my view, to experience life here is to stay on bed and sleep for hours, more than what the human body needs. As a youngster in my mid-20s (most students here are of the same age), I make it a point to sleep just around 7 hours.
Either keep striving harder towards your dream or go out to explore Germany
is my motto for the next year and a half.