Tag Archives: University

Campus Life

I do like traveling and working in research (given that you have appropriate funding) + being on an international IEEE committee requires just that. There have been a lot of trips this year that I haven’t even mentioned on my blog.

For each and every single one of them I do have a blog post in my draft folder, which I just never got around to finish and publish. Mostly because these trips usually turn out to be so intensive and exciting, with so many new experiences and people, that it seems virtually impossible to capture them in a blog post. This weekend I was in the Bath and London (UK) for four days.

Tower bridge, London (UK) 2013

I’ll do it differently this time. Instead of trying to capture everything I’ll focus on one topic: UK/US campuses vs. Austrian campuses.

After I had come back from UCLA in 2008, I did get one question frequently: What’s different? The answer is: many things. One of the main differences I experienced in the US and did find again in Bath is the way universities there are not only places for focused professional studies, but places where you actually live. Both at UCLA and at the Uni of Bath you’ll find banks, grocery stores, bars, gyms, running tracks, on campus housing and so much more. It is like they are small self-contained villages. In addition to that a myriad of student clubs enrich the experience of living on campus.

The university I am studying at right now (Johannes Kepler University Linz) does have some of these features, after finally having moved most of their departments to one centralized campus. Still, try walking campus on an idle weekday night (apart from Thursday, which is the big party night on campus) and you’ll find it to be deserted. Don’t get me wrong, you will see countless researchers behind windows and the occasional, sleep-deprived grad student heading for the vending machine. However you won’t encounter undergrads in their training cloths or campus sweaters, you won’t see dancing or fencing classes behind all-glass window fronts, the posters won’t invite you to join some fancy chess, music or religious club and you won’t be able to find a running track.

In Austria if you want to engage in any of these activities, it’s up to you to look for them somewhere else. Unis are for learning and for taking exams, but the institutions won’t tell you or make suggestions whatsoever about how to live your outside-the-uni life. Neither do they care about whether you take pride in studying at this very place or not.

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. I do feel that the UK/US system generates social pressure and it is easy for students to get lost in different activities every night, with the potential danger of burn-outs. On the other hand I do think your time at uni should be wholesome and teach you more than just the subjects you are enrolled in, which is in favor of the UK/US campus culture.

The Austrian/German system does generate a significant amount of graduates who are not involved in any social activity at all, which I think is utterly wrong. Don’t ask me for numbers, but I can give you a few examples which ended up having quarter-life and midlife crises. On the other hand not having your hands full with all that uni social stuff, leaves space for students to get involved in their local communities. Plus the lack of university driven activities does of course also not rule out the possibility that students with a shared interest form unofficial clubs.

These observations are obviously very subjective and might not apply to all schools. Whatever kind of system you are in or about to enter, I do have three pieces of advice regarding campus life and your time at university in general, which I’d like to share with you:

  1. Move out of your parent’s home. While I would suggest a dormitory for starters (you’ll get to know so many people who will help you and who you can help) an apartment is also an option. This is the time for you to become self-dependent.
  2. Engage in at least one social activity or club, but monitor your stress level and learn to say “No” when required.
  3. Go abroad and enjoy the ultimate step of self-dependency. It will, for a limited amount of time, give you the opportunity to design your daily life from scratch, plus I guarantee you, you will learn more about yourself than ever before.

Having said that, I have to add that advice should always come with a disclaimer, so I’ll simply cite Mary Schmich here:

“Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

What’s campus life at your university like?

Uni brennt?

Have you ever designed a microstrip filter and measured it? No? Today I had the pleasure to take some measurements for my advisor. Nothing fancy, just some measurement data he needs for a lecture on Thursday.

I took measurements up to 25 GHz, but being a 77-GHz guy it didn’t really bother me. The electronic cal-kit is really cool tough, you don’t have to do anything yourself! After lunch we went to the university assembly concerning the university budget situation. The government is cutting university budgets and by means of this assembly students, faculty and staff are trying to make their voices heard.

It was an interesting thing to be part of. The panel discussion was really interesting, primarily not for its contents, but for trying to understand it. I don’t want to get overly political, but I think the main problem of somthing like this assembly is that you have people with sooooo many different backgrounds. Some are really trying to analyze problems and are trying to find solutions. Others are just there to be against something. And the wild mixture of different ideas makes it really difficult to figure out who belongs to which group. Whatever somebody says the rule seems to be: Tell it as if it were the truth and shout it as loud as possible, this will make people believe you and follow you.

However, as for me, it’s really hard to believe a student in his 9th year, blaming the system for everything. And I don’t get it why everybody should be allowed to study, let’s say, economics, when we know we will just produce unemployed people, while we could identify needs and try to get people there (right now they say it’s engineers and doctors, but I don’t know whether there is a “scientific” basis for both claims). Of course how to get students into specific areas is another story, some money and clever marketing people could also do the trick instead of admission restrictions.

So here’s my two mayor points of criticism:
1.) I feel like most people “in politics” are not trying to get a scientific base on which they can make their decisions.
2.) There is no room for uncertainty. When somebody makes a claim it is always an ultimate truth.

The problem might be that people do not demand scientific methods in politics, or only to the point where it goes directly into how “to get more votes” … Whatever, it was interesting being part of it.

It was also good to get back to my realms, which was trying to get material properties @ 80 GHz for some material we have a 3D printer for. Thanks to Kurt it was really easy to handle the 400 K€ machinery!

I’d like to finish my post with a totally different story, namely the story told by the trees of winter approaching at an unbelievably high speed.

So get yourself a cup of tea, a warm blanked and enjoy the last days of fall!