Interview Series #3 No Sweet Without Sweat
In his first interview, Chiu Kit LAM told us that the idea of studying in Germany came to him when he learned that foreign students at German universities and colleges generally do not have to pay any tuition fees. In the third interview, we ask him what his Bachelor degree in Germany was like and what it brought him.
Were there - apart from the financial aspect - other reasons why you decided to study in Germany? And did you immediately know what and where you wanted to study?
Then there was the question: "What do I want to study?"
I was lucky to know that early on. I always wanted to be an engineer, so in this case, I got the best combination: "Engineering plus Germany", didn't I? :) The question of “where” was difficult to answer, you know Germany is not small. However, the answer was found by coincidence: back then there were hardly any courses in German that did not require any knowledge of German at the time of enrolment. While searching, an international study offer appeared in Mannheim. What a perfect fit!
The course in Mannheim was a rather funny “mixture” - an international program in which all lectures in the first year were taught in English.
Afterwards German and other international students were mixed together and all lectures were held in one fell swoop in German.
The only German exam you had to take was DSH or TestDaF. However, the university only asked for a certificate at the end of our studies. And the recommendation was that after the first year one should write the exam. Almost nobody could make it. I took the exam after my internship.
However, there are a lot of study offers in Germany now, which are completely taught in English. What a pity. I prefer the English-German structure of the studies.
Are there any challenges while studying at a German university?
The professors at a German university also teach differently than in Hong Kong. A standard textbook was not available. The content of the lecture is often designed by professors themselves. I still remember that I needed all sorts of websites, e-books and videos on the internet - no matter if they were in Chinese, English or German - in order to understand a particular technical term thoroughly. Although the learning process was quite time-consuming, it was really about understanding.
Most people know the difference between “Hochschule” and “Universität”, and that is true. I have learned many theories, but the practical part of my studies has shaped my mind even more. If you want to work in a practice-oriented way later, you should study at a “Hochschule”.
Where did you live and how did you make a living?
I have financed a large part of my livelihood through part-time jobs. A lot of them! I have always worked, and even during the semester breaks. Of course, I did an internship, which is compulsory for all students in the faculty.
I didn't really count, but now, if I think back, I had already worked as a student assistant for five companies before graduating.
In my opinion, these working experiences could have been almost more important than the studies themselves. I have gained so much practical experience, which was certainly a great advantage in my later application. The German proverb "Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen." which means you're not born a pro. If you want to become a good engineer, you need not only theory, but above all practical experience. So, I can only recommend everyone to work during their studies.
And what did your bachelor degree in Germany bring you? Did you find a job right after graduating?
After the four years I not only got a title, but also a new language ability, experienced a fascinating culture and learned to work together with the Germans.
I don't want to brag, but everyone knows that engineers are always wanted in Germany. I even found a job before I graduated. Many students look in advance for a job in the last semester, that's how I did it. My first employer invited me to a job interview, gave me an early commitment and then in fact, he did not need my certificate at all.
A result is what one should deliver at work. The certificate is just a piece of paper, right?