My exchange at Technical University of Munich, Germany, winter 2021/2022

Student from the Faculty of Science

Hi all! I am a data science master student at the University of Helsinki. Current I am in my second year of the program, and I spend the semester of winter 2021/2022 at the Department of informatics, TU Munich, Germany, through Erasmus+ exchange program. As an international student, I really encourage students with similar background like me to try some exchange programs, wish this report can help you make decisions.

Before exchange

Every year, there will be two rounds of exchange application at UH. The first one on October and the second one on February. The October call always has more options, containing exchanges in Europe starting next spring and destinations outside Europe starting autumn next year. A small tip is not to ignore the October call, some destinations including Japan, the US and Canada can be popular. To be honest I missed my first choice, the University of Toronto during the October call. I appreciate that the exchange coordinator from international exchange service recommend some universities in Germany, that is really a good suggestion.

Before your application, you should make sure your goal for an exchange. The answers can be various, maybe some culture you are fond of, maybe some country you really want to visit. For me, the reason is to study some different courses and some research projects. That is why I take subject ranking as an important reference. So, there are four universities on my selection list: TU Munich and TU Berlin in Germany, and NTU in Singapore. The list can be very personal, my suggestion is to browse all the possible universities, both from Erasmus and bi-agreement, and list all the universities you liked and then ranked. After consideration, I listed TU Munich as my first choose, and I was successfully nominated from UH and received the offer from TUM at the beginning of June.

For the accommodation, I strongly recommend living in a student dormitory. In Germany, the universities will reserve dorms for exchange students, and these rooms are always cheap. At the same time, you will meet peers from all over the world as your roommates, I promise that you will love them. If you really have some special requirements about living or you are not satisfied with the room, finding a room on the private market can also be fine. Secondly, remember to register in your host university and select courses. Nearly all the important dates you will get notifications via email from the exchange coordinators, so remember to check your email box and the spam box. Remember to pay the registration fee, which is 147 Euros per semester in Germany. After paying the fee, you could browse the course list and make your own choices.

As an international student who are not a European citizen, there is an important tip: don’t forget to buy a public insurance for the semester. The German is called Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, which is compulsory for all the students studying in Germany. For European citizens, all the things you need is to prepare your EU insurance card and send the scanned file to your coordinator. For exchange students who are not from EU, signing contracts with one of the public insurance companies are needed. I choose TK, 110 Euros per month containing all the service you need.

International experience at Munich

Munich is ranked 2nd position in QS Best Student Cities ranking. With Germany’s growing status as an international study destination, and Munich has surpassed Berlin and climbed up to second place comparing to the ranking in 2019, becoming one of the best destinations in the world for students. The increase in the desirability, employer activity and affordability ranking indicators, and the city’s lower prices compared to other European hubs, quality of life, ease of getting around, nightlife and Bavarian friendliness boost Munich’s impressive. Based on the background, you will find Munich is a very international city and proper for foreign students. Especially if you live in Studentenstadt, which is one of the most famous student dormitories in Munich. You will meet students from both two top local universities: TU Munich and LMU.

I must commit that current covid situation really limit our interactions with others, but my experience with friends here is still impressive. During the weekdays, I can discuss the knowledge in Quantum computing with peers from Japan and the US and having the guidance of a German PhD candidate for my academic project. At the weekend, I can play FIFA with my roommates in the common living room and enjoy Chinese food with friends from Morocco and Romania… Looking back for my winter in Munich, I cannot imagine I have such a colorful life with friends from all over the world.

However, after the breakout of Omicron, nearly all the activities are online. Studying in the Zoom university does affect the learning experience. Feeling that we are still together, I do hope the covid can have an end as soon as possible.

Course selection

TU Munich has two round of course selection. First one is what TUM called matching period. In this period, you are available to choose you Practical courses and seminars. TU Munich encourages everyone to choose one practical course and one seminar per semester, and as the period name, these two categories of courses need to match your background with the course requirement. So, after you list your preference, you also need to contact the lecturer with your CV and motivations, which is pretty like finding a job on the market. It is a unique experience for me to select a course organized by the company SAP and working on some stuff related to business data platform. It is close to working in a real case. The second round is the normal round for course selection and enrollment. As one of the top technical universities in Europe, TU Munich provides various courses, for a lot of them you cannot find on the course list at University of Helsinki. For me, I have a very broad range of courses, from management to physics, including Stochastic optimization, Intro to Quantum computing, Nature Language Processing and Business analysis. These courses really open my eyes.

Explore Germany, even the Europe:

If you lived in a country for half a year, you would hope to explore your city and your country. That is exactly what I am doing here in Germany. Munich is famous for football, Bayern Munich, the most successful football team in Germany, is located here, their home stadium is only 5 kms from my room, so, definitely I enjoyed one of their European Champion’s League match against Benfica. The atmosphere was going to kill me, everyone is crazy for their team. I used to watch the game of Helsinki HJK, I have to say HJK still have a long way to go.

During Christmas, I visited Berlin, the capital of Germany. Berlin is a city with colorful history, and I went to the Holocaust Memorial, the remains of the Berlin Wall and the Museum Island. These buildings are amazing and worth a visit. Another tip is that not Germany, Munich is an important transportation hub, so, you can always buy low price flight tickets originating from Munich. Last November, I flew to UK and Ireland with only 40 euros, which cannot be accomplished at Helsinki.

Reflection: Why to exchange?

At last, I would like to say I am a guy really enjoy mobility, that is why I exchanged to Sweden when I was in my Bachler, and I came Munich this winter. I believe that young people should have the chances to know how big the world is, and what you could do in the world. Exchange can really help you with that. So, if you are hesitated, I hope my report can help you make your decision.

Bayern Munich home stadium.
The picture shows a large field with an open roof.

Inside view of the building of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science at the Technical University of Munich.