Challenging myself in Germany

Acquiring experiences and skills a little further

The last post

I have flew back to Finland and my studies will continue here normally. By initial conversation with my responsible professor in JAMK, I’ve been told that I could recognize all my subject studies in Hochshule Esslingen studies to professional elective studies, all 15 ECTS credits. That was huge relief, because it wasn’t certain when I started the double degree program. Now I need to deal with all this paper stuff, such as Learning agreement (before, during and after parts) and Letter of Confirmation. They have to be ready until 5th of September which is quite strict time schedule.

I feel great to be back in Finland, even though the experience was priceless. The time in exchange was stressful since there was a lot unclear things or it wasn’t easy to get help on our problems. I totally recommend this for anyone who is interested in being abroad for longer stays, by exchange in abroad, you can test yourself in new environment and learn more about your truly selves. For me the reason wasn’t to find myself or who I really am, but still that happen somehow.

I want to thank all the commentators!

It only takes courage, curiosity and little bit craziness.

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Reflections on the lessons learned

Still three weeks before I leave to Finland. In this post, I want to open a little more the contents of my studies. I took the following courses in the exchange, Microprocessor Technology (5 credits), Industrial Communication (5 credits), Control Engineering (5 credits), Digital Feedback Control and Simulation (5 credits), Power Electronics (5 credits), German History and Culture (4 credits), German A1 (8 credits), German B1 (4 credits) and the Internship (30 credits). These reason to choose these was, those were the most suitable courses for me taught in English. Here is a short conclusion from the courses.

Microprocessor Technology

The goal was to understand the microprocessors technology and the focus was on the ARM processors. There was two lectures every week and 6 labs in total. Each labs took around 4 hours but there was a need to be well prepared with a code to pass the lab. The main topics were GPIO ports, Interrupts, Timers and BUS technologies. I likes this course the most since it gave good aspect for playing microprocessors, suchs as Arduino or ESP. It was also the hardest and time consuming.

Industrial Communication

Aim of the course was to understand the principles of the Ethernet and how the developed protocols and technologies came with it. In additional it was including 3 labs and there was a visiting lecturor from Festo company who introduced the other bus Technologies from the field, like CAN open, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, IO-Link, etc. The was no need to put a lot effort for the course, due to we didn’t dive too deep in the subjects. Instead there was short observation of differrent comminucation technologies. Odd thing was that the labs wasn’t related to the lectures. For example we had to hack into other network by using APR spoofing and the fastest guys won chocolate.

Control Engineering

This was maybe the most confusing course I had and there is not much I can say about this. First when I read the description of the course, it didn’t sound too bad, but it is analythical and mathematical course indeed. The tempo was fast and there was no time go through the things more than once. As a Finnish guy, used to adaptive pedagogy and with a vocational background it couldn’t follow. The topmost thing from this cours is the feeling of emptines. Anaway, there was 2 lectures every week and 3 laboratories. We calculated controller parameters, modelled and simplified systems.

Digital feedback Control and Simulation

This was basically as hard course as Control and I quote the whole chapter from Control Engineering. The differrence was that we played more with matrixes and calculated digital controllers and obervators in state-space represntations. In addition, there was a Simulation course where we had every second week a lecture and 3 labs, which I liked the most, because we practised with Matlab.

Power Electronics

The theme was to get to know the basic power principles of electronic drivers such as Buck converter and boost-converters and their features. Additionally we had 3 labs and we get to work in a cleanroom. I likes how the professor put effort for teaching instead just giving lectures. I recommend this for people who are interested about making own power electronic projects.

German History and Culture

This was wery interesting course, I did not expect that I would learn so much more about the worlds history. The lecturer gaved eye-catching lessons and his enthusiasism was contagious. We had a trip to Nürnberg to see the Hitler’s counsil building and another one to lake bodensee. I recommend this for everyone for it’s giving general education.

German 1 & 2

The German 1 was mandatory for exchange student’s and we started an intensive courses in September 3 weeks before the other courses. There was approximately 30 hours classes per week until the main studies started. Then we had lesson once in every week until the exam before christmas holidays. The language leves wasn’t high in my group, due to there appeared 5 new students in intervals during the fall. It wasn’t either easy to learn because our teacher didn’t talk English. I took the German to replace The Conrol engineering course.

I think I cannot recognize any of these courses in my Professional studies, but instead  to elective studies. That might not be necessary, because I’ve already have enough elective studies back in Finland. The internship is significant factor and possible to be recognized into my studies. In overall, the highlight of my exchange period was the internship, where I found a lot confidence from the field of automation and IoT. unfortunately, when it comes to school, I don’t feel I received big advatages for my profession in comparison to the amount of spent time.

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The last month

My exchange time here is soon to be over here in Germany, so i decided to make a post of my final weeks here and what I still need to arrange before I go.

The time at IPA is coming to an end, the employment contract is valid until end of the August. I have liked my being in that institute even though they couldn’t offer work in the field of my studies. Instead I’ve been working a lot with PLCs and communication systems like PROFINET, EtherCat and OPC-UA. Additionally, I have learned modelling with SolidWork and coding with Java Script. I feel confident about from my learning during the internship and that’s definitely the best part from this experience.

Nevertheless, that didn’t come easily, the hard part there is a daily travel to University of Stuttgart which takes one and half hour in minimum. Unfortunately the train schedule isn’t so solid in Germany either, in average, due to accident’s I spent 20 hours in week on way to work. There been couple times when I’ve been as much working as been on way to and from work. The second untoward upcoming was that we’ve been told in our home university that the common internship takes 6 months, and the companies wont most likely make shorter contracts. Either Hochschule Esslingen didn’t gave any opinions or more information for searching the internship. Now later we heard that there is only need for 100 hours of working which are approximately 5 months.

I choose to spent my holiday at once on the last weeks, so I will flight back to Finland in 27th of august. That will leave me still 4 weeks to arrange things to settle my double degree program. The things to do are:

  • internship report for Hocschule Esslingen, which has to be signed by my supervisor,
  • get a letter of confirmation from host school,
  • get a Transcript of records also from host school,
  • announce to town hall of Göppingen that I will be no longer a resident,
  • close bank account.

In addition, I will send my stuff to Finland via DHL’s post service, that is relatively inexpensive option in comparison to bring them with me in airplane. The cost of delivery is around 30 euros plus packet.  A free tip for coming exchange students, if kitchen goods doesn’t belong in your rental agreement, you could try to reach the leaving students and buy their goods. I spent many evenings in stores and carrying stuff such as microwave oven, coffee maker, etc. How much easier would have that been, well I already made a deal of other goods with a coming exchange student from Finland.

There is still some other things concerning the Erasmus grand money, for example repeat the language test and write a additional report. At last, when I’m back to my University, I will arrange my Learning agreement with my exchange coordinator and transfer my credits.

 

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Long time no see

Today is the day when I have enough energy and motivation to update this blog. It has been almost five month since the last time I wrote here, so I’ll try to recall the time.

In a nutshell, winter semester is over and I got an internship from Fraunhofer IPA.

First things first, the period here has been really stressing because of  the search for an internship, different teaching manner in English and long school days. During the winter semester I sent approximately 30 job applications. Most of the Germany company websites and jobs adds is in German, so it took a lot of time just to find a suitable company and task for me. Only that part itself took days. I am a perfectionist so at first it took 3-4 days to send the applications, but it got easier all the time. The second wearing thing was to learn the subjects. Especially in some courses such as Control Engineering and Digital Control, I couldn’t assimilate subjects during the lecture nor at home because the provided material by our professor wasn’t match for my level of knowledge for independent studies. In the evenings I was just anxious and frustrated  after a couple of hours of studying without any meaningful progress. The third thing was the time, there were two days in the week when I had almost 14 hours school, from 7:30 am to 9 pm. Other days during the week I may had school from 7:30 am until 16:30 pm. Sometimes it was less if there wasn’t laboratory work.

Winter semester is over here now which ended in the last day of January. I enrolled and participated for all the exams I mentioned in the last post.  Preparing for the exams began too late if I would say and it was too lousy. The winter semester didn’t end up as I planned. In the begining my strategy was that I am allowed to fail one test, but instead I failed three of them, which are Control Engineering, Digital Control and Microprocessor Technology. The last one was a big surprise, because I spent most of my time for that course and in the laboratory works I managed most of the tasks and it wasn’t too hard. My opinion is that the exam didn’t measure my competence. In fact this examination system in Germany is way different than in Finland I’ve been used to. Exams here are very official, for example the seats are decided in advance, supervisor reads the legal terms and there is 90 minutes time to answer. The shortest exam I had was approx. 15 pages and the longest 30 pages,  you just had to answer as fast as you could. My manner in tests always has been thoughtful and careful so, I found the short time very crucial to me. Now I have to rearrange my schedule for new tests in summer semester.

I spent winter holidays and semester break in Finland. I came back at 27.2 to prepare for my internship. I started at Fraunhofer in the first of March. It takes approx. one and half hours per day to travel from Göppingen to Stuttgart, in Fraunhofer premises. Now I have been two days there and I really like to be there. It’s not certain yet in which projects i’m going to take part, but very likely I’m going to work with PLC, such as Beckhoff’s TwinCAT 3 or Siemens STEP 7.

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Life has turned into everyday living

Winter semester has begun here at 25 of September and I have attended to 8 courses so far.

Here is a list of courses I´m willing to accomplish during this semester:
– Industrial Communications
– Power Electronics
– Control Engineering
– Simulation and Systems Control
– Simulation Technology
– Microprocessor Technology
– German language A1.1 (beginner)
– German History & Culture

 

Schedule

If you are interested in courses contents, click here and find Göppingen Campus and Mechatronics and Electrical Engineering Faculty.

In total I should receive 37 credits if I complete all of them. At first I was taking only 7 courses, but then it turned out if I need to receive 5 credits from Simulation and System Control it is obligatory to attend an additional course called Simulation Technology. Basically it means more work than it at the first place was supposed to be and with the same profit.

All classes of mechatronics have been interesting, especially because, we have obligatory laboratory classes from all courses. For me it’s easier to learn through practical sessions. Particular dates and times have been reserved for the laboratory classes, an undergraduate performance or absence means immediate failing and you are out from the course. It is the same with an exams, first registration is required and you got only one shot to pass the exams. In other words, this system really motivates to graduate.

Simulation and Systems Control and Control Engineering feels really challenging. In both courses we have been modelling processes from real life with differential equations and more comes later. We work mostly with Matlab, which we got for free from the Hochschule Esslingen. I don’t like the subject too much but I understand the potential of these learning goals. Those are definitely the two hardest courses and it’s necessary to put more effort on them to pass the exam. I picked a microprocessor technology course to understand the basics more and learn new approaching manners with microprocessors. This course is more for my hobbies than working life, but surely useful knowledge to anywhere where job description includes programming or integrated systems. I will come back to the other courses later when I know more about them.

Besides the studies I’ve been playing guitar, computer games and hanging out with my fellows. We were in Volksfest with Finnish group yesterday. There were an amusement park and really large tents which were like big saloons inside. A significant element was the people, after 5 p.m the empty tent started to fill up. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm and joy. The beer was expensive in comparison to German price level, but still cheaper than in Finland. From the amusement park I found a liquorice which was the top thing that day.

Inspiring way to spend time.

At Volksfest.

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Orientation time

It is my 17th day here today and it feels like it’s been at least 2 months. There have been a lot of things to do, so I haven’t had so much time to examine or focus on my environment. So far I know the vicinity of my dormitory, some local stores and the main street of Göppingen. The church at the backyard of my house has become very familiar. I have never been there inside yet, but the way they rings church bells is kinda annoying. Regardless of date the bells ring the at 6 a.m, 12 p.m and 7:30 p.m for 4 minutes in addition of indicating the time at every passing quarter. It seems to be a more common habit in middle Europe, according to my Spanish friends.

Our German, history and culture classes have already. The teaching manners seem to differ from those in Finland, I’ve noticed so far.  I am attending German classes for beginners, but our teacher doesn’t talk in English so much. It’s half English and half German. I heard that in other beginners groups they might talk few words in English so I feel a little lucky. Seems to be true that we focus more in grammar in Finland. Here, the teacher teaches us more complete sentences than vocabulary or grammar. The teaching manner here feels challenging, but the good thing in classes is that we practice oral speaking a lot.

We have had only one class of German culture and history, but it really felt interesting and I can’t wait for the next lecture. To complete the course, we are supposed to give a 20 – 30 minutes presentation with a pair, the subject is free but it must concern German somehow. I’m worried of giving such a long presentation in a foreign language. If you have good ideas about the subject, you are free to give me some ideas in the comment section.

During these weeks I have registered as a resident of Göppingen, acquired a German bank account. On spare time I have been eating and drinking out with other exchange students and met new people.

Spending a sunny day with friends

 


When the jorney comes true

It’s my fourth day in Germany now and two nights have I spent in my dormitory in Göppingen. Most of my stuff is still unpacked, but the most essential things have found their places, like the coffee machine, the computer and the bed sheets. There haven’t been enough time for making the dormitory cozy. Actually this is my first day when I have time and energy to arrange my personal things. I haven’t planned on what I should bring with me until the last day I was in Finland, when I started finally packing. So you could say that something must be missing, fortunately there are markets, shops and other services from 15 minute’s walk away.

I felt drowsy during the first couple days and started to regret this choice. I guess I was avoiding my negative feelings about this trip until the departure day and all the negative feelings were showing up strongly. The hardest part is to separate from my beloved ones. In addition of growing as person I want to construct and maintain my relationship with my girlfriend and family. That made me promise myself that I will perform winter semester first and then rethink if I want to continue on spring semester. For me it’s easier to split this challenge in smaller pieces rather than just carry it out. Now I have calm down and used to the idea of being here and more positive things starts to come out.

Yesterday it was the first orientation day in Esslingen and there were approximately 100 of us. Our international coordinators took us to the castle of Esslingen throught the Old city where we played some social skills games and enjoyed food and drinks. After that we found a park where we continued chatting and drinking with the other exchange students in Göppingen. The atmosphere was welcoming, warm and people took each other into account.

Looking forward one day at a time.

What a great day we had

 

A view from the Esslingen castle hill

 


Welcome!

This blog is about my double degree program in Esslingen university of applied sciences, where I’m performing a bachelor’s degree. In addition to mandatory school work, my intention is to share my experiences in studying, practical training and residence.

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