Munich Student Report
Studying at the Technical University of Munich
The Munich Student Report. I originally wrote this to give English students an idea of what studying in Munich was like. I’m in the 5th semester of a Bachelor of Science degree at the TU Munich. It’s my second degree, my first being a philosophy BA from Leeds in England so please be aware that by perspective is limited to experience gained from reading these two particular subjects at these two universities.
I cannot comment on any other English or German universities. Or, for that matter, what studying Physics at the TU is like. It’s really aimed now at those English people living in Munich who are considering studying here and who maybe would like to hear what someone who previously made the decision to do so has to say. I will refer to the subject I am studying as “informatik” throughout which is “computer studies” in English. There’s also a section on accommodation. I left this in in case it’s useful to anyone not living in Munich at the moment. Those of you who already have accommodation know the score so can skip it without missing anything. I’ll start with some informal opinions about the Uni. generally and then tackle the course itself although I recognise most of you will read the university’s own literature for this.
One of the first main differences that is very apparent upon studying at the Technical University in Munich (henceforth known as TU) is the absence of a body such as the Student Union. The Student Union in Leeds boasted two clubs, three or four bars, a restaurant, two halls for small to medium sized international bands (The Orb, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Beats International) and/or raves, a radio station (which broadcast in stereo, don’t you know), a stationary shop, a bookshop as well as the normal feeding pits (cafeteria’s, larger dining hall), lots of different clubs to join (like hang-gliding, fell-walking, sailing or whatever) etc and all this within it’s own building.
There was a constant throughput of people selling posters, stationary, books, clothes and so on. There was a bank (or two – can’t remember), an on site doctor’s surgery, a laundrette, a flower shop, a record shop etc. There was also a large administrative body responsible for student welfare, helping to find accommodation, student health and whatnot. There were art galleries and band rehearsal rooms, recording studios and parks. Generally, it was the heart of the Uni., fairly big and must have had a turnover of a few million pounds a year.
At the TU, there is a Fachschaft
Which plays more or less the same role but it is much, much smaller and there is less of the “student culture feel” if that’s the right way of putting it, on campus like live bands and so on. I have never seen official figures but I reckon the Fachschaft at the TU consists of about 20 people and it plays almost no role in my life at the uni. I get a “Semesterticker” mail every two weeks or so and they do a kind of “survey” of student feedback of the lectures. Oh, and there’s a film club which shows the occasional film in English. Apart from that, there’s not a lot else on offer in terms of the “student feel”. This is probably for a variety of reasons like lack of funding and volunteers.
There is a MENSA where you can get canteen quality food at relatively low prices and, specific to the Informatik building, is a cafeteria where the food is much better but prices are somewhat higher. As far as live gigs go there’s a festival called TUNIX where local bands get to play an open air stage from 14:00 to 22:00 for five days – about four bands a day which take place sometime in the summer semester but I’m not aware of anything else happening during winter or, for that matter, during summer. The main hall of the informatik building doubles up as a disco hall about twice a year.
The TU moved about a year ago at the time of writing to Garching. It is now a campus university but students don’t live in accommodation on the grounds of or next to the University because there is none. I live near the Poccistrasse underground station so I’m fairly central and it takes me between an hour and a quarter and an hour and a half to get there by public transport. So I’m commuting for about 2 and a half hours a day. One of the reasons is that they are building a new football stadium at Frötmanning so you have to get off there and catch a “Pendlezug” to go one stop (how would you translate that? It’s not “commuter train” because that insinuates travelling a long way – this train only goes one stop) before catching a bus that takes another 15 minutes to get there.
Great. But bluntly, it’s miles away and there was no attempt to synchronise the public transport infrastructure with the opening of the uni. The physics students moved first and I’ve no idea what it was like for them. I can honestly say, if I had known they were going to move in the middle of my studies, I would have gone to the LMU (another Uni here in Munich) to study without a doubt. I don’t care what the reputation of the TU is, it’s a mother to get to at the moment and will be for the next three or four years. The course of study leaves very little time anyway and now it’s just eaten up standing waiting for buses and trains. Having said that, the campus itself is nice but big. Think about investing in a bike to leave at the uni so you can get around quicker
The second difference big difference is the workload. I studied Philosophy at Leeds and had approximately 15 – 18 contact hours (hours in lecture halls or tutor groups) per week at the height of my studies. I seem to remember having about 10 in my final year. I remember having time to attend my lectures, do my homework and have a bit of free time to go to the pub of an evening (I didn’t, I might add, get a first in my degree…). It’s all different here. The workload is intense and you’ll need to stay on the ball if you’re to pass everything according to plan. Many profs quietly admit that that “plan” asks too much of your average student and the statistics certainly show that that is the case. The German style “Diplom” takes 9 semesters according to “plan” but the average time needed is 12.8.
I’m doing a Bachelor (B.Sc.) which takes 6 semesters according to “plan” but there’s no way I’m going to finish in 6 semesters! I reckon on finishing in 8. There are no statistics as to how long the average student takes to finish the bachelor course as I’m in the first intake of students doing it and no one’s finished yet! The advantage to having such a massive workload is that when you’re finished, you’re an expert. I tried working 2 days a week during the first semester which I quickly reduced to one day a week during the second. I found it difficult (although I do have to fly abroad in my job). In the third, fourth and fifth semesters I haven’t worked during term only during the semester holidays. I know some people who do work during the semester but they find it hard going.
The third big difference is accommodation. The standard of student accommodation in Munich is much higher than in Leeds. You wouldn’t believe some of the cesspit’s I’ve seen in LS6 (mushrooms growing on the carpet in the bathroom anyone?). Now I’m not saying that students here keep their places any tidier than students in Leeds. Students create the same mess whichever country you’re in, it’s just that housing is securer here – you’re not at the mercy of locals robbing your stereo and then coming back in three months to rob the new one you got from the insurance unless the landlord put bars on every window in the meantime.
Incidentally, the crime rate is very low here. You can walk the streets anywhere in Munich at any time of day or night and feel safe. In fact, I’ve been living here for six years now and I’ve had a few all-nighters in the city centre in that time, let me tell you, and yet I’ve never once seen a fist fight – compare Liverpool/Newcastle at closing time on a Saturday. (Don’t tell me I don’t know nowt – I’ve been to the Dog and Parrot and had some of that beer at 16% and gone out after. What’s it called…. I think it’s called Roger, Over and Out or something like that. I can’t remember now; all I can remember about the first three or so is that you can stand a spoon up in it.).
Not even at the Oktoberfest (which in itself is an advantage or a disadvantage of life in Munich depending on how you look at it). Any road, accommodation is better quality but a lot harder to find. If you’re not given accommodation by the people in Erasmus or whatever, my advice is come over for a week three months in advance and spend all week looking. And here’s a rough guide to cost: your average student room in a student block of shared house will set you back between 100-400 Euro a month depending on location and size. Normally you get a room with your own bathroom and possibly a small balcony, all in all about 25 square metres.
In England the academic year is split into three. At the TU it’s split into two: the winter and the summer semester:
This Munich Student Report article, was kindly supplied by Karl Ritson for inclusion in the Original Munich City Guide.
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