Here’s a quick update on how academics are going for me right now!
My schedule this semester is essentially four main classes. The first two are engineering classes: Grundlagen der Strömungsmechanik (Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics) and Grundlagen der Regelungstechnik (Fundamentals of Control Theory). The other two are German languages courses: Fachsprache Technik (Language for Technology) and Allgemeiner Sprachkurs C1 (General Language Course).
The two engineering classes are more challenging than the German classes, especially since a lot of self motivation is expected of engineering students in Germany. While in the US we have several midterms and homework weekly or biweekly that all count towards the final grade in a class, here your entire grade is only based on the Klausur (final). That’s right: 100% of your grade in one sitting. If you’re sick that day, that’s just really bad luck. I’m sure however that they do make exceptions based on other things that might be out of your control.
Aside from the terrifying aspect of grading, the classes themselves are interesting and well organized. For examples, every engineering class has at least one lecture and one practice session per week. While the lectures serve as background knowledge to understand the logic behind solving new problems, the practice sessions are where we learn to implement assumptions into solving more complicated scenarios. In the US it is really up to the professor what the ratio of theory and problem solving is during lectures.
Another important distinction between engineering classes in the US and Germany is that here the class sizes are very large. At least at OU, upper level engineering courses usually never exceed 75 students in each section. In fact, there aren’t really sections for engineering courses, and each semester one professor teaches all the students who wish to take a certain course. While it does seem more efficient to have less faculty responsible for lectures at any given time, the drawback is that it is quite hard to ask the TA or professor questions during lectures. However, in general the professors here are very organized and do a great job of presenting the material to such a large crowd of students.
Now on to my German language courses: these are structured much differently than the engineering students since they are offered to international students. One similarity is that the Klausur counts for almost all of your grade at the end. On the other hand, the classes are much smaller and the professor expects the lectures to be more of a discussion. In fact, one of my German professors told us that she didn’t think we should call them lectures, since lectures are essentially a one-way dialogue. While the language courses require far less effort in terms of in-class learning and homework, they are still invaluable in allowing me to improve my written and spoken German.
The semester is flying by and I’m making new friendships all the time while learning about the German culture. Before I know it, I’ll be back at the regular grind for the Fall 2017 semester at OU!