"Companies compete for getting smartest minds, especially among students from the best universities like TU Berlin."
Most of those travelling to Berlin do not like the city, because there is not so much architectural heritage or historical attractions besides Reichstag and the Wall. After living there for a year there is the feeling that Berlin is not about sightseeing but about the vibe, feeling of freedom and cosmopolitanism, street art and techno music.
Berlin itself is a city of contrasts: poverty and homeless people here coexist with posh neighborhoods and fancy restaurants. This diversity creates a unique city where everyone can find something to enjoy. Moreover, Berlin is not overpopulated, and, as a result, you do not have the feeling of “crowd” and it makes life and transportation within the city very comfortable. Also, from April to October the weather is warm here (more than 20 degrees) and it is awesome to have summer for such a long time after experiencing Russian climate. Berlin is a very green city with every street filled with trees and a park or a lake in each neighborhood.
Berlin is a city of bicycles, and it has well developed infrastructure for that. Every second person has a bike for daily commuting to work or university. Public transportation is convenient (it works all night on Fridays and Saturdays as well) but sometimes unreliable due to construction work or unpredictable factors.
Berliners (and Germans in general) are very sustainable. That is why you need to separate the garbage and never put glass or plastic to trash bins on the streets, because these kind out bottles should be properly recycled in a supermarket. Vegan and vegetarian trends are extremely strong in the city with an unlimited number of vegetarian restaurants. Moreover, half of the menu in regular ones are also dedicated to vegetarian options. In general, restaurants are owned by the people who immigrated to Germany and decided to open a spot with national food. As a result, city is full of cozy places with tasty and ethnic food. Of course, kebab is a classical berlin food. Even Diesel made a collaboration with the most famous (and truly tasty!) kebab place in Berlin (https://youtu.be/l8kMq-DN_BA). There is also a tradition to have a family breakfast out during the weekend (Berlinische frühstuck is very popular).
The most painful point of moving to Berlin is accommodation because usually people spend around a month to find a permanent place to stay. We lived in several neighborhoods here, and each of them had its own advantages and disadvantages. When you are unemployed foreign student from non-EU country you do not really choose accommodation and ready to take at least some place. Hundreds of emails, 10 invitations for checking the apartment, 1 real offer - this is a harsh reality, but as soon as you are done with it, you can enjoy your Berlin life and even probably your own balcony with a view on the TV tower.
After arrival certain things seem to be odd: getting your credit card via post or paying by cash in 80% of cases. However, as time passes, you reconcile with everything and just accept it.
City is structured in a way that everything you need can be found in your neighborhood: shopping malls, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants and cafes, doctors, etc. That makes life easier.
The prices in the city are generally higher comparing to Moscow when it comes to accommodation, restaurants, bars and transport. However, food in the supermarkets is not that expensive but still of very high quality, that is why a lot of students cook at home. We started a tradition with friends too cook national dinners for each other. That was an amazing way to discover cultures from all over the world.
When it comes to cultural differences, Berlin is one of the places where you do not feel like a “citizen of second class” even if you are not German and do not speak German language. There are so many nationalities and English-speaking people around that makes the environment very foreign-friendly. Recently we went to the restaurant where our friend started to order food in German and the waiter asked her to speak in English. This is the best example of language culture here. Of course, governmental institutions are not always willing to speak but it is manageable.
All students under 30 are obliged to have a student insurance here. It is better to use governmental one (AOK or TK), because in case of an emergency these companies cover practically everything (surgeries, pills, physiotherapy sessions, special medical equipment, etc). Even if you think that you will never use it and would prefer to pay less for a private one, think twice.
The university is a way more bureaucratic and less transparent than HSE, but, on the other hand, it gives a lot of flexibility to students when it comes to course choice, exam dates, etc. You just need to go through first few weeks hustle. After that it all will be smooth and easy.
Besides compulsory courses like Strategic Management or Innovation Economics, electives belong to 3 pillars (Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability) since the program has also a sustainable aspect for 2017-2018 academic year. Students are free to choose any courses but there should be at least 6 ECTS for each pillar.
Professors have a lot of respect for students and treat them like their colleagues. Some of them are just incredible in personality and attending their courses is a great pleasure (like Pr. Dodo zu Knyphausen-aufseß). Yes, the photo of crowd surfing was taken during the annual party “Mein Professor ist ein Dj”.
We spent hours together in the libraries and cafes to finish our projects and that taught us to cope with the group issues together, to be responsible for your contribution and for the whole team. But still we had exams that required us a lot of self-study in the library – the most popular place in university.
Working while studying
Berlin is the European version of the “Silicon Valley” with an extensive number of growing startups, investments and with an amazing entrepreneurial spirit in general. All companies compete for getting smartest minds, especially among students from the best universities like TU Berlin. We had a lot of guest speakers from well-known and new companies at our lectures with their promotion, inviting students to join their projects.
Many students take more courses during Autumn-Winter semester in order to have less courses during Spring-Summer semester and have some time left for gaining professional experience. You can easily find “Werkstudent” (working student) positions in any company in Berlin. All students (foreign as well) are allowed to work 20 hours a week. Don’t be scared, working students are not doing a boring assistant work, but are actively involved into projects, have responsibilities and are treated the same as full-time employees.
I would like to say some words about my favorite courses at TU Berlin. Among the mandatory courses I enjoyed the “Strategic Management” lectures – especially its second module “Competitive Strategies in Commodity Oligopolies” held by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Pidun – Director of the Boston Consulting Group in Frankfurt office (it’s one of the best consulting firms in the world). The course mostly covered the Game theory and Cooperation/Competition concepts on Oligopoly markets. His lectures were extremely interesting and given information could be applied in your real career.
Among elective courses I enjoyed the Technology Management and Stakeholder analysis courses. The Technology Management is a very intense course dedicated to the assessment of the technology lifecycle, elaborating technology profile and development of future scenarios. Within this course were working in small teams, each team received a real case/technology provided by a partner company. My team was working on an additive manufacturing (3D) project for Bosch. Lectures were held by 2 professors – one from TU Berlin, another from Potsdam University – this made lectures very lively and engaging.
The Stakeholder analysis project seminar was conducted by Dr. Caroline V. Rudzinski– corporate strategy of Volkswagen AG. The goal of this course was to create the future scenario of Berlin in 2030, assess the challenges of urban mobility and identify the key stakeholders that have the most influence on solving/blocking challenges in the smart city of the future. In the end of the course we visited the Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg and presented our research to the corporate strategy, innovation strategy and sustainability strategy departments members. It was very exciting experience.
I was lucky to find a job as a Performance Marketing working student at the start-up moovel group – a subsidiary by Daimler AG (manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz cars, car sharing car2go, the largest European taxi service MyTaxi, FlixBus etc.). movel is a leading Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform provider that aims to reinvent the concept of urban mobility in smart cities and create the world without traffic jams with offices in Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart and in the USA. It was a great experience working in a growing start-up in a multinational team, creating great products and services. We had great team breakfasts every Tuesday, Friday BBQ’s and summer party. I even had a two-day business trip to the moovel head office in Stuttgart for the welcome days for new employees. My Master thesis will definitely be connected to the Urban Mobility topic, thus this experience was so useful for me.
There are numerous networking events, hackathons and workshops in Berlin. I participated in couple of them. For example, Amazon held an event “Women in a tech industry” (you had to write a motivation letter and send your CV to be selected to this event). It was a full day event for women from all Germany who are somehow connected to the Tech industry. During the day we had business case games, meetings with the Amazon employees, conference call with one of the woman CEO’s from the USA, talks with HR in order to potentially get a job in Amazon or write your master thesis there. Another example, the most famous German start-up Hello Fresh (delivery of boxes with healthy food) once in 2 months hold “Bring a friend Friday” events in their office – when employees can bring their friends to the office and in informal atmosphere (drinking beer and wine) to be introduced to HR and team members. One of the largest international telecommunications company Telefonica holds lots of networking events and public talks related to the Digitalization topic. I took part in some events, where I met very interesting people, and in general I liked studying at their basecamp – as they have a very nice space for working & studying with a free wi-fi.
There are many more other examples, you just need to stay tuned and try to leverage your free time in Berlin by taking part in useful events in order to meet new and interesting people and get inspired.
Courses that I have chosen mostly were practically oriented seminars with German companies like VW and BSR. The process of creating solution for a real-life problem was truly exciting and developed design-thinking and prototyping skills as well as project-management with significant portion of learning by doing. We had experts coming to every class (C-level, industry experts, directors from Big3 consulting companies) that helped us to gain a lot of up-to-date and relevant experience. Every course included group work and we were supposed to deal with people of different mentality and attitude to work. I was always a person of last-minute learning, but being in a team of very motivated and hard-working people inspired me a lot.
Our group was very diverse from Argentina to South Korea, that was truly amazing since we had a chance to learn so much about the cultures, traditions and just the way of life in a foreign country. All people had been very friendly since Day 1 and happy to help whatever happened. We spent free time together, for example, had regular so-called “Movie nights” when we watched the movies in the dormitory hall together. Festivals, BBQs, parties – student life in Berlin was awesome.
When injured my knee so badly that I needed to have 2 highly complicated and extremely expensive surgeries in the hospital in Berlin. AOK insurance saved my knee and my family budget. The whole patient journey was not always easy and painless because in total I spent around 6 months with crutches and couple of months after each surgery just at home. However, the view from the hospital was very nice. Also support from groupmates was priceless since they were visiting me regularly in the hospital and at my place afterwards, even though the incident was only after couple of months of studying together. Being disabled and not capable of doing stairs, you immediately understand that a lot of infrastructure in the city is created for disabled or old people. Also, old German ladies are full of empathy and when they saw me on the streets quite often said in a sad voice: «Oh, knie kaput? Knie kaput!» That was very funny and cute.
Being a student in Germany is very advantageous. It cannot help to lower an accommodation rent, though you can fully enjoy cheap students services, such as free Amazon movies access, absolutely free public transportation. As mentioned above, the transportation system in Berlin is very convenient and being a student will make it absolutely accessible for you, whereas normally cost for one trip is around 3 Euro. Moreover, there are always night buses that can bring you home late at night. In addition, the Berlin subway is open 24 hours during the weekend.
Berlin is very famous for holding plenty of conferences, events and exhibitions ranging from arts to science and business. Being a student can help you to get a free access to many of them. For example, I was lucky to visit one of the largest conferences “Technology Innovation 2018” which gathered some of the most prominent researchers presenting their achievements. During the conference I’ve got familiar with recent achievements in AI, computer vision, cybersecurity and many other interesting topics. After the event you can easily talk to performers and discuss with them your ideas and thoughts. It is also a good place to search for a potential employer, as most of them are constantly looking for new talents.
Generally speaking, Berlin is very famous for its startups, inviting young professionals for range of activities. If you are adventurous, open-minded and like flat hierarchies, Berlin is definitely a place for you, as it can give you a variety of job opportunities to choose from. Being a working student is very common, and I was not an exception. I received one of the most valuable experiences when working as an analyst in one of the German companies. I developed not only professional skills, but also got a spirit of working in a truly international company, that values employees and their work-life balance.
Besides, while living in one of the most interesting cities, you should come to know German culture deeper. You can do so by participating in different festivals or, for instance, take a free German language class, offered by TU Berlin. Another way, that I have experienced personally, is living with German people in WG (this is a common name for a shared apartment). My flatmates were very welcoming and polite, but what surprised me even more, besides being vegetarian and using only bio products, was their philosophy toward sustainability. They were not just separate the trash for plastic, paper and organic, but also used “washing nuts” to replace washing powder. Rarely, but some people during the summers do not even wear shoes in order to show their protest to using animal skin.
You will never be bored with classes at TU Berlin, professors make everything to involve each student to active participation. Working together in groups with international students helped me to develop my communication and soft skills. Some classes, such as International Entrepreneurship, included funded trip to Warsaw, Poland for listening speakers from different fields of science and business at the Google campus.
Get a lifetime valuable experience, get to know different friends and professionals, develop you professional skills and just simply have fun in the city of contrasts – Berlin.