From daunting to smooth in one semester

Daniel Steinweg is a film and photography major in Melbourne and studied in the Department of Media Technology. He was encouraged to make his own decisions and shape his experience into whatever he wanted to get out of his Study abroad experience.

Student with film camera

Dan Steinweg

'My name is Daniel Steinweg and I am from Melbourne, Australia, where I major in Film and Photography at Deakin University. The Department of Media Technology at the HAW Hamburg was my home for my study abroad semester, though I also took elective subjects in the Department of Design. My first impression of the HAW Hamburg was that they are very supportive and encouraging to all exchange students. They made the sometimes daunting experience of being in a new country and culture very comfortable and the transition into classes very smooth. They encourage you to make your own decisions and shape your experience into whatever you want to get out of it.

Film classes in Hamburg

In my film classes I found that because the Hamburg programme has a strong engineering focus, the German students are very enthusiastic about the more creative "hands-on" units of their Bachelor programme. So working in productions and group-based work in class with them had a real "team" feel and was lots of fun. HAW Hamburg has great facilities for film and sound production in their new media building on the Finkenau Design and Media Campus. In the Hamburg film classes you have a lot of freedom to decide and organise your own projects, which also means you must be very independent and know how to organise your time. All my teachers were very knowledgeable and approachable and they helped with any questions. I was very satisfied and happy with the workload and support.

My favourite classes were Practice Dramaturgy and Video Technology and Production. Practice Dramaturgy was an open-choice project taught by Professor Wolfgang Willaschek, a wonderfully warm and encouraging person. I was in a group that made a project to document the lives of exchange students in Hamburg and so give new exchange students an idea of what to expect when they come to Hamburg. It was in a website format with video and stills, audio and written content about various aspects of the exchange experience and also interviews with students from different countries. We were happy with the final result and it also helped me question what I am getting out of my exchange and how I can help others with theirs. Video Technology and Production, or VTP for short, was also another open class where you are split into groups and brain-storm an idea to create during the semester, with no real limitations on what you can create. My group also happened to be my neighbours in Hamburg and we had the idea to create a video to project onto a 360 degree projection screen. We built the screen ourselves and split the rest of the jobs between ourselves. I was responsible for video content, another for sound, another for projection mapping and another for organisation. It was a great artistic process that started very slowly and built up to something we were very happy and proud of because the result came from the process and not from an original idea.  

Learning and speaking German

During some of the classes we switched between German and English, which was a challenge and means if you have learned some German before you get to Hamburg it is a great help. The professors help to integrate the students, and in the groups the project language can be English, but if you are not expecting this it can be a bit frustrating. Before I came to Germany I signed up to a website called Babbel, which is a subscription-based service that teaches you beginner to intermediate German vocabulary, rules and grammar. It costs around €15/month. There are also free sites such as Duolingo which offer similar-style learning. I found one of the most useful things is just to soak your brain in the language even if you don’t understand anything. Watch German movies, listen to German music, be in situations where you are listening to German. Then later you realise you have heard these words and phrases before and once you learn their meaning, it’s not so easily forgotten. The main point is TO TRY and not worry about making mistakes or sounding stupid and to RELAX and just let the whole process happen. If something is not working for you, talk to the advisors and they will find a solution.

My experience in Hamburg

From my exchange experience I have developed a stronger self-reliance within myself to organise and motivate myself to get tasks done. My problem-solving skills and emotional resilience have benefited from being in a foreign environment and culture which was quite overwhelming at the beginning but has turned into a comfortable, highly agreeable experience. It has been a great period of self-reflection on my studies and my life in general, where I am headed with it and what my future holds. I have had time to pursue other interests that had been pigeon-holed in the past due to being "too busy". I have developed many new skills and also made great friends along the way. Together we have created unforgettable experiences in Hamburg and by travelling around Europe throughout the exchange semester.'