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HAW Hamburg

Born & raised in Sydney - studying in Germany

A large number of international engineering exchange students come to the HAW Hamburg for the summer semester, when the university offers a wide range of classes in English, so what was an Australian engineering student doing applying for the winter semester? Admittedly our first thought was, he has made a mistake. But Alex Coyle from the University of Sydney knew exactly what he was doing. The 20-year old aeronautical engineering student had taken German classes in high school and was looking to improve his engineering and his German skills through a semester in Hamburg. »I was already sold on study abroad before I even started at the University of Sydney«, he says, »I knew for a long time that that was what I wanted to do, because you have to leave home to become independent.« 

Choosing a country

His university offered him the choice to study in Germany, Sweden and the UK and with a Scottish grandfather the UK was a serious option. In the end he chose Hamburg for two reasons: the classes at the HAW Hamburg lined up with the classes in Sydney, which meant he could keep to his strict curriculum and he wanted to immerse himself in the German language and culture. »You can study a language on your own, but you can improve faster if you are using it all the time and picking up lots of little things by talking to native speakers.«

Studying aeronautical engineering

And so he came to Hamburg in September with the plan to take five classes in aeronautical engineering; an ambitious goal in a foreign language. He chose “Introduction to CAD”, “Technical Drawing”, “Strength of Lightweight Structures”, “Thermodynamics” and “Aircraft Project”. His favourite class, he tells, was “Aircraft Project”. It was taught by four different professors, who each focused on a different element of aircraft engineering: aerodynamics, engines, initial design and flight mechanics. »The class gave me a better understanding of the complexity of an aircraft«, he says, »as we learned how different parameters work together and how different requirements need to be fulfilled.« His favourite professor was Prof. Dragan Kozulovic, who taught the engines part of “Aircraft Project” as well as “Thermodynamics”. »He was very well organized and had a very measured way of speaking, which made him easier to understand. And if I had questions about something from the lecture, I could talk to him afterwards and he was very supportive and helpful.«

Classes in Hamburg are long compared to at his home university, with some starting at 8:30 a.m. and going on into the afternoon. However, the lack of continual assessments and compulsory tutorials make studies in Germany seem less intense and he definitely spends more time on campus in Australia, but with the final grade riding on one exam at the end of the semester, there was a different kind of pressure as time passed. And how was studying in German? »I was just good enough to not be lost, he admits, laughing, »but thankfully, a lot of engineering is maths, so that is a common language, and I was able to follow the PPT presentations and follow up after class.« His everyday conversation has improved and words come more quickly than at the beginning of the semester. When we switch briefly to German during the interview, Alex speaks with a good German accent.

Living in Hamburg

And how is life outside the university? »Busy!«, he says, without missing a beat. »You arrive in Hamburg and don’t know anyone. And then you go through the Welcome Week, spending whole days and sometimes whole nights with a huge group of other international students and all of a sudden, you have a network of friends.« Within this large group he has a smaller circle of close friends from different countries: »We cook dinner together in Gustav-Radbruch-Haus, a student hall of residence, and go out together regularly and we help each other when there are problems. Having everyone in the same situation makes it easier to make friends«, he adds. In Sydney Alex lives in the suburbs, with a good public transport connection into the city, but he finds the Hamburg public transport system vastly superior and really enjoys living in the middle of things in Hamburg. »Hamburg is big enough to offer the variety of a city, but it is not overcrowded. It is really pretty and my favourite places are the Alster Lake and the Hafen City with the old warehouses.«  

For Alex studying abroad was about becoming more independent, developing his language skills and moving outside his comfort zone. But once abroad he realized it was more than that: »People will find it difficult to find such a variety of cultures and personalities in the same place at the same time. Doing things together and discovering things together make for strong friendships. When I am finished studying I can travel the world, just visiting friends I made here.« And he is starting now. After the exams he is off to Austria, the UK, France and possibly Italy to catch up with new friends he made in Hamburg.


iw March 2017

Letzte Änderung: 08.03.17

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