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Studying in Germany vs. Studying in India

Because I am originally from India but am studying in Germany, one might wonder what the biggest differences between studying in my home country and in Germany are. Here are the biggest differences from my perspective:

Firstly, all the professors at EBS are actively involved with companies in various projects and hence their lectures are up-to-date with lot of real life examples. There is no language problem in the university, as most people speak English. However, outside campus it is difficult to meet people if you don’t know German. As for working in Germany, most of the companies ask for a working knowledge of business German.

In Germany, we don’t strictly follow any textbook, which is very different from India. In India, professors start at chapter one and often go on until the last chapter in the textbook, and that marks that the course is over. It is good in a way that we learn a topic from its very basics; but at the same time, there is lot of theory with little real life examples. Also, the texts are frequently out of date.

From a cultural point of view, Germans are very organized and have rules and regulations for almost everything. This is sometimes very strange for someone like me coming from India, but somehow I like Germans and their very organized nature.

Lastly, Living conditions in Germany are good. I am currently living about five kilometers away from EBS. When I started my course, I decided to bike to EBS every day and hence bought a bike for myself. But later on I got lazy and these days, I commute up and down from EBS using the public transport. Transportation is quite expensive in Germany, though.


Scholarship Applications

One of the most daunting obstacles when studying is being unfinanced. One of the most stressful processes can be associated with the process of trying to get funding. Scholarships are definitely the first port of call, but they require a lot of effort. Alongside the effort required to put a potentially successful scholarship application together is the growing self-doubt of whether or not you are good enough to apply for the scholarship. One must put all doubts aside and take on the challenge of putting a competitive scholarship application together.

First word of advice: read the scholarship application criteria and requirements carefully. Sorry, I know that sounds like obvious advice and also the kind that you find in every “Exam Tips” booklet, but it really is true. Next tick off all the requirements and criteria that you meet, provided you meet the main leading criteria and the majority of the other sub-criteria, then put your application together. For as the famous saying goes “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Now do not begin at this stage trying to rationalize yourself out of doing all the work of putting a scholarship application together by thinking up common excuses like, “Thousands of people are going to apply for this scholarship that are better than me,” or “I am afraid of interviews,” or “I am no beggar”. As at the end of the day many people are not going to apply for precisely the same thought-up excuses. Also, scholarships are not given to undeserving people, hence you will not fall into the last category of excuse mentioned. To be honest once you have put one scholarship application together the other applications that follow are easier.

My second and last word of advice: pay particular attention to detail in your application, as even small errors will immediately put your application at a disadvantage. And lastly on a similar note, include all relevant documents that could assist your application. In other words, additional documents and certificates that are relevant in supporting your application should be included. The key word here is relevant, as applications with inappropriate supporting documentation are weakened considerably.

In 2009 I put together five scholarship applications, which was an extremely time consuming and taxing process, but turned out to be worthwhile. After a few grueling interviews I was successful with two of the five scholarships applications, namely the eXebs Citi Foundation Scholarship and eXebs Friedrich J. Schoening International Scholarship supported by DAAD. In addition I managed to obtain admittance to the eXebs Fellowship which allowed me to apply for the eXebs Bildungsfonds where my application was also successful.

So apply, apply and keep on applying is the advice I can give. Yes it is an effort, but if you meet the criteria of the scholarship or come extremely close to the criteria for the scholarship, then apply. Leave taking a bank loan as your last resort to funding your studies.


Life in Germany vs. Life in South Africa

As a South African living in Germany, I am often asked what the differences are between life in Germany and life in South Africa. To be honest, though there are many answers, the small differences between South Africa and Germany are more entertaining to write about, so here goes.

Autobahn. The first time I was in Germany back in 2002 I was irritated by the huge walls next to the Autobahn every time I passed a town, and I wondered “What are they there for?” As a tourist I wanted to see the little villages and towns as we drove from Frankfurt to Eisenach. And then it came to me, the barrier was obviously to keep people from crossing the Autobahn and also to keep wild animals off the road. You can imagine what an anti-climax it was when I found out that the walls were there merely as sound buffers or barriers. As in South Africa we have a lot of pedestrians involved in accidents on the highways, primarily due to them crossing the road, which is not allowed-- for obvious reasons. In some rural areas broken fences raise the risk of livestock or wild animals being on the highways too.

Breakfast. I must admit that my first breakfast in Germany was a miniature culture shock: salami, ham, cheese, liver pâté, and what appeared to be raw mincemeat. I had to check my watch as I thought I had woken up at lunch time. The breakfast egg, coffee and toast on the table kept me calm and I ended up having coffee and toast. In South Africa I was used to usually having breakfast cereal and on Sundays we had a cooked breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, sausage and fried onion and tomatoes.

Gardens. It took me a long time to understand who exactly lived in the small fenced off gardens with tiny houses on them. Initially I thought to myself that there were in fact a lot of poor people in Germany, as on the edge of every city I went to there were these small fenced off Gardens with tiny little wooden huts on them, some nicer than others. As I came to Germany during winter the first time, I really wondered how anyone could survive in such a hut in minus temperatures; I thought to myself that generalization ‘Germans are tough’ must be true. Subsequently I found out that these spaces were just gardens and only used in summer. Well, that was also strange to me-- having a garden that was not on the same property as your home.

Public Transport. Lastly, the public transport system here is really great in comparison to the one in South Africa. The South African authorities have been working relentlessly to upgrade the country’s public transport system, and I truly hope that it serves the needs of the World Cup visitor as well as being sustainable after the World Cup has ended.

After five visits to Germany between 2002 and 2005 I have grown used to and do not always notice the small differences that initially were so apparent for me between South Africa and Germany. These days it is only when I go back to South Africa that I notice the differences between Germany and South Africa, which is a little ironic!


A Practical Display of Ethics

Today in my strategy class we did an interesting in class exercise, whereby our group of eight students was split into four teams of two, where one student played the role of the ‘decision maker’ and one student played the role of an ‘advisor’. Each team was given the mutual objective of gaining points (shown below in the table). Each team was given two cards, a red card and a yellow card, and was able to gain or lose points based upon the decision that the team was to make. After having some time to strategize, the teams were supposed to pick a card and then all four teams revealed their choice of card simultaneously. Points were then given based upon the choices of the cards, and this was then repeated for about five rounds. There were five scenarios which could have been observed.

Card Choices Points given

Scenario 1: 4 yellow cards +25 for all teams

Scenario 2: 3 yellow cards -25

1 red card +75

Scenario 3: 2 yellow cards -50

2 red cards +50

Scenario 4: 1 yellow card -75

3 red cards +25

Scenario 5: 4 red cards -25 for all teams


The optimal situation, of course, would be for all teams to work together to ensure that everyone would get points (ie. 4 yellow cards means +25 points for all teams). I was chosen during the class to be one of the decision makers of the team. The time was coming to make my first selection and the result was not quite what I had expected. We witnessed scenario four with me staring at three red cards with a yellow card in my hand. “Hmm,” I thought, “I guess there are many lessons to be learned here.” After a couple rounds, my first realization was that everyone in the teams was willing to cheat. Therefore, I don’t think the outcomes of the next rounds were too much of a surprise; all the teams chose red cards so that no teams were able to gain points anymore but actually lost points. It might be easy to say that ideally everyone should work together so that everyone would have the opportunity to earn points, but in practice this notion is much more challenging than at first glance. The competitiveness of human nature often times leads us to want our competitors to lose; however, in this case, their loss meant my team’s loss as well. I believe the class walked out of this exercise with a valuable lesson that day, a lesson not in theory but in ethics. In my opinion this exercise was an illustration of the opportunities and also the dangers of ethical choices that business people make everyday, and this is a topic which merits much deliberation.


Thoughts on my Future Career Plans

Career planning has become a buzz term in industry and is currently one that is occupying a fair bit of my sub-conscious thought processes. For example, does the first company you start working for really impact your entire career? Well, if you think about it—yes-- and so does every decision, meeting, chance meeting, the way you walk around university, the people you decide to or not to talk to. These things impact your career in lost and found opportunities!

I am currently looking for sustainable opportunities and am in “search mode”. My own personal definition of “search mode” means actively looking for and informing myself about companies and possibilities out there in the working world. When a possibility looks like it could be viable, I read up and look into it in more detail; if it gets through that screening, then I have identified an optional opportunity. Currently I am trying to build up a number of suitable companies that I would like to work for (and that I think would hire me) and am putting them into my optional opportunities folder.

In the next couple of months I am going to have to decide where I would like to apply, and hopefully someone will want to speak to me. I am of the opinion that you should apply to work at companies that you want to work for and not ones that you in your field of specialization are expected to apply to. So I will be applying to companies that I am satisfied will offer me a complete package of career advancement opportunities, work-life balance, fair pay, enjoyable and interesting working environment and a company that will bring out the passion in me.

Geographically I have restricted myself to Europe for the beginning of my career (i.e. the first 5 years) so if an offer in Ireland, Spain, Britain, Scotland or Germany comes up that I think fits me and my family best, then I will take it and jump on a train or plane.

Once I have got started in the working world, I hope to pursue an entrepreneurial venture-- be it within a company or outside of a company, on my own or with a number or associates and partners. But nonetheless I will be ambitiously striving to achieve a high level of autonomy in my future career.

You may note I have not mentioned an industry and that is due to the fact that I have a broad generalist degree and think that I am not restricted by industry. As I see it, after all this studying, I should have learnt how to think, and hence should be able to continue to learn and adapt wherever I choose to go!

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#šest – Nasvidenje (Rehearsals for Departure)
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