STUDIUM & FREIZEIT
By guest author Lydia Utami Setyorini
My journey to Germany began some years ago, right after I finished my bachelor´s degree in Indonesia. Back then, my supervisor asked me to help out in a water management workshop, held by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) at the university in my hometown. The workshop was held in cooperation with the University of Duisburg-Essen. That was the first time the idea of studying in Germany occured to me, since I found out about a very interesting program which is taught in English. Then, I sent my application, spent some time studying the German language, and got accepted to MSc. Environmental Toxicology (abbreviated as EnviTox).
When I arrived in Essen, I needed to get used to the cultural differences. In my home country, we drive on the left side of the street, while here people drive on the right. When I had to take a bus during my early days in Essen, I sometimes took the bus driving in the opposite direction. Second, it took me some time to understand how public transportation tickets work. Sometimes, you have to validate the ticket, sometimes the ticket is already validated. This was a tad confusing, especially before I received my student card and the Semesterticket. Although I learned some German already, I had trouble reading signs or instructions for the first time or listen to people speaking German fast. It is also highly interesting to find out that the city "Essen" also means "food" in German!
My study program
In my study program, we basically research the anthropogenic, manmade substances in the environment, how they affect the environment as well as other organisms, how they interact with these organisms, and how to detect them. We were also being informed about the legal aspect of the substances. In a nutshell, the program encompasses a very diverse range of skills needed by an ecotoxicologist. That's how you would call people who study the interactions of chemicals in nature. In my first year, we studied the fundamental knowledge in theory and then had practical classes. In the second year, we combined both practical and theoretical background knowledge to do our internship and master thesis.
I had the opportunity to do my four-month internship in the Aquatic Ecology Department, Faculty of Biology. During my internship, I investigated whether activated carbon has harmful effects on the growth and development of Daphnia magna, or water flea. How could activated carbon affect water fleas? In recent years, the so-called "micropollutants" have been frequently detected in wastewater, after chemical analytical methods got better. They enable scientists to detect compounds within very small amounts of water. For example, the painkillers we take when we have a headache have been found in natural water.
When I had to take a bus during my early days in Essen, I sometimes took the bus driving in the opposite direction.
Therefore, some wastewater treatment plants tried to solve this release of chemicals into nature. Certain treatment plants used activated carbon to absorb the chemicals before the water was released into the environment. However, some of this carbon is unintentionally released to the nature in a particular condition, for example when there is heavy rainfall. I took measurements of growth and development of water fleas after being exposed to different kinds of powdered activated carbons for three weeks. To measure the development or reproduction of water flea, I counted how much offspring the organism produces. In addition, I also measured the length of the water flea after three weeks. It was a tough period, especially one day, when I found out that my experiment did not work out as it was planned. Thankfully, I still had time to repeat the experiment and got the results I needed!
I really enjoyed being a student in UDE. Ever since my first days, I could easily find information, even though not all of it was provided in English. I am nevertheless glad that this is an issue of the past by now. The facilities for students are also great. The ZIM will help you when you have internet or technology related problems. I once also received help when my computer broke down two weeks before I had to submit a practical class protocol. It is also really nice to meet and get to know many international students here.
The city called 'food'
I was also able not only to study EnviTox but to continue learning German in the university. The language course I took at IOS was very helpful for improving my German. I managed to at least increase my German to some extent. Since there is no tuition fee, studying here is also affordable, considering that I used different kinds of services, not only the study program itself. In my home country, the tuition fee only covers the study program. I also love that the UDE provides their students with the awesome Kulturticket. If you like music and performing arts, it is incredibly nice to be able to enjoy some affordable concerts every once in a while. If you have never watched concerts or performances in your whole life, you can give it a try by using the Kulturticket.
I was lucky to get a place in the student dormitory. It is very convenient for international students, since the staff of the Studierendenwerk is always there to answer your questions. Essen is an interesting city to live in. Although having the history of being a highly industrialized area for mining, nowadays it is really easy to enjoy the nature here. Zollverein is a fascinating place to go to. You can have some recreational time or go to the museum if you want to learn more about the city’s history. You can also spend some time in a park during a sunny day to sit down, have a picnic with friends, or you can head to the river Ruhr to enjoy the scenery. Water sports are another great alternative. In winter, there are Christmas markets, inviting you to enjoy some mulled wine that will be keep you warm. In my home country, the sun shines everyday. As such, enjoying the sun isn’t something special for us. Things changed here. It’d be a pity if you do not go out on a sunny day!