Leon Hecht successfully studied in the MINTgrün pre-study orientation program at Technische Universität Berlin in winter semester 2018/2019 and summer semester 2019. He started a Computational Engineering Science degree in winter semester 2019/20. Here he discusses his experience of studying in the MINTgrün program and his choice of degree program.
Why did you choose to do a pre-study orientation program?
I am really into math and physics and I knew I wanted to study one or the other. At TU Berlin, however, math and physics feature in many subjects, which made it difficult for me to make my mind up. At school, these subjects are taught in a very general way, which also makes it hard to get a good idea of what you want to do. This is why I chose to do the MINTgrün program - to get a chance to have a good look at the specific modules in the different disciplines without having to commit myself to one or the other straight off.
That was an easy decision for me and I was certain that MINT was the right choice for me. It ticks all the boxes for me. I know that I want to study something in the area of science or computer science but I am not quite sure what.
And you didn’t have any clear idea about what you wanted to do professionally to help you make a decision?
I certainly didn’t think “I want to be an IT specialist so I will study computer science”; it was more a case of seeing what I could do with physics and math. Maybe I was influenced a bit by my parents, both of whom are engineers. First I thought, OK, I will be an engineer too, but then I began to question this and asked myself if computer science might not be more enjoyable for me.
Are you from Berlin and were you already familiar with the name TU Berlin?
Yes, I am from Berlin, actually right here in Charlottenburg, only five minutes away by subway. I always wanted to study here at TU Berlin, that was also the influence of my parents. Some of my friends were also planning on studying here. My mother was absolutely certain I should do the MINTgrün program. So I decided to take a look at the website for myself.
What makes TU Berlin so special for you?
I don’t have much experience of other universities to compare it with, but I think it is great that the infrastructure here is so good: You can use the computer labs, the workshops, and the labs for free. I really like the main canteen too.
What was it like for you starting at such a big university?
I had also heard some negative things, that people here were put through a system and had to organize everything for themselves. But I have to say that after the orientation day I felt I was in good hands and pretty much at home. My experiences have been mainly positive. It’s true that you have to organize things yourself, but help is available such as going to office hours and there are tutors to help you with your homework. It is up to you if you make use of the tutors or not.
Did the orientation program help you acquire self-management skills?
Yes, definitely. There they mentioned the services provided by Student Advising. I would definitely use Student Advising again, for example to get some advice about internships, particularly for programs like computer science and mechanical engineering where an internship is mandatory.
After one semester: What have been the real eye-openers for you?
The biggest eye-opener has been the importance of self-discipline and time management. Mastering these two aspects will really help you get through. University really is different to school. Another thing which struck me is how much more relaxed everything is than at school, once you have everything under control that is. I have 4 courses a week worth 18 credit points in total; that’s a lot less than school where you have to be present for eight hours a day. You have to do much more work on your own, but that is something I enjoy.
Is studying how you imagined it to be?
I hadn’t really thought a great deal about it, but the teachers at school said that what we do at university will be much harder and that it would be hard to understand anything at all in the lectures. They were exaggerating, but it does depend a lot on who the lecturer is. Both our lecturers for analysis and linear algebra are really great. The way they teach, we get it straight away.
You are undecided between two subjects. Which subjects are they and what are you doing to help you make the right decision?
I am not sure whether to study engineering or computer science. Ideally I would like to study something that combines both; so not just computer studies but computer engineering. And if I choose to study mechanical engineering, then I would like to specialize a little in computer science because the first semester has shown me that I really enjoy this. My approach is to do “Introduction to programming” in the first semester, and in the second semester Construction I, Structural Engineering Calculation and Elementary Strength Theory, in other words the classic mechanical engineering modules covered in the first semester of a degree program. Then I will think about what I like best.
What has been your favorite course so far?
The homework is really difficult in “Introduction to programming”. When you write a code, you need a lot of help from the tutors because a lot of things haven’t been explained yet in the lectures. It takes time, but when you work out the code, you feel great and that makes it fun. The homework in the math course, such as analysis and linear algebra, is not so challenging. Once you have basically grasped the idea, you can work out the tasks. But I really enjoy math too.
Can you tell us three things about the MINTgrün program that make it special for you?
The first is that you have a completely free choice, I mean you are completely free to choose any module you like. Yes, you are presented with a choice between a few things, but you are actually free to sign up for courses as you wish. “Introduction to programming” wasn’t actually part of the MINTgrün program, but I signed up for it anyway. A second point is that I can take exams and have these counted towards my future degree program. If I flunk an exam, however, it won’t count towards my three attempts, unlike in a full degree program. The third thing I would mention is the labs. I visited the fluid mechanics lab and it was really cool. We got to model our own rotor blades using CAD and then print them with a 3D printer before actually using them to conduct measurements. And that still included some theory.
Which subject did you decide on after MINTgrün?
I am studying Computational Engineering Science at TU Berlin.
Did taking the MINTgrün pre-program help with your choice of degree?
Yes, MINTgrün helped me a lot.
Do you feel you made the right choice?
Yes and no. I would prefer to study something where computer science plays a bigger role. I realized too late that you can choose compulsory elective modules from the area of information technology but not from the entire discipline of computer science . From the 15 or so compulsory elective modules available for me, four are in the actual computer science program, but they only deal with the real basics. The other modules, or so it seems to me, deal more with learning how to solve engineering problems using software. So the courses available for me deal more with the application of software and less with actual software development and programing.