Weeks 11-12


The US went crazy the week before last, which made it very hard to focus on anything. I know I’m supposed to just ignore it all, hunker down and keep working, but it’s hard when your job is to learn, i.e. use your brain, but your brain can’t focus.

This week I did .. sort of… choose my classes. My uncertainty stems from firstly, my complete lack of understanding of the requirements set upon me. Secondly, there are a lot of interesting topics, but not a lot of time to get all the work done. Thirdly,  there are a few classes where the teachers clearly have very little actual teaching experience, and I’m trying to nail down which course I can stomach better, which is a shame. I also decided to drop Database Systems because even though I was actually enjoying it quite a bit, I don’t think it will quite fit into my requirements that well (once again, assuming I understand them correctly), which is also a shame.

Anyway, I’m going to take these classes for credit during the semester, which puts me right at 31 credits (30 is the normal amount):

  • Foundations (required course which includes a little bit of everything)
  • Computational Linguistics
  • Language Technology probably, but maybe Syntactic Theory instead
  • Question Answering in Applications seminar
  • Text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis seminar

The following are intensive seminars that are held during the semester “break” (not a break for us, basically), that are counted as even more credit hours for the Winter semester, but that will hopefully not cut into my actual Winter semester schedule too much. Taking one or two of these this is the plan, but I’ll see which one once I get there. I’m signed up for the first two already (and who knows, maybe I can manage both):

  • Machine Learning for NLP (might drop this one because it might be over my head)
  • Natural Language Generation
  • Voicebuilding (the TTS seminar is a pre-requisite)

The following are classes will be ones where I attend during the winter semester but don’t sit the final for and may have to drop if time constraints get to be too much:

  • Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as a second language) offered through MPI
  • Deutsche Allgemeine Sprachkurse (German general speaking course)
  • Italian 1+2 (it takes place twice a week instead of once)

Unfortunately I missed out on taking Speech Recognition, which was one class I was really looking forward to. Basically, the prof assumes you know a lot of background really well, and doesn’t break things down, and so I need to learn more math before I can take a class like this. I’m hoping that with the time savings from not taking the class, I can start to learn more about probability, linear algebra, and multivariate calculus on my own and then maybe take a similar class at Trento next year. I hope they have something like it.

Finally, I also started a HiWi (research assistant job) that I will be working 8 hours a week on. The project is on co-reference resolution, and I will be in charge of annotating the corpus. Hopefully I can code a little bit to speed things up here, but in any case, the corpus will have to be manually checked over at the end. Maybe not the most exciting thing, but this will add €450 to my monthly income of €1000, which I feel will be very nice, and I’m sure to learn something anyway.


In my personal life, I went to a Tchaikovsky and Glinka concert last week. I also visited Heidelberg last weekend, including the awesome half-ruined castle there, and tasted Glühwein (hot wine with spices) for the first time. I hung out with my classmates/friends a bunch, and at one point we saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (I thought it was pretty cute). As a side note, the popcorn that you buy at the movies here is sweet, kind of like the US caramel popcorn (except a little less caked on)– I prefer the salty kind. Anyway, all of this was very fun, but I really got no work done over the last couple weeks.

Well, I guess I did implement the Viterbi algorithm, and that was cool.


The last couple weeks, I bought a ton of groceries and then ended up being too exhausted to cook and going out a bunch. That doesn’t make any sense to do… if I’m not going to cook, I shouldn’t buy vegetables! ><”

  • €27 – Italian textbook (hope I end up using it)
  • €80 – groceries
  • €5 – clothes
  • €18 – movies plus popcorn
  • €28 – dining out with friends
  • €10 – charge up the student card for printing and cafeteria lunches
  • Total: €168

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