Weeks 13-14

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Santa flying over the Weihnachtsmarkt.

The last couple weeks have been relatively quiet. Not much has happened outside of work and sleep (and less so the latter). I did go to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in Saarbrücken with some friends, which was quite fun. There was a line strung up between two buildings, which allowed Santa and his reindeer to fly over the town center as the announcer told Rudolf’s story.

I also saw another movie (that makes two in two weeks, which is as much as I usually watch in a year).  “Arrival” is a movie about a linguist based on a short story called “The Story of You.” I think I prefer the short story, because I don’t think it translates that well to the movie screen… but to be honest with you, the short story is also a little odd.

The most stressful thing to have happened in the last two weeks is that my computer developed a hardware issue (which does not yet render it inoperable, thank goodness). After much discussion with the various branches of Acer, it turns out I have to send my computer to the US for repairs (on my own dime). I really cannot be without a computer during my master’s program, since our computer lab currently has no computers in it so I would have no where to work (yea, don’t ask me to explain that one because I have no idea either). So in the meantime, I have ordered a new, relatively cheap laptop. I bought the laptop off Newegg which only ships to the US, and my husband will bring the laptop to me when he comes to visit in December. This made the cost much cheaper than it would have been to order a similar quality laptop in Germany.

The stress from the computer thing has really taxed me. It doesn’t help that I’ve been very busy. Classes, programming assignments, plus my HiWi (research assistant job) have taken up my days almost completely. In terms of the department here, overall, I’m kind of disappointed with the master’s program so far. Like everything else, classes are very disorganized. The disorganization of a class manifests in one of three ways:

  1. The class is too easy/boring, particularly the linguistics classes, which so far have covered little more than what you would learn in an undergrad intro to linguistics class, but cover it in a patchier way
  2. The profs are unprepared for lecture, sometimes so much so that they use some unrelated old conference presentation as their lecture and/or tell you to go look up info on Wikipedia to fulfill your assignments
  3. The class expects you to know so much background, and the prof doesn’t break it down, so the material is nearly unapproachable for many students (some second years and/or comp sci people seem to do ok so maybe it’s just me).

This semester I would say I have only one class that strikes the right balance of difficulty, hands-on practice, and computational theory, and I really enjoy this class, although I work incredibly hard to implement the algorithms we are learning. However, even in this class, there is really no one that I can go to for help with problems except for the other students (thank goodness we are all in this together). There are office hours but they are kind of limited.

The Erasmus program further hampers my learning prospects, because it breaks whatever continuity I would have had from studying in the same uni for two years. There are HiWi jobs that don’t hire you and projects you can’t participate in because you are only here for one year.

Long story short, judging from my experience so far, I don’t think I would recommend the program at this school to someone who doesn’t already have a background in comp sci, or at the very least has taken math through linear algebra and probability theory, because you won’t be taught those necessary foundations here (at least from my experience thus far). You can still come, as I have, and I’m sure you can learn a lot from it, but if you do already have the proper background you will just get a lot more out of it.

Costs

Yep, I’m still overbudget (even not counting the laptop, but especially with it included). By the way, by the end of November I stayed right in line with my maximum allowed budget, which is the hard budget I need to stay under (per month, on average) to keep from going broke and being in financial trouble at the end of these two years. Obviously, it would be much better to stay within my ideal budget, which is the money that I make while living here only. The good news is that now that I have my HiWi, the ideal budget should be a little more relaxed starting in January (I get paid at the end of December).

  • €12 – laundry
  • €4 – feminine hygiene
  • €10 – fill up school card for lunches and printing
  • €36 – groceries
  • €32 – Weihnachtsmarkt
  • €22 – tickets to Strasbourg later
  • €95 – a snuggly sweater because it’s cold
  • €5 – medication
  • €25 – dining
  • €12 – movie tickets and snacks
  • Total: €253 + $580 USD for the laptop
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