Graduation

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Castel Beseno in Trentino, one of the places I am going to miss.

As a student of two universities, plus the LCT program, I get to graduate three times if I so choose– once at each of the universities, and once at the LCT meeting (which I have to pay to to go myself once I become an alumnus of the two unis).

In practical terms, this means that you end up going through the majority of the formalities at your second university, and then at some point, some more documents come in from your other universities. Since my second uni was University of Trento, I got to go through the Italian graduation process first. Surprisingly, everything went very smoothly, and graduation day was actually pretty fun!

When we graduate from high school or from a bachelors in the US, we have a massive assembly, with the entire graduating class (hundreds of students). You wear your robes/hat, and you wait forever until your name is called, so that you can walk up there, accept your diploma, and shake hands with some important leaders of the university. I didn’t go to my bachelors graduation, because I didn’t want to wait in the southern California desert sun for 8 hours, while everyone’s name was called, and because the ceremony took place some months after I had actually finished my schoolwork (I finished in December and ceremonies are in June/July), so I was already living somewhere else.

In Italy, the ceremony is completely different. First of all, it takes places with only your department, so the graduating class will just be the students that you know. Second of all, for the masters, it actually takes place on the same day that you defend. This means everyone makes their defense presentations, then the commission goes to deliberate on everyone’s grades, and then you get called back into the room again to receive diplomas. They call out your name, your grade, and you walk up to shake hands with your professors. In this way, it’s much more personal, which I really appreciated.

For my defense, I was defending a thesis on speech recognition to a department more focused on cognitive neuroscience. That is, my commission and fellow students were not experts on speech recognition. I had to tailor my defense to be a little more general, to be able to keep non-specialists interested in the topic, and the defense was only supposed to be 15 minutes long. This was actually really hard to do, and I had to cut out a lot. I think a longer defense to experts in the field would have been easier to present. On the other hand, I think since they were not experts, they judged me a little easier than an expert might have. I received full marks and highest honours. It felt really nice to get such amazing recognition for my work, but I know there were some mistakes in my thesis, and I’m sure that the commission at Saarland will be stricter.

Our defenses were split into a morning session and an afternoon session. After our session was done, the commission spent a good chunk of time (30-45 minutes) deliberating on our grades. Then we all got called back in with our families, for handing out the diplomas. When the student’s name is called, the professor says his normal spiel in Italian, and calls out the student’s grade, right there in front of everybody. It was something like, “with the power vested in me by the university, etc. etc., I award [the student] the master of cognitive science, with a grade of [the grade].”

This makes me wonder what happens if the student is going to fail the defense. But I get the feeling that this doesn’t happen. That is, once you are invited to the defense, it is almost certain that you will pass. At our department in Trento, they didn’t suggest for corrections to be made either, and I don’t know if this is typical or not.

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Handmade wreath of laurels.

Once this is done, the fun starts! We all got together in the garden in back, with champagne, sweets, confetti launchers, and actual “confetti” candies. These are little round candies given out in Italy for special events, and they are colour coded. For example, red ones are for graduation, white ones are for weddings. Each of the graduates was handed a wreath of laurels to wear on their head. (I think the colour of the ribbons in the leaves is supposed to be significant, but ours were just different colours for fun.) The ones we got were actual laurel leaves, created by our friends in the department, which was so nice and thoughtful of them! Our friends also put up compromising pictures of us throughout the halls, which was quite funny to see.

Then, the other students, the parents, and even the professors, sing a graduation song for you. This song is actually obscene, which is so funny… even funnier when it comes from professors! I don’t want to write the Italian version, because I think writing down Italian curse words might be frowned upon, so I will let you google the “dottore dottore” song.

Once the party begins, it doesn’t end. At least not in our department. Our students organized a massive alcohol-fest that night. I’m not a big drinker, so I only stayed a short while, but I expect it was going on until the wee hours. There, I saw another Italian tradition– a typical graduation drinking game. In this game, friends of the graduate write a big scroll about the graduate’s life with lots of rhymes and tongue twisters, and then the graduate has to read it correctly. Every time they mess up, they take a drink. People continued to sing the “dottore dottore” song throughout the night, as well.

I think the whole point of all of these festivities is to counteract the seriousness of the event. You just went through this grueling effort, and you are graduating as an official master’s degree holder… congratulations to you, but don’t let it go to your head, you’re are just the same as all the rest of us!

So that’s Italian graduation for you. I don’t know how German graduation goes, since I am (predictably) still waiting for my grades from Saarland. It turns out that the main person in charge of this aspect of bureaucracy is on sick leave right now, and since there’s no redundancy in the bureaucratic system there, we are probably going to have to wait until he gets better before getting our grades transferred and our diplomas in the mail. At some point next year, I hope to also be able to attend my final LCT meeting to see all the students from the previous year, and to graduate once again, from LCT (if they do a graduation for us, which I don’t know if they will).

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Castel Beseno in Trentino.

 

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Weeks 98 through 111

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I submitted the thesis.

The work’s not done. I still have the defense and probably some annoying bureaucracy, and I hope I haven’t failed to account for anything, since other people have had some trouble graduating due to last minute realizations made by the university administration(s)… but one big milestone is completed.

Anyways, it’s been a lot of weeks since I did a post about what’s going on in general, though I’ve made a few smaller posts since then. The last two months have just been incredibly busy. Any time that I haven’t spent working on my thesis, I have spent traveling or exercising. Well, I exaggerate. There have been evenings of mindless video games, to blank out a little bit after all the hard work.

Over the last few months, the seasons have changed again, as is typical on a planet whirling rapidly around a shining star in the void of space. Amongst the activities over the last few months, I met the new Trento LCT students, which was nice, though I haven’t had much opportunity to hang out with them so far. I also went to the doctors, and got a travel pass, both of which were a bit of a hassle.

On a lighter note, we had visitors non-stop for a while, which was a blast, as usual. We traveled with them, to hikes and lakes nearby, as well as farther out to Liguria. In sum, we visited Torino, Cinque Terre (twice), Lago di Garda (again) including Limone sul Garda, Lago di Caldonazzo, Lago di Lamar, Tre Cime del Bondone, and Monte Altissimo di Nago.

Lago di Caldonazzo was super easy to reach. We took a train from Trento in the direction of Bassano del Grappa (the same one that goes past San Bartolomeo, where the student housing is). That train brings you straight to the lake. It’s a lovely area, with a small resort town and plenty of nice swimming beaches. The day we went, a train of little old cars paraded through the center of the town, so that was nice to see, but otherwise, there’s not much to say. The lake was very pretty, and we had a relaxing time.

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Lago di Lamar was also not particularly difficult to reach. You take a bus from Trento to Terlaghi, and it also takes you right there, practically to the shores of the lake. This lake is much much smaller (you can swim across the whole of it), but it is so lovely. The water is clear and blue, and filled with fish that dart around you as you enter. On the opposite side, where you have to swim to, there is a cliff of around 10m in height that people jump off of. This is a bit too high for me to dare jumping off of; however, even better, there are three ropes around the edges of the lake that you can swim and jump from. This is basically the best thing ever.

The rope on the right bank of the river is pretty low, so I think it’s better for children, since the water beneath it looks a bit shallow. The two ropes on the left bank are better for adults. I’ve jumped off both the first one and the second one. The second one is maybe 2m in height, and the first one is maybe 3-4m in height. When I jumped off the first one, I sort of ended up twisting in the air, and basically landed right on my thigh. I ended up with the biggest bruise I’ve ever had, all the way down my entire leg. It was kind of nuts… but it was worth it.

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Finally, there are a number of beautiful hikes around the lake. The one that we chose to go on, though, was basically straight up. It was too intense for me, especially considering the heat of 30 degrees C. At some point, I turned back around, and went back to jump into the lake some more. The cool water felt so incredibly good after such a sweaty and tiresome hike.

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The other two hikes we did were exhilarating, as usual. The first went up the Tre Cime del Bondone (Three Peaks of Bondone). This was definitely an all day hike. I think it took us around 6 hours, although we did take some long breaks on my account. The hike up to the first peak is steep, and the view from the top is pretty nice, though not as nice as some of the other views we’ve seen (but now I am really splitting hairs). Then you hike down a bit, and head over to the second peak.

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On the second peak, there are some very light Via Ferrata sort of areas. These are basically rebar ladders stabbed into the rock, with cables alongside. In a typical Via Ferrata, you are meant to use a harness with two supporting ropes to hook onto the cables, and you can climb along the rock or cliff face this way. It’s sort of like mountain climbing lite. In the area we went to though, it wasn’t really Via Ferrata. That is, you didn’t really need any gear, and the rebar/cable was more as a nice handhold to get up to the next little rock. One day, I hope I will have a chance to do a real Via Ferrata, but unfortunately, the summer has gone by, and so I missed my chance this year.

After climbing through the second peak, you go up to the third peak. The view from here is really nice, with the mountain tops and valleys behind you. After this, you can wind your way down the mountain without too much difficulty, to return from where you started.

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Finally, the hike up Monte Altissimo di Nago was just lovely. I liked it because it was actually quite a bit shorter than the other hikes we have done, but the views were at least as stunning. The hike started steep, but then leveled out to a wide mountain biking road that wound up and around the entire mountain. It was longer this way, but quite easy to go up. From the top, we could see the a very large part of Lago di Garda. I had never seen so much of it in one glance before, and it really impresses upon you the immense size of this lake.

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The hiking path up this side is populated by cow farms, so we saw many cows on the way up. On the way down, the cows took a special liking to us. One of them came to say hello. She licked at our legs and arms (I guess we were salty from the sweaty hike). She was a total cutie! I can’t decide which picture of her I like better. What do you think?

Costs:

I spent a lot of money these ~3 months (around 600 euro over my budget), since I took some extravagant trips, and went out a lot with friends (both during those trips and outside of that). I’m able to be frivolous like this because I have a paid internship.

  • 705 – rent
  • 1252 – trips
  • 389 – food
  • 231 – groceries
  • 377 – dining
  • 125 – sports
  • 156 – clothes
  • 151 – phone
  • 115 – internet
  • €35 – medical expenses
  • €69 – utilities
  • 46 – entertainment (games/drinks)
  • €156 – misc
  • Total: 3576

Weeks 84 through 93

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How long has it been since I’ve posted one of these types of updates? There’s been a lot going on. Spring and summer, for one! Everything is green and beautiful now, and there are flowers everywhere, although it has also been raining a lot. I wish I had more time to enjoy this season, but things have been more than a little busy. A massive family vacation took a chunk of time, but was, of course, very worth it. Then, as soon as I got back, I learned that I had many deadlines, and all of them were due around the same time:

  • a poster presentation for the LCT meeting
  • a master’s thesis proposal for the “master seminar” course at Uni Saarland
  • a presentation on the thesis proposal for my adviser at Saarland
  • a report of the work done at my internship plus a ton of documents for Uni Trento
  • a master’s thesis outline for my adviser at Trento
  • edits on a paper for a conference that my group at FBK wants to submit to

This all, by the way, in addition to normal work, which should theoretically continue as usual. In practice I had been focusing almost exclusively on the reports and presentations, and very little on actual work, which is a problem because I really  need to make progress on my master’s thesis research if I want to actually be able to write the thesis.

Speaking of the thesis, I had a bit of a heart attack last month, when I found out from a friend, who found out from a friend, that I had to fill out a “Title Registration” form for University of Trento. This was a simple form with some basic information, but we needed the signature of our thesis adviser on it. The problem is that my intended adviser was gone at a conference that week. He had told me he would be hard to reach, and he had warned me ahead of time to check deadlines and get signatures from him. I had checked the deadlines I knew to check, but not this one, because this was a situation of “I don’t know what I don’t know.” I got lucky and was able to contact my adviser after all, but I if my friend hadn’t told me about this requirement, I would have gotten all the way to September, and wondered why I couldn’t graduate on time for no apparent reason.

It’s hard being a foreign student, but I get the feeling that this is a difficulty even local students have to deal with. No one sends any emails about these deadlines. We have coordinators here at UniTN who should theoretically be involved with us, but they don’t seem to care that much about us. They don’t know our detailed situation, they forget some basic details about us as well, and they seem more concerned with their own work than anything else. It doesn’t feel like there’s anyone who is actually there for the students, in particular the LCT students, who are on the outskirts of the program at UniTN.

I’m also a bit upset because now that summer is here, my aerial classes have been cut down to just once a week, so I need to find an alternate form of exercise to avoid losing too much muscle. I’ve worked too hard so far to let myself atrophy.

On the plus side, the weather has warmed up, and we managed to get three hikes in, all with beautiful wildflowers, breathtaking views, and lovely company. These have certainly been the highlight of the season.

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Costs:

Ok so I’m going to cheat, and lump everything into one big pool over the last few months. I’m sorry I fell behind keeping track of this here by month.

  • 705 – rent
  • 165 – internet
  • 100 – phone
  • 600 – travel
  • 300 – dining (also during travel)
  • 300 – groceries
  • 160 – sports
  • 40 – fixing glasses
  • 120 – clothes (for hiking)
  • Total: 2,490

 

Officialization 11: Thesis Registration

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Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance
  11. Officialization 11: Thesis Registration <– You are here
  12. Officialization 12: Stay Permit, part IV
  13. Officialization 13: Going to the doctors
  14. Officialization 14: Getting a travel pass

Spring and summer means master’s thesis work. As part of the LCT program you have three sets of requirements that you have to fulfill for your master’s thesis. The information is hard to locate on the websites, and often, you don’t end up receiving it at all. So far I’ve managed to get lucky somehow, and I haven’t missed any major deadlines– as far as I know. I really hope I haven’t fucked something up already, because I honestly can’t be sure (and if someone seems mistakes here, please let me know). The deadlines for the three programs that I have understood are as follows:

UniTN

The deadlines for UniTN are fairly strict, and you can only delay things with the help of local supervisors. See also deadlines for 2018, and the download box on the upper right hand side (click on the folder icon to get more files and instructions). You will need to use the Esse3 online student platform for some of these steps, and a different website for other parts of it.

  • 10 days before graduation (but started much earlier):
    • Completion of internship (see below)
  • 4 months before graduation:
    • Thesis title declaration in Esse3 questionnaire including:
      • Uploading this form signed by your UniTN adviser
  • 1 month before graduation:
    • Master’s defense application in Esse3–>Home–>Title obtainment, including:
      • “AlmaLaurea” questionnaire
      • Other questionnaires (all show up on Esse3 after you do AlmaLaurea)
      • Uploading this form, which must be signed by your UniTN adviser
      • Paying 72 euro through Banca Popolare di Sondrio (print out the invoice slip from Esse3, and go to the bank with cash)
    • Request for students expecting to graduate (Richiesta di Attesa di laurea) from a different website
  • 1 week before graduation:
  • Graduation:
    • The graduation is also the date of your defense, so you defend and then you should immediately find out your grade

UniTN internship (15 credits):

There are no strict deadlines for starting the internship, but it must be completed at least 10 days before graduation. If you want to graduate on time, start it as early as possible in your second semester (or even your first). After you officially finish the internship, there are no strict deadlines for when to turn in the report and paperwork either, just as long as it’s before 10 days prior to graduation. It’s important to save all documents as pdfs, because you will need to print and sign them, even if there’s no space for a signature.

Don’t be shy in contacting jobguidance@unitn.it with all your questions, because the websites are confusing, but the office is very helpful and they answer quickly. Just email them and ask them to confirm everything.

To start the internship (see also here and here):

  • The company needs to contact JobGuidance on your behalf and submit some forms to them.
  • Your UniTN adviser needs to contact JobGuidance to approve your internship.
  • You print out a copy of the agreement from the Esse3 (online student platform), which must be signed by you, your company supervisor, and your uni adviser.
  • The form needs be submitted to the office of Job Guidance, which is at Via Verdi 6, Trento (the red building behind the building with the language classes).

To end the internship:

  • Your evaluation of the company. Make sure to save as pdf before you leave the webpage.
  • The company supervisor’s evaluation of you, signed by them (even though there’s no place for a signature). Make sure s/he saves it as a pdf before leaving the webpage.
  • Certificato parte prima, which includes the timesheet, available in the online Esse3 platform, signed by the company supervisor and you
  • Report up to your uni adviser’s specifications (probably 2-3 pages in length), so that he can give you a grade (I think it’s pass/ no pass) in Esse3
  • Certificato parte due, which is sent to you from Job Guidance, signed by your university adviser

UdS

The deadlines for UdS are very strict, and you risk missing your graduation deadline if you don’t follow them, so make a note of the dates. See also this official rules document and these annotations for LCT.

  • Some time before graduation:
    • Master seminar registration in the Hispos/LSF student website, located under:
      • Administration of Exams -> Apply for exams -> Master International Language Science + Techn. 20081 -> 1010 Gesamtkonto Language Science and Technology -> 1020 Master module -> 10062 Master seminar – Seminar
  • 3 months before graduation:
    • Master seminar proposal submission. (You used to be able to do it 6 weeks before thesis submission, but this is no longer true; now it’s 3 months, and it must be done before or concurrently with thesis registration.)
    • Thesis registration. This is a physical form that you have to turn in to the exam office, but LCT students have the possibility to email it; however, you have to email the examinations office, asking for the form well in advance, since the exam office is very bad at email. (Or try this link, but it may go down.)
    • If your thesis adviser is in Dr. Klakow’s group, then a presentation on your proposal before you turn in the proposal paper.
  • Before the final date of the semester:
    • Apply for any courses you wish would remain ungraded (email the registration office for this form).
    • Submit 4 physical copies of the bound thesis. (At press time, LCT students can mail the physical copies to the address below.)
  • Within 6 weeks of the thesis submission:
    • Colloquium presentation (can be the defense at your other uni, if your profs are ok to Skype into it)

UdS Examination contact information (as of Sept. 2018):

Ursula Kröner
Examination Office (Tel +49/681/302-43 44)
Campus building C 7.2, Room 1.10
Saarland University
Computational Linguistics
66123 Saarbrücken
Germany

exam-office@coli.uni-saarland.de

LCT program:

In addition to all the credits from the correct categories, you have to present a poster at the LCT conference in the second half of your second year. It can be on your thesis, or on some internship work, or even on a proposal for your thesis, but it is mandatory.