International Student turned Peer Advisor
Danielle Kline participated in the UAS7 Study Program in Spring 2018 during her undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. After returning to the U.S., Danielle became a Peer Advisor at her home university's Study Abroad Office. She is now completing her graduate studies in Pittsburgh. In an interview with UAS7 intern Inga, she looks back at her experience in Hamburg.
How did your study abroad experiences with UAS7 change your ambitions towards your career/ equip you for your future life?
Studying abroad has fueled my interest in learning about other cultures (adding France and China to the list!) and enables me to bring the skills that come with that—openness to intercultural collaboration, understanding of non-US engineering practices, and the ability to navigate cultural differences—to my future career. No matter what I do or where I go, these skills will prove to be very helpful in both my professional life and my personal life.
What advice do you have for students and recent graduates considering studying abroad with UAS7?
The experiences and life lessons you will learn from living in another country will far outweigh what you'll be missing at home.
Even if it means missing a semester of your favorite club. Even if it means a few months away from your research position. Even if you’ll have to dig around for scholarships. The experiences and life lessons you will learn from living in another country will far outweigh what you’ll be missing at home. You might never get the chance to travel for such a long time with minimal responsibilities again.
Also, if Germany is the destination, going through UAS7 is the best choice. Not only can they connect you with seven amazing universities around Germany for both studying and internship opportunities, but they also automatically consider you for a 1,000€ travel stipend when you apply. I would absolutely recommend it.
What did you do after you returned from Germany?
While I was finishing up my semester in Hamburg, I applied to work in the international programs office as a peer advisor. It turned out to be the best job I’ve ever had! Not only did I get to advise prospective study abroad students on their travel plans, but I also became more connected to the university-wide study abroad office and volunteered at many of their events that connect alumni and soon-to-be exchange students with incoming students from Germany. I became very good friends with many of them and even had one at my house for Thanksgiving!
Are you still in touch with Germany?
Of course! Like any other long-distance friendship, you find that you don’t talk as much when you don’t see each other all the time, but I’ll still get/send messages to my German friends every now and then. I’m also hoping to visit again sometime soon, maybe this upcoming winter break.
Do you consider coming back to Germany for your career?
I was very close to applying for a Master’s program at the HAW and consequently doing an internship/getting a job there, but during my senior year, I got a very good offer to stay in Pittsburgh for a graduate degree. I’m not considering anything in Germany at the moment, but who knows what will happen after grad school…maybe I’ll find a job that involves some transatlantic travel!
How did you find out about UAS7?
I knew I wanted to apply for a semester in Germany since high school, but it wasn’t until the summer before I applied that I began looking at specific programs. I originally had another application open, but maybe a week before it was due, I received an email from the director of our international programs office telling me to apply for UAS7 instead because of the travel stipend offer. As a recipient of that travel stipend, I’m very glad I listened to her!
Tell us about your experience at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences - what was special about studying there?
In the true spirit of study abroad, I elected to take four courses (at the recommendation from my HAW buddy, David) that I figured I would otherwise not have the opportunity to take: Energy Systems, Finite Element Methods (FEM), Schwingungslehre (Mechanical Vibrations), and Aeronautical Engineering Design Team Project. The four courses could not have been more different.
Because I had over eight years of German language experience coming into my exchange semester, I really wanted to challenge myself and take an engineering course instructed in German. "Schwingungslehre" was exactly that challenge. For anyone else interested in taking a German-instructed course, I offer this advice: be prepared for a fast pace, and do everything you can to make friends with your classmates. It is a very rewarding experience if you’re looking for a language skill challenge, but make sure you’re ready to work a little harder—and don’t be surprised if your grade isn’t an A!
I would recommend the design project to everyone, regardless of major, for so many reasons. First of all, Hamburg is home to one of the four major production facilities for Airbus, and by working on this project, you will have the unique opportunity to meet with actual Airbus engineers and work on real design projects. Second of all, if you’re looking to make friends with German students, this is the class for you. The professor, Dr. Abulawi, does a fantastic job of ensuring groups are equal blends of HAW and international students, and personally, some of my best memories from Hamburg were meeting up with my group to work on this project.
Would you recommend Hamburg as a destination for international students?
Like everyone else from my school, I planned my study abroad experience with Munich in mind. All of my prior experience in Germany had been in the south, so I considered it very familiar and was hoping to spend more time there. Then one morning, I woke up to an email from the HAW and realized I had to change my plans. Looking back, I’m very glad it happened this way!
I believe that you will find a unique and wonderful experience anywhere you go.
I learned through my experience and my travels all over Germany that location might just not be the most important thing when it comes to choosing schools. I found that when I had an open mind about where I went and what I did, I was never disappointed. I stopped building up high expectations and just let myself discover all the amazing things that Hamburg has to offer, and by doing so, I became truly happy where I was. I love Hamburg very much and would recommend it to anyone looking to study in Germany, but I also believe that as long as you’re satisfying your course requirements, you will find a unique and wonderful experience anywhere you go.
What do you think about the German university system and the system at Universities of Applied Sciences?
There are some significant differences between our higher education systems, specifically Pitt and HAW Hamburg, that are worth pointing out. For example, classes are all once a week for three hours, semester grades are usually either based on a semester-long project or a single exam,
There are a lot of advantages to this system.
and the campus culture is just completely different—students treat school like work, meaning they go home when class is done rather than sticking around for clubs and sports (of which there are very few).
There are a lot of advantages to this system like having much more free time, but it also relies on the student to be more diligent about managing their own time. For American students and any others who are used to a regimented schedule, that can be a huge problem come final exam time. Still, I would not argue that one system is better than the other—they’re just different, and that’s what the study abroad experience brings you to appreciate.
Interview conducted by Inga Schulze-Velmelde, student at Bremen City University of Applied Sciences and UAS7 New York intern 2019/2020