Konstanz vs. Essex University

Thinking about going on a year abroad? Perhaps going to study at a German university is already in your plans, but you aren’t too sure what to expect when you get there.  If that is the case, then I have put together some of the main differences that I have found between University of Essex and University of Konstanz. 

To begin with, courses and modules vary a lot between these two universities.

At Essex, you may be familiar with having every course being worth 15 Essex credits or 7.5 ECTS. Or, in some cases, if the module runs over both the spring and the autumn term then the credits number is doubled.

However in Konstanz, courses can have vary from as little as 0 ECTS up to 10 ECTS, or even more. This means that you are expected to do different amounts of work depending on the number of credits that the course in question has.  The lecturer or professor in charge of the course will typically point out at the beginning of the first lecture/class what is the exact number of expected work hours.

Another main difference that I have found is that in Konstanz there are quite a few different types of courses available for students.  For instance, there are seminars, block seminars, projects, lectures/exercises and lecture courses.

Throughout my Computer Science degree at University of Essex, I have noticed that normally a course encompasses both practical learning as part of laboratory or class and also theoretical learning as part of a lecture.

At the University of Konstanz, this is still true, but mainly for the courses labelled as lecture/exercise. The other types of courses tend to put more emphasis on one type of learning, either practical or theoretical. For example, during a seminar students are very likely to work in teams of various sizes for a specific project. The theoretical knowledge required for the project should have been taught in a corresponding lecture course or lecture/exercise and hence it is highly advisable that students take or have taken this before enrolling in the seminar. Most seminars end with an oral presentation of the team results or even individual work. In some cases students are expected to write a report or a paper to conclude their overall work. Block seminars differ from regular seminars with the fact that they only run for a shorter period (e.g. 3 days in a row). Students can also choose to do a bit more research into a specific area by taking a course called project. For a project course, you are expected to write a final report and to meet regularly with a project supervisor.

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In terms of the systems that the University of Konstanz has in place for students, I have found that they are quite similar to the ones that we use at the University of Essex. More specifically during my year abroad, I have mainly used 3 different platforms: ILIAS, LSF (Lehre, Studium, Forschung ~ Teaching, Studies, Research) and StudIS/Prüfungen (~ Exams).

On ILIAS, students can enroll on different courses and once the course administrator approves their request then access is provided to the course contents. ILIAS is also used to upload assignment/exercises and deadlines can also be seen on there too. Overall, I think of ILIAS as a combination of our Moodle and FASER platform.

The second system that I have used for looking up the courses that I wanted to take was LSF and on there students observe when/where the course is running and find out more information about courses running in various departments. It is somewhat similar to our Module Directory but on LSF students can enrol on courses and also create their own timetable.

The last system that I have used at the University of Konstanz was StudIS/Prüfungen and it was perhaps the most important one. The reason why I say that is because on the platform students can log in and register for exams. In order to receive course credits and be allowed to take exams students must register for the examination of each one of the courses; this also includes signing up for the seminars even though there typically are no written exams.  On this platform, you can see when/where the exams take place and also look up the obtained marks afterwards.

I hope this breakdown of course types and systems that the University of Konstanz uses and the comparison to the University of Essex has helped to get an idea of what to expect at either one of these two universities. Best of luck to those that are heading off next year for their year abroad!

Feature image credit: Universität Konstanz (left) and University of Essex (right).

Revision Techniques

For some, exams are still going on, so here are some useful tips to help guide you with revision and hopefully make it more fun!

  • Find out from your teacher exactly what you need to revise

Sometimes not all chapters/topics of the module need to be revised for an exam. Therefore, it is important to check with your teacher what you need to study to make sure that you don’t learn too much unnecessary information for the exam.

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  • Make a revision timetable

Weeks before exams begin it is a good idea to make a weekly timetable, either on word, excel or it can be hand drawn, so that you know exactly what you need to revise each day. This will help you to get work done so you don’t fall behind with what you need to revise in time for the exam!

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  • Find a suitable study space

Some people prefer to study in complete silence to stop themselves from getting distracted and some people prefer to study with some background noise. A good place to go is generally a library, because there are usually places with both the background noise or you can go to the silent study area. I usually find that when I study in my room at home I can be very lazy, therefore I usually prefer to go somewhere outside of home, but everyone’s preference is different!

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  • Give yourself breaks

Factor breaks into your timetable, otherwise revision will drive you crazy! Having a break every couple of hours will give you time to relax your head and begin revision again with a fresh mind.

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  • Find a study technique that will help you to remember things

Some people remember things by colours, so you may like to write different topics in different colours or highlight key words, so in the exam you will relate the colour to that topic or word. Some people like to draw pictures and diagrams to remember things as they can picture them in their head in the exam, whereas others just prefer to read through their typed or written notes. Sometimes studying with a friend can help, because then you can test each other and ask each other for advice if you are unsure of anything.

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  • Practice past papers

Past papers will give you an idea of the layout and style of the exam, so when you are in the exam you don’t get a shock if you thought it would be multiple choice but it turns out to be essay style questions! Occasionally, the same or similar questions might come up again, therefore it is good to practice so you know what to write about.

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I hope this helps you. Best of luck in your exams!

 

How to Organise your Revision

Summer term is a strange time of year…especially for anyone in their final year – you want to make the most of your time left with your school or uni friends before the summer break, but you also want to do well in your exams.  It’s tough, but there is a way of managing to do both and it starts with getting organised! Its time to start planning your time carefully and ensuring you’ve revised all your topics in detail.

Important things to bear in mind for exam time:

  1. Prepare – plan out your time so you get equal amounts of revision done for each topic.  Ensure you allow enough time between each exam and avoid neglecting topics at the end of the exam period.26490066561_ba9e077547_h
  2. Take breaks – It’s really important to take regular breaks each hour – even if it’s just to stretch your legs.  It’s especially important if your revising from a computer as it’s really bad for your eyes to be sat in front of a screen for a long time.
  3. Eat well – Summer term is a crazy time and sometimes you can forget the basics such as eating well (remember it’s fueling your brain!) and drinking lots of waterfruits
  4. It’s not too late! – It’s never too late to start revision, just take advantage of the time you have left, but don’t overwork yourself
  5. Priorities – Don’t neglect any of your modules; just because you have one exam coming up, don’t leave all the others until the last minute.
  6. Exercise – Whether its going to the gym or going for a walk, it’s really important to do exercise during revision period to give your mind a rest and stay healthy.  You may also find it makes it easier to study after doing exercise.24291950523_d770708c42_b

Important things to bear in mind before your exam:

  1. Relax – there’s nothing more you can do at this stage and being stressed will mean its less likely for you to do well in the exam so bear that in mind.
  2. Revision notes – personally I like to take small revision cards containing hard to remember information to read through just before I go into the exam in the hope I will be able to retain the information (and most of the time it works).
  3. Have a good nights sleep before hand – SLEEP is very important!  If you try and stay up all night before the exam, your not as likely to retain the information you’ve learnt and may lack concentration

Good luck!

Japan International Society

Can you believe that we have more than 100 different societies (besides the sport clubs!)here at Essex?! Ranging from musical, to political, to cultural societies – they are a core element of student life, making it so easy to find like-minded people, to pick up your favourite hobby from home again, or to try something new!

In my first year I decided to join the Japan society. Unlike some might assume, it is not only tailored to Japanese students– actually, I barely knew any Japanese words, nor was I particularly into Anime, I was simply interested in Japanese culture. Three years later, I am part of the committee and can frankly say that joining the Japan society definitely enriched my student experience here!

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The Japan society has loads going on, offering weekly language classes on two proficiency levels and a range of other fun activities throughout the year.

There is one language class for beginners and one for advanced Japanese learners, if you already know Hiragana and Katakana (the Japanese alphabets) and you love to be challenged, don’t be afraid to try joining the latter class! The lessons are held by Japanese students, who will not only teach you the language, but introduce you to typical Japanese traditions and festivals in a short presentation before the actual classes start. Those classes are also the perfect opportunity for any Japanese students who wish to gain some volunteering experience!

Besides language classes, our most frequent and popular events have been food sharing events! It is so beneficial having members from various cultural backgrounds, so we could not only try delicious Japanese dishes, but also get to know the cuisine from other countries!

Are you interested in learning how to roll your own sushi? Come, learn and eat! 🙂

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And of course, we couldn’t miss having the occasional karaoke evening!

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Sometimes we went to Level Up to play some pool,…

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…other times we organised game evenings,…

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…or celebrated traditional Japanese festivals, such as Setsubun (Bean-Throwing-Festival).

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Like other societies, we participated in the annual Winter Fayre, where we sold sushi (very xmassy indeed(!), but it’s just delicious all year around, so we have been sold out within less than two hours!)

One of my personal highlights is the annual BBQ the Japan society will hold in summer after exams by the lakes!

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Overall I met Japanese people from different regions in Japan, making my list of to-go places there grow longer and longer; I also got to know people from all other parts the world, sharing the same interest in Japanese culture like me! I had the opportunity to get involved in volunteering events and to explore many aspects of Japanese culture, so if you are looking for a fun, outgoing an really active society, I can’t recommend joining the Japan society enough!

 

University Awards Season 2016

As we come to the end of the academic year, the University is busy with their awards season. These evenings celebrate the amazing achievements of individuals and groups from across the University in a range of different fields. The main awards evenings this year were…

  • Society Awards
  • Sports Awards
  • V-team (Volunteering) Awards
  • Student Choice Awards
  • Student’s Union Staff Awards
  • Course Rep Awards
  • International Student’s Association Awards

Although, I didn’t attend the Student Choice Awards, it was great to hear that one of my amazing lecturers, Annie Eddington, received Personal Tutor of the year. She has been a great help to me during this year and it was fantastic to see her being recognised for the kick ass work that she does!

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Annie Eddington receiving Personal Tutor of the Year at the Student Choice Awards

Our Deputy Departmental Administrator, Rachele Winn, also the won the Best Support award for her dedication to the department. I always see Rachele working hard when I swing by the department, so it’s great that she got the recognition that she deserves.

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Rachele Winn with her Best Support award

The awards that I had the most involvement in were the Society awards. At this evening, I watched in awe as societies, that I’d have seen develop over the year as Arts Convenor, be recognised and celebrated. It was a spectacular night with several performances from societies themselves complimenting the awards being given out. Here are a few highlights from the evening…

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Freya Martyniak: one of many performances on the night

Gold Standards

This was the category that I presented along with Theo, the Music Convenor. Societies, which receive either a Bronze, Silver or Gold standard, represent the best that Essex has to offer. In order to gain this recognition, societies have to display a high level of engagement and commitment to their societies by fulfilling a set criteria.

I was lucky enough to present 2 of the Arts Societies with this accolade at the awards; the Theatre Arts Society and the Photographic society. In particular, the Photographic Society really deserved the award as they have grown massively over the year from a small society to one of the best on campus. It was also pretty special handing the Gold Standard over to the Theatre Arts Society, as it is not only a society which I’m a part of, but it’s also the 7th year in a row in which they have received the accolade.

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 The Photographic Society President and Vice President with their Gold Standard

Society of the year

Another amazing moment for me on the night was seeing the Theatre Arts Society win the most prestigious award of the night; Society of the Year. This award represents  a society that has been extremely active across the year and has offered an unbelievable experience to all of its members.

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Past and present members of the Theatre Arts Society with their awards from the evening

Take a look at the video highlights of the night (including my hand at 1:01)

 

This evening also signified an end to my year as Arts Convenor, as I now pass over to my successor. It has been a really interesting role to take on and it’s been brilliant to see how societies work and working with them to improve further.

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Societies Guild Commitee and Staff from the 2015/2016 academic year