Marja Kristin Seidel (Class of ’11) from Germany, studying Physics & Earth and Space Sciences
Which universities and/or schools have you attended in the past?
My last years of High School were at Hunter Valley Grammar School (Australia) and at the Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium Waltrop (Germany). I also did “SchuelerUni” (normal university, but as a High School student) at the TU Dortmund.
What is your international background?
Compared to many Jacobs students, my international background is not very eclectic. Both my parents are German and I grew up in Germany. However, I did several high school exchanges with France and Australia and participated in many international events.
How did you hear about Jacobs University and why have you chosen to study here?
Only one month before the last round of applications ended, I got to know completely coincidentally about Jacobs University: on a so-called Abi-Karriere-Tag (information day for German high school graduate students). The delegates from Jacobs along with the information brochures entirely convinced me of my choice to study at JUB. The international and transdisciplinary approach and the international community definitely appealed to me and finally I decided to try and apply.
What is your major and why have you chosen this field of study? Is there a particular subject within this field which you find especially fascinating?
At the moment, I am doing a double major in Physics and Earth and Space Sciences. This actually sounds more scary than it actually is since a lot of fields in these two majors are interconnected. I’ve been interested in Physics, especially Astrophysics for a long time in my life and participated in international astronomy youth camps and events. Thus, in my studies, I also wanted to focus on this field and found this double major as the best opportunity to gain the most of both. A very good knowledge of physics is required to do astrophysics, therefore the physics courses are helpful, as well as interesting. The actual astrophysics of course is taught in ESS. This major offers additionally magnificent opportunities concerning hands-on-experience such as several field trips during all three years of my studies. Only this September 2009, I went an my specialization area trip to the Skinakas observatory on Crete – an unforgettable experience!
Why do you think a student who is interested in your major might choose Jacobs University?
Especially students interested in any courses related to one of the science areas taught in ESS will absolutely adore JUB due to the practical experiences and field trip opportunities. Concerning both, Physics and ESS, the classes are, compared to other German universities, very small and an excellent professor student ratio exists. Therefore, students have the chance to talk with and meet their professors regularly and approach them with their concerns. Everyone in these two majors appears to be very helpful, also when it comes to internship search.
Which special features/differences do you see in your classes in comparison with other institutions (schools or universities) where you may have studied previously.
Compared to the Technical University Dortmund, there are a lot of differences: the approach in this first year at JUB is completely unique concerning the trans- and interdisciplinarity which is on the one hand limiting the depth students get into their majors due to the commitment they have to put into other subjects as well. However, on the other hand, it is very insightful, too, since one profits from a broader knowledge. Additionally, as said before, one huge advantage of JUB is the excellent professor student ratio.
If you have already had this opportunity, please tell us more about any internships/practical work experience.
I was very lucky because I was able to do an internship at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) right after my second semester. One of my astrophysics professors had helped organizing it for me. It was an absolutely great experience as I was able to receive insights in the world of an astrophysicist while working on my own project proposed by my supervisor from the MPE along with my professor from JUB. Basically, I dealt with galaxy clusters for two months, reading a lot of research papers, learning how to program in python and then analyzing the statistics from the brightest cluster galaxies. At the end, we even decided to pursue the project and thus, I continue this research with my professor still now being back at Jacobs – it couldn’t be better!
What are your general or specific career goals?
My general aim is to conduct research in the field of physics, most probably astrophysics or optics. For this, I want to do a PhD in Physics/Astrophysics.
What do you like best about the campus or colleges?
International diversity! Cross-cultural friendships! The people’s motivation – not only the students’ !- to start something new, to develop and to explore! The omnipresent desire to enhance the current situation and to really DO something. It is unreal. One has to experience the extraordinary atmosphere among the students and around the campus to really know what I am talking about. Jacobs is not just about studying and learning and profiting about all the resources we get offered. But also, and sometimes even more, about the opportunities we create for ourselves and about taking the initiative. And to help each other. In any possible way.
1st impressions of the college/campus/university?
At first, I got put into the Blue House, a very nice place, but off-campus. Arriving late, missing the O-week was not the best start and I would not recommend missing the orientation week since I heard lots of very positive stories about it. And being a student adviser myself thus helping out with the organization of this year’s O-week, I experienced how beneficial it is for students to get to know each other prior to classes. One has to bear in mind that this is not a regular university, where one just goes for studying – BUT, it is also the place where you sleep, eat and live, so a good group of friends on campus is very important. Additionally, at the start, the university seemed a little chaotic, receiving wrong keys and not very useful directions. However, despite these negatives, the university’s campus, the very friendly staff and students made me feel more than comfortable within a few days and I quickly started liking it.
What 5 adjectives describe you?
It is always very hard to describe oneself. However, during one of the sports competitions here at Jacobs, the Olympix, one of my friends painted my T-shirt. He wrote my name on the back and to every letter a corresponding adjective. So I will tell these, as they are exactly five since my name is Marja (hope you remember): Magical, Artistic, Radiant, Jubilant and Awesome. I actually think they describe me rather well, since I love live and enjoy every second, I love doing art in any form – playing music, painting, theatre, making my own clothes,… of course, I cannot say something about magical or awesome, but I would say, I am very passionate and dedicated in what I am doing.
What do you seek for in your university life?
I am trying to learn, experience and benefit from what I find here as much as I possibly can.
What do you do for relaxation/recreation?
I love playing music – I play the saxophone and the guitar, with the first one also in an on-campus band since my first semester here. Through music, I can express myself sometimes much better than through words. Thus, when I get frustrated, and I do sometimes, as of course not everything works out as one desires, I go for a jam with my friends. Additionally, I love sports and join a soccer game, just for fun, from time to time or go for a dance in the corridor with one of my fellow physics students who is an incredible dancer. Ultimately, there is a lot one can do here, sometimes, it’s also just hanging out with my friends enjoying a cup of tea and discussion the philosophy of life.
Are you involved in any clubs or special activities?
Yes, without doing so, I don’t believe one could feel complete at JUB! I already stated several aspects of these above, but will give more detail now:
Living off-campus first made it a little bit difficult to follow up on what was going on on campus. Therefore I got involved in organizing the off-campus Olympix teams and the T-shirt painting in the Blue House.
Due to my love for music, I soon started singing in the choir J-Capella and took charge of the sopranos. As I already said above, I joined the university’s jazz band with my saxophone. Especially the last one accompanied me through my semesters and sometimes kept me from stressing out too much.
Since I was not entirely convinced with everything and felt the urge for a few changes, I also joined the student parliament, more specifically the academic affairs committee. This work has been sometimes a little frustrating, but in the end rewarding as one could experience the changes we pushed for last year already in this new semester, e.g. My first proposal that I wrote together with the committee chair was for the introduction of a fall break – and this semester, one year later, it happened!
Apart from that, I am very involved in B-a-link, a student run club for organizing social events for the Jacobs community in connection also with the community from Bremen. Especially the people in this club are an amazing bunch that are incredibly committed, really care about their surrounding and made me feel at home from the beginning.
What kinds of tips would you give to someone coming to Jacobs University from your home region?
Be prepared for “a hell lot of work”! Being organized from the start helps a lot and preparing assignments/homeworks before 8pm when you have to hand it in the next day will definitely minimize your circum-orbital rings (dark rings around the eyes), although you should be prepared to live with them for a little while… In general, just be open and do what you always wanted to do! This is your place to do it! Here you find the people, the resources, the support you need for anything! Don’t be afraid, just do it!
Is there any fun fact you wish you knew before you came to Jacobs University?
I sometimes wish I had been educated in a Romanian School, their preparation in Maths is just not fair compared to ours! (Some had total differentials in year 9! Ok, they went to competitions…. The rest only had it in year 10 ;o))
What are your expectations about yourself and the university in your remaining time here?
I hope I can pursue the way that I have been walking, running, slipping, jumping, …. on for my remaining 1.5 years. I so far enjoyed my time here and met amazing people. Furthermore I hope though, that the communication between the university committees and student committees will be strengthened and enhanced as this sometimes causes misunderstandings that then create unnecessary conflicts. However, I believe we are on a good way for that and therefore, I expect this change, hopefully soon!
Describe one memorable experience you had here on campus.
There are so many memorable experiences that I don’t know which one to choose. Maybe the night, when I received a call close to midnight from someone I did not really know that well at the time and who asked me to come over at midnight to play “Happy birthday” for his roommate on the saxophone and then join the party. Maybe the day when we did a team building event from B-a-link (the social club) in a rope garden because we received a DAAD stipend for the work we had been doing. Maybe just one of the nights in the summer that we spend on campus green playing guitar and just being happy. There’s just too much.
Tell us an important lesson or maybe an epiphany you may have during your time here.
Don’t try to do everything, but focus on the things, the studies, the people that really mean something to you. That still might be a lot, but one really needs to prioritize being at Jacobs. If one then develops a good time management, the time here can only be a success! And: don’t be afraid of anything – everything works out in the end!