I caught up with Hermann via a video call and, apart from his attendance at Western Sydney University, Australia, I knew nothing about him. By the end of our conversation, I was astonished at how much he has already managed to fit into his 22 years. I asked him about his current studies.
“I’m currently at the University of Applied Sciences in Ulm, southern Germany. I study International Energy Economics, which is an engineering study program and, as the name suggests, it’s basically a combination of three specific subject fields: Computer Science (data analytics, mostly), Energy Engineering and Business Studies related to the energy sector. I did my semester abroad during my sixth semester and now I’m in my seventh semester and writing my thesis, with graduation in my bachelor’s degree in March.”
Switching gears (to power them up)
Hermann’s enthusiasm for his chosen study field was striking and I wondered what took him in this direction and whether he had considered other routes? It was only towards the end of his high school studies that he chose the energy sector, making a big shift from his previous plans.
“At the very beginning I just wanted to become a banker; you could say I was just after the money! But then a visiting professor from The Biberach University of Applied Sciences delivered a presentation in my school about renewable energy sources, sustainability and how we can protect the environment and he took my home region as an example for that. It changed everything.
At the very beginning, I just wanted to become a banker. You could say I was just after the money! I think I was only two or three weeks from my final exams when I switched.
I’m from a town that’s really close to nature: five minutes by bike and you’re outside in the forest or you can go swimming in the lake. I realised that he was right: we have beautiful landscapes here, close to the Alps, close to Lake Constance. It’s really beautiful. It’s green. You have so much nature. And, because of that, I had a beautiful childhood. His presentation reinforced for me the importance of protecting all that rather than running off to chase the money – and, actually, doing something fulfilling as well. So his presentation had a huge influence on my subsequent choice and a last-minute influence. I think I was only two or three weeks from my final exams when I switched. I was about to enter a programme offered by Deutsche Bank but that persuasive and inspiring talk made me change my mind.”
Rebooting the future with a degree in International Energy Economics
I wondered if it was easy to change track at such a late hour, and whether Hermann would have studied the right subjects?
“There are plenty of opportunities related to the energy sector in Germany and you study all the core subjects right through high school, so there was no problem for me to change direction completely. In Ulm, we have almost 20,000 students in the combined universities. I’m in the University of Applied Science which is actually famous for computer science in general but is also focusing on the energy sector and, in particular, on renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, energy management and health science.
I see a lot of potential in the energy sector, especially in Europe where we are trying to reduce our CO2 emissions, to focus on renewable energy sources and really change the structure: how we generate electricity or produce energy in general. There’s a huge transition or transformation happening now and I want to be part of the solution. So that’s why I find this such a fascinating field to work in and I think there’s a lot more we can do, a lot of potential improvement. As I said, I want to help fulfil that potential and be part of the solution to contribute to a better future.
I see a lot of potential in the energy sector, especially in Europe where we are trying to reduce our CO2 emissions, to focus on renewable energy sources and really change the structure. There’s a huge transition or transformation happening now and I want to be part of the solution.
One reason I chose Ulm relates to my sporting activities; I played soccer in my home region at a semi-professional level and it’s not that far away from my club, just 100 km. This means that I have had the option of studying during the week and then driving back home on Friday so I’m there for matches and, sometimes, during the week in order to do my training. I had my matches on Saturdays or Sundays and then I went back to university on Sunday evening ready for the week ahead.”
What role the semester in Australia played in his degree? Was it something that the university recognised and were they enthusiastic about it? And what about working while studying?
“It’s actually part of my study programme to go abroad, it represents the international component of the degree, along with the English studies; we have to do extensive English studies: starting with the third semester most of the core subjects of my study programme are only offered in English and the other component is that we actually go abroad. With regards to work, at the moment I have more time while I’m doing my thesis because I’m done with all my exams. I’m working as a Student Assistant at the International Office. The background to that is my wish to continue using my English, and since I was an international student myself, I can empathise with the internationals here; I know how it feels, how it is in a new country and some of the difficulties that causes, so I can help them.”
Since I was an international student myself, I can empathise with the internationals here. I know how it feels, how it is in a new country and some of the difficulties that causes, so I can help them.
Travelling the highways and byways looking for all things new
“There are two memories relating to my semester abroad that are really important: my Southeast Asia trip and my big trip to Australia with my friends from Germany. For the last few weeks of July during my time in Australia, I went on a trip around part of Southeast Asia. I went to Bali, Indonesia with two friends for 10 days. Afterwards one of them went back to Australia and the other one flew back home to Japan so I spent three days in Singapore exploring this beautiful city all by myself. Then I went to Thailand and met another friend from Australia over there. We were travelling for 10 days in Thailand, mostly the southern part of the country.
In all, we took in Bali, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand because to go there from Australia was relatively cheap. Then afterwards, I came back and I travelled around Australia with two friends from Germany for five weeks. Studying abroad made those experiences possible and there’s some more about it in my Western Sydney Uni profile.”
When my friends from Germany arrived, I picked them up from the international airport in Sydney and we started off exploring the city for three days.
There are two memories relating to my semester abroad that are really important. For the last few weeks of July during my time in Australia, I went on a trip around part of Southeast Asia.
Studying abroad made those experiences possible and there’s some more about it in my Western Sydney Uni profile.
After those exciting days, we took a flight to Melbourne and spent two days exploring the city. Then we hired a car and did the Great Ocean road for three full days. It was a great road trip along the coast of South Australia, and we made a lot of beautiful stops. My personal highlight, while we did the Great Ocean road, was the famous Twelve Apostles.
After our little road trip, we took the next flight to the Outback where we spent five days enjoying the stunning natural environment. We went to the Uluru (Ayers Rock) which was one of the most impressive rock formations I have ever seen in my whole life! Furthermore, since we were in the middle of nowhere with no big cities close by or any other sign of civilisation, the spangled sky was amazing. I have never seen such an impressive starlit sky in my life!
Five days later we moved on and went to Brisbane where we spent a couple of days in the city. Our next stop was Gold Coast where we went out partying with some cool people we met at the hostel. We also hired a camper van at Gold Coast where our big road trip along the east coast of Australia started. The total duration of this road trip was 14 days. Our most important stops were Byron Bay (one of my favourite places in Australia), Sunshine Coast, Fraser Island, Whitehaven Beach, Townsville and Magnetic Island, Port Douglas, and the tropic Daintree Rainforest.
Our last stop was Cairns where we returned the camper van. We spent four days in Cairns. Besides going scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef which was an incredible experience (!), we spent the others relaxing at the hostel and meeting new people. In addition, we met an old high school friend from Germany who happened to live in Cairns.
Besides going scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef which was an incredible experience (!), we spent the others relaxing at the hostel and meeting new people.
Finally, we took our return flight to Sydney where we spent a total of six more days. We spent much of the time doing coastal walks and further sightseeing. Moreover, we went hiking in the Blue Mountains. And last but not least, I used the time to say goodbye to all those great friends I made during my time in Australia.
Traveling in Asia and Australia was an amazing time not only because I saw and did so many exciting things but also because I was able to meet so many interesting and kind hearted people. This travel experience allowed me to broaden my worldview and experience new and interesting cultures. Therefore, I am really grateful that I had the chance to do it! All in all, this semester abroad is one of the best decisions I have ever made!”
This travel experience allowed me to broaden my worldview and experience new and interesting cultures.
Plans, dreams and future aspirations: what’s in the pipeline?
“Going to Australia to study for a semester changed my mindset to a certain degree; it made me realise that working abroad is something I want to do and there are many opportunities: for instance, in countries like Australia, the UK, Canada or the United States. After graduating, I’d like to do an internship at a consulting company in Germany until the end of August, and then afterwards, I would like to gain some work experience in Canada for a year. After that, to come back to Germany and do a master’s degree in engineering.”
His motivation and clear-eyed view of future potential were obvious, but I asked Hermann about some of the ideas that he thought might shape his next moves in life.
My study programme has become more and more specialised in the field of data science. What I want to do is combine my expertise from the engineering sector and from the field of renewable energy sources with modern technologies or with the field of data science because there’s a lot of potential where we can make use of that data.
“My study programme has become more and more specialised in the field of data science. What I want to do is combine my expertise from the engineering sector and from the field of renewable energy sources with modern technologies or with the field of data science because there’s a lot of potential where we can make use of that data. And through that, I want to improve the efficiency of our energy systems, leading to new and improved ways in how we produce electricity or heat. That’s the long-term goal and this would, of course, contribute to more sustainable energy generation and protect the environment. Hence, I want to be part of the solution and thus be part of working towards a better future for all of us. That’s pretty much the dream. And the goal.
I would also love to do some of these things as an entrepreneur. This would enable me to run projects and develop ideas through my own company. And ideally, by founding my own company, I can do something good for humanity – either related to the energy sector or another sector.”
I would also love to do some of these things as an entrepreneur. By founding my own company, I can do something good for humanity.
All pretty far-sighted for a 22-year-old so I had no doubt he would give a thoughtful answer to my final question: did he have any advice for somebody else starting on the journey? What if HE was going to give a presentation to those high school kids and inspire them? What would he say?
“I think the best advice I could give is that during that time in your life when you’re able to gain new knowledge, if you get to know a lot of new, interesting people you will get many opportunities – for instance, doing a semester abroad. That’s my advice: use the opportunities of university and study (which you don’t have to have in order to be happy) to go abroad and live in another country for a couple of months. If there are programmes for public speaking, or how to communicate properly or how to write a resume or CV or letter of application etc. take advantage of them. Don’t waste your time and try to make use of those opportunities today.”
Make the most of the university opportunities, study to go abroad and live in another country for a couple of months.
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