Who can better tell about a place to live, its atmosphere, and must-dos for researchers than our researchers themselves? We've collected a series of stories for you and hope you feel inspired.
I have been a PhD student at the University of Augsburg since October 2018. Starting out here was relatively easy because the University's Welcome Service was there to get me settled in. My only challenge was how to get around in Augsburg. I only knew one landmark, and that was the main train station. I did not know the route to my institute nor even to any of the closest grocery stores. I relied entirely on Google Maps to get around the city.
One day, I forgot to charge my phone, and yes, the inevitable happened. Halfway into my 7 km bike ride home from the institute, my phone blacked out. I had two options: either to continue riding until I somehow miraculously found my way to the apartment; or speak some German and ask for directions to the main city center. I thought to myself that the former option would be a huge gamble, and therefore decided to ask a random rider, as we waited for the traffic lights to turn green.
Ecstatically, the stranger I approached for directions was very kind. She immediately switched to English upon noticing that my German was not that polished. She offered to lead me to the city center despite the fact that it was neither her final destination nor a gateway to her preferred destination. This whole experience was quite humbling, and if there is one thing that I can say to an international researcher contemplating moving to Augsburg, I think it would be: just buy heavy clothes for winter, pack your suitcases and move here. Why? Because the university Welcome Service will surely have your back, and the generous Augsburgers will make you fall in love with this historical city.
The Isar River, whose waters flow from the Alpine region of Tirol in Austria, has long served as a major attraction in Munich. The river offers visitors and local inhabitants a variety of recreational opportunities. It was my favorite haunt during my summer stay in Munich in 2018.
On a sunny day, I often wandered down to the river and sprawled out on the grass. There, I would enjoy the peace and breeze, watch the water rush downstream, and listen to the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves.
The Isar is an ideal place for picnicking, sipping on a beer or enjoying reading a book with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s common to see people playing sports or walking their dogs. Some even like to take a dip in the river.
Swimmers and surfers all thoroughly enjoy the Isar. In the Eisbach, a stretch of the river that runs directly through the Englischer Garten, there is a “permanent” wave that allows for some pretty radical river surfing. Can you think of any other big city that offers surfing in the heart of it?
I went to Bamberg for the first time in early spring. I came for my interview for the position of an early-stage researcher in the GLOMO project. It was one of the best trips of my life. I got the job, and I fell immediately in love with the city of Bamberg, its nature, architecture, and ambience.
Bamberg is an old town—awarded with the UNESCO World Heritage title in 1993. It is famous for its spectacular old Town Hall which is standing in the middle of the Regnitz River. For me, this building represents the particular atmosphere in Bamberg—celebrating culture while at the same time being embraced by nature.
My first excursion was a walk along the Regnitz River. It was so calm, refreshing, and relaxing that it quickly became my most favorite walk until now.
The GLOMO project requires the regular mobility of early stage researchers, so we had colleagues visiting us during the pandemic. They were impressed how safe Bamberg is, and that we were able to enjoy going for a walk into the forest in spite of the presence of COVID-19.
Today it has been three years since I started working in academia. At the beginning, the thought of balancing family life with a research career seemed like a mammoth task. My daughter was only one year and eight months old at that time. With my family living in Pakistan, I could not count on the usual support from my family. Furthermore, it was difficult to delegate the fundamental job of being a mother.
However, the support and understanding of my colleagues have made all the difference. I have also been very fortunate with the family friendly facilities offered by the university. Thanks to the help of FAU’s family service I got a place in a nearby day-nursery (Kinderkrippe) very quickly.
During summer, when all kindergartens are closed, the family service organizes a special service to provide an alternative option for researchers. And when you’re on a conference, they help you find a babysitter to take care of your child.
Last year my daughter got sick and I had to stay in hospital with her for two weeks. My professor and the secretary of our department took the time to explain which support is usually provided by FAU and the German healthcare system in this situation, like working from home and paid sick leaves. The back-up of my research group is a great experience. Thanks to the comprehensive support at university, I am able to combine my family life and academic career.
I enjoy the city of Regensburg a lot. Especially since our little daughter started to discover playgrounds and parks. There are so many! And so clean! Wherever you go, you can rest assured, public spaces are very clean. It feels so safe to let our little darling play. People here care a lot about the public space —and spend a lot of time there doing a plethora of interesting activities. Amazing! I’ve been wondering, what could be the origin of this cleanliness and order and perhaps the secret lies in following the rules.
Ever since I came to Germany, I saw that German people are people of rules. There are rules on everything and people seem to enjoy following them. From my point of view, it is an admirable trait. But sometimes it can lead to funny situations, just like this one with my socks.
In the first week I came to the university, my colleagues were telling me „Hey Ivan, you’ve got two different socks on!“ I explained to them that I was doing it on purpose and that I like to choose the same kind of socks, but in different colors. It makes life less serious. Over time, people got somehow used to that and understood my rules for sock selection. One day I was waking up early in the dark and I took two identical socks by accident. That day, three people stopped me and pointed out that my socks were the same! Isn’t it hilarious how people immediately spotted that I broke my own rule and warned me?!
I love science communication (SciComm) and have been doing it consistently for the last three years. In Freising, there are monthly SciComm events organized by the Technical University of Munich, but they are in German. For people like me, who are not fluent inGerman yet, these events are not accessible. So it was clear what I had to do: create my own SciComm event in Freising!
I was familiar with the format of Pint of Science, a world-wide SciComm organization that aims at bringing scientists to common places such as pubs to talk about their research in an everyday language. The Pint of Science Central Team was very receptive to my idea. Like many events in 2020, Pint of Science had to be moved to an online format because of the pandemic. Our small team in Freising could bring six enthusiastic PhD students candidates from the fields of Astronomy, Phytopathology and Ecology to the event. The talks were great and well attended. The discussions afterwards were very interesting, and the audience participated actively. Organizing the event was a great opportunity for me meet new people and make new friends. Our next event will be a get-together to finally meet each other in person. I am looking forward to Pint of Science 2021!
Since my childhood, I have loved birds. Soon after I have arrived in Bamberg to do my PhD, I realized the diversity of bird species in the city. Two of my favorite places in Bamberg to watch and enjoy the different birds are the lakes in Hainpark, and in the park of Schloss Seehof. The diversity of the birds in Bamberg pushed me to learn what became my favorite hobby: bird photography.
The light shines red. A red so bright you can almost hear it because there is neither a car nor bicycle in sight. A small crowd waits for red to turn green.
I’m not in that crowd. I’ve already crossed the street. It is my inheritance from growing up in one of North America’s largest cities and a culture that is consistently five minutes late. An inheritance that eight years of living in Bavaria cannot break.
In Munich, jaywalking—the art of crossing the street when the red light tells you not to—is relatively uncommon. Not impossible, but rare. Even late at night, when it is easier to find a bar than it is a driver, some pedestrians still stand at empty intersections waiting for green.
The origins of the term “jaywalking” trace back to early twentieth-century Kansas. What began as a jay-driver, a description of unruly automobiles and horse-drawn carriages barreling down the wrong side of the road, became shorthand for those with poor “sidewalk etiquette.” Now jaywalker includes both cautious street-crossers and rebels who wish to play cat and mouse with cars.
Despite considering myself of the cautious variety, it was only in Munich that I realized I am a jaywalker at all. In cities where jaywalking is the norm it goes unnoticed. Here, it sticks out. And so although I risk a fine, or worse yet, stink-eye from the patient pedestrians waiting for green, I can’t help but walk ahead. A reminder that learning the rules is one thing, and learning to follow them another.