My Academic Career (So Far…)

I mentioned my graduate studies so often in the blog now, especially during the last few weeks, when my posts mostly consisted of “OMG I won’t manage to write a decent paper” thoughts. Which made me think that maybe I should finally write a post what this is all about. Or maybe I shouldn’t, but I will anyway, because I just feel like doing it. If you’r not interested in my academic career (and the current status of it), you should skip reading further… :-)

In 2001 I got my first academic degree in “Urban & Regional Planning”. I never worked in that field though. I couldn’t find a job after I graduated, and as I always was interested in Green politics, I did an internship at the Greens Parliamentary Group in the state parliament and since then have been working for the Green Party on different levels and in different functions. As I am also involved in Green politics on a local level (member of town council) I know that I don’t want to work “in Politics” as well for the rest of my life because that’s just a lot of politics to deal with all day on every day. I once did an internship at consumer organzisation and I really liked their line of work: consulting, education, campaiging and lobbying (which deals with poltics as well, but from a different angle). I’d love to work in this field of enviromental or consumerism education / consulting / campaigning, but I also know that my degree and my work experience don’t necessarily qualify me for that.

That’s why I always wanted to go back to school and get a degree which qualifies me for that line of work. But I also knew that I couldn’t afford to go back to school full-time for a campus-based program. Neither did I want to, because I actually enjoy earning my own money and be able to support myself. In 2002 I found a distant education program of “Enviromental Science” at the University of Rostock and I took two courses until I realized that the curriculum just wasn’t what I had hoped it was. Plus I was without a job for a while and didn’t have the funds to keep studying, even if I had wanted to.
I always stayed informed about the various (old and new) distant education enviromental programs here in Germany and actually already years ago choosen one, I’d like to do. When I finally was in a financially situation that allowed to think about spending money on further education I enrolled in April of 2007. I’m studying “Enviromental Science” [site only in german] at the Fernuni Hagen [english site], which is the only state-maintained distance teaching university in Germany and established for more thant 30 years now. This enviromental science graduate program is a very specific one which allows for a lot of flexibilty. Sometimes maybe too much flexibility for me :-) But with my mom being really really sick twice within the last two years I have an apology for letting my studies slide for a while in between.

But I actually like the flexibility this program is providing. There are now real terms and you don’t have to take courses in a specific order or to start a course at a speficic date/time of the year. You can start studying all year round and you can take a course all year round. As soon as you enroll in a course you have six months to work through the study units, which you will get as printed versions via mail but also as pdf files online. Not later than six months after enrolling in a course you have to request the assignment for that course and you have another six months to finish your assignment. I realize that using “term paper” all this time wasn’t the best choice of words, because there actually are no terms. Well there are terms for administrative reasons and the basic tuitions fees, but besides that you have to keep track of your six-months-periods by yourself. You also only pay for every single course you take when you enroll in it. I think it still helps to follow the usual academic schedule (April – September / October – March).
And of course you shouldn’t need 2×6 months to complete a course, but instead do it much faster, preferably within a term of six months. it’s adviced to take 4 courses each “term” and complete the program within two years. Which wasn’t my plan at all, because I can’t afford to pay for 4 courses at once, my plan was to take 2-3 each “term” and to complete the program within 3 years. It will probably be more like 3,5 years in my case now but that’s ok as well :-)

There are mandatory 2-day seminars in some courses, which is always a nice opportunity to meet fellow students and to discuss and talk and exchange information and experiences. You also get a list of fellow students of your course and you can contact them if you have questions and there are message boards and all that kind of stuff. I have to admit that I did most of my studying on my own though, because I’m better learning and working on my own schedule. Except for the Energy 1 course where it really helped to exchange information and help online with some fellow students. The study units sucked for that course…

To get the degree I have to complete 11 courses (10 written assingments + 1 presentation at a seminar), write a small research paper and a final thesis. The courses are either from “Law, Social and Business Sciences”, “Natural and Engineering Science” and “Multidisciplinary Topics” and I have to take 3 of each field and 2 more, which I can choose from any field. Like I said it’s pretty flexible and as a student you need to have rather clear idea of what line of work you want to work in later. Or maybe you already work in a special field and just want to get more qualified for that.

Anyway my personal curriculum consists of the following (including the course numbers, just for my further reference). And I’m too lazy now to link to the german website for each course. so I only include the link for the complete courses offered. The Grades are according to the ETCS scale.

Law, Social and Business Sciences

  • 10 Enviromental Law (completed, Grade: A)
  • 09 Enviromental Education & Local Agenda 21 (enrolled, going to fail, have to repeat)
  • 08 Enviromental Psychology & Enviromental Awarness (enrolled on April 29th)
  • 11 Mediation in Enviromental Conflicts

I should have taken the Psychology course before the Education course, because that might have made it easier to understand some of the issues of the assignment. I wanted to take it anyway, so I enrolled now in hopes that the study units will help me with the paper for the Education course.

Natural and Engineering Sciences

  • 14 Energy 1 (energy industry, energy supply, energy conversion (completed, Grade: D)
  • 15 Energy 2 (renewable energy, system of power supplies (completed, Grade: B)
  • 17 Water and Waste

We were told we had to take the Energy 1 course to be able to complete Energy 2, which was bullsh*t, because I could handle the second one just fine without all the stuff about energy conversion. Unfortunately I enrolled in both courses at onces, so I had to complete the first one. Which I did barely.

Multidisciplinary Topics

  • 22 Introduction to Enviromental Science [the only mandatory course] (completed, Grade: C)
  • 24 Climate Change (completed, Grade: C)
  • 26 Mobility (completed, handed in paper on April 19th)
  • 30 Health

In “Climate Change” I missed a B with just 2 points, which sucked! I’m planning to give the speech in “Health” because it’s the last mandatory seminar I have to attend, so I basically have to give it then. There might also be a seminar for course 11 (Mediation) but that depends on how many students enroll in in it.

So yet I’ve got a 1 D, 2 C’s, 2 B’s and 1 A. I guess that explains why I didn’t want to hand in a only mediocre paper for course 09. I need want to get some more B’s or better. And maybe posting my curriculum and grades and aspiration here online, will give me the motivation and pressure I need to do better in the future :-)

3 Comments

  1. Hej, so you actually recommend the FernUni Hagen? I’m still a regular student at a German University and in no financial position at all to pay for distant education but I would love to obtain another degree one day… are classes in German or English?

  2. Classes are in German only. I guess a recommendation depends on the program and the respective staff. I can’t complain about mine, but I know that’s different in other programs.

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