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Please tell us about yourself

Pallavi Kanchan is 23 years old. She comes from Chennai in southern India and is pursuing her Master of Science in “Smart Systems” at the University of Applied Sciences in Furtwangen.

Why did you decide to get your master’s degree in Germany? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

After I got my bachelor’s in “Electronics and Instrumentation” in India (Anna University, Guindy College of Engineering), I wanted to do my master’s abroad. I looked at a lot of master’s programmes around the world, and finally decided for Germany – mainly because of the low tuition fees. Germany is also a centre of technology, particularly in the field of engineering. Many companies have headquarters here which means there are more internships available and better chances of getting hired later on.

Why did you decide to study in Furtwangen?

To be honest, I was only looking for interesting master’s programmes in the beginning. I decided to come to Furtwangen only because of the degree programme. After they accepted me, I started looking at where the city was located and realised how small Furtwangen really is.

What is the Smart Systems programme?

Smart systems are devices that collect information over sensors, make independent decisions based upon this information, then act upon it accordingly. Security aspects, reliability, miniaturisation, energy consumption and intelligent data processing, all play a critical role. To find successful solutions, it is therefore necessary to consider the smart system and its environment as a whole (systems strategy). Early developments were systems which make independent decisions regarding maintenance, networks which independently select communication modes, and intelligent reactions to sensor data such as automatic windscreen wiper control and dimming mechanisms in the automotive sector.

The Smart Systems degree programme equips students with the knowledge and skills required in this interdisciplinary field, with specializations offered in computer science, electrical engineering and physical technology. To successfully conceive, design, simulate, programme, produce, test and maintain smart systems, a solid grounding in several of the areas involved is essential. Successful solutions depend on applying the correct strategies in any given area of expertise.

This graduate programme was conceived especially for students with degrees in Electrical Engineering or in Computer Engineering or others degree with a mechanical orientation. It is also suitable for foreign students with an undergraduate degree. For this reason, the majority of courses are conducted in English. After successfully completing two semesters of study and an additional thesis semester, graduates will be awarded an MSc degree in Smart Systems which is recognized internationally. This qualification offers graduates broad career opportunities due to rapid globalization in all business sectors.

How did you prepare for your stay in Germany?

I contacted other students on Facebook. There are many Indians who study here, but also other students from abroad, especially from Turkey and Africa. By contacting students who were already here, I received lots of helpful advice and could prepare well for my time in Germany. Of course, it wasn’t easy in the beginning. I come from one of the biggest cities in India, and Furtwangen only has 10,000 inhabitants.

How were your first days in Furtwangen?

I liked Furtwangen as soon as I got here. Sure, it’s a small town, but Furtwangen is a university town. It’s very easy to meet people and find support. The biggest challenge was getting to Furtwangenfrom the Frankfurt airport. Furtwangen doesn’t have a train station, so I first had to take the train to Freiburg and then get on a bus. At the big stations, no one had even heard of Furtwangen, but lots of people helped me anyway. When we finally arrived, we were picked up by the staff of the International Center. We received a “Welcome Package” with food and some other practical items. Then they showed us to our rooms. That was really helpful after such a long trip. The International Center also assigned each of us a buddy, so we always have someone from Germany who can answer our questions.

Did you learn German before you came to Germany?

I started learning German one year before I began my master’s programme. The German courses here at the university are free, so I’m still learning. Lots of people in Furtwangen prefer to speak German over English – so it’s good practice. Some people speak in dialect which I don’t understand all that well.

Would you recommend Furtwangen to other students?

Absolutely! Furtwangen is quiet and clean. There are places to relax everywhere. Here you can study in the middle of nature surrounded by mountains, fields and forests. There’s not much to distract you. The facilities at the university are very well equipped. And there are not too many students which means we are all well supervised and have a personal connection to our professors.

Do you have any good advice for students coming to Furtwangen?

Bring winter clothes with you! It can get very cold in the Black Forest. And you shouldn’t come to Furtwangen with overly high expectations. There’s no cinema here and not very many pubs. But there are a lot of nice people with whom you can have a great time. Be open to meeting people and try learning German before you get here.