Paige's Return to Deutschland!

Hallo Berlin! This blog will be a place for friends and family to get very occasional snip-its on Biggs' life in Germany.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

Recently I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about my European vacation – I mean grad school experience. The following FAQs should provide a bit of information about what I am up to. If you already know all this stuff then just skip to the bottom for some info about Amsterdam.

What are you studying?

I am doing a Masters of International Health (MSc). International Health is a new discipline that deals with factors that affect the health of all human populations - with a special focus on poverty-related health problems in low- and middle-income countries (www.internationalhealth.de). My degree will be from the Charité and Humboldt Universities in Berlin.

Why are you in Amsterdam if your university is in Berlin?

The Charité University is my home institution. In the end, I will spend about half of my class time there and the rest at other European partner institutions.

What is the structure of your program?

The program is divided into the following segments:

  1. Core Course – After the 4-month course in Berlin, I received a diploma in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
  2. Optional Modules – This is what I am currently working on. I need to accumulate 25 credits, 10 of which need to be outside of Germany. As a point of reference, a two week class will give me about 3 credits. Thus far I have finished 6 credits in Berlin and 6 credits in Amsterdam (provided I pass the test on Friday). I will accumulate the other credits at partner institutions in Brussels, Berlin, London, and Bergen, Norway. If you would like to know where I am and when, you can check out my google calendar. (This requires opening a google calendar account and typing in my name.) I will also have my status posted on this blog and facebook.
  3. Thesis – I am doing my thesis in Hungary. I did most of the research before coming to Amsterdam. I will be heading back to Hungary on Saturday for month to write like a mad woman.
  4. Work Experience – In order to receive my degree I need a year of work experience in a middle or low income country. I have 3 months from Nicaragua, 4 months from Hungary, and thus I will need to work 5 months after finishing with course work. I am open to go anywhere in the world that needs me. Really anywhere. If any of you are friends with Bill and Melinda Gates, or any other influential people in global health, tell them there is a qualified applicant looking for a job starting in mid-March.
Would you recommend this program?


I am happy with my experience thus far. If all goes according to plan, I will have managed to get a masters degree in half the time and for half the price as it would be in the US. Oh, and I also get to live in some of the most incredible places in Europe and meet people from all over the world. Yeah, that part is pretty awesome. The quality of teaching varies greatly from lecturer to lecturer. Yet, I think in the end, any shortcomings in course material will be made up for by life experience.

This program works for me but I think that most people would have a hard time following it. There is almost no advising or help from the university. You have to do everything on your own: from researching classes on the internet, applying to each institution separately, transferring money to each university, arraigning travel, finding a place to sleep in each new city, etc. You also don’t have a stable place to live for a couple of months. That can be challenging. There are, however, other international graduate schools that are more structured. Just doing a google search will pull up a few.

When will you be done?

If all goes according to plan, I will finish with course work in mid-March. Then I have five months of work experience. That would put me somewhere in August.

When are you coming home?

Hard to say. That’s why all of you should come and visit me. Actually, that’s a bit of a Hollywood invite because I don’t really have a stable home for the next couple of months. But, I do have a week off from February 10th to the 18th. If you want to come travel here, that’s a good time. I will meet you anywhere that is either warm or has good skiing.

I have a ticket to Eugene on the 9th of April. I am not sure if I will use it or not, it just depends on my work opportunities. Yet, I plan on being back in the North West at some point in August for my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. I will be home for at least a week.

How’s Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is still treating me well. The city is incredible; the architecture, the canals, the amount of old school bikes everywhere, the awesome art museums, and the high percentage of English speakers are just some of the many attractions. I have of course been studying the ugliest part of this society – prostitution. Thus, my view of Dutch people is perhaps not so rosy.

I think people are kind of lonely here. My assessment of the loneliness is based on the fact that prostitutes remark that sometimes clients come to them because these men just want someone to be nice to them. I don’t think people are mean to each other but it’s not super warm. For example, I sense that Amsterdamers are surprised to see me smiling when dancing, talking, and walking down the street. People smile here too but it’s just not super cozy.

My perceptions could also be a bit altered my weekend. I took the train to Osnabruck, Germany, to visit my friends Cora and Clemens. You might recall that Clemens was my roomie for the first month in Berlin. We spent the weekend eating spicey food, dancing, speaking Spanish and German, and catching up (with a guest appearance from our buddy Ulf). It was great. Maybe after feeling a bit of the Latin American love, anything seems a little colder.

So, that’s life around these here parts. This week I will be visiting some more museums, get a jump start on my thesis, and probably squeeze in some salsa dancing. Life is good.

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