David is 27 years old and is about to start his internship semester in Finland.

“A big plus point of the studies is definitely the family atmosphere. […] Anyone who approaches the studies seriously and wants to see it through will certainly not be let down. It is simply a special study program. […] I can only warmly recommend the study program, especially to people who like technology and want to work innovatively. It’s just a super thing.”

Where are you from? Did you move here specifically to study?

I’m actually from Austria and was also born there. My parents are both Croatian, so accordingly I am also a Croatian. I actually moved to Munich especially for my studies.

You have your own apartment in Munich now?

Yes, I got a place in a student dormitory in the Olympiadorf and I really like it there.

How did you get the place in the dormitory?

Actually, it all went through the study program. It worked out great, because I live so far away, my professor told me that there was a contingent of dorm places especially for our program. All I had to do was find out from our contact person, Nina Kohr, and she took care of everything. This means that all students are well covered thanks to the study program, should they not be able to find a place to live.

What semester are you in? How long do you have ahead of you?

I am just finishing my 4th semester. And I still have three semesters to go until I graduate with my bachelor’s degree. After that, I definitely want to do a master’s degree. So another three semesters.

 Does that mean that the internship semester is next on the agenda for you?

That’s right. I’m going to Finland. But first I’m going to work for my company for another month, since they also made it possible for me to study. In Finland I will do my actual internship, which came about through the help of my current company. I will be in the same group there, so I also got contact information for placement from my current company. After an interview, both sides were enthusiastic. Now everything is settled and I will be working there on a project involving the rebuild of one of your paper machines. With the help of a simulation program, the machine is to be rebuilt and then a bottleneck analysis is to be carried out on the basis of this model, and I will also be actively involved in production.

How long will you be in Finland?

I will be there for exactly six months. It will be exciting.

What did you do before you started your studies?

I did my apprenticeship as a paper technician at the same company where I still work. I worked there full-time for two years, so I actually stood at the paper machine as well. After the open day at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, however, I decided to do another degree. First, however, I had to get my university entrance qualification. I received a lot of help from my current professor and from Ms. Kohr. I was then recommended the following site: www.anabin.kmk.org. Through this I was able to find out how I could get my university entrance qualification. I then took these university entrance exams in Austria.

How did the study permit work?

Well I didn’t take any additional training, but I could have taken additional courses, they would have cost extra. Since I went to a school in my school years that would have ended with a Matura (Abitur in German), I decided against additional courses. So I chose self-study and took all the exams within two years to get my university entrance qualification. However, one could have taken the exams within three months. The university entrance qualification exam can be taken by anyone who has an education.

How did you get the idea to study paper and biofiber process engineering?

I came to paper technology through a relative who works in a paper mill. After I had my apprenticeship, it was obvious that I would hear about the possibility of studying. This is available in Munich and in Graz. However, I was leaning towards Munich from the start because the university has a reputation for being very practice-oriented and the connection to industry is always maintained. In fact, I live right in the middle of the two cities. At the latest after the open day at the university, I was convinced to study here and all doubts were followed. Because I wanted to deepen my knowledge in this direction and studying here was exactly the right thing for me. Even during my vocational training, I found it very easy and felt the urge to learn and question even more.

What appealed to you about the course?

The practical relevance and the small pilot paper machine.

So the course is very practice-oriented. What do you mean by that?

We do a lot of excursions when it’s not Corona. So you are directly in the industry and can look at different examples. In the third and fourth semesters, we had a lot of internships. In the first semesters it was still a bit more theoretical because of all the engineering. As time goes on, it becomes more and more practice-oriented. From the beginning, there are paper-specific subjects. It also quickly goes into the labs, where you put all the theory into practice, try it out and experiment. That means there are lots of internships and many opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge in practice, as well as many field trips.

Did your training give you more experience than the others?

No. To some extent, you already know certain things. But it is still a course of study and you learn to think and reason in a completely different way. You don’t learn to question things in depth during your training; you learn the basics. You master the basics well, but the depth and the real understanding comes from your studies.

What moves you to do a master’s degree after your bachelor’s?

 I just think that after seven semesters, three additional semesters are not really extra work. After the six years I spent training and working, these three semesters are a piece of cake. You also have more options for your future career. It definitely pays off and I would recommend it to anyone doing a bachelor’s degree. For me, it’s not an option, because you can do almost everything in one go.

The master’s program is mostly in English, what do you think about that?

I think that’s really good. But that’s also one of the reasons why I really wanted to go to Finland. So that I can finally get into English a bit more. I think that my English is relatively good, that is, it was. But if you don’t use it for a long time, it rusts a bit. I really want to brush up on that in Finland. Because when I was at school I had really good and intensive English lessons, which unfortunately were not so intensive anymore during my education. That’s why English has fallen by the wayside for me lately.

What are your plans after graduation?

Well, the current plan is to return to my company, where I also did my training. It is still open what I will do in the company. We’ve talked about it roughly, but that will depend on where I see my focus. Whether it’s in research, production or at a management level is all still open. It’s also possible that I’ll be employed throughout the Group and go abroad. In any case, I’m open to everything. 

Did you like your studies from the start? Were there any obstacles?

 I really like my job, so I didn’t really have a hard time starting my studies. Of course, it was a big adjustment to go from working life back to student life. Being liked from the start is a bit difficult. All the engineering courses are a bit of an obstacle. Of course, you have to get through them first and fight your way through a bit if you don’t have much previous experience. But once you get through it, it gets more and more interesting and specific from semester to semester. Accordingly, the interest increases. Then you really take the studies to your heart. The Aktivitas, an association of students in the program, makes it easier to get started.

Have you been active in the Aktivitas from the beginning?

Yes, after they introduced themselves in the first semester, I was involved. In the beginning I was just a regular member and now I am the paper secretary. We help with the organization and always divide the work that is due. In addition, we sometimes contact the companies to organize the company presentations.

Do you do any other voluntary work?

At home in Austria I am deputy chairman for the Croatian cultural association. Although the work is somewhat neglected by me at the moment. We make events and celebrations for the integration and the preservation of the culture. Our main task is that we take the Croatians and Croatian women well and the culture of the folklore and the folk songs can be passed on to the younger generations, so that they also have a place where they can live out the whole thing. Integration is a top priority, and we often hold events with the city of Linz in this regard. My job is to lead and organize meetings and sessions. You always have a lot to do as a member of the association.

What is your favorite subject in your studies?

I have to admit that I don’t have a favorite subject. For the reason that I actually really like all the paper specific subjects. I like most the subjects that are useful to me and I realize every time that every subject is useful. Even the mentioned engineering methods from the first two semesters. Accordingly, I can’t name an explicit favorite subject now. Of course, the internships are great because, especially now at Corona times, you see your fellow students again and can exchange ideas a bit. You also attend practical events.

How do you organize your studies?

I am a very spontaneous person. If I have something to do, I do it. If it’s important, I try to put it off as little as possible. It’s very important for me not to put off exams and, if it’s important, to study and take the exams on time.

What do you find more difficult about studying than when you were at school?

It’s harder in the sense that you’re not driven by anyone in your studies. You have to learn on your own and take responsibility, but you have a lot of freedom. These freedoms can also be negative at times, for people who are a bit lax. Then you have to be behind it and overcome your own stubbornness and sit down and do what needs to be done.

What does success mean to you?

On a professional level, it’s the degree of independence. So the more independent you are from your boss or the like, or the fewer people above you, the more success you have. But if I look at it in general, you have success when you are happy with what you do and you do it every day. So you get up with a smile and you go to bed with a smile on your face.

What are your impressions of studying?

 Oh my God When it started with the engineering methods and computer science, I thought at first that it was already a lot and that it would never be anything. But that quickly subsided. It’s actually not as bad as you think at the beginning, it’s all doable. Especially if you’re really here to do what you want. If you really want to study, then you can do it. Then the drive is there and if you study a little bit and make an effort, you’ll get there.

Does that mean gritting your teeth at the beginning and then it gets really good?

 Absolutely. It gets better and better every week.

To whom would you recommend this course of study?

You should have a certain preference for technology and want to do something innovative. But the course is also sustainable and relatively environmentally conscious, because now you’re also switching a lot to paper packaging so you can get away from plastic. The paper industry is definitely a good pioneer there. The production process is also becoming more and more important, and they’re already doing well in terms of the use of raw materials and resources. I would definitely recommend the course to anyone who has already completed an apprenticeship and wants to continue their education. I can only pass this on. It is something special where you can help shape the future in the long term. They take care that the paper, the raw material from which the packaging is made, is biodegradable and compostable.

Who or what is your point of contact for questions?

 Primarily to the fellow students from the Aktivitas. If there are organizational questions, I turn to Nina Kohr. But it is also the case that the professors are always there to help and advise. The contact persons are spread all over the university and you can turn to anyone. We all have regular contact with our professors and get our questions answered very quickly. So it’s a very personal study program and you also have personal contact with the professors. That’s one thing that makes the program special. There is no explicit contact person, but you have the possibility to get in touch with all students, even from higher semesters.

Does that mean that the program is very informal?

Absolutely. Through the Aktivitas we are also networked with the higher semesters. That means through all semesters. As soon as a freshman is welcomed, he already knows many students from higher semesters and doctoral students at the freshman event. This is a great advantage, where you can exchange all the experiences of your studies. When fellow students from higher semesters tell you that it can be done, it makes it easier. At the beginning, you might feel a bit alone, but the Aktivitas immediately creates a family atmosphere and you feel more comfortable and in good hands. Accordingly, studying is a lot easier.

What do you do in your free time?

 I love to be out and about with friends and family. I do all kinds of things with them. From sports, to drinking coffee, to going to the movies, to short vacations. The main thing is to be with friends or family.

How often do you go home?

In the beginning it was very often, I went home almost every weekend. But that became less and less over time. Now, unfortunately, because of Corona, it’s more again. I had to be at home all the time because it was easier financially. But as soon as the internships started again, I was back in Munich all the time. I kept my place in a student dormitory despite Corona, I was given the tip before I started not to simply give up a good apartment in Munich. I followed this tip.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

A big plus of the studies is definitely the family atmosphere and you are supported by everyone. Anyone who is serious about studying and wants to see it through will certainly not be let down, neither by the professors nor by the other fellow students. So the support is there in any case and even if you have problems, there are enough professors who are available with advice and support. It is simply a special study program, and the family atmosphere is accordingly. I can only warmly recommend the program, especially to people who like technology and want to work innovatively. It is simply a super thing.