I’ve completed my first semester at Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam. It’s been …
- … the first semester of studying
- … the first half year of me living on my own
- … the first half year of a new period in my life.
In this post, I want to summarize how it went to give you an insight into both student and life at HPI.
Why did I choose CompSci?
Let’s start by a short overview of what’s happened before:
At a very young age already, my father got me interested in progamming games using Scratch - I just loved the feeling of creating my very own game, I guess! Later in school, my CompSci teacher Mr. Reichelt took that spark created by my father and multiplied it into a burning fire of obsession 🔥 I just really loved how I could program a computer to help me do stuff, to have it follow your command! Mr. Reichelt deeply understood how to spark interest in his students, he’s really one of my idols when it comes to giving workshops (which I’ll get into later in this post). By a series of lucky events, I happened to be working as a software developer by the age of 16. After school, I’d go to the OrbiTeam office and work on a React-Native based app for their product BSCW. While working there, I started learning more and more about web development. I already began working on EntE in my free time, so I did quite a lot of software dev back then. And I really fell in love with it, so studying computer science was the obvious thing to do.
Why did I choose HPI?
To answer that question, let’s go back to my experience at school and what I loved about it: My school allowed me to try out and unfold myself, it didn’t hold me back. I was quite involved student representation where I organised events at my school, was elected part of the school conferences and fought for re-opening our student hall. During all of that involvation, my school was welcoming and a familial place. It was just a very enjoyable environment to be in!
So when I visited HPI for student camps, I felt right at home - it’s small, familial, the students I met were just as dedicated as myself, I fell in ❤️ with it.
While the athmosphere really sold me, big contributing factors towards my decision were the focus on applied science and soft skills, the good reputation and the great networking prospects. Also, being near Berlin is just amazing if you’re a techno music lover like me 🎵
Obviously, I’ve also considered studying at some other universities (KIT, TUM, TU Berlin). Overall, HPI was just my favourite option by far. So upon receiving my final grades, I immediately submitted my application.
So I was admitted to HPI - and then?
At some point, I received the letter that I was admitted. And so I moved to Potsdam! For the first few weeks of the maths preparation class (which is really not about maths but about getting to know your class mates) I lived in a nearby AirBnB. Then my room in the on-campus student dormitory was cleared and I moved in to my very first very own flat!
My father helped me transport all my my personal belongings from over to Potsdam and a week later, University began.
In the introductory week, there were BBQ evenings, introductory lectures and a lot of information repetition to make sure nobody misses the important stuff. Shoutout to the student representatives, who really did a great job with this!
What’s studying (at HPI) like?
While weird at first, University started feeling normal 2-3 months in. So what’s studying at HPI like?
Well, it’s hella stressful. You’ve got a lot of work to do, not only with class work! Besides that, there’s a lot of social uni stuff going that just takes its time. I regularly spend 70 hours a week on university stuff, but - while very straining - that’s okay. It’s okay because I spend time doing what I love, and I get to spend it together with incredibly inspiring classmates. Every single one of them is amazing in their own way - there’s a professional-grade tabletennis player, lots of young entrepreneurs, people who biked across Asia, people who won 2nd place for “Fastes Programmer in the EU”, and lots more. It’s just amazing to be part of such a great community, to be in such an environment.
At the time of finishing this post, the second semester just started. This semster, I decided to take one less class - so let’s see how that turns out! 😄
Well, my Maths class was kind of interesting, “Modelling and Formalisms” was great and Algoriddles (a fun introduction to theoretical problem solving) was amazing; but formal education really wasn’t the most exciting stuff this semester.
The really exciting stuff happened outside of lecture halls: I helped organize “CodeNight”, which is a Hackathon for school students from all over Germany. I got to give multiple talks and workshops there, my favourite one was on the differences between static and dynamic typing in programming languages. Also, I became head of the HPI ballroom dancing club, where me and another student gave dancing classes each week, which is a lot of fun! At the start of the semester, I got to volunteer at the GoTo;-Conference, which you may know from YouTube-Videos. Seeing talks from people like Sam Newman and randomly eating lunch with people like Sam Aaron (Creator of Sonic PI) really was an amazing experience.
Beginning with the start of 2020, EntE became more serious. Local accelerator Potsdam Transfer really got me into working on the business side of things, and I learned a lot about building a business. Let’s see how that turns out! 🦆
HPI turned 20 years old in October, and I got to DJ at the big festivities! It was a huge event, I was the closing act and there were around 300 guests raving to my music. People really liked and it was definitely one of my most favourite gigs so far.
Whats also new to me is going to world-level clubs. One of the reasons I wanted to live near Berlin is its vibrant club culture, and it didn’t disappoint! Especially the groovy tech-housy selection at Watergate really tickles me, but I also like the rough, minmal kind of Techno that can be heard at places like Tresor.
Living near Berlin isn’t only about clubbing, but also about politics. I’ve had a strong interest in politics since the beginning of grammar school and knew I wanted to stay involved somehow - so in the beginning of 2020 I finally decided to join Volt, which is a progressive, pan-european party. I really enjoy contributing, as you get to meet lots of different people, each interesting in their own way.
When there was time, I really enjoyed inviting friends over to cook, going to local bars (go visit 11-Line when you’re in Potsdam!) or doing stuff like boating together with friends. I didn’t really used to do that kind of stuff when I lived with my parents, so that’s new to me 😄
“Living near Berlin” is a rough understatement, actually the border between Potsdam and Berlin is 10 meters away from my home. While I tend to go to Berlin rather than Potsdam on the weekends, Potsdam really is a beautiful city. It’s green, there are lots of lakes and nature - it’s great environment to go running or cycling after uni.
Running or cycling is not the only thing I do after uni - since I live alone, I’ve got to do chores, run errands and just do all of the adult stuff. Becoming adult … that’s really two-sided, you know? On the one hand, I claim being adult - but I really don’t want to lose the ease of childhood! I guess I’ll need to figure that out along the way 😅 One thing that’s already changed is that I’ve started reading more self-development things. Taking a step backwards on my habits and becoming more thoughful about them helped me reduce stress, be more calm and balanced. One of the things I changed is that I started turning down more stuff so I can concentrate on a handful of things that actually align with my goals. Habitually giving compliments and showing appreciation to my surroundings is another thing I can recommend, as it helps you realise the skills of your mutuals and your own privilege of accompanying them.
Obviously, there’s also a few things I miss: Family, Friends from School, going cycling with my dad. But overall, taking the leap to move out has proven to be the right decision.
Life as a uni student is different from life as a school student. Not so much for education itself (the difference is not that big IMO) - but for everything else and especially your social surroundings. The freedom to do whatever you want to do, meet whoever you want to meet at any time you want, plan your day the way you want to and generally live a life to your imagination does make a pretty big difference. These freedoms force you to become self-responsible, shape a definition of yourself and grow as a person, not only in knowledge but also in character.
It’s a process I can definitely recommend.
What was your experience like when you moved out from home?
Did you like it immediately or did you need some time to get used to it?
Feel free to tell your story in the comments, I’d love to hear it!