September 29, 2010

Questions From a Student #1

In the course of my studies, I've come across some questions which I've thought about a lot but never really asked openly. Now, starting the final year of my university studies, I finally want to share some of my thoughts especially with those of you who still have some semesters to go. This blog entry is just the first one of a loose series of such questions. Some of them might be more or less rhetorical but better decide on your own. Anyway, I'd love to read your opinion on that.

Do I have to attend each exam and really try to pass it or is it okay to skip the original exam and just attend the resit?
I only attended one resit because I had failed to pass my first ever exam at FU Berlin in Experimental Physics I by 4% in January 2008. However, I've learned my lesson and since then I've passed all exams on first try. But, there are many fellow students who almost celebrate skipping exams and instead attending resits. Sometimes I really wonder why. Well, let's elaborate this together.

Is it because of too much stress?

I still remember one year ago in my second year of studies, I attended about ten exams each semester. At the end of my third semester, I even had to write five 90-minute exams in three days. I don't say that so many exams within less than a week are great but life ain't no bed of roses! Instead of complaining, I scheduled my time for preparing for each exam and even though sometimes this meant less than one day of learning for an exam, I don't regret that decision because whenever I had learned well for an exam, I also passed it with a good result or even better.

Or is it because of fear of taking chances or even because of laziness?

It sounds harsh but in my eyes that's the reason. You definitely have to see an exam as what is really is. Of course it's the final hurdle to pass a course but it also is your chance to show that you've learned and worked well over the last semester. Is that an idea to be afraid of? For me, this really is a motivating factor. I'm always eager to show that I've worked well and learned a lot. And I'm also eager to prove that I belong to the best of my field of studies.

I really encourage those of you who will have to attend exams in future to belief in yourself and your skills. If you fail to pass an exam you still have the resit as a backup but if you don't even prepare and try to pass it you already have failed before you write your name on your sheet of paper. You won't improve without being eager to improve. Nobody is born as an expert. The experts of tomorrow are made through hard work. That's the price we have to pay to achieve our goals.

September 11, 2010

From Sky to Sea

It's actually semester break but I spent twelve awesome days on two field trips to Bavaria and Lower Saxony to finalize my bachelor studies.

On the first field trip, I went to a region in the east of Bavaria called Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz) with six other geophysics students of Freie Universitaet Berlin to conduct geomagnetic, gravimetric, geoelectric and self-potential measurements. Unfortunately, we didn't do any seismics but it still was an interesting week in the hilly countryside of Upper Palatinate.

hilly Upper Palatinate countryside with the Parkstein basalt outcrop the background

Even though Upper Palatinate is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Germany, you might have heard of it before because of the German Continental Deep Drilling Program KTB which has its drilling site close to the small town of Windischeschenbach. The 83 m tall drill rig is a real landmark.

KTB drilling site near Windischeschenbach

The second field trip was all about Germany's petroleum industry which is mainly based in Lower Saxony. I was really excited about this trip because I make no secret of my ambition to work in the petroleum industry.

Coming from Bavaria with a stopover in Berlin to pick up the other students, I spent nearly 870 km on German highways heading to Cuxhaven. But all this was compensated at the same day because I arrived right on time at the North Sea for a wonderful sunset on the beach.

sunset over the North Sea

Duhnen beach near Cuxhaven during ebb tide

On the next day, the majority of our group visited the artificial island Mittelplate which holds a RWE Dea drilling and production facility of the same name. Unfortunately, RWE Dea only allowed ten people to participate. So, our professor, three other students and I visited the German island of Heligoland instead. And to be honest, I really don't regret that decision because it was a lovely day. Heligoland is not only a tourist destination but also a great playground for geologists because it holds Northern Germany's largest outcrop showing Bundsandstein (Lower Triassic sandstones) lying on top of a Permian Zechstein salt diapir.

Buntsandstein outcrop on Heligoland

famous stack Lange Anna on Heligoland

My next stop was the RWE Dea onshore drilling site Boestlingen Z2 at the rim of the NATO Bergen-Hohne Training Area. It's so close to the military training area that I could hear the impacts of some tank missiles.

Boestlingen Z2 drill rig

I also took some photos of the blowout preventer at the bottom of the 62 m tall drilling rig. A BOP is a system of valves used to control the borehole and prevent uncontrolled flow (called kicks). Such a kick caused the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon had a similar one, just way bigger and stronger but it failed to block the gas kick from reaching the rig.

 blowout preventer at drilling site Boestlingen Z2

I also visited the Baker Hughes Research & Maintenance Facility in Celle, the ExxonMobil Production Germany headquarters in Hanover and the ExxonMobil Core Repository in the middle of nowhere between Celle and Hanover but I can't show you any photos of these because I wasn't allowed to take any. Nonetheless, all these stops were quite interesting because the manpower, the technical expertise and the budget of these companies is mind-blowing.

Now, I’m back from field work and just like every time I return to Berlin, the city appears to be really hectic and loud. It's just like a huge organism I need to get used to again. Nevertheless, I appreciate being home again.