Archive for the ‘Germany’ Tag

Germany Studying Conditions

(This is a new start.  I am trying to reduce my writing lengths, but increase the posting frequency.  It’s like microblogging, but for my personal experiences traveling abroad.  It will take a little more time to make the entries meaningful, but I think it will be the highly concentrated-powder form on what matters in my career.)

 

Mini Tourag for the Carolo cup competition

Mini Tourag for the Carolo cup competition

Random Observation/Comment #182: I am very happy with the work ethic and helpfulness of the German research project system.  Although I am limited with my view with this small scale research project, I can sense a level of transparency and collaboration.  It may be premature to stamp this as a German style, but it’s definitely slightly different from the way I used to work.  My opinions actually matter?  Wait, really?  You’re going to change the way you look at the problem because I mentioned something that you’re not taking credit for?

 I hope this is a trend of working on more projects where I have somewhat more respect from seniority, rather than a regional discontinuity.  Maybe I can get used to working under these conditions…  Either way, I definitely understand the importance of management.  I feel motivated and excited to continue working even if the subject is new.  It could be the topic (practical applications of reinforcement learning), my desire to find a career focus, or a list of many other things, but all that should be important is the feeling of being part of a team. 

My part is important because it will help the community succeed.  Our smaller community is important because it will help a larger community succeed.  The larger community’s advancements are valuable because they will help the world improve.  One step at a time, and we will change the world.

A short answer to the “what do you study in Germany?” question: I’m applying reinforcement learning algorithms to industrial robots with hard-boundaries and continuous actions, in order to improve overall power and time efficiencies.  I was applying it to race cars, but I think it would be better if I can maintain it for fine-tuning based on a standard, which will slowly improve despite the high dimensionality.  Fascinating stuff.

~See Lemons a part of the team

(Time to write: 23 minutes)

 

mini DARPA?

mini DARPA?

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Study abroad is all about Diversity

 

 

Our apartment's diversity map (and Ilona's head)

Our apartment's diversity map (and Ilona's head)

Random Observation/Comment #177: Visiting Germany, I would expect to see a large number of Germans; however, the majority of my friends have been from everywhere but Germany.  The major countries I’ve noticed are Finland, Sweden, Turkey, Hungary, Spain, Italy, and the States.  Since I’m living in this international dormitory world, I suspect that I was roomed with fellow foreigners, but I didn’t expect the complete lack of German presence in my nightlife and regular adventures.  I mean, there are a few, but their English is good enough to pass as Americans.  It’s not that I’m complaining, though, because the people I’ve met are wonderful and interesting in their own way – I’m just slightly surprised.

 

Groups initially form through common backgrounds due to their language comfort.  Interestingly enough, I haven’t met a Chinese student in the entire dorm.  I think they’ve been hiding from me.  Not to worry, though, I tend to drift towards odd crowds when I’m traveling.  Even when there were fellow Americans from Rhode Island or Boston (I think they’re both the same size so it’s valid to group them), I did not feel attracted to follow their crazy ways.  It might be the case because they live on another campus, but instead, I hung out with the Hungarians and the Turkish purely by majority influence.  I was pulled towards the group of abnormally attractive Hungarians girls, but mostly drifting based on the events I considered more fun. 

Although there is a small group separation, we all seem to mingle fairly well.  The nomadic ones from each group would tag along with different people based on personality similarities and differences.  At least for me, I rather spend time with people that I could not meet in NYC.  Yes, I know I could meet people from a range of diversities, but their attitudes would unfortunately still maintain that American twist (which is quite hard to explain).  I’m more interested in having the option of drifting between groups so I can just be myself and not necessarily push for conversation.  There is an inexplicable natural flow to this group formation tendency.  We all want to be a part of some type of comfortable group, but at the end of the day, we’re all hoping our connections are broad enough to be invited to events.

I celebrate this diversity, and I hope others appreciate the differences in culture and customs.   The interesting part is that we all come from the same generation, so there exists an age-based culture that crosses through any political or national boundary.  You can consider it pop-culture directly influenced by mainstream media or Inter-webs.  Either way, we can speak about common topics and relate to the issues that have shaped our personalities.  After all, we’re all human.

The best part is that we’re all in the same situation – we’re studying abroad in a new environment with a mouth-full of independence.  It’s college, but upgraded with foreign languages, unusual customs, and translated alcohol labels.  For me, it’s a taste of that “college life” that teased me while I over-credited and melted my brain with an overload of information and a lack of sleep.  There just seems to be so much more free time now, and my choices shift from “I must” to “I should” to “I might” to “I’ll do it later.”  As the essence of procrastination explores new boundaries, I am happy to say I’ve enjoyed wasting time with those in a similar situation.

Every single person I have met in Germany and on this trip have been fascinating in their way.  It’s most probably my weird way of thinking that makes them interesting even if there qualities aren’t as noticeable (to themselves or anyone else).  It’s this more optimistic view on people’s personalities that makes meeting people a little more cheerful.  Well, whatever method that works to keep me a little social will be exploited.  Am I having fun yet?

~See Lemons Study Abroad

Yay, pictures of shoes!

Yay, pictures of shoes!

German Transportation is all about Trust

 

 

3AM in the middle of nowhere

3AM in the middle of nowhere

Random Observation/Comment #164: The German railway system essentially depends heavily on an individual’s choice of taking risks.  Tickets are purchased in the stations, but the common high security gates, turnstiles, or even railway information centers do not exist.  Everything has been automated on those ticket machines like in the LIRR, except conductors, or any other type of transportation officer, does not always check the ticket.  In fact, the three weeks I’ve been staying in Germany and taking the subway system, I have not been checked once.  After asking some locals, it seems like there are just random checks where some undercover officer in civilian clothes just asks an entire train car for the tickets.  If you do not have one, then you must pay a fine of 40EUR immediately or 70EUR by mail.  It is highly frowned upon to jump trains, but I think a large portion of the population does it.  Do you think it’s worth the gamble?  Like I mentioned earlier, I have not been checked, so I have no idea how these people dress.  Without the need for hourly employees, it seems like the maintenance for this transportation idea is minimal.  This means that less money is required to keep the trains running, which justifies the lower profit from daily usage.  Interesting business model, no?

 

The combination of the S-bahn (over-ground train) and U-bahn (underground train) forms a fairly simple transportation system.  Everything seems to be low-cost and self-sustaining with minimal reliance on the fares.  This makes me wonder about when this company started and where they make their profits.  If the company is government run, I would expect a more thorough wringing-cycle of the shirts on our backs (that analogy describes the government squeezing every last penny for profit from our oranges (which is analogy for “the man always breaking our balls”)).  If this is a private company, I wonder which numbers the accountant used when calculating the time required before a profit is being made after taking into account the expenses in the extra turnstiles and daily employees. 

Perhaps, it is only the large companies in America that pessimistically (or realistically) predict inflation and are encouraged by the government to increase the job market.  Germany is a relatively young nation as a consequence to the wars leading to a drastic change in government.  Given this more forward thinking and an overall greater trust in human nature, I feel more confident that our world is leaning towards a world that is less dependent on the economy.  Of course we’re always going to be stuck in this vicious cycle of working long hours to pay-off our endless debt, but maybe the world will be more readily automated to explore a different purpose (I think my opinion might be directly affected by the zeitgeistmovement).

As I traveled these trains with many other study-abroad students attending Hamburg, I have noticed a few differences in train etiquette.  Young travelers are loud and just plain obnoxious.  It cannot be helped in some drunken rage, but I often see other Germans with a look of embarrassment and dismissal.  I don’t suspect a dead-silent train ride, similar to the normal Underground, because of the seating arrangements, but I still feel a much less energetic crowd despite the design intentions.

On another note, the system saves money by only opening doors when the special button is pushed. If you remember the entry about The Underground/Tube in London, these buttons are not just tourist traps to make you look silly.  I think you would look even sillier just waiting for the door to open and then missing your stop because the flashing green light or manual door does not aid with any Force powers.  There’s no doubt that these trains use much less energy for opening doors at least 60% less (I actually don’t know but I’m guessing), but would this actually justify building the buttons on every door?  These are questions I don’t know the answer to, but I know It definitely makes people much more aware of the stations and it’s also really fun to push buttons.  Yay, Buttons.

~See Lemons Fool the System

I have no idea how to use the ticket machines.

 

I probably missed at least 3 stops because I didn't open the door

I probably missed at least 3 stops because I didn't open the door

 

I pushed the button even if I didn't need to get off.  Bad etiquette.

I pushed the button even if I didn't need to get off. Bad etiquette.