Studienjahr 2016/2017: Berichte der Studenten

Katie Sippel
Januar 2017

My name is Katie Sippel and I am one of the VDAC scholars here at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for the 2016-2017 year. I am from Mobile, Alabama in the USA and I attend university in Alabama as well at Troy University. I study Mathematics in the USA and Economics here in KIT. I am a fourth year student in university and hope to enter a Mathematics Ph.D program after returning to the States and graduating with my bachelors. With my Ph.D I would like to become a college professor in Mathematics.

In my free time I enjoy sports and traveling. I specifically enjoy running, and even completely my first Marathon (42 km) in November in Athens, Greece at the place where the marathon was originally invented long ago. I also enjoy traveling because it allows me to see new cultures, meet new people, and of course try lots of different wonderful food!

In the past few months that I have spent here in Germany I have learned so much about the German culture and the German people. My ancestors were originally from Germany before immigrating to the United States so it has been the opportunity of a lifetime to get to learn more about my heritage and family's culture first hand. I am looking forward to the things that I will continue to learn, and the people that I will continue to meet in the remainder of my time here.

I could never thank everyone enough for allowing me this opportunity, and the chance to see the world and create so many memories along the way.


Elijah C. Eggers
Januar 2017

My name is Elijah Eggers, and I am one of the two VDAC scholars placed at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for the 2016/2017 academic year. I was born in 1994 in Ashville, North Carolina (located in the Appalachian Mountains running along the east coast of the United States). In August of 2012 I began studying physics at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, USA. After my second year I became concerned with several philosophical problems in physics and began primarily studying mathematics in hopes that mathematics would show itself to be more fundamental and consistent than physics had been. By my fourth year at University of Florida, I had come to realize through two mathematical theorems that mathematics was not infalliable. That is to say, that math had its own deep philosophical problems (see Gödel's Completeness and Incompleteness Theorems). At this time I began a rigorous study of philosophy to once again attempt to make sense of the problems I had observed in physics in math. Currently I study Mathematics and German at KIT and do a tremendous amount of independent research in the philosophy of truth, knowledge, semantics, and ethics. I came to Germany to improve my German language proficiency in order to help my career in mathematics and philosophy, in which there is a plethora of work done in Germany.

In my free time, I always like to read books and academic articles and am currently writing two academic articles that I hope to publish by the end of 2017. In my free time I enjoy meditating, rockclimbing, exploring, listening to music, swing dancing, and gardening. I have a not so serious dream of financing and managing a no-waste vegan cafe and restaurant in Florida.

On completion of my exchange year at KIT, I will earn my Bachelors in Mathematics and Physics. My future plans are to return to the U.S. for one or two years to spend time with my family and gain working experience through teaching at primary education facilities (in America these are elementary, middle, and high schools) and managing my friends' muisc, after which I hope then to return to Germany to enter a Masters program in Philosophy. My goal, if it can be called that, is to use my degrees in Mathematics and Philosophy to do research and write. Although truth and knowledge are beautiful in their own right, I hope to use any works I produce to directly affect society by 1) eliminating ignorance and/or hatred, and 2) proposing better models for society that we can build off of. Besides, most suffering in the world stems from either ignorance or from outdated systems through which our society operates.

In Germany, I have been able to utilize culture shock to open my mind and expand my ideas and understanding, especially of others views about politics, global society, and philosophy , for which I could not be more grateful.

Julian Holzenkämpfer
Herbst 2016

„To Hell with Georgia“

The above slogan is one of the first things you hear and learn after arriving at Georgia Tech (referred to as Tech) Campus near Midtown Atlanta which makes you wondering quite a bit – it refers to the University of Georgia (UGA), Tech’s major local rival in sports, especially in football. So in order to be prepared for proper cheering during football games it is obligatory to learn a couple of words and songs, one of which is the song “To Hell with Georgia” ( This semester we should be about to witness a flattering 28-27 – at UGA campus, BIG thing!

I came to Atlanta, Georgia, in August 2016 to conduct an exchange semester abroad at one of the most prestigious universities in the world for industrial engineering, my field of studies back home in Germany at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and moved in to a house which I rented together with American Tech students. They had set up the rent beginning of the year, but then one of them wasn’t admitted to Tech, which made them look for another roommate on Facebook, we found each other and I moved into the house at 1115 state st NW, 5 minutes from campus. In fact, I was the first of the four of us to really move in as the others were still home for summer break. I found the key at a place they placed it for me and went into a basically empty house – no furniture, no people, no internet and, what is more, no water! Fortunately there was electricity. Lucky me I was picked up by a former VGAC-scholar, Benedikt Brandt, who helped me setting up a bit – we went to Walmart, bought blanket and pillows and other things for me, especially bottled water – so that I could shower (Thank you so much, Benedikt!!). This was something I had never experienced before – 3 days without running water, showering with bottled water. A few days later all others arrived, we set up the water, internet and electricity, I got a box spring mattress and other furniture and was “all set and ready to go” (another phrase I came to love).

During the first days it was a lot of organizing, running around and other things to be set up for the semester. I had to pick courses and go through a very extensive health check. Luckily I also received a grant from the Fulbright commission paying for campus insurance. In fact, this is something to make sure when getting a health insurance for the US in Germany – this only makes sense if your US-institution accepts the terms of the insurance. In fact, it is very convenient to have campus insurance as there is an excellent medical center on campus. I can speak of experience as this medical center, esp. Dr. Emily Richardson, found that I had low B12 blood concentration after I reported I felt kind of nausea sometimes. I ordered B12 at Amazon for about $15 and am a changed person – much more energy and power.

However, I registered for 4 courses, equaling 12 Credit hours which is the minimum course load due to J1-visa requirements. Due to the nausea issues, traveling and my master thesis which I also had to conduct I chose to concentrate on two courses: Energy and Environmental Analysis and Regression Analysis. Both courses were very interesting and challenging. But quite as a surprise for me they were not particularly challenging because of their difficulty, but because of the continuous homework, midterm exams, projects and more projects. This is a major difference to the program I am enrolled in at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – exams back home are much more difficult, but during the semester students are much more flexible and don’t have to deal with continuous workload. This leads to students developing different mind sets in the US and in Germany I think. For me personally, I prefer difficult exams at the end of the semester and flexibility in between.

During an exchange semester in my opinion it is not only about academics, but even more about getting to know the people, the country and acting a bit like an ambassador for your home country. In this regard I had a very good experience – traveling around to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. I was very impressed by these big cities, but once more found out that I’m rather interested in nature – so for a second trip we went to the Appalachian Mountains, rented a mountain cabin and had a really good time hiking, rafting and relaxing in the hot tub at the front porch. Alongside these trips I discovered the Atlanta area a bit and fell in love with the Red top mountain state park – which I visited twice in only one week.

The most exciting and interesting encounter, however happened in September, when I got together with a family from Douglasville that had stayed with my grandmother in Garmisch Partenkirchen some time ago. So I reached out to them via facebook telling them I was coming to Atlanta and if they wanted to get together. At first somehow my message was consumed by the depths of the internet, but in September I received a message from Mr. Bob Snelling informing me that they had great interest in getting together with me and that he also wanted me to get to know his family. So we got together in a German restaurant they picked in Downtown Atlanta and had a great time – turns out it has been 33 years since they stayed at my grandma’s house and that I had helped translating a letter to them about 10 years ago – so we had a great time and agreed we had to repeat that. So I got invited to a family get-together at their home in Douglasville – before Bob took me to the flight simulator he is an instructor at and he showed me how to land a Boeing-777 (with a little help of course). Also, we visited Bremen, Georgia, as I am from a town near Bremen, Germany – it was great, followed by a nice dinner, a visit at their church and some music, as the entire Snelling family consists of very gifted musicians. We talked a lot and had such a good time that I got invited to celebrate Thanksgiving together with them – of course I happily accepted this offer and roasted my first turkey. At last I was invited for another family get-together at one of Bob’s daughter’s house. I got to know all of Bob’s grandchildren and had a very great time again. Susan, Bob’s other daughter even wrote about our encounter in a blog (, calling it surreal, and that it was indeed – I was like part of the family and was enriched by lots of lovely memories and some very good new friends from across the pond.

Alongside these events I had the pleasure of joining an intramural soccer team, where I was the goalie. Even though we played only a couple of games together we became a real team and even made it to the semifinal. In the quarter finals it came to a penalty shootout where I luckily was able to hold a shot and could really contribute to our triumph. This was also quite nice because the team mainly consisted of Americans and some internationals, so that I got to know some more good people and gained more valuable and nice cultural insights.

At last I want to talk a little bit about Atlanta which I really came to love. It’s a diverse international city which still has got a lot of history – both from the time of the civil war, but also with regard to the civil rights movement around Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who rose up in Atlanta and spent a long time preaching at a church near his parents’ home. I found it very striking that it has been just about 50 years since he inspired this movement for equal rights in the US – another thing I really liked was that national sites like this are free of charge to enter. Another highlight of Atlanta is the Bar on top of the Westin Grand – where you can get a drink for a relatively small price and enjoy a 360° overview over Atlanta – best time to come here is just before sunset to have both the daylight and the nighttime view. Lastly, the Georgia Aquarium is a highlight not only for 6year old that are unable to close their mouth again due to whale sharks, mantas and other sharks and fish – the most impressive aquarium I have seen so far.

Lastly, I want to close with the 2016 presidential elections which resemble another “highlight” of my USA-experience. Independent of my opinion about the outcome did it inspire so much discussion and talk about it and also made me dive a lot deeper into geopolitics and my political and historical education. And at the point where the impossible seemed to be happening I stayed up late and watched Mr. Trump’s speech and all the things that were going on with speculations about Hillary Clinton and that she didn’t give a speech and was just impressed that this was actually happening. I found it very sad to see what bad losers the democrats were and how that proved how divided the country is and how upset with US-politics.

To put the whole matter in a nutshell I can say that my semester at the Georgia Institute of Technology was enriching, inspiring, educating and I am thankful to the organizations that made this possible – FGAC and the international women’s club Karlsruhe, Fulbright, KIT and Georgia Tech. I made incredible memories and friends, was intellectually challenged and found out about my Vitamin B12 issues which made me feel better and healthier. It won’t be too long until I return to the US and hopefully I will be able to host some of my new friends in my new home base in Hamburg.

Alice Celik
Herbst 2016

Alice, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Fall Term 2016:

When I started my journey to the US in August 2016 my plane was delayed due to a world-wide error in the Airline’s system. I had never been to the US before and was really eager to finally get there. Furthermore, my future roommate offered to pick me and the other VDAC student up and drive us from the airport in Birmingham, Alabama, to the university in Tuscaloosa; a drive of about 45 minutes. In the end, the poor guy ended up driving twice – once for her and then another time for me. But this already shows one thing you’ll encounter in the South of the US: very nice and helpfulpeople!

The very next day we already had our orientation seminar, spreading over the next three days. Itseemed never ending. But eventually it did, and the actual semester started. Back in Germany, I studied Anglophone Studies, but at the University of Alabama you are enrolled in the German Master’s Program, meaning you must take German classes and work for the professors. If you’re lucky they’ll teach you a thing or two about teaching a class (which you will eventually have to do yourself) or about what it means to work in an academic environment (writing and publishing articles that sort of thing). Universities and classes in the US in general cannot be compared to those in Germany. You have a lot more to do during the semester. We had to read one book a week for one seminar; and not all of them would be on my personal reading-list. However, it also introduced me to books I really enjoyed reading but which I, personally, would never have picked up if not for this seminar.

The UA has one of the best (or the best – Roll Tide!) college football teams. During the fall term this means your Saturdays are booked, whether it is a home or an away game. Even if you’re not the biggest football fan you definitely have to go to the stadium and see it at least once. And you also should experience the whole tail gating thing (you can only understand it if you go!). Other than that, there are tons of things to do - most of them are free! – which is really nice in this otherwise quite expensive state. I went regularly to the rec (fitness) center, to the movies which were shown once a week in a little on-campus theatre (with free popcorn), to events like a Halloween party, and a stressfree day with crafting (your own Christmas tree ball, for example). I also went to some sports games (other than football) and have to say I liked volleyball the most! The players were really good and the crowd was very supporting. Getting around without a car was complicated and annoying but manageable. There is a supermarket close to campus and a shopping shuttle on Sundays. The German House, where I had to live, and which is intended to promote exchange between the American and Germans living there, has two bikes. I used one regularly to get around quicker. On campus, there are several bike lanes and people are kind of used to seeing cyclists. However, riding a bike off campus can be a bit challenging.

During the short fall break, some friends and I rented a car and went to Orange Beach. And yes, Alabama has a little piece of coast. We enjoyed swimming in the ocean, even though it was already October. The weather was generally really hot until very late in November. We also said hello to Florida, standing on the state line (there is a bar and restaurant called Flora-Bama, marking the point where the states meet). On our way back to Tuscaloosa we stopped to have a little look at the historyof Alabama. During the Thanksgiving break, I was invited to a friend’s home. I not only experienced a real American Thanksgiving but also what is called Southern hospitality. In these few days alone I gained at least 2 pounds. Moreover, it was great to have a break from university and see something different for a change.

Naturally one big topic was the presidential election. Alabama is traditionally a Red State, which means people vote for the Republican nominee. This election was no exception. There was a lot of turmoil in the US before and especially after the election. Although there are a lot of liberal and likeminded people in Tuscaloosa, even on campus there was a clear tendency towards the Republican party and its nominee. For us Germans it was very interesting to observe and - more often than not -to marvel. All in all, it was a good experience, and I am glad for the people I met and the friends I made!