A Trip to Hagen and Back

Hakuna Matata

The train ride takes about six hours from where I live—about half as long, that is, as it took when I was still alternating between Switzerland and Austria. Not that Graz had been on my mental map of the country much before I ended up moving there—that map consisted of Vienna and, due to Mozart and someone else I knew who lived around the town, Salzburg—, but Hagen was on my map even less. A rather non-descript town in the Ruhr area, it must be getting a small but studious contingent of visits from students of the University of Hagen each year since the school was founded some 40 years ago. There are two lodging businesses I know of that cater to this clientele, one just across the street from the university, and another one a bit further away, but still well within walking distance.

The appointments I had for the two orals of SS18 were actually a few days into the new and current semester, and after the two written exams, which I was relieved to see I had passed, after being a little worried that my performance on them might not have been sufficient. 1146 Einführung in die Stochastik (Introduction to Probability) was a close call, and much like ODEs in the semester before, my pass is to be attributed to zombie-style preparation which is mostly grinding through solved sample problems the likes of which can be expected to feature on the exam. (A bit more regarding my general approach to my math degree(s) later.) But considering I had allotted only little time to this particular exam, and that according to the stats the grade average was 3.5 with five out of 21 candidates failing, I consider my performance not to be too dismal. There was some hard density function integration, which I still do not know if I have done right, because I would be required to be physically present in Hagen to inspect my exam.

The result on the other written exam—1144 Analysis, on multivariable calculus—, was a bit more surprising. Having prepared in a way much similar to what I just described, going only little more in-depth and having acquired some relevant knowledge more or less en passant while studying complex analysis, I was caught off guard by the exam which, unlike the sample exams I had seen, featured a large first part (worth about half the maximum score) focused on understanding of concepts. As I was walking back to the tram station, I thought to myself that I probably have to face not getting a passing grade this time. The results for 1144 were published last. When I checked the website and saw that they were finally on the list, I was really surprised to see that I had got a 2.7—and had therefore passed all there was to pass for this semester and scored the 50 ECTS points I had planned for.

Inside building 3, looking at my flash sheets for the last time

Something of a pain point of the past semester's performances was the oral exam for 1340 Funktionentheorie on which I had spent most preparation time. I was expecting the questions to be of a different kind, and had done much preparation in terms of being able to explain concepts of complex analysis and to reproduce the proofs of the theorems that seemed most important. When the exam started with a question where I simply would have had to verify that the function given does not satisfy the Cauchy-Riemann equations, I failed to make the link and started struggling, which proved to be disastrous on a psychological level, for I did not recover and kept being insecure and unable to make use of what I had studied. The take-away for future orals, surely, must be to prepare applications more, so as not to be able only to navigate a territory of knowledge on a certain subject but also to apply that knowledge to given problems. I got a pass nonetheless, and got out of my first oral exam at the University of Hagen a little more conscious than before of what mistakes not to make.

POV seconds before the exam begins. Nice view onto the forest.

The oral exam situation is not with a whiteboard or chalkboard. The candidate is seated at a table between the examiner and the observer, with a few sheets of blank paper and a pen before him. It was the same for the computer science exam that I had later that same day, and which was a better success for me. The time—half an hour—seems to be going so fast, especially when you have not done really well and feel there is more knowledge you could display, if only there were more time...

Time Is of the Essence

Or, 'to rush into the secret house'—of math, if I am to be allowed the stupid pun (at the same time quoting Shakespeare and a movie which is still one of my favourites). Obviously, my grades so far have not been the best. It was never a requirement for me that they should be. Not while I am still in the bachelor's programme anyway, where the priority, to me, is to be done with it in the least possible time while still working full-time. That is not to say that I would buy the degree if that were an option, for I do want to take away from my bachelor's studies a sufficient stock of fundamentals and acclimatization to the experience of studying mathematics, which shall be continued when I am doing my master's.

Then, such is my resolution, will I stop rushing, and instead make it a priority to do my coursework thoroughly and attain a truly solid understanding of the matter at hand. That higher plane of existence is still quite a stretch away, but once again, it is a pleasure to up the score on my progress bar, which is almost halfway through its full width now. And doing a speedrun through the lower levels is still, and will be for as long as it lasts, exciting and an altogether good experience.

[At the time of writing, not all the results have been mailed to me yet. They will be published before long. —24 October 2018]

Epilogue

My vacation in Belgium has been a pleasant one. The beginning of October seems to be the right time for a visit to the beach of Ostend—not too many people, but still warm enough for some people to be in the water. The central cemetery of Bruges was also very nice, and I am undecided which one I liked more, it or the ancien cimetière of Crécy-la-Chapelle (where we have been in 2014). Both are beautiful. The one in Bruges is larger and allows for a more extended stroll, while Crécy's is small but of an eerier character, which is good.

I am having a chocolate double-fermented with banana pulp.

And what would a visit to Belgium be without trying a chocolate. In its hot drink Galenic formulation perhaps, and served in a charming setting by which we could not help but be reminded of a period movie. It was the first time in my life, as far as I remember, that I have tasted chocolate soup. For the bowl of steaming hot milk is large, and with it comes a spoon, and eventually you will find yourself spooning the drink as well as sipping from the bowl while holding it by the handle like a regular mug.

That explains why 2018-W41 is missing from the photo section. One week without studying. Which felt a little strange, considering I had barely missed a day since I started taking the pictures, with the exception of exam days. Meanwhile, the new semester is in full swing. I will be going back to Hagen for the graph theory seminar in January, and in the meantime, there is much to study. Cryptography, among other things, which I have always found fascinating.

Some Stats

Einführung in die Stochastik
  Notenbereich / Anzahl
  Sehr gut (1 - 1,5) / 0
  Gut (1,6 - 2,5) / 3
  Befriedigend (2,6 - 3,5) / 8
  Ausreichend (3,6 - 4) / 5
  Mangelhaft (4,1 - 5) / 5
  Teilnehmer 21
  Durchschnittsnote 3,5

Analysis
  Notenbereich / Anzahl
  Sehr gut (1 - 1,5) / 2
  Gut (1,6 - 2,5) / 4
  Befriedigend (2,6 - 3,5) / 5
  Ausreichend (3,6 - 4) / 3
  Mangelhaft (4,1 - 5) / 6
  Teilnehmer 20
  Durchschnittsnote 3,3