[Moderator Matthias Kirsch:] Approximately 300 young people from Ukraine study at TU Munich. These 300 people are experiencing something terrible in these days and weeks: They fear for their friends and families, they live with images of the destruction of their hometowns. Many are also suffering because they're unable to help their own country from such a large distance away.
In today's episode of "We are TUM" four Ukrainian students talk about how they have experienced the Russian invasion from a distance, how they deal with fear and anxiety – and about the memories of their homes which give them strength today.
Welcome to "We are TUM" – the podcast by and for the Technical University of Munich. My name is Matthias Kirsch and I'll be guiding you through this podcast. As always university President Thomas Hofmann will get things started by introducing the topics of today's episode to you.
[President Thomas F. Hofmann:]
Welcome, dear listeners:
Only a few months ago Ukraine seemed to be so far away from Munich. But the Russian invasion changed that in the blink of an eye.
Geographically speaking Kyiv has always been closer to us than Madrid, Athens or Lisbon – the distance was most likely in our minds. The war at the center of Europe is affecting all of us, including students, many of whom are being impacted directly by the war. This is why we've initiated a variety of aid programs to help support these students. Our integration program awards guest scholar status at TUM to students who were studying in Ukraine or who had just left secondary school with the intention of studying at university. We thus open up to them an unbureaucratic entry in to the teaching offered at TUM. What's more, we are providing direct financial aid to support TUM students who are encountering financial emergencies because of the war. Each one of us, including you, dear listeners, can help by making a donation. We are grateful for each and every donation, marked with the term "Solidarity", made to the bank account of the TUM University Foundation. Any amount is welcome and any amount will help.
In today's podcast episode Ukrainian students share their personal experiences with us. We'll also hear from a researcher who is addressing the current energy situation: Sebastian Goerg, Professor for Economics at the TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability. He tells us how to handle the drastic price increases and explains how calls to save energy really work.
This episode our hidden champion is Anja Schmidt. She's head of the archive at TUM’s Museum of Architecture and as such she's in charge of a logistical mega-project: TUM has the largest collection of construction plans in Germany, which are now all being digitalized. Anja Schmidt gives us an up-close look at how this process really works.
We conclude this episode with the feature "Five Tips". Today we hear from occupational psychologist Andrea Hufnagel of Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University. She'll have some advice for us on how we can make sure that our work doesn't become a burden on our mental health, especially in difficult times like these.
And now I wish you an enjoyable listening experience with the latest episode of "We are TUM"!
[Kirsch:] Winter is hardly over and it's already time to prepare for the next cold season: The war in Ukraine has turned the topic of energy into the most important current issue in German politics. Oil and natural gas from Russia fill up our cars, warm up our heaters and keep our factories running. The political sector wants to end this dependency in the long-term, but how can a break like that be made attractive to society at large? My colleague Fabian Dilger discusses this question with Sebastian Goerg, Professor for Economics at the TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability.
[Fabian Dilger:] Hello, Professor Goerg, all the best from Munich to Straubing.
[Sebastian Goerg:] Thank you very much, I'm looking forward to our conversation today.
[Dilger:] Professor Goerg, as we speak with one another today, Germany is still purchasing natural gas and oil from Russia. At the same time an energy embargo is being considered, it is entirely possible that Russia will interrupt the supply. What would the impact of such an embargo be for example on the German economy?
[Goerg:] I'd like to point something out first: The war has made us poorer. We Germans, just like the rest of the world, have become poorer, simply because we now have to pay higher prices for energy. And an energy embargo would mean even higher prices, there's no doubt about that. According to current estimates from a variety of sources, that would reduce our gross domestic product by from two to three percent. This is on the order of magnitude to what we experienced as a result of Corona. In the discussion about an energy embargo the concern is often voiced that we'll be hitting our industry extremely hard, which is also certainly the case. But if we see this in the context of the entire industry sectors we basically sent into lockdown during Corona, well, the dimensions are comparable. So in terms of pure economic costs, that's about the order of magnitude we're talking about if we were to decide to stop buying energy from Russia, or vice versa, if Russia were to decide to interrupt natural gas exports.
[Dilger:] The war in Ukraine is showing us just how dependent we are on fossil fuels. But the question is really: Isn't this war just putting a spotlight on this dependency and making us aware of it more quickly and more effectively?
[Goerg:] Well, it shows us in a very dramatic manner how our way of life, that means heat, electricity in the home and also our entire industrial sector, is still dependent on fossil resources and in this particular case dependent on oil and natural gas from Russia. Around forty percent of our natural gas comes from Russia, and that's of course an enormous amount. To put that into context: In order to simply make do without Russian natural gas, we'd probably have to reduce our gas consumption in Germany by 25 percent. So these are tremendous quantities we're talking about here.
[Dilger:] Energy prices have skyrocketed because to the war. And higher natural gas prices are actually not all that much different from a CO2 pricing system, which is what you're currently researching. Let's say hypothetically, we, the German society, agree to stop buying fossil energy from Russia. How can we get the entire society on board with such a drastic change?
[Goerg:] What we're looking at right now is the extent to which the public supports the necessary, stricter climate-political measures, including for the EU and Germany-wide measures. So our climate policy measures have to be stricter if we want to meet the Paris target of 1.5 to 2 degrees. And here we see that in principle the public for the most part supports the targets, i.e. the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other more strict reductions. Here we're talking about a really representative survey in Germany, with about 15,000 participants, which shows that this kind of idea receives much stronger support than when we talk about the costs and the actual measures involved. So higher prices generally mean a tendency towards less support: there's less enthusiasm when talking about a CO2 pricing system of the kind we now have either at the European level using emission trading, or as manifests in Germany since the beginning of this year where we feel it at the gas pump.
[Dilger:] That means regardless of whether we have a CO2 pricing system or a possible energy boycott, as consumers our support for certain ventures depends on how these intentions are communicated? Communication is key?
[Goerg:] Yes, definitely. In essence we're researching the stricter climate policies in the EU "Fit for 55" program which will then have to be implemented by the EU member nations. And what we're seeing is really that the support for massive changes is higher when the objectives are communicated than when I only talk about the cost side, about the measures that will have to get us there, since these measures are of course also significantly more difficult to communicate. So we want the price message that climate change is negative from an economic point of view, which means we have to keep prices for gasoline, for fossil gas and the like high in order to make renewable and sustainable resources more attractive. Then the consumer can react to that, industry can react with the corresponding investments. Then, in the second step, it doesn't really matter how we redistribute the money, in the end the additional costs won't be so high. But communicating the objective is really the decisive factor, since that's what generates support among the population at large. This is also in some ways analogous to what we're now seeing with the Ukraine crisis, in Russia's war against Ukraine, i.e. that we're now currently hearing a lot of debate about the possible costs of an energy embargo. But if we look at the latest surveys: How much support would politics receive when it comes to helping Ukraine? We're seeing that the support among the population for this kind of assistance is very, very high.
[Goerg:] The dependency on Russian gas and oil is currently a major topic in the political arena. The German European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said for example, that every one of us can do something right where we are. Put another way: We can all turn the thermostat down. You also do research in the field of behavioral economics. Does this kind of appeal really influence our behavior, or are there other things which are more effective?
[Dilger:] Well, this kind of appeal can certainly evoke certain behaviors under certain circumstances when the appeals convey a social norm. Of course the important thing for a social norm is that it has to be accepted as such by the majority of the people in the society. OK, but what are norms? Norms are often that which we perceive other people to be doing on average. This is what we call a descriptive norm. And there are several studies in the energy sector in which energy customers, private customers, for example in the USA, have simply been told: Here's the actual average energy consumption in your neighborhood. This is quite simply distributed based on postal codes, and what was clearly evident was that persons whose energy consumption levels were above the average began reducing their consumption after receiving these letters. In the USA this often means I turn the thermostat on my heater down a couple of degrees . And this has also had long-term effects. This type of communication suddenly tells me what the people in the community are doing, and that can of course also drive energy consumption, for example. But I always have to add this as a kind of disclaimer: The effect of something like this is naturally much lower than when we shut down a natural gas or coal-fired power plant. So you always have to see this in perspective.
[Goerg:] Professor Goerg, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.
[Dilger:] Thank you, it was my pleasure.
[Kirsch:] Archive work in the year 2022 is more than just digging through giant piles of paper or dusty old shelves. It also means stepping up to the enormous task of digitalization. We speak with Anja Schmidt, our Hidden Champion for today's episode, about how this transition looks up close and in person. She's in charge of the archive at TUM's Museum of Architecture, one of the largest of its kind in Germany. My colleague Fabian Dilger meets with Anja Schmidt.
[Dilger:] Hello, Ms. Schmidt.
[Anja Schmidt:] Hello Mr. Dilger! It's nice to have you here…
[Dilger:] Ms. Schmidt, you're the head of the collection archive at TUM’s Museum of Architecture. When we think of archive work, the old cliche is an image of a lonely existence in a quiet vault. But you receive visitors in your office almost every day.
[Schmidt:] That's right. We're a very active archive, since we keep growing. We really do have a lot of visitors, scientists from various different continents around the world. I've already had Chinese researchers, I've had many visitors from America… And of course the next visitor may simply be a TUM student who drops by to do some research for a Master's or Bachelor's thesis. We really have all kinds of visitors who come by on a regular basis.
[Dilger:] These visitors from all around the world aren't here by coincidence. The collection you have here is indeed quite special…
[Schmidt:] Yes, it's an old collection and in fact it's one of the largest architectural collections in the German-language area. Once a year we hold federation conferences at which all the collections report on their inventories and also discuss their histories. The TUM architecture collection can definitely hold its own with the best. We have almost 700,000 construction plans, although nobody has ever actually counted them all, since we also have a lot of convolute items. Ours is one of the largest and oldest collections of its kind, founded back in 1868 when the Polytechnic School Munich was founded and had already acquired its core collection.
[Dilger:] We took a quick stroll through the archive rooms before our conversation. It would be easy to get lost in there. But there's also a giant piece of equipment down there, a relatively expensive machine. Can you explain to us what the device is and what you use it for?
[Schmidt:] What you saw in our basement is a large flat-bed scanner from the specialty vendor Cruse. We us it to scan in plan drawings. And it is indeed very expensive – it cost several hundred thousand euros, so we first had to lease it with a German Research Foundation grant, then we purchased it later. We need such a specialized device because our material, the historical material, has to be scanned in under conservatorial conditions. The material is laid out flat on the flat-bed scanner; the table the material goes on has a suction function so that the material lies absolutely flat. And then only the table bed moves under the lamps very slowly so that the camera, which is mounted above the lamps, can capture the image. A flat-bed scan like that generates data volumes of as much as one gigabyte. Only one large plan will fit on the table at once, but if there are for example four smaller plans that fit all together, they can be scanned at the same time and then the staff can cut them apart later using image processing software.
[Dilger:] This super-scanner, if I can call it that, is at the center of a giant project you've undertaken: You want to digitalize the entire collection. Have far have you gotten up to now?
[Schmidt:] That's right, we're trying to digitalize the entire collection, but to be honest, I don't think I'll see the day we finish before I retire: As of now we've only digitalized about 10 percent of the estimated 700,000 plans we have here. The project began in 2009 based on the German Research Foundation grant; the grant meant we had a person who stood at the scanner for 40 hours a week, a person who did nothing but record single sheets, and a whole bunch of student assistants to do all the fetching and removal. Ever since the grant expired, we've been pursuing the matter with our own resources, which means that although there are several thousand new scans per year, we just don't have the speed we had during the first two years. And something which is important to mention, we're still looking for external funding, but since everyone everywhere is currently digitalizing just about everything, the institutions are very choosy when it comes to disbursing these public funding resources. We now have indirect approval for a new digitalization project, but we don't exactly know when it will be able to start. Right now it's planned for 2022, but it still hasn't been completely finalized.
[Dilger:] With almost one million items stored here, an art historian like yourself is sure to find the occasional piece which is particularly pleasing. Is there a favorite drawing, a favorite model which you're particularly fond of looking at?
[Schmidt:] Yes, I'm actually a big fan of an architect hardly anyone is familiar with, his name is Peter Birkenholz. As early as the 1920s he began to do interiors, he worked in Switzerland and is just an incredibly good draftsman. He came upon the idea that you could simply make architecture round, so he used the same structure, the "ball house", again and again for trade fairs, for schools, for private homes, for vacation homes. It was only built once, since his drafts really weren't the most spectacular in the world. We have one of them here, one of these ball houses as a large cross-sectional model downstairs in the collection. To be honest, every time I go into the model room in the basement, I'm happy to see it sitting there.
[Dilger:] Thank you for speaking with us, Ms. Schmidt!
[Schmidt:] Glad to. Please come back soon.
The Young Perspective
[Kirsch:] The morning of 24 February 2022 will probably remain a "Where were you when…" moment forever. The Russian attack on Ukraine was a shock for all of Europe and for the entire world. The victims of this attack are primarily the Ukrainians who had to flee their homes, to defend their country, and to look death and destruction in the eye. Approximately three hundred Ukrainians study at TU Munich. Their family and friends are still in their home country, together with their histories, their memories and also their hopes for the future. Four students share their thoughts with us.
[Yaroslava Fedoryshyna:] My name is Yaroslava Fedoryshyna. I'm 24 years old and I'm from Ukraine. I lived in a city in the west of Ukraine for 18 years. For the last six years I've lived in Munich, where I study Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at TUM.
[Myroslava Domanitska:] My name is Myroslava, I'm 22 years old, I'm from the Ukrainian city of Talne, which is located in the middle of Ukraine next to Cherkasy. I'm studying for my Master's in Management and Technology (TUM-BWL) and I've been in Munich for over two years now.
[Saviak Makas:] Hello everybody, I'm Saviak Makas, I'm from Ukraine's capital city Kyiv and I recently finished my first semester in the chemistry Bachelor's degree program.
[Malika Sanhinova:] My name is Malika, I'm 21 years old and I'm from Kyiv. I study Informatics at TU Munich and I've been in Germany for four years.
[Yaroslava Fedoryshyna:] The 24th of February 2022 started for me very early with terrible news. A call woke me up at five o'clock in the morning, I was told to turn on the news. Russia was bombing Ukraine and its cities, cities where my family lives, where my friends and relatives are. Russia had started the war against Ukraine.
[Myroslava Domanitska:] It's pretty difficult for me to talk about it and actually the memories are sometimes the worst thing in my life. I woke up on February 24th and I got a message from a friend of mine, she was asking if my parents were OK. And I was actually a little surprised because she had just asked only a couple of days before, and I thought, what's that all about? So I put on the news and then I started to cry right away because I could read in large letters, Putin has attacked Ukraine. And that was for me the… I just feel so much pain and I'm so sad that something like this is possible in the first place. That day was the worst day of my entire life. And I'm sure I won't be able to forget if for many years to come. The first week was especially bad, we had to wake up in the middle of the night and check the news to see if our families were still OK or not.
[Saviak Makas:] I was awakened on February 24th by a phone call from my father; we still had never talked about what our family would actually have to do now.
[Malika Sanhinova:] I woke up at around five in the morning on that day because a friend had called me and said the worst words I've ever heard in my life: The war has started. I have to say, it wasn't completely unexpected for me, even if I didn't believe it could really happen until the last moment. Then I called my parents right away and experienced the worst few seconds of my life when they didn't answer the phone right away. I can say without a doubt, that day turned my world upside down, and things will never be the same again.
[Yaroslava Fedoryshyna:] The first thing to come to my mind when I think of Ukraine is my family. My little niece… for the last six years we've had a little tradition, I always fly home to Ukraine for my niece's birthday. We spend a few days together with the entire family, we have a look around Kyiv and check out the landscape and the surroundings. And I don't want to break our tradition. I wish that I'll be able to fly back to Ukraine this year for my niece's birthday and be able to spend time together with my family.
[Myroslava Domanitska:] When I think of Ukraine, a couple of memories come to mind; There are a couple of cities in Ukraine where I've lived and which I actually consider to be my hometowns. First of all my city right now… I just want to be able to see my parents again as soon as possible. Unfortunately I don't know when that will be possible. I know I'll be able to go home sometime, that we'll still be sitting in our house, in our apartment. I hope in the future everything stays secure and won't be destroyed. And I hope we'll be able to eat dinner together again or just have a glass of wine together, watch a movie together with my parents. At home I always watch Harry Potter with my father, that's something really very special to me and I believe, I hope, that I'll be able to watch with my father again the next time.
[Malika Sanhinova:] When I think of home, most of all I think of my family, my friends and of the last time I left my apartment in Kyiv, and I was so happy to think about being able to return after the semester was over. I think about how my mother cooked me my favorite meal when I came to visit and how the whole family got together at the dinner table.
[Kirsch:] We'd like to take the opportunity to remind our listeners of the TUM aid program for students from Ukraine. First of all, the integration program provides refugees students with unbureaucratic access to the university world; in addition, Ukrainian students who are facing financial emergencies due to the war can receive direct assistance. Everyone is welcome to support the TUM University Foundation with a donation. Any amount is welcome and any amount will help. You'll find the bank account information for the TUM University Foundation on our web site at www.tum.de.
In concluding today's episode as always, we take leave of the direct environment of the TU and move to our feature "Five Tips". Our guest today is occupational psychologist Andrea Hufnagel, who has brought us five tips which will be of interest to all of us. She'll tell us what we should keep in mind in our everyday routines to help protect our mental health. Andrea Hufnagel shares her tips with my colleague Clarissa Ruge.
[Clarissa Ruge:] I'm very glad to be here for a conversation with Andrea Hufnagel. Hello, Ms. Hufnagel.
[Andrea Hufnagel:] Hello, it's nice to be able to join you.
[Ruge:] You're head of the department for occupational psychology and organizational psychology at the ASAM institute for workplace safety, occupational medicine and prevention. As an occupational psychologist, among other things you deal with psychological problems and stress in the working world. And unfortunately in the meantime we all know a lot of statistics and investigations that show the constant rise in the incidence of psychological illnesses in particular. So today we'd like to hear from you on what each of us can do to help stay psychologically fit. Ms. Hufnagel, you have five tips for us - Please tell us more…
[Hufnagel:] I'll be glad to. Let me start with the first tip.
It has to do with the way we think. It's important for you to pay attention to your thought patterns. If you find yourself tending to "catastrophize", tending to believe more in failure than in success or assuming the worst case scenario, then you should take a time-out from your thoughts. Try to think a little more optimistically than just being realistic; and be aware of self-efficacy, i.e. of the value of thinking "I'll manage that, I've succeeded here before, I've learned from my experiences." That would be the first tip. Now let's move on to the second.
This has to do with our feelings. It's completely normal to have negative feelings like sadness, fear, regret. We shouldn't try to suppress these feelings, but rather we should accept them and rely on the fact that at some point they will pass. The most important thing for our health is having positive feelings, since these feelings give us strength, help us open up, help us blossom. Unfortunately our brain is programmed to pay more attention to our negative feelings. So my recommendation to you is to look for experiences which evoke positive emotions. Perceive these emotions actively and anchor them mentally by talking about them later or writing them down and recalling them again and again. Now the third tip.
This tip has to do with Mindfulness. My recommendation is to practice Mindfulness frequently: This means putting yourself completely in the present moment, without passing judgement, without evaluating, without wanting to change anything or to achieve anything. This could be for example that you simply pay attention to your breathing, how you inhale and exhale. Or walk mindfully, simply following your steps. Or simply breathe the fresh air in the woods or the back yard.
Now, the fourth tip has to do with togetherness. Feeling a bond with the people around you and with the world makes us stronger. This is why it makes sense to emphasize good relationships, to maintain a good social network, to have relationships which give us strength. And here it's not about quantity, but rather about quality. This includes real personal contacts, which can easily be neglected during these days of the pandemic. And for those who tend to be more introverted, bonding with nature, for example spending mindful time in nature, can also give us strength.
Now the fifth and final tip will certainly be a little more demanding. Spend some time thinking about the meaning of your life. Why are you in this world? What do you consider important sources of purpose? This can be religion, taking care of other people, doing or making something, creativity, community. Look for your personal sources of purpose. And I hope these five tips will help you continue living your life in a psychologically stronger way.
[Ruge:] Thank you very much for your tips. If you don't mind a personal question, what do you do yourself when you come home after a stressful day at work?
[Hufnagel:] These five tip are essential for me too, and what I really practice every day is Mindfulness. In the evening I try to find a bit of time when I can completely switch off and concentrate only on my breathing and be entirely in the here and now. And it doesn't always have to be breathing, sometimes I just lie down on the floor and feel how the earth is carrying me.
[Ruge:] So that means we can all do this as part of our daily routine, even if we don't practice meditation or yoga, really?
[Hufnagel:] Yes, I think everyone can find the way that fits them best; not everyone is the right candidate for twenty minutes of meditation in absolute silence. It can also just be something like consciously enjoying the moment, enjoying something simple like a cup of coffee. I really wish that everybody finds their own paths and embraces the search for Mindfulness.
[Ruge:] Thank you very much, Ms. Hufnagel. Those were our five tips for finding contentedness even in a little bit of peace.
[Hufnagel:] Thank you, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to share with you.
[Kirsch:] And that's it for this episode of "We are TUM". In the next episode we'll once again be showcasing TUM's cutting-edge research, student life and we'll be speaking with all those who make TU Munich the unique place that it is. This has been "We are TUM". This episode was produced by Fabian Dilger, Clarissa Ruge, ProLehre Medienproduktion, and me, Matthias Kirsch. Sound design and post-production by Marco Meister from Berlin. That's all until the next episode. Make sure to join us and discover the big and little secrets of the Technical University of Munich.
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