Peter Zarnitz, 20 years old, studies computer science, has a job and represents the students of TUM in the TUM Senate and the TUM Board of Trustees. He tells us in an interview how he manages these activities, why he enjoys engaging himself in University policies and how the scholarship helps him.
Why did you choose to study computer science at TUM?
Of course, the good reputation of TUM played a great role. The wide range of courses offers me the possibility not only to attend events in my major, computer science, but also to join in other activities that help me broaden my horizon.
In the end, I selected computer science for personal reasons. It’s funny, but an employee of my present sponsor in the Deutschlandstipendium program, Allianz, greatly influenced my choosing computer science as my vocational field while I was still attending school. It was from him that I learned all about the work a computer scientist does.
How do you finance your studies?
My parents contribute to my cost of living and I work as an assistant at the Institute for Advanced Study at the TUM. With this scholarship I can get along without having to take on additional jobs, thus enabling me to concentrate more on the work I do.
Tell us about your involvements at TUM and how long have been working there?
In the first semester I had some time on my hands and the students’ council was looking for members. So I visited it and decided to participate. Finally, I was elected to represent the site Garching in the study grants commission in which we evaluated all the study grants concepts of the main institutions. This was my first involvement with university policies and the students’ union executive committee. I quickly realized that I enjoyed the work and was elected to the TUM Senate for the first time as a student representative last year. In the meantime, I am now in my second year of office and, when needed, I also assume tasks in AStA. For example, this year I was busy registering classrooms at the TUM. There are many different jobs and always new ones to do.
What is your exact job as a student representative in the TUM Senate?
There are two of us student representatives in the TUM Senate. Basically, we deal with all kinds of statutes, alterations in the examination regulations and so on. The TUM Senate also gives an opinion on each individual appointment of a professor. We as student representatives make sure that the primary focus is given to the principles of teaching and not just to research. What is quite practical for me is the fact that in my job at the Institute for Advanced Study I learn about the administrative side of the appointments procedure. I find it highly interesting to understand both sides and to experience the expended effort. It doesn’t appear so at first glance, but in reality my work with university policies and my job as an assistant fit well together.
From the time factor, how do you manage to study, work as a student representative and earn money at the same time?
I have an online calendar in which I record all my appointments. It is an indispensable help. I am flexible regarding the working hours of my job. My work as a student rep is very time consuming, though. On the average, I spend 25 – 30 hours per week with my work at AStA.
Is there any time left for your private life?
A little. Our sessions are always in the evening and we are all sitting in the same boat, so to speak – but we enjoy it! We really get along well at AStA and that is the important thing. We often discuss critical topics where there are divergent personal opinions. Maintaining mutual respect is of utmost importance here. Friendships are also built through our work together.
What do you advise first semester students at the TUM? Should they get involved and why?
Yes, of course, absolutely! It’s a lot of fun. You learn about the university not only from the lecture halls or seminars but you also get a glimpse behind the scenes. We students always want the university to implement our wishes. However, someone must communicate the students’ wishes and needs. Therefore, people are needed who listen to the everyday trials and tribulations of their fellow students and know about the issues from their own experience and are willing to work hard for a student-friendly implementation. As a student rep I can work on practical solutions and make known the students’ interests.
I advise everyone – and I am speaking out of full conviction – to get involved! Everyone can contribute to make sure that our wishes are taken seriously. Drop by your student union. We’re really a nice bunch of people and we don’t bite. We’re always happy if others want to take part. Each student is free to say how much time he has to dedicate himself. Every contribution counts.
One does not necessarily have to concern oneself with university policies as I do. There are many other interesting student initiatives at the TUM. TUfast, for example, or the IKOM. We’re always in need of people to help out at parties. You don’t need to be an active member of the council. Just taking part is a fantastic learning experience, and it is a great feeling to know that one can achieve something.
Do you have the feeling that you, as a student rep at TUM, can make a difference?
Yes, indeed. Just take a look at two issues: the student rail pass and student fees. Regarding the study grants we were allowed to speak openly and fairly at the TUM as to how the money should be used. As far as the student rail pass is concerned, a majority of the students from the three institutes of higher learning in Munich voted for it. And we have also made some achievements in small areas. In addition, one builds up a network with contacts to students of other faculties.
Would you advise companies to participate in the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship program?
Yes, of course. The business world will need graduates in the future who want to make use of their knowledge. This scholarship enables companies to meet and become acquainted with them while they are still at the university. Both sides can profit from these contacts! Apart from this, I think it’s a good idea to engage oneself in society. Sponsoring younger generations is one way to do it.