Master Student: Tachara Larocque
Canadian student Tachara Larocque is currently enrolled in the Master's Degree Program in Geology at LMU Munich.
We have asked her a few questions about her motivation to come to Germany, her studies at LMU and her life in Munich.
Planning and Preparation
Why did you decide to study in Germany?
I have always wanted to travel abroad with my studies. I had a few short experiences during my undergrad and I really enjoyed them, so when I learned about an opportunity to do an English Master’s degree in Munich at a well-established university I couldn’t resist applying. LMU Munich offers an incredible course selection that specifically related to my interests in geomorphology and technology uses and development in a geological sense.
Why did you choose LMU Munich?
There are a wide range of courses that pertained to my interests and professors whose experience and current research intrigued me at LMU. The university has also been working to generate strong international relationships with other high-ranking universities including my alma mater, the University of Alberta. I think that international relationships are key in pursuing academic concerns and research interests. I wanted to be a part of strengthening that relationship as well as my own academic network.
How did you learn about your study abroad opportunities and the Geology Master program at LMU?
A research group at the University of Alberta often collaborates with the LMU on research projects. I was inquiring on Master’s opportunities generally with the lead professor of this research group, who suggested I consider studying at LMU. After meeting with a visiting professor from the LMU I learned the details of the program and decided to apply.
Life in Munich / in Germany
How is student life at LMU Munich?
I would be lying if I didn’t say it was challenging, but it is challenging in the best way. Considering schoolwork specifically, as with any degree, there are courses that I prefer over others and days that are more successful than others. But I found that many of the classes I have taken have expanded my ability to problem solve and, of course, my knowledge in geology. The professors I have had the pleasure of meeting are enthusiastic and willing to help you in whatever way they can, but they also make sure that you are challenging yourself and growing as an academic. Semester fees are incredibly inexpensive, which is always a relief! You can focus your energy on your research.
There are also many fun events organized by student groups, which help you not only to socialize with new people, but also to experience the way students celebrate in a different country. The biggest challenge was finding accommodation. As there were no temporary accommodations available upon my arrival to Munich it became a race to find a place to live that was both affordable and let me travel to school easily. Student accommodations are available, but you often do not get an immediate place and your name will be put on a waiting list until a room becomes available.
What do you like doing in Munich / in Germany?
There are many festivals, holidays and events celebrated in Munich and I enjoy attending as many as my schedule and wallet will allow. With Munich being so close to the Alps, I really enjoy traveling around via train or going hiking, rock climbing and visiting new cities. Taking day trips by bus to different cities within Germany or to nearby countries is a unique and exciting experience for those from larger countries such as Canada or the United States. Ski hills are fairly easy to access with train or bus and I really enjoy visiting them during the winter season. More locally, I love riding my bike around the greater Munich area and visiting the lakes and towns. Germany is very cyclist-friendly and you can get almost anywhere on bike paths which makes it easy to enjoy!
What has been – as you see it – your “most German” experience so far?
I live with a German family, so I have many ‘true German’ experiences just from being involved in their lifestyle. The Christmas markets here are unique to Germany and visiting those has probably been one of my ‘most German’ experiences. The drinks, food and environment are wonderful at these markets. However, my most Bavarian experience has probably been attending Frühlingsfest during the spring, an equivalent of a small Oktoberfest. Friends and I sported some classic Bavarian clothing and enjoyed a few nights of celebration with characteristic festival folk music and, of course, delicious beer.
Tips and Advice
What advice do you have for prospective students who consider studying at LMU / in Germany?
Although most Germans speak English, it is wise to have some sort of understanding of basic German before coming, so the language doesn’t sound so intimidating. It isn’t terribly difficult to make your way through the cities with only English. But if you are actively involved in learning the language, the best place to do it is in Germany. Often, there are inexpensive language courses offered to enrolled students at the university.
Try to make connections with people from your program ahead of time, especially those who have been here for a year or more and are already settled. Program coordinators and websites can only give you so much information and chances are that your peers who have already been through the process of settling in. A student can give you great advice and more detailed answers than you may find otherwise (and may even be able to help you out with a place to stay until you are able to find a place on your own).
Don’t be afraid to ask ‘silly’ questions or ask your peers for help. Try not to panic when things go awry. Murphy’s law has a funny way of applying when you try to over-prepare for situations and restrict your schedule too much. The first months will be the most difficult, especially if you have never traveled abroad before, but once you get through those months, you realize how much fun you can have in a new environment. Wait it out, it’s worth it.
Have you already gained work experience during your studies in Munich? Do you already have professional plans after finishing your degree?
As for work experience, there are research assistant and related opportunities within the universities that you can apply for. I will be involved with such a project this summer, which will be aimed at creating learning tools for future generations of students.
Professionally, I aim to be involved in geohazard and geomorphological analysis of landscapes. I think that understanding the dynamics and processes involved in current geohazards and being able to improve warning systems is an important field. I want to be able to apply my knowledge in preventing damage to life and property and the LMU is helping me to accomplish this.