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Erasmus-sponsored stay at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, in the winter term 1994/1995

My time at QMW College London

Erasmus-stipendium ICP-94-I-1010/11

Report

Participating in the Erasmus program, I have spent half a year at Queen Mary and Westfield College which is part of the University of London and lies in the east of the capital.

Student Induction

At the beginning of the winter term (october-december) there was a two-day "Associate Student Induction Programme", at the end of which the enrolment procedure took place. The latter was connected with choosing courses. Different from the procedure at the University of Technology, Aachen, students choose their courses for both terms at the beginning of the academic year; but this choice can be altered later.

Choice of courses

There was a personal supervisor (Dr S Bullett) who helped me to find the right courses. Also I was supported by Prof. Neubüser (Aachen), whom I sent a list of available courses.

An interesting point is that there is a limit of eight courses per year (and a minimum of six per year). Nevertheless I could take the following twelve courses, as that restriction only affects participation in final examinations.

The courses were:

Winter term:
  • Rings & Modules (Prof B A F Wehrfritz)
  • Algebraic Computing (Prof M A H MacCullum)
  • Compilers & Interpreters (Dr K Clarke)
  • Artificial Intelligence (Dr M Huntbach)
  • Relativity (Dr R K Tavakol)

Spring term:

  • Classical Groups (Prof P J Cameron)
  • Commutative Algebra & Algebraic Geometry (Dr S Donkin)
  • Pro-p-groups (Dr S McKay)
  • Graph Theory (Prof W Hodges)
  • Number Theory (Dr C Leedham-Green)
  • Galois Theory (Dr S Donkin)
  • Fourier Analysis (Dr Y Safarov, King's College, Univ. of London)
The last course was offered by King's College which, like Queen Mary and Westfield College, is part of the federal University of London. Students of one of the UL's Colleges are enabled to attend lectures in any of the other colleges.

Concerning the complexity and level of the courses I might state that to me the MSc courses seemed very similar to our post-Vordiplom courses, whereas the undergraduate courses are simpler than our beginners' courses. I could never understand how students cope with the gap between undergraduate and MSc courses - the standard answer to my question always was: "There is hardly anyone doing the MSc."

Status as Erasmus student

Though being an Erasmus student (I did not have to pay any fees towards the College) there was only one restriction: I could not gain the MSc by participating in the final examinations. Apart from that I had full access to all the College's means, including

  • the library which supplied a library program, allowing title and author search and also access to personal data, i.e. names of books got from the library,

  • the computing services, offering full Internet access via Mail, FTP, Telnet and Mosaic. There were several computer rooms on the College ground, and there was a special computer room in the maths department that can only be opened by a key (which I got). Every student has this Internet access, so e-Mail is a widespread communitcations tool, as private telephones are rare.

  • the student union, dealing with the leisure facilities/societies: sports, political and religious societies, pub, disco, etc.

Accommodation

Flats or rooms in London are very expensive. The College offers single and double rooms in a variety of accommodation halls of different sizes. The rooms in the halls on the campus ground were completely booked out, and I was offered a place 20 minutes away by tube, for which the price would have been about 60,- Pounds per week (including breakfast). Luckily, with the help of Dr L Soicher from the maths department, I could find a privately rent room which was 39,- Pounds a week. The two landladies were very nice to me, and they helped be a lot to improve my English.

Examinations, degrees

As my stay in London terminated in March, but the examinations period started in May, I could not attend the exams. But participation would not have made too much sense, as I would not have been able to receive the MSc degree (as mentioned above).

Social life, culture

I found the atmosphere at the College to be very open, and besides many other foreigners I have also met a lot of English students. (I'm only mentioning that, because I was told that usually the English and foreign students don't mix, which fortunately was not the case)

From the cultural point of view, London certainly is an excellent place of study. With all its theatres, museums, Jazz clubs etc. there is no place for boredom.

Resumee

My stay in London, which I decided very spontaneously, more than surpassed my expectations. The experience of "surviving" half a year in a foreign country with different structures and completely on one's own, cannot be replaced by anything. I have met so many friendly and helpful people at the College - both students and lecturers - that I am already looking forward to my next visit to London.

The lectures at the College were very interesting, and I dealt with some topics which are not offered at my university in Aachen.

Hans-Georg Eßer, April 1995

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