This is a story of how it all began.
Last summer, in 2009, anticipating my soon-to-be-over last semester as an undergrad in Geology, i began looking into my options for the next year. I clearly remember the day i said: “I'll be thankful to finish my Bachelor's, there is no way I will be going on to do a Master's”.
Less than 2 years later, there I was-applying for a Master's degree. Most of the people I knew tended to stay at their home university, where it was familiar and comfortable. Some have come to Canada from abroad, but i did not know of anyone who had gone abroad to pursue further education. I guess Canada is a pretty good place to be. However, at that point I have been going to the University of Calgary for five years, never having enough guts to even try semester at the University of British Columbia, never mind somewehre outside the country and I could not picture another 2 years at the same institution. The time there has been great, but I was desperate for a change. I was clueless where to start. Seemed like no matter where I turned for advice, noone knew anything about going abroad, all they could tell me is how the University of Calgary works. Thanks, but I was still not interested.
After doing my preliminary research, it seemed that I did not stand a very good chance in other highly competitive Canadian universities. “So why not look into Europe?”-I thought, since I was planning on going there at some point to travel and explore anyway. And this is how I found the Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen, Germany. Never ever had I any fascination with German culture, history, food or country in general. And above all, I really thought I could do without ever hearing German language, which, to me, was not pretty in any way. Ok, well, there was a time in 10th grade when I had my “rammstein” phase, but this was long over now.
However, it turned out that not only was Germany much cheaper to live in that other European countries ( I am not considering former USSR countries or Poland), they also do not charge international students any extra fees. The top geology schools on my list were in England, Scotland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The international programs in non-native English speaking countries were sometimes quite limited and they tend to charge international students at least 2-3 times the cost of tuition for a EU member. Thus my decision was simple: it's an international program in Applied Geoscience, it's almost free and I don't need to speak any German!-hey, let's see if I get in.
So I know some people drive around their potential universities, meet with advisors and “get a feel” for their next step of a life as a postgrad. This was not me. I did not even apply to a single Canadian university just to see if I get in ( frankly, the 100$ application fee has always been a factor). Instead, I've decided to bank it all on Eberhard Karls and heck, if I get in, it's meant to be, I'll pack up and go. And so I bookmarked the website, made an inquiry and forgot all about it for a few months.
Somewhere in January, realizing that the job market for new geologists is really not looking that great, i remembered about the application form I downloaded all those months ago and decided to give it an actual chance. I asked my past professors for recommendation letters and now it was time to write the dreaded “letter of motivation”. I was trying to make it before the “early bird” application deadline, which left me precisely a week to learn all there was to writing this letter. After procrastinating and making some feeble attempts, I was left with 10 hours to go. And, in the hours of total desperation, a genius was born.
I did what most people advised: compliment the university, highlight your achievements, state why their university in particular is the best fit for you and assure them that by choosing you they simply can't go wrong.
Well, I don't know if it was the stellar recommendations or my “I'm dying to make the world a better place” pledge, but it worked. Many many months later, after coming home at 7 a.m. from pulling an all-nighter, there it was, it my e-mail box: “we are pleased to offer you an official spot in our program”. I screamed at the top of my lungs and began jumping around the living room, excited at this unexpected turn of events. Never once had it occurred to me at that point that i will be saying good-bye to all my friends and all I knew for the next 2 years. But, there were many preparations to be had: gathering the necessary documents, selling my car and some of my other unneeded possessions, and figuring out how to pack all I might need for two years into two suitcases.