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Valuable contacts: the alumni network
Studying at University of Applied Sciences Europe not only prepares students for professional life, it is also a formative time in their lives. The years spent living and learning at the university and on campus shape everyone individually. This creates a strong sense of solidarity among students. Their shared experience forms the basis for BiTS Alumni e.V., the network of all graduates and students of the UE universities in Iserlohn, Hamburg, and Berlin.
There are many universities that offer good degrees in media studies. Why did you decide for the University of Applied Sciences Europe – then BiTS?
I took a one-year break from studying after graduating from high school and traveled the region. I was in Tunisia during the application period and I was only able to visualize each university online. The then online presence of the university caught my attention. In particular the practical nature. In the admissions test I had an interview with the Head of Journalism and Business Communication Thomas Becker who won me over with his enthusiasm for this program. This professor remained during and after my degree as a supportive and important contact.
After graduating from high school, studying instead of doing a traineeship can be advantageous in the job market. What were your reasons for choosing the Journalism and Business Communication (JBC) program? What were you expecting? Which content benefited you?
I have always been curious and had the urge to tell stories. And to that end, I wanted to try different paths, narrative forms, and media. If you don’t have a precise plan where you want to end up but rather cover the basics, then a diverse degree may be meaningful. In the JBC program I have had many opportunities to try different areas from marketing to investigative journalism.
There is always something going on at Campus Berlin, for example semester abroad, internships, and being involved in resorts. Which student experience has made a big impression on you?
I remember my semester abroad at London Metropolitan University very well. There I attended a documentary film course by the producer, director, and screenwriter Jesse Quinones. Before my time in London, documentary filmmaking was never on my radar as a possible future plan, and ended up in the course by chance. In the seminar we were all of course meant to make a documentary film. Until that point I had made a few YouTube videos for fun. That was all. In those days the dating network Tinder was relatively big and I decided to make a documentary on online dating and film my dates. Of course with the consent of all participants, which made the first date no less weird. A really amusing documentary was the result, with help from Jesse and my course. It’s called “Swiping Mr. Right” and I was able to show it at the British Urban Film Festival in London then and in Jena at the cellu l’art short film festival in 2018. It was also broadcast by WELT in four parts two years after production. That was the starting shot for my video production there.
Students have chosen a slogan: “Create your story. Inspire the world.” Which experiences from your degree supported you to carve out your very personal career path? What inspired you to go down this route?
It’s always people who inspire me. For instance Jesse Quinones in London, Thomas Becker, and Tim Thaler, who was also an instructor at Campus Berlin and I co-host a live show with him on his indie radio station BLN.FM. And also many friends who work in the media or in totally different sectors. I think when you simply do what you can’t let go and know and recognize your own qualities and those of others as well, then things can’t go drastically wrong.
You have been working for a WELT outlet even while you were a student and were also involved in the student magazine Terminal Y. How did you manage to get a foothold into this competitive industry? What about journalism do you find so thrilling?
Terminal Y is our student magazine, for which all JBC students produce contributions during their degree. As an alumnus unfortunately I am not really involved with it any longer. Matthias Giordano, the head of department at WELT kmpkt found me via my author page on Terminal Y and wrote to me using Xing. Kmpkt is a WELT department aimed at the youth audience. We are only present online. The journalism I can do there affords me a lot of freedom which I like. Since I’ve broadcast “Swiping Mr. Right” on WELT, we’ve started to focus more on video content. We are constantly trying to find new, exciting, and mobile-friendly narrative forms. We also create some formats that the users can interact with. We are not in a rigid structure and the work remains very exciting.
One of your focuses is presentation. You broadcast weekly with your former classmate Adrian Smiatek at the indie station BLN.FM and present a program together. Tell us what elements of making radio programs you find particularly exciting.
Adrian and I do a two-hour live show on BLN.FM every Wednesday evening. Tim Thaler, who heads the station, was an instructor at Campus Berlin and part of Terminal Y for some time. So it was the right set of circumstances. Adrian and I are actually totally different and probably wouldn’t have become friends were it not for BLN.FM. But that’s exactly what makes our show so much fun, and we have creatively named it “Bergfest”. “Bergfest” is an evening accompanying program. We play songs, have artists in the studio, talk about current topics from politics to Bachelor programs, and have established short formats. So we always taste a new beer that usually comes from Berlin, introduce our artists of the week, and give Netflix recommendations.
Give us an insight to your daily routine. How can we imagine your day and your professional life?
At the moment, I work as a freelance journalist for WELT about three days a week. I am either in the office, typing text, producing quiz, and conducting telephone interviews, or doing self-tests outside the editorial offices. For example I travel to Austria to shoot a segment on wolf researchers, spend a whole day with a dating coach, and shoot a scripted piece on pension at home. Wednesday evenings between 7 and 9 pm we are live on BLN.FM. Adrian and I agree on the topics usually on the day or the day before, and have a guest in studio now and then. Besides that I’m a freelance writer for a ticket exchange, since it can easily done from anywhere. Then there are a couple of projects close to my heart that I have already been working for some time. I want to set up a production company with a good friend of mine and music producers within the next three years. Until then we’ll be working together time and again on individual video and music projects. With my housemate I’m filming a documentary that we want to show in film festivals if it turns out well.
You’ve experienced a lot already but there’s a long life ahead of you. Where is that going to lead you? / What’s your dream? What would you like to have achieved in 10 years’ time?
I have no specific 10-year plan. I believe that would be rather restricting and because a change in direction would be considered as a failure in my view. Setting up my own production company is a realistic plan, and while we are going to work towards it, I will simply continue to do what I’ve been doing. I’m happy that I have the freedom to be able to transform ideas that are only in my head to begin with to the outside so that they become visible to others. I would like to keep developing in this field further.
What is your tip to the future and current students at the University of Applied Sciences Europe? How should they use their time at the university? What should they be aware of in their development and in entering their professional life?
If you’re aware of your environment and above all about yourself, then you’re on your way. If you’re positive, engaging, and open, you will meet exactly the same type of people with and from whom you will be able to learn. So look for classmates, friends, and professors who share your enthusiasm in something. Experiment a lot while you’re a student. You have a huge amount of freedom for which you will at least have to fight more for later. Never be afraid to make big plan and take it on the chin if you fall flat on your face. Or if you can’t be bothered about anything at times. In the end, your working life is exactly like life in general: You are responsible to make the best of it, whatever “the best” for you is.
Finally, describe your degree in three words!
Stimulating, practical, & formative
Alumni Carina Jonatzke and Florian Babilon, who completed their B.A. in Business and Management Studies and M.A. in Corporate Management respectively, have moved to Shanghai after graduation to develop their careers further. In this interview, they tell how that came about and what their time on Campus Iserlohn was like.
Carina, you graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2015, and Florian, you with a Master’s degree in 2016 from the University of Applied Sciences Europe Campus Iserlohn. There are many universities that have a good business faculty. Why did you choose the University of Applied Sciences Europe – then BiTS?
The main reasons for deciding to study at the University of Applied Sciences Europe – then BiTS – were firstly the good reputation of the school and secondly the opportunity to acquire the academic foundations for possible managerial roles in a practice-based manner straight after completing vocational training. In addition, the broad curriculum, including opportunities for internships and international experience, as well as personal contact to the faculty, were compelling.
On Campus Iserlohn there is always something going on, for example, semesters abroad, internships, and clubs. What study-related experience has stuck strongly in your mind?
The absolute highlight was our semester abroad in China.
Florian: I was already in Qingdao during my Bachelor’s in Business and Management Studies in 2011, before my Master’s in Corporate Management.
Carina: I was also in Beijing during my Bachelor’s degree in 2014.
In hindsight, the opportunity to leave your comfort zone for a whole semester and be thrown in the deep end was the most impactful and valuable experience, both professionally and personally. Without the integrated semester abroad during the Bachelor’s degree we would not have taken this step.
China can even keep up with the parties at B7 …
Students have chosen a slogan “Create your story. Inspire the world.” What experiences from your studies supported you to go down your own personal career path? What inspired you to take that path?
During my studies I had the opportunity to try things out professionally as an intern during semester breaks. If you use these opportunities, you get to experience different job types as well as different sectors and get a good idea as to what lies ahead for you and in which direction you’d like to go after completing your degree.
Florian: So, for example, I got my first insights into the automotive industry during my project internship, and that’s what I wanted to do after my Master’s.
You have left Germany and have settled in Shanghai, China. How did this come about?
We both fell in love with China during our semester abroad and we wanted to live and work in China for a longer period of time than just for a semester abroad. We did not lose sight of our goal when we began our careers in Germany. It was important to find a company that was positioned accordingly and was facing the same direction as us.
Give us an insight into your daily routines. How can we imagine your daily and professional life in Asia?
Our daily routine in Shanghai is of course totally different from the one we had in Germany. Shanghai as a megalopolis has everything to offer what you’d expect from a large city in the West, however at a larger scale and of course with a local twist.
During the week our daily routine mostly starts at normal business hours. In comparison to Germany we’re on the move more. Shanghai is as large as the Ruhr area with about 27 million inhabitants, and clients as well as company locations are spread all over China. During the week it’s rare to be at home: There are regular evening events with clients and colleagues, business trips in Asia, or discovering new restaurants and leisure opportunities. There is something going on all the time.
You have already experienced a lot, but you have your whole life ahead of you. Where are you heading next? / What’s your dream? What would you like to have achieved in 10 years’ time?
The experience has shown us that a lot can happen in a short period of time. Different events continuously influence our professional dreams and goals. It’s so exciting!
What is your advice to future and current students at the University of Applied Sciences Europe? What should they make use of at the university? What should they be aware of in their development?
1. Do not put off exams
2. Use your free time for different internships
3. Always leave your comfort zone
Finally, describe your degree in three words!
Diligence, horizon, success
Tim Schneider is a professional basketball player for Alba Berlin. He studied Sport & Event Management while working in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences Europe at ALBA Berlin College. We met him for an interview and asked him about his motivation for pursuing a dual degree while remaining an active professional athlete.
Something is always going on at the UE: e.g., semester abroad, internships and departmental projects. Which experience from your first semester at the Alba Berlin College particularly stays with you?
There really is a lot going on already in the first semester. This is naturally demanding, but is also really fun! The variety of topics we worked with in our seminars demonstrated to us from the beginning of the program how multi-faceted the professional prospects are for those with a degree in Sport and Event Management. From my perspective, the best feeling is hearing that you’ve passed your exams.
Students at the UE chose a slogan: “Create your story. Inspire the world.” Which experiences during your studies supported you in pursuing your own totally individual career path and deciding to pursue a dual degree with Alba Berlin College at the UE?
In my situation, I’m employed and I study on the side, so to speak. It’s also clear to me that I can’t work actively as a professional basketball player all the way until retirement. In competitive sports, that’s just the way it is. However, my current job is playing for Alba Berlin, and I would also like to keep my professional focus on basketball later. Therefore, it was very important to me to find an option that allowed me to continue to focus on the sport without dropping out of the organization. When I discovered the option of applying to the UE for Alba Berlin College and combining my career and my studies, it was clear to me: that’s what I want!
What aspect of your studies inspires you?
I am still very happy to have had the chance to study alongside my job. I can completely imagine that this kind of situation is not for everyone. However, our practical work and our classes are compatibly organized. My classmates are also doing a dual-study program, but I am the only one in my semester who is active as a professional player.
Where do you go from here? / What’s your dream? What do you want to accomplish in the next ten years?
I’m still really young, so I think it’s realistic to assume that I’ll still be playing basketball in ten years. I also will have definitely finished my studies by then. With my studies, I’m currently establishing a pathway into the phase of my life after my career as an active professional athlete. However, I can’t say yet what my area of specialization will be.
What tips can you offer prospective students? What should they pay attention to when choosing their area of study?
My recommendation is to choose the field of study that most interests them. Speaking from my own experience, I would even say that the things that best prepare you for the future are the same ones for which you really have a passion. These are definitely different things for differnet people. However, a concrete tip would be: look into your inner self, which hobbies you have, and what interests you in your free time. This way, you can at least consider which steps one has to take to incorporate some of these activities into your professional life. After all, you stick to a job when it’s also fun for you.
In conclusion: describe your studies at the UE and the ALBA Berlin College in three words!
Future, Knowledge, Studies
BiTS Alumni e.V. is the registered association of graduates of the university and serves as the communicative link between students, past and present, and University of Applied Sciences Europe. The association allows members to use their contacts for private and professional purposes, and actively supports the exchange of information and solidarity.
The Career Center forms the bridge between BiTS Alumni e.V. and the university. On the one hand, the Career Center maintains services for graduates even after they have completed their studies and is a point of contact for them when it comes to applying for jobs. On the other hand, the alumni themselves are a link between their employers and the university – mostly in relation to recruiting.
In addition, student coaching by our alumni is supported by the University of Applied Sciences Europe Alumni Mentoring Program, which was set up by the association in conjunction with the Career Center. The aim of the mentoring program is to assign students of the university to mentors. The mentors are mainly university graduates who have an established career and wish to advise and encourage future graduates. The program is open to students of all disciplines. Get-togethers allow both parties to get to know one another, which may lead to tandems between alumni and students. Regional after-work events involving various activities provide an opportunity for non-local alumni to network.
The strong solidarity between the members of BiTS Alumni e.V. is also evident in what the dedicated members offer present students. It is possible for members of BiTS Alumni e.V. to have their references and applications looked over in a simple and convenient process, where association members in an HR and/or recruiting role and with a managerial function check the documents free of charge on a voluntary basis and give feedback in writing or by phone.
More than 70 of our graduates have set up their own firm or are involved in a new start-up. The logical next step for the alumni association is therefore to facilitate a new phase of networking with this group. The Alumni Entrepreneur’s Day brings together founders and those interested in setting up a firm.