Category Archives: Work / University

Small plans instead of big resolutions

Most people have one big New Year’s Resolution, and struggle with it. A way better idea that I heard during my stay at my parent’s place, in a Sunday morning interview with one of my favourite authors, Thomas Brezina (wikipedia), is the following:

Don’t make one big resolution. Try to think of a couple of things that you’d like to do during the upcoming year. Write them down, and during 2014, check every once in a while how you are doing on completing those plans.

So here are my plans for 2014:

  • find about 170 geocaches, so my total will be at least 500 by the end of 2014
  • walk another 2 parts of Lechweg with my mum
  • hike up Säuling, a mountain near my hometown, also with my mum
  • finally complete the trail that goes all around Vienna (“Rundumadum”)
  • make use of my Niederösterreich Card
  • complete courses worth 30 ECTS per semester, so I’ll finish my Bachelor’s degree within 8 semester in sum

and of course, the classic thing: restart going to Yoga and Gymnastics classes on a weekly basis.

Did you make a resolution? Or do you have plans, like I do?

Sexism: Visibility vs Existence

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about since … well, 2 months. The title tells it all, it’s again about my post on what I have encountered at TU Wien that I regard as sexist. For the sake of completeness, here’s also the link to my addendum to that post (in case you missed it).

So, that blog post of mine seems to have made it as far as to the Austrian Students’ Parliament – yay! Also, it seems to have made quite an impression wherever it went.

Apparently the message heard by some people was that there is “a lot of sexism over there at Informatics”. It seems to me there are people out there who think what they don’t see doesn’t happen, as in “if nobody says there’s sexism at MY department, there is no sexism here”.

Maybe you’re not paying enough attention. Maybe your “sexism radar” hasn’t been fine-tuned yet. Maybe you’re just a hell of a lucky person who happens to be at a department where there are no sexist persons.

I’m a nice person, so I hope for you that it’s number 3. On the other hand, if you ever happen to be thrown into another environment, with less nice and less feminist persons, you’ll have a pretty tough time either getting accustomed to it, or – which I hope you’re already doing – changing it.

Making sexism visible as what it is – prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s gender and the stupid belief that one gender is overall superior to the other, thus making it alright to dominate the seemingly weaker gender – is the first step of making it go away.

And that’s what I was hoping for. Raising awareness that there’s still much to do at TU Wien. Finding allies. Maybe even starting something that might end up in changing my University.

Vienna 101, continued

Showing the city I love to people who are new to it or want to discover new places – I LOVE it 🙂

As everybody at the first meeting liked the idea, we visited Zentralfriedhof on our second trip. I changed my usual tour a little, so we would see different parts of the cemetery, including the old Jewish cemetery where I don’t go that often. We also checked off some Geocaches that had been placed at the cemetery after my last visit.

Our third visit to Places You’d Usually Don’t See Or Visit In Vienna was to Lainzer Tiergarten. Unfortunately, most of the park is closed in Winter, due to all the game living there and their need of having a quiet time during the cold season. So instead of having a rather long hike starting in the North of the park, and having a great view over the city, we spent most of the Tutorium on the tramway and waiting for it – but the small part of the park that was open was definitely worth it! That part is called Hermesvillapark, and that Villa is a lovely piece of bavarian Kitsch in the middle of a lovely area –  built by Emperor Franz Joseph for his beloved Sisi.

We tried solving a multi stage geocache, but didn’t succeed. Obviously 3 informatics students can’t count letters as good as a 7 year old girl (we met a geocaching family along the way, and they had a different outcome, and logged the cache … ). Later on, we DID log a traditional geocache, so bringing the GPS device wasn’t totally futile 🙂

Last but not least, trip number 4 took us to Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM, Museum of Military History). Every year, usually on the first weekend of advent, there’s a medieval market happening outside the museum, and the entrance to the museum is free of charge. This time, only 2 of our usual participants came, and even Boki didn’t have time to come. I decided to also invite some other friends and acquaintances, but still we only were 4 people 🙂  We learned some things about Austria’s wars from 17th to 19th century, about fencing in the 14th century, fashion in the 13th century, and about the area where HGM is located (called “Arsenal”). Of course we also tasted a couple of punch variations and logged a geocache. I sure am happy that people don’t mind, or even enjoy, my hijacking the Tutorium for finding geocaches 🙂

Vienna 101, lesson 1

As I mentioned before, I’ll be a tourist guide for students who just moved to Vienna, or would like to (re)discover Vienna, this semester.

Unit 1 of the “Wien-Tut” was an easy walk from our University’s main building at Karlsplatz to Stephansplatz (aka, the city center) and then we had a coffee and talked a bit about what they wanted to see in the next unit.

Well, that’s the extra-short version of it. Along the way, Boki and I showed them the Opera, the Albertina museum, the Crypt of the Habsburgs, Stock-im-Eisen-Platz, and my personal favourite in the first district: Blutgasse. The unanimous feedback was that the students want to see more of the unusual sights, sites and sides of Vienna, just like Blutgasse – so we decided we’d go see Zentralfriedhof cemetery next.

It’ll be great 🙂

TU Wien needs feminism!

Not only I need feminism, but also some of the teachers at my school (TU Wien, University of Technology in Vienna) should do some catching up regarding equality. Want some examples?

I can’t really say if it was pure sexism, but at the compulsory interview before I started studying here, the interviewer (a professor) asked me if I was sure I wanted to “try” this type of informatics studies. It would be tough, there would be lots of maths (you don’t say!) and with my former education I’d be better of “trying” business informatics. Yep, that’s what he said. I’m not sure if he’d asked a male future student with the same background the same question, so I’ll mark it as probably sexist.

Encouraging female future students to study whatever they want: You’re doing it wrong.

Then, at the beginning of 2013, I attended several revision lessons for a course in Formal Methods and Logic (it’s way more interesting than it sounds 😉 ). There were 5 of lessons in all, and I managed to be at 4 of them, missing only the first. A lot of students asked questions, and as far as I remember, most of the people asking were male, and most questions were the same ones, over and over again. The professor was patient in answering, and did a pretty good job in explaining things that were unclear. Until I asked a question that obviously had been answered in the first lesson – that I missed, if you remember – already. I had been the first woman to ask a question. I had been the only woman answering questions that he asked to see if we understood his points. And this is the response I got to my question: “We already talked about that, but I’ll explain it to you. And to show you that we already talk about it, let me show you the example we did. Because you women always need things written down.”

Encouraging female students to ask questions: You’re doing it wrong.

And now, at the beginning of the current semester, our professor in Statistics and Probability Theory thought it would be funny to say the following: “You see, women grow, statistically speaking, 7 years older than men. In Austria, they are allowed to retire 5 years earlier than men. And then THEY are asking for equal rights?”

Statistics: You’re doing it wrong. As a Statistics teacher. Oh my.

I and one of my friends sent this teacher one email each, asking him not to make “jokes” like that again. My (male) friend received an invitation to the teachers’ office during his office hours, to talk about “your problem” (quote). I received an email saying “Sorry that you thought it was meant like this, I didn’t mean it this way. I only wanted to ask the question of equality.” (quote)

Equally responding to emails: You’re doing it wrong.

Also, he said the exact same thing during the next lesson. And since then, he’s taking every chance he gets to make fun of feminism by adding “I hope that wasn’t sexist” to pretty much every example he uses.

Learning: You’re not doing it. That’s why TU Wien needs feminism.

I need Feminism, because …

… I am a student at a University of Technology.
… I am a student in the area of Computer Sciences.

… there are still to many people who ask “What do we need Feminism for?”

I’m thinking about creating a regular get-together for female students in my field, but also women at TU Wien in general. Unfortunately, many of them don’t think they need an all-female network – just like I thought until about half a year ago.

I don’t remember what incident it was that made me change my mind. The most important thing is, though, that I decided to attend the Vienna FemCamp, a BarCamp dedicated to women and their problems, focussing on online aspects.

I met great people there, and the same goes for the FemCamp in Linz a couple of months later. Things that were discussed there made my realise that until now I had been lucky, for I had never had any real problems with sexism, aside from two things that happened at University.

So yes, I need Feminism. And I’m looking forward to finding other women at my University who would like to meet up every once in a while to talk about what it means being a woman in Technology.

Finally: I’m a ‘real’ student!

After 4 semesters, I finally completed a course students at our University are supposed to complete within the first 2 semesters. The problem is not that it was sooo difficult – it’s that I’m sooo lazy 🙂

I feel like Pinocchio must have felt after he finally became a real child – I’m a real student now, and can attend whatever courses I like! Only my own laziness now stands in between me and the progress of my studies 🙂

Helping first-year students

After meeting lots of great people who dedicate part of their time to assisting students in studying – as in, suggesting interesting courses, helping with legal problems, and so on – I decided to finally join them this year.

In order to organise a “Tutorial for First-Year students” (EsTut in short), I was invited to a workshop where we would talk about our ideas, our fears, our aims for those EsTuts, and try to organise at least the first session. Also, we talked about and planned how to advertise our EsTuts.

And what should I say … that weekend was amazing.

I spent 4 days with people I knew a little from University, and some whom I had liked from the start, some who had been a bit weird in the beginning, but all pretty nice people. I got to know them better, and I liked what I saw. Our coaches didn’t put a lot of pressure on us, but still there was a lot of output. Both our coaches said they had rarely seen a group of people so confident and considerate. Everybody got to share their opinions on all kinds of topics, everybody got to share their knowledge, so everybody learned something new during that weekend. At the same time, no drama happened. No arguments or fights broke out. We had (sometimes passionate) discussions, but that was that.

I felt all fluffy inside after that weekend, and I still feel great now when I think about this weekend.

And, the best thing is: in a couple of weeks, I will help students from all over Austria, probably even from other countries, to get to know Vienna, the city I love.

Two nutshells

I like recaps. They give me the possibility to think over stuff I’ve done. Also, I’m not one for blogging all the time, as you might have seen. It’s more like sitting down once a month (or every 6 weeks), thinking about what I’ve accomplished or what has happened since the last time I wrote – and then write about it.

So here is my 2012 in a nutshell.

I finished my first semester as a student at University. Not very successful, but also not without success.

We had an awesome winter with lots of snow, and I went skiing both with my parents and Georg, and there was terrific traffic chaos everywhere (I remember pictures of roads in Tirol and Vorarlberg, covered in 1-4 meters of snow!).

I spent 3 weeks in the US and Canada, making new friends and relishing every minute of it.

When I came back, I bought a bike, Maya, and set on discovering Vienna by bike. And: a cat café had just opened in Vienna, and the BBC featured me in a fluff-piece about it 🙂

I decided to go for a 10-day hike in my holidays.

I finished my 2nd semester as a student – again, not as successful as I could have, but good enough.

There was, of course, Vienna Calling 2012.

I did a lot of hikes in preparation for The Big Hike, and worked at Vienna Zoo during summer break. Also, in August I moved in a shared flat with Stefan, and had a lot of doubts about me being at University.

Then, autumn already. I was incredibly motivated, and did a lot of work for University. Georg moved in with us (yes!), and then … somehow … already it was Christmas.

There was big get-together with old school mates (from more than 10 years back), meeting and visiting relatives and friends, and after one week, I was happy to return back to Vienna.

So this was 2012 in a big nutshell (coconut like).

2012 in a smaller nutshell: it brought lots of new friends, finally seeing old friends again, discovering Vienna anew time and time again, seeing new things in Austria and also visiting new places all over the world. And of course, lots and lots of new things learned.

Let’s hope, 2013 will be like this – or even better.

Uni: Good news.

Some days ago, I wrote about how University is trying to get rid of students (see “Uni-jam-ity”). For me, this meant I had to pass 3 exams in order to finally finish the first phase of my studies. One of them was especially critical, as it could have meant the end to my studies in case I did not pass.

Good news: I passed them all. One (not critical) with 12 out of 20 points (60 %), one (also not critical) with 20 out of 25 points (80 %), and the critical one with 47 out of 72 points (65 %). The one I passed with 80 % was the first (of three) programming exams. I’m pretty proud of that one, because the 80 % mean that the whole programme did exactly what it was meant to do 🙂