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Samar Abed from Israel is doing her Masters at the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Konstanz. To watch the interview with Ruoying Li, who is a PhD student at the same faculty, visit our YouTube channel.

University of Konstanz: Academic excellence and beautiful surroundings

Located between Lake Constance and the Alps, the University of Konstanz offers great opportunities for students and researchers from all over the world.

When Ruoying Li from China first took the ferry across Lake Constance, she was fascinated. “I called my friend immediately,” she recalls. “We have to study here, it’s so beautiful,” she told her friend. While the sparkling blue lake was the initial reason Ruoying started her bachelor’s degree in 2016 in Baden-Württemberg, the academic opportunities motivated her to continue her academic career at the University of Konstanz. Seven years later, she is still in Constance and is now a PhD student in the Department of Computer and Information Science.

Samar Abed from Israel was equally intrigued by the lake and the natural surroundings. She was an exchange student in Ravensburg during her highschool years. “I really like the nature in Baden-Württemberg, everything is so green and when I saw lake Constance, it was actually my first time seeing a lake,” she says. “And the people were nice and welcoming, so I decided to start my studies here.”

More than 100 study programs at the University of Excellence

Both women are now studying in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Konstanz, a university with around 11,000 students from more than 100 countries. It is located in a small city between lake Constance and the Alps. The University of Konstanz is one of eleven Universities of Excellence in Germany and has been recognized for both its focus on research and on teaching. The university offers more than 100 study programs in the humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, law, economics, politics and administration. Additionally, students can enroll in interdisciplinary study programs. The university has exchange programs with more than 350 universities worldwide.

Academic passion and mentorship program create opportunities

Ruoying Li’s academic career path became clear during her studies. “I enjoy solving algorithmic problems,” she explains her passion for complex computer problems. When Professor Sabine Storandt, a well-known scientist in the field, came to the University of Konstanz, it was a great opportunity for Ruoying Li. “She became my mentor and I learned a lot from her,” Ruoying says.  To get an academic job position in her supervisor’s group was highly motivating and the reason Ruoying continued her studies at the University of Konstanz. 

“One of the great advantages here is that we have direct contact with our professors,” Ruoying says. The mentorship program allows every computer science student to choose a professor as a mentor. “We can share our ideas and join their research work and that’s a very valuable experience,” she says.

Completing a joint project with the Max Planck Institute to design an application for drone flying routes was one highlight of her studies. Another one was a project she did for the company geOps GmbH based on Swiss railway station data. She used efficient speed-up route planning techniques for barrier-free indoor routing in train stations, something that has never been done before with this specific algorithm. The paper was entered in the 2021 ACM SIGSPATIAL student research competition. Ruoying won third place with her work and earned a medal. She sees the mentorship as a clear advantage of studying at a smaller university that allows her to do the research she is interested in. “My supervisor supported me to publish one journal paper, one conference paper and I won one medal during my master’s degree and I am doing more research now during my PhD,” she says.

Another reason she can concentrate on research is the support she receives. “The university and my group are supporting me a lot, such as providing good equipment for experiments,” Ruoying adds.

Career prospects in Baden-Württemberg

When she first came to Constance, she wasn’t sure about the career opportunities she would have with a degree from a small university. “The University of Konstanz is an excellent university and Baden-Württemberg is a very strong economic area with headquarters of companies like SAP, Bosch and Daimler and many start-ups,” she says. Yet she was still surprised that her fellow students who didn’t continue for their PhDs obtained job offers from Google, Apple, Microsoft or founded their own start-ups. “I think the career opportunities are very good when you graduate from the University of Konstanz,” Ruoying says.

Virtual reality with a human heartbeat

Samar Abed is also planning to do her PhD at the University of Konstanz. She is also a student in the Department of Computer and Information Science and is utterly fascinated by virtual reality. Her master’s project focused on the representation of human heartbeats in a virtual reality environment. If two people are in the same virtual reality environment, they can see each other's heartbeats and thus, for example, gain some understanding of the emotional state the other person might be in.

Her academic work in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has enabled her to participate in two exhibitions done in collaboration with other institutions in Konstanz. “Last year’s exhibition won prizes and I am proud to have been part of it,” the young woman says.

This is just one of many opportunities she found at the University of Konstanz. Being able to attend a prestigious conference in the field of human computer interactions was another. “I met so many interesting people in academia,” she says. Attending the conference inspired her to try to continue her studies in the PhD program. “Before, I thought I would finish my studies with my master’s degree but now I really want to continue,” Samar says.

Support to overcome obstacles

Samar is clearly a strong, dedicated student who has made many friends during her time in Constance. But she also had to overcome some serious obstacles. “Since I was a child, I had a fear of examinations,” she confesses. At her first exam at the university, the fear became paralyzing. “I could not write a single word,” Samar says. She feared that this would have negative consequences. But it didn’t. “I was really surprised how supportive everyone was,” she says. With the help of the university, she was able to get coaching sessions and to finally overcome her fears. She went on to become the best international student in her year, which earned her a scholarship covering the student fees for non-EU students.

Natural surroundings for many leisure activities

While both women, Ruoying and Samar, work hard academically, they also enjoy the surroundings that first motivated them to come to Constance. Ruoying is an enthusiastic cyclist and has also taken up rock-climbing, a sport she enjoys a lot. Samar also likes being in nature. When she first saw snow, she was really surprised: “I never saw snow back home and the first time it snowed here, I was so happy, because it actually is white and fluffy, just like in the movies.” She adds: “I walked for two hours in it just to get it all in. That was amazing.”

For Ruoying and Samar, the University of Konstanz has proven to be the place where they can follow their passions in their academic work and in their love for nature. For more information about the opportunities at the University of Konstanz, see https://www.uni-konstanz.de/en.

Author: Siri Schubert