Welcome to Cologne! My Summer Journey

It is junior year summer, and the primary goal for the coming months is to maximize the fun in the crazy challenge that I took upon myself by coming to Germany.

When I reflected over my last summer’s experience abroad I recognized my want to gain international work experience in Europe. A new continent, new country, new people, and new culture. Despite having eleven years of German language study and some German waltz moves, I had never actually visited the country – and I knew being thrown into a completely new scenario would bring the challenge and growth I was searching. This means, in practice, that this summer would function as a huge leverage point in my professional work experience, social environment, skills that I hone, and my personal journey.

Brandenburg Tor in Berlin

So here I find myself, writing from TH Köln – Technology, Arts, Sciences (Cologne University of Applied Sciences), the largest applied sciences university in Germany, and quite an astonishing place. Although the building might be a bit old, the place is breathing of innovation, of “cultural and technological breakthroughs of high societal relevance” (as cited on the website), and of progress. The Deutz location where I work, which is on the “other side” of the Rhine as most Cologne people would say, is mainly for Engineering, Physics, Media, and Technology, so my Institute of Media and Imaging Technology at the Computer Graphics and Computer Science Lab fits in quite well.

Welcomed with an office view that is hard to beat (a 360 view including the Rhine, the famous Cathedral, and much more) and intelligent and fun professors and supervisors, I feel, after two weeks, quite at home here.

TH Koln Deutz where I work

As fitting for my Experimental WOW Grant – the project I will be working on is similarly an intersection of topics and is literally an ‘experiment’. The lab work conducted here specializes in virtual and augmented reality, with our project’s focus being examining presence and collaboration within a virtual environment as a response to auditory signals. Although I hadn’t known what project I would be working on prior to coming to Germany, the work fits quite well with my lab work at the Memory and Cognition Lab at Brandeis University – an added bonus. What is especially interesting is that the projects we are working on are collaborations not only between centers within the university but also between the university and industry. The result is science that is directly applicable to real-world problems facing the industry and society currently, something that I really care about in my education goals.

Rhine River during sunset with the Cologne Cathedral in the background

In addition to gaining a comprehensive understanding of German culture and life, I am hoping to attain a few goals professionally. Mainly these include planning a research project in XR, coding and building the necessary VR environment, running participants to gather data, and hopefully having the time to analyze and synthesize findings. This internship – like any – is a race against time, with a steep learning curve in both social, professional, and academic goals. I could not be more excited, energized, and interested in this process of being exposed to such new topics while in a learning and supportive environment.

 

Shai Dinnar ’20

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