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Published: July 16th 2014
... well, almost. Submit PhD manuscript. Check. Defend PhD. Check. Only the publication is missing.
Maybe you recall that a little more than three months ago I submitted my PhD manuscript. For becoming Dr Katha, however, there were two more steps to be taken: defending my PhD and publishing the manuscript. My defence was on the 27th of June in Berlin. You might also recall that I am based in Singapore at the moment, so there was some planning involved for me to make sure everything would work out fine.
I left for Germany in the early morning of the 25th and arrived in Hamburg on the afternoon of that day. A wonderful surprise was awaiting me at the airport: my colleagues Anja and Richard were there to welcome me and had brought a sunflower for me – one of my favourite flowers! It was great to see them and of course we had a lot of stories to share! Anja and Richard being there also meant that I did not have to catch the train into town because they had come by car. We went straight to the office, where I saw my other colleagues. It took me a long time to make my way through all the offices and it was so good
to see everyone. It truly felt like coming home 😊.
In the evening I caught a taxi to Mizzi’s apartment. I was going stay at her place while being in Hamburg because I sublet my own apartment to my colleague Nina. It was great to see Mizzi because I really miss her a lot. Both of us were super happy to see each other and we went to “our” restaurant and had “our” wine there. It was a super nice evening.
The next morning I went back to the office and then caught a train to Berlin in the early afternoon. My PhD supervisor is a professor at the Freie Universität Berlin, therefore my defence would take place there. When I got to the hotel, another great surprise was awaiting me. I knew that my mum and my friend Hetty would be there to support me for the defence. However, when I got there my uncle Uli (my godfather) and my aunt Teri were there as well! How good was that?! It was so good to have my mum and them there; and of course having Hetty there was just awesome. We had a drink together and then
Some action going on on stage.
a very nice dinner at the Potsdamer Platz and then had an early night.
The next morning Hetty and I left for the University pretty early so that I would have enough time to prepare the room for the defence. We picked up the beamer and Hetty helped me prepare the room and everything was ready well before time. Shortly before 10.30 everyone turned up. There were mum and Uli and Teri. There was Achim who had come from Hamburg. There were the other PhD students, Fenne, Tanja, Danilo. And there was my commission, consisting of four professors and one academic staff with a PhD title. One of the professors was my supervisor Michael. A PhD manuscript always requires two evaluators, the supervisor and a second professor. The second professor, Rudi, was also on the commission. There were two more professors that I had not met before. Michael had suggested them as members of the commission, and I had asked them, and they had willingly accepted the invitation. And there was Tobi, who had completed his PhD about a year ago, supervised by Michael, and who was still working at the university.
I was very nervous. I had
The Spirit of the Llano Estacado (that later turns out to be pretty human).
30 minutes to present some selected contents of my study and afterwards the commission would have 30 to 60 minutes for probing me and discussing the implications of my findings. The presentation was not a problem at all. Firstly I am a confident and experienced speaker. Secondly I had prepared the presentation carefully. I had made nice slides, asked my colleague Dennis for feedback, had talked the presentation through at least ten times for myself and once in front of Achim and Richard. However, what made me really nervous was that I had no idea what was expecting me after the presentation. Nobody could really tell me what the commission would ask. So I had read my manuscript over and over, had done some additional calculations, and had looked up some methodological issues. However, I had no ideas whether this would be enough.
As expected, the presentation went well. However, the subsequent discussion I found horrible. It seemed to take forever, very often I did not know what the person asking wanted to know or was aiming at, and I had the feeling that I was telling them a lot of bullshit. But I was very grateful to have
Winnetou, chief of the Apache, and a real eagle.
my “support team” there – Hetty, Achim, Mum, Uli, Teri. Finally it was over and the commission sent me outside to discuss what grade they would give me. This discussion seemed to take forever although in fact it was only ten minutes. I was so relieved when Michael finally called me back in and told me that they were giving me the title with a “magna cum laude”.
Mum had arranged a little reception with sparkling wine, biscuits, and crisps, and everyone stayed for a glass and a little chat. Afterwards I invited my family, Hetty, Michael, and Achim for lunch. The weather was beautiful and we sat outside in a restaurant. After lunch Michael and Achim left and I went to have some coffee with my family and Hetty. They asked me what I wanted to do for the rest of the day, but I was exhausted and kind of useless. I said that I simply did not want to make any more decisions during the day and was happy when they suggested to go for a little river cruise on the river Spree. The cruise took about an hour and it was nice to sit on the
Comanche Indians dancing after their chief has been killed.
boat and look at the buildings on both sides of the river. I only got about half of what the guide said, but I did not mind. I just enjoyed sitting there doing nothing. In the evening we went for dinner in the beautiful Nikolaiviertel.
The next morning started slowly. We had a late breakfast, checked out of the hotel and then took some time to stroll across the Hackesche Höfe (a couple of art nouveau backyards with particularly nice shops) and Hackescher Markt (a market in the city centre of Berlin). Mum, Uli, and Teri caught a train back to Stuttgart in the afternoon. Hetty and I stayed for a little longer. We relaxed, sitting in the sun in deck-chairs in a restaurant on the banks of the river Spree, having a few Aperol Spritz. I felt slightly drunk when I boarded my train back to Hamburg that evening. I tried to work on the posters for the upcoming congress, but as you might imagine I did not make a lot of progress on them 😉.
On Sunday morning Mizzi and I had breakfast in “our” breakfast café and then headed off to Bad Segeberg for the
More action going on on stage.
. Karl May is an author who wrote Wild West novels and he is very famous in Germany. Many people read his books in their youth. In Bad Segeberg there is a festival every summer during which they play one of his stories. It is pretty cool because it takes place outside and the actors ride horses and shoot guns and fight and all of that. The weather was not perfect this year, there was some rain in between, but we did not mind that too much – we just had sooo much fun!
I was glad that my disputation was over. Again, there are so many people I would like to express my thanks to: first and foremost Mum and Hetty and Teri and Uli and Achim for supporting me with the disputation; Mizzi for making her home my home for the time I am in Hamburg; Anja and Richard for giving me such a warm welcome in Hamburg; and all my colleagues for making me feel welcome back in the office!
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