How much practical experience is gained during studies at uni?
Why studying at a university contains more practice than expected

Universities are all about theories and abstract ideas, far away from everyday life?! Not at all! Compared to universities of applied sciences, the classic university is oriented towards research a lot more. But there are still plenty of practical elements in degree programmes. First of all, the foundations have to be laid, and that includes trying things out! Besides, research and practice are not mutually exclusive. Our ambassadors will show you all the practical content in their study programmes! They also give you an overview of the types of events that are waiting for you during your studies and which of them are practical in themselves.


Excursions and field trips in the degree programme “Applied Geosciences”

The fact that practical elements play an important role in this degree programme is already evident from the name of the programme itself: it is about applied geosciences. Ambassador Judith reports on what makes her degree programme special:

Applied Geosciences B.Sc.

I think it is awesome how diverse my studies are. I do not just spend my time in front of my desk, in lecture halls, or labs, but where I like to be: In nature.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Judith
Picture: Britta Hüning

“There are many different types of courses in my degree programme: practical field courses, exercises, practical laboratory courses, seminars, and, of course, lectures. But what makes my degree programme very special are excursions and field trips. These can even be several days long. As the name suggests already, we go ”into the field": this can be nearby or in the Black Forest, the Harz Mountains or Fuerteventura. Sometimes we even go all over the world, for example to China or Iceland. These excursions are, however, voluntary.

You are not stuck at your desk usually, but leave your usual surroundings, to go out into nature and experience what you learned in your lectures in the real world. Unlike in exercises at university, you go into the real environment. You can think of it a bit like lessons during hiking: You walk around with the group (about 10-30 people), often the whole day, and make stops where you observe things and get explanations about it. You write notes about it in a field book (some kind of notebook) and, depending on the excursion, you simply hand it in or write a report or an exam about it. In the course of your studies, you will work more and more independently in the excursions and have more responsibility. The last excursions in the Bachelor's programme are the so-called mapping courses: You go on these independently in small groups of two to four people and your supervisors will only visit your group every few days. Then, you can ask questions then or during debriefings in the evening. This is how you could be taught to work independently and to apply what you have learned.

I think it is really cool how diverse my degree programme is. I do not just spend my time in front of my desk, in lecture halls or laboratories, but where I love to be: in nature. After all, my degree programme is called “Applied Geosciences”, it deals with the scientific exploration of the earth among other things. You can only really understand that if you look at the earth in real life and not just as a photo on a screen, right? What I also find incredible is that you go on trips with your fellow students, sometimes even to other countries, and experience lots of cool things together! It is almost a bit like a school trip, only cooler.

B. Sc. Applied Geosciences

You can find more information about the degree programme “Applied Geosciences” in the programme descriptions or on the website of the Institute for Applied Geosciences. You can then check whether the degree programme really suits you with the help of an OSA – Online Self Assessment.

Obviously, university courses do not continue in the form of school classes. But which courses are offered at uni and what is behind the uni-lingo? Our ambassadors give you an overview and show you which events are particularly practice-oriented.

(Practical) types of courses in the degree programme

You probably already know lectures from various series: A professor stands in front of a large hall where hundreds of students sit, and presents the information. In reality, it’s a little different: the rooms are less crowded because student attendance is desired but not compulsory. Each lecturer has his or her own style of lecturing. Some hand out a script with all the important information already on it, some want to make the lecture more interactive by asking the students questions.

Seminars are often an intermediate form of lectures and practices or tutorials. Groups work on topics and apply them: either with the help of case studies, in student presentations or through intensive text work. In fact, seminars at university are quite comparable to lessons at school in terms of structure. Students in humanities and educational sciences mainly encounter seminars.

There are different types of internships at university. You probably already know the classic work placement from school: for a certain period of time, you get to know a potential field of work after graduation and also take on tasks to a certain extent. You usually organise these yourself and they last several weeks or months, normally outside of the lecture period. In addition to traditional companies and institutions, internships can also be carried out in research projects. Depending on the degree programme, there are different conditions for internships; simply contact the respective study office for more information.

At university, you will find in addition several practical courses that are a mandatory part of the curriculum. They can take place during the semester, for example during the lecture period like all the other courses. Or they take place as block courses during the lecture-free period, in which intensive work is done in the laboratory for a fortnight, for example.

In many natural science degree programmes, you will find for example practical laboratory courses. In Chemistry or Applied Geosciences, there is a strong focus on working in the laboratory, where you learn how to handle equipment and chemicals.

In addition, some degree programmes have practical field courses. These do not take place in the laboratory, but outside, for example in nature.

Excursions or field trips usually last for several days and take place in other regions or countries. During these trips, you will apply the knowledge that you have acquired earlier in your theoretical courses. In applied geosciences, this includes mapping courses where we look at the terrain and then create a geological map ourselves. Elective excursions can even take you to another continent!

This format is one of the most practical courses at university and the terms are quite interchangeable. A classic exercise can be, for example, a group maths exercise in which you solve problems alone and/or together with others. Exercises or practices can also take place in conjunction with lectures: In one part of the time, a skill is taught and in the other part, said skill is practised. In geosciences, for example, the polarisation microscopy course consists of a theoretical lecture on the topic and an exercise in which the students then actually perform microscopy. In addition to the classical exercises, there are also specific formats such as pre-calculus exercises or lecture hall exercises. During the exercise, they show you how to solve certain (arithmetical) problems so that you know how you should approach such a task yourself.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Judith
Picture: Britta Hüning


Hello, my name is Judith and I’m doing a degree in applied geosciences at TU Darmstadt. I’ll tell you openly and honestly why I decided to come to Darmstadt – the City of Science – to go to university! If you look for me on campus, you’ll most likely find me at the Botanical Garden campus. Not just because it’s particularly beautiful there, but because that’s also where my department is located.

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