Saturday, April 13, 2013

Starting a new adventure: Professor for one year

I start a new adventure, actually, it started on April first.  For one year, I will substitute a professor in theoretical and computational linguistics. I am an acting professor now (Vertretungsprofessor). It's mostly about teaching, but I think it is nice opportunity to try out a new role; according to the contract I have all duties and rights of a "real" professor.

For the next 52 weeks, I will report on new experiences.  I aim to write a post every week on how it feels to be a "professor for one year."

At the same time, I can compare two cultures, two scientific systems:  Although I studied in Germany, I am not familiar with the German system any more.  It sounds a bit awkward, but I studied in the last century, which also means: I studied in the pre-Bologna system.  I spent the last 12 years in Switzerland, doing research, teaching and e-learning consulting at several institutions of higher education.  There have been things I did like a lot and things I didn't like at all.  I'm curious about the German way of being a university.

The first week started somewhat complicated.  I had to sign the contract, which included a lot of regulations only mentioned by acronyms and refering to the "current valid version."  I have no idea to what I agreed, but I did.

Then, I got an office.  Surprisingly, it already had a door plate:



To get a key and an e-mail account and so on I had to go on a orienteering race on my own.  I was sent from station to station for every next step.  When I finally got two keys (one for my office and one for the lab), they looked identical.  I asked the guy who gave them to me how to distinguish them and he answered: "Impossible, just try them out".  Great!

After all, this administrative experience was not too bad.  However, it's a bit strange to knock on all these doors and ask for a form here and a sign out there as if you are the new student assistant when you should feel like "the professor."  The best first day ever I had so far, was at a University of Applied Science: I got keys and then I found all paperwork to sign nicely prepared on my new desk, which also had a new computer, pencils, writing pad, ruler, stapler and so on, badge and business cards, printed relevant regulations and information for new employees.  I felt very wellcome.

Next week, I will start teaching, Summer term is starting then.  I'm really excited: I will teach three courses, I look forward to getting to know students, and I hope we will have encouraging discussions and learn a lot.

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