Entry 204 : A Month In Europe - [PART 2(1)] I Want To Write A Paper With You

This entry is PART 2(1) in my A Month In Europe series. If you haven't, check out PART 1 here.


After my solo exploration of Frankfurt, I took the RER train to Giessen, which is about an hour away from Frankfurt (or quicker if you take the HLB). I didn't know what to expect and this level of uncertainty would normally set me in a total nervous fit, but I had spent the past few weeks just hypnotizing myself into not being a total paranoid. Every time I start to overthink things I just tell myself

"Of course you don't know where to go or what to do or who to talk to but that's okay because you have never been here before... and your future sight powers haven't kicked in yet."
The view of the countryside was quite nice

The giant windmills were really cool

But then again, that wasn't 100% true. I actually did know where to go and what to do. My interim supervisor while I was in Germany, Dr. Bianca, had sent me an e-mail with explicit details of how to get to the student residence office by bus. It was extremely helpful and, now that I've recalled it, was actually the main reason for my calm nerves (aside from psyching myself).

It was lunch time when I arrived

Retrieving my keys was very easy and after a very filling vegetarian lunch, I headed to my room to settle in and rest before meeting Dr. Bianca.

I love this room

Complete with fridge and stove

I also get my personal bathroom

The room was awesome. I loved how quaint and virtually perfect it was, what with all the storage space, a refrigerator, a personal bathroom and a stove! I kind of felt like it was a waste to only stay there for one month. My only complaint about the room is that it doesn't have WiFi! You'll have to bring your own ethernet cable to use the internet that they provide. To gain internet access, you'll have to fill out a form and send it to the university's internet center. They do have WiFi at the faculties and cafeterias, though, and it's easily accessible if you have an eduroam account. Most countries in the West have this but I have never seen (or heard of) it in Malaysia. You can only sign up for an eduroam account if your university has it.

Unterhof residence

After taking a nap, I then proceeded to the faculty, or rather institute, where I was to meet with Dr. Bianca. The institute was a 20-minute walk from my room. Sounds pretty far and tiring, but to the people there it was actually very normal. For people who prefer not to walk or aren't in a hurry, there are buses that frequent between the Unterhof residence and the street near the institute. I opted to just walk every day as it would be something I would never be able to do in Malaysia.

Institut für Informatik

My name was already outside my office/workspace

The thing about Giessen (and probably Europe in general) is that they have actual sidewalks for pedestrians to walk on without having to disrupt the flow of traffic. You can literally walk from one end of the city to the other on a sidewalk without having to walk on the roads. In Malaysia, generally, there aren't actual sidewalks for people to walk on. So you would either have to walk on the side of the road (which is normally grass or mud), or walk on the road and risk your life. Plus, public transport isn't as reliable or as preferred in Malaysia as it is in Germany, which I guess more or less explains the traffic jams in the city and other highly dense locations.

Anyway, I met with Dr. Bianca later that day and she immediately took me sightseeing around the city of Giessen. She showed me where to shop for groceries, where the train station was, and where to find a multitude of retail stores and cafes. We walked to the Botanical Garden, which is owned and maintained by the university, to some faculty buildings in the city, to some random places and lastly had dinner at a nice restaurant.

I didn't take that many photos on this walk as I didn't want to be a nuisance by stopping every two steps because it would be very rude... At least, that's what I thought. Turns out Dr. Bianca was really into taking photos. Throughout the walk she never hesitated to just pause for a while to look at the scene and take photos.

After our walk and dinner, we parted ways and I went back to my room to rest.

The next day, I gave a talk about my research in front of the research group at the institute. I prepared a short talk on my research background, literature review, current progress and future goals. I basically presented the slide I presented for my proposal defense. The talk went well, although Dr. Bianca did say I was too fast. The whole research group then had lunch together afterwards.

After lunch, everyone retreated to their respective offices; including me. I was reading up on some research material when there was a knock on the door. It was Professor Markus, a professor at the institute, and he wanted to talk to me about my research. He immediately told me that my at-the-time current results were essentially wrong, and that my proofs didn't work. By simply providing a counterexample, it was pretty clear that he was right. It wasn't entirely bad news, though, as he also came with a bunch of ideas on how to make things work and how to actually get more results from the research. Right from the get-go he showed immense interest in the research and kept on returning to my office with ideas. It was the third or fourth time he visited my office in a span of one hour when he said,
"I want to write a paper with you. Is that okay?".

"Is that okay?" That was EXCELLENT! It was only my second day at the institute but I was already starting work on a new paper by the end of the day. Talk about German efficiency. And that was pretty much the start of my intense four weeks of research at Giessen.


Dr. Bianca and Prof. Markus

Don't remember an instance where I didn't have my dinner at the office

Random doodles on the whiteboard (I'm actually showing off the cool hoodie they gave me on my last day as a souvenir)

After that, every day was spent just wrestling with LaTeX codes, proofs for theorems, idea exchanges, discussions that went on till 9PM, going back and forth with examples and counterexamples, looking for candidates, rewriting proofs, writing up the actual paper, revisions, and so much more. The high intensity was mostly motivated by the deadline of the conference that we were looking to submit our paper to, which was in a little over two weeks. It was insane but at the same time absolutely invigorating.

Research wasn't the only thing I did while I was in Giessen, though.I also went sightseeing at least once a week to other cities nearby.

That and more in my next entry.