For the third edition in this series introducing Keio's international partner universities, we visit Europe to look at the University of Cologne, one of Germany's largest and oldest universities, with a strong reputation for academic and research excellence. Through the exchange program between the University of Cologne and Keio, undergraduate and graduate students of Keio have the opportunity to experience life at the University of Cologne for a semester or a full academic year.
Claudio Wewel from the Department of Bank Management of the University of Cologne spent four months as a visiting scholar at Keio, working with researchers at the Faculty of Economics on a project investigating stock market reactions in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Keio Global spoke to him during his stay to find out more about the University of Cologne and the kind of experience students might expect there.
Claudio Wewel PhD
University of Cologne
Why did you choose to study at the University of Cologne?
There are five strong research institutions for economics in Germany and Cologne is definitely one of them. In recent years, the university has also made strong efforts to produce top-tier research, and of course at postgraduate level it is particularly important to be exposed to people that show you how to research effectively.
What would you say are the similarities between Keio and Cologne?
As I understand, Keio's strengths lie particularly in law and economics, which matches the profile of Cologne very well--Cologne has a strong focus on business administration and economics. At the master's level, there are a large number of fields that you can choose to specialize in, including insurance, finance, and topics like health economics. Recently, a research unit in macroeconomics, the Center for Macroeconomic Research, has also been established with approximately ten professors affiliated.
Law is another area in which Cologne has a very strong reputation; Cologne is one of the top institutions in Germany in this field. I think that in this respect there are a lot of similarities between Keio and Cologne academically, and of course Cologne also is a very traditional school.
One aspect that differs quite greatly between the two universities is that Keio has a number of campuses, while the University of Cologne is spread out across the city but essentially centered at one main campus. The economics faculty where I am based is located at the university's main campus.
How would you describe the academic life at the University of Cologne?
Undergraduate courses are usually taught in a format consisting of a lecture and either a practical class and a tutorial, or perhaps both. There may be three different types of classes so it can take up to six lecture hours per week per course, but it depends on the course--there are others that may take four, or even two lecture hours.
I've had the opportunity to attend two classes here at Keio and I would say that while class sizes do vary, maybe the class sizes are a little bit larger for undergraduate students at the University of Cologne. At master's level there are also much smaller sized classes.
In terms of speaking English, it depends on the level at which you are going to study, but at master's level it should be possible to complete one year of exchange using English alone without prior knowledge of the German language. I also teach a master's level class in English and there are English undergraduate courses as well. I think a lot of people hesitate about coming to Germany because they think that knowledge of German is a prerequisite, but it definitely isn't if you come for exchange from a partner institution for one or two semesters.
How would you describe the atmosphere in Cologne?
Cologne is a very open-minded place. It might even be one of the most international places in Germany--we have a lot of international students coming from various countries, including many Japanese students. It's a fairly big city, maybe comparable to Kobe in size, which is small if you're used to living in Tokyo but big by German standards! At the same time, it should be quite easy to get around in Cologne; most Germans speak at least some English so it should be quite easy to communicate with people, both in the city and naturally at the university as well.
What would you say would be unique about studying in Cologne?
One aspect that is very different is the lifestyle. Generally speaking, I think German students are quite independent from their parents. In Japan, it seems to be the custom for a lot of students to live at home and commute to university, but German students would usually live by themselves. So perhaps a stay in Cologne is an opportunity to develop a more independent personality. Of course, a stay abroad generally allows people to expand their ideas and cultural experiences.
What students will immediately notice when they come to Cologne is that gatherings and events are less formal than in Japan; I am sure it will take some courage to overcome this cultural difference if one is very much used to a formal way of interaction.
What can students do at the University of Cologne?
There are a wide range of activities available at the university, including a lot of sports clubs and many other different types of societies, such as those with a focus on academic activities--for instance, in my field there are groups related to finance and stock markets. These are discussion groups that organize presentations and company visits to the campus, including lectures and workshops. Joining such groups makes it easier to get involved and to get to know other students, so my advice would be don't be shy, and get involved!
There are also a great number of places that you can visit when you have free time. Of course, in Cologne the best place to start is the cathedral, but besides this the city is just next to the Rhine River so you can go on boat trips and visit the villages nearby.
If you are interested in music, particularly classical music, then Cologne is a great place to be! There is a superb philharmonic orchestra and many international orchestras also come to perform in Cologne.
For those of you who are interested in exploring Europe, Cologne is also conveniently located--you can go to Paris by train in just three hours.
At the same time, Cologne seems to have a sizeable Japanese population and there are a number of Japanese restaurants. Dusseldorf is located just 30 kilometers away and has a very large Japanese community, so if there is ever a possibility you might get homesick, I think Dusseldorf can heal it!
About the University of Cologne
The University of Cologne is a modern university in the heart of Europe, with a vibrant and inspiring environment based on academic excellence, internationality, and widely varied curricula. It has a strong reputation in business, humanities, and life sciences. The Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences (WiSo-Faculty)--Germany's largest and most reputable faculty of its type--is EQUIS accredited and is well-known for offering students a vast scope of study fields and specializations.
The university is also a founding member of the Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS) an alliance of 29 of the world's leading business schools and universities with multinational companies and NGOs. Keio is currently a member of the CEMS alliance and the only school in Japan to offer the CEMS Masters in International Management (CEMS MIM), an international management master's course based on European management theory.
For more information on Keio exchange programs (available in Japanese only):