Alexandra-Irina Munteanu, 
BMS Phase II Student, 
MSc University of Bucharest

In the last year of my Master's in mathematics at the University of Bucharest, I knew that I wanted to do a PhD in an interdisciplinary field involving stochastic analysis and biology, with a strong emphasis on mathematics, at an excellent university in Europe. I wanted to live in a city at least as big and lively as Bucharest, but perhaps not quite as hectic. I wanted to have financial support that would enable me to focus on my studies, and I wanted to be surrounded by bright and friendly people and to have opportunities for academic and personal growth. I knew I wanted a lot and I dreaded having to make a compromise. Luckily, I didn't have to. When I came to Berlin for my interview and the BMS Days, I realized that the BMS fulfilled all the criteria and now, after having been here for two years, I have discovered many other invaluable things that the BMS has to offer.

When I first arrived in Berlin, all the bureaucracy I had to deal with was daunting, but I was very grateful to my buddy and the BMS One-Stop Office who broke it all down into step-by-step instructions and made the whole process seem very smooth. The BMS Orientation, intercultural seminar and intensive German language course were all very helpful, fun and a great way to get to know the other students! I would then meet the same people every other week, at the BMS Fridays, and some of them have become very close friends.

The city is a great place to be for your doctoral studies. Academically, Berlin has a lot to offer - there are many seminars, courses and conferences, and the generous travel support from the BMS also enables students to participate in conferences elsewhere in Germany and abroad. The universities also offer opportunities for various language and sport courses at very low prices. For your leisure time, there are many parks and lakes where you can swim in the summer as well as numerous museums, theaters and cinemas. There are a lot of great restaurants, cafes and bars. Berlin is a big city, consisting of individual districts, and each of them has a different feel to it, accommodating very diverse lifestyles. I really love Berlin and I think whatever you're looking for, Berlin probably has it. An added bonus is that, even though prices have gone up in the past few years, much of what Berlin has to offer remains affordable on a student budget.

I couldn’t have anticipated how useful the soft-skills seminars offered by the BMS would be for me. Here, we take an honest look at ourselves and find out what our true strengths, weaknesses and wishes are - in short, we learn what we want and we develop key skills to help us get there. Apart from benefitting from the expertise of the excellent trainers, I found it very enlightening to see how my colleagues approach a difficult communication situation, what they need to have a fulfilling career, or how they feel about presentations and what their strategies are for making them effective and engaging. I am also grateful to the BMS for organizing the Kovalevskaya lunches, where female students have the opportunity to discuss with an accomplished female professor about career paths, possible challenges and ways of overcoming them, in a very positive and friendly atmosphere.

Since last year, I have been active as a BMS student representative and I can say it has been a great experience so far! I got the chance to sit in on the BMS Board meetings, where general issues about the BMS are discussed; the Admissions Committee meetings to see how difficult decisions are made; and in the Mentoring, Gender and Diversity Committee meetings. I can appreciate now how serious the BMS is about fostering a good relationship between the students and the professors, supporting gender equality and discussing any difficulties the students might have, and seeing how they may help them. One thing I really love about these committees is the energy and the genuine care with which our ideas and suggestions are met. Apart from being part of these committees, I organize academic and social events together with my colleagues. I am now looking forward to organizing the next BMS Student Conference and the very well-loved “Wine and Cheese” evening - we will do our best to make sure these events live up to the expectations set by last years’ great events!

Published in the end of September 2016