Ángel Crespo Blanco,
BMS Phase I Student,
BSc University of Oviedo 

During my BSc in Spain, I already thought often about attending postgraduate school and doing a PhD in mathematics. I already knew which branch of mathematics I wanted to work on, but the specific area within it was not so clear. I also was considering doing it in a different country to get exposed to unfamiliar perspectives. I found out about BMS a few months before the application period and it clearly fitted into my ideas: Phase I has allowed me to deepen my knowledge in several research lines of the groups working in Berlin, which was key to take the decision towards my PhD; and you can get in touch with people from different realities in an international environment.

Now I am almost done with my Phase I after the Summer Semester of 2020, my (and most people’s) first online semester due to the unexpected COVID-19 global pandemic. While this situation was new for everyone, BMS office kept in touch and immediately offered lots of information and help. For example, I was outside of Germany in March, therefore unable to return for a while, and they offered to help with any paperwork I might need to return; or they regularly provided English sources of the updates on restrictions. Furthermore, all the people at BMS have been very understanding with the delays and changes that arose as a result of the pandemic, adjusting deadlines when necessary. Regarding the academic adaptation to the online format, in my experience it worked quite nicely: all the lectures and seminars I took were in the format of videocall, where the speaker would most times write on a tablet as if it were a whiteboard and sometimes explain over an already written document.

My time at the BMS has also helped me broaden my mathematical horizon. The offer of courses and seminars is very wide and flexible, and the constant contact with students from all branches provides you many interesting topics that you would normally not come across with and a better vision of the big picture. A central role in this contact is played by MATH+ Fridays (formerly BMS Fridays), where an important speaker is invited to come to Berlin and give a talk. They are usually preceded by the “What is…?” seminar, where some student working on a related topic would explain the basics necessary to understand the talk. This seminar is organized by students only.

In my opinion, the perks of BMS go beyond Mathematics. All the help I got upon arrival is immeasurable, be it for moving to a new country, getting all my paperwork right or explaining a totally different academic system to me. This is carried out both by the BMS staff and more veteran BMS students. Social activities are organized regularly by the student representatives or by spontaneous organizers. I had the honor of being one of the student representatives at this institution, speaking for the interests of the students (input the BMS staff is always interested in) as well as involving myself in the above-mentioned activities. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to learn about tasks that are usually carried out in university environments and may be part of your duties in the future.

Published in January 2021