Karsten Fransen

Alumnus
Karsten Fransen

Graduated
2017

Degree programme
Mechatronic Systems Engineering (B.Sc.)

Faculty
Technology and Bionics

Vocational training through
Probat-Werke Emmerich

Master’s degree
Electrical Energy Supplies in Hannover

 

What motivated you to pursue a dual study degree at Rhine-Waal University?

As I was finishing up secondary school, I needed to decide what comes after. The main questions was whether to pursue a normal full-time degree or a dual study degree.

I decided on dual study for a few reasons.

First, I knew that I wanted to work in a practical environment, and vocational training was to my mind the best way to achieve that. Secondly, I wasn’t the most motivated student in school. I knew that if I really wanted to do well in my studies, I would need someone (a company) putting pressure on me to perform. That ended up being key to my success, really. On top of that, the extra financial support was also a huge help.

A dual study position at Probat-Werke Emmerich was already in place, so the decision on which company was made for me.

How did you perceive the workload during your studies?

I actually found the workload tolerable, a welcome change of pace even. My dual study contract was set up so that I only had to complete half of the full-time course load in my first two years – essentially two semesters worth of credits over four semesters – while working or studying for my vocational training position three days a week.  Basically I was always rotating between theoretical material and hands-on work. The first two semesters of study are also the hardest, I think, because of some basic courses such as maths, electrical engineering, statics etc. I only had to take half as many of these tough courses each semester, which was quite a relief!

But the company’s approach to the study portion of the arrangement is also very important.

Probat-Werke always put my studies ahead of my vocational training responsibilities. For example, whenever exams were coming up I was given time to focus solely on studying. That’s definitely not the case with every company! A few of my dual study colleagues didn't have this luxury, meaning they were required to work full-time despite their exams. That definitely had a negative impact on their grades!

Tell us about what you’ve been up to since graduating in 2017.

After graduating, Probat-Werke gave me a one-year employment contract. During that time, I worked as a PLC software engineer.

My degree in Mechatronic System Engineering prepared me well for this position, as I was already experienced in electrical engineering, mechanical systems and computer science.

Have your dual studies at Rhine-Waal University given you career advantages? If so, which?

Absolutely!

I gained quite a few practical skills through the vocational portion of my degree. For example, I knew how to wire contacts in control cabinets myself, whereas other software engineers needed to get a technician to do it for them. The practical relevance of my studies was also very useful, whether for planning purposes at work or at home.   

The closeness between planning and implementation was also very valuable. In my experience, there’s always some kind of barrier between the two that prevents perfect collaboration.

Engineers often develop programs, schematics, constructions etc. that work well, but overlook simple things like ease of assembly. These seemingly mundane things end up creating problems down the line for technicians and eat up a lot of time.

Solving these kinds of issues requires mutual respect and good communication, both of which I think I learned well during my studies.

You are currently pursuing a master’s degree. What are your career plans afterwards?

Because I was on a one-year contract and it wasn’t clear whether I had a future my training company, I decided to go for a master’s degree and tendered my resignation.

Right now I’m studying Electrical Energy Supplies in Hannover.

There’s a lot going on in this field due to Germany’s drive for more renewable energy. One of the core focus areas is converting existing power grids into smart grids. I think this is the one area where I can best combine my undergraduate and postgraduate knowledge.

Tell us, what do you do to relax?

I love kite surfing, but I’m also an avid swimmer and jogger.

As far as technical hobbies go, I like to program microcontrollers every now and then.

Please end this sentence in your own words: Rhine-Waal University is...

...a modern and enjoyable place that encourages both studying and relaxing.