I want to welcome you in the name of the student council at the technical university of Munich. My name is Miriam Neuhäuser, and I started my journey at TUM 4 years ago. Now I am studying Nutrition and Biomedicine in my first master's semester. Since October, I have been your student representative in the university's senate, making sure that the voice of the students is heard on all levels. But of course, the student council is not a one-woman show. We are a large, motivated group of students just like you, from different departments and semesters that want to improve the university for the current and next generations. We are working on many different topics that concern all of us. However, instead of telling you which boards and committees we are involved in, let's start from the beginning.
You are starting a new and exciting part of your life, in which you will find many new friends, take up new hobbies, and maybe have the time of your life. I remember when I was in your position. I was very nervous, didn't know what to expect, and basically just waited for the beer that this event promised; this is why I will keep my speech as short as possible.
But at first, what exactly does it mean to be a student?
The first thing you might think about is sitting in lecture halls, listening to professors talking about a large variety of subjects, working on assignments, and participating in internships. Unfortunately, the stressful and nerve-racking end-of-semester examination period is also a part of your studies. This may remind you of school, but it is actually quiet different. All of you have chosen a different field of study that you are interested in. You can create your individual schedule, and you are surrounded by many people with the same interests. But this university isn't only a place to study and absorb facts, but also a social space. Meeting people from different cultures, heritages, sciences, and semesters is a massive benefit to your life here at TUM. Suppose you have trouble with a particular subject. In that case, many students from higher semesters are always happy to help and share their knowledge and insights.
You might get together in student groups and other extracurricular activities. You can be part of student teams that participate in international competitions, do sports together, and experience different cultures.You have probably participated in the study orientation days organised by your department's student council or "Fachschaft" during the last two weeks. But this isn't the only thing they offer to you. If you have any problems concerning your studies or need a helping hand, they are your first point of contact. Many departmental student councils also offer printed lecture materials and organise cultural events like parties.
I am here on behalf of the general student council, also referred to as "AStA". In general, we have the same responsibilities as your department's student council. In addition, we focus on the issues that affect all TUM students, such as creating a sustainable university. And the StudiTUM houses, which are whole buildings with the sole goal of creating more room for you to study, relax and cooperate in.
In the last two years, we students sat in front of our computers and listened to the lectures at home. This semester, we are finally ready to get back to campus. Depending on your field of study, all of you will have drastically different experiences in the coming semester. Some of you will still sit at your kitchen table in front of your computers, some of you will study in lecture halls, but most of you will probably have a mixture of both. We think every one of you should be able to experience their own lectures in person. At the same time, we are actively working to incorporate the positive aspects of digital teaching into your daily university life.
For example, we are pushing for lecture recordings to allow everyone to study at their own place anytime, any where. But how exactly do you define "anywhere"? Like me, most of you moved to Munich to study at TUM, and some of you might not have found an affordable place to live. In Freising, my primary place of study, there is a boarding house. Every semester, TUM students are forced to stay there because they couldn't find a place to live. In Munich, there are about 15.000 Studentenwerk dormitory places. More than 15% of those can't be lent to students for the next couple of years because of renovations. While the number of dormitories hasn't changed for the better in the last few years, the number of students in Munich is constantly rising. At the moment, we are at over 100.000 students in Munich, leaving less than one place per 10 students. The number of students at TUM is growing at an exceptionally high rate.
By now, Garching is our largest campus in terms of student numbers, while dormitories are still incredibly sparse. Last semester we discussed plans to build more dormitories in Garching for TUM students. Still, while essential for the campus in the future, it will be too late to help those in need now. In a semester planned to be mostly in person on campus, students need affordable housing near their place of study. Just think about the amount of time it took you to get to this event. Living on campus makes the campus feel alive, an example of this is our Campus in Freising, with dormitories close to the lecture halls, where you can see students all year round. This is an area where TUM needs to catch up with other universities, which is why affordable housing will continue to be one of our main priorities for years to come.
We, as students, play a large part in making the campuses lively, but they must be inviting in the first place, and many areas need improving. Have any of you been to the campus in the city centre? The inner courtyard of the main campus is a 2000 square meter cement jungle. At this time, its only defining feature is the temporary COVID-conform beer tent used for exams. Is this really welcoming? Thankfully a redesign is ongoing, and we from the student council want to be a part of this process to integrate more green spaces into the campus. Projects, such as the "living lab" called "Plant a Seed", aim to increase the number of plants at TUM. This redevelopment, and many other measures like making the Mensa more sustainable, are included in the Vision 2030 paper of the student council, which was elaborated by our environmental department.
One last topic belonging to student life are all the events, parties and festivals happening throughout the year. There is a screening of the Super Bowl in the Mensa, and the maiTUM, our very own Oktoberfest in May. We also organise the GLÜHNIX, a legendary Christmas market that takes place right here in Garching. Additionally, we are also planning music festivals, such as the TUNIX and GARNIX Open Airs and the "Meine erste Uniparty", one of Munich's biggest freshman welcome parties. Sadly, none of these events could happen in the last semesters due to the pandemic. Still, the organisation of the next big event after today's WELCOME@TUM has already begun. We're hoping the TUM will allow us to throw larger parties in the next few weeks.
As you can see, there is a lot to be done.
And now, I don't want to keep you any longer away from your beer and pretzels. I hope to meet some of you again in the future, be it during lectures, at events and hopefully in the student council, too. On behalf of the entire student council, I wish you a good start in your first semester and hope you have a successful and prosperous journey at TUM.