By complete coincidence, I watched a travel documentary by Turkish journalist Coşkun Aral. It was called “The Utopia of Clean Energy: Freiburg”. I was hooked!
There was no definite moment when I said, “okay, I am interested in renewable energy now!”. It was an organic development that happened during my education and thanks to my growing awareness of environmental issues. This awareness has turned into concern and motivation to do something during my B.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering at Istanbul Technical University. Since it was a multidisciplinary engineering programme, it enabled me to explore various fields. For instance, during the Aerodynamics course, I became interested in wind energy. I wrote my bachelor thesis about the aerodynamic analysis of wind turbines. That was my introduction to renewables.
I found the thesis and design courses most helpful to take a step to solar energy engineering. In engineering design course, I was involved in a project to design power systems and solar panels for a spacecraft. This was a turning point for me. I gained the fundamental knowledge of solar energy there and decided to shape my future in that direction.
Once I decided to take further education in solar energy, I started to research available programmes. My priority was a research-focused programme that could also provide a hands-on experience. During this research period, by complete coincidence, I watched a travel documentary by Turkish journalist Coşkun Aral. It was called “The Utopia of Clean Energy: Freiburg”. It was focused on Freiburg’s green approach, and it showed the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy, and Heliotrope building and I was hooked! While doing more research on Freiburg and the university, I found out there is this fantastic online master programme that offered everything I was looking for. I read that it was not only targeting fresh graduates but also professionals who are already in the solar sector.
What is great about this online and distant education model is that the course material, provided by the lecturers who are excellent in their fields, is available. You can reach these sources at any time, which allowed me to find my system. One of the best things I did was to join the Campus Phase. Then, students or prospective students of this programme come to Freiburg to meet the instructors and a vast network of international study colleagues.
To come up with a more robust plan, I did extensive research to decide how I can work and study at the same time. Then, I found a student assistant position at the Fraunhofer Institute, which enabled me to work on solar cells. Again, I was fortunate. Of course, there were some challenges along the way. When I decided to apply, I saw that I had recently missed the deadline. Still, I waited since I decided on this programme. In the meantime, I started the bureaucratic procedure of gathering necessary application documents. The coordinator – Philipp Bucher was very kind and helpful about everything. So, the hardships were before I arrived and during the first weeks I have come to Freiburg. I had to do some more paperwork regarding my visa, address registration and such.
The experience of being a working student has helped me to grow a lot as a person. My family has always supported me on this journey; they visited when they could. Regarding culture and adaptation, I feel very connected to everyone around me thanks to the international nature of the programme. My workplace and sharing a flat with others have helped me learn lots of aspects of different cultures.
I really enjoy working with solar cells, so my new goal is to get a doctorate here to deepen my expertise in this field. I want to contribute to the academic field first; and most of all, I hope this contribution will have practical solutions and applications for energy problems. If you are a female scientist who has concerns about working in a male-dominated area, just leave those thoughts behind. Being a minority in numbers never stopped us from doing great things in collaboration with our colleagues. I think the stereotypes surrounding scientists in all genders should change. When everyone is presented with equal education opportunities, they can find a chance to do great things.
Finally, I want to give my humble suggestions to people who consider studying in this programme: do it! A weekly plan is provided for every course at the very beginning. I found that sticking to that structure as much as possible is very helpful in self-discipline and study. Also, do not hesitate to use the course forums; colleagues are willing to share knowledge, and the lecturers are very helpful. Actively taking part in online meetings is great too! I found that online education does not need to be a lonely or isolated experience. It is great to connect my colleagues to study for exams.
As we have seen these days, studying online and self-study are perfectly doable things without feeling lost; especially when you have a great community of support. I wish everyone success and good luck to pursue their dreams and goals in Solar Energy Engineering online master programme!