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My success story: The extraordinary opportunity of getting to live the CSUMB Dream in a unique environment

As told by Sophie Schneider, CSUMB Exchange Student Fall 2016-Spring 2017

My name is Sophie Schneider and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Applied Sciences in Muenster, Germany.

Sophie Schneider
Sophie Schneider, exchange student embarks on academic research in water and resource management.

Exactly one year ago, the international office of the University of Applied Sciences in Muenster offered the opportunity for one student to go one semester abroad at the partner University CSUMB! A stipendium based on a partnership, where your tuition fees are covered by the exchange cooperation. Only one chance to 15,000 students.

Since my major is in civil-engineering with a specialization in water and resource management, I saw a great opportunity in expanding my knowledge by looking beyond the horizon. One of the most driving factors of why I chose CSUMB was my interest in watershed systems and water as the most important resource on our planet and how other parts in the world use this essential element. While I gave a presentation on: “Water as an indispensable resource for humans to live” I was confronted with the topic of water deficiency in our world. One point of focus has also been the Colorado River with its importance to California and the confrontation with water deficiency and the extreme need of saving water.

In addition to my studies I also took a lecture on water knowledge called “Wasserringvorlesung”, where different faculties present current topics while integrating applied research in the areas “water, nature and technology” in Münster. These topics perfectly take up with the concentrations on Environmental Science, Technology and Policy in California State University, Monterey Bay.

After a long process of application, I got the final call with a confirmation on being accepted to the exchange program by getting the stipendium.

Fulfilled with excitement for my new adventure, I started my semester abroad at CSUMB in fall 2016. I took classes like Intro to GIS, Environmental Modelling and the Monterey Bay Case Study. I loved the hands-on experience and our field trips to Marina State Beach or just next door to the Fort Ord Monument among much more others!

Beside that I looked for opportunities to work at the campus. I got the volunteer job position at CSUMB’s water task force on campus, where we as a group of students helped the campus to achieve better water awareness through education, outreach and infrastructure improvement.

The fall semester went by very quickly. I learned so much during that time and made a lot of new friendships. After all this great experience, I was not ready to leave CSUMB. I decided that I wanted to expand my knowledge much further and thought at least I can try to ask for the extension of my exchange.

And with the great help and support of the International office at CSUMB and in Muenster my extension got approved.

Soon the spring semester was going to start. One of my selected courses was River Hydrology (GEOL 460) in the School of Natural Sciences with the concentration on hydrology and water resources as well as habitat protection and stream restoration taught by Dr. Doug Smith. The course is project based with a significant real-world, hands-on product. Our group project was the evaluation of the second year of service of a large-scale river restoration project after the San Clemente Dam Removal in the Carmel Valley. I focused my advanced learning on geospatial technology related to drone photogrammetry.

Back home in Muenster, I was asked to present the group project from the River Hydrology (GEOL 460) course to the graduates of water sciences at University of Applied Sciences in Muenster.

After my presentation, I generated quite a lot of excitement at my home university when I presented my original work. It was a great experience for me to share my gained knowledge with students who already have a higher degree and to present them a river restoration project in a scale and environment which we wouldn’t have in Germany.

Right after the presentation, I was then recruited to facilitate the Workgroup on hydraulic engineering and hydro mechanics led by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Mohn at the Institute of Infrastructure, Water, Resources and Environment. One of our project is focusing on the development of a drone-based river research project for river monitoring. Whereas I am bringing in my gained knowledge in drone photogrammetry in return for the Work Group research project. In Addition to that, our Workgroup focuses on the improvement of the measures for the restoration of the ecological good status of water bodies by interdisciplinary collaboration, supported by modern technologies and methods for describing and forecasting the development of the relevant parameters.

For me, it is a great outcome of my exchange year that I got the opportunity to be a multiplier and ambassador of my knowledge and skills with both countries and universities. I am convinced that spending a semester or year abroad is a unique way of exchanging ideas and establishing international relations and to motivate others to profit from the unique life and career experience.

It was a great chance to study especially in California to learn about innovations and measures from a University and people who must solve different impacts on environmental circumstances and other threats than Germany has to deal with.

Additionally, it was a unique experience to study and live in the special environment by the coast of Monterey Bay compared to the urbanized area where I come from in Germany.

Especially the gained knowledge and practical application in a large-scale river restoration project taught by Dr. Smith, was a unique opportunity as an international student from an urban area in Germany. By working with modern drone technology which is used more and more in new areas of application, it was an extraordinary opportunity for me.

My exchange year at CSUMB was not just an enrichment for my technical knowledge but also for my own personality. And I am thankful for all the support and lifelong friendships and relations I could make through this experience.

Taking measurements

Watershed research

Geology 460 Class Group


Class field trip to the beach

A little relaxation time

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