Studying Computational Linguistics in Germany: Lindsey ‘17

Allison Basore ‘20

Lindsey Vanderlyn is a recent Olin grad who won the DAAD scholarship last year to study at the University of Stuttgart, in their Computational Linguistics masters program in Germany. She took a few minutes recently to chat with PGP Blogger Allison Basore. 

Lindsey in front of a castle in Germany

“That is what I want to do.”

Lindsey Vanderlyn graduated Olin with an Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) degree, she says, because of Professor Paul Ruvolo’s Software Design class. Going into Olin, she had thought she wanted to study Materials Science, but after working on a Computational Linguistics project with Professor Ruvolo, she realized, “That is what I want to do.” Since she had always been interested in language and “...liked the circuit aspect of robotics,” she felt that ECE would be a great undergraduate degree, and planned to concentrate on Computational Linguistics after Olin.


Lindsey first found out about the program from PGP’s weekly newsletter, which included info about the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD (German: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) and their many scholarships. Lindsey says that she would not be pursuing her masters if it was not for the affordability of this education abroad. She also felt that pursuing an advanced degree was right for her since she didn’t study much pure Computational Linguistics at Olin.


Lindsey was accepted to a couple schools, but she chose the Stuttgart program, and began planning the move abroad. This was a 2-year program that is within the Institut für Maschinelle Sprachverarbeitung (IMS), and there she has found many similarities to her undergrad education at Olin.  Lindsey says within this department, they “...have fewer than 100 masters students and PhDs, so class sizes aren't too big. You really get to know the people you’re studying with, which I've really enjoyed.” The size is not the only thing similar to Olin, but also the gender ratio is close to a 50/50 split. Furthermore, the classes are project-based in structure, “which is really nice since that is not always the case in German education,” she says. Her favorite part of the program is that you “...get to know everyone you’re with since it’s a small program. You get to meet people of various backgrounds as the program has a really good mix of straight from school and coming from industry people, but more are definitely from linguistics than technical backgrounds.”


“In Germany, they don’t believe in semester breaks.”

At the time of this interview, Lindsey was on break from school, but she was still in the midst of project mode. Many institutions in Germany set up a system that requires students to take tests and finish projects over semester break instead of using class time to complete these activities. This is one of the many things that is different from the American school system. She says that in order to live and go to school there “ have to be much more self-organized.  There is more autonomy, more bureaucracy and, ahh yes, in Germany, they don’t believe in breaks.”

Lindsey Preparing to Rock Climb

So far, Lindsey has felt that Olin’s curriculum helped her prepare for the program by giving her a strong technical foundation. For example, she has taken a speech recognition class as part of the program and a lot of the fundamental concepts overlap with what she learned here. Lindsey enjoys helping her peers in the program and really enjoys being there for “...the moment that things click for people.”


“Everything is new until it feels like home.”

On adjusting to living abroad, Lindsey had this to say, “I think this scholarship does a very good job of providing a network both of people you can reach out to and of fellow scholarship holders.” However, she also says that “...getting started in a new country can be frustrating.” There are a number of differences from living at home that can be taxing, things like speaking in German all day or worrying about bringing your own bags for the grocery store. With living in a foreign country, she says it’s also important to make friends and a great way to do that is by playing sports. Lindsey advises other foreign exchange students to “ your best to get involved. Building a social network is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.” She has joined the climbing team and is considering the Taekwondo and dance team.


“Not as scary as it sounds!”

To other Oliners, Lindsey would highly recommend studying abroad during your undergrad. During Olin, Lindsey took a semester away in Germany. She says that when you study away, “...a lot of the stress is taken care of for you,” with things like housing, insurance, and enrollment.


In the future, Lindsey sees herself possibly pursuing her PhD or alternatively working in industry. She hopes to be on a research team for a company where “Your work is more applied out in the world,” and you can see the impact directly. Of course, she’s also not opposed to the idea of living abroad after getting her masters.


Lindsey Rocking Climbing

Posted in: Alumni Speak; Grad School