I’m Freya and this July I studied an online Health Economics course with the University of Hamburg. I was looking for a way to help me bridge the gap between undergraduate and postgraduate study before I start my economics masters in September, and the Hamburg International Summer School was a great opportunity to help me develop a more critical, inquiring thinking style whilst expanding my knowledge of a topic I’m really interested in. The programme aimed to give us an introduction to the core concepts of Health Economics as a subject area, to the German language, and to the University of Hamburg itself. I’m very grateful for the scholarship offered by the Study Abroad and Exchange Office at the University of Southampton to cover my programme costs.

Our first week was centred around introducing us to the university and the other students on our course. The German lessons were focused on developing our speaking and listening skills. The small group sessions meant it was much easier for the teacher to correct us on our pronunciation and for us to get to know each other in the break-out sessions. Over the twelve hours, we were taught enough to introduce ourselves, and with the strong foundations we were provided with, I feel in a much better position to teach myself more of the language in the future. The afternoon lectures were about the history and culture of Germany, taught by academics from other faculties. My personal favourite was ‘Hamburg – A Musical History’ which described the lives of composers living in Hamburg, and the changing nature and purpose of their music over time.

Over the next two weeks, we took five different health economics modules. Everyone on the course came from a variety of backgrounds, from economics and sociology to epidemiology and chemistry. All of the sessions were highly interactive: we had to find data on whether or not certain healthcare systems were successful in different countries, discuss behavioural economics studies, and apply new research methods to examples our team were given. For example, we had to design a study to determine whether or not retirement can cause an increase in physical activity, and we had to sift out any factors which could have influenced the results. We were also given brief but comprehensive introductions to topics including Machine Learning, which can allow researchers to make predictions based on very large amounts of healthcare data, and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis, which can help to provide policymakers with evidence for one treatment being more effective at enhancing a patient’s quality of life than another.

The lecture groups were small enough that they felt like seminars, so we were able to ask as many questions as we needed to about difficult topics and debate interesting examples we’d seen in real life. Even if I wasn’t sure what questions to ask, I was able to learn not just from the lecturers but from the other participants who had research experience. The lecturers introduced us to their own research to demonstrate how the content could be applied, and we were given lots of resources to explore all the topics further and to do our own research.

We were also able to take part in extracurricular events over the three weeks, including a virtual tour of Hamburg’s City Hall, and a virtual escape room. Even though we weren’t there, it really felt like we got to know the university and the other participants. This year the university also held courses in Language Diversity and Particles, Strings and Cosmology, so there were lots of opportunities to explore different subjects in depth. I would definitely recommend applying for the Hamburg International Summer School next year, whether it’s online or in-person.

My Experiences at the Hamburg International Summer School

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