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about the subject

Studying Geography

Geographers investigate the interaction between humans and the environment.
An article by Maren Wernecke in collaboration with Jan Ludwig

Studying Geography
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That is what it’s about

Mega-cities and deserts, globalisation and climate change: geographers work on all these issues. They explore how the environment shapes human beings – and how human beings shape their environment. The subject includes natural and social sciences content and is comprised of the two fields of human geography and physical geography. Both initially occur in about equal parts in the Bachelor's degree course; it is possible to specialise later on. Human geography deals with structure and dynamics of societies and cultures and how people shape their living environments from an economic, environmental and political standpoint. Topics covered include the global growth of cities, migration, mobility and the development of regional inequalities. Traditional areas of physical geography are landscaping, natural risks and biodiversity. Both sub-disciplines deal with sustainability or the causes of the loss of rainforests around the world. In practical courses, the students evaluate, among other things, satellite and aerial imagery and work with geographic information systems. In human geography, they learn to design standardised surveys and apply interview techniques. In physical geography, they analyse sediments, water samples or plant residues. "Anyone who studies Geography must be open to surveying people on the street, to working in the laboratory and delving into scientific articles," says Paul Gans, president of the Verband der Geographen an Deutschen Hochschulen (Association of Geographers at German Universities) and professor of Economic Geography at the University of Mannheim. Studies in Geography also include excursions and field practicals where phenomena of landscape and urban development are visualised. Excursions can last a single day or even two weeks. They can lead to many places, from the Alps to South America. Students must assume at least some of the costs of the excursions.

Further information
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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

Aspiring geographers face the challenge of linking the respective ways of thinking and working of the natural and social sciences. This is the appeal of the degree course – but it's not easy, especially at the beginning. Interest in nature, the environment, people and societies is a good prerequisite. But it doesn't stop here. The students have more to do with physics, chemistry and mathematics than many expect – when it comes to the heat balance of the earth or weathering processes. Statistical data analysis is one of the tools of the trade. Exploring the field in windy or extreme weather conditions can be strenuous; students need to be physically fit and have the ability to concentrate. The ability to visualise space well is also useful. The majority of the degree courses have course entrance restrictions, often requiring grades in the two to three range.

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