If nothing goes wrong, I will graduate from university in August of this year. Soon I will be looking back on almost 6 years of studies, 4 different addresses, so-and-so many jobs to finance my studies, and about a thousand times of wanting to give up.
In the opinion of many, students in Germany lead a sweet lazy life with endless days of sleeping in late, partying, and studying very little. This might be true for a certain group of students - namely, such people with rich parents and less than challenging study subjects. But, mind you, student life can also be stressful. Some of the stress factors are related to your studies and some are not.
When I first started my studies, I thought the world was mine. I had just left high school and my performance there had been quite good, so I thought that nothing could stop me at university either. I was very wrong. The subjects I had chosen for myself were mathematics and English. Whereas in high school I had always aced my math tests, things didn't go as well at uni. To my horror, I found myself understanding absolutely nothing in the math lectures, and decided to give up my ambitious plan of becoming a mathemetician, and switched to economics instead.
The problems were not solved though. There were still issues to resolve - about money, for example. I do not have parents who can afford to pay all my expenses, so I had to look for a job as well as apply for a loan from the government. Finally I got a job in a supermarket stocking the shelves, and the government granted me the loan after several months of me filling all kinds of forms about my own and my parents' financial situations.
Now I could sit back and give all my energy to studying - only it didn't really work in the house where I lived. It was a small grey bungalow with 2 storeys and 12 people living there, both male and female. My room was lovely, with a view over a valley and the university itself, the latter not always being a welcome to me. My first own room, without any mum interfering or telling me how to tidy up! I loved it. What I didn't love, though, were the trips down to the shower and the ladies' - both were located in the basement, while my room was on the first floor. Especially in winter, this could be nasty.
But the worst factor was our kitchen - a communal facility for all 12 of us. Some people categorically refused to wash their dishes or clean up in any other way, so the kitchen always looked like a bomb had hit. I avoided cooking there whenever possible. This germ zone was also the place where nightly parties took place almost every day, making any thought of sleep become a mere illusion as the walls were as thin as paper. Fortunately, I had a room neighbour who hated it all as much as me, and with whom I spent nights talking, watching movies, listening to music, and cursing our house mates.
Somehow I still managed to pass all my exams in my first two semesters, though I didn't take too many of them. After one year, a friend asked me to move in with her and her two flatmates, and I accepted happily. Finally, I could get away from this dirty and noisy place I lived in, though I knew I would never forget it. Now that some years have passed, I even miss those days somehow. The new flat was located in a high rise, on the 4th floor, and very clean as well as quiet. Now I could really study properly, and for one semester I did so quite industriously. The only problem was that when the actual tests came near, I had no motivation left whatsoever. For the following years, I would keep a steady pattern of hardly studying at all during the semester, and starting more or less determinedly some weeks before the exam came. It always worked out somehow. The only exam I failed during my studies was a disgusting test in statistics; I had to repeat it and hated every additional day I had to spend studying for it.
The supermarket job didn't last long. My boss was quite unbearable, and I quit after 3 months. My next job was with a parcel company, together with my boyfriend who had a steady job there and who had introduced me to his boss. The job was great, but I could work there only during my holidays because the company was located in my home town which is 250 kms away from where I study.
Finally, I looked for a job in my college town, and found an position in a newspaper factory. The work there was the most boring and monotonous I have ever done. It was all about putting newspapers into printing machines, weighing them, and doing all kind of other dull things with them. The pay was good and there were many other students working there with whom I could talk. But it was noisy and the regular workers were quite odd, so I was happy when the post agreed to accept me for a summer job.
I had always been somehow fascinated by the postmen and -women delivering people's mail on their yellow bikes, and now I could become one of them for 6 weeks of the summer of 2000. But mind you, my enthusiasm faded when I found out how hard the work actually was. I had to start at 6 a.m., and often I didn't finish delivering the mail until 4 in the afternoon! People were not in the least appreciative of my efforts, as I soon found out. We had to bring them their letters irrespective of the weather, and when a man complained of getting a letter which was slightly wet on a day of pouring rain, I really felt like giving him a bold reply - which of course I held back, because he was a customer. At the end of my job, I went back to university with new motivation - I was glad I would not have to spend my whole life as a postwoman. I realized that I did wish for a job where my efforts were appreciated at least a bit.
For the next semester, I got a job assisting a linguistics professor. This sounds very fancy now, but all I basically did was photocopy loads and loads of texts for her, after researching them in our library. The professor was very nice to me though, and the work was not hard at all, so I was sorry when my contract expired - student jobs at German universities always expire after one semester and have to be renewed if the student is to become employed again.
The professor asked me to work for her again, but the following semester I had to do an intership, which I spent in a company belonging to the public sector. This gave me new motivation for my studies too, as I compared the rigid routine of an office week to my freedom of just skipping a lecture if I felt like it - and I knew which I liked better!
When I got back to my studies, I also had to look for a new home. The flat I had been living in belonged to accommodation facilities especially for students, but the annoying thing was that you could only stay there for 2 years maximum. I had already been lucky to stay there one semester longer than that, but now it was not possible to move back there. Looking for a new place was not easy. I ended up moving into a small flat consisting of one room, a bathroom, a kitchen corner and - yes - a balcony! The said balcony was big enough for two people to stand there side by side, and just about big enough for a chair and one person sitting on it.
I was happy enough in that place for some time, though I had been afraid of living all by myself for the first time in my life. My studies went well also, and I had saved some money during the internship as I had done it at my home town and lived with my family, so I didn't have to work during that semester. The following semester I joined the work force again - as a member of the medical staff - well, almost. I worked in the cafeteria of a hospital where a friend of mine also worked. However, the job was a complete disaster. I soon found out that I am not talented for jobs in gastronomy whatsoever. I couldn't balance a tray or a drink without spilling it, unless I did it very slowly. Both alternatives annoyed my boss, who hated me with a vengeance, and fired me after only six weeks! I had never liked hospitals - and this experience made me like them even less!
Fortunately, my studies went on well and after submitting a rather successful term paper in linguistics, an assistant professor of English linguistics asked me to work for her as a tutor. Now I had moved up in the world, and in my head I stuck out my tongue in spite to the horrible woman at the hospital. My new job was the best one I have ever had. I was very nervous standing in front of students, being supposed to help them understand the matierial of a lecture in English syntax - but students continued attending my tutorials, I never made a horrible fool of myself, and on top of all I enjoyed it immensely - needless to mention the side effect that I got as much out of this job as my students. The following semester I tutored again, this time for a professor who taught at our university for one semester only.
In between, I passed exam after exam and finally the horror of every economics student was approaching: The oral final exam. It was the worst exam of my life, the meanest, the toughest, and I was close to failing, but I passed. Two months after I had passed it, officials at university decided to abolish that exam - just like that, no subtitute introduced, no reasons given. After all the work I had put into that exam, this was officially the most annoying thing that has happened to me during all my studies.
At this time, I am studying for my oral finals in English, which I expect to be a little less tough and mean than the exam in economics, and above all I am actually interested in the material I have to prepare, which was never the case in economics. It was a hasty choice to study that subject and I have regretted it many times, but I have always enjoyed English. Back then, I should have spent more time thinking about what I actually wanted; I would never have taken economics.
So did I sleep in until noon every day? Most definitely not, because I have always been an early riser. Sometimes I did have late nights and late mornings (or noons) - in the company of some great friends I have met during my studies, and whom I will miss dearly when I go away from here in August. I will also miss my job, my studies and the library. But I am also looking forward to something new.