For many young people, choosing to study is one of the first groundbreaking decisions in life. Freed from the shackles of parents and the Abitur curriculum, you now choose between fulfillment and career opportunity, laboratory or lecture and first move or home.
At the start of the winter semester, stern spoke to eight current and former students from medicine, law, textile design and landscape science about their ideas, prejudices and reality on campus. Would you have decided differently in retrospect?
"When I sat down for a criminal law lecture for the first time, I found it so boring that I wanted to leave straight away. The decision of my studies and the new place of residence was very important to me. After school I actually planned to study German or journalism, but I decided to choose law as a safe option.
I'm originally from Mainz, but I was longing for a new environment. While my former schoolmates were sipping white wine spritzers on the banks of the Rhine or setting off on long trips around the world, after graduating from high school, I wandered through the lecture halls of small German towns and listened to public law and criminal law lectures. These lectures didn't convince me 100 percent, but they were enough for me to finally enroll in law studies in Münster.
The university enjoys a very high reputation in the university rankings for law and therefore has an unusually strict NC of 1.6. For me it was just about right. I quickly realized how socially relevant the subject is. For me, studying law means dealing with the rules of society and understanding the logic behind them. Learning this therefore comes with a great responsibility.
But law is also designed to be screened out. The competition is huge. I have seen pages torn out of books and noticed that certain copies were hidden in the library. I was also told that index cards and notes were stolen. But these clichés are isolated cases. But most of my fellow students tried to support each other - we're all in the same boat.
After six years, I can say that despite the constant psychological pressure, I managed to complete my studies last summer. This took a load off my heart. I prepared for the state exam for two years. If I had messed it up, I would now be left without a college degree. Many of my friends told me afterwards that they would not study law again. Me, yes."
"Knitting is a tradition in my family. My mother already knitted a lot. She and her sister learned it from my grandmother. When I was 16 years old, my mother taught me all the techniques. Today I'm studying textile design in Berlin.
Until recently, I didn't believe that I would study something creative, but I hoped. After school I felt like I had to do something serious. I had a gift for math and biology. Subjects that many of my classmates found difficult. I tried to take advantage of this and started studying nutritional sciences. Shortly afterwards I switched to agricultural sciences.
After completing my bachelor's degree, I realized how much I had designed my career to have the best opportunities on the job market. However, I wasn't really happy from the start. I finally wanted to do something more creative that I enjoy.
In addition to my first degree, I did a lot of modeling to earn some extra money. At one job I worked with a designer who primarily used knitwear. This revived my love for practical work. I love knitting because it combines creativity and technology. After the job I started knitting almost every day. Youtube videos always taught me new techniques and patterns. At one point I knitted so much that I developed tendonitis. The result is my application folder for the textile design course at the Weißensee School of Art.
Today I'm studying my second bachelor's degree there in the third semester. My goal in the future is to incorporate my family's different traditions more into my work: my mother's knitting as well as the colors and patterns from my father's homeland of Guinea. I already sell individual pieces with my own label Nialorma.
Even though creative courses are often not valued or accepted by society, I would like to encourage anyone and everyone who is thinking about applying to art school to do so. I'd do it again like that."
"I actually only studied business administration because I didn't know exactly what else I would do. As a child, I always wanted to be a doctor, but after school it was clear to me: Doing the same thing for the rest of my life is not for me me. If I had studied medicine, my career would have already been mapped out.
After a gap year in Argentina, I enrolled to study business administration at the University of Hamburg. I see the current economic system critically in some areas, which made it all the more important for me to be able to understand the basics. I thought that if I didn't like it after a semester or two, I could always change. A dual course of study was out of the question for me because of the company commitment.
In the first semesters I developed an extreme fascination for the social economy, entrepreneurship and international relations. Even though I would have liked us to learn something more specific, the lectures provided a good foundation for understanding general economic contexts.
Business administration is very general and very theoretical. I gained practical experience through my working student jobs at an international foundation platform and in the Apple Store. At the end of my studies I founded my own company. There you learn a surprising amount about business psychology and retail and service marketing. Later I even placed my scientific focus on this area. I would definitely study business administration again. But this time I would prepare a little more for my decision to study.
After completing my bachelor's degree a year ago, I work full-time for various startups and social ventures. These are companies that not only focus on profitability, but also aim to have a positive impact on the community. For me, this is the ideal interface between NGO and classic business. Next year I would like to do a more specific master's degree abroad."
"It was clear to me early on that I would become a doctor. My father was a doctor and my mother was a medical-technical-radiological assistant. I never wanted anything else. That made it all the more difficult for me to understand that I didn't want medicine at first was allowed to study.
I completed my Abitur in 2013 with an overall grade of 1.6. This put me in the top third at my school in Aachen, but well above the NC for all German universities. The rejections left me frustrated. My friends could do whatever they wanted after school, I was on a three-digit waiting list at a dozen universities.
I completed a three-month nursing internship, which you have to do during your studies anyway, and prepared for the medical test - again without success.
After a year, I finally decided to turn my back on medical studies and began training at an eye clinic in Leipzig. I pushed through, was taken on and enjoyed my job, but I still hadn't completed my medical degree. Without telling anyone, I applied again to a handful of universities after four years and actually had an acceptance letter in my inbox. My dream came true, now everything else had to change. My job, apartment and boyfriend were in Leipzig, and I was in Mainz seven days later.
Today I am writing my doctoral thesis and am about to take my second state exam. Of course, there was a lot of pressure to perform and comparisons during my studies, but I never had as much fear of failure as I did during the application process again. When I look back, I am very grateful that I was able to come in and study. I love it when more and more AHA experiences come and you recognize connections and connections. Sometimes I regret my long journey here, but then I'm proud that I started over again at 23. I would definitely do it again."
"I thought student life was great right from the start, but my studies were less so. That's why I switched to geography after my second semester. I'm now studying landscape science for my master's degree. It was exactly the right decision for me. I knew some of the people in geography before and I got on well with them and the subject is just great. It is much more application-oriented than the engineering course I had started before and suits me much better.
The highlights of my studies were definitely the many excursions where we were able to try out a lot of what we learned in the lectures. For me, they are what define our field. For example, in November of my first semester we went to Frankfurt for our first excursion. Later, for example, I was in San Marcos, Texas, or even in Chile.
During the semester break I worked as a tour guide, for example on bicycle tours, so I basically traveled to finance my travel, if you will. Hanover was always my anchor point for me, so I didn't think it was a bad thing that I stayed in my hometown to study. Now all I'm missing is my master's thesis and I would study the subject again and again. Especially in view of the climate crisis, I think that the subject is more relevant than ever."
"I found my course of study by chance. I was at an open day at RWTH Aachen and had just looked at another course of study. Then I spontaneously came into a very small room where another course of study was being presented. Human-technology interaction and communication. After that I knew: This would be my course of study. I didn't apply anywhere else because I knew that I didn't need any special admission to get into the course.
The beginning was totally exciting at first. Everything was new. But in a positive way. I really liked the mix of large lectures in electrical engineering and the smaller seminars in communication science right from the start. However, I changed my technical focus again because I had no one to work with in the electrical engineering focus and I learn better in a group.
After completing my master's degree, I know that the decision to study this course was exactly the right one. For me personally, what really made up the course was everything around it. For example, I moved out when I started studying. In a shared apartment with a person I knew from school and who had started the same course of study. Today we are best friends, we lived together throughout our studies and also volunteered together in the student council. Quite a coincidence. In general, I experienced and learned so much and developed a lot as a person."
"I did my bachelor's degree in chemistry at the University of Cologne and am currently finishing my master's degree, also in chemistry, at the University of Mainz. I got into the course through my chemistry teacher, with whom I talked about jobs in chemistry I always found science exciting; I wanted to understand how the world works. "If you want to find out something for yourself, then you have to study the subject," she said at the time. So I did that. The demands of my studies influenced me quite surprised at first.
In any case, I was initially no longer able to continue my part-time job alongside lectures and laboratories. Although the content was related to each other, I still had to prepare and follow up on both because they were not coordinated with each other. Over time, I got better and better at understanding the content and the level. Even though a lot of commitment and various other factors still ensured that my studies took longer. Life just got in the way.
Would I study my subject again today? In any case. However, I don't know whether I would go back to university for that. Maybe I would have liked it better at a technical college. Now I'm really happy about my decision. Because my master's focus in nuclear chemistry is exactly what I wanted, and perhaps I wouldn't have taken the step to the university for this master's degree from a technical college."
“And what do you do with it now?” There is no question I have heard as often as this one during my political science studies. I always knew I wanted to be a journalist, but at 18 I had no idea how to gain practical experience in the media. Because of my greatest interests at school, I first studied German and politics in Cologne, but dropped out relatively quickly.
Six months later I moved to Hamburg and decided to study Powi. For me, Hamburg was like coming home. The people were nice, the city was exciting and even the courses were more or less interesting. I was very interested in political theory and international relations. I was particularly enthusiastic about the seminars on feminist theories and courses on postcolonialism or political conflicts in the Middle East. However, I found the statistics lectures particularly disgusting. For personal reasons, I had to change location again in the third year and move back to NRW.
The University of Bonn is significantly more conservative than the University of Hamburg. This not only affects the students, but also lecturers and topics. International relations in Bonn were still largely about old conflicts between Russia and the USA. In Hamburg it was much more progressive. For my bachelor's thesis, I compared different policy approaches and laws against right-wing extremism in Germany.
Today I know how to answer the stupid question from the beginning: With a degree in politics, many doors are open to you. I know the prejudices against social sciences, but I was always sure that I would somehow make it through internships and trying things out. During my studies, I did a lot of working student positions in large media companies, but ultimately decided against journalism. Today I work in the field of urban planning and am in the final stages of my master's thesis."
* Marina actually has a different name. The real name is known to the editors