Life and Times of A German Student
By Katrin Münstermann
Being a student in Germany means fighting against some prejudices. They say that German students are lazy, skip classes, go out partying and of course, do nothing but drink beer. I must admit that these prejudices are partially true; however, the most important aspect of the life of a German student is that they need really good time management. Besides studying and maintaining their household, most of them have to work as not every student gets money from the state (BAFÖG for students in financial difficulties). Many students do not get enough money for living from their parents either. Moreover, a lot of German students also work to become as independent as possible, and even to support their parents. This financial independence also allows them to do something out of the ordinary, like a holiday or an extra visit to the cinema.
Being a German student myself, I can say that time management is not as easy as it might seem to be. Besides studying, I am working because of the reasons mentioned above. Following is what I would like to advise fellow students in Germany, and elsewhere in the world.
To organize available time, the most important thing is to know how much time you have. Unfortunately, a day only consists of 24 hours. I wish I could add a few hours to it, that would make time management much easier. I will keep on dreaming of this. Anyway, never forget to priorities. For me, university comes first and if I have time after finishing everything that needs to be done for university, I go to work. Well, at least that is the way I believe it should be. The reality is not as easy as it sounds. Nonetheless, university should come first and I would never recommend quitting class for work, but I am only fantasizing about getting everything done for university. Even if I work really hard for university, there is always going to be a piece of paper which needs to be done; this would be the case even if university were the only thing I was doing. I am pretty sure every student can identify with this. It is just Murphy’s Law.
Another important question that might pop up into your head is – What do I get by having a side job? It is so much more than money. The additional benefits include real world education, and learning about oneself. I have worked for a company which operated for different cruise lines taking the guests from the cruise ship to a day trip to Berlin. A normal working day looked like this: Getting up at 4.30 AM, and being at work at 5.30 AM for a short introduction to the day. My task was to take care of around 50 people during the journey to Berlin by train which took around 2.5 hours, in Berlin and of course on the way back. Mostly, the working day finished at 7 or 8 PM. After getting home, I always did something for university, like reading a book or writing the most important information of the book down. The motivation to study was very low; to be honest, there was no motivation at all. But I knew if I had not studied after work, I would have failed at university. This way, my day started at 4.30 AM and finally came to an end 19 hours later at 11 PM.
I had never done something so hard before college but I had never learned as much either. During the day, I did not have a break. I was there for the guests all the time, for if they had questions or needed special care, e.g. if they were disabled and required a wheelchair. With all the exhaustion, it was a challenge to give it my all, but I did it. Rather, I always gave more than 100% because I wanted my guests to remember their trip to Berlin, as special and unforgettable. Moreover, there were also many challenges. On each trip, there was invariably a guest who would not be as friendly as the others, who would not appreciate the work we were doing; and it was quite difficult to stay friendly to such people. But I would remind myself that as I am going to become a teacher, I am pretty sure there will be a lot of people in the future who are unfriendly or just do not like me or appreciate my work. Through this job, I realized how difficult it can be to beat this challenge but I also learned how to deal with it. Language was another challenge. The guests came from all over the world and thus spoke every thinkable language – but the most spoken language was English. I do not struggle with this language as I am studying English and as I have lived abroad for a year; but sometimes, when I was tired and when there were people with a very special accent, I only could guess what they were saying. The worst case was with an Australian man from the countryside with a very deep voice. The words would fuse into a very long word but I gradually learnt to deal with this as well. To speak with different people from all over the world made me more confident in English- many of the guests paid me a compliment about the way I would talk; besides, this job helped me expand my vocabulary and improve my listening comprehension.
In conclusion, it is not easy to have the perfect time management- deciding between studying, working and having free time. There are many moments when I just want to quit everything but I keep reminding myself of what really matters- what counts is how I feel about education, and learning. I am proud that I am able to deal with this demanding situation. I am proud that I earn money on my own. I am proud that I am already doing something for my future. I think that it is important to try a working experience before the real working life begins because there are so many characteristics to learn before one finishes studying. Without this experience, I would be thrown into the deep end when I would start working and I might fail with the challenge to be a good teacher with all the new things to learn which are not taught at university – along with time management, getting to know yourself- your limitations and your strengths.
About the author
Katrin Münstermann is a student at the University of Rostock, Germany, studying English and Social Studies to become a teacher for secondary school. While going to school, I worked as well, teaching sailing skills to kids and adults which is what made me want to become a teacher.