Every year the university is blessed with an influx of bright young minds and we at *tba are lucky to call some of them our own. Like last year, we asked our first (now second) semester students to share their experiences and reflect on their first term at the University of Hamburg. Get ready for five fresh(ers’) takes on the student experience!
Anxiety, History, and Caffeine, in Other Words: My First Semester
by Robin, 21, Major: British and American Studies, Minor: History
Before the first week of uni, all I managed to think about was whether or not I would fail miserably there. I had a lot of anxiety, I couldn’t sleep properly – it was hell. I was really, really, really scared of meeting a lot of new people and adapting to academia and all that stuff. It was such a frightening situation for me.
But within the first few weeks I figured out that my anxiety might have blown things out of proportion. Like the new people aspect: as a self-loathing person, it was hard for me to believe that people would like me, but turns out – people like me. (still hard to believe)
I also did not fail anything (yet!). It turns out that meeting new people and challenging myself was actually fun. Doing stuff that scared me helped me grow a lot during this first semester and I’m very grateful for this experience. Against all odds, I really enjoyed all the courses I took— except history. Over the last few months I have learned to loathe history, because it’s so much reading and so many boring texts and just awful. There was so much work to do, at times even more than for my major. That sucked. Like, stop trying to make homework happen. It’s not going to happen.
Of course there were ups and downs during the semester. That’s normal. There were times where everything just seemed so insanely too-much for me that I wanted to give up— but I pulled myself through this, because it was worth it. It’s like the great American singer Kelly Clarkson said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Also, I have developed a caffeine addiction. But that’s just what happens.
I also learned that there are people who will help you and listen to your whining and please – if you are in your first semester, try and make some friends, everything will be a lot easier when you can just tell someone how much everything sucks. Because it does suck sometimes, but you’re not alone in this. I have met some great people and made some great friends, whom I’ve missed very much during the break, so I’m kind of really excited for the summer semester – but still very awkward and socially anxious, sorry everyone! Love you and thanks for tolerating me!
A Fresher’s Poem
by Naemi, 19, Major: British and American Studies, Minor: Political Sciences
I must admit that it was my risible Plan B,
Didn’t aim to join Hamburg’s University.
However all our ways led to this place
And now that you’re in those shoes
Let me show you how this new life goes.
Within the first week there are so many people to meet
Quite a few will vanish, leaving an abandoned seat.
But not only strangers disappear, even you might get lost–
Finding yourself on a completely wrong campus.
Thus some advice to help you through:
First use Google Maps if you have no clue.
And when student’s life is too tough to bear
Know that all of us have been there.
And whenever the world is, as usual, cruel
Asking why you don’t do something “useful”
Fight it and climb those stairs, don’t give in.
Although they favour lifts at the Überseering.
Besides being drunk more often than you can recall
Which is fun, but sadly not the answer to it all,
Be careful with trying new stuff as it ain’t always good
Like suspiciously crawling Mensa food.
And if you’re afraid that you’ll end up alone
‘Cause after a month your name’s still unknown,
Let humorous be your agony, so you don’t star in a tragedy
And before the term ends, you’ll have a few faithful friends.
All this was just a hasty glance, you’ll see–
New people, new friends and new places to be.
Nothing more for me to say, but “Enjoy your Plan A!”
I wish you best luck and patient persistency
Now that you’re soon going to be a so-called “Ersti”.
A Whole New World
by Vanessa, 21, Major: British and American Studies, Minor: Sign Languages
Overshadowed by Ü35, my first semester started out feeling like having missed out on something: the true life on (the real) campus. I was already overwhelmed by so many impressions. I had just moved to this big city coming from an incredibly small village in the countryside – everyone I knew and loved now hours away. On my own, I stumbled into this monstrous building that claimed to be the new educational home for hundreds of students. But the motto to apply in this situation was: if you can’t change it, learn to love it.
Not everything is bad about this change: the Stadtpark is really close, which might be nice in the summer! And with the Üterus (which I love for its name alone), we still have a small cozy place to hang out and have parties and little get-togethers at. More positive notes on this first semester: I really like my subjects and enjoy being a student and living on my own. Also, I found a great place where I can be creative: *tba. I had really hoped to find something like this – a place where I can share my work, be inspired by others sharing their work and all of that without being judged. Everyone is supportive and open – it’s a safe space for the creative mind. I’m glad I found new friends and got to know a lot of people that are really diverse and open.
Moving here, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was unsure about the subjects I chose: was it the right choice? Is this “my thing”? I was unsure about getting to know new people and making friends in this big city where it feels like everyone is anonymous. And going through a break up in the middle of the semester – ending a relationship that was my anchor in this new and sometimes scary life – I realized: it was the right decision. The heartbreak aside, I was so glad to have taken this step to move so far away and be on my own. I love this city. I love all the endless possibilities, the independence, the new adventures of exploring so many new things. And it’s true what everyone says: the semester goes by in the blink of an eye. It’s over before you even realize it and the second one is just around the corner with even more things to learn, not just academically but in lots of unexpected ways.
Lena’s Declassified (School) University Survival Guide
by Lena, 20, Major: British and American Studies, Minor: I’ve sort of ditched my minor and am currently looking for a new one, so yay
Does anyone remember that show? Anyone?
If not, simply picture me walking through the school halls (or those of the Ü35, I guess), whilst occasionally looking directly into the camera to give you these more or less useful survival tips. Somehow no one else seems to notice the camera or finds what I’m doing strange in any way. (Please just watch the show, I’ve just read through this again, and it sounds really bizarre if you don’t know what I’m referring to. Please don’t make this awkward for me, it’s bad enough as it is.)
- Join *tba, you’ll meet some really cool people there, such as me… and me (and Ken).
- Don’t take on too many hours of classes a week, I’d say about six should be enough. Maybe four.
- If you do, however, decide to do more hours, or “a normal amount”, as some might call it, you should be “intrinsically motivated”, one of the many snazzy phrases I’ve learnt this semester.
- Get a scarf big enough to be used as a blanket. This is honestly the most useful tip on this list (which isn’t saying much tbh), trust me. (Ed.: I can confirm. Class is so much better when you’re cozy.)
- Don’t take three seminars back to back on a Monday, you’re going to want to fling yourself out of a window and the ones in the Ü35 don’t even open. (God, I hate that building.)
- Not a tip, but where is the cast of this show now? What are they doing? What about coconut head? (Just googled him, he doesn’t have his iconic haircut anymore, I am shocked and appalled. Who would’ve thought?)
- I’m already running out of tips and the ones so far haven’t been good either. Probably because I’ve got no clue what I’m even doing and am in no position to give advice to anyone. I should’ve just written something about my experience and first impressions, but I really desperately wanted to revive one of my favourite childhood shows and I’m in too deep by now, there’s no turning back.
I wrote this guide at the beginning of December and thought it would be nice to add something to it, now that I’m actually done with my first semester and because I don’t want to leave it quite as negative and sarcastic as it is now: I did overall genuinely enjoy my first semester, even though admitting that isn’t nearly as fun to me as complaining about it. The people aren’t half bad, some courses are actually interesting and in a weird way I find myself almost looking forward to the next semester – but just almost. Yeah, I think I totally nailed the whole positivity thing with this one.
by Julia, 18, Major: British and American Studies, Minor: Spanish
Because I’m 18, I sometimes still feel like uni isn’t the right place for me or the place I am supposed to be, because almost everyone who starts their studies is in their early 20s. However, I am able to say that I feel way more comfortable in university than I did in high school, simply because people don´t judge you for your clothes or the way you talk. Basically, they are more mature and less superficial or arrogant. I also get the sense that teachers care about you – they are human, unlike the emotionless robots I met in high school.
Even though I just started studying, being at uni brings on a certain kind of nostalgia. (Ed.: I know what you mean. The pressure of being told over and over that this is “the best time of your life” is a kind of pressure that works against its own premise. At the end of my studies I’m asking myself what there even is to hope for if that is true, so I hope against hope that it is not.) I’m afraid to miss out on cool people and on building lasting relationships, because there is a time limit on getting close and bonding with them. Being a student is temporary and some people aren’t even going to be here anymore in one or two semesters. So for me at least that task seems nearly impossible. Yet I really appreciate that, as a new student, you’re free to be whoever you want or aspire to be, because no one knows what you were like before. There are no labels, no prior judgments.
A New Chapter
by Jasmina, 21, Major: British and American Studies, Minor: Educational Science
Looking back at the first semester, I really can’t believe it’s already over. It wasn’t just me who started a new chapter of my life, (as especially my family likes to call it), it was also a new situation for the people in higher semesters since the whole English and American Studies department moved to the Überseering along with all of the humanities. This was probably the reason why the first day of the semester didn’t feel like a typical day at a typical university.
I don’t know what the atmosphere in the department was like before moving to Ü35, but from what I hear the Anglarium is greatly missed. Fortunately, there are enough people trying extremely hard to create a cozy and friendly atmosphere at Ü35 as well, and that’s greatly appreciated by all of us. It’s inspiring to me how the new faces you see on your first day turn into familiar faces as the weeks go by. At some point you might even find yourself spending time with some of them outside of university.
During the semester, I noticed that university was very similar to school in a couple ways, but there are still some refreshing differences between the two, one of them being that you are finally surrounded by people who care for the same thing as you do. Maybe that’s the beauty of university; having a connection to the ones around you but still being so different that you can learn and be inspired by each other.
Another aspect I enjoyed was getting to know an exchange student from Korea and her view on our lives, traditions and values. Even after our first conversation I realized how the university is a place to become even more open towards others and that doing so can help you understand other cultures a lot better. The weird thing is: you know what to expect from your first semester to some extent because people have told you about their experiences. Nonetheless it’s like every new situation: people can try to prepare you for it as much as they want, but you’ll have to experience it for yourself to really know what it’s like.
I don’t think I am completely used to the situation yet, that’ll probably take at least one more semester, but the first semester gave me a wonderful impression of what university can be: new people, lots of knowledge, meetings, cultural events, stress, but most of all a challenge. With some motivation and awesome people around, I’m sure the upcoming time can be just as exciting as the first semester was.
– compiled and edited by Pat