Photo: Sandra Neumann

Summer Semester 2019: Taking the Students’ Pulse

What does the new semester look like from the student point of view? A reportage about the perks of university life, disappointing German classes, and how to navigate the challenges of academia.


by Evdokia Prassa

The winter break and its dreadful Hausarbeiten deadlines are finally over. The end of the long Easter weekend saw the last student absentees flocking back to campus and bustling around university corridors. The new semester is officially here, and already leaving its mark on daily student life. We asked students to share their personal observations.

The perks

Diversity in campus is crucial for the humanistic and multicultural values that the university as institution stands for. Felipe, himself a foreign student, highly appreciates the mix of ethnic backgrounds in the student body of his institute.

For O., a working student, the new semester means less of a workload. This may sound paradoxical at first, yet makes complete sense considering that student employees tend to spend more hours doing paid work during the semester break, while at the same time writing their term papers (which are usually due at the end of the winter holidays). A new semester brings back the work-study balance and allows for a more manageable daily routine.

The criticism

For Luisa and Felipe, trying to learn German through the courses offered by their university has proven challenging thus far. Luisa noted a discrepancy in the individual students’ level of German language skills within her course, which she attributes to an unreliable system of student classification into language levels.

Another complaint that was raised was a perceived absence of assistance to students in adjusting to the strenuous demands of the university environment. G. expressed her disappointment at what she described as a generally confusing academic bureaucracy, ranging from the often not easily decipherable language in Studienordnungen, to the nerve-racking procedure of having credits (earned outside the regular studies programme) officially recognized. She also wished for more guidance regarding how to write term papers.

But student life is not just about education; there are basic needs connected to it that are often easily overlooked, as one student points out. Given the rapidly inflated rental prices in Berlin that contribute to higher student living costs (and lower living standards), even minor increases of necessary expenditures, such as food, can disproportionately affect the already limited student budget.


studierendenWERK BERLIN’s Social Counselling Service gives students guidance on how to finance their studies.  They also help with the myriad of bureaucratic processes that are part of student life in Germany, e.g. health insurance, housing subsidies, or entitlement to social services.

When in need of support with academic writing, students are welcome to the Writing Centre of studierendenWERK BERLIN, a service that organizes writing groups and workshops for students, whilst also offering individual counselling.


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