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Survival Kit for Studies
“My everyday life is kind of chaotic”

Dogukan | Photo (detail): Unsplash © Hitoshi Suzuki/Svetlana Kerestely

Dogucan, 21, is studying electrical engineering at the Technical University of Munich in his third semester. As part of our “University Survival Kit”, he explains what he would do differently if he could start his studies all over again.

The biggest cliché about your degree programme – and what’s true about it:

At the start of our studies, we had to take an exam to test our suitability for the programme: This is called the Grundlagen- und Orientierungsprüfung (GOP) (i.e. basics and orientation test). Students from other faculties say there’s no way to pass this exam. It's really very hard: I learned more in one semester than in all the rest of my life.

What’s your normal daily routine?

I'm not a well-organised person and my everyday life looks kind of chaotic. Sometimes I’m up before nine in the morning, sometimes I sleep until afternoon. I don’t go to university every day: we don’t have to be present. I usually catch up on what I missed at home or study in the library. But that has its downsides: I still don’t know all my lecturers personally.

What could you do without?

I live in a privately-run student residence in Garching. I have my own room there with a bathroom and a small kitchen. We also have a shared kitchen on our floor. It's very pleasant: Everything is new and clean. But the rent is very high. In hindsight, I think that simpler living space in a state-run residence would suit me.

What day at university will you never forget?

Right in the first week I was gobsmacked at the “Welcome Party”. In Turkey, where I come from, I can’t imagine events like this where professors and students can get to know each other in an unofficial atmosphere.

In Turkey, where I come from, I can’t imagine events like this

The distance between older and younger people, between people with different social status, is usually a bit greater in Turkey.

What would you do differently if you could start your studies all over again?

I’d try to study more systematically. If I’d been better organised, I’d have saved time and a lot of nerve cells and gotten better grades. This semester I started studying way too late and therefore had too little time to work through all the topics.

What drove you to despair on a regular basis?

Originally I wanted to study physics or maths because I really like theory. I enjoy understanding how this or that formula is derived. Electrical engineering is much more practice-oriented, that’s why we learn less theoretical material. When I saw that some theorems are not proven in our textbooks, I was very disappointed. Now I accept it the way it is.

What rescued you over and over again?

So-called Fachschaften – students’ councils – sell exams from previous years. That was very helpful. In addition, tutors offer great support. They are students in higher semesters who review the material with us. They do it as a part-time job and earn some money this way.

What did you eat on the last day of the month, when did you have to save money?

When I’m really concentrating on something, I forget to eat. But luckily I don’t have to save: My parents send me monthly pocket money so I can finance my studies and my living costs.

What question do you always hear at family gatherings?

The question I hear most often is: “How's it going with your studies?” Most of the time I answer: “Awful.” Truth is, it’s not all that bad, I just exaggerate things to make a joke.

Where can one find you if you’re not at university?

I’d rather stay home. That’s how I am, I don’t like to go out.

What was highest price you paid for a good grade?

During exam phases I sleep very little. But I have to watch out: If I’m too tired, I make mistakes because of poor concentration.

University also means learning for life. What has your course of study provided you with for your life ahead?

I like maths and physics. During my studies I realised this would really be the right thing for me. I want to do my master’s in one of these two subjects.

“Survival Kit for Studies”

Where in Germany can one study well? How can you live well as a student? And how do you survive the first student council party and the questions at family gatherings?

Students from different disciplines talk about their experiences at universities in Germany, their everyday life – and what sometimes drives them to despair.