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Survival Kit for Studies
“Just before the deadline, I pull an all-nighter”

Survival-Kit Studium Sofia
Survival-Kit Studium Sofia | Photo (detail): Unsplash © Hitoshi Suzuki / Lukas Mair

Sofia, 23 years old, is majoring German language and literature and minoring in art, music and theatre at the LMU Munich. In our “Survival Kit for Studies” she tells us what cliché about her studies is true.

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

It’s definitely a cliché that we’re all bookworms – and it’s true. Someone who doesn’t like to read is definitely in the wrong place in German studies.

Another thing: German philologists all end up as taxi drivers. Fortunately, my internships and part-time jobs have always worked out well so far. So there’s no shortage of work, perhaps that’s also due to Munich – there are lots of jobs for humanities scholars here.

Also typical: procrastination and stress with deadlines! I’m relatively disciplined, but shortly before deadlines I work non-stop through the final days and sometimes pull an all–nighter.
What’s your normal daily routine?

I prefer morning seminars and lectures, at eight o’clock or ten o’clock, so that I get out of bed and the day gets off to a good start. Depending on how long the lectures and seminars are, I’m at the university until noon. In the afternoon I read and take care of the follow-up and preparation for my courses. However, I am not at university for five days, but have at least one day off to work.
In the evening, depending on the day of the week, I do something nice with friends or I stay in our dormitory at our in-house bar – every Thursday there’s the so-called bar evening. On weekends I often go home to see my family and meet with friends. I come from South Tyrol, so I don’t have to travel too far.
What could you do without?

Honestly? One or the other extremely theoretical lecture. One thing I’m really very happy about: In the introductory semester you study linguistics, but after that you can opt out. The rigorous, analytical approach was not my cup of tea. I feel more at home in Medieval Studies and Modern German Literature: there you can be more creative – in addition to analytical requirements.
What day at university will you never forget?

I’ll never forget my first exam. It was on a Saturday in a huge lecture hall and everyone was very excited. That was way different from school: writing an exam on half a year’s worth of material. And of course the excitement when I dropped off my first term paper in the professor’s box and knew that it had been handed in and that there was nothing more I could do about it.

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

I’d put less pressure on myself overall. And maybe be a little bit wilder and not do everything strictly according to plan. Just take a seminar you don’t know much about yet: not only Kafka, Effi Briest and Goethe, but also check out the poetry of Celan, Lasker-Schüler and Co.
What regularly drove you to despair?

I noticed with the theatre scholars that I don’t fit in there, I’m definitely not crazy enough. But thank heavens my minor subject art, music, theatre is highly diversified, otherwise I’d have quickly hit my limits.

I noticed with the theatre scholars that I don’t fit in there, I’m definitely not crazy enough

So I had the opportunity to say I’ll do more in art history and musicology and leave theatre out of it. So disciplines surprised me that I didn’t even have in mind at first: for example, I found the approaches in art education totally exciting.
What rescued you over and over again?

The classic: chocolate. And actually getting up from my desk and going to a museum, surrounding myself with art to think differently. Or talk to a fellow student about our work and discuss ideas with him or her.
What did you eat on the last day of the month, when did you have to save money?

They say at the end of the month students eat nothing but noodles. That was no problem at all since I love noodles and could really eat them five times a week. Thanks to the financial support from my family and my part-time jobs, I had no money worries.
What question do you always hear at family gatherings?

First off, I always have to explain my university studies. Then comes the question about the large reading workload. Of course, we don’t just read literary works, but a great deal of research literature and theoretical texts on top. Fortunately, I can now give an answer to the question about what I’ll do with it: I’d like to go to the cultural or art sector and work there in press and public relations.
Where can one find you if you’re not at university?

Thanks to my university studies in art history, I was able to visit almost all of Munich’s museums for free. I naturally have taken advantage of that. Otherwise I like to go to the opera, to the theatre or to the English Garden or the Isar when the weather is nice.
What was greatest price you paid for a good grade?

When I was doing a term paper, I had a very large picture attachment that totally messed up the formatting. I had to do an all-nighter so that in the end everything fit again and I could hand it in without any worries.
University also means learning for life. What has your course of study provided you with for your life ahead?

Tenaciousness in any event: There’s no one there to rap you on the knuckles during your studies. Your professor doesn’t care whether you hand in work or not.

“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.