SURVIVAL KIT FOR STUDIES “I’m a student with two children, a special case”

Jule, 28, is studying for a Master’s in Practical Philosophy of Economics and Environment at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. For our “Survival Kit for Studies” she tells us what it’s like to study and raise two children at the same time.

Survival Kit for Studies Jule Photo (detail): Unsplash © Hitoshi Suzuki / Private
The biggest cliché about your degree programme – and what’s true about it:

People often say that philosophers live in ivory towers. This can be true sometimes, especially in theoretical philosophy. However, my own studies are expressly devoted to practical philosophy. We deal with very concrete topics, such as climate justice.

What’s your normal daily routine?
During the semester I get up early and bring my child to day care before I go to university. There I attend lectures and prepare for the seminars in the library. I pick up my child in the afternoon. Only when she has fallen asleep in the evening can I possibly read something again.
During the semester break we all get up together as a family. In the meantime we’ve had a second child. We bring our older daughter to kindergarten and while the little one sleeps, we parents use the time to work. The same is true in the evening when both children are in bed. I’m currently working on my master’s thesis. Once a week I have attendance-time at my student assistant job at the university, and then I process my work orders in the office.

What could you do without?
I’m a student with a child, and now with two children, a special case. That made me nervous at first: Can I manage all that? How will my fellow students and professors react?

That made me nervous at first: Can I manage all that?

In addition, the area of study was new to me – today I’d approach everything a little more relaxed.
What day at university will you never forget?

When I began my studies, I had great respect for the students who helped out the professors before the seminars and were on first-name terms with them. Then came the day when as a student assistant I had to set the beamer for my professor in front of a full lecture hall for the first time. It felt perfectly natural. Only when I was outside did I notice that all of a sudden I was one of those people who had impressed me so much in the past.
What would you do differently if you could start your studies all over again?
I’d approach things more confidently, feel more capable. And read more secondary literature!
What drove you to despair on a regular basis?
I always have a very tight timeframe and have to juggle a lot. This means that I’m regularly interrupted in my flow when I’m working; for example because I initially had to go home to breastfeed, or I have to pick up my daughter from day care. These things have priority and cannot wait.
What rescued you over and over again?

The father of my children, who had my back as much as possible in the critical phases and was supportive. And of course my children, who always make it clear to me that things aren’t half as bad as long as they’re doing well.

What did you eat on the last day of the month, when did you have to save money?
We’ve always been thrifty. We live very conscientiously and try to save resources and, for example, obtain everything second-hand. We don’t need much and as a small family we have a relatively low cost of living. We were also very lucky with our flat: It’s inexpensive and still very cosy.

What question do you always hear at family gatherings?
 “When are you finally going to be done with this?”

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

At home, mostly, because there’s always something to do, whether it’s picking up building blocks, patching holes in trousers, or repairing bicycles. But I’m also often out and about with my children on outings and visiting friends.

What was highest price you paid for a good grade?
No question, a great deal of jitters about seminar presentations. In spite of the fact that I actually really enjoy doing them.

University also means learning for life. What has your course of study provided you with for your life ahead?
Asking the right question is sometimes much more important than finding the right answers.

“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.