Eone day, sometime in my second semester of journalism, I met a fellow student in front of the university canteen. She seemed dejected, tired. In the first semester, between the campus rally and beer pong, I got to know her as fun-loving and hyper. “Is everything okay?” I asked. “I was so looking forward to everything here,” she replied, her voice faltering a bit, “but I don’t think studying is just for me.” I could see how much effort these words had cost her.
Maybe you’re rolling your eyes now and wondering why a young woman dramatizes things in such a way and is so desperate in a situation that is actually not so hopeless. After all, from a rational point of view, there are only two options: either she finishes her studies prematurely or she continues to study. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not that easy. After all, everyone deals with stressful situations differently. For some, dropping out of college and reorienting might not be a big deal. For others, fear of failure, disorientation and pressure arise.
I’m familiar with failure: Before I studied journalism, I studied law for two semesters. Already in the first few weeks, I had a queasy feeling when I entered the campus. In the lectures I kept drifting away, my hand almost automatically wandered to my pocket where my mobile phone was, just so I wouldn’t have to listen. I was even so desperate that I cried on the subway on the way home. At home I lay in bed a lot to be able to forget everyday university life. For a few months and without realizing it, I had slipped into a deep black hole. Then, shortly before the first phase of the exams, it suddenly grabbed me and I thought to myself: If I have to deal with civil law for a second longer, then I’ll go crazy.
Discontinuation and change are not uncommon
The stories of my fellow student and I are not isolated cases: Studies show that the dropout rate in bachelor’s degree programs at German universities has remained almost constant at 27 percent in recent years. The dropout rate for master’s courses was 17 percent. So it is not uncommon to end your studies early or to change your subject – no matter what semester you are in.
What are the reasons for dropping out of studies or changing subjects? In the case of my fellow student, it was probably due to too many dazzling expectations that she had of her studies and which simply could not be fulfilled. Her fantasy of everyday student life and the sometimes very dreary reality just didn’t go together. A feeling of disappointment set in with her, which ultimately actually drove her to drop out.
For me it was also due to misconceptions, but in a more substantive way. As an aspiring lawyer, I wanted to stand up for justice. However, the fact that studying law has little to do with justice and more to do with paragraphs that sometimes even legitimize injustice, in my view, did not fit with my values. So my interest in the subject dwindled from week to week, until finally there was hardly anything left except black clouds in my head, anxiety and sadness. If only one of the points mentioned applies, in my experience you should consider dropping out of your studies. It can help to let friends or family participate in the considerations or to seek professional help from counseling centers such as the Psychological Service or the General Study and Dropout Counseling Service.
Sags are normal
Of course, there are also good reasons not to cancel. You should not rush into anything when your studies are almost over and there are only a few exams left. If the psychological stress is not too high, it might be advisable to complete your studies first and then think about a second degree. You should also be aware of why you don’t feel comfortable in your field of study. Is it really the subject that is uninteresting or is it perhaps your fellow students? And in stressful learning phases, everyone doubts their studies. This is normal and will pass. No reason to be hasty in throwing in the towel.
In any case, my sudden drop-out from my studies meant that the dark clouds in my head gradually disappeared. I remembered my passion, writing, and enrolled in journalism. To this day I do not regret this decision.
Lina von Coburg (22 years old) is a bachelor’s student in journalism in Mainz. In addition to her studies, she writes poems, philosophizes about life and thinks about how a prospective journalist can survive.