Critical thinking, new priorities and responsibilities

Ten ways my Bachelor’s has changed me (Part I)

(Photographer: Diana Papukchieva)

After the fancy high school prom three years ago, most of my peers and I felt that we had entered into adult life and were finally ripe, wise and dauntless. Yet the ensuing years of undergraduate studies have proved that humans do not magically grow up after receiving a school-leaving certificate. Here are ten aspects in which my life has changed since enrolling in the BA English & American Studies degree:

  1. Lifestyle – The sudden complete change of environment, daily routine (mainly noticed in the fewer hours of sleep) and responsibilities come as a shock to the first-year undergraduate. Yet, I grew to like the dynamic student lifestyle, which although often exhausting, gives the fulfilling sense of productivity and self-development.
  2. Deadlines and time management – The habitual planning of the time I need to accomplish a homework project or to prepare myself for an exam has taught me to be more forward-looking and organised. As the easily memorisable high school tasks multiplied, my calendar and note-taking apps quickly became my trusted companions.
  3. Responsibility – From optional study modules through specialisations to budgeting – undergraduate life prepares students for making decisions on their own. In order to meet the higher demands of academic and business spheres, freshmen grow up being more self-reliant and meticulous. What in high school seemed like thoughts on the distant future suddenly becomes reality as we start applying for internships and part-time jobs in our fields.
  4. Priorities – The occupation “Undergraduate Student” invariably entails reorganising one’s priorities. This becomes especially noticeable around the exam period, when even the obligatory YouTube channels’ videos gather dust on the subscriptions thread and wait to be watched. Thus, studies, jobs, friends, hobbies and household chores often end up fighting for the beleaguered undergraduate’s attention.
  5. Dealing with institutions and bureaucracy – I recall how overwhelming the university application procedure seemed, yet, it turns out, it was just a warm-up for a lifelong battle of dealing with important documentation. Handling official documents is always stressful as they require careful comprehension, and before filling in important forms, one often even has to do some background reading. Luckily, the initial stress decreases after gaining some experience with the formalities.
  6. Linguistic register – Apart from the bureaucratic jargon, undergraduates also become acquainted with the language and manners of academia. University life has taught me to choose the appropriate register for each setting and situation I find myself in. Studying English philology has definitely made me cautious about my oral expression and articulation on any occasion.
  7. Foreign languages – It would have been difficult for my high-school self to imagine how English and German are no longer mere “subjects”, but a normal part of everyday life. DVD players turn into real humans, awaiting not only a true/false answer, but also engagement in a real emphatic conversation. Apart from the academic conversations, the multicultural environment of the TU Chemnitz has overall been a wonderful opportunity to practice foreign languages, and to explore different nations’ cultures and cuisines.
  8. Family and friendship circles – My social life underwent one of the greatest changes after moving out to study abroad – video conversations with the family, chats with good school friends, meeting new friends in Chemnitz, befriending exchange students and then continuing connecting online and finding buddies during my Erasmus semester in France… Although this scheme is no way comparable to the simple friends and family hometown experience, I have become used to it, and I enjoy encountering new and interesting individuals as part of my campus life.
  9. Problem-solving – The larger amount of information that needs to be processed for exams, its use in the solution of practical exercises and the either over-abundant or scarce readings for research papers are a few of the challenges met by university students. The undergraduate years thus become a great training opportunity for developing an adequate reaction to arising issues.
  10. Critical thinking – The construction of personal viewpoints is an indispensable part of growing up, and the university provides the environment in which students and academic staff can exchange perspectives and ideas, be they on technological progress, economic models or cultural generalisations. Undergraduates learn to question their own thinking and that of those they get to debate, be they novices or specialists in any given field. All of this helps to shape the undergraduate’s emerging world view.

These are ten aspects in which my pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree has shaped my early twenties. In the next post, I will share a few life lessons, learned particularly in English and American Studies.

Best wishes,


(Bachelor English & American Studies, 6th semester)

1 Response

  1. Jorim C. NDUKAUBA 28. August 2017 / 14:57

    Wonderful write-up from someone special I met in the library of Université de Poitiers. Her seriousness is something else: she is too focused towards her academic goals…
    More grace to your elbows MI
    Jorim Ndukauba
    Masters in Linguistics – French as a foreign language
    University of Poitiers

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