The frightening first semester

Cluelessness, anxiety and excitement are the words that best describe the first semester at university. A whole world unfolds in front of us while we gear up to make the most of our time at the university. There is a new face in every corner and the urge to find the new hang out gang sometimes gets the better of our egos and we get mingling. Especially, in an international environment of the likes of the University of Stuttgart, the excitement is undoubtedly multiplied. While the charm and the excitement of settling in a new city keep us afloat, there are a lot of things that change and these changes unlike the pleasant ones, are difficult to cope with. For an international student like me, everything took a drastic change, from the money I spent to the food I ate, and sometimes even my habits and routine. And in my very case, my hobby as well. I had no option but to embrace cooking as I had two options in front of me, starve or adapt.

The challenges that a student faces during the first semester are quite in number. To acculturate in a global setting and also to familiarize a whole different academic setup is a challenge by itself, let alone the hectic syllabus. Here is my throwback of all the experiences I had here at the University of Stuttgart, both the appealing as well as the off-putting ones.

The intriguing inception

My flight was delayed. Why? Well, a lot of reasons that have so far failed to make sense at all. Nevertheless, the weary journey failed to steal the zest I had preserved for days. I am not sure of how my buddy on the other end felt as he had to wait for a couple more hours at the not so happening airport. The buddy service was one godsend as these guys had everything sorted and welcomed me with a warm hug. Checked into my dorm room and did not have to try hard for my eye lids to shut and in no time opened to a new exciting day. We had to assemble at the Internationales Zentrum (IZ) to collect our welcome kits and also to register for a few welcoming events which included a few excursions and welcome parties. It did not take much time for me to find the clique and neither did the time wait to start getting good. I knew for a fact that if good memories were to be made, I had better begun then. Along with all the rousing experiences, spoilers made their way in the form of formalities that had to be fulfilled. Though, with the help of well-structured instructions and the buddies, I got done with all the procedures well on time.

The German classes took over our ill framed schedule and reminded us that we were here not just to relish but to take back something when we get out. The six-long hours of classes were for a fact supererogatory but the teachers gave their best to keep it from being monotonous. It was a great experience to sit in a class that had quintessential diversity and to learn a language that is foreign enough to everyone. The first excursion was on the cards in no time and so was the German exam. The honeymoon is not forever, you see?

The tread time

Good times fly fast. It is not too long before we start realizing that the semester calendar has picked up pace and is racing right past you. Right when everything seems to be a jolly ride, the exam registration mail hits the mailbox and trust me, there is nothing gloomier than this. All of a sudden, your nerdy conscience demands attention. This is the time when we start falling short of excuses to attend those early morning lectures and start taking academics seriously. Handling the assignments, lectures, sports and the hobby endangers the time we otherwise spend lazing around.

In spite of all the explanations given for the university procedures, there is still so much room for ambiguity that sure leads to a tangled tale. Instead of using the technology to make it simpler for a student, it just gets complex. In excess of 3 websites for a student to get through the procedures. How about a merged platform? Doesn’t that sound simple and efficient? It sure does. The other problem I find with the system is the exam regulations. There are so many rules and the way they are laid down makes it so obscure that the sequel of the tangled tale stares right at your face. Every time a friend of mine walks into the exam center, comes out with a new rule that is totally unheard of. These issues have to be sorted as they add unnecessary mix-ups in a student’s life. Especially, those in the frightening first semester.

Frazzled yet? Doomsday in the offing

The crowd in the parties get slimmer and the seats in the library start filling up way earlier than they usually do. These are sure signs of approaching exams. Even after having attended hundreds of exams before coming to the university, the last minute rush and the nervousness is something that is indispensable. Well, at least to most of us. The havoc escalates when the whole setup changes and we are not sure what to expect in an academic system that is fairly new and unfamiliar. What fuels the anxiety is the questions that always haunt. Am I going the right way?  Is the approach right? Have I prepared enough? Do I have the right notes? Calm your nerves and keep your mind afloat. For as long as exams appall, there is nothing certain.

Adding to the woes of a student are the submissions of reports and project works that usually have deadlines at the end of the semester. The juggling of all the tasks in hand usually has us taking them by throat to get through successfully, at least to some extent. Howbeit, there is always a smart way to dodge the bullet. As my dad used to remind me during the tough times, “When something is inevitable, start enjoying it”. With what I experienced, I would say, it is just the semester ending aura that intensifies the situation. Take a chill pill. You are going to get through like you have always done. In flying colors.

All said, here’s hoping that my attempt to portray what the first semester has in the offering is a decent one and is useful at least to some of you. If you are a first-semester student, you don’t have to panic. You will make strides come what may. Relish every moment you spend in the university so that you can cherish the great moments you spend here.






Saleem Javed is a master’s student at the University of Stuttgart doing an International course. An engineer by education and profession, who writes to make sure he doesn’t stack it all up there. Strongly believes in the quote “If you want to be remembered, do something worth writing or write something worth reading”. Plays safe, picks the latter!

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