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How Do I Organize My Semester?

Around 1,200 students contact the Psychological Counselling Centre of the Bremen Student Service Organization every year. A common topic at the start of the semester: how to organize your studies.

You still have to read the text for the seminar quickly, then prepare the presentation for tomorrow, and you really should have started with the homework as well. Especially at the beginning of the semester, there is a lot of work to do. It can be hard enough to balance assignments with part-time jobs and leisure activities. On top of that, a lot of things are now done digitally. Simone Buchholz from the Psychological Counselling Centre of the Bremen Student Service Organization (PBS) talks about the new online counselling service and gives tips on how to organize learning successfully during the hybrid semester.

“The best approach is to adopt a so-called job mentality for your studies. That means that studying is regarded as a proper job that needs to be done, with a fixed number of weekly working hours,” advises Buchholz. This creates a framework that is often lacking at university. However, the counselor also observes that digital learning, in particular, can be very stressful for many students and demands even more self-organization and discipline. For this reason, the PBS has created the online offer “Studying Successfully in Times of Corona”, which provides students with new input at the beginning of each week during the lecture period on topics such as learning techniques, taking breaks, workplace setup, and motivation aids. Questions asked in an anonymous chat are answered by Buchholz directly. Students without concrete questions can also simply follow the chat and get some inspiration and motivation. “The offer can accompany students through the winter term – low-threshold but still regularly,” explains Buchholz. Here, the advisor also shares a few tips with us on how to organize learning.

Tip 1: Make a plan and specify goals

Books are piling up, notes are everywhere, and you have no idea where to start? “Ideally, you make a study plan – which tasks are pending; when is the deadline? – and set yourself concrete daily and weekly goals,” suggests Buchholz. This creates a sense of commitment, which is particularly lacking during the hybrid semester, since it is rarely monitored who actually attends the online lectures.

Tip 2: Self-control

With your first weekly plan, you will probably notice that your own habits get caught between your plans and reality. Buchholz knows: “It helps to monitor and control yourself at the beginning and then adjust your plans. After all, it is very demotivating when set goals are not met.” So, if you realize that at 3 p.m. you’d rather drink a cup of coffee than study, just plan for it and get back to work later.

Tip 3: Correctly estimate the amount of work

Your first study plan week is over and you haven’t even finished the ten assignments yet? Lower your expectations. The expert advises: “The plan must of course be realistic and doable. In addition, digital learning usually requires more time to make arrangements with teaching staff, including the preparation and follow-up of seminars, which most people do not expect.” So, be patient with yourself if you don’t get as much done as planned.

Tip 4: Exchange with others

Since some lectures are held digitally, there are currently neither coffees with fellow students nor tram rides with a friend to discuss the course material. Buchholz’s advice: Find a study buddy with whom you can regularly discuss the study content. Learning groups are also an option, if you meet virtually at a set time.

Tip 5: Take enough breaks

Washing the dishes in-between, then getting lost in the depths of the internet for a while and watching cat videos – and in the end there is no time for a proper break, because otherwise the paper will never get done. Better plan fixed break times in regular intervals, recommends the advisor. In addition, you should take one longer break during the day – preferably combined with some exercise.

Tip 6: Reduce screen time

Digital learning causes you to look at the screen even more than you already do. In addition, you also spend your free time with your smartphone and television. The boundaries between study and leisure time are blurred and it is harder for you to switch off. Buchholz’s tip: “Don’t spend your breaks in front of the screen. Writing notes by hand or reading a printed version of the texts also reduces your screen time.”

Tip 7: Separate work from leisure time

Usually, the advisor recommends not to use your living space for learning, but to go to the university or library. Of course, this is not so easy during the corona pandemic. “Still, one should have a fixed workstation and study only there, in order to be able to separate leisure from work time,” explains Buchholz. During the pandemic, she also advises people to take their leisure activities even more seriously: “Making plans for some fun activities in the evening is now especially important for relaxing.”

Further information on the online offer during Corona

Every Monday, the PBS website (currently in German only) offers new tips on a topic such as learning methods, work organization, or taking breaks. On Tuesdays from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., you can ask questions about the tips in an open chat. Although you do not need to make an appointment in advance, you will need to register for the chat. The chat is anonymous.

Psychological Counselling Centre

The Psychological Counselling Centre is located in the Central Campus Building of the University of Bremen, below the Mensa cafeteria. You can book appointments by phone on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesday from 2p.m. to 4p.m. You can contact the counseling center by phone (0) 421 22 01 - 1 13 10 or email pbs@stw-bremen.de. Additionally, there is an Online Counselling Service. At present, consultations only take place by telephone. The services of PBS are free of charge for students of the universities and higher education institutes of Bremen and Bremerhaven.

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