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University of Copenhagen
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Student life

5 tips for students who struggle to cope with all of it

What do you do if you want to study, do your student job, do volunteer work, see your family, and then still have time to party with your friends? And what about getting involved in politics on the side?

Here are a handful of helpful tips from Katrine Kildgaard Nielsen, Karen Frese, Mette Oxholm and Nana Alrø on balancing everything you want to do in your life. The four women are all the rage due to a Danish TV series called Benhårde Veninder [’tough friends’] and are experts in the hard balancing act of doing everything in their lives at once.

1. Find subjects that make you happy

If you are busy, then at least make sure you are having fun while it happens.

It is important to choose the programmes of study and courses you are actually interested in, according to Mette Oxholm, who is studying for her master’s in political science.

»Don’t choose a subject because you think some employer would like you to take it. This will not lead to good mental health. And getting up in the morning to follow a course you do not really care for will take away the joy from your daily life.«

By choosing what you want, you will not only feel better. If you choose a course of study based on your gut feeling rather than its CV potential, it will be reflected in your grades.

»I first started getting good grades when I found out what I wanted to do. Have the confidence to pursue your own interest, then things will be that much easier,« says Nana Alrø, master’s student at the Faculty of Law.

2. Make peace with your conscience

You don’t need to do your very best everywhere, always.

»My best piece of advice is: Make peace with your conscience. I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty and that I was not good enough as a student. Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: Why is it so important to read the entire syllabus if I have already done well at my job? Why do I have to have a top grade on all the different aspects of my life?« says Mette Oxholm.

»This is a difficult exercise if you are already used to getting high grades at other education institutions. But it’s important, because you can’t perform 100 per cent all of the time,« says Katrine Kildgaard Nielsen, who is studying for her master’s in political science.

3. Be selfish

Find out how you work best. Is it on your own? In a group? Or just with one regular studymate?

»I can feel that some people perceive it as if I am rejecting them socially if I opt out of group work. But it’s OK to be a bit selfish in your studies and want to do something different from other students,« says Nana Alrø.

4. Have the difficult conversations with the people you work with
If you are working with others, make sure you align your expectations. Talk about how much time you expect to spend on the subject. Agree on how well-prepared you need to be when you turn up for a meeting in your study group.

»It can be a difficult conversation. But make sure that everyone knows what they are getting into,« says Katrine Kildgaard Nielsen. And remember that you should only expect to get support from your group if you don’t give something in return also.

»If you do not make an effort yourself, you cannot expect the study group to send their notes and write the assignments. That’s not how it works,« says Karen Frese, who is studying law on the bachelor’s degree programme.

5. Postpone to the max!

You may not be aware of it, but the Danish system has several options for creatively stitching together a unique programme of study.

You can take a part-time master’s degree as a working professional while you do your job in parallel to four years of study. You can get ECTS credits at summer school if you have got behind. If these antics are not enough to ensure that you end up graduating in a good and healthy way, then there is still one last resort, according to Karen Frese:

»Extend your bachelor’s or master’s degree.«

Mette Oxholm adds: »Postpone, postpone, postpone. There are so many who want to sail through the programme and take on the world as a 25-year-old. I think, just postpone. Spend the time it takes to find out what it is you want to do.«