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Well-being — The University of Copenhagen has (at least) one student who is studying now on his tenth year and who, according to himself, is getting a huge benefit out of it every time he goes on the fresher camp for new students. It works as therapy for new students, and for their tutors.
During the course of his studies Peter Hammerberg has been on 10 of fresher camp – the Danish traditional ‘rustur’ introduction trips for new students – in a row. When he enters the café ‘’
He feels like he belongs.
He has been on fresher camps as an actual freshman, twice on the Psychology camp as a new student, once on Sociology – and then he has himself been a tutor, seven times to help get new students started off.
It has been his favourite defence against the sense of loneliness that otherwise can easily overshadow the time at university, he says.
I am interested in giving new students a super cool start to their studies; perhaps because I had a good start myself and saw the sense of community that came with it.
“It can be tough to study at university. Not because it is tough to read a text or two. No, but it is insanely hard to have to sit indoors, for maybe half a year, just reading on your own, if you haven’t got a sense of belonging somewhere,” says Peter Hammerberg (29), who is now in the process of writing his master’s thesis in psychology.
He himself has gone through crises, and the fresher trips have helped him overcome them. The trips have been his annual, social dose of supplementary vitamins against the loneliness that can otherwise develop into a very real threat.
This is what Peter Hammerberg has had to learn.
He graduated from high school in 2009 and started directly at the Department of Psychology in the red brick buildings on Øster Farimagsgade 2.
The road ahead was clear to him. So he thought.
“But it was too hard for me to be a student right after high school. The practical part of it was not difficult, like writing assignments, but I felt so incredibly alone. So I became unsure of myself, and then I started to doubt my place of study, and then I lost grip,” says Peter Hammerberg.
He had not taken his own study introduction – his first fresher trip – particularly seriously at the psychology programme, he remembers.
The next year he moved on to sociology, and this time he took the fresher trip very seriously, and it gave him a start to his studies that taught him something important.
He got his bachelor’s degree in sociology, even though he, so he says, ‘burnt out’ once during the process, and at Sociology he also began to be a tutor for the new students.
Here it helps to have been a tutor, because you meet a lot of new students, and you get, at the same time, a unique sense of community with the other tutors. Then the feeling of belonging prevails over the feeling of loneliness.
After his bachelor’s degree in sociology, he re-started his psychology study programme and was on the fresher trip for new students again. Since then, he has been a tutor for new psychology students – to share a good experience with them.
“I am interested in giving new students a super cool start to their studies; perhaps because I had a good start myself and saw the sense of community that came with it,” explains Peter Hammerberg.
As a tutor, is it not just about getting laid? This is the impression you can get in the media…
“There’s simply no time to go around getting laid with freshmen. We have a very ambitious intro course, and our attention is completely absorbed with it,” replies Peter Hammerberg.
When asked how he finds the time to be a tutor every year, and whether he is ever just going to take a summer vacation, he replies by asking what else should you use your summer vacation for. In any case, he cannot imagine anything better than preparing a good study start for a new litter.
“It is really cool. It is, after all, incredibly privileged to have experienced two whole courses of study in two different programmes, with two completely different groups of students, where each of them has planned things differently. This has taught me many lessons, that I now am able to pass on, says Peter Hammerberg.
He is also in the handover committee, which is set up after each fresher trip to prepare the groundwork for the next year’s fresher. Here the task is finding new tutors, places to spend the night, like a school, booking buses, and many other things – and well in advance.
Not only the new students get something out of the fresher trips. The tutors also get something out of them.
Maybe they had some sick days during the start of their studies, so they missed the fresher trip, or they just were just not lucky to get in touch with the students that really meant something for them. They therefore want to try again.
In the psychology department, the fresher course begins in the week before the start of the study programme, and the process stretches over a full week. The first days take place in domestic premises, on the CSS campus, while the last four days of the fresher course take place outside the city with overnight stays – typically from Thursday to Sunday.
It is a question of being ready from the first day if you want to use the fresher course to get this sense of community with your new study programme, says Peter Hammerberg:
“The fresher course gives you a hook, a connection to the whole study programme, so that when you step over the doorstep to our café in Psychology or go to the Friday bar in the ‘Kommunen’ at Sociology, there is someone you know because you have been on the fresher trip.”
This acts as a counterweight to what many students experience: Time passes on the study programme, the others get student jobs, go on exchange abroad and get a network outside the university, so they have less time to be social on their study programmes and have contact with fellow students.
At the same time, the study programme is becoming increasingly demanding for everyone. Every year, 260 new psychology students start. The café is filled up with a lot of new faces that you do not know, and this also applies to the parties. It can weaken the sense of cohesion and make you feel alone, Peter Hammerberg believes.
“Here it helps to have been a tutor, because you meet a lot of new students. And at the same time you get a unique sense of belonging with the other tutors, and the feeling of community prevails over the feeling of loneliness,” he says.
2018 will probably be his last year as a tutor, as he expects to graduate with his master’s in psychology in January 2019 after completing his thesis and an internship with the police this autumn.