University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


When the summer holidays stress you out

Sommerferie — For Ditte Borgvold, a student of German, the summer holidays evoke both fear and a sense of futility. She is not the only student who feels the pressure of the months with no classes, and no structure. But she reckons she has a solution to the problem.

“It is a feeling of emptiness, a sense of futility.”

This is how Ditte Borgvold explains her fear of the two-month summer holiday stretched out in front of her. A holiday of long, muggy days and empty calendar pages overwhelms her with a desire to just lie in bed and do nothing. She comes to a complete standstill during the summer holidays, she says.

I think that an endless long summer holiday with no course plan, no syllabus, and no structure is stressful

Ditte Borgvold, student

Ditte Borgvold is a student of German and has just completed her fourth semester. She plans to spend a month of her summer on a course in German Cultural History at a university in Berlin. She does this without being able to transfer a single ECTS credit for it. Partly because she loves to learn – partly because she finds her summer holidays to be endless and confusing.

And she is not alone. In an article about the summer school students, several students told the University Post that they experience their summer vacation as being too long. And that they use the summer schools to distribute their study programme’s workload.

“I’ve had bad experiences with the very long holidays. I am a person who works best when I have something to get up to in the morning. I think that an endless long summer holiday with no course plan, no syllabus, and no structure is stressful

Less holidays, thanks

Ditte Borgvold sees her own feelings about the long, unplanned, summer in those of her friends who after graduating end up unemployed and who have not yet a job to get up to.

“It simply works better for me. I am a happier person, and more fun . I can also better enjoy things when I actually do have time off. Because I know that there is content in my daily life, and that I am not just going about doing nothing. This can in itself be stressful,” says Ditte Borgvold and adds:

“There are two kinds of stress. There is the stress you feel when the pressure is too high, and the stress you feel when you have no obligations. I need to be somewhere in the middle.”

According to Ditte Borgvold, longer but less intense study semesters – and thereby shorter summer holidays – would be ideal. This idea has also been floated by the trade union DM’s student chapter, as something that would improve the quality of Danish education.

An idle mind is the root of all evil

But even though the wish to keep things up and running and keep stress at bay is something that many students share, Ditte Borgvold is in a particular situation. The mixed feelings about the long summer holiday also stem from a fear of not being able to start up again after the holidays. Ditte Borgvold has a paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis, and has had two failed attempts to complete a university programme of study. So she is now determined to make every effort to give herself the best possible starting point. This also means being more open about her mental disorder.

“All my good friends know everything about what is going on with me. But I have never, like, gone public about it in the newspaper or something like that,” says Ditte and laughs.

I am, in many ways, a better person when I have something to get up to in the morning
Ditte Borgvold, student

And it is quite something to suddenly stand up and tell the whole world that you suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, says Ditte Borgvold. But this is also important.

“It is important that someone dares stand up. And I dare do it, because I’m so relatively well-functioning. Because I can take care of my study programme, live in my own apartment, and figure out how to take a bath in the morning. I dare, because I don’t feel quite as stigmatised as others do that I have met that have the same diagnosis.”

Ditte Borgvold also appeared in the Uniradioen radio programme Manfred, where she talked about how to balance a mental disorder with her life as a student. The programme (in Danish) is here.