The stress of our generation

“When I was in grammar school, I still had G8.”, I said. “Woah, I guess that has been quite stressful. Luckily, I still had G9.”, is what I heard from many pupils from other schools. [1] Learning the same subject matter of your whole career in grammar school in eight years instead of nine, that works? Yes, it worked. We had three times a week school until the late afternoon for several years, the topics often were touched on superficially, the student’s receptiveness decreased, especially during summertime in that blazing heat, but yes, it worked. At the beginning, I thought: “Great, so I will be done with school one year earlier and therefore I can start immediately with my studies.” The Swabian [2] tries to economize on everything, even on school years, but it doesn’t work out.

The plan was to use the few free months that I had for a compulsory work placement, so I would not waste or lose my time. I followed blindly that wrong thinking.

The sooner you’re done with everything, the better it is?

No. But where does this thinking come from? Occasionally, I look at the employment ads of some agencies. The profile should be the following: Your final qualification should be a bachelor’s or even better a master’s degree, you should have at least two years of work experience in an agency and at the same time you should be at the beginning or in your early- or mid-twenties. I guess the two years of work experience should be collected by un- or underpaid work placements, besides your term papers which you should write in your semester break. And there we have the perfect formula for stress. That eternal, capitalistic thinking that you should be better, faster and younger than the others. People want to see an “allrounder”. Young and dynamic, flexible and creative are the characteristics you should represent. A gapless curriculum vitae is in demand. And at this point I am wondering, whether it was the same lifestyle in the past generations. If not, how could older generations work properly for a job, which you can nowadays only do after having passed some internships?

Let’s have a look on the studies.  

Currently, I can only speak for myself and my bachelor degree course, but I have the feeling, that six semesters “standard period of study” and therefore also the financial support for this time, are a bit too short. A lecturer once said: “Whoever finishes his/her bachelor degree in six semesters has not studied properly or has missed to live correctly.” I really like this sentence because it clearly shows what I mean. After six semesters, I still have the feeling of not having enough basic knowledge. Of course, you should extend your knowledge by searching further literature beyond university.

And there we are at the next point: The time beyond university.

I am speaking as a student who is depending on the governmental financial support. That means, it’s enough to pay your rent but after a while a job is necessary. Many students work as a waiter/waitress, because the tip is not that bad, or as a babysitter. Well, you get enough money, but it’s nothing for your curriculum vitae. And here we arrive at the same problem that I’ve already mentioned before. If you don’t have a job in your subject, you must collect you experience by, (surprise, surprise), passing work placements. It’s a vicious cycle under the pressure of six semesters. If you want to follow the ideal way how a life should pass, whether during grammar school “G8”-time or during your studies, your free time is sometimes neglected. You don’t meet your friends that often anymore, you don’t practice your sports as you were used to, some people even get a health problem due to stress.

Of course, you can find a job that goes well with your studies. And of course, you have the possibility to take out a loan if you don’t want to defer to the pressure of six semesters and you would like to collect extra debts in addition to your repayment of student grant. I neither want to criticize studies nor the financial support nor the fact, that people do an internship in a field for what one’s hear is beating.

On the contrary, I am very thankful that this financial support exists and that there are no more tuition fees

But I do criticize the increasing fact that I notice: a kind of competition of the individual profiles or images. Who has passed the most work placements and is following his volunteer work and is the youngest and has the best marks in university and has finished university as fast as possible? I often notice students from the eighth semester justifying their number of semesters by explaining their other activities beyond university. But I think, this justification is not necessary at all. During senior classes in school, teachers told us that you need to be prepared to defend your career in case you study longer than the “standard period of study”. This makes sense when your number of semesters extends exorbitantly, but not in the eighth one. “During my school days, the teachers said that …” is a sentence that you might read more often in my articles.

Now I’m writing the last lines, I see how many term papers I will write this summer and at the same time I am looking forward to my holidays. Unfortunately, I realize that there won’t be time for a four-week internship to brew coffee.

[1] In Germany, I was in grammar school/academic high school for 8 years, called G8. Usually, you go there for 9 years, called G9.

[2] Swabia is a region in southwest Germany. One stereotype of a Swabian is his miserliness.


from Konstanz, Germany

Emilia Mikautsch

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