Away from school and its strict schedules and off to university Everything is new during this period of life: finding a first flat, organizing everything yourself, determining how and what you learn, no class attendance registers. And if you are moving to a new city, then you also have to make a new circle of friends. But even if you are from Berlin, you still need to find a new peer group at university. No easy matter, particularly during the coronavirus. In the past, you could meet new people at New Student Day events and orientation programs. Today, you have to try to do this online and via social networking platforms.
This makes the challenge of starting out at a big university like Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) all the greater. A university with more than 35,000 students studying in seven faculties with all their many institutes and degree program: It is very easy to feel like just one of many. The Academic Advising Service and the course guidance services offered by the seven faculties are here to help.
Before starting out at university, you need to find out about the programs on offer. Is the program right for me, do I want to go to TU Berlin, what does the program offer me and do I meet the requirements? The Academic Advising Service is the point of contact most people are familiar with. Little known, however, are the course guidance services offered by the individual faculties, which provide prospective students with more precise answers to their questions.
Unlike their bigger sister organization, this is a service offered by students for students. Some course guidance advisors have also received training from Academic Advising, so they know about all the offers available at TU Berlin. But the advice they provide is also based upon their own personal experiences of studying a particular degree program. This is a big advantage as it means they know the professors, lecturers, tutors and the individual modules. They can provide detailed information about the content of programs, how programs are organized and how to schedule your studies. Course Guidance advisors provide an advisory and support service for students throughout their time at university, from their first steps through to their final exams.
Inken Czesla might not today be studying Natural Sciences in the Information Society if it wasn’t for a discussion she had with Course Guidance three years ago. “All I knew was that I wanted to study something to do with natural sciences,” she explains. She came across the interdisciplinary program with modules in mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry and society while researching degree programs. However, it was the discussion she had with a Course Guidance advisor who explained everything about the program that convinced her to choose this program at TU Berlin over another program at another university. “We had a lively discussion which blew away any remaining doubts I had and gave me a clearer idea of what I could expect,” she says. A face-to-face discussion tells you more than any course description on a website ever can. However, it was the website which put her in contact with Course Guidance.
Now she is in the sixth semester of the eight-semester bachelor’s program and has been working as a course guidance advisor herself for the Natural Sciences in the Information Society program at Faculty II for the past three months. She works in Course Guidance for ten hours per week, advising students who need help. “I want to share my experience with other students and help them, just as I was helped,” she says. Personal advice is particularly important for students studying in this fairly small, somewhat unusual interdisciplinary program. There are about 100 students in the program in total, with approximately 30 new students each winter semester. They can choose from some 200 compulsory elective modules. “A lot of students are simply overwhelmed by this choice”, she says.
Students can approach Course Guidance with their questions and problems, no matter what stage of their studies they are at. “We always find a solution together,” says Inken. She explains new examination regulations, helps with the scheduling of courses, gives tips on dealing with homework and advises students who are worried that they may not be up to the demands of studying.
Course Guidance for the Natural Sciences in the Information Society program organizes trips for first-semester students, complete with talks and information about studying. “It is a chance to network over the course of a weekend,” says Inken. The regular get-togethers held at the start of semesters are another good opportunity to meet new people. “The goal is to start life at university together and together get to grips with studying.” The Course Guidance service also offers a mentoring program where students from higher semesters accompany new students as they take their first steps on campus, showing them where they can find the canteen, providing tips on how to schedule their studies and filling them in on what’s going on.
Course Guidance for Faculty IV - Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has also set up a similar mentoring program. Providing a mentoring service for new students is particularly important at a large faculty with big and somewhat anonymous programs. There are seven students working in Course Guidance here, helping students and prospective students with questions about study and examination regulations, changing their degree programs, organizing their studies as well as specific organizational and academic issues. “The biggest challenge in a degree program with many students is establishing and maintaining contact to people,” say the Course Guidance advisors, who provide individual advice on bachelor’s and master’s programs such as Electrical Engineering, Digital Media and Technology, Media Technology, Business Informatics, and Information Engineering and Management.
Course Guidance advisors have an overview of everything students need to know about a degree program and who they can contact at the University with questions and problems. They provide tips about how to make contacts at the University and meet fellow students, such as via student initiatives (Inis) or TU Sport. “It is particularly important during this digital summer semester to find alternative options for making contacts,” they say. The advisors recommend checking out module forums or getting involved in homework study groups.
They also offer a weekly Q&A session during the digital summer semester 2020 via Zoom, together with Faculty IV’s mentoring program. These sessions provide students with a chance to ask questions about their studies.
The main challenge of studying in a large faculty with a large number of students is getting active and looking for support and help. “If I need support, then I have to ask for it,” they say. The Course Guidance advisors are just the people to contact. As they say: “We try to find a solutions for everyone and everything.”
Important to know:
If you have specific questions about a degree program at TU Berlin, check out the degree program profiles. Each one contains a link to the respective Course Guidance. For general questions about studying, please refer to the Academic Advising Service.