Instead, I will enroll at the only state-maintained German distance teaching extramural university, starting next autumn. The idea was actually proposed to me by my mother and sister, because my sister is considering doing the same, and they thought it might make studying easier for me. I also discussed this with my husband, and slept over it, so while this was a relatively sudden decision, it’s not a rash one.
Arguments in favour of the change:
- You study online and out of books. Apart from the written tests, there are only two weekends during the entire Bachelor’s programme where you have to attend a seminar in person – and one of the study centres where you can do so is easily accessible to me, even without a car. Since I waste about 75 % of my energy in class on fighting off depression and only the remaining 25 % on taking notes or studying, I believe I will actually be able to study more effectively that way. You receive the materials and literature lists via mail, and you send in your homework and term papers online. There also are video streams of lectures and special software programmes for learning. At any time, you can contact qualified docents if you need additional help, and should you need to see someone face to face, you can also visit the study centres.
- It’s cheaper than a regular uni. Money is always a factor for me. And you pay for the classes you take only, not a fixed sum regardless of whether you actually take any classes at all. So, if shit hits the fan and I have to take a sabbatical (which I hope never happens, but we are talking eventualities here) again, I don’t have to pay just for staying enrolled in the programme.
- It’s more time flexible. I can adjust the learning to my personal schedule, because nobody cares whether I study something on Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon or Sunday night, as long as I send in my homework punctually.
- Academically, it’s worth just as much as a degree from a regular uni.
Arguments against the change:
- I’ll not have a semester ticket for public transportation anymore. But: With the money I’m saving every semester on fees, I can buy a good number of tram tickets if needed…
- It sets me back to square one. But: I only took 6 hours per week last semester, and the next one would have been the same – I might actually be able to take more classes than that and thus eventually make up for “lost” time.
- They have a limited offer of subjects you can study only. And geosciences is not one of them. That is, in the end, the only heavy argument against it, in my opinion – and the reason why I never thought about making this step before. It would mean changing my major again. But: You can study psychology with them, and that is something I would be really interested in.
In the end, I believe the scale tips in favour of going ahead and doing this, because there are also arguments which fall outside of the pro-and-con-scheme listed above. The days of fantasizing about becoming a world-famous archaeologist are long over, and I don’t see myself crawling through the Andes or Alps, looking for rare minerals, either. What I want above everything else is to finally have some kind of degree and become employable; I’ll happily work as a secretary or a boring office job afterwards. The pipe dreams of glory are firmly buried.
And there are some obstacles in my current university course which did not occur to me when I had to make a quick decision in August 2011, and which I pushed into a remote corner of my mind afterwards: field trips abroad. I can’t do them – it would be ok if I got my own private hotel room at the end of the day, but going abroad and sharing a cabin with people who are essentially strangers for two weeks horrifies me to no end. I have worked really hard on my social phobia, but that is a problem I don’t think can be “treated out of my system”. On top of that, you also have to pay for those trips and all the equipment needed for it in addition to the semester fee, which runs up sums of several hundreds of euros every time, and I just cannot afford that.
Finally, seeing how the current semester ends on Sunday, I could actually apply for welfare myself instead of hoping some cryptic system where I take over from my husband works out – I haven’t been able to pay for the next semester yet, so all it needs is a phone call that I won’t be returning and I’m out.
Maybe it makes me look fickle in the eyes of some, but over the course of the last three semesters I realized that most of my problems with uni stem from the system itself, and I genuinely believe that my mental health would profit both from taking a break until October and even more so from getting out of that system. I love learning and writing papers and all of that, and I want to focus on this instead of how to effectively hold back tears in a classroom.