During The Semester

German universities offer numerous academic support services. During the semester you can benefit from many workshops and individual advice. Some of them are mentioned below:-

  • Working in the Library
  • Time management
  • Study Group
  • Writing Workshops


Working In a library-Be Productive


Libraries are ideal for researching, reading and studying. Because working in a library is an important part of your studies in Germany, there are a few rules you should be aware of. A library preparatory course can help you gain orientation.

To begin with, it's a good idea to take support of the extensive information available at the library or on the Web. Normally, there are a large number of training and introductory courses to choose from. It's always worthwhile to join an introductory library tour, during which the library staff explains the most important procedures and answers your questions. For example, what system is used to categorize books? How do you search for books using the computer monitors? Why are some books only available for use at the library? How do you take out books that aren't publicly accessible? During these tours, you'll also receive information about due dates, copying and special fees.

Universities maintain numerous scientific databases to help people find the books they're looking for - which you'd have to pay for if you weren't a student. Libraries and university departments regularly offer courses in using subject-specific databases. This is where you can find out everything there is to know about the databases in your subject of study, learn how to get the most out of your search queries and how to access digital texts.

If all else fails, the library staff is always happy to assist you. "We help wherever we can. If someone has a problem with the search function on the computer, I show him how to use it. Or if they can't find a book, I accompany them into the stacks and help locate it," says Sabine Voigt at the library info desk in Dresden. If you're having problems, it's always best to speak with the staff, because most library users don't like to be bothered.


Rules in library

People go to libraries because it offers them a quiet place to read, study and work. Loud conversations and phone calls are not allowed. Signs with cross-out mobiles and a finger over the lips remind users to keep the noise down. At reading stalls, tapping away at your laptop can also disturb other users. In many libraries, it's not allowed to take your backpack or bag into the working rooms. You can stow away your personal belongings in coin-operated lockers, which are often located near the main entrance. It's generally not a problem to take a bottle of water or a muesli bar to your workspace. But if you want to eat a big meal, the reading room is not the place for a picnic. Some libraries have an in-house cafe where you can take a break and recharge your batteries.


A better place for Learning

If you can't focus on your studies at home, simply take your work to the library. There you'll find a variety of workplaces for learners of every kind. Be it standing desks, comfy armchairs or spacious reading rooms, you can always find a quiet place to study. Around final exam time, however, it's best to secure your favorite place early in the day, because that's when libraries get full very quickly.

Many libraries have group rooms where students can study together. You and your classmates can form a study group and arrange to meet in one of these group rooms at a particular time. The advantage is that you have access to all the reference books and can immediately fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Libraries also provide services to users with special needs, for example, the visually and physically impaired. At the Hamburg State Library, there are six computers with special keyboards, text enlargement software and onscreen help. The Dresden SLUB has a colorfully decorated room with toys and work tables for young parents who need a place to keep their child busy while they work.


Time Management


Good time management can help you in many ways during your studies. It can lead to better grades on tests and term papers and make you feel more at ease at university. Speaking with an academic advisor at your university can also be helpful.

The academic advising department at your university is there to answer any questions you have about managing your time wisely, improving your study methods and increasing your motivation. During the advising session, an expert examines your personal situation, your skills and needs. Together, you develop plans and structures that will help you learn more efficiently, for example, or develop individually tailored learning strategies.

AMBITION - LEARNING MORE CONVENIENTLY AND GETTING YOURSELF SYSTEMIZED

At the University of Applied Sciences in Hannover is one such project. Regardless of whether you're having trouble organizing your time, need to get better grades on exams or want to improve your revising skills - it always pays to speak with an academic advisor. Especially if you're new at the university, you shouldn't stumble to appeal the academic advising service with your questions. You can talk about your problems with them or quickly find a working group that meets your need. This semester they're offering a programme on academic writing in Engineering.


DON'T HESITATE

It's completely normal if you feel shy about participating in a learning seminar or advising session at the beginning of your studies. The advice from the experts can help you tremendously, so seize the chance! You can find the student advising services on your university's website or posted on message boards around campus and at the library. Either make an appointment or visit them during office hours, which are usually offered once a week like in Regensburg and Hannover.

STUDY GROUP


There's no need to revise alone at home when you can achieve new knowledge with others in a study group. These groups are perfect for students who are studying the same subject and have to revise the same material.

Discussing questions together in a group allows you to express on and deepen your understanding of what you've already learned in class. This can help you fill the gaps in your own knowledge and help other students fill theirs.


EVERYONE BENEFITS - CROSS-CHECKING WHAT YOU KNOW

There are many advantages to studying together in a small group. For one thing, it restores good study habits. The members usually meet on a regular basis - which means it's harder to avoid the unavoidable, in other words, to hesitate. And usually it's more fun revising together - and much more motivating!

Every member brings something positive to the group as a whole. Not only do you benefit from the knowledge of the others, but you can also check whether you've understood the material of the lecture by explaining it to them. It's generally easier to ask questions in a small group of friends. If you're afraid of raising your hand and asking your professor a question in front of hundreds of students, then a study group is an ideal alternative. For new students in particular, study groups are an opportunity to meet people and make new friends.

WHERE DO I FIND A SUITABLE STUDY GROUP?

It's not always easy finding a study group, because many students get together outside the university. The simplest way is to ask your classmates during a seminar or lecture about their study groups. There's also a "Schwarzes Brett", or central notice board, at many universities where you'll find information about various study groups. And if you don't find anything there, you can speak with your departmental student council (Fachschaftsrat). The student representatives can get in contact with all the students in your department and help you find a study group.

Many universities also conduct online study portals where you can find forums or newsgroups for study groups in various subjects. You might also want to inspect at your lecturer's administrative office about whom you should speak with.


HOW DO I START MY OWN GROUP?

Finding a study group can sometimes be difficult, especially if you've just enrolled as a new student. It is important to find students who are generally as far along in their studies as you are - in your semester at best. You can also start your own study group. All you have to do is post a notice on the "Schwarzes Brett". A lot of students communicate online; by posting in forums and groups on your university's website, on Face book or other social networks, you'll definitely find others who are also interested in joining a new study group. Another way of finding study partners is by simply "spreading the word", telling your student representatives and fellow classmates about your new group.

The magazine "Via Medici" for medical students offers the following advice: "Learning experts and professors alike recommend small study groups with no more than four people. However, study groups should supplement, not replace home learning." If you do find someone interested in forming a group, you should debate in advance whether you both have the same learning goals! If too many of you want to concentrate on too many different areas, it can make everyone bothered. Ideally, everyone in the group should have about the same level of knowledge so that you can share and learn from one another on an equal basis. If one member isn't familiar with the fundamentals and everyone else is further ahead, it could make everyone disappointed in the end.


IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON STARTING A GROUP, KEEP THE FOLLOWING POINTS IN MIND:
  • Find a place you can work undisturbed, for example, an empty room at the university or at someone's flat.
  • Arrange dates for future meetings together so that everyone can regularly participate.
  • Tea, coffee and snacks keep the energy level up, if you've got a lot of studying ahead of you.
  • Once you've found people for your study group, exchange mobile numbers and e-mail addresses. This way everyone can quickly contact each other, if a meeting needs to be cancelled or postponed.
  • You can also choose a spokesperson, which is in charge of the organizational matters.

WRITING WORKSHOPS


Writing a term paper isn't always easy. If you are uncertain about how to write a solid academic text in German, you get help at almost every university in Germany - at so-called "writing workshops".


WHEN SHOULD YOU VISIT A WRITING WORKSHOP?

Writing workshops (or writing centers) are specialized in providing help with all matters related to term papers. Perhaps you still don't know what to write about. Or maybe you can't find any books or articles on your topic, or you've come across an especially difficult article, but don't know exactly what to do with it.

The staff at the writing workshop can help you with the very first stages of your term paper. Maybe you need help preparing your topic so that you can structure it in more detail with your teacher and clarify further questions.

Students frequently seek help because they lack experience with time management. Often, they wait too long before starting their term papers and, therefore, feel stressed and worried that they won't be able to hand them in on time. The purpose of writing workshops is to help you deal with such difficulties.


HOW DOES A WRITING WORKSHOP FUNCTION?

Almost every university has a writing workshop. At large universities, like the University of Hamburg, there are several writing centers you can go to. These are divided by schools, as the requirements for term papers differ depending on one's subject of study, e.g. with regard to writing style or methods for citing references.

There are several writing centers at the University of Hamburg. Many lecturers collaborate with the writing workshops. So if you don't know which one to go to, ask your professor! And if you're uncomfortable with having your professor or lecturers know that you are going to a writing workshop, don't worry. Everything discussed there is treated confidentially.

Writing workshops usually offer three types of services.

PERSONAL ADVISING

Personal advising is the most important part of a writing workshop. You can make an appointment with a writing advisor any time of year - both at the beginning or the end - and discuss your writing problems in person.

You have no idea what to write about? You're not sure how to get hold of certain book or don't know how to quote correctly? Or maybe you have a problem, but don't know exactly what it is? During your advising session, you can find a solution. You may ask anything that has to do with term papers. If you know what your topic is, or if you've already begun writing, you and your advisor can work specifically on developing what you have.

The important thing to remember is that there's no "secret recipe", in other words, no perfect way to write a term paper. Everyone goes about it differently and has different concerns. And that's why the advising is personal - because it varies from person to person.

COACHING

You can receive "term-paper coaching" all year round, even when you're not working on a term paper. In these classes, you get the chance to learn the ropes of writing good term papers, for example, various ways to research and quote secondary literature. To find out what coaching classes are being provided, visit the website of the corresponding writing workshop. There are only a limited number of spaces, so make sure to sign up early!

WRITING GROUPS

Proofreading, i.e. checking for spelling and grammar mistakes is the one thing the staff at the writing workshop cannot do. This kind of work can be done in so-called "writing groups", which are study groups, where students meet together and help each other with their term papers. While the writing advisors can only offer you an hour of their time, you and your writing group can get together as often and as long as you want.

The writing workshop in Hamburg offered the following advice for writing good term papers: Read as many German texts as you can, in particular, academic articles. This can immediately give you a sense of the kind of writing style used in term papers.



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