Studying psychology, week 1: everything anew, and the academic quarter

What I’ve been waiting for so long is finally happening: Uni, day one (here’s why). And just a regular grey Monday in October.

I take the subway, get to the building complex, and am already completely lost, but at least not alone: another student, also lost, joins me on the search. Eventually we find where we’re supposed to be, show our vaccination IDs, and get a tote bag with very nice welcome presents (like a water bottle! And a USB stick!), and sit down in a lecture hall. I chat with some folks sitting next to me and look around, but it’s really hard to get a sense of my fellow students with all the masks.

Our first day starts with welcome speeches by our deans and the professor who runs our degree programme, followed by several hours of how-to’s and “here’s everything you need to know about schedules, exams, attendance, the library, and the IT setup”.

The academic quarter is no joke

One of the administrators makes an off-hand comment about the “academic quarter” being actively used at our uni. I have to pull myself together to not burst into laughter: I always thought the “academic quarter” was just something people said to make fun of academics always being late, but turns out, it’s an actual thing! In the German university system, it’s marked with “c.t.” (cum tempore, Latin for “with time”), and means that lectures usually start 15 minutes after the time noted in the schedule, and end 15 minutes before the noted time.

It’s really real. Really.

I take notes diligently but my brain is really struggling with the sheer fact that I am here now; it all feels intensely bizarre:

Just four weeks ago, I was an executive manager responsible for a department and a budget, making decisions about strategy and goals. Now I’m sitting at a very narrow white table in a lecture hall among 60-ish other newbies and have no h*ckin clue what’s going on, what’s expected of me, or how any of this is going to work.

For lunch, we head to a falafel place and I learn more about my fellow students. The age distribution is pretty cool: many are just out of school and around 18-20 years old, but more than a few are in their mid-twenties and a couple are in their thirties and forties: they’ve already studied other subjects, did apprenticeships, or are now even in the process of changing careers. It’s a great mix of experiences and perspectives, and I’m curious how this will reflect in our studies and discussions.


After lunch, there’s more administrative topics, and I sense myself getting tired. Having worked remotely for the majority of the last 5-ish years, it has been a very, very long time since I was in a room with this many people in person. The professors and administrators are all so excited that in-person lecture has returned after having had to run the last three semesters entirely online. Everyone is really friendly and they patiently answer all our questions, but I’m very overwhelmed.

What was described as an “introduction week” turns out to be just 1.5 days, and I’m so exhausted afterwards. I’m still excited about this whole endeavour, but a bit scared about how I’ll deal with spending entire weeks at uni.

By Lena

Engineering executive turned leadership coach & consultant, public speaker, and psychology student. Fast walker, avid reader, poetry fan, violinist, pianist in the making, and intersectional feminist. Writes about all the above (and, occasionally, trees).

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