Research

From High School to University

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    From pupil to student

    There are a lot of new things to deal with when starting as a University student. You are academically qualified, since you meet the requirements for the education you have been accepted into. But there is still much to learn, and it is a big transition to go from being a pupil to being a student. A transition that demands a lot from you.

    To help you along with your new role as a student, we have gathered what you could call “the fine print when starting your study”. By this we mean everything that is good to be aware of as a new student.

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    Two different ways to learn

    In Upper Secondary School:

    • The teacher has the responsibility -- homework is given, texts are reviewed, and the teacher checks to see if the pupils have understood the text.
    • There is coordination to a certain degree across subjects, the teachers talk and you try to avoid workloads colliding, for example written assignments in several subjects in the same week.
    • The entire curriculum is important and you often expect yourself to know the entire curriculum - also to show the teacher, that you can achieve as high a grade as possible.

    In University:

    • As a student, you have the responsibility for what you learn. Your lecturers will often have more focus on academics than pedagogy.
    • Only specific parts of the curriculum will be reviewed and you should learn to prioritise which texts you want to study, as well as what is best to spend time on.
    • You have to learn to have a critical approach to the texts you read, and to immerse yourself greatly into the subjects, so that you can relate to “why” rather than “how”.
    • You will need to plan your time independently. There will be times with big workloads (for example, with project writing) and it is not certain, that your fellow students work in the same way as you.

    These very different expectations of the role as a pupil and a student respectively say it is okay to take some time and put some energy into switching from one role to another.

    With the exercise “Are you in doubt”, you can make some considerations about your course of study.

    Are you in doubt

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    Five Good Tips

    Students are different and we all have our own way of approaching change. Still, we have gathered five good tips which we feel most new students will benefit from.

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    1. Become familiar with the new setting

    Research the physical setting of your study -- where is the library, where is the secretary?

    But also, research the formal setting. You should especially get familiar with the curriculum of your study. In the curriculum, there are a lot of central information like subject descriptions, the structure of the study, options during your study, exam forms etc.

    You should also get to know your study counsellor -- a student who is hired to offer counselling about the study. The counselling can be worth gold in the beginning of the education, but also during.

    Moreover, you should get familiar with exam rules, activity requirements etc., which can be found on your faculty website. You will also be able to find a lot of information on Moodle.

    If you have any doubts, there are many of us to help.

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    2. Expect confusion and new demands

    Hopefully you will find the beginning of your study exciting with a very special atmosphere and enthusiasm -- but it is almost unavoidable that you will experience confusion during the same time. Expect it, instead of being surprised and disappointed in yourself.

    Expect an overwhelming amount of information about this that you may struggle to handle in the beginning -- but the pieces will fall into place as time goes and you get a handle on the life as a university student.

    You will be met by demands of independence and responsibility of your own learning. This takes time to adjust to.

    You will also be met by expectations of you considering your study as a full-time job -- meanwhile being tempted by the freedom that comes with a study.

    Make sure that you spend a lot of time prioritising in the beginning.

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    3. Be Social

    While you are spending a lot of time on your study -- we challenge you to also spend time on your social life!

    As a student, it can be difficult to let go of the studies and take time off. There is always another text to read, always an article that is relevant to your field of study. This big universe of academic news is a part of making your time of studying exciting. Meanwhile you will hopefully also find that your social life during the study pulls on you. Your social life will often be the exact thing that gives you new energy. In the good life of a student there is balance between the academic life and the social life, so you don’t need to feel guilty if you prioritise the social along with the academic.

    Loneliness and work stress are frequent causes for dropouts. So, close the book, turn off the screen and get out among your fellow students.

    Talk to someone, already on the first day, and participate in social activities on your study. For example, join a committee and be open and approaching.

    Fill in the “Wheel of Life” and consider if you can do something to increase your satisfaction with one or more areas.

    Wheel of Life

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    4. Practice

    Becoming a competent student is about making sure that you have the right tools. For example, a computer, that is sufficient for what you study demands. But it is equally important, that you practice studying skills like Reading Techniques. Information searching is another important skill which AUB can help you with.

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    5. Remember - most students feel just like you!

    It might appear that everyone has their student life under control. They may have, but most students experience doubt and insecurity. Even the students who seemingly stand out academically. Talk to your fellow students about your insecurity.

    It can be the small things like getting around campus, but also the slightly bigger doubt about the deeper meaning of the subjects and doubt about having made the right choice of study.

    By being honest you will often find a new sense of security and motivation. Most will recognise the fear of not being part of the community, both socially and academically. Find the courage to initiate a conversation about how confusing starting at a university can be.

Students' first experiences with the university

Below you will find three stories written by current students at Aalborg University, in which they talk about their choice of education, the transition from High School to the University and both the good and challenging experiences they have had in relation to the study start.

As a new student you often feel like you are the only one who is having doubts and is feeling pressured by expectations; but don't worry, it's completely normal. Through the stories below we hope that you'll experience how your thoughts aren't that different from other students', as well as get some advice that can help you make your study start even better.

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    Christina's story

    Give a shot introduction of yourself

    My name is Christina, I am 23 years old and I am studying on the 5th semester of Sociology. I‘m originally from Århus, but I moved to Aalborg when I started attending the University. Before I moved to Aalborg, I studied at Århus Statsgymnasium, from where I graduated in 2015. Afterwards I held two gap years, which I spent on travelling and doing military service in Aalborg.
     

    Which considerations did you have regarding attending the university?

    I had many considerations about what I wanted to do in the future, and especially whether or not that would involve the university. I actually always had this idea of becoming a police officer, and therefore I had not given much thought to the university. When I did military service during my gap years, I realized that perhaps I did not want to join the police right now, but maybe rather in the future. Instead, I started focusing on the university and the endless possibilities, which exist there. I looked into every kind of education and stumbled upon Sociology, which I could really imagine myself studying.

    Choosing this particular education sparked a lot of thoughts within me, especially since I was living in Århus at that time, and had to adjust to the thought of moving. Therefore, my first step was finding a place to live in Aalborg. To me it was really important to get all the practical details sorted out first, because that would give me a lot of peace and surplus in regards to attending the university.

    Once I had sorted out the practical details, I focused all my thoughts and energy towards the social aspects. To me that meant making it a priority to attend as many social activities as possible in order to start building a social network for myself. At times, especially in the beginning of the semester, there were a lot of social events alongside the schoolwork. I had to adjust to my busy schedule and find my own balance between schoolwork and social activities.
     

    How did you experience your first day at Aalborg University?

    My first day was pretty overwhelming. The first day started with a shared breakfast on C. W. Obel’s square, where I was accompanied by an ocean of other new students. I found a seat among my fellow Sociology students, and sat down not know a soul. The day ended with a big party in Gigantium, which I actually really liked, because it was a great and fun way of ending a long day. My thoughts of the first day were a mixture of anxiety about not knowing anyone, accompanied by the feeling of excitement towards finding out what this whole university thing was going to be like, who the other students were and what it actually meant to be a student at Aalborg University.
     

    Which challenging experiences did you have during the study start?

    For me the hardest thing about the study start was probably moving to a new city – a lot of stuff was going on school wise, so that didn’t make moving any easier. Luckily, I found out that creating a social network wasn’t too hard, because there were many social activities built into the study start. 

    Sometimes I feel like it’s difficult for me to throw myself into new and unfamiliar things without knowing the outcome of the situation. I’m the kind of person who likes knowing what’s about to happen and having an overview of the situation. I don’t feel like you are able to form that kind of overview of the study start, because everything is so new – this is where I found it important to allow yourself to be ‘a beginner’.
     

    Which good experiences did you have during the study start?

    What was really great about the study start was definitely the social aspects. People were very positive, and since we were all in the same boat, it didn’t take long for us to start bonding. It’s important to remember that a lot of people are feeling the exact same way you are, so make sure to use and draw on each other and the community that you have built. You will benefit from that during your entire education.
     

    What do you wish someone had told you about the student life?

    That it is okay not to have everything under control from the very beginning, and that it’s okay to mess up and feel like everything is a little chaotic. There are so many different things you have to be aware of, and therefore I think it is important that you do everything at your own phase, in order to not get too stressed out. There is no right or wrong way of studying – it’s okay, that you don’t have time to read every single page from one day to another. We all learn in different ways, and therefore it’s important for you to discover your own learning techniques.

    I know being told the following already may seem a little confusing, but I think it could have been really nice to know from the start, that you are highly able to shape your education through e.g. electives and project subjects, which is a really great idea to keep in mind throughout your entire education. That way, you will be able to create a red thread through both your bachelor’s degree as well as perhaps your master degree. That is surely something I would have liked to know once I started attending Aalborg University.

     

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    Emilie's story

    Give a shot introduction of yourself

    My name is Emilie, I am 24 years old and I live in Aalborg. By now, my education path has been a little twisted: Right after graduating from the gymnasium in 2014, I chose to apply to study Law at Aalborg University. I studied Law for two years before realizing, that I would much rather become a phycologist. Therefore, I started studying psychology in 2016, and I am currently on 7th semester.
     

    Which considerations did you have regarding attending the university?

    I had seen many of those popular TV-series with great and smart lawyers like in e.g. “Suites”. Meanwhile, I also knew someone, who was working as a prosecutor. I thought that everything she told me sounded so awesome. Besides that, I didn’t really have too many considerations.

    I wanted to go directly from the gymnasium to the university. I made this choice because I’ve always loved learning new things and having something to immerse myself in. Meanwhile I had been looking forward to being focused on one subject – in my case Law.

    When I later found out, that I would rather study something else, I gave it a lot of time and thought. I had already made a ‘wrong’ choice the first time, so for me it was really important to figure out what the heck I was actually interested in. I kind of felt like I could no longer ‘sugarcoat’ it – I had to be honest with myself.

    This might seem a bit deep and perhaps a little ‘touchy-feely’, but to me it was important to remind myself, that we only have this one life – and therefore we better use it on something, that makes sense to us. It doesn’t necessarily have to make sense to your parents, your boy- or girlfriend, your friends or your dog, it has to make sense to you.
     

    How did you experience your first day at Aalborg University?

    I remember it as a very nerve wrecking day, where you feel a bit alone. Therefore, I didn’t really know what to do with myself and I just tried to go with the flow for the rest of the day – I feel like doing anything but that is kind of hard on a day like that. It did however help, that there were nice tutors to show us around.

    I had already prepared myself for a confusing day, and that I would have to accept it as it was, because I wouldn’t be able to change it – and what else can you expect from a day like that? I had already tried feeling this sort of confusion when I started the gymnasium, so I had that experience to draw from.

    I will however say, that I remember it is an exciting day as well with a lot of new impressions. On a day like that you can’t help but feel excited about what kind of education, you are about to start. At the same time, there are so many expectations and ideas about what it’s going to be like. In regards to that I would like to say, that you really don’t know what your study is going to be like, until you are actually taking part of it. It can be hard at times, but also really cool; the study start is a kind of new chapter, where it’s possible to start fresh and be surprised, if you keep an open and curious attitude.
     

    Which challenging experiences did you have during the study start?

    I think it was hard to create a sense of overview – both of all the lectures, the social events, the curriculum, exams and so forth. I had to adjust to the structure of the university, because I felt like it was pretty different from the structure at the gymnasium – at the university you e.g. often have exams during the semester and therefore you have to schedule your reading in order to be able to get through the full curriculum before the exam.

    Meanwhile I found it difficult managing several different courses at once, because I couldn’t figure out what to focus on. I really wanted to partake in every single course an equal amount, but I found out that it simply wasn’t possible for me, because there was so much happening at once. Therefore, I chose to spend the most time on the parts of the curriculums I found interesting, and less time on the not so interesting topics.
     

    Which good experiences did you have during the study start?

    Being around other ‘specialists’ can actually be a great advantage: I have experienced how nice it is being surrounded by people who have the same interests as me. In that way the lectures and ‘going to school’ is way more focused, which I actually really like.

    In regards to the social aspect, I remember really enjoying the freshman’s trip, because it really helped unite the entire class. The social events were a great support, especially in the beginning when the uncertainty and insecurity levels were high. In that way I had someone to talk to during study related events, but also someone to hang out with outside of the university.
     

    What do you wish someone had told you about the student life?

    I probably wish that someone at Law had told me, that it is okay not to read the entire curriculum. Especially during the study start, where a lot of social events were going on as well. Therefore, I would say that it’s all about finding a way of balancing your academics with your social life, because I think you need both in order to have a good time as a student.

    Besides my previous point I would have liked to know, that your time as a student is a process. You can’t always be in control of everything, and therefore you have to make sure not to make that an expectation for yourself. There is a transition, and as a new student you have to believe that you will eventually figure things out as you go – sometimes through ‘trial and error’. “To err is human”, as they say, and even though it’s a very classic thing to say, I believe there’s something to it.

     

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    Louise's story

    Give a shot introduction of yourself

    My name is Louise, I am 24 years old and I am in the middle of my 7th semester on cand.merc. in Organization and Strategy. I’m originally from Randers, but I moved to Aalborg in September 2016. Before attending the university, I graduated from an HHX in 2014, and afterwards I held two gap years.
     

    Which considerations did you have regarding attending the university?

    I thought a lot about what would be the most important things for me to have settled before the beginning of the first semester, in order to make attending the university more manageable. Therefore, I established several goals and appointed them different numbers sorted after my top and bottom priorities.

    • My 1st goal was finding an apartment and moving to Aalborg, so that I would be in bicycle distance from the university and the center of Aalborg. I made this a goal of mine, because I knew it would be too unmanageable having to commute between Randers and Aalborg every day.
    • My 2nd goal was creating a social network. I knew that since I was about to start attending the university and move to a new city, it would be important for me to build a social network, so that I wouldn’t feel lonely. Therefore, I took part in almost every social event during the study start, and through those events, I managed to establish a social network.
    • My 3rd goal was learning how to be a student at Aalborg University. I needed a social network first, to help me get through the hard times at school such as the exams. Once I had built that network, I was ready and able to start learning and studying.
    • My 4th goal was finding a student job, which would provide me with a larger financial freedom and the opportunity to buy new clothes, go out for dinner and save up money for new schoolbooks.

    When I had reached all of my goals, I had built a strong and firm foundation, which made being a student much easier. I was ready to learn new things and grow personally and academically at my own phase.
     

    How did you experience your first day at Aalborg University?

    To me it was very hectic. I couldn’t really find my way around, and I didn’t know any of the people I was going to be studying with. Luckily, there were many tutors who were kind and good at helping all us new and confused students.

    At the shared breakfast, we just sat there and ate in complete and awkward silence, until one of my new fellow students said: “Well, this isn’t awkward at all”. After that, everyone at the table started laughing, and we slowly started easing up and began asking each other questions. Once you start opening up and talking to each other, it won’t be as awkward anymore, and you’ll gradually start feeling more confident.
     

    Which challenging experiences did you have during the study start, and which good experiences did you have?

    During the study start, I felt like I  always had to be happy, positive and outgoing when I was around my fellow students, which was really hard. When I was done with my lectures for the day, I would go home and cry, because I felt so exhausted and drained. I have later discussed the study start and my feelings with some of my friends, and I found out that they felt the exact some way.

    Despite of the previous, I still found the study start to be really awesome. I loved not being treated or looked at as a ‘child’ anymore – everyone was equal and perceived as grown-up individuals, which I loved!

    Other than that, I also really liked how I could feel myself learning so many new things. My time on my bachelor’s degree in Business Economics has been the best time of my life because this is where I feel like I have grown the most both personally and academically.
     

    What do you wish someone had told you about the student life?

    Like I have previously mentioned, I talked to some of my classmates about how hard it was starting the university and moving to a new city by myself. Because of that, I wish that someone would have told me, that I wasn’t the only one, who went home and cried almost daily, but that a lot of students actually did that. Besides that, I wish someone had told med how great it feels when you reach your goals and learn something new.