It is nearly incredible how fast time flies at university

After finishing high school, one would like to believe that there is still an insurmountable abyss between him and an academic degree. Still, I have found myself in the second half of my undergraduate studies. Within a month, I will have to start preparing for my second exam period. The workload is not getting smaller by any means, but the reading has been become more and more interesting as my modules gradually become more concrete.

I have also already selected modules for the third year at UCL. The dissertation is naturally compulsory, must be ten-thousand words long, and the choice of topic is absolutely free. That is, as far as I am aware, somewhat different from Czech universities, where dissertation tend to be much longer. The dissertation’s perceived importance also differs. Of course, it is an integral part of our degree (the university even has to keep it in the archive for at least ten years). However, its result has the same weight in our resulting degree qualification as every two-semester module would. That means the world certainly will not end should the dissertation not work out as desired. The same attention should be paid to any other module done in the last year. That is precisely the reason why the dissertation is shorter than back home. It is basically understood as a longer essay. It is also treated very similarly to an essay in terms of grading. The (dreaded) oral defense known from home is not happening. I personally like this system more than the Czech one, as it spreads out the amount of stress among more things, which minimizes the probability that burnout syndrome will come creeping on us one day.

Incidentally, protecting one’s mental health is taken very seriously at UCL. That is why teaching finishes before noon every Wednesday: so that students can engage in sports or simply rest. Psychologists are on hand whenever we might need them; workshops on stress management regularly occur in dormitories, all the more during exams. I love this open approach to our mental health. There is no stigma attached to seeking help, whereas it can still be encountered at home from time to time. The university understands that our studies are very demanding, and so tries to preclude any possible future inconvenience. The mere knowledge that there indeed is assistance available helps, even if we decide not to reach out for it in the end.

I regularly spend my time relaxing at the gym, and read fiction whenever possible, to get my mind off learning for a while. And I also do my best not to allow excessive stress to haunt me. Of course, I want to excel as much as possible. However, the only one to compete against is my younger, past self. Not others. I found that this very mindset helps me to tackle tasks with ease and deliberation. Which ultimately projects itself positively on my results. I am convinced that if I were stressed out, I would hardly succeed.

Let’s hope the determination and ease persists until next year, the time of the dissertation!

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