Study

Students doubt their choices

To quit or not to quit?

What do you do when your first semester sucks? Do you keep at it and hope it gets better? Or do you quit, like the 734 RUG students who dropped out last year? Three of those students say the decision wasn’t easy.
By Tamara Uildriks / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Illustration by Kalle Wolters

If you have doubts

If you have any questions or issues about your involvement in your studies, you can talk to your department’s supervisor.

If you’ve already decided to quit

Don’t forget to unenroll on Studielink after you’ve said goodbye to your lecturers and fellow students.

A few weeks into her studies at the University College (UCG), Melissa Ernstberger started having doubts. She wished she could take courses she was actually interested in; she didn’t enjoy working on projects; she felt the programme lacked a clear structure. But she stayed on at the UCG for a year.

She had moved all the way from Germany for the programme – ‘a big step for me’ – and had high hopes. ‘When it didn’t live up to my expectations, I thought I just needed to get used to it.’

She took a lot of courses at the UCG and struggled to decide how she felt about them. ‘I enjoyed some courses more than others, and that made me feel like I just needed to persevere. I got good marks and earned the sixty ECTS quite easily.’

Melissa was used to persevering but didn’t have much practice giving up. ‘It was like there was a mental block that prevented me from quitting. There were so many times I didn’t like my classes in high school, but I learned to just hang on.’

Acclimate

Lucy Frowijn isn’t one to give up either, and felt like she should finish her journalism master in spite of her doubts about whether it was the right fit. ‘I started feeling like I’d made a mistake about a month in, but I was hoping I just needed to acclimate and that it would get better.’

She had imagined writing about interesting, global topics, but felt her actual assignments lacked depth. ‘Other students enjoyed the practical assignments and hated studying the little theory we had to learn. But I saw it the other way around. And because I didn’t share their enthusiasm I sometimes felt like the odd one out.’

Lucy didn’t discuss her doubts with her fellow students. ‘I felt guilty about it; you’re all working towards the same goal. It turned out I didn’t need to feel guilty at all, but at the time it felt like a big deal.’

Finish

She planned to finish the journalism programme and combine it with a research master. ‘I’m pretty tough and I figured the whole thing would only take eighteen months, so I might as well stay the course.’

She presented her plan to a lecturer with the research master, who ‘asked why I was still doing it if I wasn’t enjoying it. That got to me. The master is supposed to be a time to focus on something you really like.’ After a year, she decided to quit.

After the decision, she felt relieved. ‘I was so on edge before. Doing something you don’t like sucks. But afterward, that feeling was gone.’

Even though she’s looking forward to doing something else, Lucy is bummed that she didn’t enjoy journalism. ‘I was definitely disappointed. You’ve got this idea about what you’ll be doing and who you want to become. Starting the master, you feel like it’s going to be your thing.’

Experience

Femke Klijnstra had wanted to be a psychologist for years, so she started her first year in September with confidence. ‘I’d gone to a few open days and the impression I got there was in line with my interests. Unfortunately, they can’t tell you how you’ll do once you’re there. You have to experience that for yourself.’

Things started going downhill in the first few weeks: ‘I travelled two and a half hours every day to get to classes and I couldn’t concentrate. I would complain about the material to other students, but they thought it was all interesting.’

The infamous statistics course only made things worse. ‘I hated statistics and had a lot of trouble with it. I complained about studying so much that I was relieved when my parents suggested I quit. That option hadn’t even crossed my mind.’

Right choice

Femke doesn’t know what she wants to do next. Quitting psychology has made her less sure of her ability to make the right choice. ‘I’m still interested in psychology, so I’m looking for something similar. I’m considering pedagogy, but I’m scared I’ll run into the same issues.’

Lucy knows the feeling. She is starting a new research master in arts, media, and literary studies. ‘I’m still quite nervous. I get pretty stressed out having to make decisions and even though I’ve quit journalism, I have no idea whether this is the right choice. I’m trying not to get my hopes up.’

She’s done her research and has made a deliberate, informed choice. ‘I’ve talked to many lecturers at the research master to ensure that I got a complete picture of the programme. I’ve also learned what I don’t want: journalism was too practical for me, so I’ve picked something with a larger focus on theory that’s still media related.’

Lecturers

Talking to lecturers really helped her. ‘They know who you are as a student’, Lucy says. ‘They know your strengths and can encourage that. My friends don’t think I’d be good at doing research all day because they mainly see me in a social context, but I love getting to the bottom of things.’

Melissa also reached out to lecturers for help. ‘I took a human geography course at the University College that I really enjoyed. I talked about the topic to the lecturer and took a few courses from that programme.’

Other people helped with the decision, as well. ‘I wanted to talk to as many people as possible, so I’d know for sure that I wanted to quit. Several other students were having their own doubts, so that helped.’

New studies

Melissa started her new studies last September. ‘I’m really happy with my choice; it’s so interesting. I can even see why the classes I find less interesting are still relevant.’

She doesn’t regret her year at the University College. ‘Taking different courses helped me find out what I enjoy. And I made a lot of friends: studying at the University College is a very social experience and that made it easier to get started in Groningen.’

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