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Student advisory services

Students with children

München, 06/06/2016

Tugce Karakas is a single mother and a student of Law at LMU. As the first in her family to attend university, she regards having the opportunity to study while caring for her daughter as “a privilege”.

LMU student Tugce and her daughter Ela

When Tugce (27) compares herself with her fellow-students at LMU, she often finds herself wanting: “There are times when I feel like a failure – on two grounds. First of all, students who do not have children usually get significantly better grades, and secondly I feel guilty because I have to leave my daughter on her own so often. That makes it hard for me to remain motivated.”

But she doesn’t allow these occasional doubts to get her down, just as she has learned to live with the fact that some members of her family see no reason why she should have wanted to study at all, and that other students continue to ask her if she really intends to earn a degree in Law while having to look after a child. “My parents are behind me all the way,” she says. But the rest of the family was not exactly thrilled when they heard that she wanted to study. In particular, her grandparents, who had originally come from Turkey as Gastarbeiter, would have preferred to see her take up a ‘normal’ job. And many of her classmates find it impossible to grasp what it’s like to be a single parent and a full-time student at the same time. “Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had to give a presentation at a seminar. And all the time I had the feeling that everyone was staring at my belly.”

Hearing lectures together
But she herself admits to having underestimated the difficulties involved in combining law studies with rearing a daughter. “In the beginning you think you can learn or write term papers at home when the baby has been put to bed. In practice, it’s far more frustrating, because things very often don’t work out as planned.” Nevertheless, there are compensations. “As a student, it’s easier for me to juggle lectures and learning than it would be if I had a full-time job.” Moreover, she can bring her daughter Ela with her when she has lectures to attend. – “That’s what I call a privilege!” In fact, Ela has been with her in many of her lectures – regardless of whether the topic was public law, civil law or whatever. “Nobody ever objected, and Ela loves being at university,” says Tugce with pride. “I think that’s because she finds the professor’s voice really cool.”

Bringing her 16-month-old daughter to work with her every so often also presents no difficulty, for Tugce works part-time on LMU’s Help Desk for Students with Children, where student counsellors and their student assistants provide information and guidance in relation to child care and the organization and financing of a course of study. On a recent Wednesday morning, four students were at work in the small office, responding to the many inquiries they receive from students who already have, or soon will have, children to look after. “Many of the students we advise are at their wits’ end, because they have no idea how they could possibly manage the 24-hour job of rearing a child while attending university full-time,” says Tugce. But the very fact that they find students in the office who have learned how to do just that is already a great help to those in search of assistance.

A good thing to have in a CV?
Tugce learned that she was pregnant shortly before her matriculation date. This meant that she was immediately forced to grapple the problem of whether or not she could reconcile her new responsibility to her child with her planned program of studies. “But after initial consultations with my departmental advisor and with the counsellors on the Help Desk, I knew that I would be able to manage it,” she says. What really made her mind up was the realization that many other students were in the same situation. – And what helped her most were the opportunities provided for frequent contact with them, such as meeting with other mothers-to-be during her pregnancy, and the regular family breakfasts on campus. “Simply discovering how many other students with young children were able to cope with the challenge was enormously encouraging for me.”

Meanwhile, she has learned that others are equally impressed. In particular, many prospective employers recognize that the ability to handle such a complex burden is a reflection of skills that will also be of use to them. “One thing I’ve noticed in two different job interviews is that I no longer have to prove that I have a talent for organization!”

The Help Desk Studieren mit Kind helps students with young children to cope with the dual challenges of childcare and university studies. LMU’s student counsellors provide information and support to enable students to reconcile the demands of studying while looking after a family. In addition, the Help Desk can provide advice on issues relating to financial and/or social problems. The next scheduled briefing "Wie finanziere ich mein Studium mit Kind(ern)?" takes place on Tuesday June 21st 2016 at Ludwigstraße 27 (Room G212 on the Second Floor, 10 – 11.30 AM), the next Familienfrühstück on Wednesday June 22nd (9.30 - 11.30 AM) in the Stucafé , Leopoldstraße 13 a.