The latest issue of our magazine is out!
Brother BAföG, Can You Spare a Dime?
Thursday, June 23, 2022. Gleeful anticipation. Finally, the German Federal Parliament announces what should be as sweet as honey in the ears of all students: The Federal Education and Training Assistance Act (in German: BAföG), which enables students to finance their education, is to be reformed and amended for the 27th time! But what does this mean?
In order to assist students in times of increasing inflation, monthly funding rates are now to rise from 427 to 452 euros. Additionally, rent subsidy for students living on their own will increase up to 360 euros. This means that the maximum funding rate a student possibly can receive jumps to a whopping 934 euros per month. But that’s not all – a one-off heating subsidy is also promised.
Well, that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The Federal Minister of Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, refers to the new reform as an “encouraging trend reversal”. So, does the reformation really deliver what it promises, namely helping particularly low-income students during times of increasing prices? Spoiler alert: not really. At second glance, the so-called reformation turns out to be a real drop in the ocean.
It’s Not Enough!
First of all, one has to give credit to the government for recognizing the problems which many students are currently facing. However, what is the point of this putative help if it fails to keep its promise?
A spike in food and fuel prices, as well as spiraling heating costs hit particularly students with very low monthly income with full force. With an inflation at almost 8 percent, students will hardly feel the impact of the increased BAföG rate. Eventually, it’s only a compensation, not an increase in funding.
In addition, politicians seem to be oblivious to a severe problem, which affects students in big cities in particular: the massive surge in rental prices. Times are long gone where students had to pay little for a big room in a shared flat. Nowadays, we are talking about an average rent of 4 until 500, in Munich even 780 euros ! And it gets even worse: students who are no longer covered by family insurance and, therefore, have to come up for the student health insurance themselves will face a hefty surplus in their contribution rate in 2023. So, with all the numbers on the table, one can only realize that the calculation doesn’t add up.
Denial of Reality Par Excellence ?
It almost resembles a farce if one takes a closer look at the BAföG’s guiding principle: “a state social benefit designed to enable everyone, regardless of their social and economic situation, to pursue an education that matches their abilities and interests.”
This reads well on paper, however, an alarming study by the Joint Welfare Association1 revealed that 1/3 of all students are actually living in poverty! Fueled by inflation, with an average income of 800 euros, social participation becomes less and less possible and many students either fall into debt or see themselves forced to drop out of their studies due to financial reasons. This is the reality that we live in.
It seems, however, that the typical stereotype of students who have less money but a lot of spare time, lying back and relaxing is still manifested in our brains. We have to become aware that living in permanent existential fear doesn’t make for a good academic who contributes to society in the future.
When recapitulating this situation, one cannot help but notice clear parallels to the anthem of the Great Depression “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” by Gorney and Harburg. The song reveals how Americans, who worked hard in order to pursue the American Dream, find themselves abandoned by their government. Deeply in despair, they feel the harsh consequences of the economic collapse. Back then, people were urged to find “honest work” in order to rebuild their nation – nowadays, we are told to go study and educate ourselves in order to contribute to society.
Certainly, our situation is not as drastic as back then – students don’t have to stand in line begging for a loaf of bread, thank God. But it still feels like having to beg for every penny in hope of receiving funding that actually helps in the current situation. So, I ask again with my hands held out: Dear BAföG, can you spare a dime?
1 source: https://www.der-paritaetische.de/alle-meldungen/armut-im-studium-30-prozent-aller-studierenden-leben-in-armut/
Author: Mariana Silva Lindner
The female gaze
In pop culture, the best compliment a male fictional character or celebrity could get last summer was to be “written by a woman”. Gen Z calls it the female gaze and is using it as a compliment for fictional characters or the image that the media portrays of public people.
The media calls it the female gaze and it describes the point of view of people other than cisgender men and how they perceive it. But the female gaze can also be a feminist approach according to Laura Mulvey’s theory and its counterpart, the male gaze. Through the female gaze, the focus lies on what is felt or how is something understood. In contrast, the male gaze focuses on what is shown. It shows the limited male view and how certain men perceive the world as their stage and movie at the same time.
Judging between women
The male gaze shows the perspective of heterosexual men in arts and literature. Therefore, it is objectifying women and only focusing on their sex appeal. In short, they are objects of desire. For example, female characters in action movies have no depth in character, like Megan Fox in the Transformer movies. She plays the role of Mikaela Banks, a smart girl that knows a lot about cars. But instead of showing the character’s mechanic-like skills, the viewers only saw the actress in revealing clothes. Other examples can be found in certain video games, stereotypical action movies and music videos, such as Perra by J Balvin or Taste by Tyga as they use female bodies as props. Women are used to satisfy the male audience.
Growing up in a world that supports and fuels this perspective, women feel the need to look sexy all the time. They put themselves under pressure to look perfect, even when there are no men around. Some women feel accomplished if they are desired by men; this creates a subliminal competition between women.
The rise of the pretty boys
Written by a man, means you as a woman are seen as super sexy by heterosexual males.
The female gaze is a new approach to portray characters, not only by women but also by people who are trans and/or nonbinary.
The female gaze was created to show the beauty in femininity and not focus on the body only.
In general, the female gaze doesn’t represent hyper-masculinity to show attractive men. Softer-looking men are becoming popular. The alternative standard of aggressive men with sizzled bodies, like the actors in Magic Mike, for example, is slowly worn out. Softer and gender-nonconforming men are more popular among women. A reason for that could be that women tend to feel safer with innocent-looking guys and less threatening men are seen as more reliable than hypermasculine ones. This new hype is often not really understood by some people.
Effects on young people and our society
One should consider that many young people spend a lot of time reading books, watching movies and listening to music. They get inspired by and also learn from them, consciously as well as unconsciously. Because of that, they develop a perception of the world based on what they see and read. People tend to base their self-esteem on how well they fit the standards and their ultimate goal is to be desired by their preferred gender.
On this ground, both of these gazes can be pretty blunt and harsh dynamics and lead to hurt young people. For example, men don’t have to either be soft-looking or super masculine and women don’t have to act sexy to be seen.
In addition to that, there is no way to fit into both standards and it forces us to put people into boxes. Our whole existence turns into a performance for someone else’s perspective.
Author: Lea Isler
Cancel culture – a blessing or a curse?
Do we need to cancel cancel culture?
In this day and age, the idea of getting cancelled is something a lot of us have heard of, especially people who use social media. It seems as if there’s always someone who needs to be canceled. But what does that really mean?
The idea behind cancelling someone is that primarily celebrities or other public figures such as politicians get held accountable if they say or do something offensive. You can, of course, also “cancel” someone who isn’t famous, like a friend who has caused you offence, but the main idea of cancel culture is to effectively end the career of a well-known person and/or revoke them of their status because they did something offensive. This happens either through boycott or disciplinary actions, like firing someone. If you look at it like that, cancelling someone seems like a good way to achieve more social justice. It gives power to the people who have been harmed and can also serve as a way of combatting the major power imbalances between the public and public figures with far-reaching platforms and audiences.
However, there’s also lots of criticism regarding this topic. Especially more conservative politicians have voiced their concerns. They think that cancelling someone is nothing more than the attempt of a furious mob to silence others who might have something important to say. Then-President Trump for example described cancel culture as a political weapon which demands total submission from anyone who disagrees with the overall opinion of the wide public. He even stated that he thinks of it as a “growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought for so hard”.
But in reality, it actually takes a lot to end someone’s career and there are very few people who truly have been canceled. Some might have had to experience periods of time where they had to face more or less momentous criticism, but most of the time cancelled people won’t be cancelled forever. Some even come back stronger than before because they gained fame from it. Louis CK, a very famous comedian, got cancelled because he sexually intimidated multiple women. That, in fact, really seems like something you should be declared “over” for. Even though to some extent his career has been impacted negatively, he still has been nominated for a Grammy afterwards and it surprisingly even looks like these incidents found him a new audience.
Regardless, there are also people who fear getting cancelled. They are afraid to communicate their real feelings and opinions which can also be problematic. We are fortunately privileged enough to have the right of free speech in our country. Some say that cancel culture infringes on that right. In a functioning democracy people need to be willing to hear one another out even if they disagree, but we need to be aware that free speech does not include racism, homophobia, sexism or any other kind of violence.
Author: Christina Bello
Procrastination – When Postponing Becomes a Mental Disorder
Christmas is over. The new year has begun. And it’s already time for the most annoying and stressful phase of the semester again – the examination phase.
Every semester I think to myself: This time I will be better prepared! And yet, every year it’s the same sad game all over again! I usually start off very motivated and ready, but somehow after a week or two my motivation is gone, and I postpone everything I must do until I am so under pressure that I am regularly very close to having a nervous breakdown. Procrastination at its best!
Procrastination – a Mental Disorder?
The term procrastination is generally understood as behaviour characterised by either not completing tasks despite existing opportunities and abilities or completing them only after a very long time and often too late. Many people are probably familiar with this definition.
What is less well known is that procrastination is also a pathological disorder and, therefore, a mental illness.
Procrastination as a disorder can occur as parts of a diagnosable mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety disorder or ADHD and also single-handedly affect a person’s psychological well-being. Problems with setting priorities, lack of or unrealistic planning, deficits in time management or in the ability to concentrate and fear of failure or criticism can be factors that promote procrastination.
However, not every delay of important tasks or every procrastination-promoting behaviour ends in a mental disorder.
Tips to Detect and Battle Procrastination
On the website of the WWU Münster, for example, you can take a self-test to reflect on your behaviour (https://www.uni-muenster.de/Prokrastinationsambulanz/Angebote_Test.html).
But there are also some everyday tips to help you combat procrastination while staying focused and motivated.
Firstly, it can be helpful to create a kind of to-do list with precise time details, goals you want to achieve and sufficient breaks. Most of the time I put off tasks and prefer to spend my time cleaning my room or cooking because I don’t know exactly where to start or how to manage my time. A schedule and a to-do list could solve this problem. As Kidlin’s Law says: If you can write the problem down clearly, you’re halfway there.
The second piece of advice that goes hand in hand with the first one is to read up on different time management strategies. For example, after a maximum of 90 minutes of intensive working or studying, you should take a break of 15 minutes to get some fresh air and drink something. You should do something that has nothing to do with work so that your brain can recover. Afterwards, you can continue working with renewed energy and concentration.
Of course, many other tips and tricks can help fight procrastination, such as using a time tracking app, rewarding yourself for good work, or romanticising your studies. Therefore, it makes sense to look for further tips on the internet that fit your personality for your personality and learning type.
It is crucial to understand that procrastination often has nothing to do with the personal weakness of will or laziness, as our society often assumes!
Therefore, it is important not to label a person too quickly, but to think outside the box and make sure that the person is doing well or to provide help if necessary.
Author: Tabea Oppelt
Performance Enhancing Drug Abuse among Students
Elite universities, tough courses of studies, parents’ expectations and one’s own have one thing in common: they are all sources of performance pressure. When everything comes together at the end of the semester, many students suffer from the amount of work they have to cope with in a short period of time. Out of desperation, some students rely on medication to boost their performance.
Why are some students tempted to take prescription-only drugs?
When the Christmas holidays are over, the semester is coming to an end, deadlines accumulate and the STUDIS registration is due, it is the students’ most stressful time of the year: exam season. During this time, we have to show what we have learned – or sometimes realise that we should have studied more during the semester. Students who have a tendency to procrastinate often realize how much time they have to put in their studies when it’s already too late. In order to compensate, they neglect their physical needs: eating healthy, sleeping plenty and drinking enough water. To make up for the resulting lack of concentration, many have tried caffeine, guarana, or black tea but at some point, these substances will lose their effect. And here comes the temptation to take prescription-only medicine like Ritalin or Modafinil.
Why you should not take medicine if you haven’t been diagnosed with symptoms
Ritalin is used to treat ADHD in children. Inattentiveness and hyperactivity belong to ADHD’s main symptoms and the combination of both makes it hard for the affected to succeed at school. The rising number of Ritalin subscriptions results in higher availability and higher rate of abuse.
Modafinil is used to treat narcolepsy and has a very similar effect. It raises the consumer’s attention span and keeps them awake. It is reported that one in five Oxford students abused Modafinil to gain an advantage during exam season.
Both medications carry the risk of becoming addicted because of the feeling of not being able to perform without it anymore. Furthermore, side effects like headaches, nausea, nervousness, rhinitis, diarrhea, anxiety and insomnia have been reported. Incorrect dosage can also be a risk as pills bought online could be much stronger or cut with other harmful substances. In short – there are many good reasons why these medications should only be taken if a doctor prescribes them to you.
Apart from that, one should also consider the ethical aspect of gaining advantage over fellow students.
I think every student already knows about basic tips on how to succeed at university such as creating a study plan, attending lectures and seminars regularly, doing homework, taking breaks, joining study groups etc. But when it comes to applying all these tips, many students seem to struggle. What I have found to be the most useful strategy to approach this issue is to take small steps and focus on one tip at a time. There are many types of learners and everyone has to figure out for themselves what works best for them.
Author: Andreas Altmannshofer
For a long time, it used to be part of our routine to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The growing flexibility of our time is breaking this routine, which brings us to a new eating habit called “snackification“.
What does Snackification mean?
Snackification describes a trend that is moving away from the three-meal routine to more of a several snacks per day structure. A usual day of snackification could look like this: in the morning some berries with Greek yoghurt and an egg, later some highly nutritious nuts, for lunch a quinoa bowl with various fried or cooked vegetables, later a protein bar and, in the evening, some cut vegetables, crackers and guacamole. Especially the pandemic has caused this trend to get more and more popular because people needed to create their own structures when working remotely. On the one hand, people have more flexibility in a work setup at home and, on the other hand, they have enough time to prepare and enjoy their food or snacks.
Focus on Health
The name snackification might give the impression that it’s all about eating some crisps or a chocolate bar, but the trend focuses on eating healthy food. Many of the snacks are vegetarian or vegan. If there is meat, then the quality is important: instead of mass production, consumers preferably buy bio-products and use, whenever accessible, fresh, seasonal, and regional ingredients.
Tapas, Mezze and Bowls are some of the most popular snacks but Wraps, Sushi, Ramen and Pho are also well-known and beloved snacks.
Are there any issues?
In order to not have any negative side effects from this trend, it is recommended to keep an eye on giving your body enough vitamins, proteins, and other essential nutrients. If on any given day that’s not possible for some reason, you should take advantage of so-called “functional foods”. These are foods with healthy additives. As in the case of every other food trend, you can’t clearly say how healthy or unhealthy snackification actually is.
Whether snackification is good for the body or not depends on the person. While some feel more energetic and healthier with this trend, others might just have to stick to the three-meal routine.
In general, it’s important to ensure that you don’t eat only carbs. Although they give you a quick burst of energy, you may feel agitated as soon as the blood sugar level drops.
If you are someone who tried to stick to the three-meal routine for eating healthy, you can take a step back and try snackification. Only you know what works best for you.
Author: Denise Göbel