In the study café at the Department of Physics
, older students help new students find their feet in the new academic setting.
It is 8:00 am Wednesday, and no morning classes are scheduled. But over the next four hours, first-semester students from Physics and Nanotechnology, and Earth and Space Physics and Engineering will stream into the joint study café.
The two study programmes share virtually all the same introductory courses, and the Mechanical Engineering and Physical Modelling subjects cause problems for many. But they can get help in the study café from older students who know the ropes, and perhaps from peers who have already solved the problem they are struggling with.
This has been the case since the 2015 autumn semester, when the year’s vector group decided to revive an earlier study café and was offered rooms by DTU Physics. “When you come to the University straight from school, where you can get all the help you need, it can be difficult being thrown into demanding assignments. Many feel out of their depth. They simply need helpers—someone to ask,” says Mark Kamper Svendsen, who was part of the Vector 15 group.
Asbjørn Meldgaard Moltke, one of the regular café helpers, adds:
“The assignments may not be the hardest in the world, but it’s difficult to get into the engineer mindset and work out how to structure them. There is no subject called ‘Learn to think like an engineer’. This is what people can help each other with.”
The café has also been a great success. A large number of the year showed up—between 30 and 40 freshers each time. But over the autumn, the number of questions declined because people began to help each other instead of asking the older students.
“This is just what we hoped would happen,” says Mark. “The whole idea was to bring the year together and create a culture of academic exchange.”
Passing on the baton
Mark and Asbjørn believe the study café has helped reduce the drop-out rates for their year groups. But it has been a challenge to find students willing and able to serve as unpaid tutors for four hours each Wednesday. The effects of the Study Progress Reform can be felt.
Asbjørn and Mads Carlsen have carried the meet-ups, while Mark has played more of practical role, organizing rooms etc. All three have enjoyed it very much and have been pleased to get to know the new students. They have also learned a lot from having to explain the material to others and do repetition with the basic knowledge. It has been an excellent incentive to get up early on Wednesday morning.
“Some courses are difficult and not always fun, but it’s basically great to be studying mathematics and physics. We all feel this, and it's fun to share our enthusiasm with others,” says Mark.
With these words, he hopes he can pass the baton on to new students who will carry on the café model when his year gets busy completing their studies.