Those That Remain

We started 45 strong in Fall 2015, a pretty large semester group. People who had failed the exams in the previous term soon swelled our ranks to about 60. And then the thinning out began. People quit, changed their study program, or missed or failed exams and dropped behind. After a while, they disappeared from our view because we no longer had any courses in common. Others from higher terms who had postponed courses earlier took their place. In the third term in algorithms we–those actually taking that lecture in their own third term of studies–for the first time were a (narrow) minority in our “own” course.

And in subsequent terms we became, relatively, less and less. The compulsory choice (elective) modules are attended by students from different terms and different study programs anyway, and often one is nearly alone there, as far as guys from our semester group are concerned. But even for core lectures it seems normal, in higher terms, for people to attend them out of order, and often in later terms than provided for by the regulations. In addition, we had the good luck to consistently get around those unpopular professors who are infamous for their nasty examinations, so people who had tried to avoid taking an exam with those professors in earlier terms now crowded into our lectures. By now we’ve become used to being a tiny minority in courses, to the extent that the professors no longer recognize us as being, so to speak, their actual clients. Say in the sense that they have to attend primarily to our needs, such as coordinate their lectures with those prescribed by the regulations for the same term. We are no longer in that easy, solidary pattern–one professor, one lecture, one semester group speaking more or less with one voice (often mine). Now we are just a room full of people with very fragmented interests–and schedules.

In absolute terms as well those that are left of us are becoming a rather tiny band. Even after we had survived the initial selection process in the first term, the remaining group continued to shrink. People moved to other towns. A couple of our co-students actually studied, wait for it!, faster than the insane pace provided for by the regulations and are already done, or least done with courses so that all there is left for them is to submit their thesis and we don’t see them any more. This term we lost our two “dual” students (those studying in the context of a contract with a company that pays them while doing so, in exchange for a commitment to work for them for a fixed number of years afterwards), because they are doing their internship period.

By my latest count, we are now down to 13, out of the 45 we started with. And I believe that’s still a rather large survival rate. Our first-term programming tutor told us he graduated together with just 5 other people from his original semester group.

Mind you, with all those different elective modules (this term, three courses out of five), and with most people working a couple of days a week, we see less and less of one another anyway. With that, also gone are those days spent in the cafeteria studying without urgent need, where you met the others as a matter of course. And with the exams as spread out as the modules we attend, we even find it difficult to find a common date for the traditional end-of-term pub session.

In fact, it’s fast becoming obvious that our days here are counted. Today is the last day before the Christman break, and the fifth term is almost over. The sixth will consist of a single core lecture, one compulsory choice module, and the bachelor thesis, which means only in one course will we still be all together. By July next year, it will all be over.

And you know, in spite of all the pressure and the stress it was a good time. And I was extremely lucky to be in such a great, cohesive group.

One thing is sure: I will miss them all. In fact, I will miss all of this like hell.

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