"A degree programme is completely different to going to school"

16-year-old Ria

"Dare to be different" is written on Ria Joshi’s shirt and this couldn’t be more apt. If you see the young woman on the Treskowallee campus, you wouldn’t initially notice that she is any different to the many other students with an international family background.

Ria was born in Berlin and her parents come from India. She is happy to be studying Business Law and she is gradually getting to know student life. However, unlike most students, she needed permission from her parents in order to enrol because Ria is not yet 18 years of age. At just 16, she is one of the youngest university students in Berlin. That’s because she started school at age five, skipped eighth grade and only needed 11 instead of 12 years before she had completed her higher education entry qualification. There are 33 other first-semester students at HTW Berlin who are beginning their degree programmes before they have reached the age of 18.

At first Ria Joshi was uncertain whether this would be a problem and how the older students would react to her. Her concerns were soon put to rest. "The people here are really nice. I was welcomed with open arms, even by older students with children of their own. Some already have degrees in other subjects." She says the transition into student life was made easy for her: "The introductory week with the tour of campus was really well planned. I got to meet many other people within just a short time and I can find my way around now very well."

TV heroes and restaurant guests influenced her decision to study
Why does a teenager want to study Business Law of all things? For Ria Joshi it was a logical choice. Her interest in law and justice was inspired many years ago by TV programmes like “Barbara Salesch”. Back then she wanted to become a judge and study law. However, after a work placement at a bank, she realised that the world of business was also exciting, but she couldn’t imagine studying just business. Although her parents said that there was no need for her to start studying immediately, Ria has some powerful role models in her family – her two older sisters both study at universities in Berlin.

Fresh samosas, delicious curries and crispy papadums also played a role in her choice of degree programme. Her parents came to Berlin 40 years ago to study and started working in the gastronomy trade. Ria occasionally helps out in their restaurant in Schöneberg and meets people with a wide range of professional backgrounds, including lawyers, bankers, development assistants and entrepreneurs. Over their meals, they talk about their daily work and the insights they offer have been very helpful for Ria. It became clear to her that she wanted to study Business Law, which is a Bachelor’s degree programme that is only offered by universities of applied sciences in Berlin.

She was not put off by rumours that a degree from a university of applied sciences might be less respected than a degree from a traditional university. She got in touch with the Study Advisory Service, carefully researched all aspects and asked friends and acquaintances what they knew about HTW Berlin. Gradually Ria was able to form an idea of what student life would be like. Her application was accepted.

Planning the future today
A few days ago Ria Joshi had her first test on the principles of law. “I thought it would be a lot more difficult,” she says, thinking about the amount of time she invested in preparing for the test. She wants to learn as much possible right from the beginning. "Studying is completely different from going to school, everything happens much faster here. We have to do a lot of work at home. I think that’s good because if you don’t stay on top of it, you won’t understand what comes later."

Ria Joshi is a talented organiser and plans her study days very precisely. She takes care of her homework as soon as possible and works her way through web tutorials and legal databases. "I like to have things structured and I was the same at school." Unlike many other new students, maybe that’s the reason why she already has a clear idea of what career she would like to pursue one day. She would like to be an advisor in the Federal Foreign Office so she can help to promote successful business relations between Germany and India.

She is fascinated by her parents’ homeland, even though she has only been there three times herself. She is currently learning the complicated written language in order to communicate better next time she visits the country. It seems that learning is what she enjoys doing most. With the help of Youtube, she is also teaching herself to play piano. When she’s not studying or helping out in the restaurant, she listens to music from her favourite Indian band, SANAM, or watches Indian TV programmes – as you would expect for someone of her age.