How I Got My Degree in My Fifth Language

By reading kids’ books and without being a genius

Alexandra Iulia Soare
Published in
3 min readSep 24, 2020

On my first day at the University of Vienna, I could understand only 20% of the professor’s speech. He was talking in German. Do you know what Mark Twain said about German? “Life is too short to learn it.” He is so right! You know how much of a burden student loan can be, right? Austria is a country that offers university for free. I had to take this opportunity. It was the only way to make my childhood dream come true. The biggest downside was the fact that it was entirely in this difficult foreign language.

In this Medium article, I want to share with you the three approaches that helped me get my degree in my fifth language and how you can use them if you find yourself in a similar situation. Just a small disclaimer: I can speak 5 languages, mostly by accident. My family just moved a lot. I changed my houses 11 times by the time I was 18.

Keep going

Sometimes the winner is just the one that stays in the race

We were 300 students in my first chemistry lesson. I was envying my colleagues so much. They could just take out their laptops and take notes. For me it was so difficult. I couldn’t understand what the professor was saying. My notes looked like a puzzle, pieces of hieroglyphs I had to place together.

By the end of the third year, there were only 150 students left. One by one, they gave up. Each day, more and more empty seats. Do you know how satisfying it was to keep going? I felt so proud for not giving up. If you are also in a similar situation and you like your subject, keep going! It is worth it! Sometimes the winner is just the one that stays in the race.

Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

Ditch the lesson

Unless attendance is required

You can either spend one hour trying to guess what the professor is saying. Or you can spend it translating and actually understanding your text. I felt that not knowing the language gave me an advantage because I had to translate and really consider the words. I felt that I was…



Alexandra Iulia Soare

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