Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar iedereen!

A very Happy New Year to you all.

I am back at university after a lovely (and much needed) two and a half weeks at home in Ireland for the Christmas holidays. Alas, I was not in the Netherlands to experience ‘first Christmas day’, ‘second Christmas day’, or even the unofficial but intriguing ‘third Christmas day’, but I was happy to enjoy the Irish tradition of a full turkey dinner. With the minor exception of one large assignment that could not be ignored, I am happy to report I avoided almost all thought of deadlines and university meetings. Not to mention, I realized that when chatting to people about my day-to-day life in the Netherlands, I referred to it with ease as “home”.

The end of 2013 was a challenging mish-mash of paper deadlines, daily meetings, and small moments of panic. As may be proven by my lack of blogs (and general social life), I found myself completely swamped with work. Of course, it does not help that I signed up for the ICC Moot Court, which is an additional 7.5 ECTS beyond the required courses of my Master’s program. Buyer beware: this program offers many excellent opportunities to build your CV and get involved, but make sure you only take on as much as you can handle. The many opportunities (internships, Moot Court, clinical programs etc.) mean there is certainly the temptation to do so.

Now, the new year is in full swing. The first week of classes is over and there is no time to waste. Aside from moving house in the middle of the year due to my lease being up (something you wouldn’t have to do with university accommodation), I am facing the final deadlines of the second period. The bad news is that it has been straight back to work. The good news is that I have much more energy after the long break. Most excitingly, it means I am very close to the halfway point. Hallelujah!

But what would the new year be without a list of resolutions? So here it goes. My hopes for the year include the following:

1) Better time management: This means not letting approaching deadlines mean challenging all-nighters. Now that it’s a new year, and I’m much wiser than I was in September, I’ve decided the best way to approach my Master’s is by treating it like a full-time job. This means library time 9-5 on workdays. Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part I will get my work done during the day and have my evenings free so I can sit back and relax.

2) Travel more: Being in the Netherlands offers so many great opportunities to explore Europe, and I plan to make the most of them. Great cities like Paris, Barcelona and Berlin are calling my name. Not to mention, I need to get myself out of Utrecht if I ever want to discover the other places in the Netherlands I might love (although probably not as much).

3) Strike a balance: Now that I am almost halfway, it is time to focus on striking a balance between university life and everything else. The usual incentive to be healthy that the new year brings is suited to Utrecht with its fresh vegetable markets and its beautiful parks to jog in. With the warm winter (it has been nothing but sunny days since I got back), it is easy to get outside and take advantage of the city’s many cultural events. It’s also good for taking study breaks outside, or what one classmate recently referred to as “sanity walks.”

4) Appreciate: With such a hectic lifestyle, it can sometimes be easy to forget to appreciate everything around you. When panic about a deadline sets in, I often ask myself “Why did I ever do a Master’s?” and when I can’t figure out something Dutch-related, it’s tempting to jump to “What am I doing here?”. The fact is there are always going to be some off-days, but the majority of the time I am amazed by the place I live in and the quality of work I produce as part of my program. Now I only need to take the time to slow down and appreciate it while it happens.

So there you have it. The new year brings a series of small changes that will improve my study habits and should bring me all the way to the end of my thesis with my health, happiness, and sanity in tact. Wish me luck, or as the Dutch say “Duim voor me” (twiddle your thumbs for me). Who ever said all direct translations make sense?

Until the next time/Tot de volgende keer!


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