Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Internal monologues and lost bikes

            I know this extract will cause a lot of students to roll their eyes, but I swear ever since I read this text for the first time I was struck by it: … ‘an efficient course of action would be to apply means that are consistent with attaining the desired goal or program of goals. Inefficiency arises when means are chosen that are inconsistent with the desired goals’. Forget about the meaning of the words ‘inefficiency’ and ‘efficient’ in an economic context. I think in this article by Roy E. Cordato we can find one of the secrets of life. Read it again. It’s all about being consistent, you cannot complain about things not going your way if you haven’t been consistent. Of course life is not a perfect equation where you can predict its outcome, sometimes there's an ‘X’ factor that alters everything. But I'm thinking about what we can ‘control’, such as identifying our goals and choosing the correct means, like sparing time to read, even though exams are next year, and going to the gym, even though summer seems to be ‘ in a galaxy far far away’.

           Last saturday I was in Den Haag, in an event called ‘N4Talents’ (I learned about it in the announcements of blackboard, and got a free ticket by applying), I took part of a seminar about how to ‘spice up your speech’ , and that got me thinking about the insecurities we face when we need to speak in public. In my view, giving an opinion does not represent such a challenge, as you are hardly afraid to be wrong or having a debate about your arguments. The problem arises when an academic question is released into the tense air of a classroom. And then silence takes over. Some students are not affected at all by this, and speak their views regularly. But the majority of the students (including myself) struggle with it. The good thing about Utrecht, is that, at least in our Master, active participation is highly valued (and also graded), I think it's a good first step in order to flood lectures with voices, although we need to work from home, preparing mentally and dealing with our insecurities. You and I are here to learn, nobody is going to kick you out for a ‘wrong answer’, so speak up!

           On a different train of thought I would like to use this space to express my happiness about living in Utrecht. The time I save on travelling is amazing. After a week I can proudly say I do not need to GPS my way home, although I have serious doubts about why I learned so fast. I think I'm just avoiding that spanish voice trying to pronounce dutch street names, and having response-less conversations in my bike saying what? What street did you try to say?, then going off and checking the map myself. Internally I fear I might sound just like her. I also love to dedicate 5-7 minutes to find my bike in the station’s parking, as it is slightly bigger that the one in Haarlem. Tip for finding bike: Take a picture, talking to the bike and say ‘please show yourself’ doesn't work, I tried.

          I cannot emphasize this enough: Please use scarf and gloves, even though the sun might appear in the horizon. I mean it. I had no idea I could actually have pain in the back of my neck for not having a scarf. I know it's not THAT cold, but still there's nothing worse than getting a cold or a flu when you have to attend to class or work. Reporting from Utrecht, looking the rain fall down, I salute you and wish you all a great week. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Struggling for coherence after the thought of snow

         Ok, formally reporting from Utrecht now, feeling truly happy I finally got to move to the city I fell in love with months ago. If you see me I'll probably behave like  a 3 year old, just looking at every winkel (shop) and cafe in order to memorise my surroundings and locate important spots. It will  be fun to discover this city, walking around it, dodging bikes and investigating who bakes the best poffertjes.

          I am pretty sure everyone is familiar with the whole Christmas sensation we are feeling here, It's not something you can easily miss...there are sparkling lights in every gallery, and lamps hanging across the streets. It is truly an amazing view you could stare at all night...but of course you don't, because you soon realise you are actually freezing (although the dutch argue that ‘this isn't cold yet’ ). My brains insist we are heading to summer, and I'm trying to make it understand we are not getting a bikini for Christmas, but a nice warm hat and colourful socks. There is hope building inside of me… as I was told that when the days start to get colder, a rumour spreads in the Netherlands: Maybe this year canals will be closed and water could freeze enough to skate on it. Can you imagine? I really have to fight the urge to act like a child, and avoid bouncing around when I hear the word ‘snow’, but this is too much to take.

            Today we start week number 2 of the new subjects, and so far European Competition Law seems to leave a bittersweet feeling, as I know I will have to study a lot, but the topics are just too interesting to ignore. That's what is different in this Master, everything we are learning is happening right here and right now. As I mentioned in my first blog entry, I have a Law bachelor, and I'm used to reading legal texts and Codes that sometimes don't really relate to what happens in reality. People’s conduct is in constant change, and sometimes can even be erratic, completely unexpected. That's why it is said that Law is a bit slower, as it takes longer for it to adapt to human behaviour. But here everything is different, probably because of the economics influence, that injects more speed to the topics discussed. It's the first time I'm studying something that is happening as we are learning it, and that makes you feel a bit insecure, but also this leads to ‘thinking outside the box’, proposing alternative solutions. This new freedom gives you confidence in your studies, as you don't have to memorise, but learn to use the texts as a new tool in order to argument and defend your stance.

            Last week some classmates and I were having a chat with one of our former professors from last term, and after discussing briefly a couple of subjects, he said something interesting: ‘ Not everything we teach is meant to be in an exam question, sometimes we show you certain things for your own knowledge’. That got me thinking...Why is it that we only focus on the questions we are going to be tested? I guess is a bad habit some of us have since high school or even before that. It is hard to hear a lecturer say, ‘ you should know this by now’, but, to be honest, there is certain amount of time you need to invest in this, classes are not enough to cover everything, commitment is key...as hard as it may be. It’s just another step towards the life that awaits beyond university.


It's November, I got my hat, nice winter jacket and gloves. Winter, bring that ice, because I'm ready…. to be pointed at and land-elegantly-on the ground. Till next time! Tot ziens! (Always say that when you exit a shop, it gives the false impression you can actually manage to babble some words in dutch). 

Monday, 9 November 2015

The final of finals: Students reloaded.

Our first term is officially over and we are ready (yes we are!) for our next subjects. They say time passes by quickly when you are having fun...well I would like to add 'finals' in that phrase. I don't think I  can truly describe what went through my head these couple of days: Anxiousness, nerves, scattered thoughts of holidays in remote beaches and the good old fear of the unknown, since this past finals were my first written examination in a long long time.
I feel very lucky and thankful, we had excellent tutors that could not only portray their knowledge but also their love for teaching. That is what will make a difference in the end: It is the ingredient which separates a lecture from an insightful experience. There were always space for questions and comments...this freedom is the starting point of transforming us into professionals  (yes I'm talking to you, student that fights with coffee machines, you are a professional! ).

Going back to my first day in Utrecht, I can say I'm very happy with my progress. Had it not been for the lectures, If I heard the term ‘margin squeeze’ I would have thought you were talking about putting on recently washed jeans in the morning. What makes matters worse, until the first couple of weeks, I had no idea what RBNB or Uber were...those companies don't exist in the same magnitude where I come from. Learning your way into the EU is certainly challenging, but not impossible. I have never felt alone in this process, and for that I should thank my classmates and teachers.

On a different order of things, I found a room (No, I did not, a fellow student found two, so she had one to spare.. thank you! ) in Utrecht, so I will be reporting soon from the city of Nijntje (Whatever you do, do not search for its song, for it will be stuck with you forever).
Leaving Haarlem is a bittersweet feeling, because on the one hand that would mean I will no longer have to live from train to train, but...I will definitely miss certain things. For example my restless neighbour, that from 6:30 am is completely dedicated to open the window and 'shoo' every pigeon that DARES  to stand in her balcony. This happens every 15 minutes. It is certainly a good company when you are studying, specially when she uses a broom. I hope she will be well and keeping that feisty spirit for a long time.
I'm guessing  on my next blog I will have a different view -and neighbours-, regardless my ability to pronounce my new street. 

Congratulations my fellow students, we have made it through our first set of finals!

 Don't forget, if you have any questions, suggestions or comments, just write them down, because one day... “ you could write a paper on that” .