Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Eating the alphabet will not make you smarter.

          We are two days away from Christmas. I have already eaten a “J” shaped chocolate. I wonder how many letters of the alphabet will suffer the consequences of my presence in the Netherlands. Sadly I could not travel to Argentina for the holidays, so I will be working in Amsterdam this winter’s break. 
But not all is bad news, since finally my printer and I have come to an agreement, and we are slowly printing Guidelines and legislation. If you still don't have a topic and feel guilty about it, just think in general terms, and then you can narrow it down with your tutor. Furthermore, 9 out of 10 times you are going to change your topic (or at least your angle of it) once you start with the research.

           I just wanted to have the opportunity of wishing you a merry Christmas and wherever you are, enjoy your family and happy of all the effort you are doing. I mean, I know many of you have travelled not only with clothes and shoes, but also with books. That is exactly what I am talking about: The unspeakable truth about being a student, the sense of effort even in the most relaxing holidays.

          I am incredibly happy with my classmates and the University, as I never felt (not for one moment) alone, and If I ever needed something (like the coordinates of a specific location, or the time of the lecture and number of room) there’s always someone to give you a hand. So, in this post I would like to thank you all...specially because we still have around 7 months together, and those kind of questions will never cease.

          Read your guilt away, and celebrate with eyes closed, I will probably post something more before New Year’s Eve. Rest assured, I will take care of Utrecht until you all return.

Fijne feestdagen!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Just think.. What would Mariah do?

         December 15, 2015. We are 16 days away from New Year’s Eve and if concentration was hard enough a week ago, I can imagine it is rather unthinkable at this point. This means that we have little more than two weeks to accomplish all what we promised in a similar Eve from last year. Good luck to us all.

           One of the perks of living in this beautiful city is that now I can actually be a part of it. Yesterday I attended a ‘pub quiz’, and I believe I haven't been attended one since my highschool years. I still find myself surprised at this kind of events, living in a student’s city is more exciting, Utrecht is always bubbling and coming up with a lot of activities. Of course the Christmas Markets are everywhere! I have never experienced holidays like this. Somehow it is very hard to maintain the ‘ Christmas spirit’ alive when its summer (although we eat as if we were in a gruesome winter). The good thing about that quiz Is that I got to keep our prize… a sparkling little tree; and since I don't really have decorations, I had to do what students do best: Improvise.

           I know the holidays are coming, but please, have a seat...WE NEED TO TALK. Let's discuss a difficult matter in all students life: The Thesis (thunders and lightning). Some of you might already have a topic, maybe even talk with your supervisor about it and if you are adventurous enough you might already have written a few lines about it. For others, the path is not so positive, as you can suffer from a complete lack of ideas or be overwhelmed with a bunch of them. Worry not. Thesis writing is not supposed to be easy, and as everything in life, the most important step is starting with it, then it’s all about being constant and not fall into despair. As many of you already know, there is going to be a Thesis Market on December 17, (14.00 hs, location: JKH15a 0.04), and as a student myself, I advise you not to avoid or reject any opportunity the University is giving us. There is no way of knowing when your brain will come up with a great idea, but you can sure help it by surrounding yourself in the correct environment.

           It is very hard to know what you want (whether it's job related, socially, economically, or your next lunch), but it’s far more easy to know what you DO NOT want. This is not the only way, but it's A way into deciding your thesis topic. Out of all the people that I have talked to, the most important thing is being interested in it, because then commitment is far more easy. Do not choose just because it sounds complicated, innovative and exotic, choose whatever sparks something in you: the need to investigate, ask questions, develop a train of ‘what if’s. Talk with your tutors, they can point you in the right direction. 

      Another interesting experiment is to explain your possible topic to a random person (not too random), in other words, someone that is not in your same field of study: Try to explain your thoughts and see if the person can understand your view, or if it’s too complicated or not that compelling. This might not be conclusive, but it could help you to play with the idea and giving it a different shape. I hate to bring up dates, but we have until 6th of January till we submit our topic. If you are struggling, then speak up, the university is more than equipped with staff that can help you out.

       I'm back on my bike again and feeling like speed racer. Well maybe not so fast, but you get the idea. Time to brainstorm and sing along Mariah Carey. Can you imagine how different would the world be if all she ever wanted for Christmas was a ‘thesis topic’ ? We will never know for sure.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Sneaky sun on the rise

         December is on the rice, I mean rise, and I know concertation, I mean concentration is very hard to accomplish. But we've made it this far students, we are only one week away from holidays season and most of you are probably planning what date to go home, get plane tickets, buying presents and deciding whether you are sleeping 12, 13 or 3 hours. I understand your pain, but real life is still very much here, and so there are still papers to be written and presentations to be held.

       On a more Christmasy news, yesterday I was part of an Exchange meeting, and we discussed a bit Dutch traditions and I am very pleased to know more about it, rather than pretending I know what's going on when I see little kids in colorful costumes. I'm sure that by now you must know the difference between Sinterklaas and Santa Claus, if not, then you are really not making an effort. Sinterklaas was an actual person, and this tradition dates back from BC times, and (spoiler alert) did you know that even though the traditional dutch songs says he came from Spain, that is not geographically correct? He actually came from Turkey. I also heard that on the 5th of December we (the dutch), do not celebrate Sinterklaas birthday, but we actually commemorate his passing.I know, I'm 26 years old and I am a fan of his. Any celebration that includes chocolate is bound to be close to my heart, and reflected on the bathroom scale.

             Over the last few days I have been walking and taking buses again, as my bike is in the hospital right now. How did this device become such a big part of my life? It certainly constitutes a lot more than a means of transportation. I have come to think that part of Dutch happiness is due to the biking, because of the freedom it implies, even if it’s cold and raining, you just don't get into a bus so easily. Which makes me remember, we actually had some real life sun in Utrecht, but luckily I didn’t go for the hawaiian look, because it was actually pretty cold in the shade. Do not get fooled, over-wear clothes, better safe than sorry on that matter.

           Another thing that happened yesterday was going through the decisions and steps that got me in to Utrecht. The meetings, the papers, the application, it was not so long ago, but everything is moving so fast, that sometimes I need to stop and remember how did I get to this point. This is important in order to know about our progress: be proud of yourself and your courage. Once again I'm happy to know new concepts and not panic or get confused when I hear the word cartel (in spanish it means “a sign”) or concerted practice. As clases advance we become a part of the program rather than being only spectators. Participation is unavoidable, and that is the reason why you become a key player during lectures and seminars.
Speaking of which, I have a presentation to re-read, and an essay to look into. Hopefully tomorrow I will get a glimpse of freedom before the holidays. Remember: Do not trust a December sun, you must always keep your winter socks on.Tot later!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Walk the walk, fall the fall

      Since today we are beginning the last month of the year, I think it will be interesting to assess our progress here in The Netherlands. Naturally, I will use my experiences as a starting point:

Days in the Netherlands: 216
Exams taken:2
Courses: 4 (so far)
Number of bikes: 1 (I call it ‘The Granny’)
Number of functioning brakes:1
Number of lost gloves: two. (Of two different pairs)
Number of falls from bike: 2
Number of times I pretended that I didn t fall : 2
Attendance to the gym: 2 times.
Kg of cheese eaten: probably reaching 3 digits.
Misinterpretation of schedule: 1

         After taking a closer look at the previous numbers, I can't say I have any regrets. I think I am slowly starting to adapt to life in The Netherlands. When you don't even consider taking a bus, regardless the weather; or that wonderful and courageous moment when you decide to leave your house and DO something, even though it's cold or raining. Or windy and rainy. Or little drops in form of ice start to fall. Anyway, I have realised that life goes on. Dutch implicitly taught me that much: No matter what may be falling from the sky, or how dark the day is, life does not stop there, and you should not stop there. Go outside and meet some friend, go to the gym or to the supermarket. We are all in the same situation. Your socks might be wet, but you will prevail.

       Thanks to my facebook-who knows more about my life than myself- ‘told’ me that it's been 8 years since I graduated from high school. And so I started to think of all of the things that have happened since that day, and it seems crazy that, not only am I living 12.706 km away from home, but also that I'm halfway of my Master. I know saying that is quite optimistic of me, but just think about it. Time passes by so quickly now, and this is a fast programme, which makes it very dynamic and interesting to follow. I don't particularly believe in regrets, but I do wish I had come before to the Netherlands. Either way, there's still plenty way to go, and who knows what will happen in 8 years? I hardly know what I'm having for lunch…

         Please excuse my reflective mood today, but it must be the fact that today we start the last month of the year that brings up all these thoughts. I remember my first day and feeling so lost! Now I find comfort in the streets, the classrooms (by the way, as from next year, we will have new classrooms in Janskerkhof) lectures and seminars. I'm not afraid of writing a paper, though I'm still working on my nerves when it comes to oral presentations. But one thing is for sure: There is a lot going on, and as students-as young professionals-we should go for all the opportunities that we are presented. Utrecht University is out there, letting us know that there is a market for us (through the publications and announcements in BlackBoard), and that we should not be afraid to own up to our knowledge.

     So, we have come this far, and probably go further. December or not, reading is still very much needed. Bedankt, and tot ziens to you all.