​The Exchange struggles: studying, snow and snacks

15 December 2016

Seems like all good things indeed must come to an end. Although this is a little more dramatic than the reality really is, I just have to share that my bubble has been disrupted. I was flying high when it popped and now I have to come back to earth. I had to wake up from my dream and join the rest of the world in everyday life again. In normal words: I have to start studying.

One of the things you definitely don’t want to think about while you’re on exchange is studying. It is already bad enough that you have to spend a lot of your time on going to and being at university. Naturally, you would rather be exploring your new home city; making trips to other cities; eating new kinds of food; spending too much money on clothes while you don’t have any more room left in your suitcases (true story); or even just stay in and watch Netflix, since there are a lot of different series and movies to discover in your new country.

After all the weeks of travelling, partying and eating you almost forget that you are also supposed to pass all of your courses and that this is, in fact, the reason you are actually in another country. Suddenly, there are deadlines for four papers and two presentations that you have to finish within the next three weeks. And that while it is snowing and you suddenly feel like making a snowman really interesting, even though you hate the cold.

I must admit that it is my own fault that everything comes down to the last few weeks. So my solution to problems is the following: skip all the classes that don’t check attendance and work on assignments all day. This way, you are productive during the day and will still have time to do fun stuff at night. I know, not the best advice you’ve ever heard, but at least it’s working in my case.

To be honest, I don’t mind working for a bit. After all the days of vacation and chilling there will eventually come a moment when you’re like “what’s next”? The thought of embracing schoolwork in order to take in more information and knowledge suddenly seems satisfying. With a smile on your face you will open your laptop, this time not to Netflix. With a warm feeling in your heart you will start working on the assignments that just have been lying around waiting for you to pick them up. You will feel complete again.

Oh, who am I kidding. Studying on exchange is not something that is fantastic and it will not make you feel like a greater version of yourself. However, I have discovered that there are some positive sides to it! And of course I will gladly share those.

First of all, the need to studying will give you the opportunity to discover more of your city, even if you have to sit inside. My roommate and me decided that we could not study at home, since it is just too easy to start talking, dancing and ‘Netflixing’. Instead we packed our stuff and went out to find nice coffee places where there is Wi-Fi. Honestly, I would never have been to this many different places if it hadn’t been for university. I now know where to get the best cappuccino in town, where to be able to study and read nice books, and the most important thing: the people who work there now know me. You know you come somewhere way too often if the people behind the counter start asking you stuff like “another day of studying?” or just know what you are going to order before you have even said something.

Secondly, when you are at one of these places changes are that they have a variety of pastries. So whenever you have reached one of your goals for that day, you feel like you have earned it or you are just hungry, you can buy yourself ones of those as a treat. This way studying will make sure that you will be well fed – also known as: you will get fat, but it is okay. I actually have accepted that it is not possible not to gain weight here. Everything is full of sugar, my roommate loves to bake and our houseguest from the Netherlands brought pepernoten (the chocolate ones), so there is no way I am eating healthy all the time.

Thirdly, you will have the chance to finally check out that new playlist on Spotify. This way you can combine two passions: music and studying!

In the end you will of course be tired, but proud of yourself that you have done something productive that day. Together with a study-buddy, a nice environment and food you will get through the nastiness of finishing assignments. I found that going to other places to study really helps me focus. I don’t know about you, but I feel obliged to do something that is not watching Netflix whenever I am not at home. So in that way getting out of the house helps me focus. Although there is always the possibility that you are in denial and will just start working on another article for the embrACE website instead of doing what you have to be doing. But hey, I am not on Netflix. Compared to that everything seems productive.

Even though I am trying to study, I have found that there are sooooooo many things that can distract you. So whenever you feel like not spend your time not doing useful stuff there are a couple of things you can do. First of all it is always good to check your Facebook. You don’t want to be the one who saw that funny meme of that dog last, so try to keep up with your social life as well. Secondly, when you are in another country you will find that you start missing food from home. The best thing to do in this case is to go on Google and see if there is a supermarket that sells stuff from home in your new town. If there is, go there and spend a ridiculous amount of money so you have enough snacks to study after. 

Last but not least: plan a houseparty. Super much fun to do, also lots of things to think of so you will spend a lot of time doing this. You will directly have an excuse to not spend your weekend studying since you will have to prepare the party venue, clean up after and be hung-over for the rest of the weekend. Perfect right?

So there are just two more weeks to go of university here. This does not mean I am going to come home right after that, god no. It means that within just two weeks I will go back to the being-on-vacation-mode. The fact that I am kind of out of money will definitely not stop me (yay the student loan system in the Netherlands). I still have exploring New York, the Algonquin area, Toronto, possibly Philadelphia and, of course, Ottawa on my list. Even though I have been to almost all places already, there seems to be so much to see that I just have to go back to try to, once again, do it all. But first I have to finish three more papers and one presentation. Wish me luck! 

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