HOW TO SURVIVE EXAM SEASON: a guide

Each University student – sooner or later – gets acquainted with the traumatising, overwhelming and at times tragic experience called exam season. You start off your year with the intention of going to all the lectures, taking notes and going over them after class to keep up with the schedule. Except you never do. Which brings us to The Situation of us students anxiously going through all the lecture slides, asking the Universe when the hell we did all that stuff in class and praying to God to let you pass this one time, because next year you’ll be better (except you won’t).

So, here’s  a quick list of a few staples to get into the zen mode and down that whole semester program in a few nights and ace that mother fucking exam, because we can do it.

  1. A notebook
  2. Your laptop
  3. A steamin hot cuppa tea / coffee, depending on your preference ( in my case, both ).
  4. Pens, highlighters and matches in case you want to set yourself on fire
  5. Zen music to get into the concentration mode

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Now that you’re all set, let’s get you started on the studying. First of all, scan the list of topics you will need to prepare for the exam. It might sound obvious but I swear it’s not. You don’t know how many times it happened to me that I was so clueless about a module, I did everything in the program just to be sure and ended up studying a shit load of useless stuff. So get your facts – from a professor or one of the smart kids in your class – and write down a list of all the things you actually need to study.

If it helps, it’s good to write down a schedule of what you’re going to do and when, so that you don’t fall behind or fall into the deep pit of helplessness where you think you’re doomed for disaster. As long as you have a schedule, loose or tight as it may be, you will instantly feel more in control of the situation. Now, it is crucial not to deviate from the schedule: you can do more than needed, but you cannot do less than you have to according to the schedule. Stay up all night if you need to, but try not to fall behind. That’ll ruin the plan and then I won’t know how to help you further. So if you miss a day, just do more the next day to catch up and you’ll be fine.

After having defined the amount of workload to do, you can either a) actually read everything you need to; or b) look up summaries and essays online and study on those instead, to save time. Most of the time, this second option doesn’t actually miss out on much and you’ll be just fine. It’s a condensed version of all the important facts for a reason, right? So when you’ve decided what you’re going to study, print it off or have it on your laptop and start your journey through the phantomatic pass.

The method of studying itself obviously varies from person to person, so I can’t really tell on that, but I can give my own method of studying and see if it helps any of you. What I do is, I play my “concentration music” (it sounds stupid but it helps me!) and write down all the important stuff. Other than creating your own notes, this method actually helps getting the facts into your brain, so that when you think about it the memory of writing it down comes back to you. It’s way better than merely reading a text and you can save up time. Then I group it all back together and write a short essay, which I proceed to print off and highlight / study once again. At this point, I’ve written down stuff twice which helps with the memorising, plus having a slight photographic memory means when I have the printed version I can just scan it and remember sections more easily (thankfully).

This technique is kind of time-consuming and a lot of times you will end up thinking why the hell you’re wasting so much of your precious time just re-writing down stuff, but I swear it helps a lot and if you stick to it you won’t regret it.

Now, it’s important to choose the right soundtrack for your studying: as I mentioned in my 5 staples list, it’s crucial for you to have good concentration music to help you remember stuff. I found out about this in a moment of helplessness when I was looking for ways to study a whole book in 5 days and came across a shit ton of videos on youtube with “brain power” music to help you concentrate. It sounds like bullshit, but I swear it helped so much. Not all the videos were actually good but this is the one I used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPni755-Krg and the only one which I felt was really doing something to my brain.

Finally, as a last step make sure your hot drink is sitting next to you to get you through the whole process.

It’s a necessity, believe me.

So, this is all I’ve got for you guys. Most of the stuff is kind of obvious but this is my form of procrastination from exam studying. I said what you should do in the blog post, now actually following the schedule is a bit harder than that…. So good luck to all of you (and myself 😩 ) !

Until next time (and the end of exam season),

Elena

THE BIG NOTHING: October un-appreciation club

 

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“Life is such an endless sum of beginnings and ends, consecutive events which mean all and nothing at the same time, this huge, massive, imperative big nothing. Because we breathe the same air and we eat the same things and we live the same way and it’s like we don’t make a change at all.. We all act and survive for a big and heavy cloud of nothingness, which surrounds us, envelops us and makes us feel the pressure of something that doesn’t exist.”

We all need a bit of melancholy sometimes, don’t we? The little note above is something I wrote the other day in my favourite bar, which is rapidly becoming the usual stage for my deep and heavy existential crisis. Sounds fun right?

First of all, you need to know that I hate October. I really do. It’s such an awful month, for so many things. Too late for summer, too early for anything else. One of those middle grounds that you can’t quite name, not autumn but not winter either. Cold but not too cold.

I hate October. Everything bad seems to always happen in that month doesn’t it? And then the nostalgia strikes and your mind runs back to past memories, trying to get back into the summer warmth and trust me here, there is no escape from that. It could be a song, an image or a gust of wind and there you go, thrown back into happier times and wondering how you got where you are, if it’s better this way and what you’ve lost. Nostalgia is a dreaded as much as friendly feeling, makes you feel down but at the same time so much at home. Because what is more familiar than your own mind, your own memories, the times that only you know of and that live on inside of you? And songs, I believe, are the greatest source of that. On so many occasions, we subconsciously attach meanings and memories to songs, so that every time we hear them, we’re taken back to that place and time and the wave of feels crashes over us. And it’s interesting how one single song can change your mood completely because of this very reason. So let’s just say, October is my unhappy song, which plays over and over again each year, relentlessly.

I went for a walk with my flatmate the other day, wandering about the city, shivering in the cold but with the need to explore. We ended up on the other side of the city centre, past countless shops I’d never seen and places I want to go back to. Everything was dark, cold and shiny and it reminded me so much of past winters back home, and in Scotland, and somehow that was perfection and it made me feel so lonely at the same time. We walked for hours and I found peace in that calm, finding new places I’d never seen and discovering my temporary home again. From the Nieuwe Binneweg to Oostplein, I finally walked through Meent, which I must say is a really nice street and a nice finding in the city. It’s full of little fashion shops, bars and life, which look even nicer when you walk through them as the sun sets. I also actually found out where Oostplein is, as so far all I’d known was the name of the station. This fact will, undoubtedly, be added to the collection of my random and potentially useless facts about Rotterdam. We also found a nice Kunstuitleen, otherwise known as an Art Gallery, which is where the piece in the feature image is from.

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We concluded our (roughly) two-hour walk with a beer in a nice pub close to the Erasmus University – a fact which I am still trying to fathom to this day, as the distance between said place and home is way too great to be casually walked through by a pair of bored students. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the pub, but it felt like the UK as you can see from my despairing snapchat, featuring a group of lads drunkenly chanting dutch songs in the middle of the space.

The funnier thing though, amidst all this, is the fact that our initial plan had been to walk up to the start of Blaak to check out a bar before going home. Instead, we ended up in Oostzeedijk, tired but proud of our exploring skills, with a whole list of places to go back to on another day and, possibly, another month that is not October.

To conclude the blog post, I loathe October with everything in me, but it’s always nice to keep yourself busy and go explore new things. It takes your mind off of it for a bit, makes you think of brighter things and, especially, it actually makes it a little better. So, for all you October haters like me, hang on tight. We’re almost halfway through and it’s going pretty quickly, so take out your coat and scarf and set out on a new adventure. Who knows, you might end up loving it.

Here’s a grungy sexy song to keep you going through this cold month,  by Cigarettes After Sex. A typical Winter Song, but why not start early?

Elena

“So you do Architecture?”

This week I found a really cool event to go to at BIRD, a nice little building which somehow is a restaurant and a pub and a club and a concert venue all at once despite any rule of logic. The event was called CityLab and it was basically a meet up of all the planners in the city, where people could present their projects to make Rotterdam a better city to the public.

By now, I think you’ve all come to realise there is always a catch in my blog posts, something that unexpectedly goes wrong because you only live once and what’s the point in not making it awkward amirite. So, fast forward to the night before the event, I find out it’s all going to be in Dutch. Marvellous, considering my knowledge of Dutch is approximately the same as a fish’s knowledge of the Amazon. However, I am so interested in the event I decide to give it a try anyway, despite being on my own as none of my friends want to engage in the pointless adventure.

I get to the venue and am welcomed by a cute little lady dressed in a costume that I cannot even begin to describe, if not by comparing it to a giant, feathery red velvet cake. She speaks to me in dutch, to which I reply I don’t understand a single word of the language and am subsequently welcomed by a confused stare. After explaining I am aware of the language barrier, she slaps a heart sticker on my chest and lets me in. Inside, the exhibition is full of little tables where the planners are presenting their ideas, in a quiet environment where everyone is amicably chatting between each other in dutch.

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And then I see it. The thing that each person craves the most. The best idea of the whole night, which brings light to my eyes and warmth to my heart…. free food. I have mentioned the place serves as a restaurant as well and I soon find out by chatting to strangers that the chefs are all Italian, after which I am promptly welcomed by free bruschettas and pizza as well as free alcohol. By now I am absolutely living the dream, so I keep wandering about and pretending that I am very aware of what everyone is saying despite not having the slightest clue. Presentations go past and I manage to chat with a few of the planners, make friends with a group of students and also have a nice conversation with one of the founders of a really cool project.

The brand is called Granny’s Finest and, despite the bizarre name, it is actually a really cool project that I wanted to feature on the blog. Nick, one of the founders, explained to me how he got the idea whilst visiting his grandfather and seeing another old lady knitting nearby. He lets me know he studied in Milan at Bocconi and was fascinated by all the fashion in the city (he also knows some Italian), which brought the idea of combining the two things together: what the brand does is basically make grannies knit fashionable items such as hats and scarves, together with a short message from the granny who produced it, then sell it to the public. It’s a cute idea because you get something personal together with what you bought, which is the message from the old lady. You also help the world in the name of fashion: according to Nick, part of the profits go towards making life a little better for the old ladies, who get taken to trips all over the place on a special banter bus all for them.

I  also manage to speak to another guy whose plan is to basically reduce the amount of pollution connected to a highway coincidentally situated right next to where I live. The project is called Nieuwe Wegen Islaan and I thought it was one of the most interesting ones at the event (despite it being full of cool ideas!! Hashtag No h8). Things get awkward when he asks me what brings me to CityLab: “So are you doing Architecture then?” Errrr, no. I’m just a curious erasmus student looking for some free activities to spend the time…

Elena

THE LOBSTER

In the past two weeks I spent as an official resident in Rotterdam, I have come to learn a few things about the beautiful thing that is the dutch population:

They love their bicycles more than a child –  they have decorations, different colours, cheerful baskets and everything you could think of. It’s like a portable wardrobe that they like to flaunt around in front of the eyes of angry car riders and sad walkers like myself.

You will fear said bicycles more than actual vehicles when you cross the road – seriously mate, these things are scary. They don’t give a shit about you, the fact that it’s red or the fact that it’s your turn to cross. They will destroy you if you don’t get out their way.

The beer selection is insane – there are so many pubs in this city and each of them has, apart from the global brands, a lot of local and smaller breweries with very interesting tastes and, if you’re a beer lover like me, you will find yourself slowly making your way through most pubs in the city centre in the constant search for the best one.

Construction workers on the street have no restraints in staring way past the comfortable zone – seriously, dude. Stop.

I have been spending my days exploring the city and getting to know my surroundings, from the Markthal to the Cubic Houses to the beautiful Oude Haven, through the Erasmus Bridge and past a thousand more architectural miracles that reside in this beautiful place.

Fast fact: before choosing my current studies, aka Communication, I was determined – for years and years – to study Architecture. Passed my tests, got into the faculty and all that jazz you know? But I decided last minute my call was another, gave up the dream to pursue a different but still incredible one and have not regretted it since. However, seeing all these buildings and creative constructions and art makes me miss so much that lost chance, wondering how that would have worked and I can’t deny that. But that’s another story. 

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Amongst our many adventures in the past days, we decided to try out an Open Air Cinema at the Museum Park, not far from my flat and with a nice atmosphere in between the trees and the buildings of the city. The movie being screened was the Lobster, which if you haven’t seen yet you should totally check out. It is the story of a man, living in a dystopian society where people are not allowed to be on their own. You either are in a couple or you turn into an animal, one that you can obviously choose because that would just be inconsiderate wouldn’t it. Pretty crazy right? So the movie follows the tale of the main character in its search for his one true love, one that shares his traits and would prevent him from becoming his ultimate choice, a Lobster. I won’t let you know the ending but, if I may, I highly suggest you check it out because it’s weird and interesting and confusing at the same time in a really good way.

All in all, it’s a pretty amazing couple of weeks, during which I met new people, made friends with my flatmates (post to come soon!) and got to know a bit of language which is WAY HARDER than I thought I must say. Dutch people are nice and friendly and thankfully speak English better than Italians, which is a life saver. The weather has been incredibly kind to us and I am now dreading the colder months.

Anyway, that’s all for today I think. I hope you enjoyed the post and will keep reading this blog. Either way, I will see you all again soon!

Elena

FIRST DAYS

First days are the best days and the worst days at the same time. Everything is shiny and new, an adventure to dive into and a whole new world to explore. It can also be a bit scary, relating to the previous post, to have no certainties and having to just trust your instincts. You usually wake up with energy and try to make the best of the day and however it goes, it goes, you know?

For me, it went slightly different. My first night in Rotterdam was thankfully accompanied by a group of really good lads – aka my new roommate’s friends – coming for a visit and to welcome me and the other new guy. Fast forward to the next morning, I was joyfully hangover for my first day at University, resulting in me frantically waking up half an hour later than the time I was SUPPOSED to be a uni, quickly getting dressed and then setting out on my way to Uni with determination until I quickly realised, with disappointment and worry, that I had no clue where I was going or where the uni was. 

I made it, alas an hour and a half late, but if the first day sets the tone of the whole adventure, I am royally screwed you guys. Add to that an erasmus guy who fired shots at me when I told him of my misadventure, as well as calling me out in front of the whole group to get a stupid chipcard…… (if you’re reading this. I hate you. 😂), that makes it for an interesting first experience.

IMG_4090IMG_4095After the pretty brutal morning, the rest of the day went really smoothly though. We took a first look at the city centre, which was nothing like I imagined it to be. Seriously, Rotterdam is an architectural dream, and being a missed Architect myself, that speaks to my heart more than it should (did I choose the right degree!?). Our tiring walk was rightfully followed by a quintessential pint in a chill bar, reminiscing of Scotland and taking in the new environment. We then accidentally managed to get free cinema tickets and free drinks when we unknowingly passed as Dutch students on a freshers night out, which is great and lucky as fuck. We also made friends, which is always nice and somehow managed to walk home without ending up in Amsterdam or Brussels, which is a miracle. 

All in all, a pretty eventful day, which hopefully will be accompanied by a pretty eventful semester…. And the rest of the week is a secret which you can only find out on the next post. Hehe. 👻

Elena

Point of no return

They say that change is scary, like being used to wearing an old cosy jumper for it to suddenly rip, forcing you out of it and into a new one. We as human beings sometimes tend to avoid it, being so comfortable in our own little reality we spent so much time building and not ready to see it fall apart. For most, change is a scary thing, that throws you into a sea of unknown and uncertainty with no guarantee of a happy ending.

Or is it?

Personally, I don’t think that’s necessarily true for everyone, and here is a living example of a different point of view – aka mine. My name’s Elena and I’m an international student whose passion has always been to travel and see as many places as possible. What else is life for otherwise?

I started my path – which means that I was born – in ever sunny Italy, baptised by the Mediterranean sea and fed on amazing food. You get a pretty decent childhood there, you know? You see, Italians like to think they’re the best in the world, that everything in Italy is heaven on earth, yet they’re always complaining about it and fantasising on leaving for good. You grow up believing in that and to some extent you know they’re right, until you get tired of speculating on possibilities and feel the need to try something different. I decided I wanted to expand my horizons and set off on my first trip alone to New York aged 14. Ever since then, I have been trying – with the means I have – to see as much as possible, which brings me to the current situation: me as an international student at a Scottish University, about to start my semester abroad in the Netherlands, more specifically Rotterdam. 

Some say change is not for everyone, some live on it. I like to think of myself as the latter, because if you don’t change, you don’t grow, and if you don’t grow, that’s a life wasted. 

So, this will be my opening entry for this new blog, which I created to tell my story and talk about all the little things I am surely going to fall in love with in this new place, and more. Stay tuned to know a bit more on my adventure – posts to come soon!

Elena