Erasmus Diaries: Semester 1, Week 5

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October is now arrived and unpacked. With it, the world has made that transition into the golden leaf stage of all things autumnal. My cosy jumpers are now a full-time investment and my essays are in the final editing stage (it feels simultaneously all at once and like an ice age a million years in the making). Week 5 has been long, largely because it is neither here nor there. My work is almost at the point of submitting, I've already had some grades back (all firsts so far) and finals are only a fortnight away. This week has been the go between point where all of them have convened. I can practically hear week 2 gloating to Monday October 1st about the smaller reading pile that existed back then.
 
 
But as always, I am enjoying study. It seems to be a way of life for me once I have settled in; So many ideas that I want to get out all at once but instead have to make note of and work through over time. Especially once I had the epiphany around Wednesday that I am capable of formulating my own questions now and can write an academic essay about anything I like at any point, even in the middle of summer. It might seem a silly thing to realise, but for me that was a bit of a revolution. Just knowing that I am capable of producing work to a high standard and sometimes completely on my own outside of class, it makes me feel one step closer to that dream of being a writer I've always had. Sometimes I feel very far away from that dream, as though I have too much to learn to ever fully reach it. But when the words flow, and the editing is fun, it's a reassurance that dreams are possible if we let ourselves believe they are.
 
 
 
 
Over the weekend my mum came to visit, and it was funny to see her reaction to how much things have changed for me here. It me feel oddly proud of my achievements so far to be able to show her around a city that is now the back of my hand, where on her last visit we had wandered around equally lost as one another. It was also quite the adventure getting to pretend to be a tourist in what is at present my home. As part of my study abroad, we got given tickets to head out on a journey via one of Amsterdam's many different canal boats before the end of holiday season in November. Despite the rain which greeted us on Saturday morning, this still ended up being a worthwhile trip. From the water, Amsterdam looks entirely different. I always knew the sea levels were higher than that of the land, but from the canal you can see it far more prominently. Plus, we had an awesome tour guide who told us lots of fun facts. Such as the sheer number of bikes which accumulate at the bottom of the canal on a weekly basis! These are certainly things I will try to work into my Dutch history essays at some point if I get the chance.
 
 
 
 
Mum also brought me a few small things from home, including chocolate (the one thing I can't really get here in the Netherlands because of my nut allergy) envelopes and a notebook that looks like an Oreo. Whilst the biscuit book frequently makes me hungry when checking my to do list throughout the day, the new stationery is as ever a motivator to keep drafting. Though at present, working on the Rowling essay is proving incredibly exciting. Because it is a history research paper, I've been able to fuse my literary knowledge with entirely different aspects of academic writing that I haven't had as much opportunity to do prior to now. There's so much to say regarding her impact on the modern day, that my third chapter has ended up overflowing and that is always a good sign. It means that whittling it down takes skilled carpentry opposed to shoving wedges of wood into what might essentially become a metaphorical piece of Swiss cheese. At present my focus has shifted from the final, final editing to my 15-minute presentation next Wednesday (I'll be the first in my class to do this).
 
 
There are two stages to presentations in this course, which means I have a presentation next week covering the main body of my work followed by a conclusive presentation about my findings in the last week before the October break. So for instance, what questions do I still have? Did I answer my thesis and did I prove my initial hypothesis correct? What has been the overall sum of my findings? What questions are there remaining for others researchers to pursue? and so on. Public speaking is always fun, but the build up to it always has my heart beating itself into one infinitely tied semibreve. Getting to talk about Rowling and all of my research will be an exciting opportunity to test out my lecturing skills. I want people to go away from what I have to say with new ideas about Rowling and her work, and with me having given them some form of information they did not know beforehand.
 
Outside of class at the moment I am reading Autumn by Ali Smith which is an absolutely spectacular book. I only started reading it a few days ago and it was so engaging right from the first sentence that I've raced through it quicker than I would have liked. I think that an immediate re-read is necessary in order to savour it as it should be. It's been described by the Guardian as 'the first post-Brexit novel' but despite the serious undertone that it has, more than anything it's a book for anyone who enjoys detailed literature. It's the story of Elisabeth and David and how they have a friendship through which they consistently debate, well... everything. There was one incredibly effective point where David was re-telling the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears where he added in Goldilocks vandalising one of the walls with spray paint. There was then an ensuing conversation in which Elisabeth puzzled over (considering the whole story was fictional) whether the spray paint can was any less true than the original story. Definitely intriguing food for thought about fiction and truth. Plus, Ali Smith writes everything so enticingly. If I was living in a book universe, it would be one of hers.
 
 
So in a nutshell, my week has consisted of pretending to be a tourist with my mum, researching, writing, revising, reading and attempting not to eat my new notebook. As far as weeks go, I'd say it's been one of the more relaxed. For yes there are things to be stressed about, but maintaining balance between everything is at present proving quite possible. This week I also achieved a few other things that I want to share with you. First of all, I have had several further posts published with the magazine The Student Pocket Guide. My favoruite (Dear Millennials - A Love Letter) can be found if you click on the image below. It's a response to the negative criticism Millennials get as a generation when the reality is, it is our creativity and forward-thinking nature as a whole that is so promising, vibrant and positive for our planet.
 
 
 
You can read it here.
 
I also finally finished working on my first original song. It's called You Are Ending (dedicated to my grand-dad) and it's been about 5 years in the making. By this I mean, I've had the ideas in my head and just never said them out loud before now. But sitting down at the piano to practice for some upcoming auditions, it kind of just ended up coming into being. Sometimes things require a lot of editing, but sometimes they just... are. This was one of those projects. I'm so so proud of it and I hope you like it too. To quote another person's original song in an ironic context (Tim Minchin would approve) 'It's not perfect, but it's mine'. Doei!
 
 
Thank-you for reading. How is your October going so far? How are you finding deadline season?