HOW TO GET BACK INTO THE UNIVERSITY ROUTINE

Coming back to uni after having been home for a while can be tough. One night you’re sitting on your couch in front of a nice fire and watching a movie with your parents, and the next you’re suddenly all alone in a cold and dark flat. It’s disorienting. You can ask me any time if I ever regret my choice of studying in Edinburgh and moving 1000 km away from home and I’ll respond with a hard and sincere “no”. However, that first night back in my flat after being away for a few weeks, I might respond with “…A little bit?” I do love living in Edinburgh, however that doesn’t change the fact that living so far away from home is not easy, sticking to a healthy routine is not easy, being an adult (or trying to be) and taking care of oneself is not easy.

When I got back to my flat last week the first thing that happened (even before unpacking) was a panic attack. Suddenly I started freaking out about the fact that I was back in Edinburgh and I started questioning everything. For a moment, I was really scared that I had made the wrong decision to study here and leave my comfortable life in Belgium. So of course I called my mother, and she comforted me by telling me that she went through the exact same thing every time she would get back to her flat as a uni student. This made me realise that even if I had stayed in Belgium, I would still feel the same disorientation when leaving home and going back to the university lifestyle. It has nothing to do with the fact that I study in a different country, but has everything to do with the fact that going from holiday mode at home (where you are taken care of and don’t need to worry about money or food) to work/study mode at uni (where you have to take care of yourself and be responsible) is simply a transition, something that every uni student struggles with. So as this transition can be quite tough, especially at this time of year, I decided to make a list of things that you can do to make it go smoother.

  • “Routines save lives” – said a scientist probably. SO GET INTO A ROUTINE. I’m serious, routines are very important to stay sane. Your day doesn’t have to be planned out by the hour, just have something to do every day which will make you want to get out of bed. So plan your week and have certain things you do every week (or day) at approximately the same time. Humans are creatures of habit. Most importantly: start a routine the first day you’re back, don’t wait for uni to start.
  • Buy a 2017 planner/diary and plan ahead! Make plans that will make you look forward to the next few months or so. This is a new semester so make sure it becomes a good one! Plan to see a friend, travel to a near city, or take yourself out to a new restaurant.  Most importantly, same as the routine: STICK TO IT.
  • Concentrate on your uni work. This is why you’re here after all + it will help to take your mind of things when you’re feeling sad or homesick.
  • Hang out with your friends. Don’t be afraid to message them first and just arrange a hang out: go for dinner, go to the cinema, catch up over a glass of wine in your flat. I meet up with one of my vegan friends here every other week and we go out for dinner and just catch up over delicious vegan food.
  • Get out there! I know how easy it is to lock yourself up in your flat but do not do it. Get some fresh air (yes, even when it’s cold), read in a cafe instead of your bed, go to a museum, etc. Enjoy everything that your city has to offer.
  • Don’t forget to stay healthy. Eat well and consistently. Make a weekly meal plan if it helps. Also, STAY ACTIVE. Unfortunately my ankle is injured which means I can’t dance, but that doesn’t stop me from going on walks, doing ab workouts, or yoga. To put it in Elle Woods’s words:635735636410905721-1071011617_tumblr_npjg29l3ex1r9n4hjo2_500

It took me a few days but I am finally comfortable in this routine again, and this list of things is what helped me. I’ve got quite a few things planned for the next couple of months and I’ve also realised that it would be possible for me to go home for a bit during my reading week mid February, which is something to look forward to as well. I’ve also got quite  few books that I need to read this semester,so that will definitely keep me busy!

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Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and are slowly (but surely) readjusting to the student life!

Marion ★

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BERLIN HIGHLIGHTS

Hallo allerseits!

I have just returned from a pretty crazy week in Berlin where I spent New Years with a few friends from university. This was my third time to Germany’s capital, but the first time being overage and without any adult supervision. Unfortunately, I managed to sprain my ankle on January 2nd (2017 is going GREAT) and spent the last couple of days in our airbnb, but four days had actually been enough to see what I really wanted to. So I wanted to write an article with all the highlights of my trip.

TOUR: The Famous Insider Walk, guide: Brian Bell, price: €10-€14

We did this tour the first day and it was amazing! This takes you to all the famous places (Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s Bunker, lots of memorials,….) It’s about four hours long but includes a 30min lunch break. This tour is great if it’s your first time in the city as it explains all of Berlin’s history and shows you all of the ‘big’ places. Our tour guide Brian (who studied Theatre Performance) was fantastic, listening to him was like watching an entertaining one-man show. Even though I had already studied most of the things he explained, there wasn’t a single moment during the tour when I was bored. Would highly recommend!

BARS: Möbel Olfe / Roses

Now let me start by telling you that both my best friend Ciaran (whom I spent most of the trip with) and I are queer. As Berlin has a lively gay scene, most bars we went to were gay bars. Möbel Olfe, situated in Kreuzber, is described as a rowdy alternative gay bar. We went on a Tuesday and it was absolutely packed which is why we only spent a couple of hours there, drinking mixed drinks and making friends from around the world. After that we headed to Roses, a gay bar we had already discovered the previous evening. Roses is fully decorated with pink fluffy walls and pictures of pornstars on the tables. It gets extremely busy and crazy as the night persists so if you’re not into that, just go for a couple of drinks (just the interior is worth a visit). Ciaran and I stayed both nights until 5am and both nights ended up basically being the most insane nights out I’ve ever had (which says a lot). So if you’re not into that, don’t stay that long or be careful with what you drink and what people might try to sell you.

VEGAN FOOD: Brammibal’s donuts

Brammibal’s donuts, not surprisingly, is famous for its vegan donuts. However it also has lunch options, coffee, milkshakes, etc. They have a very nice interior and a lovely variety of donuts. I had the chocolate peanut butter fudge and a hot coco with oat milk, while Ciaran had avocado on toast and later the salted caramel donut. The staff was really nice and I could not recommend this place enough. Just look at their website, you’ll understand.

MUSEUM: Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen (Filmmuseum)

This is my favourite museum of all times. I visited it twice in the past three years and love it. Even though I already wanted to study film when I first went at 17, this museum made me want to study it even more. Although it concentrates mostly on German film and on the very first big films (most of them silent and B&W), what really interests me was the part about film during WWII and it’s role in war propaganda. There’s also a full room dedicated to Marlene Dietrich which is fabulous. If you have even the slightest interest in film, go there (it’s only €4,50 for students).

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Other recommendations: definitely take a stroll alongside the East Side Gallery, have a cocktail or some food at Südblock (it’s vegan friendly and gay, which is all you need), take pictures at one of the famous photoautomats, if you go during the holidays: enjoy a nice cup of glühwein at one of the 60 Christmas markets (!!!), and if you’re into a crazy New Years eve, spend it at the Brandenburg gate.

Happy New Year,

Marion

HOW TO DEAL WITH HOMESICKNESS

Hello everyone,

Today I’m going to do something different, I’m going to try to help people instead of always talking about myself. This one is for all the exchange students out there or future exchange students. If you follow my blog, you may know that last month I briefly mentioned my homesickness. It was short and I quickly resumed to talking about what was going on in my life. At that time I didn’t really see the use of talking a lot about it, but I changed my mind. When you live far away from home or are going to, you have to accept that homesickness is going to be a part of your trip and it’s not always going to be easy. So this is for you guys, current exchange students or future ones, here’s an article about homesickness and how to deal with it (I wish I could tell you how to get over it, but I’m afraid only time can answer that question).

First things first, what is homesickness? being homesick means experiencing a longing for one’s home during an absence from it. It’s missing your home and family after being far away from it for a long time. It’s a completely normal reaction and therefore a feeling that anyone who’s ever been far away from their home for a long time has probably experienced. It’s not uncommon, it’s not unknown, it’s something we all know and can look up easily online. So why am I writing an entire article about it you may ask? Because even though it’s normal and common and all that, like all feelings related to sadness and nostalgia, it’s terribly hard to get rid of it (especially when you’re the type of person that when they’re sad, like to make themselves even sadder by listening to sad music or watching a sad movie; AKA me). but when you’re far away from your home as an exchange student it means that you’re currently going through something amazing and are really lucky to be experiencing something like that. So I think we can all agree that when we’re going through something new and exciting, we don’t want to go through it sad. That’s why it’s really important to find a way to deal with homesickness when it knocks on your door.

When you’ve recognised that the sadness you were feeling was homesickness, then you have to understand what it is you miss. A lot would answer; everything (I know, I’ve been there too) but that’s not good enough. Think about what you miss exactly because that’s the first step to making it better. Is it your family and friends? Is it the weather? The food? Or just little random things? When you’ve put a name on what’s making you sad, then you can start to find a way to make it more bearable.

Here’s a list of things that I like to do and why/how they help:

  • The first time I got really really homesick was about a month ago, what I then decided to do was to start the 100 happy days challenge but instead of posting it on social media, I’m just writing it in a journal. Also, I made it 175 happy days because when I started it I had exactly 175 days left in the US. Every day I write something that made me happy, this way I am reminded of how blessed I am to be experiencing all of this.
  • Keep yourself busy. I know, this is the most talked about and the most logical one, but it’s also the most difficult one when all you want to do is eat your belgian chocolate on your bed while watching ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. It’s hard to get out there and sometimes you just really don’t want to. But do it, you’ll thank yourself for it later. Try out for the school musical, invite friends, go places. Volunteer because you’ll definitely feel better after having helped people. Discover a new place in you area and take pictures of it. Make a video of your city, go to a coffee shop and read a book, paint, write, do something you like or try something new.
  • If you miss the weather, take a warm bath (or a cold shower I guess if you’re somewhere where it’s warm). I went for the warm bath because honestly, I’m tired of the cold. I never thought I’d miss the Belgian weather but when I wake up and have to walk to my bus stop when it’s -25°C outside, I think anyone would understand that I’d rather be in Belgium at that point. So I took a bath because I love baths and because it just feels like a warm, comfortable hug you can stay in for however long you like. Put some calm music on, light a candle, relax and let the warmth overwhelm you. Believe me, this always works.
  • If you miss the affection because you come from a place where every time you see someone you know you give them a kiss or a hug, or just the general affection you get from your close friends and family, tell someone about it. Go to a good friend and just hug them. Hug your host family, and don’t worry about it, we’re all human, nobody is going to think you’re weird. You could also buy a stuffed animal.  I bought a really soft little stuffed moose. When I can’t fall asleep or get too caught up in my thoughts of missing home, I hug it and fall asleep like that. Never underestimate the power of hugging a stuffed animal, no matter how weird that sounded.
  • If you miss your friends or family, Skype with them. But be careful with that because sometimes it can make it worse. Do it in moderation because don’t forget that you also have friends and family where you are now. What can also help is to make plans for when you get back. Organise a trip with your best friend, start thinking about that big party you’re going to throw when you get back, but again, be careful with that.
  • If you miss the food, ask your parents to send you a package with some things. This is hard if you’re missing an entire meal but even little things can already make it better. I always ask my parents to send me chocolate or biscuits, and when I get them I always feel a little bit better.
  • Now don’t hate me for this one, but exercise and stay healthy. Go for a run, drink lots of water and eat lots of fruit, go to the gym or your school’s weight room and just work out. Believe me I used to hate all these things, but gosh do they help. I’m in a fitness class at school and work out every other day. I can tell you that when I get home after that and lay in my bed, it’s the best feeling ever.  This is great for two reasons; it’s a great way to keep your mind of things and being healthy just makes you feel better. Always remember to take care of yourself.
  • If you miss the language, there are multiple things you can do. You could Skype, but like I already said be careful with that. You could watch a movie in your native language, but choose a good one. Don’t watch ‘Les Intouchables’ or ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ when you miss french because that’s just going to make you sadder and that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here. What I found that always helps is stand up comedy. Your country is probably the home of some good stand up comedians, so look them up if you don’t already have a favorite, and just watch their entire show. For me it was Gad Elmaleh for the french and Alex Agnew for the dutch.
  • Talk to someone about it. Wether it’d be your host family, your host siblings, your friends or other exchange students, talking about it always help.

So these are the things I do when I get homesick or just a little bit sad in general. The list could be longer, but this article is already getting way too long. So to finish this, here are a few things you should remember;

  1. everyone is different, what works for me might not work for you. Try things our or find your own remedy.
  2. sometimes it’s okay to just be sad, as long as you don’t let it overwhelm you. You’re far from home, you miss everything, and that’s okay. You’re sad, so be sad. Accept it, welcome it and understand it because that’s the first step to letting it go. You can watch a sad movie, you can listen to sad music as long as you don’t keep it up for days or even weeks. Remember to live too. Be sad for a bit, and then get up and get out there and be happy again.
  3. nothing is temporary. This sadness will not last forever and sadly, your trip won’t either. You’ll get back to your home sooner than you think, which is the good news and the bad news.

Hope you liked this and if you’re an exchange student as well, I’d love to hear about the things that you do to battle homesickness, just comment below.

BYEEEEE

Cherie★