When they said the College of Europe was intense, well to be honest, I didn’t believe them. Turns out it’s best to listen to the experts sometimes!
24 hours of lectures with just over an hour in between, anti-plagiarism tutorials, Society evenings and survival Polish (even on Sunday) make for quite a heavy schedule. Add to the mix 2 essays (one in French) and the not obligatory but definitely unmissable social life of a university college and the result is less than 5 hours of sleep each night.
To say I’m succeeding in my attempts at time management right now would be twisting the truth. However, the first week is over, and I’m still functioning!
Focusing on what is important
Despite its rather exhaustive (and exhausting) nature, I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by the schedule. Adapting to a new schedule is always going to be difficult, but I’ve quickly realised that I’ll never be able to read and consolidate absolutely everything.
This applies to lectures too. Over 30 hours of compulsory humanities lectures has shown me that it’s helpful when a presenter really does lay out what they are going to say first, and sticks to it, so you know what are the important parts to take away from the start.
Another key point is to accept I won’t read everything on a list of 20 books by Thursday when it is Tuesday. Nor will I when it is next week, as they’ll only then be another 2 or 3 reading lists! Just focus on a bit that interests you and make sure you know that (but don’t do nothing, because that is bad 🙂 )
The survival Polish lessons were really useful and I’m really glad I went, despite the assignments. I think knowing how to say my road name, ask for a taxi and ask if someone speaks Polish might just come in a bit more handy than refining a geopolitics essay which won’t actually count towards my final mark!
I’ve also been trying to get to know as many people as possible. Spending 10 months here will be pretty tough without friends and after all, we are social animals and what is life really about? Plus they’re really nice.
Putting everything into perspective
Time and again, I’ve repeated my mantra that you should never do anything because you feel you have to, but because you want to: obviously with just a few (survival-related) exceptions.
For that reason, I decided not to take part in the Model United Nations. Having seen this week’s schedule and having been told rather bluntly that this level of intensity will continue, I decided to focus instead on getting the most from this experience. So while it might look good on a CV, so will actually being able to speak Russian and genuinely knowing things in an interview.
I’ve also realised that there is no reason to stress about the 2 essays. They don’t count yet and what is important is to use them as an opportunity to learn and read more into what interests me, or where gaps are. Whilst there was a slight panic at midnight on Sunday (helped out by Jean-Lou) after realising that, in my lack of sleep haze, the words of the French essay’s introduction had somehow jumped into all the wrong places in the French essay, I made sure to take some time out over the weekend.
Making time for myself
It’s not all been work (I am a student after all 😉 ). Javi organised an awesome Spanish meal on Sunday evening at a real Canarian restaurant. Venturing out from our Golden Cage (Campus nickname: why would you ever leave?) we travelled to the centre and found ourselves at a great little restaurant. The food was perhaps a little bit too much, but what a fantastic evening.
Patatas Bravas, tortilla, calamari and mojo sauce, plus several large glasses of sangria later, we were stuffed! Then they said the Paella was coming. Woops.
I’ve also kept up the running, profiting from the beautiful nature reserve on campus (I saw a Wild Boar!) and the nearby forest. A group of us try and go at 7am every day.
On a less healthy note I can also testify to the quality of the Moldovan wine in Tesco. Unable to look at my computer screen a second more, we formed a group for a round of Trivial Pursuit. I thought I’d go to bed (it was midnight after all) but a certain bad influence convinced me to visit the Palace and we had an awesome night chatting and dancing. Even the sprinklers on the grass couldn’t dampen the mood…
Enjoying every moment
Don’t panic Mr Mannering! I’m really trying to embrace every opportunity, especially to meet new people and find out more about them. Coming from 34 different countries, with incredible motivation, everyone is really interesting and has such a diverse background, it’d be crazy not to. People are what make life worth living for and your networks are what support you.
I’m even trying (sometimes pretty hard) to enjoy the essays and assignments for what they are. The lectures really are interesting, but it is funny how the minute anything is compulsory you find every reason not to enjoy it.
Carry on smiling and dowiedzinia!