Wednesday, 5 October 2016

New Blog!

In a month a lot has changed. I handed in my MA dissertation, packed up my life in about a dozen boxes, said my goodbyes, returned to the Netherlands, and started working again. I am on my way to being a graduate, and also on my way back to England soon; in about less than half a year I will return. In the meantime, I have some time to spare, and I think some of this time should be devoted to my personal blog. Over the course of four years I have made numerous attempts to keep this blog alive, but it has been tough to keep up a steady flow of posts while also devoting most of my time to studying. Now, there are no essays or dissertations to write, and quite frankly, I am getting quite bored.

Well then, time for some mind exercise! I want to start blogging more regularly, but first, I think my blog could need some TLC. That's why, soon, I will be moving to a whole new website. I am hoping to present not just more incoherent rambling, but also to use this new website as a place where all my social media activities come together in a big orchestra of everything you never needed.

I am excited to start this new project!

Monday, 25 July 2016

I Was Wrong

As long as I have had this blog it has always been a way of documenting the changes in my life. From starting university to going on Erasmus, to graduating and coming here. For a while, I believed the latter decision to be the scariest one yet. But oh boy, looking back now I was so wrong. It wasn't the hardest decision I had ever made. In perspective, last year's decision was a walk in the park.

Some of you might remember this-and if you do I salute you for reading my blog so consistently-but in March last year I posted a little ramble called Important Decisions Nobody Ever Warned us About - But They Should Have. In this post I talked about life after your undergrad, and how this enormous decision of where to do my master's degree was looming over me in the midst of writing my BA dissertation. Do not get me wrong, at the time, this was a huge dilemma for me, and it will always be one of the most important decisions I have ever made. It was also one I had wished I would have had more guidance on. But sitting here today, in the midst of writing yet another dissertation, and with only a few more weeks on the clock to decide what my next move is going to be, life has never seemed more unpredictable.

Going to university can be tough sometimes, but for me it gave me a sense of security. Once you graduate from high school university is a much harder, but also much more fun continuation of what you have done before: studying. You are surrounded by your friends, you have your set curriculum, you do your assignments, and at the end of the year you reap your reward (or not). I always felt safe in this situation, as I had a clear view of were I was going and what I was working towards: graduation. Even after finishing my BA I had an inkling of what was to come. Although in a different country, at a different uni and surrounded by new (awesome) people, I kind of knew what I was in for. And right now..I have no idea.

Being the organised person that I am, not knowing what is to come next is giving me a fair amount of anxiety (to put it lightly). Some days I feel optimistic about entering the job market, other days I feel like I am never gonna get anywhere, ever, and that the only option I have is to go back home. But no. Those latter thoughts are the ones I cannot give into.

I decided recently that if I want to try to make this thing work, now is the time. This thing? Staying in England for the foreseeable future. I knew it was going to be hard from the start. I mean, it's daunting enough trying to find a job you are really passionate about in a country you are familiar with. I have an idea how things work in the Netherlands, I know what I would be in for. In England, not so much. I cannot even begin to describe how disheartening the situation has been since #BREXIT (there, I said it). However, this is just an added layer of unknowing to an already pretty black void of 'what the hell am I doing' .

So what is life post-post grad going to be like? Right now, it is going to involve a pretty serious battle for a job, combined with a pretty serious quest for a nice place to live. I have adapted the following attitude, which is helping me through most of my worries, which is 'this is the only option, there is no going home'. For some reason, this gives me an extra incentive to work extra hard at exactly what it is I want to achieve.

So yeah, I was wrong. Not only in being ignorant of the fact that the hardest part was yet to come, but perhaps most importantly, I was wrong in thinking there was ever going to be any guidance. It becomes clearer to me every day that there is no right or wrong way to go about things, and everyone will have to pick their own path. Perhaps with the help of others, or perhaps they will have to do it all by themselves. In the end, there is something to say for both.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Things I Realised While Studying Abroad

Making the decision to study abroad is not that easy. Even if you know that you would love to do it more than anything in the world, you have to figure out if it is the right decision for you at that time, if you have the means to make it work, and most importantly, if you have the balls to do it. It all starts with a possibility. A possibility which I myself had rejected a long time before I realised that maybe it would not be impossible after all, maybe I should just take another look at it. So you start doing your research, you start talking about it to your friends, introducing the idea to your parents, doing all the math. Slowly but surely the possibility grows into something more. You want to do this, you really do. And if you try hard enough, it can be possible. What is there that could possibly hold you back? So you apply, and you wait, and you anticipate..until that e-mail pops up in your inbox or you receive that one letter telling you that you're in. Well..I guess you're doing this then.

The day of departure grows closer, you start packing, saying goodbye to your friends, and every day you imagine what the coming year (or whatever timespan you are leaving for) is going to be. You can form your ideas, you can imagine what it is going to be like, the people you are going to meet, the stuff you will learn, the places you will see.

For me, it was exactly like this. Ultimately, I had done this before, I had gone on Erasmus exchange, I kind of knew what I could expect, even though this time around it was just me doing this, and quite frankly, that's scary.

A few months onward, and from all the imaginings I had before my arrival, most of them seem to have pretty much come true. I made new friends, explored new places, learned more things than I could have possibly have hoped for. However, I noticed that while being here, I'm experiencing things that had not crossed my mind before, even though they seem totally valid for this kind of situation. And hey, if I hadn't thought of them, maybe others won't have either, am I right? In any case, I want to take this opportunity to share some of the things I have been experiencing while studying abroad, which I gladly, and honestly present to you.

Observation Number 1: You are always going to miss home

Yes, this is true. For some people this may seem like the most obvious thing ever, and for some like the most improbable thing ever. For me, it was somewhere in between. I had always wanted to escape the Netherlands for something new, and all my attention was geared to that. So much so that after the first two months I was quite surprised that I was missing some of the things I had never thought I cared that much about. Of course I knew I was going to miss individual people, you always will. It was more the more general or really little things I missed that were surprising to me. For example, I sometimes just really miss speaking Dutch, which for me is odd because most of the dialogue I have with my friends is somewhere inbetween Dutch and English. I also started missing things like riding my bike to the supermarket, taking the train on a Friday morning to spend the weekend at my parents's house, and even just hanging out on a Sunday watching TLC or other questionable TV with my sister. Truth is, you just really miss a certain kind of familiarity that you have build up through so many years. I even started listening to Dutch music on Youtube....that bad.

2. Your concept of  'home' is blurred

This might seem counterintuitive in regards to the previous point, but hear me out. When I talk about 'home', I am mostly referring to all the things that made up my life back when I was in the Netherlands. Sometimes I am talking about the country in general, sometimes specifically about my mum and dad's place. However, moving away for a year also means starting a life in a new place, and in a sense that becomes your new home. You have your new group of friends, your education and maybe work all in the same place, and inevitably start having your little daily routines and habits. Essentially, you end up having two homes. There's 'home', the place you came from and the life you (temporarily) left behind, and there's home, the place where you actually live. For example, I can go 'home' and hang out with my friends and family for a while, but essentially there is nothing there for me besides that right now. These little trips are more like vacations, and at the end I go home to my daily life, which is in Canterbury. The confusing reality is that whether you are at 'home' or home, you are always going to be missing something. Woops, I think I just revealed the big secret of studying abroad.

3. You might just become a representative for your country, whether you like it or not

When you find yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by people from all over the world (which is usually the case when you are studying abroad), meeting new people usually starts with the well-known words: "so, where are you from?", followed by some ooh and aah sounds and generally approving glances. In my case, the most frequent thing I hear is: "Oh I LOVE Amsterdam!!" (good for you, I don't). However, the conversation that follows generally consists of questions along the lines of "so how do you do this and that in your country", or "is it true that in the Netherlands people.." etc. etc. Do not get me wrong, conversations like these are generally lovely (provided that people do NOT ask me about weed, clogs, or any other stupid stereotypical bullshit), but they also involve you being held as somewhat of an expert on your country. Sounds logical, right? Sure. However, I have noticed that without any intention, this 'representing' of your nationality creeps in way more frequently outside of the context of these conversations. I find myself bringing up how 'we do things differently at home', and how 'this and that is such a huge thing/not a huge thing at home'. I guess it is kind of a logical consequence of the situation (being away from what you know and taking that as a reference point and such) but it is striking to me how much I seem to present myself as 'Dutch' even though when I am home I am usually bitching about anything and everything that makes the Netherlands the Netherlands. Odd.

4. You may feel more in place than ever, or you might not. It is all a journey of discovery

Moving to another country might be a dream you have always had or it might be the hardest decision you ever had to make. However, neither of those initial feelings may turn out to define your experience. Of course it is totally valid that you might have a harder time adjusting if you were initially very anxious to study abroad, but things might actually turn out way better than you first imagined. You might find yourself more at peace with where you are in life than ever before. On the other hand, you might sometimes feel like your experience is less than you thought it would be. It is important to realise that even though you are acting out your dream, there will always be good and bad days. In either case it is a learning experience, and a question of rolling the dice and seeing where you end up. There are no guarantees with this.

5. You get more comfortable with doing things on your own

I think this point is rather self-explanatory: once you take that train/plane/other vehicle of choice you are basically on your own. You cannot rely on going to that one introductory party with your friends for moral support, you will have to find that local supermarket on your own, figure out how to register at the gym, etc. Of course this might not be the first time you have moved out, but the context of a different country can make even the most mundane tasks just that little bit more difficult. However, you will soon find out that, granted that you are living with internationals, most of the people around you will be in the same position as you, and soon you will doing those weekly shops together.

6. You get to be part of a very international community - Which is great

Generally universities will have some special arrangements made for those students joining the university from abroad. For example, my university organised several events for international students, including a special dinner. Events like these are the perfect opportunity to get to meet those people who are in the same position as you, and even form some long lasting friendships. Furthermore, chances are you will strike up friendships with the people you live with, and those in your BA or MA. Living in Canterbury is the second time I am surrounded by international students, and I absolutely love it. You do not just get introduced to a whole array of different perspectives, languages, and customs, there is also the glorious aspect of  nationally themed dinner parties. The best, I swear. (except if your French roomies really love cheese (obviously) and you cannot stand it. Though life.)

Friday, 5 February 2016

A Little Heart to Heart (with the World)

As promised in the little disclaimer to my last blogpost about the Revenant- which you should definitely go read right now, scroll scroll- I mentioned that I would come back to the question of why I have been absent for so long.

Actually, I want to rephrase this. I want to talk about why I have been such a worthless blogger since I started this way back when I first started university (or even before, but those posts have been put on private- too embarrassing). The truth is, the struggle is real. Do not get me wrong, I love blogging with all my heart. 'If you really love blogging, then why are you never actually publishing any posts?' Fair point. Let me explain the struggle.

One might assume that I am just lazy, and not bothered enough to actually write. Although perhaps there are certainly instances when this is true, it is not the core of the problem. The core of the problem is twofold. One: I am constantly struggling with the fact that I want to write about things I care about or that interest me, but most of the time these things are too personal to share with the entire internet (too personal not meaning anything out of the ordinary, just that I'd rather not go in depth about my life online). Let's not forget, this is a public blog, and my potential future employers- hey there! How are you?- might at some point read this. Furthermore, I am constantly asking myself...why would sharing this be interesting to others?

This brings me to the second part of the problem. Anyone who has been reading my blog for a substantial amount of time- thanks for still having faith guys!-  will know that the main topic I like to write about, besides personal rambling about whatever, is film. However, this has been- emphasis on has!- an even bigger struggle because I felt I had way too little authority to actually voice an opinion on it and have people care about that opinion. Now that I actually study film, I am still not an authority, AT ALL. However, I am coming to terms with the fact that truly, nobody will ever be an authority per se. The old 'all opinions matter kind of thing'.

Now that I have figured that out, I am definitely determined to write more. And yeah, we've all heard this before, especially myself. It is hard to muster up the motivation to get something done without someone pushing you to do it, or at least that is my experience. However, now that I am in the midst of an existential crisis of interesting proportions- 'what am I doing after this?' 'where will I live?' 'who will hire me?' 'will anybody ever hire me?' 'am I doomed?' (I am pretty confident at least some of the people reading this will be familiar with these cosy little thoughts that all plague our minds at some point in our lives)- it would be good to pursue something I actually love doing, and something that might in some way benefit me later on.

That being said, I will not be throwing out a post a week or anything. I know myself well enough to acknowledge how unrealistic that would be. The point of this blog then? I just wanted to blog about not being able to blog. It's good to have it here on the screen, and it makes sense (at least to me). Maybe it will motivate me to write more, or maybe it will ease my disappointment in myself for failing to. We'll see.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Revenant: A Story of (In)Humanity

Disclaimer: If this posts seems like it came out of nowhere after months of radio silence and without any context, you are right. A more insightful elaboration of my absence is on its way, soon. Also, the following text is not free from any spoilers, so proceed with caution.

The Revenant: A Story of (In)Humanity

The tagline for Alejandro Iñárritu's latest work, The Revenant, reads "Blood Lost. Life Found". Although up for interpretation, these small phrases signal to two concepts at work throughout the film: violence and survival. Set in early nineteenth century North-America, and following the story of Hugh Glass, a hunter on a fur trading expedition, the film turns to violence fairly quickly. Early on, Glass is brutally attacked by a bear, and subsequently left for dead by other members of his hunting team. The attack which leaves little to the imagination signals one thing to the audience very quickly: this film is not for the fainthearted.

Blood being lost-and a significant amount for that- Glass finds himself still alive and with only one goal: vengeance. This is where the tagline becomes tricky. Although survival is one of the main themes in the film, Glass is not spurred on by a simple will to live. For someone like him who has nothing left to lose, survival is just a means to an end. After the bear-attack left him half-dead, he was not just presented with life in a literal sense, but figeratively speaking, the fate that had befallen him gave him a reason to go on. The shedding of blood thus gave him a purpose to live.

Following Glass on his journey on the fringes of life and death, The Revenant can be called a very human film, dealing with one of the most basic principles of humanity: survival. On the other hand it calls attention to the inhumanity that dominated life in 1820s North-America. After all, cold, ice, and grizzly bears are not the only forces of nature which constantly threaten the life of Glass, or that of anyone else in the film. Hostile Native American groups, as well as rivalling French fur traders pose a constant threat to Glass, and as he has found out, so do those he thought he could trust.

For all its rawness and brutality, the film also evokes one very simple pleasure: that of aesthetically pleasing imagery. This is all thanks to the awe-inspiring cinematography courtesy of Emmanuel Lubezki. The film being shot by the use of natural light, it is not hard to appreciate the mastery of the craft that went into the making of the film. Furthermore, the film seems to be layed out so minutely, every shot being carefully considered, arriving as it were at precisely the right time.

What this all adds up to is a neatly striked balance. On the one hand, The Revenant forcefully makes you want to look away, as it confronts you with an uncensored account of violence. On the other hand there are moments when it fixes your gaze on the screen, presenting very forceful images of beauty in their simplest form. As much as The Revenant might be called a visceral expierence, it should be pointed out that the film also includes the occasional nodd to something higher, more spiritual. If anything, it is these scenes that flesh out the film's deeper meaning a bit more.

Nominated for an impressive total of twelve Academy Awards, Iñárritu's film is certainly getting the sparks of attention it deserves. Whether it wins or loses seems of little concern, for The Revenant is not one to easily forget. If anything, it accounted for one of the most special experiences in the cinema that I have ever had.

Monday, 12 October 2015

My First Few Weeks as a Postgrad (in England)

Oooh the irony. Where my last post was all about my anticipation about coming here, this one is a long overdue one about ACTUALLY. BEING. HERE.

I want to say that I have been busy doing other things, and to be fair, that's partly true. So tiny, tiny recap: I have been here for three weeks and it has been nothing short of amazing. Canterbury is an absolutely lovely little town and everytime I walk from campus to the city centre- which is, yes, about 45 minutes - I discover something new and amazing. The campus is very cool. As it is built on a hill the views are absolutely stunning, and sorry Exeter University, nothing can top the view you have when standing in front of the library, seeing that grand cathedral in the distance. The cathedral is the highlight of the view, as Canterbury is just a little town, but flooded with students from all over the world.

As an international student, I have thus been feeling very welcome here. The university is certainly doing its best trying to make us feel at home. They organised a dinner for all the internationals (Erasmus, undergrad, and postgrad students), which was a great opportunity to get to meet some new people, and they even organised a trip to Leeds Castle, which was very beautiful.

That all seems ages ago now though. I am already in my second week of classes, and although I feel slightly overwhelmed, I have been thoroughly enjoying them. It is a bit hard, coming from a background in literary studies, to just dive into a postgrad in a different topic, but it is a challenge I am so glad I accepted. I have been dying to study film for so long now, and here we are :)

So far, this experience has been a lot of fun, a bit challenging, but completely gratifying. I have the best flatmates I could wish for (seriously, they are so great), and the University of Kent is just a very positive environment to be in. Everyday my inbox gets flooded with event invites, and notices about postgrad talks and other opportunities for students to broaden their horizon. I've also signed up for archery again, which I am looking forward to, and just had to sign up for the film society as well. Something that I was very pleased with is that the university offered free language courses for postgraduate students in the faculty of arts, so I have decided to take some French classes. Those will start this week and I am already looking forward to receiving brutal reminders of how bad my comprehension of the language has become.

As I am writing this post right now, I should actually be doing my reading, or working on my first essay (due next week) - yes this is solely me trying to convince you that I actually do stuff here. That's the greatest thing about going abroad for your postgraduate degree: those little bits of free time you have can be spent doing a whole array of things that at home might not be available to you. I am planning to pick up reviewing films again, since now I feel like I am actually being handed some tools that give my opinions a bit more weight. However, as someone kindly reminded me yesterday, I should pick it up again anyway, so I guess there's no reason for me to be slacking anymore.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Three More Weeks

The countdown has begun. In three weeks I will be moving back to the UK, to a different city, to start a new degree, at a new university.

It's I've not yet been able to fully comprehend that I am actually moving to a different country for a whole year (perhaps more), and will be starting the postgraduate degree I never expected to be taking. To illustrate the fact that I haven't been able to really grasp this situation: I have attempted to write this post about 10 times, over the past few weeks, finally abandoning the draft I've been working on to start this new one.

I guess I am only fully able to finally blog about this right now because I have nothing else going on to occupy my thoughts and to distract me from the fact that YES THIS IS HAPPENING, I have been quite preoccupied lately, and although things like working a summer job wasn't the best distraction, it did protect me from the static limbo I am in right now. Summer vacation is done, everyone's gone back to university, and all I am doing is waiting...and waiting.

Interesting fact about me: waiting is not my strong point and I think my issues with patience are at the top of my 'Things-I-know-I-have-to-work-on-but-probably-never-will-list'. I keep getting questions like 'aren't you excited???' or 'you must be so happy right now!' and although I am genuinly very happy and grateful that I get to do this, I am the kind of person who is uncapable of feeling excitement untill the last moment. I just want to start this thing! NOW!

Everyone around me is happily doing their thing, but currently the highlights of my week are binge-watching Ripper Street and waiting for the Great British Bake Off to be on TV. And that sounds extremely sad now I think about it. However, fact is I will just have to power through these last few weeks, just like I did last year. I was in exactly the same boat around this time last year, feeling the same numb anticipation (is this even a thing?). It's definitely a strange feeling to be in the same situation again. Throwing a going away party, saying goodbye to fiends and family, 'yeah I'll see you at Christmas' and whatnot.

Funny thing is, I never expected to do this two years in a row. I was foolish enough to not plan further than my Erasmus experience, leaving me with a lot of doubts, questions, and a massive hole to fill when I came back (great planning there, Bonnie). Now that I have finally figured it out, it turns out I am doing the one thing I thought I'd never been able to do. I always wanted to study in the UK, but never thought of it as a REAL possibility. But then I guess I created that possibility, which is actually kinda awesome, but probably also the reason for my I-don't-yet-understand-what's-going-on-feeling.

The last half year has been tough, probably one of the toughest so far. Writing my thesis wasn't a walk in the park - but I have to admit it was less of a pain in the ass as I expected it to be - but the real struggle was figuring out my future, what I want to achieve and who I want to become. Naturally, not all of these questions have yet been answered, but I'm on the right track. I know that I want to become more involved with extracurricular activities, sign up for the odd society, and really explore all the options university still has to offer to me. I kinda slacked in this department during my BA (and honestly I lacked time to do so because Dutch universities aren't a joke and I am not one of those people who put in 0 effort but achieve ALL the things) and I regret it wholeheartedly. However, now is the time to make up for it and I get to do it at a new university, with new people, and in my favourite country, yay!

In all honesty, I am so so happy with the prospect of getting to study at Kent, and I am so proud of getting to this point. During secondary school I had a lot of people doubt my abilities, and that only made me doubt them as well. I've never really wanted to prove anyone wrong, but I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. It might not be THAT obvious, but getting that BA meant a big, big deal.

Now that I've unleashed about three months worth of feelings to the public - you're welcome - I will continue waiting not so patiently, hopefully doing some productive things along the way. I could perhaps start some of the preliminary reading? Maybe next week...