Three things I have learned in my first year

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UCU student Claudia Ionita reflects on the life lessons that she has learned after her first year of study.

1. Don’t overdose on extracurriculars
It is a fine day in September when you decide to try it out. It is just one, so what could go wrong? then one becomes two and two become three and three becomes more. I am talking about the potpourri of extracurriculars that university life has to offer. From gastronomy to hitchhiking, from law to debate, there is a committee waiting for everyone. And that might be the exact problem: the grand variety of committees coupled with other intriguing seminars or festivals might end up eating away at your schedule more than initially anticipated. My experience at juggling participation in a Dance festival with a radio show, cheerleading, debating, newspaper-illustrating and Model United Nations definitely taught me the importance of prioritising tasks. It is important to know when to admit that enough is enough. If an activity is not bringing any sense of personal or academic enrichment, you shouldn’t have to do it for the sake of showing that you can take on as many extracurriculars as possible. Pick them responsibly and all shall be well.

2. Burst the bubble
To burst or not to burst the bubble? this is the question. UCU’s campus is similar to a micro-community, bursting with life, cafes, and committees waiting to be joined. It is easy to remain complacent and live within it most of the times, without feeling the need to escape to the city. I certainly did enjoy spending quiet weekends. However, now that I am looking back, I have to confess that some of the most pleasant experiences that I have had were outside the pearly gates of UCU: the numerous museums of Amsterdam and Utrecht, Haarlem’s weekend market and the gorgeous gardens of Keukenhof, to name a few. Especially if you are an international student, an exchange one or simply a cultural aficionado, it becomes almost mandatory to spend as much time as possible outside the pleasant campus bubble. Armed with a trusty OV-chipkaart and a Museumkaart the possibilities and the memories you can create seem endless.

3. Work hard, play hard
Between the incessant typing, note-taking, essay-writing, and quest for high grades, it is almost too easy to forget that one vital little detail that should never be forgotten: relaxation. Prioritising studying or taking too many all-nighters in a row is tempting but in the long run, does more damage to one’s mental and physical health than good. Thus, a future reminder for me and anyone else finding themselves in the same metaphorical boat: take a breath. Read that book you kept postponing, text that friend you haven’t seen in ages and don’t forget that life is too short to spend it all locked inside with nothing but your textbooks. In the end, student life should not be a 24/7 job.

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