Thursday, 28 September 2017

25. University: Semester 1, Week 4

How quickly weeks go by. I’m officially half way through the first half of the semester today, which means in exactly 3 weeks time from now I will get a well earned break! But before then there is still much work to be done on my two course work pieces and in revising for my grammar exam. Yet despite all of the work that needs completing, there is still so much room for exploring and making the most out of my time here in the Netherlands. Particularly as one of the modules I am studying is based primarily on Dutch history, so if ever the work is getting to me too much I can head out to see one of these places in person.

To celebrate getting a first on my first two essays of the year (both history based) I decided to head out and explore. This week, my path of travel was based primarily on finding some of the smaller spots hidden around Amsterdam that are perhaps lesser known. And also to just allow myself to wander a little; I can be quite bad at letting myself do that, though it’s often the best way to find interesting new places. One of the places I found most intriguing was Zevenlandhuisen:

Zevenlandenhuisen - Image copyright CLSS 2017
Zevenlandhuisen translates into English as ‘the houses of seven lands’ and this is basically a street which has over time become a collection of architecture which fuses the traditional Dutch Golden Age style with aspects of other nationalities. Each of the houses has the name of the original residents/builders home nation (my favourites were the traditional German and Russian homes) and together they make for quite a striking sight. It also goes to show how much you can learn from just walking down the street. Artwork and history are everywhere, if you know how to look for them. Being a student has only made me more aware of that as my analysis skills continue to grow stronger.

I was also reminded through my exploration of the initial lectures in welcome week where we were discussing the value of having an international perspective, and of how this can benefit not only the individuals who become international students but the world on a larger scale. This was chiefly due to the amount of diversity I came across in a singular period of 24 hours. Dipping in and out of independent shops throughout the Jordaan district revealed to me that there are so many kind, funny, intelligent people thinking up incredible things all of the time. An example being the gardening company + book shop I came across. There were books in multiple languages sharing excitement and conversation about botany. And surrounding all of these books were hundreds of plants so that once inspired, visitors could purchase a plant themselves to care for. It’s such a good idea to put together information and ideas in this way – though it did make me wish I were here long enough to invest in some cacti of my own.

Canals, Cacti and Books - Image Copyright CLSS 2017
Lesson wise, this week has been a really engaging one. The best way I can describe it is to encourage you to think of a week in which you get to learn everything you’re really excited to learn about and focus in on the areas where you might end up specialising one day. Golden weeks are rare academically speaking for me, so it’s nice to feel in a good place where the stress hasn’t sunk in yet and I can instead just work hard and enjoy the new and old information alike. Especially regarding my essays. I’m officially half way through both my essay on gender representation in The Hunger Games and my biographical research paper on J. K. Rowling! Possibly the most eager I have ever been to write papers because both of these authors and their writings completely fascinate me. Though it has led to the most random of thoughts when I have been researching. For example, do you think that a chocolate frog milk shake sounds good?

In Dutch history, we focused largely upon the expansion of the Netherlands during the Golden Age when the VOC (Dutch East India Company) was at it’s height. Much of the research we were discussing has only come to light in the past 10 years, meaning it can be quite limited when discussing this area to a degree. Our reading for next week has focused in on this even further by picking out the well known tolerance of the Dutch people and questioning how this national construction came to be and how the meaning of the word ‘tolerance’ has evolved over time. In my Personal Is Political/History of Biography class, the focus has been on our own research project findings thus far and also upon the value of diversity. Our guest lecturer this week was from the Anne Frank huis which made for a compelling insight into how the foundation builds its materials using archives, which it refers to as its ‘tool box against discrimination’. It’s also proved really valuable in inspiring all of us to keep going with finding out the stories of those we are researching, despite that research sometimes proving difficult. As a motivational lecture, on top of the insight it gave, it could not have come at a better time than when things are getting to the 3/4 mark.

In conclusion, it’s been a busy week filled with some valuable lessons, exploration of new places and a lot of hard work. I’m relaxing for a while before more revision by arranging some of my favourite jazz of all time: Steve Waterman’s October Arrival. This music has saved me so many times; I must have listened to the title track half a dozen times a day since I first borrowed the album from a friend four years ago (who has actually been taught by Waterman himself!). Hope you enjoy this track and that you are having a productive week. Tot ziens!

Thanks for reading! How is your academic year going so far? What is your favourite thing that you have learnt this week?

Friday, 22 September 2017

24. University: Semester 1, Week 3

Third week began with a lot of rainbows which petered out into an oddly sunny week. The Autumn solstice is evidently here on the streets as I walk to my classes early each morning, but less so when I wander through the woods. The crisp leaves under foot seem to have come from nowhere as there are so many evergreen trees overhead. But there is nothing quite as soothing as escaping for a wander between lessons and being completely immersed in so much nature, no matter the shades of the fallen leaves. This is certainly one of the perks of living in such a globally aware city. 

Classes were scheduled slightly differently the past few days, with everything collecting earlier than usual which has meant a fortunate amount of time to catch up with what has been the biggest amount of reading and research yet (not that I'm complaining, it's actually quite fascinating). In our grammar lectures, we were focusing in on analysing the different elements of a sentence which was complicated to begin with but I'm starting to get there with the formulas now and that is the key to unlocking everything. Though, of course, there will always be those one or two multiple choices designed to catch you off guard which I find ever frustrating! It made me smile to come home from those lessons to find a letter waiting in my post box from my mum. She always knows how to make a day even better, namely by sending me a dinosaur key chain which we have nicknamed 'Freddo'.

Bicycles, letters and more wandering - Image copyright CLSS 2017
The thing which has perhaps made my week would have to be getting a first on my first assignment of the year. Whilst I don't want to get complacent, just knowing from that that I am keeping up with everything is hugely rewarding. The paper in question was for my History of Biography class, and focused in on how space and gender are intertwined. I chose a variety of resources to support my findings, including a book on C.17th feminism, a national geographic article about gender in the C.21st and a journal article about intersectionality by the Dutch writer Nancy Jouwe. From this project (and the poster I discussed in my history article) I have found the confidence necessary to begin work on the final research project due in October. My focus is going to be on J. K. Rowling, though the topic is yet to be revealed to you all (don't worry, you'll find my research out soon enough).

Dutch themes was definitely the most complicated module to keep up with this week, though this is largely due to the fact that we went over a whole few weeks worth of information before we have guest lecturers zooming in on more specific parts over the next month. We went from the beginning of Spanish rule all the way forward to 1672, thus covering just over 100 years. I'm currently putting together a revision wall, so making a summary of the readings and the lecture was my most successful method of processing all of this information. It certainly wasn't so scary to look over again after I had colour coded everything and put it in the correct order. Reaching the decline of the Golden Age has already come around so fast that I can't help but wonder if it felt that abrupt in history, though I know that that isn't quite how history works; There are no clear cut edges to things as the well organised mind might prefer.

Trying to come up with everything I need to remember to do - Image copyright CLSS 2017
Other events that happened this week have been relatively minimum (as I said, there's been a lot of work to do). Firstly I've been arranging a lot of new music for piano, focusing largely on film scores but also on a few pop songs which has made for a fun pause between readings. In addition to this, I've also been working on my poetry anthology which is gradually getting closer to where I want it to be and I'm greatly enjoying editing it; Seeing all those pieces falling into place is beyond satisfying.

I've also been going on a bit of a scavenger hunt for an assignment the Dutch blog team has set me and my fellow writers/vloggers. Basically we had to go to several places such as Museumplein and the Centraal city to describe what we saw and how it made us feel, as well as doing a few fun challenges. I think my personal favourite would definitely have to be ordering some food in Dutch. I of course went for Stroopwafel and hot chocolate because the two together are unbeatable. The next Dutch food I want to try is actually a popular sweet here. It's a form of liqorice that is, in English, named 'school chalk' because it looks like the stuff teachers write on blackboards with. But I think I might save that for my next challenge!

Like I say, things are busy as usual and there is plenty to look forward to as always. The key is to keep working hard and to not get complacent. With balance, patience and perseverance comes everything. For now, I hope you enjoy a snippet of my musical projects. Doei!

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

23. On Studying History

When deciding on my modules for study abroad, there was a lot more freedom in choosing a variety of different topics. This is largely due to a cultural difference, because in the UK where students do one set degree pathway here in the Netherlands there are a variety of modules. It's kind of like pick n' mix - you have to get approval for the ones you choose from your teachers back in your home university, but you also get the opportunity to pick out some of your old favourites which you might not have come across for awhile so long, of course, as they remain fairly relevant and you can back up your choice.

For me, this meant choosing a lot of historical modules. I studied history up to A level, and part of the reason I decided to study literature at university is because it encompasses so much of history (with the addition of many other topics, from music to art). Yet I've always been curious about what it would have been like to study a history degree, which is why I am very glad to have the opportunity to be practically studying a history degree full time here in Amsterdam. My modules for this half of the semester focus in on the history of biography, grammar and of Dutch culture itself whereas next semester I will switch to a further two modules on the history of capitalism + consumerism, as well as Jewish culture in Amsterdam. All of these modules with their historical focus offer an insight into the world I cannot gain through literature alone and, whilst it is hard work to adjust to the differences and work pace, I enjoy very much getting back to grips with timelines and flash cards.

My grandma is a big inspiration to me - Image copyright CLSS 2017
A small project we had to work on for this week was a poster collecting information on a member of our family. I immediately thought of my grandma as, despite every member of my family proving inspirational to me, the world has changed so much during her life time and I was eager to see the contrast between when she was young in comparison to the present day. My grandma (Christine Jane Stevenson) was born in 1948 in the same small town that me and my family have always lived in. Throughout her life she has had many adventures, from travelling and being a part of the Hippie movement to getting to know the musicians who made up The Temptations and The Drifters. 

At 18 months old, my grandma caught polio. Due to the war only having ended a few years prior, the polio vaccine was not yet widespread so the illness itself still proved fatal in killing hundreds every year. My grandma was very lucky and was able to beat the illness; One of her earliest memories is of being aided in breathing by an old mechanical device called the iron lung. Because polio is a disease which attacks the nervous system, part of her body is still partially frozen so to speak (she does not have full strength in one arm for example) but with the assistance of a physio school until the age of 5 she was able to make a strong recovery and return to a normal state led school. My grand dad showed me once a reference from her head teacher stating that 'Christine has never once used her disability as an excuse'. 

So my grandma comes from a time when the world was different. She was born when rations were just coming to an end, she was brought up playing rounders and learning how to sew, she was part of the hippie movement and she was a military wife. But to me, she is grandma. She is the woman who taught me that everything from a disability to a nut allergy is not a hindrance but is in fact a blessing in disguise, so long as we look at them that way and don't allow our eyes to get too misted over. And she is the person I aspire to be in every way because she is the most intelligent, and yet most humble, human being I know. I am incredibly fortunate to have someone in my life to look up to in such a way and who can tell me first hand through her stories what life was like in a history that isn't mine.

Getting to grips with some dates - Image copyright CLSS 2017
History is all around us and is not just limited to the text books that line the library shelves or the facts your teachers provide in class. Nor is it limited to the far distant past, when dinosaurs wandered the earth or pharaohs carved and chiselled their ideas on to stone. Whilst yes, that is history also, it is not the only form. As with every subject, sometimes just talking to the people around you about what their lives have been like is enough to begin writing a biography because we all have one; We are all history makers with our own stories. This is the most valuable piece of information that I have learnt from my lessons in historical modules so far. Everything is interconnected and that is what makes history; People, that's what makes history.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

22. September Favourites

It's that time again where I tell you my favourites of the month, everything from the books that have really stood out for me, to unique experiences or fun new songs. September has passed by so quickly up until this point, and I think this is largely because I am experiencing so much all at once, what with the whole study abroad situation as well as all of my own individual projects. It is an odd combination to have but one that continues on nevertheless. 

In terms of new experiences, and re-discovering old ones, September has been packed full of them. I've seen so many new places, picked up new skills and learnt such a lot - particularly about writing. This past month, I've been working on more written projects than ever in order to develop and shape my voice further academically as well as beyond the classroom. The results so far have already started to pay off which I hope goes to show that hard work really does end up being your most successful quality in the end. But writing won't be a favourite on todays list, simply because otherwise it would have to be every month! The contents of todays' list focuses instead on a variety of things, from the literary to the global. So, without further delay, here are my September favourites:

1. Onset Of Autumn

Image copyright CLSS 2017
Autumn has always been my favourite of the seasons because it brings with it crispness, crunchy leaves, warm woollen sweaters and pumpkins. There is something almost magical about it where the line between night and day ceases to exist and instead we live in this comfortable inbetween. It's the perfect time for wandering and sitting somewhere wrapped up in a scarf reading a good book.

Experiencing my first autumn away from home has proved eye opening in lots of ways, firstly in that I never knew you could be homesick for a season. And yet I am! I am so excited for the October break so that I can hopefully get to see some of the fall back in the UK. But until then, I am enjoying the odd combination the Netherlands seems to possess of somewhere between summer and winter. It's too hot to say the crispness is perfect yet, but the leaves are gradually beginning to fall.

2. Zoology 

As you will know, from my many blogs discussing the value of a versatile skill set variety, I have a keen interest in the natural sciences. At the moment, my interest has shifted to zoology which is proving really interesting so far. I am currently using some of the free courses available through Open University, meaning that once I have completed those offered for free I can make a better informed decision on whether this is something I would like to study in the future. If you've never really thought about zoology before and how it can prove fascinating, let me leave you with this thought provoking question to help: How would you define the environment and nature? And how would you say the two compare/contrast?

3. The New Academic Year

The beginning of the school year is perhaps my favourite (other than the holidays during the busy periods of course). Already I am fast approaching the half way point of my semester here in Amsterdam! The work pace is quite different but it also means that we are learning a lot rapidly, keeping us occupied and thoughtful. The new academic year always brings with it new surprises and areas to research.

I always enjoy when there is something we are taught about in class which then follows me around every day. For example, if I learn a new word suddenly I am aware of people saying it more so than I would have been before and it seems to be magically everywhere.

4. The Hunger Games

One of my favourite YA books has to be The Hunger Games so getting to choose which book we wrote on for one of our assignments led me immediately back to the Suzanne Collins classic. For those of you who don't know, The Hunger Games is a dystopian book (and movie) series which follows the main protagonists of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as they are forced from their small District into a cruel game where they must fight to the death. But obedience can only last so long in the face of danger, and our protagonists are not so virtuous as they first may seem in following the rules.

Getting to analyse the text and write about it means I am suddenly aware of elements within the book I previously didn't see in a great deal of depth. For this reason, I feel like I am getting the opportunity to read it all over again and it feels like I am back in highschool just as entranced by this grotesque and yet brilliantly constructed world. I highly recommend it as a read, even to those of you who have already read it but perhaps not in a while. Appreciating a book on this level reminds me why I continue to do what I do and to remain so eager to share the debate on literature.

5. Amsterdam

The city of bicycles - Image copyright CLSS 2017
And of course, this has been my first full month as a Dutch student! I am enjoying it so far as I say, it is proving the challenge I expected with a few other surprises thrown in for extra measure. But studying abroad has also meant being faced with many opportunities (such as more freedom on what to write my essays on) I otherwise would not have been able to experience, as university life in the UK is very different. I am intrigued by this place, by its' history, and it is certainly widening my perspective of the world to see how culture can subtly render a place into a different version of home; For it is different and yet not so very different afterall.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

21. Space Readathon

Something very cool which is happening at the moment on Booktube (the literary side of the internet) is the space readathon hosted by Booksandquills. I always look forward to when these mini book events occur because it is so much fun to share a love of reading on a particular topic with people on the internet from across the world. It makes me realise how closely connected we all are in a way and (on a more space related note) how in the case of the universe we are all merely tiny specks on a planet. This analogy was also used in the Clarice Bean books I read when I was a child and I remember her saying that because of this, it didn't really matter whether or not she wore the purple or red (or even yellow) raincoat.

Having a space themed readathon is the epitome of all things great about these reading challenges because it means I get to read and re-read some of my favourite books. At the moment I am looking at reading the Martian again which is absolutely brilliant and will be a good beginning for heading towards Weir's next book which is out later this year. In addition to this, it also means that I have been presented with some cool new books I can't wait to read, such as The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.

Another book I am re-reading at the moment is Hidden Figures by Shetterly which came out very early this year during Oscar season as a feature film. It's an absoultely astounding work of non-fiction, focusing on the lives and works of the women at NASA. These women were working before the civil rights and feminist movements had had the chance to make a widespread impact and for this reason, it is even more astounding that they were able to achieve the incredible work they did in mathematics and astrophysics because it would have been practically impossible to get a job in this industry at the time. It's a book about fierce determination, great strength and bravery, faith and family. Through interviews with these remarkable women, especially Katherine Johnson in my opinon, it is possible to gain an insight into the genius responsible for science that put humankind amongst the very stars!

For this reason, I was really happy to see that a part of this series was a short debate/discussion of the book and film. Hearing other peoples' perspectives on literature and movies is always intriguing, especially when they enjoy it because they often pick out parts you yourself never would. For me personally, pretty much all of my favourite moments from the book and film got included in this short talk though the comments veered towards different aspects than I initially picked out reasoning wise. I highly recommend that you do go and watch this if you are at all interested in learning more about these remarkable people and the art published recently surrounding their biography:

And on a final note regarding the space readathon, we have of course spent September reading Mooncop - a graphic novel challenging the traditional science fiction genre and presenting a myriad of different questions on writing, the universe and the capability of humankind (specifically in the future). It's kind of a lucky chance that this overlap has occurred, but either way it makes for a great read that isn't too much effort to get through considering it is the beginning of term and there is already a great deal of work to be done. For my review of the book, be sure to click here and if you still want to get involved with the book club for this September let me know your thoughts on what you've read so far in the comments below.

I'm also keen to hear what you'll be reading/watching/listening to for the space readathon. Will you go for the original newsreels of man on the moon? Or perhaps you will listen to everything ever performed by Bowie? Maybe you will follow in my example by combining the excellent genre of space non-fiction, graphic novel and of course Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. Either way, be sure to let me know. For now, to infinity and beyond! -  I'll see you later.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.   

It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Monday, 18 September 2017

20. Student Reads Review: Mooncop

A project I've been working on over this summer is starting my own mini book club. More than anything it has so far been an opportunity for me to share some of the content that I have learnt about literary analysis (in the forms of a monthly review) with those such as yourself who are looking into whether or not this is the degree subject for you. Especially with reading being such a popular summer activity, it seemed a good idea to put this into practice now when the holiday is feeding into the new academic year and some important decisions will be coming up in the months ahead for those of you who are considering applying to university. 

Many of you will not yet know your future reading lists or might be looking for something university appropriate to read during your free time. If this is the case and sounds like something you would be interested in, all you need is a copy of the book to read along and at the end of the month there will be a post with some further literary analysis of the text, a discussion of some of my own ideas in relation to the themes and a few other comments which will (if all goes to plan) allow you to see into the mind of a student heading into the second year of studying literature at undergraduate level. I don't know everything about the subject yet mind you (and with the number of books available it is unlikely that I ever will) but for me, literature is an open conversation and the best part of it is sharing ideas. Having that collaborative conversation and exchanging all of those ideas is something that I, as an individual, am extremely passionate about.

This month our student read was MoonCop by Tom Gauld.

MoonCop is a story which focuses in on the protagonist of the same name as he wanders across the surface of the moon attempting to prevent crime. But here it seems the golden age of life in space has passed and everyone is moving home to Earth (the opposite of Wall.E) so not only are crime rates incredibly low but our hero is also very lonely. Because of this, for most people it will prove that there is more to the space environment than purely stock science fiction where there are good guys and bad guys and people fight aliens. It is far from stereotypical and that is what makes it so striking, because this goes against the suggestion of the title and the initial blurb. There are fun antics, philosophical questions and a powerful use of illustration to put into images what exactly it is to feel isolated and to be (in this case literally) the only person on the planet. 

So, as you can see from what we have discussed so far and after reading the text, you'll know that this fits into two categories; Those being science fiction and graphic novelisation. These two fields are both relatively new, especially the latter, meaning that they are part of popular culture as well as beginning to be accepted into the academic sphere of all things literary and canonical. I think this is part of what makes looking at such a text so fascinating, because it is treading on new ground and making a statement all of its own. Unlike a more traditional novel, the approach to writing about graphic novels in particular is not as definite or pinned down meaning it is easy to be creative when approaching academic writing in this area. Afterall, an image is worth a thousand words.

So on that note, let's talk about the images in this particular text. The frames are very successful in conveying the emotions of characters as well as keeping the fluency of the story moving along. Using a limited colour pallette of navy blue, white and grey, the space landscape seems simultaneously flat and ever expanding. As a result, the principal theme of loneliness is easy to to feel without even needing to read the speech bubbles at points. It also meant that it was further understandable as more and more characters left that the space dream accented by the presence of the run down museum has slowly died out and become unfashionable amongst the people. In their shared guise of black and white ink, it is evident that loneliness and isolation is something each of them feels, not just the protagonist. Yet he chooses to stay because there is nothing for him on earth - his dream remains the same, despite the manner in which it isolates him and there is heightened nostalgia in his actions due to this. All of this is best encompassed in the frequent repetition of images, gradually getting further and further away from the character sat alone to show how small he is in comparison the giant blue sky full of stars above him.

In terms of how you might write about this at literature degree level, there are many different approaches. You might want to comment on the two dimensional nature of cartoons and how you feel this genre is not expressive enough, or in great contrast to this you might wish to delve into how complex it is to pick apart multi-faceted emotion which is triggered by photographs. Regarding where I stand from a critical perspective, I think that I fall somewhere in between those two categories.

An example question might be something along the lines of:

Discuss the representation of space and technology in Mooncop.

Again, this is one of those typically vague questions that you will be given by examiners because it allows you to really think outside of the box and come up with a highly original idea all of your own. If I was responding to this question, my first point of research would be to collect a few examples that back up my idea from the novel. Firstly, technology seems outdated on the moon and the 'better equipment' sent up from Earth doesn't work because of the huge improvements that need to be made. Because of this, the attempt to make everything robot-run on the moon has simply resulted in people leaving to maintain human relationships. Where space has always possessed a certain feeling of being the 'final frontier' it seems that again it has prevailed in going beyond all human mastery. Humankind in this future is no further ahead with technology than we are now - in fact, it possesses a rather 90's feel. For this reason I would come to the conlusion (or overall thesis) of: Space is shown to remain un-tamed by manmade technology which remains small scale and outdated in the longrun. 

Another way you might interpret that question would be similar in manner to the previous with a focus predominantly on the interaction between space and technology with the addition of human perspective. In this approach you could look at the interaction between: space and technology, space on its' own and the different elements of it, and humans with both space and technology (easily split into 4 sections, but could be cut back to three main points). Focusing on how space as an environment impacts those living on the moon would make for a really interesting contrast to this invisible earth we do not see but know of somewhere else in the imaginary universe. Such a thesis statement therefore might be something along the lines of: The interaction between humans, technology and the moon environment show space to remain a complex and multifaceted setting beyond the characters comprehension. 

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.   

It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

19 - University: Semester 1, Week 2

Second week is officially drawing to a close and with it, I will have officially submitted my first three assignments which is a little crazy to think about. I've discussed previously how different the work pace is, but it still surprises me that I can already have produced 2000 words in the space of this past fortnight of working as a Dutch universiteit student. My assignments focused primarily on the final projects I will be submitting at the end of the three modules in October and it's intriguing to guess where my intial thoughts and ideas will lead me.

For my class on gender and politics, I produced a paper discussing different resources I had read in relation to gender and space. Initially I read work by figures such as Stuurnam on the role of women and the equality discussion in the early seventeenth century (where important spaces included academies and salons) progressing further forwards to my own question of how space is still shaping developments in the present day, using a reading from National Geographic. As I've stated previously, space is quite fascinating because it assists in the shaping of ideas and decisions in what is usually a subconscious manner - we do not even realise it is assisting in the forming of new terms or ideas until hindsight allows us to look back. 

In contrast my history class assignment was an essay focusing on specific questions about a reading we did on the Scientific Revoltuion during the Dutch Golden Age. This was something I also found really interesting to write on, especially as I haven't yet done a tremendous amount of work on this underrated period of history. Cook (the critic we were reading) argued that consumerism and the strength of the Dutch economy allowed learning to become fashionable, leading to some of the most crucial findings and scientific developments. For instance, elites collected things such as ancient scripts and objects which scholars could then study to form reports on, adding to the wider data base of knowledge available at the time. This is a link I never would have thought of had I not read this particular book, so it just goes to show how important critical readings are to the development of our thoughts and opinions on history as students.

The onset of Autumn here in Amsterdam - Copyright CLSS 2017
Classes have also been eye opening due to the several guest lecturers who visited to discuss a range of topics, from how Dutch stereotypes have been constructed to how the genre of biography has evolved over the course of several centuries. We even discussed who we would like to write biographies on if we got the chance. Personally, I quite like the idea of writing on someone such as Anne Boleyn. From a historical persepective, I feel there is still a lot we don't know about her which intrigues me. For example, there are many letters missing which could actually be hidden somewhere in an archive. Looking for long enough is crucial to finding out that which we do not know and, in the incident of the long ago, it is the looking for those missing links not the writing about them which proves the most frustrating.

The onset of Autumn has been fairly sudden. From long sunny days, the weather has all of a sudden switched to being windy and the leaves are falling so quickly from the trees I have lost count. Autumn here, from what I have experienced so far, is much more of an active season than the Autumn back home which feels lazy and cozy.. But I am enjoying the aesthetic of orange 'pompoen' against the backdrop of bicycles and evermoving canals. It certainly makes me glad of my coat and my books because sometimes, sitting still awhile amongst it all can be the perfect break from the fast paced life of study.

As I discussed previously in my Autumn post, I do still miss home a great deal this week. I think this will be a regular feature of my posts as being homesick is one of the biggest challenges I have faced so far. Missing home is not making me regret my decision in coming here though for I know that, during my time in the Netherlands, I am going to acquire new skills which will benefit me in the long run. Plus it will make me look forward to Autumn next year in the UK and I will be perhaps even more grateful for it. Keeping optimistic is my biggest advice for all international students because sometimes, especially when you are down, it is important to focus on the things which matter and which make you happy. For me, writing letters to those I've left in England always makes me feel a little more cheerful and ready to take on the next challenge.

Reading + Studying by the gracht and more pumpkins! - Image copyright CLSS 2017
And on that note, I think I am going to have a short break from studying and from writing with some music. Here is my latest arrangement of the main theme from the Disney Pixar movie 'Up'. See you next time - Doei!

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.   

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