Another term has come to an end and a couple of weeks ago I had planned to sit down and write a long and rambling post about my experiences over the course of another term at university. But I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that last week my world was rocked by events that have shaken the whole of Europe too - namely the Brussels terror attacks on Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station. All thoughts of light-hearted stories about my second term at uni went completely out of my head as I spent the following couple of days glued to the news and social media, trying to process the events and feeling a stab of relief every time one of my friends were marked safe on Facebook. Although I'm back home now I was actually staying with family in the UK at the time so I was well out of the way, but my dad was at work that morning - and the building where he works is only about a hundred metres from Maelbeek metro. Luckily he was completely fine, but my brain has taken me on many a hypothetical horror story over the last week or so by imagining what could have happened had he decided to take the metro that morning.
So all in all it's been a strange week. On the one hand I followed the news stories like a detective, trying to pick up on any new detail to piece together a picture of the wider events; and on the other I've been seeing a massive outpouring of messages of solidarity and support from people around the world, and of strength and resistance from the Belgian people. And the whole thing was put into a strange sort of perspective by my being so far away from it all, yet so closely connected. These kinds of events shouldn't really have a silver lining, but if they did then for me it definitely has to be sense of coming together I've seen on social media. Belgium is a divided country in all senses - geographically, linguistically, politically - and is host to a wide range of nationalities, so it's wonderful to see so much love and friendship between strangers at places like Place de la Bourse.
But life does go on, and in my opinion the key is to not let fear take over, to not let something as terrible as this stop me living. I plan to meet up with friends this week in Brussels, which for me is a show of resistance to terror, however small and insignificant. As the hashtag goes, we are #memepaspeur.
On to my original plan for this post. This term at uni has been hard, there's no getting around it. Suddenly all my assignments counted towards my mark for the year and while I know first year doesn't count towards my degree, as someone who has a tendency to overachieve academically and is also a perfectionist to boot it meant a considerable amount of stress. On top of all that I got really quite ill in the middle of February, just before my consecutive weeks of deadlines started to hit. After a weekend of feeling horribly ill and like I was about to faint every time I got out of bed, I finally caved and got myself to a doctor which was no small feat as it involved booking an appointment, a taxi and navigating the NHS system. I hate talking on the phone and taking taxis alone, and I've never been to the doctor by myself and don't really understand the NHS, so on the whole it was kind of a challenge. But I managed it successfully, bar a minor somewhat delirious argument with the receptionist who refused to change my surname on their records to my actual name, despite not having used the one on their records since I lived in the UK 15 years ago - but anyway. I was prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection and began to feel slightly better over the next couple of days until I ended up with weird chest pains, at which point I made another appointment, booked another taxi and saw a lovely lovely doctor who was so so so nice and decided I ought to have a bunch of tests just in case the pains turned out to be something serious. So I got into another taxi and went to the hospital, where I had a blood test, ECG and a x-ray, among other checkup-type things - all in all an unexpected turn to the morning! Luckily nothing was wrong - although they did diagnose me with anaemia from the blood test which is always good to know - so I could go home. It took another week before I felt completely back to normal, during which I panicked mildly about impending deadlines until I managed to get them all extended by a few days, thank god. The rest of term was spent buried in books and cramming in reading for essays, which needless to say was not fun but my perfectionist tendencies wouldn't let me get away with anything less, ugh.
But in spite of all that there were some good points to the term. It was my birthday in February, which was a really lovely day as I had no lectures and spent the evening having a meal out with some friends, who also gave me some fabulous presents including a beautiful scrapbook from Paperchase (stationery is my weakness), a fab mug and a gorgeous mirror for my room. I also had some presents Amazoned to me by family: among other bits and pieces, I am now in possession of Urbanears headphones, the Naked 2 palette, a book on cartography, Twin Peaks DVDs (which I have yet to watch) and a new Pandora bead! All in all it was a tip-top birthday. Other good memories from this term are a bunch of college events, including two formal dinners, a St Patrick's Day ceilidh, a fashion show in aid of a mental health charity, and some lovely gestures by the college welfare team to brighten people's day like handing out free flowers and care packages. I also made new friends and became a lot closer with existing ones. Some less important notable things are my insta feed being on point for the second half of term, printing a load of photos to decorate my room with so it looks fab, and the return of warm(ish) weather. Oh and I nearly forgot, we rented a house for next year! We finally signed for it in the first couple of weeks of term after what felt like months of deliberation, and it is gorgeous! Even though it's kind of far away from lectures, I'm honestly so excited to live there next year and make it beautiful. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I have already started planning how to decorate my room and bought a new duvet cover to match.
I think I've brought you more or less up to speed - so now I have five weeks of holiday in total and about three and a half left to spend at home. Although I'm probably going to spend most of it finishing off a research project writeup and trying not to cry over impending exams, I also have some blog post ideas lined up that I'll do my best to actually write and publish. I always feel most motivated for blogging when I'm at home with lots of schoolwork to do, which is slightly annoying but I'm determined to take advantage of it.
So bye for now and hopefully see you soon!