This academic year, the Boar’s Travel Editor, Ben Ockrim, is studying at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) on an international exchange program through Warwick’s Politics Department. These are his updates:
It is often said that early January is the time for deep introspection and intense contemplation. The moment for quiet reflection and cathartic meditation. For bittersweet recollection and thankful appreciation. But this year, only one thought crossed my mind: “Exams. Oh sh*t.”
In my old bedroom at my family home, I sat at my desk and stared at the wall. Where did all the time go? My first exam, EU Media Policy, is right around the corner. Surely, I did some revision during first semester? I attended most of my lectures and read occasionally. I even brought my computer on a trip to Amsterdam in December. The plan was to go over my notes after visiting the Anne Frank House and the Museum of Modern Art. But did I actually do any catch-up work? I can’t remember. I must’ve been distracted by the red lights.
I definitely thought about politics during a fantastically creepy tour of the KGB Museum
Not a great start, but maybe I’ll be better prepared for my second exam: Gender, Diversity and Politics. All broad topics, they were on my mind a lot, especially while I was in Prague in November. I definitely thought about politics during a fantastically creepy tour of the KGB Museum. Respect for diversity probably entered some part of my consciousness as I posed for pictures at the Lennon Freedom Wall. And I know for a fact that I considered issues of gender at the Sex Machine Museum. But the specifics of the course? I’m not so sure.
Perhaps I was working too hard to revise. For most of November and December, I worked two or three shifts a week at the local Irish bar, including six full-on karaoke nights. At the very least, counting the tips should have sharpened my maths skills for the European Economics exam. But it’s not that hard to count to five, and if I’m being honest, work itself didn’t take up too much time. The post-shift drinks though …
I’m studying in Brussels, the centre of European politics. If nothing else, I must be an expert on the Political Structures and Processes of the EU. I attended talks at the European Council twice before Christmas! Or wait? Was it the Council of the EU? Or the European Commission? It’s all so confusing.
I do keep up to date with the news though. I certainly know all the Challenges to Democracy – I didn’t have to attend lectures to know those. But my lecturer hasn’t asked me to describe polarisation. He wants me to propose a solution to the ‘Crisis of Democracy’ and explain it in a 5000-word essay instead. And there’s an oral exam too! I need a lie down.
I was woken an hour later by the sound of my family arguing. There’s no point revising when I’m at home. It’s too loud and cramped, and besides, I need to catch up with my parents and siblings – I haven’t seen them for five months. I can always start going through my notes tomorrow.