LOEPSlE

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How I Got Through University

By the end of high school,  I was more than ready to leave and move on to bigger, better things. For years I’d been preparing to go to the art academy and study either fine arts or textile, but about a year before graduating I accidentally stumbled upon Celtic studies. My brother was writing a school assignment and for some reason needed a book for that with all studies available in the Netherlands. It was lying on the table and the phrase “Celtic languages & culture” caught my eye. I, being the Fantasy Fair-visiting, history loving romanticist that I was, was immediately intrigued and grabbed the book. It must have been very, very outdated because I gathered that Celtic was a masters degree only for which you first had to study Dutch or history. I kind of forgot about it and went back to working on my portfolio for the admissions to the art academy.

Then I got cold feet. I was afraid the art academy wouldn’t be what I wanted, that it would drain me creatively and emotionally, that they would force me to make conceptual modern art that I really didn’t want to make, and that I’d be wasting my pre-university highschool degree by going to a lower level of education than I was capable of. The Dutch school system works with four levels of education from age 12, of which pre-uni is the “highest” one which takes the longest to finish, but you can go to the arts academy with the level that’s one step below pre-uni as well. So I started visiting universities to have a look at what they had to offer. I went to Amsterdam to check out history, psychology, art history, philosophy, and archaeology, and then I went to Utrecht to look at the same. And there it was. Celtic languages and culture, bachelor’s degree. I had a look at some history classes as well, but that was only a formality. I’d sung “An bhfaca tú mo Shéamuisín” in a Modern Irish preview class and I was hooked.

So a few months later, there I was, with my Historical Atlas of the Celtic World and my beginner’s edition of Stories from the Táin, ready to dive into all the mysteries that the Celtic world had to offer. Enter epic disillusionment. Everything I thought I knew about Celts was a lie, vague information twisted around and made up by occultists and fantasy writers. Academically, we know next to nothing of Druids, there is no Celtic mythology, and Rhiannon and Lugh aren’t gods, but simply a lady on a horse and a guy with a cauldron from medieval stories. The red pill had been shoved down my throat before I realised it. I didn’t mind that too much though, the truth is pretty epic and beyond fascinating as well, and now at least I know not to be so gullible anymore. And not to shop in the occult section at book stores.

There were eight people in my class. Girls, to be precise. No boys whatsoever. Two girls went away within the first year, so there were six of us left. Celtic studies are a very specific subject, that takes a specific type of person to study, and not that many people are up for it, apparently. The study consisted of two-year cycles, where one year would be focused on Irish, and the next year on Welsh. This meant that first and second years always took classes together, which is awesome, because not only did I have a great click with my own classmates, but we bonded really well with the students that came in the year after us as well. (The years before and after us did have boys, yay!)

I had moved in with one of my best friends from high school in the North of Amsterdam after graduation, so I’d travel back and forth between Amsterdam and Utrecht almost every day for two years.
Slowly but surely, my high school friends and I grew apart. I’d always a bit of a killjoy when it came to partying, but now I was happy to have found a new group of friends that didn’t care for clubbing, drinking, weird substances and all the (IMO) horrible stuff that university students typically do. When my class sat on the board of the study association, we started celebrating the ancient Irish year festivals where we’d drink loads and loads of tea, eat home baked cookies, play harps (you wouldn’t believe how many Celtic students play the harp), do some seasonal actvities (carving pumpkins, anyone?) and be merry until reasonable hours. We started a tradition that still lasts today. I loved it, although the average student would probably have thought it to be the most boring thing in the world. We were happy to offer an alternative, and actually quite a few people from other studies came to our year festivals because they wanted to socialize over something else than twelve glasses of beer in a noisy club.
At a certain point my housemate and I had a falling-out and I moved to Utrecht. Afterwards I didn’t see my high school friends much anymore, our lives had become too different and we drifted apart.

As much as I loved my new social life, I was struggling more and more with the actual studying. Anyone that’s ever studied Old Irish will know how incredibly difficult it is, and I found it really hard to grasp. My friends are a bunch of over-achievers that set a new standard of following eight subjects in a semester, instead of the recommended four, and they’d get incredibly good grades as well. I managed to keep up, but got lower grades and found studying such difficult material so intensely very tiring. Utrecht University works with four periods withing a year, each period being approximately two and a half months. One subject would span one period, which meant that if you took Modern Irish, you’d have to learn Modern Irish within two and a half months. It was pretty intense.
There were way more linguistic subjects than I was expecting, and linguistics aren’t really my thing. I took all the literature and history courses that were available and tried to stay away from the linguistic courses as much as possible to relieve myself. I felt a lot of pressure to preform, since my classmates were doing so well and the study was so small and personal.

By the second half of the second year, I was pretty unhappy. I don’t handle stress very well and I felt a lot of it during that time. The pressure of studying combined with the stress of not feeling comfortable at my home in Amsterdam at all was a little bit too much. I considered switching to English or Art History, but didn’t feel like having to study for another year-and-a-half, so I decided to push through. My motivation had really plummeted though, since I felt very tired, and I started taking the normal number of courses per period. Luckily, since I’d done more courses in the beginning, I was able to focus exclusively on squeezing out a thesis in the second-to-last period and take the last period of my third year off. By this time I had figured out exactly why I felt so stressed out by school; it was the opposite of what I’d feared would happen at the art academy. I’m a creative person, I feel a constant urge to pour ideas, images and objects out of myself. During my studies I’d only been cramming more and more information and ideas in, without being able to let anything out. It was draining my energy. And honestly, after 17 years, I’d grown a little bit tired of educators telling me what to do and when to do it. So I used that last period to start Loepsie.com and make Loepsie into less of a hobby and more of a business. Focusing on this made me very happy and relaxed, and I felt like everything was falling into place. I’m not an academic, I’m a creator. But one that is very happy to know the truth about Celts (lol) and have met the most amazing people, and made the greatest memories, and learned a lot about herself along the way.

xxxLucy

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17 thoughts on “How I Got Through University”

  1. This was a really reassuring post to read! I have just graduated from uni, by the end I was so so stressed and struggling so much with assignments that my confidence in my own abilities was really crushed. It’s comforting to hear from someone in a similar position that it’s ok to be a creator and not an academic :). I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a long time and I think this was the push I needed, thank you!
    Also those Celtic traditions sound like so much fun, I hate nightclubs! 😛

  2. Hi Lucy,

    Thank you for sharing your story I totally identify with a lot of what you said, and I have found balancing study really stressful.

    If you don’t mind me asking- how did you manage to pay rent to live out of home and study Full time? I’m still at uni but have to live at home because even by sacrificing some of my study time to work, I’m not able to earn enough to even share a flat, but I know if I worked more I would fail at uni, and my parents can’t afford to pay rent for me…

    lisa

    1. Hi Lisa,
      My parents were kind enough to pay for my tuition, which really helped. When I studied, there was a fund available for students in the Netherlands, a kind of financial student support. That helped a lot as well, and then doing YouTube helped top that off. When I lived in Amsterdam, I rented a house that was supposed to be demolished soon. They often rent properties like that out to students for very cheap over here, to make sure the houses aren’t misused before they get around to demolishing them, so my rent was ridiculously low. When I moved out to Utrecht things became a lot harder financially, but I was able to ride it out on my savings.

  3. Hi! Just to let you know I enjoyed reading this. Sometimes we take the weirdest paths to happiness but we get there, right? 🙂

    Greetings from Portugal ♥

  4. I’m currently in college, and, like you, I don’t do well under stress. Just a few weeks ago a came home on the verge of tears (which eventually fell in the safety and privacy of my own bedroom) after a math exam that I thought I had failed! (I got a B- (80.2%), so I felt better) I’m still stressing out, and I get extremely frustrated when I don’t do well or I think I don’t. I can be a horrible perfectionist most of the time. I am still figuring out how to deal with that, but I feel like it’s been turning into a real problem lately.

    My favorite way to relax is honestly with a cup of tea, a good book (preferably fantasy) and complete and total solitude and silence. I’m not a social person, and I don’t have a lot of people I would consider friends, so solitude works for me.

    I have one question though…as a fellow introvert, how did you manage to make friends with the others in your group? I enjoy being in small groups, but I’ve always been an outsider, the really “quiet, nerdy, weird” one. I’m also not around a lot of people who have the same interests as me. How did you find those kinds of people?

    1. I was just very lucky to be plunged into a small group of quiet, nerdy, weird people 🙂 It was awkward at first since most of us are introverts but after seeing each other every day, you just sort of develop relationships with each other. Besides, loads of people that study Celtic over here are like that so we have a pretty good introduction programme at the beginning of the first year now that deals with that, haha! Whenever I’d take a larger class though (like art history) I’d easily go through the full thing without ever speaking to a single person. I don’t know what I would’ve done if Celtic wasn’t such a small study, but then again when everybody is so likeminded it’s a lot easier to make friends. I’m boiling it down to luck, really.

  5. Loepsie, that was a really good story of your past and thank you for sharing with all of your lovely viewers. It sounds like you have a vast history and I understand the feeling of being held back by others it’s so unfair!

  6. Hi Loepsie,
    I loved your Halloween tutorials with the characters that had to do with your Celtic studies. You should make some creative videos on the culture. I like hearing the stories, they’re interesting!

  7. Thank you for being so candid about it. I actually found a lot of myself in your post. I love learning, I love reading, but there is a lot in uni which just isn’t one’s thing.
    Besides, I have been following you since your earliest baby steps on YouTube, yet I would have never guessed that we are so much alike in many aspects, which do not come through in your videos, which seem always upbeat and positive, as if you were seemingly living a fairly smooth life, while I often faced anxieties (test and travel anxiety anybody? Reading your post on this just floored me), I hate disappointing people which always puts so much pressure on myself (and I thought that would be over after uni – HA!), growing apart from long-term friends (still sad), … realizing oneself is changing …
    While there is quite an age gap between you and I, I have to say following you on your social media is a bit of a (duly needed) sanity check for me sometimes. 🙂

    1. Thank you 🙂 I only film when I feel happy since I want my videos to be a positive experience for people, but obviously there’s a lot more to life and I like having my blog to share a bit of the other side as well. Glad to hear you appreciate it 🙂

  8. I felt the same thing at the university as my field of study was suprisingly different from what I thought when I started it. But I finished it anyway…now I started a different one and I am going to Ireland for a few months so I am happy I made that change! I learnt only modern Irish so I kind of know what you are talking about though I can’t say I KNOW Irish, it’s very difficult and Old Irish is even crazier. I was wondering about Welsh though, is it hard too?

      1. Thank you, I have been learning Irish and it was a bit difficult…so I was also wondering about other Celtic languages.

  9. Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for sharing these personal thoughts with us 🙂 I remember last year finishing my studies at the same time you did, I could relate so much, when you talked about it in your vlogs… 🙂 I studied a completely different stuff though, Information Technology. I was actually relieved when there was a girl beside me in class 😀 But it was good, all the people there were weirdos, just like me 😀

    By the way drinking tea, eating cookies and playing the harp sounds like one of the coolest ways to relax 😉 Except my instrument is the violin.

  10. I really enjoyed reading this 🙂 I’m also studying languages at university, and it took me five year’s to find out what I truly wanted to do: I started of with a bachelor in linguistics and literature(French and Italian), but somewhere along the way I stopped liking those languages, after that did a master in linguistics, and now I’m studying Swedish, focusing on literature, and for the first time, I’m really really enjoying university. I wouldn’t say all of those years were a waste of time though, since I learned a lot of useful things.

  11. I am always amazed at how western universities allow students to choose subjects so, so, so much. It must be great. I live and study in Poland and even though we go along EU standards and we’re in the Bologna Process it’s all very different here.

    You just get a study programme for each term – it’s a list of classes you have to take. Some of them can be chosen, like a lecture or a laboratory class from the department or from the entire university. You need to take it (and there has to be a specific number of ECTS points for it) but you can choose which one you take. Then, within our department, there are let’s say 6 seminars for 2 term 3 years and you have to choose three of these. But you just have to take 3 no matter what. The majority of subjects are just set, you don’t choose them. And, no matter what, you don’t decide how many classes you take. This is set in the programme for each term.

    On the lightest terms (usually the last term of the 3 year and last term of the 5 year, when we write BA and MA theses) there are few classes. I had 5 on the lightest term. The toughtest – 18. I ended up sitting at the uni for 12 hours a day on one day of the week (I thing it was Tuesdays) because with so many classes the timatable has free slots. So, it was about 5 classes a day and a few free slots. On the better days 3-4 classes a day. That term with 18 classes a week was just insane. And none of them was double, these were all different subjects.

    Then comes the timetable, some of the classes have 1 group and you just have to be there on that time, some have 2-4 groups, so you can choose if you want Irish literature on Monday morning, Thursday noon etc.

    And still, I went for my MA proggramme (you can’t achieve much in Poland with just BA, the job market is, well… bad) and a few days ago I got accepted for a PhD programme. This is one of the few things you and me differ at. Despite the craziness that comes sometimes, I just like university 🙂 I always have. I do have the creative urge, but I can’t do anything well. Like drawing, sewing etc. I’m not whining, just stating the fact. I’ve been a hair blogger for a few years but this is just a hobby and will stay so. So I realise my potentials in studying 🙂

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