January – Exams, birthday and heartfelt goodbyes. The end of semester 1 – what a ride!

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So with the end of January comes the end of my first semester at Heidelberg, which has been incredible – seriously though, what an absolutely mammoth semester, full of surprises and experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life!

This post will be divided into two simple parts, both of which I hope have some practical (if a rather nostalgic) benefit: firstly, how to deal with the end of the semester academically, and secondly, how to deal with it emotionally…

Three things stood out to me before I came back to Heidelberg after the Christmas break, here they are in escalating levels of stressfulness:

  1. A bit tense: Exams, essay deadlines and the pressures of the end of term were looming.
  2. Mildly concerning: How was I going to celebrate my birthday amongst all the stress and tension that everyone was going through?
  3. So, so, painful: How on earth was I going to deal with Erasmus folk leaving after their first semester, to go on to pastures new?

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.’ – Tennyson

Or, as one of my friends so eloquently hashtags in most of her pictures: YOHOE! (You only have one Erasmus) – and you can apparently never quite escape the culturally invasiveness of the English language either…

So, January looked bleak.

– fun too, of course, because Heidelberg’s wonderful because of the amazing people in it, but things were going to change…

Sam and Erly

Academic pragmatism

Okay, so term’s finished and of the 38 credits I decided to do this term, 29 are in the bag and I now have a 25-30 page essay to write on the Reconquista, due in at the end of March, which will be tough as I’ll be diving into some lengthy primary source material (James I of Aragon’s Book of Deeds to be precise) and it is a period that I’ve never covered before.

Which was my plan!  I’m doing this extra module because it looks really fun and to get a few more credits done before the next semester begins, as next semester I will be doing about 22 credits to allow me to prep a bit for my dissertation next year.  Oh and I want to soak up the sun then too, as summer in H is meant to be lovely…

To get to this point, I cannot emphasise enough this semester has been all about PLANNING.  I’ve been able to do all the things I’ve wanted to do because I’ve made it my mission to get my work done as soon as possible and not leave things to the last minute.  It feels super nerdy to say, but it’s worked a treat and whilst it has of course been stressful at times, to be honest as an Erasmus student one of the important things to remember is that the pressure is basically off.

You have to do your work of course, but your marks simply aren’t as important as they normally they are, so time-boxing my work and making sure that I just get it done efficiently rather than always excellently has been a learning experience.  Where I’d normally agonise over my work for ages, I’ve learnt to be cold, calculating and sometimes a little cunning to get through the workload.  This is helped by the fact that January in Heidelberg is not about partying, but rather intense studying – but when we’ve rarely gone out to relieve some stress, we’ve often gone out in an intense fashion too…

Birthday with Greg

Birthday Shenanigans…

So academically-wise, I’ve managed to keep well on top of my work, which has helped to mitigate any stress or uncertainty that you sometimes feel in an Erasmus year.  I don’t know how this 25-30 page essay is going to go, it’s looming over me a little already as I really want to do some travelling during the 2 month break (which is when we write our big essays, rather than an actual holiday apparently…).

But hey, all’s gone to plan so far, so I’ll keep rolling on here happily enough!

Emotional goodbyes

As I now write, some have left and others are preparing too, which perhaps sums up the difficulties of people leaving – they don’t all go at once, but rather leave in a slow, torturous flow!

Still, we’ve had some great parties to commemorate their departures – and I was able to celebrate my birthday early on the 13th January with a massive party, so that everyone was able to come before exams really kicked off in earnest and anyone left – phew!

Birthday dinner

A chilled Birthday dinner with close friends

But oh how it hurts!  Whilst I’ve been fortunate enough to befriend numerous German students here in H, the Erasmus community has also been a big part of it – put simply, we don’t have quite as much work and it’s not quite as important and we therefore have much more of an incentive to explore Europe and have fun improving our German too.

And it’s not really goodbye per say, more of a ‘see you soon’, as I know that I’ll see a lot of these people again – some for instance I’ll even be visiting in March as I trek up to the wilderness of Scandinavia to see ma buds in Oslo, Lund and Copenhagen 😀  And yet, knowing that I won’t see these faces day in, day out any more is difficult and my mind wistfully runs away with what this all means:

No more ridiculous conversations and questions with Erland (with our terrible grammar)…

No more chess with Didrik in ‘Drug Store’, an iconic pub in Heidelberg, due to its always being full of chess players and chainsmokers…

No more lunch dates with Greg, discussing the facts of life and trying to figure out how to date German girls…

No more disgusting Danish drinks or Coffee and Cake with Emil…

No more trips to Stuttgart, or Amsterdam, or ‘Jan’ jokes with Elsa…


Skal! Why must they leave?

Elsa and Black Forest

Many more adventures ahead – I refuse to believe this is goodbye…

I hope this goes some way to explaining how special an Erasmus year is.  You meet people from all walks of life and make friends and memories that you’ll never forget.

I have no idea what I’ll do at the end when I’ll have to say goodbye to everyone.  I’m just relieved that I’ve got more time to enjoy Heidelberg and be further inspired by the people who make it the special place it is.



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