I must start this blog with an apology, for it is sorely overdue. I’ve been rather busy for a long time at Heidelberg, which is not a good enough excuse! I’ve been working and playing hard, with so much going on that I kept telling myself and leaving little notes around my room saying: ‘when I have a little time, pen a quick blog article!’
But things kept coming up and I got super under pressure with work – and I even contrived to mess up my WordPress log-in during this period, such that I got locked out of my own account. I lost the faith, the desire to blog for a brief period, and for this I apologise. I’m back on track now after completing the toughest piece of work I’ve ever done at university and after a break to recover during which I travelled, I’m stronger for it! I will be more disciplined in the future.
So, what happens during February in Heidelberg?
The answer is surprisingly little. And an awful lot too.
From mid-February until the 18th April we have the mid-term break in Heidelberg for the majority of students (save medicine students, who like busy little bees keep having regular lectures or do work experience).
But to call this period a ‘break’ would be deceiving, for in this period, depending on your workload, a lot can be possible. We don’t have lectures, but much to do!
If, like myself, you have a massive ‘Hausarbeit’ to do, which in the end came to 33 pages of text on James I and why religious integration failed during the Reconquista, this can take up almost all your time.
For a lucky few, they can spend all their time during this period having fun and travelling. I did some travelling eventually, but I’ll handle that in the next blog post.
Therefore, seeing as February-March was basically taken up by this project, which is normally reserved for Masters students at Heidelberg, I thought this blog might serve as a little ‘tips and tricks’ post for how to survive and indeed thrive when the workload becomes tough on an Erasmus year. My next post will be how to make the most of your holidays that you really ‘earn’ during the break between Semesters at Heidelberg.
Tips and Tricks
- Make time for the now
Let’s leave the work itself alone now and appreciate that in order to be at your best, need to be feeling your best. This means having fun and being able to relax when you’re not working flat-out.
Doing a large project can be all-consuming if you let it. Thankfully, I’ve got great friends here in Heidelberg and a wonderful girlfriend, who also had to work hard during this period, so we were able to support each other whilst working. We’ve been dating since December and it’s been a lot of fun – making time for each other and to spend time with our friends has been a crucial part of enjoying ourselves and getting through the work at times when the work has felt a little impossible.
It would have been easy during this period to forget and ‘over-sacrifice’ on the pleasures of Heidelberg to ‘crackdown’ on the work. In reality, whilst we didn’t party as much during this period, making time for ourselves to have fun and switch of was manageable and helped me work a lot better. As you can see above, we had time to go to an intense hockey match in Mannheim, where we really saw what intense pressure was!
If you don’t feel like you’re ‘all-in’, the pressure is easier to bear.
- Make time for the future
Before this large period of study began, I had an offer to go an travel to Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Paris with friends.
Again, it would also have been easy during this period to cut out this trip and allow myself more time to study. It would have been ‘pragmatic’, ‘sensible’ and totally the wrong decision.
Instead, having something to look forward too really spurred me on to work really well and get the project all written before I left and ready to edit when I came back. In the end, I had to cut out Denmark as I was working to the wire before I went off to travel, but it was all worth it in the end.
- Seek advice
I had done large projects before at Durham, but never of this length and with engaging with such a large primary source material before.
Therefore, throughout this project, I sought out the advice of two people mostly, the professor I was writing the project for in order to receive the ‘official advice’ and a friend of mine for the ‘informal advice’ who’s been a student at Heidelberg for many semesters already and knows how to get the job done!
I cannot emphasise enough how helpful these people were for me and to know that they were on my side throughout all this work. My sincerest thanks to Dr. Daniel König for his academic wisdom and to Sascha for his student pragmatism and electric sense of humour.
- Be Fearless
My biggest angst when working is starting to write. I just hate it – and this is from someone who frequently claims to love writing and arguing. I don’t like to write initially because I want it to be perfect and lucid the first time.
Therefore, I had to recognise that my biggest flaws in working in doing a task which I found so challenging, working both in German and English and at such length.
Recognising your weaknesses and challenging them is crucial. I’ve learnt a lot about how to work most efficiently through this. I still hate the actual act of getting down to write, but it’s more manageable now.
- Keep calm and carry on
Coffee during the morning/early afternoon, followed by tea in the afternoon
Keep drinking lots of water and eating at regular meal times.
The simple stuff really works – I saw way too many people working flat out and basically damaging themselves working too hard in the process. If you can’t persuade themselves to work like normal people, at least make sure that you don’t pick up their crazy habits!
Above all, just remember that Heidelberg is a wonderful place to be whether you’re having essay angst or chilling in a German Bar with a Pils in your hand!