When people ask me what I studied, I tell them about my double BA in Philosophy and Literary Studies from the University of Amsterdam, and my BSc in International Relations from the University of London. People mostly give me a confused look and assume that I did a triple major within one program or that I must have taken a decade to finish. When the reality sinks in, they ask me: ‘why (on earth) did you do that?'
My answer is surprisingly simple: because I love to learn. There is something about the unknown that fascinates me. Everything I feel passionate about, from travel and photography to food and friends, stems from this same curiosity. Adventure can be found in books as well as on mountain tops.
The University of London was the perfect way for me to design my own custom-made educational path, which I wanted to be multidisciplinary and international. I combined distance learning with my two studies in Amsterdam and sat my final exams in New York, where I spent my final year on exchange. While in Amsterdam, I also worked with immigrants for my side job as a Dutch language teacher.
You might now be wondering: ‘how?’ If you are also juggling many things at once alongside studies, whether it be a job, running a household or a busy social life, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the demands. In order to stay focused and on track, here’s what I’ve learnt:
Tell people around you that you are a student
Be open about it, and most importantly, be proud of it! Especially to all the fellow women out there: don’t hide your talent and accomplishments. Give yourself credit for your determination, own your success and surround yourself with a supportive environment.
Remind yourself of your purpose
Why are you doing all of this? Write it down and read it through every time you feel discouraged. Remind yourself where you have come from, which is undoubtedly a long way.
I can’t stress this enough, since a solid game plan is the key to success. Think about the long term first: how many years do you want to work on your studies? Then count how many modules to take per year and count how many months you have for each module. At this point, you can start to set monthly, weekly and eventually daily goals to keep yourself on track. Remember to schedule in enough time for revisions as well as extra time, in case you run into unexpected delays.
Set up a study routine
Experiment with different study spaces like coffee shops, libraries or a home desk. Find times during the day that work for you and figure out what keeps you motivated. I like to treat myself to baklava (my guilty pleasure) whenever I’ve completed a task, or I make my favourite cup of tea. Go for walks outside during breaks, watch something inspiring or meditate to refresh yourself.
Maintain your self-discipline and take responsibility for your time management. Be clear with yourself on your priorities, which might mean saying ‘no’ more often to people or activities that don’t align with what you want to focus on. Guard your time as your most precious asset, and whenever you do say ‘yes’, do it with utmost conviction!
Enjoy the learning process, witness your own growth and feel your mind expand. This is the most exciting part of studying, as you increase your understanding of the world around you. I remember that while watching the news, I suddenly started to see how the theories I studied connected to ‘real world’ events. New insights can bring about explosions of inspiration.
I hope these tips will help you to face the current academic year with confidence. As for myself, I just started my master’s degree at Cambridge University. Here I do an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development. My goal is to contribute to making world-class education accessible to people around the world, and to ensure equity and inclusivity in learning spaces. The University of London has definitely helped inspire the next step on my path forward, and I wish you the same. Best of luck!
Simone studied the BSc in International Relations via distance learning in the Netherlands