Journey Update: Smelling the snow

Pathway covered in snowYou know that expression that tells “you should stop to smell the flowers?” Well, I wish we had flowers now in good old Luxembourg, but it turns out we are covered in snow. So instead, I am smelling the snow and trying to devise a plan for the second half of this course year.

As every year, I had promised myself that I would try to open the books and study a bit through Christmas break, and as every year, I only managed to read five to ten pages of material in the two weeks out of the house. As expats, Christmas break is one of the few opportunities we have to gather with family and spend some time with them. This was The Little One’s first Christmas and everybody wanted to take part in it, so we had to make room for multiple family engagements.

Many things happened that did not help the situation. We all fell sick, though The Little One resisted admirably and really did not fall sick until we got home. Also, The Little One has rapidly become The Little Explorer. Now she can stand up and she intends to be on her two feet most of the day, even if that means having mummy and daddy playing the satellite by her side. She is also very intent on cruising aided by furniture, and does not take kindly to being put in a play pen, even if it is spacious and has lots of toys around. In addition, front teeth are finally coming out, and seems they are doing so rather painfully. The icing on the cake was that we had a six hour delay on our flight coming back.

As you can see, circumstances have not been on my side. When I finally sat at my desk on the 3rd of January I felt so disconnected and clueless that I started frantically going through everything, dismissing my previous plan. But for dismissing a plan you need a new one, and I was not managing to gather my strength to rework things. On the 5th I realized I was just losing time instead of making up for the two weeks devoted to other things. I raised my eyes and there it was: snow. Everything was quiet, still and white. I decided to take my camera and go to the forest near my house with my dog.

Dog running through snowy woodsIn the freezing -10ºC we had, I walked and occasionally shot the camera, trying to empty my head of the buzzing noise of holidays. Snow does not really smell, aside from the indefinable freshness you feel inside your nostrils. In fact, it covers almost every other scent out there. The forest seems aseptic, hospital-like: everything is almost white, you do not smell much, and the silence is only broken by the crunching of the ice under your boots. Yet this suited me perfectly.

At last, I was feeling at home. In all that stillness, only focused on the views I had in front of me, I acknowledged that I was being rash. The silent landscape also helped me in remembering that I was in a very similar situation two years ago, before facing my first University of London examinations. I know for a fact that I can make it to May, and still pass, even do well with a bit of luck. This realization helped me to calm down and try to rethink my approach. One important thing about distance studies, particularly when they require a high degree of self-reliance, is learning to be flexible, learning to change when the situation requires it, instead of crumbling down and staring at the remains of your initial plans.

After the walk, my desk became again that particular shrine of knowledge and happiness it was before the holidays. It was no longer that menacing piece of furniture that looked accusingly at me for having abandoned it. Things flowed slowly to the right track. I have already done my examination registration, the next step is formative assessments, then comes revision time and, at last, examinations. I just have to think carefully about the steps ahead and try to allocate my time accordingly to make the most of the vital next stages before examination time.

I hope you all had a nice break. And if you have been feeling like I did a few days ago, just remember you need to stop and smell life, whether it is flowers or snow.

Ana is studying the BA English by distance learning in Luxembourg

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