Updates – January

I’ve been away for far too long, and it’s for a variety of mostly intangible reasons. But I will try to outline what happened while I was away.

I got back from the UK at the beginning of January, and then I had an interview at a potential company for my internship. Thing is, I had had a series of disappointments regarding this internship thing. First, I got to the last assessment stage of a company (which I wasn’t too keen on working at), then I got a call saying I didn’t get in. Then someone recommended me for a position at a company I was (and still am) quite keen on. Instead of practising for the aptitude test, I was playing about (this was during the Christmas holidays). To be honest, the fact that my laptop was half dead didn’t help things either. Long story short, I missed the cut off for the math part by one mark. So painful. So that was that. I started applying again, and then I got an email from another company high up on my list of companies I’d like to work for. The email was to ask if I was applying for a job or internship. I thought “duh, I already said in the cover letter that I was applying for an internship, and I even included the internship topic”, but I responded with something along the lines of “I applied for an internship, but I wouldn’t mind a job”. Well, I got invited to write an aptitude test (harder than any of the previous I’d written – and I had to go to the library to write the test because I didn’t trust my laptop to not act up), passed, got invited to an interview, passed it, and that’s where things plateaued a bit. They can’t hire me for a full time job until I graduate (probably has to do with Dutch laws), so I should call them after my graduation in July/August. Well, I’m grateful for this.

In January though, things were a bit tough and disappointing. I was broke, my lease was expiring, and I had no sure internship. But everything worked out, one by one. First, one of my flatmates moved out and offered me her room. The problem with that was I only needed the room for 2 weeks in February, but at the time I agreed, I didn’t know that. Hence, I had to pay a deposit and sign a contract with the landlord for one year, for that room. Before I moved out though, I found a tenant to take over the house. Next on my agenda is to get a more permanent tenant (this one is only staying till June) to take the contract off my hands, because the landlord said I could ‘break’ the contract after 3 months. On the money front, I was still broke, but somehow managed to pay my bills, and not starve. I was fine, really. Just a bit sad. I have to acknowledge I got a bit of help at some point, so that was a relief. I also got bits of good news here and there, for example: Remember the interview I said I had at the beginning of January? Well, that one worked out well as I’d hoped it would. Why? Because they offer free accommodation, and while my stipend is quite sufficient, because of the amount, I don’t have to pay tax. Free accommodation (in a hotel, no less) and tax free income? Yay. 

I really don’t remember what I used to do to pass time. I know I signed up on Duolingo and took French lessons (on my phone, laptop was still a pain), submitted my thesis proposal, had drinks with friends (quite interesting considering my supposedly broke state, yes? Well, drinks in the Netherlands are quite cheap, and if you nurse one all night, you’ll be fine), visited people, watched TED talks, fantasized about winning a Macbook Air (entered a Book Depository contest. Didn’t win, sadly), researched Chromebooks and other mundane stuff, slept quite a bit, read books, etc. 

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The Land of Tulips and Windmills

I’ve been in Turku, Finland, since the beginning of this year, and I love being here, really. However, I would soon have to move, to the Netherlands. The one thing I was afraid of before I moved here, was the cold. I thought I was going to freeze, but as I have discovered, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing, so I honestly didn’t mind the winter (well, I hated to see ice on the ground, but every other thing was fine). But now summer’s here, and everything is GREAT!!!

Now, the Netherlands. I’ve started learning Dutch, by the way. Goedemorgen 😀 I’ve been trying to look for accommodation there, because the accommodation that the school is ‘offering’ us costs about 400 Eur a month, (For context, let me just add that in France, and even here in Finland, I have never had to pay up to 300 Eur as rent); the accommodation is supposed to be unveiled to us today, 14:00 (Dutch time), during which there will be a mad scramble and all available housing would disappear in 30 minutes. One would think that 400 Eur for rent means that surely you get your own kitchen and bathroom. Ei. Most student dwellings in Netherlands do not include a private bathroom. Like, (this is not an exaggeration) you can find a house with 10-17 people, having to share one bathroom. At least that’s what was written on the listings. There’s more ridiculousness…you can have a ‘dwelling place’ with 10 rooms, all of them have private kitchenettes, but they all have to share a bathroom. Seriously? Anyway, so I had almost given up and I was going to suck it up and try to get used to the idea of sharing a toilet with 4/5 other people, but then someone helpfully told me to Google ‘dutch toilets’. Here, knock yourself out. After seeing that and reading more on it, I decided that nope, I shall not share such a toilet with other people, because it will most certainly always have skid marks.

These days, I look lovingly at my very normal, private toilet, large room with a mini balcony, and say a prayer of thanks. For all that, and the beautiful weather. Yep, the arctic circle enjoys awesome summers too, yay! Also, these days, it doesn’t get really dark. It gets as dark as this (see picture below), and then gets bright again. And, the summer solstice (June 21) that my geography teacher taught me about, I’m about to experience it. How awesome is that? Well, I’m not at the tip of the North Pole, so maybe I won’t experience it, but I hope I do 😀 …

2013-05-16 03.23.08I took this picture at the beginning of May, it doesn’t even get this dark anymore.

I really hope I end up liking and enjoying the Netherlands even more than Finland, but to be honest, from where I’m standing, it’s not looking good.

Gah!

I know I ought to write about the last part of my Stockholm trip, but right now I’m pissed, so I will write about that instead. I have no idea how organized or not this post will be, seeing as I’m ranting, but here goes:

*Walks into inner chamber, collapses into heap on the floor*

Early February: I receive a mail from my account officer for my French bank account, and she says I have no money left in my account and I must put in some money else she’d close it. I respond, telling her I will put in some money asap. I go to the bank some days later and transfer some money there. When I get home, I send her a mail telling her that I have put in some money, etc. The reason I am interested in keeping this account open is because I’m still expecting my rent refund, and it’s a nice sum of money in total. Anyway, she acknowledges the mail, blah blah blah.

Late February: I go to the website for my rent refund, and see that the refund was approved since late January, so naturally I skip over to my account, where my lonesome 20 Euros is staring back at me. Not quite the tidy sum I was expecting. I tell myself the French are quite bureaucratic (I’m being tactful here, what I really mean to say is not quite nice), seeing as it took over 3 months to get the payment approved in the first place, so the actual pay-out might take the same amount of time.

Late March: I check my French bank account, and discover that my cash account doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

A little back story here: In France, when you open a regular (savings?) account, you actually have 2 accounts, a cash account, and a card account. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but they are 2 different things and even if you have, say, 400 Euros in your cash account, if you don’t have enough money in your ‘card account’, you can’t use it to pay for stuff online. I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone else. Anyway…

So my cash account has vanished. I send an email to my account officer again, asking her why this account can’t be seen, and could she please ‘reactivate’ it? She replies the next day, saying “It is done.” I check my online portal immediately, but can’t find said cash account, and then I figure it would take a couple of hours to get it up and running.

Now, Early April: I didn’t check the account again till a few minutes ago, only to find that the account only got activated on April 2, about 10 days later. How? Further observation revealed 2 things:

1. she actually deleted my old account without my permission, and

2. she didn’t reopen it, she opened a brand new account, with an entirely different account number.

How the heck am I supposed to get my money if the account number has changed? HOW??? Why would she even delete my account without telling me?

I sent her an email, first thanking her for opening the account (which she had no right closing in the 1st place), then tactfully explaining how messy things could get as a result of what she has done. I really hope there’s a way to fix this that doesn’t involve me sending my new account number to CAF, because if I have to do that, I may as well forget about the money. I hope they have a system that updates relevant parties when details have changed. I hope. And I hope that my CAF details have been linked to my bank account, because that’s the only way I see this update working, if it exists.

I’m just going to have to wait till Monday to hear what she has to say for herself.

Why is the French system so bureaucratic? This could happen in Nigeria and I would get really mad, but I wouldn’t necessarily be too surprised, because it’s a ‘developing’ nation. This is France, in Europe for heaven’s sake. Isn’t it supposed to be efficient? Arrggghhh!

*straightens up, pastes smile on face, walks out of chamber* Rant over.

Cheers to your weekend. 🙂

Kolme, Neljä

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Have I mentioned how grateful I am that these people speak English, in addition to Finnish and Swedish? No? I am totally grateful. I have learned 2 things so far: one is that the Finnish do not have a word for ‘please’, the second is that ‘thank you’ in Finnish is ‘kiitos’.

Today is orientation, and then a bus tour afterwards. The bus tour is interesting, but we do not stop to look closely at any of the things or places we see, and this, combined with the weather and comfort of the bus makes me really sleepy. Err, I don’t like snow. It’s beautiful until you have to walk on dirty streets that look even dirtier, thanks to the wet snow. Oh and the dog poop thing on the streets, I’ve seen it about twice now. On snow. Eww.

We have to go collect our ‘starter package’ afterwards, but I really don’t need it. The package consists of a duvet, pillow, and kitchen stuff. You have to pay some money though, 70% of which will be refunded after you return the stuff in good condition. The previous tenant left me a really clean duvet (which I don’t even need right now) and pillow, I already have a pot, plus there’s lots in the kitchen.

The cold: Average temperature is -5 degrees, for now. I think my ugly winter jacket is doing a pretty good job. I may have to buy better boots though, in case I ever have to walk in about 2 inches of snow. Not quite sure how the ones I wear now would hold up, as they are not proper snow boots.

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The cafeteria food is awesome, and you get to serve yourself whatever amount you can finish. I will try to eat really well in the afternoons, so that I don’t have to eat anything serious at night…but unfortunately, my tummy capacity is really small and it can’t hold much food at one time 😦 .

My bank account is finally open, and now I can pay my rent (have to pay before the 6th, else they would charge 8% extra for every day I default), and every other thing I need to pay for. I wish there weren’t so many things to pay for. Speaking about money, I’m seriously thinking about getting a job, if my lectures are not so stressful. I will convince my father to let me.

Still haven’t figured how to use the cooker, and I haven’t actually met anyone in the kitchen that I could ask. My muffin stash is depleting 😦

The only convenience store on my side of the students’ residence is located just behind my room, and my room is on the ground floor (how else would I have carried The Monster and my 2 other pieces of luggage?) 🙂