My 2014 In Review

TL;DR: First half of my year was fine and fun, second half wasn’t very fine.

January-February: Got back to NL from the UK, spent time with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen in years and who lived in Amsterdam. Tried to find an internship and really was beginning to panic because my lease was expiring and I needed to find an internship so as to know where next to move. That didn’t work out, and I signed another 1-year lease and then started an internship in a different city (with free accommodation), 2 weeks later. Shout out to the friends who agreed to help me move (it was a 1.5 hour drive) when it turned out I was too broke to afford professional movers or a taxi, and had way too much stuff to just take the train. So, yay internship, but what about the house I rented? I had to sublet it so that went okay. Got broke, and then not-broke. Settled into my new life in the town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere where my internship company was located, sorted out carpooling to and from work, got a new computer, etc.

March-April: My Master’s program required me to do an internship while writing my thesis, ergo, I was writing my thesis at this point. I set a plan and everything, but the project I was handling was such that I wouldn’t be able to write a traditional qualitative or quantitative thesis. Also, the literature review was not going very well. I decided to be ‘AGILE’ – as opposed to waterfall – about the whole thing and was writing various parts of the thesis at the same time, and designing what I was supposed to be designing too. I took a Lean Six Sigma course – because that’s required for all employees of my company – and passed. I also learned, painfully, how to ride a bicycle. I think I already explained why I had to in another post, but basically, it was because the company is on a very large site (and ‘houses’ 2200 employees) and my office is 15 minutes on foot from the main gate, same for many others, so the company has lots of bikes for employees who may have cars but want to move around the site, and for people like me. Anyway, I learned how to ride a bike. I made friends with a very nice Spanish girl and her boyfriend, and she helped me. She’d go out of her way to come to my office the first couple of times, to ride behind me and make sure nothing happened till we got to the gate. Same for when I was going from the gate to my office (and this was possible because we carpooled together). I went to the UK too to see the boyfriend and for a 4-day break from all the nonsense. While on this break, I didn’t check my university emails and as a result, missed out on a job opportunity. Welp. I was still wearing a jacket at this point and wondering why it was still this cold in spring.

May-June: Thesis and project were going well with a few hiccups here and there, and I have to mention here that I think my thesis went as well as it did because I had the best set of supervisors, at work and in school. I’d have been so lucky if I had them while writing my Bachelor’s thesis, but let’s not even speak about that. I had to learn and practise Change Management here too. I started a social media management side-gig with a friend. Then there was my birthday, during which Spanish friend and boyfriend and Colombian friend (all working in my company of course, and now I wonder, really, if any of us young foreigners ever made friends with any one who lived in that town but didn’t work in our company…) made us Spanish omelettes and mojitos. It was summer (and I know this because I was able to wear short shorts) and we’d had a party of sorts the day before, organized by the company ‘country club’. Fun. I had begun to feel old by my birthday, but meh. (Really though. The years are just flying by, and what am I doing with my life?) I submitted my thesis in time (special shoutout to the boyfriend for helping out), had to rewrite some parts, defended and (shot myself in the foot but) got a good grade. The World Cup started in June, and we interns (all lived on the same floor in a hotel and) used to gather in the living room to watch, we’d make a mini party of it, with food and drinks.

July-August: Internship ended, began the search for a new apartment in another city, and I failed the second stage of an interview. I moved to another city, and loved it. How I chose this city? The mental equivalent of spinning a globe and things…only, I was a bit more ‘strategic’. Anyway, I moved, and then the house I moved to was quite rubbish. Falling apart. Unfit for habitation. (And people actually live there. No, I was not able to see detailed pictures before I moved.) So I moved again, after 2 or 3 days, and was quite lucky to find a much better apartment for the same price as the rubbish one. I went to France for my graduation and, when I think of all the rubbish that has constituted the second half of my year, I think back to my time in France and I regain some measure of peace, and happiness. The south of France is quite lovely (year-round, but especially) in the summer, and that, combined with good company, is the stuff that nice holidays are made of. It’s also funny that I didn’t appreciate it that much when I lived there.

September – November: Sorted my residence permit (because once you graduate, your reason for being in the country changes from ‘student’ to either ’employed’ or ‘looking for employment’), but first, had to sort out insurance (Nigerian one expired, and it is illegal to live in NL without insurance, among others) and move because of registration issues with the city hall. So in essence, I have lived in 5 houses this year. Wonderful. Kept getting bounced after interviews and stuff, for no discernible reason. I say ‘no discernible reason’ because my CV is quite solid (I’ve heard, many times), and I’m not terrible at interviews, if I do say so myself. Got another gig in social media management – which can’t pay the bills, but can buy groceries. Finally got a job in client support which I don’t like for shitty pay (but it paid the bills and I was grateful for that and for the opportunity to learn other stuff like account management). {Side bar: the reason I went for an MSc in what I got an MSc in, was because I’d tried the tech support/network admin shebang and found that I didn’t like it.} I got bounced from work after the probation period because I was ‘doing an excellent job but wasn’t integrating’. I never spoke with the person who fired me, so I didn’t get the chance to ask for an explanation. I was fired by proxy. Heh. Why I wanted an explanation? Because, while I always, always blame myself when things go wrong, I couldn’t find any way to blame myself for this one. So I was quite shocked, etc. Well then. Got betrayed. A bit broke. Etc. I got an instant camera, because I wanted one, and because it’s a nice thing that gets people excited, such that you forget your own struggles for a bit. I remembered, somewhere in all of this, that 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to become a Product Manager (for digital products like Gmail and Skype, rather than physical ones like Ariel or other FMCGs). But school and ‘the cares of this world’ made me forget that. I still want to be one, so I have taken (and am taking) courses to put me on that path. Also, I’m practising product management on someone’s yet-to-launch product, and I’m looking to practise all I can, for the experience.

December: Came to Nigeria, for a break of sorts. I’m still here, and it’s been nice to see people and eat food and all that jazz, but my mind is still quite troubled, and I’ve been a bit prickly. This has been my worst year so far. I’m grateful though, for family and friendship and kind words, thoughtful gifts, help, advice, and prayers on my behalf. I’m grateful for the lovely people who have chosen to love me even when I’m being prickly and rejecting offers of help. I’m grateful for the parents who have enough to help me if I’m ever homeless or something (God forbid though. The purpose of all the tuition money that has been spent on my head is not so that I can still be asking parents for money at age 25). I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a blessing to people. I’m grateful for the good things that have happened to my friends and family. I’m grateful for all the flatmates I’ve had this year, to whom I owe many interesting memories. I’m grateful for museums and music, books and instant cameras. I’m learning to think positive thoughts but that requires discipline. I’ve learned that I need to develop people-skills, because my normal self does not go out of her way to, for example, say more than just ‘hello’ to near-strangers. I’ve learned persistence, and to find joy in the little things. I’ve practised compromise. I’ve stopped being naive, I think. I’m going back to NL in a couple of days and I don’t know what’s going to be different, but we’ll see.

In summary, I’m not very happy right now, haven’t been for a while, but I’m very grateful. It could have been much worse, I think. I’ve coped by dancing, exercising (yay year-round summer body), by asking myself things like “are you the furst?” and “but did you die?”; I’m also hopeful because that’s probably all I have left. Hope that efforts being made will pay off, and things will get better. So here’s to 2015. May the odds be ever in our favour, and may the lines be arranged for us in pleasant places.

Happy Holidays (or what’s left of it)!

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Overdue: June

There’s no point apologizing for not writing, because I’m pretty sure no one but me reads anything I write, and because I always make up for missed posts. But it is good to be consistent, if only in apologizing, rather than in writing. Therefore, I’m sorry.

I’m going to talk about what happened to me in June, and then July, and where I am now.

June saw me having to defend my thesis and write an exam. My supervisors at my internship company were kind enough to organize a mock defence session for me the day before, and that helped me fine tune a bit. The ‘real’ defence went well, except for something I included in my presentation which I hadn’t quite discussed in-depth in my thesis. One of the ‘judges’ called me out on that and then down went my marks, but said marks were still decent. After my defence, I started preparing almost immediately, for an exam I was supposed to write the next week – which required me to read about 300+ pages. I’m not going to lie, I did a lot of ‘speed reading’ while praying that one or two things would stick. Oh and, the exam was an essay-type, and you had to answer all questions – as opposed to a, say, 6 questions, answer 4 type of exam. Anyhow, I’m not going to describe how much it sucked, because everyone has written exams before, and should know how much it sucks to prepare. The exam was supposed to be at 8:00 a.m. though, and because I live 3 hours away, it was impossible to make it by public transport. So I created an AirBnB account, and tried to chat with someone who had a cheap room. In chatting with the person, I discovered that she had accepted the booking of someone else who planned to stay the entire week, and then she told me I could sleep on her couch – but then we had to make the rest of the arrangements outside AirBnB. That was not a problem for me, seeing as it was just for one night and she assured me I wouldn’t be disturbed. It’s just, given what I now know about AirBnB bookings, she deserves a bit of a side eye. She was quite nice though.

I’m happy to note that I passed that exam afterall, because I thought it was hard, and afterwards, I started counting how many credits I had. I need 120 to graduate, and I had 124 – so I asked my program coordinator if I could graduate even if I failed this exam. Nope. Panic. Well, I passed. Yay.

As it turned out, I got a couple of interviews in a sub-organization of the company where I interned, but those didn’t quite pan out, and then I just sort of moved on mentally from the company, such that during my last days there, I wasn’t even trying* anymore. I was more concerned with karaoke and parties by night, and with job applications to other companies by day.

I did say that I was going to be doing something about ‘favorite things’. I haven’t really been committed to anything lately, least of all *that*, but my  favorite thing today is the pack of scones I got from Marks and Spencer. I’m eating one as I speak – that’s why it’s my favorite thing.

M&S scones II

 

Well, thank you for reading, à demain!

*To get a job there.

Tidbits while I write my thesis III

8. I turned 25 3 weeks ago. I had a mini quarterlife crisis, but before that, I had to ascertain what the basis for ‘quarter’ currently is. 120 or 100? Most people think it’s 100. What did I do during my quarterlife crisis? I played Fun’s We Are Young on repeat and soulfully belted out the lyrics, until the boyfriend told me there was a package waiting for me at the reception. I went, and lo, he had bought and sent me a pair of RayBan aviators. No more crisis for now, please.

9. There hasn’t been a whole lot going on, except, I’m now beginning to panic about getting a job here or somewhere. Add to that, the fact that the boyfriend is leaving Europe tomorrow, so I have to at least think about finding a job in Nigeria, even if it’s only a halfhearted effort. I say halfhearted because I’m not quite ready to leave Europe, not sure I’d ever be. We have had some discussions about him coming back to Europe though, but these are more long-short term than immediate-short term plans and in the end, the likelihood is that it will be me moving back to Nigeria. Not now though. Please, universe, not now. About getting a job, I was holding off on applying until after handing in my thesis, which I will talk about in 13, 12, 11…

10. We had a long weekend this past weekend. Public holidays on Thursday and Friday, and most people travelled but what did I do? I was editing (what I thought would be) the final version of my MSc thesis. Special thanks to the boyfriend for staying up with me on Friday night (we went to bed at 4.00 am when the sun was beginning to rise again) to finish the draft.  I spent Thursday monitoring how the price of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged bird Sings rose drastically on Book Depository, following her passing; then reading  (something set in 15th century Italy) and generally discovering that daytime television is quite uninteresting.

So, back to my boring thesis. Saturday rolled around and I thought oh let me just read through one more time and then convert to PDF and submit. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was seeing such blatant errors that I wondered how my supervisor (who had read the other drafts,) managed to miss them. I decided that another round of editing was inevitable. Sigh. For starters, I didn’t want to bug the boyfriend again because he’s got his own exams this week, so I pulled out my Windows laptop. [I’m certain I’ve detailed why I abandoned that laptop somewhere on this blog.] For starters, it took about 45 minutes for me to get it to boot and open Google chrome. Fair enough, I spent the time editing on my Chromebook. Oh and, the events of this past weekend showed me that a Chromebook (can be, but) is not everything. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I needed a Windows laptop for a lot of formatting. Right, so I had the laptop running, and then I started to edit, and save, etc. When I had finished, I decided it might be nice to re-label my figures/tables/equations. I had labelled them on my work computer before, but that was in Dutch and my home computer has English as its native language so I thought why not just redo it. And then when I was done, I clicked ‘Update Table’ (of figures), and my computer ceased to function. If I was a violent person, I would have thrown that computer against the wall in rage. I was shaking, and muttering an F bomb everywhere. I hadn’t eaten lunch (it was about 17:00 at this point) so I went to eat lunch, then I came back and began the gruelling process of trying to get the computer to work. I finally finished at 21:30, but only because the awesome boyfriend offered to help again. At this point, I could not bring myself to care about that thesis anymore, to be honest. Before I move on, a word of advice for anyone who owns or is considering ‘investing’ in a Toshiba Satellite Windows computer: Kill it with fire. [Maybe my own product was faulty/defective, or something. But I know I’m not a careless person. So it’s not my carelessness. Burn it with fire.]

11. Oh, I submitted the thesis alright. And then received (along with the rest of my classmates), 16 hours after submission, 7 documents in response to my submission. What are those documents, you ask? They’re a bunch of standards which our theses are supposed to comply with before they will be considered eligible for blah blah blah. You would think that these people would have been gracious enough to share these documents with us in January, before we began to write our theses. Do we look like we’re playing? [I’m sure one of them is chuckling softly at our misfortune. One of those documents is 58 pages long.] We had one document which detailed some standards to be followed. And I followed the standards in that document. Oh well. It will be done. Eventually.

12. So, I was holding off on applying for jobs because I thought I wouldn’t have time to prep and do all the aptitude tests. But now I must combine everything, because my internship is about to end and I’m not a fan of limbo.

13. Random: I remembered, this morning, that someone sent me a link in April to apply for a scholarship to Stanford Graduate School of Business. I shuddered when I remembered, at the thought of more school. I’m tired please. [Yes, life is a constant school, yadi yadi ya. I know. Go away.]

14. More Random: There’s someone on Twitter, @bimadew. She does this thing called Bim’s 10 Things every week, in which she lists 10 of her favorite things for that week. And she’s got such interesting things! They’re mostly pictures of people (e.g. Billie Holiday), but I find them very interesting. Now I’m thinking maybe I should find one favorite thing everyday. It will be like a happiness chore for me, to find something super interesting, without trying too hard. I’ll see if I can keep it up for 1 month straight, starting…tomorrow. Okay no. Today. Starting today.

15. Finally: I’ve gotten quite adept at bike riding, I now ride mostly on autopilot. I’m so chuffed for myself 😀

Sorry for the long read, and thank you for reading this far. À tout!

Tidbits while I write my thesis

I’ve been writing the following slowly over the past couple of weeks, but I just thought to wait till I had compiled a sufficient number of lines to make up a post.

1. I ought to be writing my thesis, seeing as I’ve only got about 3 weeks before I have to hand it in (at this point, I only have 10 days. Sigh). I have writer’s’ block, I’ve tried (and still am trying) other things such as working on other non-literary parts of final project, but nothing is working. I can’t continue like this though, something’s got to give. Now, let’s see, what have I done in the past month and half? Nothing terribly interesting. Most weekends see me shrieking along to songs I find interesting on Spotify (e.g (I’m Gonna Be) 500 miles) and the radio while washing my hair, then being dragged off to one cafe or the other by my Spanish friend. I’m going to miss her when she leaves in about 2 weeks (I wrote this 2 weeks ago) – her bf (also Spanish) got a job here in my city, so they’re going to get a proper house with extra room for constant visitors like me 😀

2. Ooh! I have a story: Some weeks ago, I got a bike. I work in a chemical company as a process automation person, and it’s on a large site (~2000 people work here everyday). I carpool with someone at the hotel but while his office building is near the main gate, mine’s 15 minutes away on foot. Because of the size of the site, the company provides bikes for people who need to move around and don’t want to drive (or don’t own cars). So, I requested a bike. Okay, okay, said dude hinted that I should request one – why would I willingly choose to ride an unbalanced contraption? I already mentioned my mishaps with bikes elsewhere on this blog, right? So predictably, the first few days I had to ride the bike, disasters occurred. However, I got better with practice. The only problem left is mastering the ‘art’ of braking. You see, some (Dutch?) bikes don’t have handbrakes, so if you need to stop, you’d have to backpedal. For Dutch people, this isn’t a problem, but for a novice like me, it obviously is. Now, because this is a large chemical company, there’s a rail line that passes through the site, for cargo trains to transport chemicals to and from the site. (I don’t believe these trains are commercial. They either belong to the company, or to a logistics company. They’re usually unmarked so I wouldn’t know.) Anyway, the track runs across a major road on the site, and of course this road is one that I must pass to go between the gate and my office building. One more thing about my backpedalling: I have to start thinking about braking, when I’m about 100m away from where I intend to stop. So, some weeks ago, I was going from my office to the main gate, to be picked up by my ‘ride’. All of a sudden, about 20m from the rail barriers, the STOP lights came on and the alarm went off and the bars started coming down. Oh no. I couldn’t even begin to stop because I was panicking and it was either keep going, or jump off the bike and fall. I just thought “crap, these guys want my head” and went through the first barrier. This is where I could have died if I didn’t get through the 2nd barrier, because now I was directly in the path of the train. (Okay, I’m being a tad dramatic; the trains move so slowly and can be stopped if the operator sees that there’s something wrong.) I kept going anyway, keeping my head as low as possible, and managed to get past the second bar *just* before it hit my head. Whew.

3. I recently discovered British Pathé, and I think it’s bloody wonderful. Why didn’t anyone tell me about it before now? The newsreels are especially interesting, so much to see from the last century!

4.  I get sleepy after lunch everyday. Then I have to stay awake by reading all sorts, from The Private Lives of Public Bathrooms to Behind Every Supermom is an Incompetent Dad – This Dad is Sick of the Condescension, to Transcript: Putin says Russia will protect the rights of Russians abroad, to analyses of the latest Game of Thrones episode. Comment sections are, as usual, quite amusing. Speaking of GoT, I’ve started noticing some logical inconsistencies, but still can’t get enough.

Alright, that’s my 1 page of tidbits done, more coming soon. Promise.

Update – February

I moved to my new city in the middle of February. Before I moved, not much happened: I showed the house to a prospective tenant, met with my thesis supervisor (who is super nice), bought dumbbells (time to get this body ready for summer), exchanged emails with a set of fitness consultants (this actually happened in January), started exercising (it’s time to get this body ready for summer). The day before I moved, I met with my supervisor and bought a bunch of novels to keep me company in my new city, then attended a TED talk at my university. I also had to make a few calls to car rental companies, because I had no plans of taking the train to my new city. Why? Because somehow, I had managed to accumulate 5 suitcases worth of stuff. I gave out one full suitcase of stuff, but it still wasn’t enough.

The day I was moving, a couple of friends came to pick me after renting a car. One of them had to bring over his huge, empty suitcase for me to pack my leftover stuff that couldn’t fit into anywhere. Sigh. Anyway, the journey took 1.5 hours. That’s another reason it would have been annoying for me to go by train: Going by train requires multiple platform changes and it takes 3 hours. First, we had to go drop off one suitcase at the charity/thrift shop, then we took off. Did I mention that the organization I’m interning with is giving me free accommodation at a hotel? Well we got to the hotel, I paid €45 deposit for the keys (good thing I had that amount in my bag, else I’d have had to go look for an ATM), then got a luggage trolley to take all my stuff up the stairs. One of my friends actually took a picture of all my luggage and posted on my Facebook wall 😦

Went out for lunch afterwards, with my friends. Then we took a walk along the waterside and took a few pictures, after which they dropped me off at my hotel and went home. Now I had to unpack by myself. I love to travel. I like having nice stuff. But I hate packing and unpacking. Gah. Now it was time for me to unpack though, and so I began to tackle it…for about 4 hours. I was actually taking little breaks here and there. I love my new room though, and I finally have my own toilet again – and it’s a normal WC!!*

My first 2 weeks at work have been pretty uneventful, I had to go round and meet everyone in my department, I got a safety training, started writing my literature review, etc. Nothing very interesting. I must say though, that before Friday, I had been a bit confused as to what exactly this company wants from me. But then I spoke with my boss on Friday (he’s been away since I arrived), and now I have a sense of direction, so my faffing days are over. I’ve also been fortunate to join a car pool that costs me just €8/month, as opposed to taking the bus and spending about €66/month on transport. So that’s very nice. I also have nice coworkers who invite me to go to lunch with them, and who kept checking on me during my first week, “just to make sure you’re okay”.

I think that’s about it. Oh I live with 17 other interns on my floor, and we share a kitchen. But guess what, the kitchen is always clean. Everyone always cleans up. Quite a sharp contrast to some places I’ve been. My life has become pretty much routine: Wake up, pray, work out, breakfast, go to work, lunch, come back, head straight to the fridge for juice, dinner soon after that, get a nightcap (hot chocolate and biscuits) at 20:30 sleep between 22:00-23:00. My body has even adjusted such that I start feeling hungry at 7:00, 12:00, and sleepy at 22:00. Interesting. I need to figure out a way to be productive at work though, because I feel so lethargic in the mornings. Maybe it has a little something to do with the weather. Speaking of the weather, it’s quite windy around these parts. I need summer to show up ASAP.

Meanwhile, countdown to Game of Thrones Season 4. Whoop!

*I wrote this post some time last year, talking about Dutch WCs.

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.