Quick End of Term update

AUTh Lab, Thessaloniki

I’ve seen it before and I know I’ll see it again, but every time I take a term full of university courses I end up swimming in too much to do by the end. This term is no different – except that most people believe that it is physically more than can be done in the time that we have – and they are right if they would like to actually prepare for the exams. Personally I’m not much of a studier, but I’ve yet to have that be a problem. So I can focus most of my time on the plethora of assignments and projects that we have stacked ahead of us. Of course I was still at the lab last night almost to 11pm and then we went to Nenad’s place to continue work until after 3am. Today I suspect that many of my colleagues will be here very late as we have something due tomorrow. Some of us think that we have two oral exams tomorrow – and I’m pretty sure that is true. A lot of us, myself included, think that two of our assignments corresponding to the exams are also due tomorrow. But then we get vague emails about certain files from our assignments to be handed in on a different date and needless to say there is a lot of confusion.

The feeling in this lab is quite intense, most people either angry or frustrated or both. However, the silver lining of our time in Greece is that it brought our group closer together, giving us a chance to bond. Unfortunately it had to happen in a us versus the country kind of mentality, but spending 8 to 12 hours each day at school together with 22 other people and you are bound to get to know them better. For some people, the lab is the only computer they have access to. And for everyone it is the only way to access the internet. And we do have a lot more access to the labs than your average student perhaps, but we had to ask for it. And since police are not allowed on the campus due to some political agreements, the university is not a very safe place to be later at night. Junkies, thieves and other unpleasant folk tend to linger around after dark in this legal haven. So being here late at night to finish school work isn’t only tiring and frustrating, it is physically dangerous. And this isn’t a theoretical danger, a couple students have already had run ins with would-be muggers on campus and off – and March is when things start to get worse. Most carry with them some level of fear about traveling around the city, especially after dark.

Recently we filled out a survey and had interviews about the general nature and effectiveness of the Erasmus Mundus program, focusing on the two places we’d been to so far. My inclination is that Greece didn’t fare out too well in that review. Personally my only major complaint about the location is the lack of facilities at the university, especially ones geared toward a group computing science grads. I do have a couple issues with the way that we were handled as a group within the university – but I do realize that we are the guinea pigs and a little of that can be expected.

I guess this update wasn’t as quick as I planned – once I get ranting it can be hard to stop. Final point – would I do this again? Absolutely. So far, one the best experiences of my life. But is it a free ride? Far from it. Future years will be better and I suspect that other streams are quite different, but the European Commission needs to make some higher level changes if they want this program to really promote study in Europe.