Thursday, 11 October 2012

Student daze (Φοιτητική ζωή)

When I was studying at university, I used to walk to and from the campus every day. It took me about half an hour to walk down a hill, then walk along a flat road and finally walk up a steep hill to get to the campus which was situated amidst a panaromic setting. I would walk because I was saving money and getting exercise at the same time. Although my meals were often prepared by my mother, throughout my bachelor degree, I was also helping my parents after classes at their fish and chip shop, where I would also be doing my reading or writing my assignments. With the exception of my dad, we all had our share of the housework too. It wasn't an easy life, but it wasn't an exceptionally hard one, either.

It's quite a different story to the students I teach at MAICh. They stay in dormitories with private bathrooms, which are cleaned once a week by institute staff. Their bedsheets are also changed on that day. Every morning, they wake up to a full breakfast served by the restaurant staff. After attending classes all morning, they then come back to the restaurant for a cooked lunch (with desert). Unless there is a laboratory session or an extra class scheduled, afternoons are usually free for study or leisure, and there is also one more meal served in the early evening. The campus also has sports facilities - football, basketball and tennis/squash courts - all set in a peaceful pine forest surrounding, and wi-fi is available throughout the campus. Most of the students are on a full board and tuition scholarship; some of them (depending on which country they come from - Greece is not included) also receive a small monthly allowance to cover personal needs. Personally, I think they've got it easy.

But as the world moves forward, we become more demanding; as our standard of living rises, so do our expectations. We want a better life, because improving one's standing is seen as a right. Even though we have it all on a plate, so to speak, we are still within our rights to complain, and we still find reason to complain: "I don't like the food, it's the same every day", "there's too much homework, I don't have enough time to relax", "the afternoon classes should be cancelled, I prefer to sleep then", "€20 pocket money isn't enough to buy my monthly supply of cigarettes and phone cards". All complaints are valid, even if they sound somewhat trivial.

 Imam baldi eggplant, risotto and 'breakfast salad' with honey-mustard dressing, with coleslaw and beetroot-walnut pasta salad - part of yesterday's lunch served at MAICh campus; the restaurant dining areas is seen in the background.

It's only when their study period is over that they will remember the days when they were studying on a beautiful island in Greece, where all they did was study or play as they pleased, and the food was fresh, local and seasonal every day.  That's when they will remember the sit-down variety meals they shared with an international group of friends. Then they might remember the pizza, spaghetti and souvlaki lunches which were always the most popular ones, and the queue was long before they got to the end of it. And if it's snowing where they are right now, they will remember Crete's good weather and the shady restaurant balcony with the wooden tables, since most of the time, they were able to sit outdoors. Above all, they will remember that they were lucky to have had the chance to experience all this in one of the most beautiful settings in Europe, during a period in their life when they were young and carefree.

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