Friday, September 30, 2011

Wake Me Up When September Ends

I don't usually do a monthly round up and I didn't enter into the university advice posts because it's not really me. But I guess this is a kind of hybrid of my take on both because as a lot of you will know, I started a "Post-Graduate" course at the beginning of September (it's not technically a post-grad, it's a graduate diploma, but it's essentially a post-grad study) and it's been a big period of adjustment for me.

So I started off with a full week of "induction" on my first week. Some of the sessions were the fairly standard- this is the library, this is how you log onto the computer, this is where you can buy a pen if you need one etc and some of the sessions were the first seminars of the course. I'm studying a Graduate Diploma in Law- which means converting my languages degree to a qualifying law qualification, enabling me to qualify as a barrister or solicitor afterward, so my first seminars were on the English Legal System and skills within academic law. The first week was the biggest confirmation that I made the right decision about taking this course. The facilities at my new university are a big step up from Bangor- the library is bigger, better stocked, centrally located, it has laptops available to borrow for as long as you need (within the library) at no charge, over 600 computer terminals, sound proof work space, group and individual work space with proper lighting, sockets located with laptops in mind, national and international news and a selection of food outlets. The course is challenging and it's based on you putting in the work and wanting to learn, which suits me just fine and the course tutors, so far, seem helpful, knowledgable and friendly.

I purchased a new school bag during the week too. It's the little thrills...

A lot of bits and pieces sprung to mind during my first week because the majority of other people around were freshers having their first encounter with university, and a few of us, feeling like 11 year olds on our first day at a new school.

1. Whether you're starting somewhere new or returning to university, smile, make conversation and keep an open mind about everyone. Whether you're 18 or 28, chances are you're worried about making friends.

2. Show up to the induction sessions. You'll make friends, you might learn something- even if you thought you knew everything there is to know beforehand (4 universities and 4 library tours, I severely doubted I'd learn anythng from a library tour, turns out my new one has a huge array of facilities I've never had access to before) and you'll find your way around better.

3. Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Make sure you take pens and notebooks, a drink, if you get hungry, take a snack, make sure you have your phone switched to silent and that you've read any preliminary materials given to you. You'll feel a lot less lost and you'll make a good impression.

4. Don't be too hasty- the above said, sometimes it's better to wait and see what you think you'll need before investing the equivalent of the Greek national debt in  stationary or accessories. You might find an A5 notebook suits you better than paper and files or that you don't need as bigger bag as you thought. This is an error I made as a fresher and am glad I did not repeat this year, it's saved me a fortune in stationary over the last couple of years and means that my notes are organised in a way that best suits me.

In complete contrast with my previous 4 years at university, I'm now commuting in from home. Living with my parents whilst taking this course is great in a number of ways, but it has meant a bit of an overhaul in the way I study.

Tips for those of you who might not be living on site and/or commuting:

1. Take the time to make sure you know about all the facilities on offer- where computer terminals are, how to pay for printing and when you can pay for it, opening and closing times of libraries and buildings, does your university lend/loan laptops or equipment to save you taking yours in with you? Are there food outlets and or do you need/prefer to take snacks and meals with you?

2. Check bus routes, train times and parking spots. If you take the bus or the train, keep a timetable handy, if you have a smart phone get app (it's free on iPhones, Android and BlackBerry here) as a quick and easy way of checking train times. Keep ahead and have 2 or 3 times in mind. If you drive, scout out free and safe parking, keep trains and buses in mind if it's costing you a lot in fuel or parking or in case of emergency.

3. If you use public transport, check the terms and conditions on tickets, discounts and rail cards, plan your travel times to fit with them.

4. If you have a longer journey to get to and from campus, plan a full day around it- go in earlier and use facilities you don't have at home such as the library or photocopying, if you pass a supermarket plan in your shopping for on the way home or schedule appointments between lectures to save further trips.

5. Be prepared for changeable weather- it might well be blazing sunshine but it may be cooler by the evening, take a jacket. Check weather forecasts and have wet or dry/cold or warm weather outfits in mind the night before. Umbrellas are cheap, neat and easily slot into bags, keep one to hand. In winter be sure to have an extra layer- particularly if there are weather warnings and you use public transport, you never know if you'll be delayed or stuck somewhere, being cold makes it more miserable than ever.

6. Use your time. If you use public transport- especially trains, use your journey to get things done. Train journeys are the pefect time to refresh your memory on notes from the last lecture, write up seminars, do some extra reading or check over a piece of work due in.

Learning how to juggle my job, work experience and now lectures, seminar and studies has been a big part of the last month. I didn't know exactly how it work and I knew there would have to be sacrifices, thankfully those have been relatively minimal. Routine has been my biggest helper, because with a routine I can plan everything in without anything being left to the last minute or one thing becoming too much of or too little of a priority. One of the best things I have been doing is spending all day at university on the 2 days per week I have lectures. My lectures and seminars run from 1400-2000 but typically I've been getting up as I would usually for work and catching the train at 1000, spending my train journey and a couple of hours in the library working, having lunch and then heading off to classes. This scheduled time is guaranteed, uninterrupted study time, with any and every possible resource available. Not letting myself have extra lay ins means my sleep pattern remains intact and by the time I arrive at my first class of the afternoon, I'm already one hundred percent focussed on my studies as opposed to work or training.

If you have several things on the go, these would be my top pointers...

1. If you have a job, try and set regular shift patterns or days to establish a routine. If you know how many hours per week on which days at which time you'll be working, you'll always know what time you have free and you'll know if you're taking on too much. Another added benefit is being able to predict how much you're going to earn per week or month enabling you to budget better.

2. Be realistic about taking on paid work whilst studying. We all have to eat and have a roof over our heads, but ultimately if you don't have enough time to focus on your studies and get through your workload, you may as well not bother with the course and make your job full time, as you won't do as well as you'd like and you'll feel overloaded. Many universities say that 15 hours a week is about the maximum paid work you should take on whilst attending a full time course, but do check with yours. If you're sturggling, talk to someone and get some advice. Personal Tutors and Student Unions are a good place to start.

3. Treat your studies like a job- set times when you will sit down and get things done. By having set times, you'll know what free time you'll have available, you'll know you've put the time in and you can see how productive you are over a time period and monitor whether you're on track.

4. If you have specific hobbies or activities you do, schedule those onto a "life timetable" too, so you can fit your studies around your life. I have training to do most days, and I schedule it in for a specific time so I know that it definitely fits into my schedule aongside everything else, and I have no excuse to be lazy and skip it.

This is how mine looks:

MondayWork ExperienceTraining
TuesdayTrainingWork in LibraryLecturesStudy
ThursdayTrainingWork in LibraryLecturesStudy

On a lighter note....I've also been lucky enough to receive a few freebies in the last month. Thanks to the lovely Cat, I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of the Aussie Party Packs, which included one of their Aussie-versary products of choice. I picked the 3 Minute Miracle Take The Heat conditioner. I knew I liked 3 Minute Miracle, but not I'm getting some extra hair dryer protection and it smells gorgeous. I keep getting wafts of it during the day and wondering what the nice smell is, then realising it's my hair!

Big gold envelope and pretty packaging from Aussie
I ran a giveaway with earrings from the lovely Wendy House this month and the lovely Wendy sent a couple of bits for me to keep myself, this lady is lovely and beyond generous and these beauties have been around my neck non-stop.

From Russia With Love Necklace from Wendy House

A Cut Above Necklace from Wendy House

And at the risk of sounding well and truly spoiled, I also won a giveaway being run by the lovely Eloise from I Need More Clothes and her shop I Need More Jewellery Now credit to Eloise, because she noticed I had a necklace the same as one she had lined up for the giveaway and offered to exchange it for something else. Whilst I'm sure I could happily have made use of the necklace she had planned, I thought it was a very lovely gesture to have noticed and made an exchange. Here's what she sent me.

Je T'aime necklace

And so concludes the month of September. It's been a toughie here at Chloe Likes To Talk with lots on and lots to think about. Big thanks go out to several of you who made it so much easier and more bearable, in particular to Cat, to Alex and to Ayden.

How has your September been? If you started university or a new job, I hope you're enjoying yourselves. You only live once after all.



daisychain said...

I LOVE your bag x

Maria Fallon said...

These tips are really helpful! I love all of these different prizes too :)

Maria xxx

Alex said...

Moi? I don't know what I've done but I'm glad it helped!

My September just seems to have disappeared. I couldn't honestly tell you what I've done, other than be ill and go on holiday. All seems to have been very quiet here.

Unknown said...

Some fantastic tips, and it sounds like you are very well prepared. Hope the course is gonig well!