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Top tips: online learning

Online lectures and seminars can often feel like they’re not the real thing. Watching someone speak on a screen can mean it’s easy to get distracted and lose concentration. It can be difficult but it’s still important to use these sessions and make the most of them so here are my top tips to try and remain focused.

Find a quite space to study – though it can be difficult to find this space dependent on where you’re living at the moment, it’s important to be away from distractions. Even just putting on some headphones to block out the background noise can be beneficial to engaging in what’s being said.

Distance yourself from distractions – I’d recommend putting your phone away or at least on do not disturb so that you aren’t tempted to scroll through instagram or check your notifications. Plus it’s always a good idea to take some time away from your phone and this is the perfect opportunity to create some distance. Look out for what sort of things you find distracting when learning online to try and work out what the best environment would be for you to work in.

Treat it as you would treat an in person lecture – take notes, ask questions, do the preparation to truly make the most of these lectures and to truly understand the content. I find that engaging and putting my ideas across really helps me to concentrate and take in the information. It also helps to make sure you have a good understanding if you put your thoughts on the topic out there as you can hear how others may agree or disagree with your points. As much as it’s important to make the most of your contact hours, remember it can be difficult to adjust and that you should give yourself credit for getting through it.

Keep on top of your work – it can be so easy to put off doing work when there is less structure surrounding university. However, the best way to not make unnecessary stress is to try not to fall behind. Keeping up with work by doing it regularly may seem difficult when you have a lack of motivation but you will thank yourself in the future when you don’t have work piling up.

Top tips on being a student in a pandemic

Once again we find ourselves in lockdown which means for many of us we won’t be going back to university until at least mid-February. Of course this can make many things a lot harder; living situations, accessing course materials, online learning. To help you get through it I’m going to be doing a series of posts on these different topics to hopefully help you be a bit more productive and a bit less stressed. Of course these are things that work for me, they won’t work for everyone, but if you’re feeling a bit lost you might as well give them a try.

At the moment I am living at home after returning for the Christmas break and attempting to get my work done. I’ve been trying to put little things in place to help myself stay productive but it’s always important to remember that these are very strange times. It’s important to remember that you may not feel as encouraged at the moment, don’t beat yourself up about this because it’s only natural to feel a bit of a strain on your work at the moment.

With working on my dissertation, assignments, seminars and reading there’s a lot to be doing and it can be nice to have something to focus on at the moment. However, the importance of taking a break is a big as ever. Go for a walk, watch a bit of Netflix, call a friend, make sure you’re doing things to relax yourself so that you can feel that bit more fresh and ready to go.

I’m back

So the last time I posted was back in November, though it seems like no time, it’s been over a month. As much as I love doing my blog and engaging with those who read it, being back at university means I’ve been very busy.

However, I first set up my blog because I love writing and sharing my thoughts as a hobby. It is something I enjoy doing and so I really want to get back into doing it as something to help me take a break from university work.

Being in third year there is definitely a lot more to focus on than previous years but of course it’s always important to find things you can use as a way to relax. So, I’m going to get back into sharing my thoughts and feelings about university life with you all.

Hopefully you’ll all be seeing a bit more of me on my blog in the coming month and I very much look forward to getting back into my writing.

Book Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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What’s it about? Eight friends go on their annual Christmas break to an isolated lodge in Scotland. Other than an Icelandic couple and two workers they’re the only people for miles. As the weather gets worse they realise there is no way for them to leave or the outside world to get to them making it ever more troubling when a body is found. It doesn’t look like an accident, so what happened?

What did I think? I really enjoyed this book, it was told through the eyes of the three women in the party and the two workers. It’s very secretive, we want to find out who is the murderer and who was murdered. Though there were parts which were predictable, I felt I was still hooked as there were parts I couldn’t quite work out. Though it did take a while to set up the story and get into it once you get past the first few chapters you won’t be able to stop. I felt the character all worked really well, they all had distinct personalities with their own secrets. These all greatly added to the story as there was suspicion surrounding everyone.

Would I recommend? I would, I feel it’s just such a good murder mystery and slightly different as we don’t actually know who the victim is for the majority of the book. I’ll definitely be reading another of Lucy Foley’s some time soon.

The next book I’ll review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Organising my life

I know I’ve definitely spoken on here about how much I love my planner in keeping me organised. Since I got one for Christmas last year I’ve used it so much and already put one on my list for this year. But being in third year I’ve found the need to keep organised so much more important; there always seems to be so much to do and it’s almost difficult to keep up. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ve probably noticed I haven’t been posting as much lately but hopefully over the coming weeks I can begin to become more organised so that I can get more things done.

Now that I’ve started third year there seems to be so much to think about. To think that I used to think that third year was just the dissertation, I also have to focus on my other modules and meet those deadlines. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about after university, applying for grad schemes in the hope I’ll have something secure when I graduate. With all these things to think about even before taking time to relax and getting involved with extra-curricular activities, it’s vital to stay organised.

The important thing is to realise is that it’s important to prioritise the upcoming deadlines without neglecting further deadlines. While it’s necessary to complete essays due in before Christmas I’ve still been working on my dissertation without bringing that forward as the priority at the moment.

With that in mind I like to ensure that I have all my deadlines written down with little reminders in the few weeks before. By working out how long things will take I can ensure that I factor enough time for each thing into my plans so as to not fall behind.

Thankfully I’ve lately had enough time to do everything I need to but hopefully I can work on being more organised so I have more time for the things I enjoy.

Give yourself a break when you need it

As reading week draws to a close, I must say I’ve been glad for the break. For me this marks half way through the first term and has given me the chance to catch up on work but also to have a relax which is always important. Especially with the second lockdown stress levels are high and so it’s vital to make sure you look after yourself

Of course university work is important but so is your mental health, in fact the latter is more important. Understanding what you need to ensure you feel good is something you should explore. Working yourself out to find that balance between getting work done and looking after yourself is always a good idea. Maybe you work a certain amount of hours in the day and give yourself a break in the evening or you focus strongly on work in the week to give yourself time at the weekend for yourself. It’s all about finding what’s best for you.

You should never feel guilty for having a break. Even if you feel you haven’t been working at your best lately don’t punish yourself by pushing your mind and body to breaking point. It can be difficult when you have so many things on and so many deadlines looming to just take a step back and give yourself the space you need to get back on track. The way I see it if I allow myself a break I will be more productive when I get back to working as I have refreshed myself and my mind is not running at a million miles an hour.

The perfect way to give yourself this time away from your studies would be to do something away from your work space. Even if you just move to a different room to watch some Netflix or read a book you’re resetting yourself to get back into work. A good way to relieve stress is through exercise, whether that’s at home or outside, do what feels right for you. Maybe go on a walk and get some fresh air, let your mind wonder, ask those you live with to join you and just have a nice chat. Call or message a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while for a catch up. These things not only give you that break you need but give you something else that hopefully will add to your happiness. But also if you just feel like doing absolutely nothing for a little while that’s fine too, find what feels good for you.

My biggest piece of advice is not to wait until you feel desperate for a break, give yourself time off so you don’t get to a point of burnout. Make sure to look after yourself especially in this pandemic and now that England has gone into a second lockdown. Remember there are people there for you if you need them, treat yourself right and remember whatever you are feeling you’re not alone.

Keeping yourself motivated when doing university online

I’ve found university being online can drain me of motivation as there’s not the same sense of routine. While I do go into university for 2 hours a week the rest of my seminars are online and I tend to do my work at home rather than go to the library. I’ve been trying to put small things in place these last few weeks to get me into the right mindset to do work. People do not lie when they say the workload in third year is a lot so it’s even more important for me to create a good at home study routine.

Leave the house – I know this may not be the best advice during a pandemic but I’ve found it can start to get suffocating if you stay inside all the time. I recently stopped doing at home workouts and actually went back to the gym and it just felt so good. Even if you just go for a short walk, give yourself a break and get out of the enclosed space in which you live and work.

Create to-do lists – I’ve spoken before about my love for my planner but this is so important for me as it helps me set goals. I like to have short to-do lists for each day to motivate myself to get stuff done. There’s nothing like the feeling of having ticked everything off the list at the end of the day.

Create a routine – though you may have less of a fixed schedule from commitments that doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine. I like to get up at the same time each day, have my meals, finish working and do my exercises in line with my routine. Even at the weekends I like to keep to my routine to an extent otherwise I’ll fall out of it. It’s important to listen to your body sometimes I’ll allow myself a lie in if I’m shattered at the end of the week or have an early night.

Switch off in the evenings – don’t work all day, have some time to wind down especially before bed. I like to watch a film or read some of my book before I go to sleep just to relax my mind. I feel of I work until bed it does impact my sleep.

Have meal breaks – in keeping with the last point of shutting off. I like to take breaks for my meals, setting a specific amount of time to take a break, enjoy my food and watch a bit of Netflix before getting back to work.

Reward yourself – it can be so easy to think that work is something you should just be doing. But it’s always nice to have something to look forward to. I often think I want to make sure all my work is done before this event so I don’t have to worry about work when it comes around. This is such a good way to motivate yourself.

Hopefully these things can help you to motivate yourself while working at home.

Dissertation diaries: October

I’ve decided now that I’m back at university to do another update on the dissertation writing process. I feel being back at university there really is a lot of work to be doing but I want to make sure I’m keeping up with this project.

Being back at university I was able to go to the library to get the physical copies of books that weren’t available to me online which really has been a great help and reading through these has given me the ability to fill in some of the gaps.

I met with my dissertation supervisor which I can’t recommend enough. It gave me such a good sense of direction and helped me with things I was starting to get confused about. It really helped me to understand my work better as I had to explain it to someone else and it made me realise the bits it’s didn’t quite understand. If you’re doing a dissertation you should definitely go see your supervisor, even if you feel you know exactly what you are doing they can help you confirm this.

My university requires us to do oral presentations just before the Christmas break to talk through our plan for our dissertation. This is something I’ve been working toward and knowing I need to talk for 10 minutes about my research helps me to make it more comprehensive.

On the actual essay, I got feedback on my introduction which allowed me to refine it and I feel a lot more confident with that. I managed to start the first chapter, working out the gaps and what needs smoothing out. The more I write the more confident I become which is a good feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to manage my time around this well while still getting on with my other work and sticking to other deadlines.

Book Review: Saltwater by Jessica Andrews

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What it’s about- it follows the life of Lucy who has moved to university in London from Sunderland. She struggles to fit in to the new environment, working long shifts to make ends meet. She leaves for Ireland to find who she really is.

What I thought – while it was written in a poetic way, which I liked, the story was very difficult to keep up with. There were times when it seemed to flow beautifully but then it would suddenly jump to something else, maybe a different time, which just didn’t work for me. It made it hard to know where the story was going and there were some passages that just completely confused me. I personally liked the writing style it made the passages flow and rather than being written in chapters it was written in short passages as though it was a group of poems that linked together.

Would I recommend – I feel it is a book for people with a specific taste. If you love poetry this could perfect for you as I feel it’s the sort of book you need to really read into to understand what is happening.

My favourite lunches at the moment

It can often feel that at university the days are busy. This can mean that making lunch needs to be quick, that’s why I’ve decided to give you my favourite quick ideas. I love a warm lunch so these aren’t the best for a packed lunch but with most things being online there’s less of a need for those. I may do a packed lunch ideas post some time soon, for some inspiration.

Omelette – I made my first omelette a few weeks ago and I’m already in love with them. It’s such an easy thing to make, all you really need is eggs and you’re good to go. You may also want some salt and pepper and as you get more confident making them you can add some toppings. I used ham and mushrooms the other day and it was just yummy.

Hummus – there are so many flavours of hummus to try, my favourite has to be red pepper but I do always love an original flavour. I serve mine with carrot sticks and toasted pitta bread to dip in. It’s so easy to make you could even prepare the carrots in advance so you can quickly put everything together at lunch time.

Soup – soup has so many flavours so you can really mix this one up. Whether you make it yourself or use a shop bought one that’s up to you. My favourite is definitely tomato soup and I have it with a warm bread roll to fill me up a bit more. I do sometimes use sliced bread instead but there’s nothing like bread from the oven.

Pancakes – occasionally I love to treat myself to some good old pancakes. Whether they’re the American style or crepes I just love them. There’s so many toppings to choose from, at the moment I’m loving Biscoff spread on mine.

And there we had it my top four lunches for when I need something quick and easy. Plus they can all be done on a student budget.