My goals for third year

Today is my first day back to university, even if it is an online seminar. Luckily I do have half my seminars in person so I look forward to those as I feel they will really get me into the mood to start this year. As I look ahead I’ve decided to set myself a few goals to give me a sense of direction and if I feel lost I can look back at these.

Attend all my seminars: This is such an important thing, even just missing one you could miss something really important. Especially with lectures being online it is so much easier to attend the lectures. Now this does not mean turn the lecture on while you go on your phone, take notes and engage with the seminars.

Work in a work space: I often get tempted to get into bed to do some work but this really is a habit I need to break. I work so much more focused when I work at my desk and that is something I need to focus on. Even though its only the first day back I have made sure to do all my work at my desk today so hopefully this is something I can keep up with for the rest of the year.

Work hard and produce work I’m proud of: I want to come out of university with a good degree that I feel I have really worked for. I also don’t want to see my results and feel I could have done better because of this I hope to work to the best of my ability. Though of course a balance is important which brings me to my next goal.

Avoid burnout: Make sure I get the work life balance right. I feel if I work myself to death, in the long run it will have a negative effect on not only my mental and physical health but the quality of my work too. My goal is to get the balance as good as I can, I know its extremely difficult to find a perfect balance but I hope I can plan things so that it works well for me.

Enjoy the social side: With the freedom of university comes a great social life, which I want to take advantage of. It will most likely be a lot more difficult to arrange time to see friends once university is over so I want to make the most of the time I have. It may be a bit more difficult with the whole coronavirus going on but I hope I will still have a lot of fun and make some amazing memories.

Feel as sense of fulfilment at the end: The most important thing to me is really just to feel that sense of ‘I had an amazing university experience’ when I finish. That’s the big goal really to feel I made the most of it both academically and socially and not feel regrets that I didn’t try something I wanted to do.

Getting ready for the start of term

I have just over a week before I start back at university so it’s time to do some last minute prep. The more you do before, the less you have to worry about once term begins.

Moving into accommodation and settling in: This is an important one, once you are used to where you live hopefully you’ll be more comfortable. Setting up a good space where you plan to work is essential especially as it may be harder to find a space in the library with social distancing. Making sure to separate where you work from where you sleep is vital so that you can have separate mind frames for these spaces. Even if it’s all the same room have specific areas for different things.

Ensure you have the stationary you need: You’ll want to be organised from when you start your course. Make sure you have everything you need to organise your work and write your notes when you begin. The more you organise as you go along the less of a task you will have when it comes to sorting your notes out for revision.

Get to know your way to uni: Even if you are a returning student, if you are living in a new area its a good idea to work out your route to university before your first lecture. You don’t want to be late to lectures because you don’t really know where you are going.

Familiarise yourself with your timetable: It’s important to know where you need to be and when so that you can organise your life around it. Having a sense of routine before you get back to uni can be very beneficial.

Do what you can to get ahead: The more do before uni starts the less you’ll have to worry about at a later date. If there’s nothing you can do at the moment don’t worry about it, enjoy the freedom while you can!

Getting involved and making the most of your studies

You’ve probably heard it many time that you should really try to get involved when you go to university. This is especially aimed at the social aspects but its also so important to get involved in your lectures, seminars and tutorials. This will help you so much more when it comes to exams and assignments as you’ll be confident in the material and comfortable asking lecturers and seminar tutors for help.

I’ll admit in my first year I was fairly quiet in class. It was daunting being at university with this new style of learning and surrounded by people I didn’t know. I just needed to get used to this and did slowly become more talkative.

By second year, I had decided the best way to make the most of university was just to contribute as much as I could. I did the reading, asked questions, contributed to class discussions and gave forward my ideas. I definitely did this more in the second term and I really saw the difference, I understood the material more and felt I could get in touch with the tutors on sections I was struggling with or for essay advice.

So my biggest piece of advice would be to just get involved as much as you can. It can make the work so much more enjoyable when you’re properly engaged. By asking questions you are able to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. It can be scary to put forward suggestions in a room full of silent students where no one wants to speak but once you do it, you’ll have that sense of achievement. The best thing is to not worry about judgement, if no one else is contributing, you saying something that’s not correct allows for you to learn from this mistake and at least you put yourself out there. Also the more you engage the better relationship you will build with your tutors which is useful for when you need help or are looking for advice. So give it a go, put yourself out there and get out of your degree what you are paying for.

Remember as much as you are going to uni to have fun, you’re going to get a degree so make the most of it and enjoy your successes.

5 things I wish I knew before going to uni

As I am going into my third year of university, I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on what I wish I’d known before I headed off. I hope it can help you prepare to go to university and just give you a sense of knowing what you’re getting into.

You’ll meet a lot of people, don’t feel pressure to attach yourself to the first people you meet – There is so much going on in freshers that you can get caught up in meeting so many different people. Remember the first person you meet may not be the person you will form a friendship with and live with in second year. That’s not to say you won’t ever speak to them again but just see what happens. Find those people that things just click into place with and you can see yourselves being friends with for the rest of your life.

Uni culture is very much tailored to those who drink but you can definitely have fun if you don’t– I’m sure you’ve heard by now that university culture is very much centred around alcohol and clubbing (It will be interesting to see what happens with this now that clubs cannot open). This is great for people who love a night out but for those who don’t there is hope. I never really thought about it as I am someone who does drink and go on these nights out but you will definitely still find people if you don’t. I know people who would just stay home when their friends went out or would go out sober but there were also those who surrounded themselves with people who didn’t drink like them. If this is something you are a bit worried about, don’t, there are so many ways to find people without drinking.

You get out what you put in – I’ll admit in first year I never really liked to contribute to lectures and seminars in first year. It seemed daunting and I wasn’t confident enough so I’d only very occasionally put my hand up. However, in second year I really got into discussions and I’m so glad I did, I really do believe the more you put into these sessions the more you will get out of them. Get in touch with lecturers if you have issues and questions, that’s what they are there for. Remember at the end of the day you want to do well in your degree, you might as well get the most out of the resources you have.

Be sure you want to live with the people you sign for a house with in second year– Now I was very happy with the people I moved into my house with in second year but it is a big step. You go from seeing these people around to being constantly on top of each other. It can be such an exciting idea to get a massive house with all your friends but just remember you have to live with these people for the next year. Be careful, you don’t want things to become awkward or like you don’t belong in your won home. Also be wary about where you live, we had such a nice house but it was so far away from the university, this year we’ve moved to somewhere a lot closer. Just think what you want from a house and be sure to ask questions when you go for viewings.

It may not be the perfect place you expect it to be, you’ll have ups and downs – I love university but going into it there are many unrealistic expectations. Teen movies tend to glamourise university/college to the extreme and it’s not necessarily always this amazing place. Things will take time, you probably won’t meet the love of your life as soon as you walk through the door, you most likely won’t get full marks on your first assignment, the first thing you try might not be your focus for the rest of the year. Don’t feel like you’ve failed the university experience because things don’t all fall into place in your first week. You have at least three years of uni and the rest of your life ahead of you.

How I use a planner

Using a planner can be so beneficial when you are trying to organise your life. Especially as a university student, it can be useful to make sure you meet all your deadlines and are able to keep to your commitments. I’m going to talk through how I use mine but just remember this may not work for you. Just experiment with it all until you find what works for you.

The first thing you need to do is purchase a planner. I got a Papier planner from my parent for Christmas so that is the one I use. It is on the pricey side, though I do see it as an investment as I use mine everyday. You can however get them a lot cheaper so look out for one at you local stationary store or super market.

Once I have my planner I go through and insert any solid plans or deadlines I have. These are things that can’t be changed and so I need to plan around those things. This could be lectures, assignment deadlines or meeting friends.

It is a good idea to put in reminders for upcoming deadlines a week or two in advance so if you haven’t looked ahead it doesn’t jump up on you if you’ve forgotten.

If I want to add anything to my to-do list at this point then I do. This would be things like a few days before a deadline I’ll add check it over and submit it to my list.

Otherwise, I plan each of my weeks on the Sunday before. I go through and write a to-do list for each day. For Sundays it’s always the same, I plan for the next week and do any tasks not done earlier in the week, this means if I need a rest day I can catch up on Sunday and if not I have Sunday off. Do be aware when making to-do lists not to over exert yourself, I’d rather add things later in the week than have incomplete tasks as this makes me feel unmotivated that I was unable to complete them.

I also put in my exercise days so I know when to have rest days and I can work this around my other commitments. At present I don’t plan my meals but this is something I might try when I’m back at uni.

Dissertation Diaries: Summer

I’ve decided to do a new monthly series on my blog all about dissertations. It is a very daunting project and I hope that by talking through what I’ve been doing and what has been working for me I can give you some peace of mind that it doesn’t have to be that scary. If you’re planning on doing a dissertation at a some point in the future hopefully you can learn from my tips and my mistakes. Also, from doing this it will motivate me to keep up with the work! In this post I’m going to discuss what I’ve done so far over the summer and after that I plan to do monthly updates.

So, a little background, I study history. Your dissertation will most likely be different dependant on your subject and your university but I feel there will be similarities in the planning and writing process. We use primary and secondary source material for the analysis and evidence, I know some people will be required to do questionnaires or to collect data instead so just bare this in mind.

First of all, I was required by my university to submit a dissertation outline at the end of second year. This was very much my starting point; it required me to find sources, explain what I wanted to research and break down what would be discussed in each of the chapters. This was actually very useful so I’d recommend even if this isn’t required by your university you just write up your initial aims and what will be included.

I’ve done a large proportion of my primary and secondary reading and picked out key bits of text from these to put in a word document. I printed out this word document and colour-coded the information to correlate with the chapter they were most relevant to so I could use them as a starting point. There are of course materials that aren’t available online so I have made a note of these to find in the library when I return to Reading. Because of this, I know there are gaps in my reading that I will be able to fill when I have all the resources.

I wrote up an in-depth plan of my introduction, this has highlighted the gaps to me and so I know where I need to do a bit more research. I was told that the introduction should be the first thing you start and the last thing you finish so I’m not too worried about the gaps and am prepared to change things up as I go.

I wrote up my plan by hand so I have written up a first draft of my introduction on my computer. Not only has this given me a sense that I’m getting somewhere as I have started working on the actual essay, its given me an idea of just how much I’ve written towards my word count so far.

  • My goals for the month ahead:
  • do reading to help fill in the gaps
  • do an in depth plan for chapter 1
  • begin writing up a first draft of chapter 1

Living alone for the first time

If you’re moving away to university, this may be the first time you’ve ever lived alone. Though the idea of being completely independent can be exciting, it can also be very daunting. I hope this post will give you some peace of mind with your worries and gives some top tips of how to settle in well.

The big thing to remember is that some people will take longer to get used to the new way of living than others which is okay. Please don’t beat yourself up if you feel like it’s taking you more time to get settled. This is a big step in your life and often new things and big changes can be more of a struggle for some individuals. Not only this, but there will be others who are struggling that can hide it so well. If you feel like you’re looking at others like ‘I wish I could deal with change like that’, they may be feeling exactly the same as you. You can always share your thoughts with others and maybe they will relate and you can get through it together.

Not everything will come naturally when you first start out; whether that’s cooking or laundry or just a bit of everything. Everyone will be having struggles and the best thing to do is to help each other out, it’s also a great way to bond with your new found friends. There is always the option of just calling home, which I did a lot in my first year. I had so many random questions especially about cooking.

Home sickness is a thing. I’ll be honest I was so caught up in university life that I didn’t feel this at all until a few weeks in. If you feel this way, call your family, FaceTime your friends. Especially if all your home friends have moved away to their own university they may need that reassurance from you too but do remember they’ll be doing their own thing. Remember different people will settle in, in different ways so be patient with them if they are getting more involved at university. Find times you are both free and have a good catch up then.

Don’t stretch yourself too much. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once if that’s too much for you. If settling in means you live off oven food and beans on toast for the first few weeks, you do you while you’re getting yourself sorted. As you get used to the new way of life you can step things up and learn new things as you go.

No matter what be proud of yourself, it’s a very big step. Not only are you suddenly living on your own, you’re in a new city and you’re having to get used to the university lifestyle.

Taking time for yourself

University can be a very overwhelming place and you may feel pressure to be socialising or working every moment of every day. I want you to think to yourself, when was the last time you had a day off? On top of that, when was the last time you took a day for yourself with no worry or guilt?

I often find myself allowing myself time off but I have to get back to it the next day or I can have the afternoon off if I work in the morning. You shouldn’t need to have this sense of ‘deserving’ a break, if you feel you need one, have one. Personally, I’ve been really enjoying taking time for myself lately. Yes, I love meeting up with people and I’ve been doing uni work to prepare myself for third year but I want to get into a habit of enjoying my own company. It doesn’t have to be anything big, I read about people ‘taking themselves on a date’ and just sitting alone in a restaurant with no phone or laptop but I feel that’s a very daunting prospect for me. Maybe I’ll get there one day. For now, I like to take myself on a walk or just go shopping alone (I’m loving charity shops at the moment as they’re both sustainable and cheap which is helpful on a student budget). It’s so good to just be with yourself, it gives you a chance to think things through while getting some fresh air. I find that if I try to reflect on things before bed, which I often find is the only real chance I give myself, it’s not the best time to do so. Just going and doing something more randomly, I feel calms me. Plus, if I ever have a day where I wake up feeling like I really don’t want to do anything, going for a walk can set me up nicely for the rest of the day.

As with so many things, it’s all about finding the right balance for you. Maybe you prefer to plan when you’ll take a rest day so you can get all your work done around it. You may however, like me, prefer to just take them when you feel like you need one on the day. You can just move any work you had planned that day to another. Uni can be a stressful place so you need to look after yourself. Of course, if you feel like you are really suffering with mental health it’s a good idea to reach out for professional help which you should be able to get advice on through your uni. I am no expert on this and I’m not saying taking alone time will make everything better, its just something I find helps me. Remember, while people may make it seem you need to be constantly doing something productive at uni, it’s okay to take time for yourself.

What to pack for university: Miscallaneous

I’ve spoken through the main things that you will need to take to university for different categories; the bedroom, kitchen and stationary. There are a few bits that don’t however fit into those categories and so this last post in the series will feature more miscellaneous things you’ll want to remember.

Laundry: you’ll want to take a laundry basket to keep your room tidy and so that you can easily differentiate between what’s clean and what needs to be washed. Its also important to remember, you will have to transport your laundry to and from the laundry room and so you’ll want something sturdy to carry it in as it may be a bit of a walk. If you don’t want to pay the price to use the dryer you’ll probably want an airer to dry your clothes. Personally, I’d use the dryer for big items like bedding and blankets and would use the airer for my clothes. On top of all that you will want laundry detergent to keep your clothes clean.

Mini First Aid Kit: you never know when you’ll need a plaster or some paracetamol so make sure you take a supply. Just take the bits you’d reach for at home so that you have them there for when you need them at university.

Food: this may seem a bit obvious but I’d recommend doing a food shop before you arrive so that you have your fridge and cupboards stocked for the first week or so. You’ll most likely be swept up in the social side when you first arrive and you probably won’t have time to go to the shop. You’ll also have to work out where it is, so having food gives you a bit of time to settle in before you have to start worrying about that.

Important documents: you’ll want to make sure you remember any official documents, if you have anything you need for enrolment or student finance take it with you. You might not need this as a lot of things are online now but it’s always best to be on the safe side. Also, your passport. Especially, if you plan to get a job you will need your passport (or documentation that proves you are able to work in GB), I left mine at home in first year and had to have my parents post it to me. Not only was this annoying as I had to wait for this to arrive, I had to pay for special delivery as it was such an important document.

Got your results, now what?

A little throwback; me two years ago after I had my results before I headed off to uni.

The first thing I should say is congratulations! You did it, you got through your A-levels and for that you should be extremely proud. Even if you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, you should still feel proud of such a great achievement to have got to this point. If you need it just take some time to come to terms with what happened yesterday. You may feel inundated with people asking about your results and your future plans, just remember this is personal to you and you really don’t have to discuss what has happened with people. It may be a good idea to talk through your emotions and thoughts with someone you really trust to just get it out there or even try writing it down in a journal if you want to get it out privately.

If you’re off to university, you have so many exciting things ahead. As a student blog, I am going to be discussing university as that’s what I know best. Remember you do still have a good month until term starts at university so even though you can begin to make preparations, you do have time.

The big thing you need to do if you don’t plan on living at home, is sorting out your accommodation, if you haven’t done so already. This is often first come first serve so you really need to get that sorted as a number one priority! Once this is all done you can go on Facebook as they usually have groups you can join to meet people in your accommodation or even your flat. It might seem random but I’d definitely recommend getting Facebook if you’re off to university and haven’t got it already. It’s really useful as so many things at university are advertised on Facebook; info for halls, info on societies, course group chats and club pictures to name just a few.

You have so much to look forward to so spend this time with friends and families. Make the most of the summer before you go. Celebrate your success and have fun!