Postgraduation Problems: How to survive an alnighter in the library

If you decide to study a postgraduate degree, most of you will quickly come to realise that eventually you will have the joyful experience of spending the night in the library.

And I hope this isn’t due to being kicked out of your accomodation. Or, if you’re like me, you end up there in a very drunk state*

No in most cases you’ll be in a mad panic to get those final assignments completed. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are not enough hours in the day when it comes to assignments, though might just be due to my procrasination skills!

Personally I’ve always prefered the library at night. I’m lucky enough to have access to a 24 hour library and given how busy it gets during the day, especially with deadlines approaching, at night is often the only time I can get some peace and quiet.

Even the Quiet Room isn’t quiet with this craziness going on!

My weekend beats yours.

My weekend beats yours.

So I thought I’d treat you novices to my expert tips to surviving an alnighter and hopefully they’ll help you make it to sunrise:

  1. Write a to do list. I enjoy breaking these down into priorities (say, the assignment which is due in the soonest down to that dreaded dissertation which might not be due in for another month).
  2. This carries on from number one, but I also break my time into slots.Typically I’ll dedicate an hour to 90 minutes to an essay before a. moving onto the next one or b. giving myself a break. If anything it helps the time go quicker and I get to make sure I attempt everything.
  3. Give yourself a break and log out of social media until those breaks. I guess these are really two tips but I read somewhere that it takes your mind 15 minutes to get back into academic mode after browsing Facebook (I have no idea if there was factually correct but it stuck with me) and I also find that once I’m on Facebook, two hours will pass and I’ve not even opened the essay!
  4. Bring snacks. This might seem obvious but an alnighter is typically going to last a good six hours or more, you will get hungry and this should not justify going home because if you’re anything like me, going home at 3am means you’ll go to bed.
  5. Keep moving. Like on an airoplane or in a cramped car, staying seated for long periods of time will destroy your spine and legs– I don’t mean literally but I’ve found myself incapable of walking after sitting at a computer for five hours! Take a wander, go and look for that book that you need, go to the vending machine.
  6. Reward yourself. Whether at the end of the night or at intervals, but it’ll help keep you motivated. I generally watch something on BBC Iplayer after I finish an essay because it takes my mind off that essay and gets me ready for the next one.

No, writing a status about being in the library does not count as work.

Of course, there’s plenty more I can say but everyone will have their own preferences. Ideally, you won’t be having to stress about an assignment which is due in at 2pm yet you’ve not started it by 9pm the night before– but it’s most likely that you will at one point.

My biggest problem is prioritising the ‘easy’ essays and finding myself under pressure when I realise that the more difficult ones are due in first.

There’s nothing appealing about being in a building with about four other people in and a security guard, never mind watching the motion-sensor lights switching off in other areas indicating that they’re empty and you’re alone.

But university students have suffered through alnighters for years before us and it’ll be a tradition which will carry on for many years after us.

You can do it!

x

(*in my defense I had a badly sprained ankle and there was no way I was capable of walking home).

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So I Crashed and Burned

For anyone who’s read my blog before, you might have guessed that I’m struggling with my postgraduate degree. The workload has meant that I’m resorting to alnighters in the library to write about topics I don’t fully understand and in all honesty, it is stressful.

But I don’t mean to complain, most people going through university will feel like this. The obvious answer is to get organised, to stop procrasinating and to get on with it– that’s what the wonderful British taxpayers are paying for.

Well today I finally crashed.

I don’t mean literally but I took the hardest mental hit I think I’ve had since I came to university. Now, I have anxiety so I’m used to waking up and just feeling lousey. Most of the time there’ll be absolutely no reason for it so I’ll force myself to get out of bed and go for a walk to clear my head, or I go to the library and throw myself into my assignments.

I refuse to let myself mope around.

Except this morning I woke up and just burst into tears.

Crying isn’t part of my normal routine, I do the sulky bitch face brilliantly but I don’t cry unless I’m drunk. The weird thing was that I just couldn’t stop. The best way to describe it is that I actually felt like my world was ending, I guess kind of how I’ve felt with serious break ups, but nothing had happened to cause it.

Well, I had had a pretty bad night out last night and I was hung over but that’s not exactly news.

So I did what any rational twenty-something girl would do, I ran back home.

Now my problem here is that I’m from the Isle of Man and I go to university in England. There’s 100 miles, a train and a sea for me to get home. So it’s not something I would often do; in fact I’ve been home twice in the past two years.

So you can imagine mum’s shock when I text her telling her I was getting the boat that night. Immediately she phoned me up:

What’s happened? What’ve you done?

(Yes, thanks mum!)

But as soon as she heard me crying she quickly accepted I was coming home and put the phone down… And then got my little sister to phone me up to find out what was the problem.

What’s happened, mum said you refused to tell her anything? You can’t be homesick, no-one would be that desperate to come home.

Like I said, it was a big deal for me to randomly go home.

But I did. And I’m slightly annoyed with myself because I’m always the one saying that running away from your problems doesn’t help; and in all honesty even at midnight I still feel horrible.

But I’ve decided that if anything is going to fix this it’s some time with my dog, some island scenery and some home cooked roast dinners.

Though if I do find a magic cure I’ll be sure to pass it along.

x

International Best Friend Day

Whenever I see celebrated holidays like International Best Friend Day, I can’t help but be doubtful. I mean, I join in but I generally don’t see them as little more than a ploy from social networking websites* to boost usage for a day– I mean, how many people really celebrate National Cheese Day on the 4th June?

Anyone brought the wine? source: http://wwwcheesestorecedarhurst.com

Anyone brought the wine? source: http://wwwcheesestorecedarhurst.com

Though admittedly we are a nation which is all up for jumping on the St Patrick’s Day bandwagon as a excuse to stay in the pub all day so I guess it’s not entirely unusual.

Anyway today I clicked onto Instagram and came across an interesting hashtag: #nationalbestfriendsday

I love any excuse to browse through my old Facebook photos and create a picstitch (and also any excuse to procrasinate) so I immediately got to work on looking through the images.

Friendship’s important, I’ve come to realise. I’m not close to much of my family anymore so I enjoy the company of my friends at university, but with everyone graduating and moving I’m starting to appreciate the friendships which last through that. But then I was struck with one problem– who do I consider my best friend?

The answer has always seemed simple to me: my oldest friend who I’ve known since I was three and first moved to the Isle of Man. But I guess that’s not the case anymore, we’re not as close in the typical sense of the word. I mean, you have people who hang around with the same people every single day– you don’t invite one without the other, and if you never see them apart. Well, I guess I’m describing certain girl friendships but still…

I’ve had many of those kinds of friendships in the past, but I’m the kind of person who feels suffocated with that kind of constant attention. So I’ve come to be bit more of a ‘hanger – on’ with a variety of other friendship groups. That way I can mix things up and I have the ability to bond with people without feeling tied down I guess… Yes, I guess the commitment phobe in me is beginning to emerge.

So there was no way that my picstitch would be focused on a single person. Instead, I looked at the people I valued the most for many reasons and eventually came up with this.

(Inter)national Best Friends Day

(Inter)national Best Friends Day

Now, you might notice something in the caption of that picture: International Best Friends Day. Later on I decided to research a little about this holiday– like I said, I generally assumed they were social media antics and not of any significance in the real world.

Well, apparently I was wrong (that’s a rare occasion!).

International Best Friends Day has been recongised by the UN as the 30th July. So no, not today but I realised how significant it was on a personal level and I also noticed something else: coming to university has granted me the opportunity to mix with people I’d probably never meet otherwise.

No, I don’t mean those from rich families who I wouldn’t generally mix with.

The top photo in that picstitch has a variety of cultures in it including Romanian, Lithuainian as well as French. Not only do they all speak far better english than I do, but they have taught me so much about different countries and allowed me to gain an appreciation for travel and people.

Even since coming to university, where England counted as a holiday; I finally got a passport and visiting Ibiza (yes, it counts!) and spent a summer in America. Though it might seem like nothing to many people, in the past two years that’s more than I’ve travelled in my life!

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see some more– and one day I’ll fufill my dream of seeing Rome and Greece.

x

(* except National Hug a Tall Person Day, I know people who take that very seriously!)

A Month On: the life of a swamped master’s student

Library selfies: the ultimate procrasination

Library selfies: the ultimate procrasination

So I’ve not been writing much recently… And by much, I mean at all.

I’m quickly realising that being a postgraduate student was a far bigger leap than I expected. This time last year I was finishing up with my third year and I thought that was a huge leap in comparison to my first and second years.

Last year I was getting out of my depth but I could keep my head above water. This year? Well, I feel like I’m drowning and the lifeboat is just a bit too far away.

I mean, I know I’m capable of getting the work done. It just involves a lot more independent learning than I’m used to– which is ironic since I loved researching different areas last year. But put it this way, a friend came in to the library the other week and spotted the book that is compulsory reading for my degree. His first comment?

I never knew you were studying economics.

I’m not.

I chose Business Studies for my A Levels because that was ‘easier’ than Economics (well, that was the rumour though I’ve come to university to find out the opposite is true). I had never heard of ‘social democracy’, ‘Hayek’ or ‘marketisation’ before studying my masters degree. Only then to find out that I’m essentially studying exactly the same as my friends doing a BSc/BA Economics degree– except I’m doing it at post graduate level and with Social Policy lecturers not economics experts.

So, here I am at half 9 on a Tuesday morning. I’ve been in the library since 9pm last night (though I did have a break between 12am – 3am for some food). I’ve not slept yet and am surviving off several cans of coke and Pro Plus.

I will get my head around Anthony Crosland and his take on social democracy. Then I will finish this 4,000 word essay.

Or I’ll pass out in the library.

That shows dedication right?

x

PS. I willbe posting more regularly now– I mean, my Twitter and Facebook friends must be fed up of my obsessive updates now so I need a new form of procrasination.

I’m going to aim for once a week (most likely every Monday) though I’ll probably do it a bit more often in the beginning (I have plenty to say).

Hello: Coming in from the cold

 

 

 

 

 

So there’s something kind of strange going on but hey, I’m not one to blame coincidences. But this morning I decided to reignite this old blog malarky… I couldn’t particularly tell you why but given that I now have a diary, a “journal for notes and scribblings” as well as various pads for my university work I’ve clearly got too much to say. And I hope some of it might be a little interesting to you.

But first, and by far the weirdest thing to happen to me this morning, is that it’s mine and WordPress’ 5 year anniversary!

wordpress

Your present’s in the post, WordPress.

Of course I’ve not been five years on this specific blog. But it’s definitely strange thinking back to five years ago. That was before university, I had a boyfriend… Pretty sure it was around this time five years ago that I had plans to go to Rome. Wow, it all seems to have been so long ago!

Well, back to the present day and what to discuss? I do have a growing list of topics, but they all deserve their own updates. But since 22 January what has happened?

  • Got a new job for the summer
  • I’m going to Leeds Festival!
  • For some reason, I’m going to the Sports’ Ball… Despite not being on a team. Any reason to buy a nice dress!
  • Went to hospital this weekend, anaphylactic shock.
  • And I’m still not entirely sure I’m going to survive my masters!

Of course, I’ll write more about all of that when I’m not rushing off to work. I just wanted to give you all a head’s up- I’m back!

 

Resolution Take One: Doing something new

Right so I’m cheating a little with this one, but I’ve decided to write about my resolutions and my attempts to stick to them. Obviously, my resolutions– and goals which are listed in the tab “2014” above– are fairly vague. I hope to make these more specific as I focus on something; so here it goes:

For the “try something new” and “make something new” resolutions I am going to learn french.

Now, like I said, I’m being a bit of a cheat with this one. As with anyone from the Isle of Man, and just about every other child who had an education at some point; I was taught languages at school. My primary school forced us to endure french lessons from year three, so I was about eight years old, with the teacher we affectionally called the “wicked witch”. We would dive under our tables when we spotted her car pulling up the long drive way every morning… Now, being 22 I couldn’t tell you if the lessons themselves were bad or she was a bad teacher, or maybe we were just a terrible class to handle.

All I know is that from then on I hated learning languages.

This carried on into high school where we now not only had to endure compulsory lessons in french, but also german. As you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly thrilling. In fact, I remember my own mum (who worked at the school and was quite friendly with the french teacher) screaming my name down the corridor when she found out that I had been skiving the class. Humiliating as that was, it just further embedded my feeling of hate for the subject.

German, on the other hand, seemed a bit easier. The words were less romantic and flowing; and sounded much more english.

Ironically, looking back, I think I would have actually done better in French. I remember the handful of times that I attended the class and had to speak I did rather well. Though that might have been due to the fact I was in the lowest set and it wasn’t particularly hard to seem smart in that class. Maybe some of the wicked witch’s lessons had stuck with me because I have no fond memories of public speaking in my German classes.

However, year nine saw my lessons in any type of modern language being brought to an abrupt stop when those in the lower sets were forced to drop one of the classes (yes!) and when we were making our GCSE choices, those who were only taking one class were allowed to drop languages all together (brilliant!). As you can imagine, I had a very blissful few years of high school following this while my smarter friends struggled with their speaking, listening and writing exams.

Just to clarify, every other subject I was in one of the top two sets so I would admit that it was my lack of interest or motivation which made me such a terrible student in that area.

So here I am, over six years later and realising the importance of learning a language. Not only to make me “stand out” but the job that I want at the minute involves travelling around Europe, so I at least need to know one of the languages. Though my family is generally brought up with the theory that if you shout at them enough and add in some crazy hand gestures they might get the jist of what you’re saying– you can tell we’re not fond of travelling.

But as I was thinking about this, I randomly came across Michelle Wray‘s blog on learning new languages. Talk about inspiration hitting at just the right moment! She mentions several tips for learning languages, which you should read for yourself if you’re interested or bored. But one of the main hints she mentions is something that I’ve heard about before, DuoLingo.

Duolingo I’ve heard of before while watching some TEDx videos (I’ll go into those another time). But I found out something quite interesting– Duolingo is a free online method of learning any new language (seriously, there’s so much money being made in teaching people new languages it’s amazing that this is free and half decent), but it’s also doing something other than teaching you a new language. The website doesn’t offer you random translations, but you know how Google Translate can translate words and phrases? Well, Duolingo uses those people learning new languages with their product, and uses that effort to translate real documents.

Here’s how it works: Somebody who needs a webpage translated uploads it to Duolingo. That document then gets presented to Duolingo students who can translate it in order to practice the language they are learning. When the document is fully translated, Duolingo returns it to the original content owner who, depending on the type of document they uploaded, pays for the translation.

About Duolingo

Because there’s no guarantee that computer power is 100 per cent accurate and to use professionals would cost a fortune. So basically by using this product, you’re not only going to become a pro speaker (writer and listener) of a new language (like me, hopefully…) but you’re basically helping translate the latest www.forbes.comStephen King novel so people in other countries can read it also.

 
http://www.forbes.com

Though that’s coming from someone who’s only managed to complete the first Basic level on the website.

So let’s see how this goes…

 

“Shrinking Women”

I’m not even sure how I came across this video but, after watching it, I’m in awe at this woman. Though it’s a poem– and a lengthy one at that– I think I managed to relate to it more than any poem I studied in GCSE English Literature.

Now, I don’t call myself a hardcore feminist. I enjoy films which have a “strong female lead”, and TV series like ALIAS. I don’t question the use of female spies disguising themselves as call girls though, and I don’t feel the need to judge someone for having plastic surgery– though, admittedly, I might question the quality.

But I am a girl.

The idea of women being equal to men is a strange idea sometimes, especially in this day and age. Personally, I want to become a headteacher or a vice chancellor; and I know full well that there’s a “glass ceiling” blocking my way. But I don’t forget the idea, I acknowledge it.

It adds to the challenge.

I’m not your “traditional” woman, I guess you could say. I have no idea how to cook and I dispise cleaning. I go to the gym because I enjoy working out, not because I want to look good to impress some guy. I’m sarcastic and I have a terrible habit of talking back, especially to my boss and lecturers. I wouldn’t know where to start when keeping track of calories, and my weight doesn’t concern me unless I can’t fit into my favourite pair of jeans– but that’s because I’m a poor student who can’t afford another pair of £60, perfect fitting jeans. Heels are beyond my ability.

People regularly say I’ll never be able to get married because I’ll never be a good housewife; and I have no problem with that.

But the thing which struck me about this video was the fact that she says we “inherit” these qualities. In the poem, she discusses becoming “smaller” in order to accomodate men in her life. Be quiet, to be weary of calories and to be a good woman; and she had “accidently” learned all of these qualities from her mother.

Me? Well, my mother had no problem being loud. She regularly argued with her neighbours and she’s had various boyfriends in the past 22 years, in fact she’s been engaged twice since divorcing my dad for a period of a decade and yet she’s in no rush to get married. She doesn’t drive, there’s no need because there’s a bus route to both of her jobs. My step dad cooks, while she gives us money for take aways or frozen pizza to cook.

So I definitely agree with Lily Myers, we do inherit our traits by watching our parents. So I guess I should be glad that my mum brought me up against the “traditional” role of a woman… Because, if she hadn’t, I’d probably be at home with two children now and zero motivation to break through that glass ceiling.

Which I will. One day.