Sunday, 20 November 2016

Times flies when you're having... fun

How has it already been over 3 weeks since I last posted a blog? I have got to get better at this.

Second year is going surprisingly well. I'm ignoring my to do list and pretending like everything is fine! I'm currently sat on the sofa watching TV and attempting to complete my UCAS application. As I am on a Foundation Degree, I have to apply to a 3rd year programme to gain a full BA. I'm sure this wouldn't be half a stressful if I had started it when I should have instead of waiting 3 days before our internal deadline. But, let's not dwell on that!

We got our presentation feedback back, which was surprisingly okay. I got a better grade than I did last year and that was all I wanted really. It's funny though, getting feedback never gets any easier. I always feel a sense of annoyance when the feedback is really simple, like how I should have had a conclusion on my presentation. Duh.

We are on the Christmas count down now, with only a few weeks to go until uni finishes. At the end of last year, I swore I would use terms with fewer deadlines to get ahead of upcoming work. However, in a term where we have had one deadline at the beginning and one at the very end, I have failed to do this. Of course. So I'm now spending the next couple of weeks writing reflective accounts and filling out paperwork for assessments. We have a deadline the first week back after Christmas, so once this terms deadlines are over I will get going on that.

Also on my to do list, is reading for my research project. We are going to University of Reading next week to have some study skills advice on writing Literature Reviews for our research project which should be good.

I'm hoping to blog about UCAS this week... providing I get my application done!!

Friday, 28 October 2016

A month in

It's not hard to believe that I am already a month into second year. In fact it feels like it's been about 3 months. Going back to uni hasn't been as difficult as I was expecting, and I seem to be finding my rhythm again.

Not unexpectedly, we have been thrown back in right at the deep end. There is a real "you're second years, you know what you're doing so get on with it" mentality. Which isn't an issue, because it's totally true. Thinking back to last year, it's immeasurable how much better I feel about being a student. I know exactly what is expected of me this year and I'm preparing myself to go a little above the expectations I had for myself last year and try and better my studies. 

I have 10 things on my to do list currently, including mostly beginning of the year tasks like writing my targets for the year and setting up my blog on BlackBoard. Some things in my to do list are a little more serious, like writing a personal statement and applying through UCAS for third year. I'm sure there's be many a blog post coming about that!

The first few weeks of term were fairly easy, introductions to new modules and a recap of the one module which continues this year.

Last week we had our first marked assessment of the year, a presentation based on a book we read over the summer. This is our second presentation as we had to give one last year. The difference between last years presentation and this years is immeasurable. I haven't had the results back yet, but I could feel the difference. Firstly I actually managed to stick to the ten minute time limit, intact I overran by almost a minute. But I'll take that over last years 4 minute presentation. I also felt more confident, although I was cutting it fine finishing my presentation and I hadn't actually done a practice run, I felt like I really knew what I was talking about and this made it easier to present. Presentations aren't my forte but as long as I get a better mark than last year I'll be happy. 

We are off campus this week, with set activities to do. I'm spending a few days in Amsterdam, so I'll be exploring the city and eating as much food as I can! 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Second year begins....

It's at this time of year I'm quite grateful that I'm not your typical university student. I don't have to worry about packing my life up and travelling hours in the car to move back to uni. All I have to do is get back into the mind frame of being a student. I say "all I have to do" as if it's the easiest thing. It's not.

As we finished first year, I told myself "have a few weeks off! Relax, enjoy having fewer commitments and time constraints" well those few weeks off turned into a whole summer off and I've done very little that I had planned to do over the summer. With all intents and purposes I had planned to read journal articles and reflect on them. I had planned to read some research relating to my chosen area of study for my own research project I'll be undertaking  this year. I had planned to go through my first year folder, sorting out the mound of paperwork I have on my desk. And yet, somehow none of this ever happened. And now second year has begun.

Well, it officially begins next Thursday but I've been in uni for the last two weeks enrolling and filling out paperwork and revising study skills and talking about the jump from first year to second. It's all a bit overwhelming. There's so much to think about and so much to do to prepare. And of course we are being thrown right back into it. A presentation in four weeks and a research project plan due not too long after that.

I'm looking forward to second year, in a "deer in the headlights" kind of way. I like a challenge and I'm looking forward to starting new modules and returning to old ones too. This year I have been able to choose one of my modules myself which was cool - ok hoping it will make me more motivated as I've chosen a subject  I'm very interested in!

Finding my groove again as a student could be interesting but I'm hoping it won't take too long. I guess time will tell... I'll keep you updated on that one!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The end is in sight...

WAHOO! I can't quite believe that I am sitting writing this post (when I really should be working...) so close to our final hand in of the first year. It's crazy to think back on this past year, I can't believe how fast it has gone.

This year has been full of challenges and I've learnt so much as I found my way through those challenges. There will most definitely be a blog post coming soon reflecting back on the past year, once I've officially finished everything.

At the moment I still have a lot of finishing off to do, filling out paperwork and completing the last few pieces of work to be handed in on Thursday. But I'm really looking forward to our last uni day on Wednesday. We will be heading to the University of Reading (who facilitate our Foundation Degree) to listen to past students talk about research they have carried out. One of next years modules is a double module, and we will have to conduct our own research project. So this should be really interesting and hopefully inspire us all for next year!

Last Thursday was our last day at uni, so we have been given an almighty stack of reading to tide us over until October and I've got a few articles saved away that I've come across over the year. Plus a few books I bought for my assignment on how the media affects children, which I didn't get around to reading. So my plan is to keep up my reading over the summer, whilst also having a well earned break.

I'm not sure whether we are finishing at the same time as everybody at university, as we're slightly different being off campus. But I hope you're enjoying your summer if you've already finished and if you haven't yet, it can't be long until you're done so keep going!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Little things that make studying a whole lot easier... part 2

I love music, and will listen to it at every given opportunity. Is there anything better than driving along, blasting the radio and singing at the top of your lungs? Probably not.

So it's no surprise that when I'm studying  I often have headphones on. I find it helps me to block out the world and keeps me focused. However I listen to very different music when I'm studying, than I would at any other time of the day. I'm particularly partial to classical music and instrumentals of my favourite songs.

I've made a playlist on my Spotify account (which I get half price using my NUS student discount!)
It's an ever growing playlist, which you can listen to here if you so choose. It's currently at 15 songs and lasts just under an hour.

It's mostly instrumental pieces from movies, instrumentals of songs and random pieces of music I've gathered over time. 

Are you like me who can only study when listening to music to blank out all the background noise?! What do you listen to? Any recommdentations to add to my playlist? Let me know!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Little things that make studying a whole lot easier... part 1

Sometimes, studying is really difficult. Sometimes, it's really really difficult.

Let me introduce to you to Momentum which has been a godsend to me in the past few months. Momentum is an extension that can be installed onto Google Chrome browser. It basically replaces the blank tab you would usually get when opening a new tab, with this beaut of a 'dashboard'. I'm so in love with this. The picture changes... I want to say once every 24 hours but I'm not entirely sure?

There are a few things I love about Momentum.
  1. Motivational quotes - There is always a motivational quote right at the bottom of the screen. Who doesn't love a good quote to inspire them?
  2. To-do list - If you've read my previous post you'll know I'm a fan of a to-do list. I particularly like this one because my account has been accepted to the beta syncing so I can access it on any computer I log in to. This is really useful as sometimes I'll find myself with spare time to get some uni work done but will only have my work laptop with me - this means I can log into my account and see what I need to be doing! 
  3. Quick Links - Up in the top left corner is a place for you to keep all your handy links. I usually bookmark links, but this is so much easier and a lot quicker! One click and you're there, ready to learn! 
  4. Today's Focus - When you open Momentum there's a lovely personal greeting along with a line for you to write your main focus. Once you've entered this, a little tick box comes up beside it. So much satisfaction when you can tick off your main focus of the day as complete!
So, there you have it, a quick introduction to Momentum which makes me happier than I care to admit. Let me know if you decide to download it, I'd love to know what you think of it! 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

I'm a little bit distracted this weekend.

I apologise in advance, but please prepare yourself for a post that is completely unrelated to university but I just have to share anyway.

It's been a very exciting week for us at work! For the last three weeks we have been incubating some chicken eggs!! And on Monday they finally started to hatch. We came into school on Monday morning to a tiny little beak sticking out of an egg and lots and lots of noise! 

The little chick has since been named Peeps and is loving life. I've brought them home for the weekend and I just can't resist getting them. But the problem is they're quite distracting, especially when I'm trying so hard to get some work done... but hey, they won't be here for long so I'm making the most of having little chicks around! 

Right before he pooped on my work! 

The children were fascinated when I told them about Lorenz and his study on birds. I told them how he hatched some geese in an incubator and when they hatched they used to follow his green welly boots wherever they went. They thought it was even funnier when they noticed that Peeps would follow me around the classroom!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Friday nights are for...

Writing massive to do lists? Listening to my study playlist? Trying to organise my life?!

As I mentioned in this blog for the last assignment I submitted, a 2500 word report, I ended up pulling a very late night to get it finished and submitted.

I am very much a last minute worker. I often find myself saying "I work best under pressure" but I don't know if this is just because I'm the Queen of Procrastination so I've learnt how to work under pressure. Probably. I'm in a different situation to most university students though. Being a 'mature student' and juggling a full time degree course alongside a full time job isn't easy. So having pulled a late night (3:30am!!) I then had to be up at 7:30am for work! This was the least desirable thing. And on top of that, I also had a 6 hour day at uni to get through after working the morning. Let's just say, I was tired and grumpy and I consumed a lot of coffee that day.

In an attempt to avoid this, I am currently sat thinking about all the things I have to do for upcoming assignments so I can get started and avoid anymore late night shenanigans. Over the year I have used various to-do list methods...

The original
An old fashioned list on old fashioned paper. I bought a to do list from Paperchase while studying with the Open University a few years ago and it was a godsend. I would just made huge long lists, stretching over pages and pages, of the things I had to do. I liked this method for when I was just studying at home but it was just one more thing to carry around in my uni bag. So I moved on to...

Wunderlist is probably my favourite to-do app. Purely because it syncs with my phone, mac and iPad. So I can access it wherever I am, whatever device I'm using. The satisfaction I get from marking a task as done and then watching it just disappear is unreal. It's so pleasing. I also find it easier to keep track of what's left to do, as the completed tasks disappear. Whereas with a written list, you just cross them out and things can get a little messy! So this was my preferred method of writing to do lists for quite a while.

Stickies is an app that comes standard on Mac computer, but there's also a similar thing on Windows computers. It gives you a little post it note to write on, which then just floats around on your screen. I love it, especially the fact that it always stays open, even when you've shut down or restarted your laptop. I also like that you can change the colour... I personally like to match it to my desktop picture. The only downside of Stickies is that it's only available on the computer you've written them on. But nevertheless, they're pretty useful for making quick notes of things to do.

So my jobs for this weekend are to do some reading for an upcoming essay and also a poster presentation. I've got some little bits and bobs to do as well, like filling in some forms and writing about assignment feedback I've received so I'm hoping to get all of the done this weekend too so my to do list can shrink a little.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Note taking part 2

I've always loved highlighters and find them incredibly useful when making notes. I've come to discover that this is completely down to personal opinion. Some people I know write their notes in nothing but a blue biro. Not me though. No way Jose.

I am one of those people that you see with a highlighter of (almost) every colour as well as corresponding post it notes. I am a very visual person so my notes from lectures and reading are always brightly coloured.

Some people use one colour to highlight all their notes but I like to use several colours and have a colour code.
  • Orange for quotes 
  • Pink for key ideas or information 
  • Yellow for any information needed for a reference; author's names, publish dates, book titles or chapter titles 
  • Blue for definitions of terms
  • Green for key words
This is a key that works for me and the subject I study and obviously can't be applied to all subjects. Some highlighters are used less frequently than others; my most frequent are yellow, pink and green. I find it really useful to be able to quickly find pieces of information when looking at large pieces of text/writing. Particularly when I'm writing essays, I can look through for key words relevant to my assignment by only looking at the green highlighted words. Or if I am looking for a specific the theorists work I can focus on the yellow highlighting to quickly find a name. 

The only downside is that my notes can become very colourful and this is sometimes a little distracting. What are your notes like? Do you prefer to keep them plain and simple or are you a mass highlighter like me?

Monday, 9 May 2016

I've been a bit M.I.A....

Apparently, I fell down a black hole and now it's suddenly May. How this has happened I'm not quite sure?! So much has happened in the last 5 months... Full blog posts to follow.

  • I submitted my first essay of the year and was so excited to be given a distinction!! Definitely a proud moment for me. I'm always aiming for a distinction, and I'm pleased that the extra work I put into my essay paid off. Just got to do it again in two weeks time...
  • I was given a new role at work and I realised how difficult it can be to juggle my responsibilities. I found myself struggling to gain a balance between work work and uni work which left me submitting work which wasn't my best. 
  • I have chosen my optional module for next year... Which is terrifying!! We haven't even finished this year yet and here we are choosing between modules for next year. The modules I've chosen is called "international perspectives" and looks at schools curriculums all over the world. I'm pretty excited about that. 
  • And I have pulled my first ridiculously late night finishing work the night before a deadline. Oops. In my defence, I had a nasty cold (which promptly turned into even nastier sinusitis) so I was poorly which didn't help!! 
  • But ultimately, I have survived the last term and a bit and I'm still here to tell the tale. Although this definitely wouldn't have been possible without a few hundred texts to my uni chums and a handful of phone calls that began "oh my goodness what am I even doing?!"
So keep an eye out for some full blog posts about what I have been up to recently!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

How I make notes in lectures

I've done a few years of part time study previous to starting my degree this year, so I'm pretty down with the note taking. However I am the kind of person who starts the year using one method for making notes, and then decides that it isn't working and it needs to change... and I'll have to transfer all my notes into a new format. So this may well end up being a series of posts...

But in this post, I'm going to talk you through my current note taking method.

For the most part, my notes in class are written on the PowerPoint handouts we are given at the beginning of each session. Both my lecturers print these for us, but I know that not everybody has that luxury. So all my notes are written on the hand outs. This works well for me in class - I don't have to worry about writing everything down that's on the screen because it's already there and there's plenty of extra space around the slides that I can make notes of any discussions we've had or extra points raised.

I have one notebook for each module I'm studying this year. I personally prefer this to subject notebooks, or refill pads, just because then all my notes are contained in one place. For those of you screaming "But what if you forget to take the right notebook?" I don't actually write in these in lectures so it's not a big issue. But for the most part as they're pretty small I tend to keep them all in my uni bag anyway.

After lectures
After our sessions (typically over the weekend) I sit and re-read through my notes and this is when I transfer them into my notebooks. This is when I begin to highlight and colour code. I definitely find that this second writing of my notes - in neat! with it all colour coded really helps cement it in my mind. I then use these notes to refer to in lectures, or when I'm writing assignments etc.

I know that this system won't work for everyone so I'm definitely going to follow this post up with another about how I take notes on my laptop, and then probably follow that up with a comparison! So if that interests you, keep your eyes peeled :)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

How to meet deadlines

Happy New Year!! Christmas is over, I'm back at work and next week I'll be back at university. I have had the sudden realisation that I had great plans to get loads of work done over the holidays while I wasn't working. But instead I spent the two weeks off eating far too much food and watching Greys Anatomy. I started writing this post when I had a massive deadline looming and I realised out of 5 pieces of work that needed completing. But I'm now revisiting it as the realisation of upcoming deadlines hits me after not touching my uni books for the whole of Christmas. So here are the things I find most helpful when trying to meet deadlines.

1. Write them all down. 
Whether it's in a diary, on a wall planner... on a post it note stuck on your desk. Write them down and make sure you always know when they are. How many weeks? How many deadlines do you have? It's so easy to become complacent thinking your deadline is a month away. But suddenly it's two weeks away... and then it's a week away... and before you know it, it's tomorrow!

2. Create a study plan
Make a list of all the steps you need to complete a piece of work in order from start to finish. If it's an essay, you need to read the question and work out how you're going to answer it, then you'll need to find evidence to back up your argument, you need to plan a structure... The list goes on and on. Once your list is complete, working backwards allocate each task to a day. Or pair tasks up. It's amazing how easily a piece of work comes together when you're completing little bits all the time. 

3. Take into consideration other commitments you may have
When you're creating a study plan make sure you've remembered the other commitments you've got each week.  It's your best friends birthday, or you're going home for the weekend... Whatever it may be don't plan to do work at times you really know you won't get it done! 

4. Be realistic 
Whilst I've never be the kind of girl to write a draft a month before the deadline and redraft several times before writing a final version, I have recently discovered how much easier it can be to edit a piece of work when you've spent a few days not working on it. Personally I like to make my study plan so that my assignment is finished the week before a deadline, this way I have the time to leave it for a couple of days and then come back to it without being too close to hand in.

5. Focus
When I'm working, I put my phone on airplane mode, I turn my internet off on my laptop if I'm not using it. I listen to music and generally try and shut myself off from the world! It's obvious, but it makes it so much easier to focus and get a good amount of work done!

So, that's how I meet deadlines! I'd love to hear what you do to ensure you're all up to date and handed in on time?!