Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


Brain Fart: I surrender

I have written nine different types of blog post. From these nine I have written at least seven drafts of each type of blog post (with various subjects). Each of these posts varied in length, some I didn’t get passed three sentences. Others were almost finished and hundreds of words long. All were doomed to go into the trash and be wiped clean from their virtual existence. That’s a lot of effort with nothing to show for it.

Thinking about it frustrates me because I have effectively written sixty three different posts, hated them, and thrown them away. In that time I could have trained myself to become either an international spy, a ninja, or written a novel. Roughly speaking.

That, I can tell you with much sadness, is the result of a brain fart.

This is a brain fart. The only difference is that my brain looks frustrated, tired, and nowhere near as happy at such a moment. But this was the best picture I could find. Oh well. (http://arthurdailies.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/brain-fart_76.html)

Your brain tries, fails, self implodes, tries, fails, self implodes until it can not do anymore and a post like this comes out.

Today I have spent most of my time working my brain, more than should be allowed on a weekend. I have been studying for my course like any awesome student should. I have also been trying to blog whenever inspiration struck me today. Inspiration was a little elusive this Saturday and it’s now 8pm and my fingers and brain have not been able to work together to type up something at least a teeny bit interesting.

I blame the beginning of my course, the endless job applications and thinking of new ways to get employers to give me work experience (more on that another time) and all the shorthand, which is effectively another language (a rant on that will be more than likely in the near future). Oh and the boy arrived yesterday so my brain is just pooped from all the emotions and work it has been through in such a short amount of time. I think it was a shock to the system after a pretty laid back summer.

I guess it’s true: too much work and no play will make my brain crappy. Is that how it goes? No? Well, something along those lines.

This is my official surrender to my brain fart. I am waving the metaphorical white flag. It’s fine, whatever, I don’t even care.

This is my deal: I’ll give my lovely little neuron filled grey matter a rest tonight. I will eat cheesecake, make the most of the rest of tonight relaxing with the boy, possibly play the wii and watch my mum and the boy sob as I destroy them on it, and tomorrow I will be fresh as a daisy to work on journalism things, blog things and work things.

It’s a great deal. Please take it.


How to be an awesome student

In the past I have been classed by friends and fellow students as a ‘geek.’ I don’t know if I agree or not, mainly because I’m pretty sure if I was as geeky as I should be then I wouldn’t stress as much about my work and it would be at least a little easier. Or maybe that’s part of what a geek is? – Caring too much about their academic studies and always aiming to do well so it’s never easy.

A diagram of some parts of geek culture. Awesome right?
Found on piccsy.com and uploaded by James Bourner.

I digress, being a geek isn’t important. Well it is, if the rumours are to be believed of geeks inheriting the Earth but still. A geek however, is always a good student. Always.

It’s September and a lot of the population will either be going back to school, college or university. So in the midst of all the butterflies, the checklists to make sure you have everything ready and all the new stationary and other things that make September exciting; here’s my top five how to guide on how to be an awesome student.

Get organised

As dull as this is about to sound, it will be the key to you getting the best marks with the least stress. As soon as you have your timetable, get some ring binders and if you’re at university or college and have access to your class notes in advance. Access them, print them off, stick them in a folder for that module and read over them before class.

At the end of every day, read over your notes from whatever lessons at least once. It’s a form of subtle revision that you begin as soon as you start. This will mean when you come towards serious revision time (always a fun period of any student’s life), it won’t be more appealing to throw yourself down a cliff.

Do your work as soon as you get it

My advice is completely new stuff right? It’s obvious but it’s true. The earlier you do your work, the better. As soon as you get it, do some research, and depending on the type of assignment, create a POA (plan of action – it sounds exciting when you use the abbreviation). The POA should have ways you’ll be researching, books that you need and an essay plan (if you’re writing an essay, otherwise just a plan of what you’ll write in each section of your work). Also, go to your teacher and ask for advice: what would make your piece of work outstanding?

If it is possible always try to finish your work four days before the deadline. Once you’ve finished, spend a day away from it doing something entirely different that you enjoy doing, or doing another assignment because you have that many deadlines. Either way don’t look at it, read it or think about it for 24 hours.

After these 24 hours, read over it and highlight any errors and make any notes if something isn’t explained properly. Then correct this and give it to someone else to read if you can (this isn’t always essential but I found it really helped me). After that, if they are experts in whatever you’re writing about then make the necessary changes (if you agree with them). The read over it one more time to make sure there’s nothing you missed. I usually spread that across two days so that my brain has a chance to refresh itself and come back to it anew. This should mean you finish the assignment a day early.

Ask lots of questions

By asking lots of questions to yourself, other students and your teachers; you’ll be better prepared for your classes, assignments and exams. Questions can often lead to more questions that you wouldn’t even have thought to ask before. Again, this should make you better equipped to handle certain lessons that are more confusing than understanding why people would colour themselves orange in the bid for a ‘natural glow?’

Start revising before it is natural for a student

This is the one bit of advice that I couldn’t stress more for a student. The earlier you begin revising, the better. I have stages of revision: reading my notes, highlighting my notes, researching any points I want more information on, rewriting my notes, rewriting and abbreviating my notes, rewriting abbreviated notes again, keywords from abbreviated notes.

If your brain is anything like mine, the word revision makes it go into self destruct mode. This begins with crying, a prolonged screaming ‘no’ and then a complete blank that makes you only a little smarter than the average, old style village idiot. Revising in advance (I’m talking months here) is like the safety button, the ABS in a car, the seatbelt and all those lovely things that save our lives.

When you’re in class, be in class

This was one of the hardest habits to break. A habit I didn’t even know I had. Let me explain, I love to doodle. A few of my university notebooks were filled with cartoons, doodles and scribbles and I realised when I read back over the notes that I’d made in between doodling and compared it to the class notes – I had missed a lot. A scary amount in fact.

I made a conscious decision to stop doodling. I focused hard in class and made a conscious effort to not only jot down notes but if I wasn’t writing to seriously listen. It was more exhausting than you’d think and it’s something that you assume you’re doing. But, until you actually do it, you haven’t done it. It’s one of those things.

Eat something before class to make sure you’re glucose levels are high. Brain activity consumes a lot of glucose and if those levels are low so will your concentration and your ability to retain information (a little science from the boy for you dear readers). This will help you actually be in class when you’re in class. Rather than experiencing a cool, out of body experience that you’d probably much rather be having.

And finally to be an awesome student, you have to really want to be an awesome student. The amount of time and effort you put in will be reflected in your grades.

Be smart about how you study. Use your time wisely and take at least one full day off a week to do whatever you want: jump out of a plane, eat enough chocolate to make a factory profitable for the rest of the year or just slob in your underwear on the sofa watching bad TV: whatever. It’s up to you, but that day of complete and utter nothingness will help keep you rejuvenated and ensure that you can dig yourself out of those books when you need to.

So here’s to September and being an awesome student. I’d love to hear any top tips that you all have. I will steal them (no point in denying it) to help me get along with this intensive six month journalism course. An intensive course which I am really excited about starting on Monday! Geeky or what?!

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1 more graduate in the world

On the 19th July at 4pm my graduation begins. Three years are coming to an official end and I will be handed a piece of paper by an apparently important man wearing some robes and told ‘Congratulations.’

I don’t really know what to make of being a graduate, I got my results whilst in New York and I’m happy. Obviously, because I am not a decedent of Einstein’s, I did not get perfect marks. Due to lack of perfection, it took me roughly 24 hours before I could be fully happy with my 2:1 degree.

I ordered my gown, hood and mortar board yesterday. It was expensive just to hire it for a mere two hours. To buy the damn thing was extortionate: the hat alone (effectively just a cardboard square wrapped in black cloth) was £105.00. Insanity; you’d think after putting me in thousands of pounds of debt they could at least give me the hat. Jerks. At least I’ll feel like Harry Potter in my graduation robes; that, at least, gives me some comfort. I’m not even ashamed to admit that.

But I can’t help thinking that university is a much smaller deal than many people make it out to be. Especially in today’s society where jobs have double the amount of applicants; and unemployment is such an over talked about subject that people have just accepted that that’s the way things are. University and getting a degree, like I’ve said before, are just stepping stones. It’s good to have for the experience and the opportunities it has for you when you’re there.

I don’t think it should be sold as the best experience of your life though. If university is the best time of your life, that means out of the 80 or so years of your life expectancy. Only three near the first eighth of your life have been worth it. How silly.

When I graduate, I’ll be feeling proud. I’m coming out of these three years with more experience and more confidence in my ability. But that hasn’t just come from my course, that’s come from living away from home, from falling in love with the boy and from falling out and making new friends.

Many of the things I studied will probably be little use to me in terms of subject matter. In terms of teaching me how to learn, investigate, research, revise and ask for help however; they have done a lot for me.

Graduation is a lovely ceremony to have at the end of university. An accumulation of recognition for the three years of hard work that I have put into my degree. However, like the rest of the university bubble, I cannot help admit that it is over expensive (tickets cost £15 each) and a little superficial considering that I will be handed my certificate by someone I have never even met. That is likely to not even know my name.

I’m nervous and excited about graduation. My brain still can’t quite comprehend that it is just next week and although I may criticise university and it’s capitalist ways, I’ll be throwing my little black hat in the air just like everyone else and I’ll be one of the happiest people in the world come Thursday 19th July. Even if I am just another graduate in the world.

I MUST remember to get a photo like this.

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What’s a human to do?

I’m out of ideas guys. My brain has been consumed with pointless essays that I am essentially paying people to give me by choosing a university degree. If it isn’t ridiculously lengthy essay questions then it’s mountains of revision or having my money taken from me because I work too many hours for a student. It’s getting an essay back and told that my ideas are so good that I don’t need to use fancy language. What if I like fancy language? What if I want to work all those long hours? What if I have an amazing answer to a far simpler, but just as meaningful, essay question that doesn’t exisit?

What’s a human to do?

I have two more essays before my final deadlines and then a few more exams before the end of term and graduation. Before then I will continue to work my butt off for a piece of paper and some recognition that yes, I can survive university. Not necessarily that I can survive in the real world, but university? Yep got that covered.

I have reached a point where I cannot help but question what I am to do when people tell me to do one thing then tell me I’m wrong for listening to their advice. What confuses me most about this conundrum is that I am taking advice and feedback from people that are wiser, smarter and have been playing the university game for longer than anyone would wish to be a part of it. The government encourages people to work, they want unemployment to decrease, they want students to study and yet if you try to do both things: work and study, then you can’t without having something taken away. If you work too many hours, there’s a tax for that. If you study at a certain place or want certain books, then there’s a price for that. Yes, we pay because it benefits the country: free healthcare (or cheaper), transport, blah, blah, blah. But at the same time, I’m just a student. I barely count as a human at all, apart from as someone to milk money from. My rent is huge, my books make me research how much I can sell a liver for on the black market and the cost of my education alone means that I will be forever in debt and if I’m lucky, at age 95 will see the debt cleared.

My brain has had enough. It doesn’t want me to do anymore work. But it’s the final frontier, I’m so close to the finish line I can smell it. Or taste it. Or see it. However the saying goes. Motivation is scarce right now but what’s pushing me through is that come September I’ll be doing a 6 month course (not out of academia yet! I’m crazy I know) that will set me on my chosen career path. I will continue to work hard so that one day, I am creating the game, not playing it. That’s what keeps me going. So in answer to my title question (which no-one actually asked me) just keep going. It’s worth it because when you relax you can feel satisfied of your productivity. It means in the long run you’ll have that freedom that is promised but not quite true just yet. So if you’re also suffering through countless deadlines and exam period: just breathe and focus. It’ll be worth it.

The simple things right now are keeping me going and will continue to help me through the battlefield of exam period: cheesecakes, the boy, the Stereophonics and pretty pictures online. Soon this will be done and I’ll be a free, very poor graduate! Hooray!

Okay, pep talk to myself is over. Wish me luck. Over and out.

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£9,000 degree: is it worth it?

It’s pretty old news that tuition fees are rising. The next bundle of fresh faced students entering university, aptly named freshers’ in England, will be paying anything from £5,000 to £9,000 for their degree and overall university experience. I was one of the lucky ones due to, well, simply being born before the ridiculous tuition fee hike meaning I reached 18 a lot sooner than those born three years later. Unlucky people.

My sister is just starting college and is already setting her sights on university. But it got me thinking: is it really worth spending a little under £10,000 to study for three to four years?

To reach this point, it means digging yourself into a hole of incredibly large debts; only set to get higher

I know countless reports have shown that many young people have been put off going to university because of the rise in tuition fees, and to be frank, I think my feeling would be much the same.  I come from a low income family and although I don’t feel deprived without the student loan I would not have been able to afford to come to university. My loan barely covers the costs of living off campus, food, bills, books and everything else that is necessary when you’re living away from home. I work two jobs and live frugally (I still enjoy the old present to myself and dinner out with the boy though: fun is required after all). It means that as a result my worries about money do not need to be so big that they cause early heart attacks. But they are still present. If I realised I would be owing the government, by the end of my three short university years, over triple what I will owe them when I graduate this summer. I would have had to seriously consider if I could go to university, no matter how much I wanted to.

University is a lot of work and if you’re not prepared to put everything into it then it isn’t worth doing. It would be more productive to get into your chosen career through internships and work experience and build on what you studied at college.

The thing with university I feel, is that if you don’t try to do as much as possible, it is a waste of money. Yes, you’re there for a degree but you can’t graduate and only have a degree to show for it (unless you get perfect marks in every single thing – then maybe, just maybe, you can be excluded).

You’re at university to get a degree that will, hopefully, lead to a better job but more and more graduates are finding that this ‘promise’ is becoming more of a myth. Graduate unemployment is at an all time high, what are we spending our money on then?

That’s why I think that if you come to university, if you’re paying that much money (and I’m talking the £3,500 a year not the £9,000), you need to milk it for all it’s worth. Otherwise it’s like buying a car for £50,000 and only using it at weekends. As a university student, the one thing you definitely pay for are the opportunities and the experience, a bit like what the MasterCard adverts are trying to say. You can join societies, sports clubs and the opportunities available to university students while at university is vast. However university degrees are not really catered to getting you into the work force. Universities are still in the renaissance period when you went to university to become an expert in your field so you could spend your whole life in academia. Society was divided into the scholars, the working class and the rich. Going to university put you in the scholar bracket. In the modern era, a degree was supposed to be a ‘fast track’ (a term that should be used loosely) way of skipping the bottom rungs of the proverbial career ladder. Nowadays? A degree isn’t worth anywhere near as much. Recent reports stated that employers prefer experience to a degree (well duh!) and if you’re only focusing on the degree side at university, as strange as it seems, but you’re wasting your money.

At £9,000 my knee-jerk response was no, university is not worth it. I would still recommend it to everyone as I have loved and am loving my time at university and I feel that I have made the most out of my time here by involving myself in as much as possible: the radio, the newspaper, volunteering, athletics and frisbee for however brief a time, creative writing classes and other wonderful things that I would probably not have been able to have the opportunity of trying had I gone straight to work. The easy thing about university is that these opportunities are all in easy grasp, all you have to do is go and ask someone. In that sense, university is worth it. It helps you realise that you can do anything, it helps you decide what you like and what you don’t. The experience of living away from home, the growing up that is required is also worth the money. University is a push to fly the nest, and let’s be honest, once we’ve left we don’t want t go back and stay for very long; in that sense university helps you grow and cement somewhat your metaphorical wings and that is worth the money.

But still,  I have to question the £9,000 rise. It still doesn’t sit well, it still doesn’t seem to make university worth it.

University has been a great experience for me; I adore what I study, I have learnt loads, my writing has come along in leaps and bounds, I have made new friends, gained experience in journalism and media, had lots of fun and I fell in love.  I wouldn’t change a thing and like I said, I would recommend university to most of the people that asked me. Yet I would have to add that for £9,000 a year I probably would not have taken the plunge to go.  Unless I wanted to go into teaching or medicine: a profession that requires a university degree to progress to more specific areas of your career progression then there’s no point. That money would be better spent travelling and gaining work experience through internships, apprenticeships and college courses than through spending three years being seen by the rest of society as parasites that do nothing but sleep all day and drink all night.

University is hard. It requires a lot of work and a lot of dedication. They will be great years filled with so many memories you won’t be able to remember them all (an oxymoron but nonetheless true) but they are not the best years of your life. University is almost like the stepping stones between being growing up and then entering the real world; it’s what comes after university that will be the best years of your life.

£9,000 a year however? It seems a little steep considering how a degree is no longer as highly esteemed as it used to be. But maybe that’s why the rises are happening. To put those that aren’t as committed, and the poor, off going into higher education meaning that degrees will hopefully climb back up into being held in high regard. Essentially a degree is like everything else in life. It is a path to a target, once that target is reached another pathway is taken and the old one no longer matters.

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You want us to do our PAID job? That’ll be £600 then

I hate being taken advantage of. Obviously. Who doesn’t? But I can almost abide it if it could be justified in some stupid way. Stupid but justified still makes me angry but not to the point where I want to punch someone in the face. As a student and a young person it’s pretty normal to be taken advantage of especially in terms of money, people figure the bank of parents (which is a fabrication) or the never ending amounts of student loan (another lie) means that it’s okay. It’s not. It is most definitely not okay.

A perfect example is fees for a flat that I am moving into, I moved out of my last student accommodation because the situation was no longer working for me and it was affecting my studies. My thinking took me to the conclusion that I would commute rather than find another home, further thinking helped me realise I was an idiot. Commuting would not be possible and I would fail my degree anyway due to the exhaustion of the couple of hours drive minimum each day. Finally my thinking bought me to the one logical conclusion, I had to find a new place to live.

Finding another home is stressful but it’s also fun, and it’s an exciting feeling to know your on the precipice of a big change and a new beginning. The biggest problem with finding a home is the estate agent’s push on money. We found a really nice, humble abode for us to settle into. All we had to do was pay a deposit (which was reasonable) and the first month’s rent when we moved in which was fair. It’s what I expected and it’s what I had to do at the last place I was at. But then here comes the kick in the teeth. The estate agent, who couldn’t have been much older than me, quickly slips in that we have to pay fees, a pretty big amount, he then adds the word each. The rest is white noise.

I ask Mr Young Estate Agent why he needs that much money. He tells me it’s for fees and it’s good because it includes everything. No, no you idiot, it doesn’t include everything. The flat is included in the rent: I’m not stupid! Those fees are to help you earn even more for doing nothing but telling me that the room where there’s a toilet is a bathroom and that the place has high ceilings and big windows. Yes I can see that, you haven’t sold me the house on your words. The place has been sold by me liking the property.

The house sells itself so why do you need so much extra money in fees?! It’s ridiculous. I get that their are checks that need to be done and everything but they don’t cost that much, I know. I researched. That means that most of that money goes into your pocket. You earn plenty already, I sometimes struggle to buy food as a student; where is the fairness?

We agreed because we needed a place, being homeless isn’t really an option at the moment. University work is stressful enough as it is. When we left Mr Young, Now Rich Estate Agent I quickly went to check in the mirror if someone had written on my face: ‘student w/disposable income. Take her for all she’s worth.’ Weirdly I didn’t which means those words must be written in invisible ink only seen by estate agents, book stores, university itself and everything else that deals with money and students.

But alas, the world sadly seems to be a more capitalist place than ever before. Money isn’t everything, it can always be made again; sadly it means my savings took yet another dent. However, I now have a beautiful home away from home and am moving in very soon! I can’t wait, although it does mean packing and then unpacking…I despise unpacking. If Mr Young, Now Rich Estate Agent hadn’t charged me so much that I’ve had to sell a kidney to keep afloat I could have considered paying my sister to do it for me.

Oh well, one can dream…

I wouldn't mind paying through the nose for something like this though, as it would mean I could afford stupid fees...

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It’s all fun and games when you’re a student(!)

I have been a university student for just over two years, I’m in my third and final year and I’ll be honest: I’m sick of being a student. When you’re a student it’s like you have a sign on your forehead, a flashing neon sign, saying ‘Student: Second class citizen’.

You’re conned when it comes to living arrangements: conditions are okay usually but you pay through the nose through it. The stigma of the ‘lazy student’ is not only insulting and condescending but completely wrong. Yet you’re lumped with it no matter what type of student you are or how many jobs or extra-curricular activities you do alongside your degree. Peer pressure is the most rife it’s ever been, the animal instinct to group and to group quickly as never been more true. You thought it was bad when you were 16? Try pretending to be grown up while being told you’re boring because you can’t down a bottle of wine in the time it takes people to sing a crappy chant.

As a student you’re made to buy a load of books, do lots of reading, lots of essays and assignments, hours of revision and have many tiring and usually confusing classes. I’m not saying it’s so much harder than working full time or anything like that but university is just as difficult. You never stop thinking about the work you have to do, things you want to apply for, what happens after university and all that scary stuff. There’s the fun things too; like deciding on your costumes for a dressing up night, what night to go out on and what opportunities and societies you want to join.

Obviously being a student isn’t all bad. It’s fun, hectic, stressful, vibrant and full of opportunity, if you just take some time to look. It’s not the greatest years of your life like many claim. That, to me, is a little disheartening. If university are the best three years of your life then the future would suck. It may be the best three years of your life SO FAR but it’s only the beginning. Technically university is just a glorified boarding school for slightly older people.

The thing is though, with being a student you’re in that weird grouping of not being a ‘proper’ adult nor being a child at school. You find yourself in the vicious cycle of trying to prove you’re a grown up and taking the first steps to the rest of your life whilst falling into all the pitfalls that show that you’re just not there yet.

The truth is university is hard. In the pamphlets and prospectuses they give to potential students they forget to mention that you’re actually at university to get a degree. And getting a a high classmark for your degree is not easy. It’s hard, it requires commitment an dedication. It may be advertised as constant boozy fun and that’s a part of it too but essentially it’s bloody damn hard. The best thing you learn is self motivation (ironic considering my last post, I know), not how to escape a hangover (because, quite frankly, that’s impossible anyway).

I have loved, correction: am loving, university. It’s been an experience. It hasn’t always been easy; I’ve had huge highs and lousy lows but I would do it all over again and I’d recommend university to anyone (even with the rising fees). You don’t just get a degree out of it, you learn a lot about yourself too. So no, it’s not all fun and games when you’re a student; that would defeat the purpose of university quite frankly if there wasn’t some mundane and difficult stuff in there. But it’s worth it.