Sunday, 30 October 2016

Star wars, York and Halloween 2016

This past weekend has been so busy that it deserves a post all it's own, separate from the summaries of weeks which I have been gradually been putting together to collect and represent my university experience as a whole so far

Friday was busy because, despite it being the one day that I don't have classes, I did have quite a lot of work to do. Namely working on my drafts of the narrative essay which is due in on Friday and also working out availability for my training as a digital representative here at York St. John. Lots to look forward in those two elements - the more I draft, the closer I can feel myself getting to the finishing line that is essay hand in day. It's hard to submit an essay though. Because it means giving up the power to go over the words you have so meticulously chosen and checked a million times. Letting go of that control is hard, particularly at the moment when I am still adjusting to the work load. But it is hopefully going to get a little easier with the next set of deadlines before Christmas already looming.

It was also a great way to end the week as it was my first performance in the Minster! I performed several pieces with the York St John chamber choir for the wedding of a member of the board of governors. Singing at weddings is always lovely, particularly that day as it was a happy occasion full of hope and promise. It was definitely something I won't forget being a part of any time soon. Wish I could relive it right now. Especially as there was also a local chamber orchestra playing, and they performed so beautifully renditions of Vivaldi, Pachelbel and also, specifically, the piece Gabriel's oboe.

The train was rather frantic - it consisted of a switch, a train ticket conundrum and a lot of reading for class. But in the end, all was resolved and home was reached. It took a good few hours of reading in Chapter one book store for me to recover though... namely Jack Mapanje's autobiography which is simultaneously horrifying and awe - inspiring. A difficult life is always a complex one to read about because being brave and being treated fairly tend to be juxtaposed. It's hard to explain, so I recommend you do read some of his work, as it will make more sense that way.

Saturday too was rather busy. But it was also one of the funnest days I have had in a while! The weather wasn't fantastic though, so unfortunately my plans to work over picnicking with a good long walk through the woods was foiled... but the afternoon redeemed all. Firstly, rehearsals were shorter than expected which meant more time with my family for lunch in the break before the actual concert. The chocolate ice cream really helped my sore wisdom tooth (any excuse for ice cream) and on the journey through the darkened city, I got a glimpse at some of the Halloween activity that has been going on in Manchester whilst I have been back here in York - the whole town hall was lit up green, and there were pumpkins projected onto pretty much everything! It's awesome to see so many people taking a liking to Halloween this year, and it saddens me that the pumpkin lanterns will soon come down from the trees and also that I couldn't be at the Halloween parade today. There's always next year though, so I anticipate that and look forward to my own York-ian Halloween plans for tomorrow.

I digress - so after dinner, I surprised my lovely family with tickets to the concert (they thought it was sold out) and was lucky enough to have them come along and watch. But even luckier to be a part of the concert I am about to tell you more about. It was probably my favourite concert I have been a part of in my entire time of being a soprano in the Halle Youth choir (right up there with the proms!)

Because it was a concert celebrating Star wars! Star wars for me is my childhood - it's long days with my grand dad making up adventures based on the movies, and writing this world to life in my own imagination. And to be a part of re-creating that music? Being part of a John Williams based concert is on every performers bucket list I think: It's definitely always been on mine. But more so, to get to meet storm troopers (they were outside the Bridgewater looking menacing and amazing when I arrived back) and R2-D2 is beyond belief the best thing ever! Still a little star struck to be honest and don't know when I'll recover. The wall of sound we created in our rendition of Duel of the fates still has my heart hammering and my brain whizzing with the hype of something so .... amazing!

So yeah... Despite still being tired from the long day on Friday, Saturday filled me with nostalgia for my childhood and a new found passion for the films we are studying at the moment (easy rider and Hero) It makes me want to be a film composer, and to listen to more film music and to, in general, just live in this state of feeling I have a knowledge of lots of different cultures and inspiration to discover not only my own ideas, but also ideas of others which are new to me which I can learn more on in order to become further inspired. You know those moments where you just want to be a computer but with all the good parts of being human too? Kind of one of those moments.

Today, this Sunday, has also been rather a fun and trying day. Getting through my work has taken up much of the evening and has been rather stressful, but getting a schedule sorted as part of it has been useful. Hopefully, this will be my last ridiculously busy week for a while because I really need to catch up on sleep (8 hours is never enough - bring on the lie ins!)

This morning I was up bright and early packing, but also on my way to an emergency dentist appointment... I won't go into all of the details, but basically my medication didn't seem to be helping the swelling around the wisdom tooth (singing can be a surprisingly painful thing apparently) and another opinion was needed ASAP. Bur now things are looking to be back on track and my tooth is starting to hurt a little less, which is definitely the best case scenario as I was prepared for it to hurt for a lot longer - so hooray for dentists!

And this afternoon has been lovely. It's the first weekend I have had free to invite my mum to come and visit. So after the dentists she headed back with me and I was able to show her all the best spots in York, including the books shops of course. She seemed to love it here, which made me really happy as it is one thing me being happy here and being happy in my studies, but it is another thing having the people I love here being happy alongside me. Sharing the things we care about, is the best part of caring about things. It's why performing in that Star wars concert was so great - so many people love those films and that musical score, and to share it meant everything. Likewise, my mum is a pretty amazing person. To have her approval of a place, more so to have her genuine opinion of a place, is to unlock a side to it I hadn't recognised before. And it also makes me miss her a little more - you're never too old to need a hug from your mum.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

University: Week 6

You've heard quite a lot this week already about week 6 - this is largely due to the fact that a lot of my work has been done for a deadline and I was still in that zone of constantly having ideas and needing to write them down. So, in a way, writing these posts have been a form of stress relief as well as a great way to capture my progress as the year goes on.

Getting to study film this week and the next has been a lot of fun so far. As you know, I love all things American literature based and so it's great to begin reading film with a movie that focuses in on this idea of the American dream, the country and the culture too which surrounds it. Plus I am currently working on my second deadline piece for Narratives class which is focused on the work/short stories of George Saunders. Maybe I mentioned Tenth of December, the collection, a few weeks ago now but yes, it's one I have been revisiting for the past while in order to construct a response about what it means for our perception as readers to be challenged, how this is done and so on. Whilst definitely the most challenging of my first three assignments, because it is centred on something I enjoy it's not too difficult to research. In fact, I think this is the only occasion when I can confidently say I have overdone the research a little ...

Health wise, not been too good the past week but seem to be feeling a little better today. Lots of fruit and vegetables has been the trick to keeping my immune system up. Also, note to self, the middle of concert season is not the time for your wisdom teeth to start growing in - please leave this till the summer next time!

Also, I guess it's not health related but it kind of is, the hot chocolate from Costa is nut free! This has been the saving force deadline wise as someone who doesn't have the largest love of coffee in the world. Plus, as it's Autumn now, it's perfect timing.

An interesting thing I discovered yesterday, was that this week is 'illuminating York' Not too sure why this is occurring, but it reminds me a lot of Light night in Leeds - a celebration of art and culture through light all around the city. There have been some particularly creative ideas going on on campus. I even, upon walking through the quad for a tutorial, stumbled across part of the light up forest being constructed. Which was very cool, because later that evening I then got to see musicians interacting with this by playing lots of creepy effects (thing clarinets and flutes - enharmonics) which again reminded me of the Templenewsam project. It's good to see so many different interpretations of similar things going on around York. One of my favourite parts of illumination week though has been seeing the school crest projected onto the side of the old quad. Walking out in front of it felt like being in a drive in movie theatre or something and it was such a bright special effect - almost like it was painted there. The photo doesn't really do it justice, I'm afraid:

The highlight of my week though, has been attending the last of the events for Black History Month here at York St. John - which was an evening with Dr. Jack Mapanje, who is a famous writer and teacher who was unjustly arrested in Malawi for his poetry. His stories, his work, is both inspiring and incredibly moving. The next month will be made all the better by reading his wonderful books, some of which I purchased this evening. I urge you all to read one of my favourite of his poems: The seashells of Bridlington North Beach. But for now, I will leave you on a quote of his: 

Keep the pebbles and seashells shining - you'll see,
It's a lot healthier than feeding caged fish

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Update: Autumn, Essay Submissions and Adventure

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Ever since I was little, it has been the time of year when I feel excited about the most mundane things - like the leaves changing colour, or getting the way the light seems to be that perfect shade of some where between yellow and blue (no, not green - something I don't have a word for) This Autumn is no exception, since it is my first in York. The whole place seems transformed by this seasonal transition and everything seems to have gone back in time a little. 

The Quad in particular, despite being a little chillier than it was back at the beginning of September, seems like something out of a favourite book and is thus the perfect place to sit and write this from. It makes me feel a bit like Hermione Granger...

Tomorrow is deadline day for my first essay and guess what? I actually managed to finish this one early! Turns out my organisation tips do work, or at least they have worked so far for me. Everything is filed and where it should be, my work is looking in good shape and if not, I am the queen of booking tutorials (it's so interesting though, to hear each teachers different suggestions, and how I could integrate them into my own work alongside my own ideas) The first deadline I think has been the hardest part of this year so far, but it's definitely got me a little less afraid about submitting my next (narratives - more American fiction, yay!) 

Adventure wise, the past weekend was really fun. A break really from all the studying which was great. Saturday was the Halle Youth Choir concert in Middleton, our first of the season, to help raise money and awareness for the Lee Rigby foundation. The concert went really well, especially as it was pretty much all from memory other than one piece (some rather wordy Vaughan Williams) Getting to sing some arrangements by the Kings Singers on this occasion was just perfect - whilst they aren't necessarily built for such a large choir and are aimed more at a specific chamber ensemble layout, for youthful voices they are perfect. Getting to see a piece in a new light is also always impressive - it takes a gifted arranger to take something like Danny Boy and turn it from being just a folk song, to something jazz undertones and musical theatre moments, until it feels entirely new as well as being entirely familiar. Pieces which are a juxtaposition in themselves are always the best to work on. Or ones with contrast held within them - those moments where there is an Eb or something the audience doesn't expect... those are the moments I live for in all of my performance based projects.

Additionally, on Saturday I went for a walk to this pretty old Tudor town near where I live. Hopefully, I'll get to go and find some conkers in the woods soon (it's family tradition to wade through the leaves in wellies in pursuit of the autumn treasure) This place was one of the many Salfordian spots made famous by L.S Lowry. Despite being small, it is rich with history and the buildings echo this somewhat - in particular the court house. It made me smile to sit by the canal near the steep bridge and to bask in the warm afternoon sun, snuggled into my scarf, talking to my best friend. This version of the town was so much more muted, so much warmer in a way than the stifling, sunny version it was in the early summer last year when I was last there. 

It made me nostalgic in a way, for childhood and picking up all the leaves I could find to make a red, orange, yellow collage. There's something trans-formative in familiarity - it transcends the present tense and whisks us back in time. We stand with open eyes trapped in memory, until something stirs and we look out at a different but similar place: This is acknowledging that, whilst it feels like yesterday, it has been years since my first school trip here. This is growing up, in it's hardest form.

Also this past weekend, my boyfriend came to visit York. Whilst I'm home a lot, it was great to show him around the city and also to find new elements of it - for instance, we found the grave of the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin. Such locations ended up becoming a Halloweenish trail of sorts which was fun. In addition to this, I got to introduce him (my boyfriend, not the notorious highwayman) to Hadley's cafe and it's delicious food + hot chocolate. Alongside cake from Chapter one and record shopping in Manchester, this is the next best place.

Yes - it's fantastic to be back in this good space after a rather stressful week. Whilst being busier than ever (as usual) and wondering how it could ever get any busier than this, I am simultaneously so happy and so grateful to be involved in all these fantastic opportunities (choir, university, the world at large) and to know all the lovely people I do. Getting to make friends here is not something I take for granted - these people will be friends for the rest of my life and knowing that makes me really glad. And of course my friends and family back home I look forward to seeing every week, and it's also really fun getting to write lots of letters. Today was a good day - Now onto the next... I look forward to essay club!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Literature in film

There are, of course, many different forms of literature. Some people hear the word and think instantly of shelves of dusty old books. When the truth is, literature is a broad term that encompasses many different forms of media and expression. Whether it be a magazine, a movie, a graphic novel, within reason there are millions of different formats so there is pretty much something for everyone.
When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, this is true. You just have to look through Aesthetica magazine to see it - in their recent edition, they focused upon the idea of cultural anonymity which meant photographs of tall blocks of flats. If you look in closely, you can see the subtle differences between the buildings, but when you look at the photo overall at first it is difficult to see the different elements.

When we go to see plays, they have something about them that film cannot have - it is live and mistakes can be made which no director which later be able to edit out. Perhaps the next night of performances will enhance each performer and they will be more confident in their lines and interactions, but the previous errors still exist. Film is in some ways a lot easier to put together in this regard - if mistakes can be edited out, another shooting of the scene can always be called for and the previous attempt can be completely forgotten about and at most will only be featured in a 'deleted scenes' commentary on the end of the bonus features included in a DVD publication.

This week in narratives class, we have been studying the movie Easy Rider. This movie is one which is largely about American ideals, capitalism and the idea of exploring the culture that existed around the time of the end of 1960's.

As a student who is hugely interested in American literature + culture (hence how it has evolved) the road genre in all it's formats, has always been one which interested me from as far back as I can remember. There is just something about that sense of freedom and potential it captures. specifically in this movie, that makes me want to go out into the world and just travel it all at once with nothing more than a note book and a camera (plus plenty of good cake for survival of course) 

Despite being so interested in the American production of road movies, I was a bit hesitant to begin studying one. Afterall, what if I ended up disliking something I am so passionate about? What if I wasn't as good with working on it as I previously thought? It turns out I had nothing to worry about because the discussion in class today about film and literature was one of the most interesting debates/discussions I have had in a while in addition to being one of the best here at university so far, cementing my wish to begin the American texts module next year. So excited for that right now!  

Easy Rider is an important movie for many reasons - largely because of how it broadened film and opened it up to the idea of a new Hollywood which anyone could be a part of. Arguably this is the first step to modern means of communication and expression, such as youtube. It is one that explores contrast, symbolism, capitalism, alternate living, adventure, fortune, ambition - the list is endless. The best thing is that it does this in a subtle way. One which does not push information down our throats as occasionally writers such as Steinbeck are argued to do. Close reading it's scenes is a joy because everything is placed for a reason and it becomes immediately striking when we focus in on it. Whether it be the place of a coca cola bottle on a table (American success) or the difference between a plantation and a city (the superficiality perhaps, of patriotism at this time) there is pretty much a theme for every critic who comes to look at it. 

As a student, and as an individual, I am passionate about film. Honestly - this movie has been a gift to study so far. I place it right up there with all my other favourites - Saunders, Owen, Atwood. On a final note, if for no other reason watch it for the film technique. The way the sky is depicted is what makes a picture worth a thousand or more words.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A literary tour of Manchester

Considering that this time of year is the time of new things, whether it be starting at a new school or just starting a new topic in class, it felt fitting to get to now Manchester from a perspective I hadn't seen it in before. Particularly with the Manchester literature festival as an on-going aspect of the current events, planning my own literary tour of this city I have come to regard as one of my favourites alongside being my home, seemed like a good idea. So I planned what shall be known from now on as 'the Manchester book crawl'.

This was a few weeks ago now (apologies for not getting around to writing this sooner - if the clue wasn't in one of my recent posts, then let me emphasise just how much essay work I am swimming through right now... But nearly there!)

Some of my favourite places I stumbled across included a second hand book stall (there were hundreds upon hundreds stacked in boxes - which always leads to the best finds) with old covers battered from their long journeys across the years. There was also Paramount books which was filled with signs encouraging visitors to put away their phones and interact with one another about the books around them - that place reminded me of my imaginings of what Shakespeare and co. in Paris will be like (that's the dream, of course)

But my favourite of the places we discovered, and also my new go to every time I arrive in Manchester for rehearsals, is the wonderful Chapter one books.

Forget what you know about book shops being a space for just browsing through and choosing a book, this is a place which thrives on books lovers and creating the perfect reading environment. There are sofas with comfy cushions, nooks with just the right lighting, type writer pods should you need them and, because there is always a need for them, fairy lights in the evening. And it's not just the perfect place to sit and read, it's also a place to enjoy favourite foods - the menu has things I have never heard of (fancy salmon dishes) to some of the best cake I have ever seen. Namely, in this incident, jaffa cake cake. What more can a book worm want from their favourite spot.

This place dis-affirmed everything I had previously thought about what it was for the book to exist in the modern day society. And it's extremely refreshing to see so many people enthusiastic and excited about my chosen field. It gives me the warm fuzzy feelings autumn brings times a thousand - especially as I had thought independent stores weren't as big a deal in Manchester as they might be in larger cities such as York, where I am studying, or London.

But yes - If in the area of Manchester you fancy a good cup of tea, a slice of heaven in the form of cake and a place to get through the Man booker reading list or even just drafting that last part of your dissertation at the end of this lovely 2016, I can't recommend a place where you would feel more content or at home.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Week 5 of University

Next week is my first deadline... I know - it came around horrendously fast! But the good news is that it isn't all doom and gloom. In fact I'm not too stressed about this first deadline because I feel like things are going quite well. This first essay in particular has had a lot of work put into it, alongside intensive research, so I'm excited almost to get the feedback and criticism which will help me with my next essay (due in the first week of December - it's stressful just to think of)

In addition to this, I've also been working on my other essays. The assignment I am getting the most out of would probably be writing for academic success because it's basically research and bibliographic stuff is my forte because it's all about logic and place. Of course it is literature, so it does require stepping outside the box somewhat and thinking about meaning, symbolism, etc but it also means that that this required in a less direct format. We aren't required to write a full essay, though we are asked to do close reading which is arguably harder in some ways. It's definitely a good thing to have a mix of different classes as it creates a balance between everything.

The essay club I started originally to help just a few friends and myself peer assess our work has also really taken off which is refreshing to see! It also means getting to know lots of other people on my course and hearing their ideas.

So yeah... it's largely been a week of study group meetings, class, seminars and staying in the library consuming lots of caffeine - but that's because this is the way I work best under stress. Still making sure to get plenty of sleep though and fruit (which helps probably more than the caffeine)

And yet in spite of all that stress, I'm in a good place right now. Loving the university I am at, excited to go to every class and discuss ideas. Because so much of our work is based on group work in class to balance out our individual study outside of class, I feel like my course is one big giant awesome conversation. Do you have any idea how useful that is? I feel like I'm just chatting about stuff I love or am genuinely interested in to friends, and the reality is that that is exactly what I am doing. Which is probably why although stressed, I'm not stressed in an uncomfortable way. I feel in the right place for me right now.

Having friends who support me and who are similar in character has also been a life saver. It means we study well together and know when it's time to go to the market to get sweets and chat about something other than Wilde. Like perhaps Atkinson (#itsthewayoftheworldsunshine) And exciting news - I've just been made a digital ambassador for the university! More news on this soon - but for now, I need to get some sleep as tomorrow the university are doing a screening of one of the movies we are studying next week. Which means notes, yes, movie, yes, but also sweets!

^How happy I am today

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A first aid kit: Deadlines

Firstly, if you're reading this because you like me are coping with the strenuous task of deadlines then here is a virtual hug and a promise that things are going to get better. With three deadlines fast looming, it's hard to choke back the fickle tears and plunge right into the essay content. Coming to grips with all of this is the hard part - the pressure, the timing, the speed with which I have to work, it's all a lot more than I am used to. But I also know that, like you, I can do this.

The late nights in the library have so far been kept at a minimum which I am glad of as getting the right amount of sleep has been beyond helpful. Being able to go to bed at night after a long day is the most refreshing thing - as is a hot bath which is, thankfully, an option in my accommodation (hence my huge Lush collection!) Researching is one of the things I find the hardest, so this time around my aim has been to incorporate the research first. This was mainly due to trying it in a seminar and finding that the more detailed my research was, the more likely it was that ideas would come to me opposed to research needing to be found based on the ideas I had already planned. So this is a roundabout way of telling you tip number 1 - Try different methods of drafting, and you might be surprised by how useful the different approaches prove.

There are lots of ways you can surround yourself with positive thoughts in order to accomplish word which you are proud of and feel you have worked on for the proper amount of time + in the right amount of depth. These ways differ from person to person, but here are a few which definitely help me.

1. Talk about it with your friends + family

Being open about your approach to working is the unspoken secret to success (unless of course, you're in a spy novel or working on a spy novel - in which case, shhh!) At the moment, something which is really helping me is working with my friends on peer assessing one anothers work. Seeing essay structure repeated over and over is really useful because it kind of means ingraining into your mind what an essay should look like, how you should plan it, deliver it, etc. Plus, you will see your improvement in what feedback you are able to give other people on your work - it's a win win situation when both people profit: feedback and learning process.

As for talking about it, if you have exams coming up then it can be useful to just speak about your subject to someone. Especially family who might not have studied the subject you are as then when they have to explain it back, they will be using the information you have given. If they get everything, then you know:

- You're a fairly good teacher
- You know the information that you need to know

If you can't remember the information through reading it silently, reading aloud when you are in your room can be helpful. Getting things to sound aloud means giving yourself the space to shape clarity. Michelangelo said that he didn't create his sculptures, he instead freed them from the marble blocks by cutting away until the figures appeared. This is you and your work - you are chiselling away at the block and each mark adds up to your word count or the number of ideas/pieces of info you store in your mind.

2. Research + draft draft draft

When researching, use a broad variety of resources. Don't just stick to whatever comes up first on google scholar, use your library (it's a fantastic resource) look for unusal critcisms you can support or can contradict with your own ideas and evidence, and use everything from journal articles to books themselves.

The research compliments your own work and allows you to showcase your ideas by putting into use, particularly with a literature or language based course, all of those skills that you have been taught in class. If anything, assignments are an opportunity to show that you understand what your lecturers are saying which is why tutorials are such a useful thing to have alongside your peer assessment. Drafting as often as you can and making swift action on the feedback you get back will mean it is in a constant evolutionary process which will help it to be the best that it can be.

3. Tutorials

As metioned previously, tutorials are there for a reason - to help you get to grips with whatever it is in class you need to go over or want to use but don't necessarily fully understand how to put into practice. Whilst you can't show full drafts in your tutorials, you can over different sections which is a fantastic use of time. Because it means that when you isolate that section you can see whether it is working with that question.

It's also a place to air concerns. If you are really uncertain and don't know where to go with what you are writing, then make sure you express this as early on as you can, and try to articulate all the questions you need answers to in order to progress accordingly.

4. Make the most of your time

Procrastinating is not going to get you your degree - this snaps me out of my youtube, random book, late night poetry writing, day dream every time and switches me back to the task at hand. Whilst there is all the time in the world to do those things (and balanced set aside time for them during the drafting process) the point of this time now is to get on with drafting + studying. So make the most of it whilst you still can.

At the end of the day, we all get to that point where we wish we could have done more or don't think that we have done enough - and it's ok to feel like that because even if you worked on something for 23 hours a day (which you shouldn't be) every day, then there was always that 24th hour you didn't use. No one expects you to spend all of your free time studying, but every one expects you to put some effort into the time that you do set aside for your studies so try to make the most of it whilst you still have the opportunity.

So that when you press submit for your deadline, you don't feel like you have made a mistake and you don't regret submitting the work you have. You can do this, I can do this - have faith in us. We're going to pass!

5. Make a safe space 

This means playlists (for me, film sound tracks like those for Brooklyn or the imitation game, are easiest to concentrate to) comfy socks, being surrounded by family photos - all those things that keep you calm and make you feel in a safe space to work. Being stressed is obviously a huge part of what makes deadlines hard to get through but it's also avoidable. If you pace yourself and don't put too much pressure on yourself (at the end of the day, it's just an essay) and accept that despite being important it's not the end of the world, then it will become a much easier task to face. Having that safe space to feel free to work but also to relax, is incredibly important as you will learn.


For those of you who are A level students applying for or considering applying for university, I found this video today which you might find useful. It's just a few questions answered by someone (youtuber Lucy Moon) who has recently graduated and I found it an interesting perspective of the experience. Let me know your thoughts - useful? Not useful?

Also, a little awesome music to help you concentrate on behalf of the genius, Jacob Collier:

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!
Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

University: A summary of my fourth week

Believe it or not, I've now been a student at York St John for a month now. I know - it's already going so quickly and I'm sure how I feel about that. At this rate it's going to be Christmas holiday a lot sooner than I thought it would be. It also means that deadlines, concerts and the like are fast approaching and things are gradually becoming more stressful - hopefully all will go accordingly to plan as I am trying my best to organise everything!

The past week has largely been getting to know our assessments properly before moving on to last minute drafting and peer assessment the week of the 17th. We have three weeks of deadlines (3 assignments with one due each week) so naturally, working on them in chunks and having a divided schedule is proving most useful, though it unfortunately means I don't get as much time to write the advice blogs I have planned in the time I do asset aside for writing. My assignments are between 1000 to 2000 words each:

- Reading texts 1 (an analysis of some of the themes of one book we have studied)
- Forms of narrative (an analytical or a creative piece based on the texts studied)
- Writing for academic success (a portfolio based on essay planning + bibliographical research)

With drafts on track (mostly) for these assignments, my aim is to keep proof reading and to arrange some tutorials throughout the next fortnight so that I can be happy I have done everything possible in putting these pieces together well. One of my biggest aims this year, a form of foundation year, is to get as much useful criticism as I can and be on the way to making significant progress which will lead to not only successful work but work I can be proud of. Enjoying class is one thing, but doing well in class is the progress I am looking for. The essays and assignments are a means of us as students showing that we have learnt something and are beginning to shape our ideas accordingly with some comments of our own.

Other than stressing, I mean working, on my essays and class work I have also been reading a few books outside class. These include Atwood's The hand maidens tale, and Girl up by Laura Bates. These two novels are definitely inviting me to think a lot about not only reality, but how dystopian fiction (in the case of Atwood) allows us to realise and interpret different aspects of reality depending on different elements - whether it be social class or gender. These texts also work quite nicely with some of the content I am writing on for the books on the reading list.

One book I have particularly enjoyed from the reading list is the book of short stories by George Saunders - The tenth of December. An element I have particularly enjoyed about it is it's use of narrative (ironic and useful as we are studying it for reading narratives) In each story there are a variety of different characters exploring similar themes, such as love, death, society and so on. It takes the every day and shows it in a way which makes it uncanny. Often quite dark in tone, it brings a whole new way of thinking to reality through use of dystopia (particularly in Return to Spiderhead) It reminds me so much of the work of Orwell - something which was mentioned a lot in critics reviews as well. It is very American as a literary text for similar reasons to Steinbeck - both explore their culture and identity through the use of fictional worlds.

York adventures last week were also pretty fun - my friend Dani visited, so we went for a wander round the city. Also spent time with my friends from here at York St. John - we went on the search for books in our many excellent book and charity shops. The bakery on the Shambles gets more and more enticing. Unfortunately it rained quite a lot last week, but it didn't dampen our spirits thankfully it seems. If anything it has made us more determined to succeed. We've even started working together in an essay/study group we put together outside of class which so far has been extremely useful. It's one thing peer assessing in class, but to know you have a group of friends who have your back... it's just a lovely feeling. Also, could anyone tell me what those pumpkin like creatures are in the middle of the photo row? I think they might be a type of pumpkin but for the life of me I cannot figure out what they are actually called and feel I am doing them a huge dis-respect by not knowing their name.

My form of working is quite simple - work work work for 4 - 5 days with minimal breaks and then 3 days of mainly musical work, with a little school work. This system works quite well for me as it makes me feel like I am taking the right amount of break time and getting enough work done. It will be harder now that I am student rep (training begins soon) but it's definitely something I am majorly excited about being a part of. Making a difference, a positive one, is never a bad thing. Celebration was in order with tea at Chapter one books upon arrival back at home of course, and with a trip to Wigan (never been before - there was a really beautiful park there) Getting to see my family, friends and boyfriend, having a good relax - it has me prepared now for the busy week ahead. Wish me luck!

P.s. Almost Halloween!!!

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Erasmus + Studying Abroad Fair

University is a place to explore not only your options in your own language and your home country, but also to maybe experience another culture, push yourself outside of your comfort zone in terms of travelling somewhere alone and getting to grips with being a student in a different place. It can be a remarkable experience, as many of my friends who are international students have told me, to live somewhere so different throughout studies. Especially if languages is something you want to do or are interested in, it offers you the opportunity to constantly be surrounded by it so that you are never given that moment to doubt yourself - you try out new words or new ideas when you learn them and hence it can be quicker to pick up skills than it might always be in a class room.

As an individual, I have always been fascinated by cultures and languages - from how they affect the way we live our day to day lives in a different manner to others around the globe, to the details in literature where a word might change or a phrase might become something else entirely. Those differences are what make our world so interesting - and it's one of the best elements to travelling.

York st John is a great university for many reasons - one of which being that it supports it's students fully in pursuing those paths they might be a bit wary at first to consider. It does so by giving us the right sort of information and placing it somewhere where it is accessible to everyone. For instance, Erasmus isn't just something we engage with outside the class room: It is very much a part of our studies and we are encouraged to be a part of it by being provided the opportunity to speak with staff, with students and such who can tell us what it is actually like so that our decision overall is well formed.

Whilst it is something I would definitely like to pursue, this has only added pressure to work hard! In order to make it on as a member of the project team you have to have a 55% pass mark at least in order to be considered for your first or second choice. Whilst I know this is achievable (hopefully) it is also something I am a little afraid of because it is difficult to put hope and hard work into something and knowing it might not necessarily turn out the way I want it to. But then again, life is life and the path is an adventure where ever it might lead so the aim is to work hard and feel successful based on how much work and commitment I apply. 

And for now, I dream of Amsterdam and Germany thinking of the possibility that one of these may be my future home for half a year very soon.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

How to: Make the most of reading week

Once at university, the semesters are much longer than you will previously have been used to because they are not terms. Terms include half terms, whereas here we instead have semesters and reading weeks. Reading week is basically what it says on the tin - a week set aside for reading. Actively reading, that is, the texts that you need to prepare for the following weeks, to get ahead on your essay work, to work at your own pace and have a break from your usual weekly schedule and even, in some incidents, to work from home and get to see your family for a few days. These things are all really essential to your remaining fresh of aspiration and mind set so that you are as motivated and passionate about your subject as ever and when you return to your usual schedule you will feel more confident in your progress.

Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the trap with reading week of halving your work load and using the other half of the week as a half term holiday. Whilst there is nothing directly wrong with this, it can be frustrating to reach the end of the week and regretting not having spent so much time working on an essay that is due in sooner than you realised. That's the problem with time, particularly holidays, they get away from us and pass by so quickly that by the time we realise we probably should have done more work the opportunity to do more work is no longer possible because the metaphorical hour glass has run out of it's equally metaphorical sand.

So here are a few ideas on how you can keep your reading week as efficient as productive as possible:

1. Have a priority list

If you have deadlines coming up then this is the time to get around the procrastination monster once and for all, in order to get to the heart of things and get every minute of work in your can. Trust me when I tell you that you are going to be grateful for this in the future! When you can focus on proof reading during deadlines week instead of actually beginning the essay, you are going to be much less stressed and even able to begin planning ahead for your next deadline (if you're anything like me this is a must - especially as I have one essay in every week for three weeks starting in the last week of October amongst everything else in life... wish me luck!)

So yes, to return to the point, a priority list means starting with the most important (work for deadlines) to the averagely important (rehearsals) and down the less important (plan essays for next year - anything you know you will have more time to complete after this week)

2. After this, build a schedule/ out line of the week

As useful as it is to have a schedule, being a student and knowing students - it is highly unlikely, no matter how hard working you are, you are going to get sick of schedules and become scared of them if you force yourself into one during reading week. The reason reading week is great is because it means you can get more rest than usual, work just as much as usual and treat it openly - have a roundabout schedule, but treat it as a guide line.

By guide line, I mean know when lunch time will be, around what time you will get up and start work, and what work you will do each day. Don't specify the number of hours (that's the part that will encourage procrastination) just specify what you want to achieve each day - e.g. work on class X essays, plan Y essays, Finish reading for class Z.

If you have a rough outline, you can always plan more thoroughly on the day. Having the freedom to work is a real luxury that comes with reading week so use it to it's fullest.

3. Catch up on your class notes

Now is the time to go through all those messy Monday morning lecture notes and make sure they make sense so that when it comes to exams or end of year course work you can extract all the information you need quickly and with no fuss opposed to questioning for three hours straight whether it is an S, a 5 or a W that you have written and hence, what that word could possibly be.

As mentioned previously, reading week is a luxury for taking things at your own pace and working on what you want to work on individually in great depth. Unlike half term, you probably won't have the distraction of being at home and having a million and one things that seem more fun to do than hard work on a sunny autumn day, so you can use those spare minutes to make sure you are up to date and still understanding everything as much as you need to be.

Whereas you need to keep up with everyone else in class, this is the down time you need to work at your own pace and internalise all that knowledge which will become the foundation of the future expertise you will accomplish with time and patience.

4. Do some extra research/ above and beyond

If you finish the work you need to complete, then you can move on to really nurturing that by gathering extra resources via secondary reading or even just engaging in online and off line forums, discussions and debates surrounding your topics. For instance, I still love German history long after finishing my history A level - it was absolutely fantastic and gave me all the resources I needed to find interesting secondary ones, such as one of my favourite books (Anna Funder - Stasiland - so so well written and researched!)

Some things you might like to research could include:

- Books which will compliment your course
- Topics which branch off from the main (sub categories)
- Future opportunities (summer camps, internships, where you would like to apply for postgrad)
- How to go about planning future essays
- Extracurricular activities
- What you want to research as a private project next. E.g. the evolution of comic books.

5. Have some form of reward/treat!

To some extent extra research can be seen as your main reward... just kidding! Whilst research in itself is always reasonably fun, I know it's not everyone's favourite cup of tea and that's perfectly fine. Use the extra time during reading week to do something fun like go swimming or for hike - something you wouldn't usually get time to do.

Give your mind a little room to breathe and get away for a while in a safe and healthy way. If you allow yourself space between the hard work, the hard work itself will no longer seem too difficult or scary to approach. The more you realise that you are the most important part of your course, the easier it will be to go about things in the right way for you - and that can only lead to the best end result of all: A happy successful future you.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

University: A summary of my third week

Throughout this week, I have gotten to know quite a few more new friends both on an off the literature course. Especially from the music department as well as through the feminist society. It's great to hear so many people who are passionate about their different fields. It kind of what I imagine google offices must be like - a constant sharing of knowledge and ideas. Though libraries and books are all important assets of school life, I've learnt so much already from my peers.

Class wise, there has been much left spinning in my brain long after class was over. Firstly in reading texts where we discussed the literary canon, what makes it the way it is and why we have such texts and authors so insistent in being top of the literary list in examinations. One aspect of exploring this was finding out the statistic of translated texts to texts printed in English - 1 in 10 books is a translated novel (from what I remember) of what is published per month. This is not a particularly large statistic and something we can do to raise this number, something I personally am going to try to invest more in, is learning new languages and beginning that translation process ourselves. Even if it just means private reading through translation. Different cultures offer such interesting ideas in their writings, which is why it is so important to keep languages and literature a playground to be enjoyed. The more people enjoy learning and sharing language skills, the bigger an asset it will be to the world of books for it will mean more stories.

Narratives class has been more based upon the idea of sonnets. Previously I had only read along the stereotypical lines of sonnet - Shakespearean sonnets. But the history of the sonnet is much different to how I imagined it. The sonnet did not in fact begin with Shakespeare but in Italy with Petrarc and the form was quite different from the rhyming 14 line structure we have today. There are many forms of sonnet (latin for little song) but the original came to England in the 13th century before becoming most popular in the 16th century in the more familiar format we know it today. Our particular collection of sonnets is of 101 of them, selected by the infamous Don Paterson. In our seminars we were lucky enough to be able to analyse some of them in groups and the one my group was assigned was based on a quote by John Cage. If like me you are obsessed with all things musical, you will recognise the name from 4 minutes 33 seconds (an orchestra sits still for 4 minutes 33 seconds and the audiences' sounds etc is what makes the performance - different every time) The poem was in the format of what is known as concrete poetry, which I hadn't come across previously. We also got to explore writing sonnets ourselves and ironically, I went for the Shakespearean structure discussing some of the different aspects of Macbeth.

There are things which remind me of home in this new city of mine. York is beautiful - it is rife with history, there is so much to learn here and I am enjoying each little surprise which awaits me around the next corner. And yet each week, I look forward to going home for rehearsals at the weekend. It doesn't mean I am unhappy here, it just means I miss home. Home is a place we can never truly leave or replace as so many writers have honed in on in their books. As so many musicians have expressed in their melodies. So the letters to and from home make me feel much better throughout the week - already there is an impressive stack of them on my table and I am greedy for these brief glimpses into the days of my loved ones.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

How to: Plan a successful essay

Note to self - In the next month and a half you need to finish:
- One 1000 word essay on a single text for reading texts 1
- One 1000 word analysis or creative piece for reading narratives 1
- One 2000 word portfolio for writing for academic success
- Read all the books for class
- Research extra material
- Not re-watch Sherlock too much

^ This is the idea of what is ahead for me this next month (not counting extra curricular, as these are my primary focus right now) It doesn't look like much when you focus on it like that as a short list but it definitely feels like a much lengthier list in reality. This is purely because I'm working hard, which is a good thing, and class is always inspiring. But at the same time, sometimes I do need to sit down for ten minutes with a piece of paper and out line clearly the things that need to get done, and (as with a good game of chess) outline some of the possibilities of how I am going to go about resolving the tasks at hand.

Now that we're on week 3 of the course, it's time to get down to the basics of essay writing. This has been both frustrating and fascinating. I watched a documentary on J. K. Rowling and her writing process last week and she spoke a lot about how the book series is one for those who love details. I think essay writing is quite like that.

For those of you who are in the same boat as me (knowing some of the detail but not knowing which way to begin digging into it in order to plan) then here are a few tips that I have stumbled across in my own planning and discussions during seminars this week:

1. Read your question carefully + mind-map 

Your thesis (or hypothesis) is your new best friend so nurture it the best you can because the better you know it, the more this will come across on the page. Unlike an exam, you don't have the limitation of just one hour to glimpse at your question and get straight into planning briefly before answering things. Now you have the value of time.

Once you have read through your question, pick it apart and make mind maps. For instance, my current essay question comments on the way the novel behind the scenes at the museum explores different aspects of how women were/are perceived by society. so getting some secondary reading on this began firstly with a mind map. I thought about not just the language and literary aspects of the book but also it's historical context, it's discussion of culture and what culture is and so on and how this not only impacted on the female characters but also on the male. A mind map is also a place where feel a little more comfortable being imaginative - get all your ideas down here so that you can free up your extra brain space to begin focusing in on points which seem they would make a good section of essay and would be intriguing enough to research in depth.

2. Quoting + your primary text and secondary reading 

Whilst your primary texts are important, make sure you do include some secondary reading otherwise your ideas may be more limited than they would be otherwise. Secondary reading means finding, quoting and correctly referencing critical work which supports your statements throughout the essay. For instance, if you want to talk about the impact of shell shock upon the lives of a character in a war novel then you may wish to find a statistic about how common shell shock related injuries, illnesses etc occurred at that time period in the real world and how this may have influenced the author.

Secondary reading, for me at least, is the best part of essay writing because it means you get to sit in the library with a stack of books it has taken you forever to find and carry over to an empty space and then when you do, you get to pick apart sentences, devour words, and drink in their energy. Kind of like a knowledge vampire - as I said, fun! Use a range of sources, but make sure they are reliable. For instance, here it is recommended we avoid such sites as Wikipedia in our individual writings and research.

3. Referencing 

Always reference correctly. Once you are finished with your essay, go back on a spare printed copy and annotate everything. Imagine you are the examiner and that this is an essay you have never seen in your life - does it make sense? Does the writing fit the mark scheme? Don't go easy on yourself either, because that isn't how the best essays are written. The best essays take time and this definitely includes referencing. When you are referencing, don't just go for the first book you see on the shelf that contains a smidgen of what you want to prove. Instead opt for the lesser known books that might take more time but will be well worth the effort.

Referencing can also be made easier by looking into the recommended reading. Often your teachers will add extra resources on the virtual learning system, such as journal articles, lists of books you might want to look into should you finish the reading list and so on. If you have a mix of already recommended books to start with, it can be much easier to begin then looking for a variety of books on your own too.

On a final note, always use the system in place at your school, sixth form or university or you will lose marks for not using the correct referencing. Here, as in many places of education, we use the Harvard referencing system. It can be useful to write out all information in this system as you go to save yourself time in the future and to adjust to it (it can be quite difficult to get used to)

4. Writing links 

By this I mean the links between your paragraphs/themes. When you write about something (say you want to link the factor of finance to the factor of social conditions in your history essay) you need to make sure you have a clear link between your ideas to show how they work. Not having that link means that you essentially aren't linking back to your main question/thesis point and your argument is rendered useless because it doesn't fit together right.

Every essay is a big chunk of marble and you are the Michelangelo carving the statue out of all that information. You are sifting through it to create a well structured, well planned, clearly thought through argument.

An effective link is often the simplest kind. If you have finished writing your previous point, then you can link to the next by stating something along the lines of 'because such and such is like this as stated, this leads onto such and such (new paragraph, new theme) If this sounds confusing this is purely because there is no theme used in the example. Try it yourself and see if it works - it can be a useful weapon in any academic context (make sure you don't always phrase it that way though - that is just an idea of how to start, a guide line if you will)

5. Word count, conclusion + structure

Only a final note, here are a few other things you should bear in mind when writing your essays: Your structure doesn't have to be identical to your plan as long as you get in all the information in you need to and in a well argued format, your word count can be edited down to after you have completed a draft and your conclusion should always be balanced. Don't stress about everything being perfect first time - if you start early, then you have time to draft and these three things take time. Your structure is the easiest to deal with because you will be able to observe it more clearly than the other two. Each is a poison for the others - if you master the structure first time, then it is more likely that your word count will be easier to cancel down and your conclusion will be a balanced summary and overall statement based on the clear points observed in your neatly organised, lengthier, structure.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

Study group project - Museum gardens

A big part of being a literature student at York St John university is that we work in study groups a lot of the time, meaning that I've quickly made friends with some wonderful people and we meet up once a week to do a task set in class or simply to discuss our work, share our ideas and get some feed back. It can be really useful to have a second opinion from people who are on the same course as you as they will have a different way of viewing things course wise and hence their perspective can provide a really positive input into your own work process - they can get you thinking about new themes you could research or might see the typing error you made without realising. 

One of our most recent tasks was to explore a place from Behind the scenes at the museum gardens by Kate Atkinson which is the book we have worked on most recently in reading texts one. It is a book about history, spanning a century, and possessing an intricate web of characters who all link up in some way (most of it via family connection) For our adventure, we chose to explore Museum gardens and this is a paragraph we put together about our observations: 

In Atkinson's behind the scenes at the museum, museum gardens is a space in which the girls pass to school on a daily basis and also in which we see Bunty behave as a mother just after Ruby has been conceived. Due to it being a public place, Bunty's behaviour is quite forced and superficial. The place itself is completely natural in contrast - so it is quite confusing to imagine two such different ideas existing in the same place. 

For us as a group, it felt like a place which proved quite drastically that history in York is everywhere. We discussed this whilst sat on remnants of the Abbey which once stood there - how earth had reclaimed the space as it's own over time, without any hesitation. And despite this, it did not feel like history was crowding the space but as though history was nurturing it. The grass grew out of the chinks in the brick work, the jagged parts of the wall allowed the sunlight through more clearly, and it seemed an idyllic place to be on a bright day. Which made it all the more evident that Atkinson created the contrast to show that good and bad things occur alongside one another.

That's all for today folks! Thank-you again, so so so much for voting for me as blogger of the year 2016 - it is an achievement I am really proud of which makes me smile just thinking about it!

Thank you also for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!

If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.