Monday, 31 July 2017

31. On The Future

I've spent much of my life planning how to learn as much as possible in the short flicker of time that will be my place in history. Between practicing the violin, reading the books on my ever growing to read list and travelling to new places, there have been many things to add to that list of mine. More than anything the thing that has become most apparent to me the more that I experience is that the list of things I want to learn will never be satisfied within this one small part of history. But that does not mean I cannot keep trying to find all of those things and quell that thirst for knowledge that is at the heart of all I do.

Making the decision to go to university isn't something which happened over only the two years of sixth form. For me, it has been in the making since the early years of my life when I was given my first box set of paperbacks (Wordsworth and Oxford classics). It's odd, the memories you keep when you think of it like that. The aim of university was what kept me working hard right up to A level. The motivation was to learn as much as possible and, in the process of doing so, achieve the necessary results to go to university.

Just some of the many wonderful people I have been lucky enough to meet on my journey so far 
Now that it is nearing the end of July, Halle tour and my moving date to Amsterdam (for a whole semester) are fast approaching and it has got me thinking a lot about time. Time is very different to what it was when I was in primary school. Car journeys do not feel as long, especially with the introduction of the technology stemming from the hard earned research of fellow humans, and days seem to go far too quickly. It makes me nostalgic for the past in ways, but more than anything it just makes me want to fill every moment with new things. With adventures and with information - there is so much open to explore.

Writing in particular is the best medium to take a step back and look at where you should head to next. Producing content here allows me to share not only what I have learnt but also my processes. Through noting down experiences and going through them, it becomes possible to see what I have achieved in the past successfully and how I can go about using similar behaviour to continue producing work at the best standard I am capable of. Especially now that first year is over and I am heading to a whole new place with a different academic system, it will be incredibly useful to be able to look back and see how my past self might have handled a situation. It feels like having someone to look out for me on this path where I will have to re-learn my footing. But that said, it will ultimately be a good thing for me to keep pushing my comfort zone to see what I can learn from this new challenge.

So much world out there to see! - Photo copyright CLSS 2017
Travelling throughout the past has been a big part of exploring that zone outside of my comfort zone, figuring out how I might expand it, and I think this is why I perhaps enjoy it so much. For this reason much of my academic work has centred around the energy of different spaces and the potential that they hold. Sometimes only certain things can happen in certain places. There is something about the urban, or spaces which fuse the new with the old, which completely fascinates me. Culture, in all of its' many different forms and guises, completely astounds me in how it can connect people and bring them together through the fusing of the past and the present. For this reason, I can quite happily say that there is definitely going to be a lot of travel in store for my future if it goes how I plan.

A big part of what I learnt about myself through moving to York for study is that home is much more complicated than being a singular tangible place. Instead it is something we each carry, within the relationships we sustain and the way we approach the world around us. Whenever I think of this, especially when travelling alone and feeling lonely, it reminds me that friends are never too far away if I keep my eyes open.

Me pre-sixth form 
Whilst much of this post has centred in on the past, you'd be surprised how much of it is relevant to what I want to achieve with my future. I've achieved a lot, especially this past year and summer, but there is still so much to be done. I still have the wanderlust to roam this incredible planet, to learn about everything I see or discuss. The desire to read, and to think, and to dream. Heading to university was just the first step and before graduation day arrives in another two years time, there is much I still want to plan and accomplish.

Life is not so simple as offering us a schedule where everything is always on time or goes constantly to plan. And whilst to a well organised mind that can often prove an inconvenience, to me it is a relief that there is still always surprise to motivate and inspire. Colours would not be so bright nor words so relevant if that were not the case. For me and my future, the things I want to accomplish are many in theory but so far not defined or chiselled into stone. There is time enough to experiment and whilst there is, I think back to the Charlotte who wandered around universities or years before when she learnt her ABC's with gaps in her milk teeth. I think of her and she is a vivid character to me. I think of myself at 5 and wonder what she would want to achieve now if she were exactly the same? Would she be happy with who we have become? Would I have been a good role model to myself at that age?

It might not seem entirely realistic thought wise, but for me it is enough to remember that a life is a map of who we are. It is of the utmost importance that when we reach the end of all of our journeys we are proud of what we have achieved. Today, the last day of July, I couldn't be prouder of my 2016/17 so far. And my aim for my future? To be this determined, excited and (above all else) happy, in another 10 years time. 

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

What is your dream? What are your aims for the future?

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

30. Getting To Know Your Area - York

Getting to know the area you will be living in whilst studying can be pretty intimidating, albeit it being a little easier nowadays thanks to public transport and the ever faithful Google maps. All the same, it is useful to know the area relatively well before fresher's week so that you don't get too lost too easily. In relation to this, I have decided to write a series of posts exploring interesting areas near popular UK universities which might add a fun element of tourism to your research over the summer. Train and coach tickets aren't too expensive, so if you're up for either an open day or an adventure, through these posts you can find a few places to fit into your day trip on the first time you visit an a new location. Think of it as research with the added benefit of being a road trip.

This past year (the first of my three year undergraduate degree in literature) has been one of the best years of my life. Not only have I been learning about the subject I love from likeminded lecturers and peers, I have also really learnt what it is to stand on my own two feet for the first time. Moving away from home for those who are tentative is always difficult, but I can highly recommend York for this. It's a beautiful city with so much history to learn about, whilst maintaining a certain something I haven't come across anywhere else in my world travels so far.

To help you get started with beginning to learn your way around and become accustomed to the character of York, here are a few places you might want to check out near to your university: 

In York, history comes to life - Image copyright CLSS 2017
1. York Minster

An example of architecture at its finest, the York Minster is one of the citys' most famous landmarks. In fact you can even see it all the way from the train station and can hear it ringing throughout the day to mark the hours. It has the largest collection of medieval stained glass in Europe. Wandering inside feels like stepping back in time. 

Entrance is free to students of York St. John university (in fact we even graduate from here) but external visitors can pay to explore the interior or to climb to the very top where you can get some of the best panoramic views of the city. 

Tip - Head to one of the free even song services which are held every day. A particular favourite from the last year would have to be that held for World Peace day.

2. The Shambles

Traditionally a medieval market dominated by meat merchants, the Shambles is now the oldest remaining street in England. The market place still exists in the neighbouring square, but there are also a few bakeries and cafes to choose from along the Shambles itself.

It was also the inspiration for a very well known fictional place, that being Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books. Opened in recent months, 'The Shop That Must Not Be Named' has everything you need from the wizarding world. From chocolate frogs to time turners, stepping inside is something almost magical. It's strange how things come full circle, isn't it?

3. Little Apple Book Store, Fossgate Books et. al.

The city for the perfect book haul - now that would have to be York! I've spent my fair share of time perusing the many books available in not only the usual chain book stores, but mainly the many beautiful second hand book stores which prove to be the very foundation on which York stands.

A personal favourite would have to be the Little Apple Book store (not all that far away from Minster books, which always makes for a good afternoon pairing). Here you can find all manner of interesting books, from classics to recently published graphic novels. They also usually have an excellent range of signed copies which make perfect gifts for family and friends.

Fossgate books (which is near to the infamous Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate sign) is full of many odd editions. Here I have found several of my well cherished first editions and collectors copies. I always head here when I need to find some out of date translated fiction also as they usually have a good range to choose from. They also have plenty of old Penguin classic editions which I absolutely love reading. Finding them always feels like finding treasure.

4. The Walls + Dick Turpin's Grave

You've heard all of those folk stories about the highway man right? Well the infamous Dick Turpin can be found buried in a separate grave yard towards the other side of town, as was custom for criminals. It is rather an eery place, and makes for an excellent spooky walk on Halloween. 

As for walking in general, there is plenty to offer. The city walls go all around the main tourist attractions, leading past the river to Cliffords tower and back to the station. My favourite time to go for a wander along the walls would have to be at sunset during spring when all of the daffodils are out. Trust me, you have not seen a true host of golden daffodils until you've wandered through York in the spring time.

5. Museum Gardens

My absolute favourite of all of the sites in this fascinating location would by far have to be the Museum Gardens. Here you'll find the ruins of an abbey destroyed by Henry VIII. Sitting atop the stone on a sunny day and seeing how many squirrels you can count (trust me, there are a lot!) can make for an ideal spot to begin working on your essay. 

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

29. Summer Study Tips

Keeping your brain active over the summer holidays is so important to your studies throughout the rest of the academic year. Whilst there are currently no exams or deadlines to prepare for, just think how useful it will be to get a foundational knowledge of all the things which you will be facing in class once you return in September.

Working at your own pace over the summer is the perfect time to not only get to grips with the basics of your next upcoming challenge, it is also a great time to pick up some new skills and to begin working on the things you find interesting that the busy time-table of the academic semester simply doesn't permit time for. For instance, you could pick up a new language or learn Morse code. There are so many things to choose from which will keep you motivated to learn over the long weeks ahead.

Here are some of my top study tips for keeping your brain pro-active over the holidays:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever - Gandhi
Image copyright CLSS 2017
1. Brain Training

Finding something to get you thinking each day can be tricky, especially when you lack the motivation to get up early in the morning knowing that you can decide and define your own schedule. Whilst catching up on your sleep is important, a way to keep thinking in a way that is fun is through simple brain training. This means that as soon as you wake up you are gently encouraging further progress through simple exercises.

I have my own daily routine which continues into the holidays from the average academic morning (you can read more about that here) which consists of using apps such as Duolingo and Lumosity to help me learn a few new words of vocab in a different language and do some basic brain training exercises in the format of a game. Because it is in the format of a game, you are working on improving different aspects of your mind without even realising what you are doing. It's the mental equivalent of swimming for a few hours without even realising you are swimming.

Tip - A useful brain challenge that is also a lot of fun is the daily mini crossword offered by many newspapers online. My personal favourite is The New York Times.

2. Scheduling 

Build a schedule that isn't too strict and treat it more as a guide line. There will be things you want to get done in the long term which you can break down into short term goals. For instance, at the moment I am looking for further writing opportunities whilst I have the time to further this. This can require a lot of drafting and research, so I find it useful to do at least one hour of research and one hour of work (per project) each day.

Whenever the work is getting too much, there is the advantage of being able to move it to the schedule for tomorrow. If things are getting too much then don't get stressed about it but instead place them to the top of your priority list for the next day. This way you aren't procrastinating, you are simply being pro-active about getting to your destination bit by bit each day.

3. Read, Read, Read

On top of the brain training I mentioned earlier, there is nothing better for your mind than reading. Read, read, read is the best advice that has ever been given to me (literature student or not!) which is why I am passing it on to you now. Read everything that comes your way and allow yourself to go on thinking about it long after you have reached the last page.

Goodreads can be a useful way to monitor what you are reading and you can also use it to do a yearly book challenge (so far this year I have met my resolution of 100 books and am now heading over this). The daily newspapers can also be a good start, especially as online they have a lot of extra articles about everything from culture to sports. Pick something new you didn't know much on and read about it. See if it is engaging and if it is, read further on this topic to see what else you can find.

Never forget to keep asking the big questions and trying to find your own answer for them. Afterall, that is what academia is - one giant open conversation from past figures such as Aristotle all the way up to the modern thinkers of the present.

4. Learn Something New

Linked in a way to all of the points I have provided, use this time to fit in something new as well as the information about the things which are already a part of your life. Language learning can be a good one for this, especially as there are so many different ones to choose from. So if you are already learning Spanish GCSE or German A level, make the leap into something such as Latin or Chinese which might be slightly more complicated and intriguing to learn.

But aside from this, there are so many new things you can learn that can keep you up, active and out doors. For instance, learning to rock climb or scuba dive are both excellent options. They will allow you a new perspective of your surroundings and might even go on to become full time hobbies which you can continue with through a club or society once you get to/return to university.

Allow your mind to wander and don't be afraid of failing. Everyone needs to fail to a certain extent to learn from the mistakes they make. If you dive straight into a new challenge, it will be easier to begin working your way up. Challenge yourself of course, but don't forget that it is also meant to be fun!

5. Finding A Balance

Finally, my key tip for pretty much anything that you can achieve in life - find the right balance! This is the summer, so you do need to make sure you are spending time with friends + family, having your own adventures and making the most of having some time to relax. Keeping your brain whirring is important of course, but no one (not even Aristotle) can work without inspiration.

We are not only the sum of our texts books and grades afterall, but also of our experiences. Allow yourself a few hours of work a day but be sure to look beyond that to find the things which will keep you passionate about studying what you do and remind yourself why it is that you want to continue to learn about the world around you.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

Friday, 28 July 2017

28. On Drafting Your Application

A successful application to your university of choice has much in common with a finely tuned accapella group. Each step, every stage, needs to be perfected and practiced to the highest of your ability because only then will it speak fully for who you are as an individual to an admissions board who you will never have encountered. Everything needs to be polished and in tune. So before we continue with the rest of this post, I highly recommend you first listen to a tangible example of what I am talking about:

Do you see how each part is fused with the others so that together one unified, perfectly pitched sound is the aftermath? If each of those different parts wasn't up to standard, then the stilts forming the foundation for the main melodies would not exist. In addition to that, working together means that on a whole each individual part sounds better any way. If you really zone in on each of the singers, you can hear how their part differs and why. But if you listen collectively, then things blend together equally well. Either way, you get a balanced and finished product. 

This is the thing you are aiming for when drafting your application. The basic details (such as your birthday and middle name) aren't the hard part. It is everything else that comes with it, especially if you are submitting an Oxbridge application for which a portfolio of extra work is usually required. And if you are applying to a school in the USA, you will of course have the ordeal of putting together admissions videos and the like. But don't worry - these are things to look forward to, not to be afraid of.

When it comes to putting together your drafts, don't expect them to be perfect first time because that isn't a realistic expectation. Even Oscar Wilde (who wanted the world to believe he was a perfectionist) was not able to string together the sentences straight away as we see them now. That took honing a skill over time and putting pieces together in different combinations until they fit just the right way. Before you do anything, make sure that you highlight exactly what it is you need to do and set out a schedule. By beginning in advance with a clear view of what is ahead of you, you are going to be under less pressure because there is world and time enough to work at your own pace. This can be the best hammer in your tool box when it comes to hitting the nail right on the head. Keep this schedule on your person at all times and, whilst making sure to keep a balance with your studies and social life, make sure you are setting aside a small chunk of time each day so that you can keep up with your aims.

Tip - Monitor your progress over the holidays if you have an early application date in October/late September instead of November. If you're starting to fall behind, summer is the time to catch back up instead of at the very last minute when you have A levels to be worrying over as well.

For your academic essays, my advice would be to choose one piece that you and your teacher agrees is a successful example of what you are capable of. As for your other piece, do something a little ambitious. The whole point of your portfolio is to show not only what you are currently capable of but also to give a glimpse at what you might be able to achieve with the right guidance. An admissions board needs to see what direction it is you are going in and if your path crosses with theirs. For this reason, it can be useful to write about something which has inspired your university choice. An example of this might be a student really interested in the post war Germany at A level who wishes to study a modern history degree. For this student, an ambitious essay might propose something on the financial recovery of Berlin and how this has impacted upon the present day economy. In this essay a balanced argument with an unusual perspective and a great deal of research has the potential to take root. 

The best pieces of work are always the ones where the passion for the field is evident. These will be the students who have drafted over and over again to ensure that each and every word makes the utmost sense and falls into exactly the right place. Things will sound clear and articulate; There will be nothing tentative about that clarity, instead it will be researched and stated. Don't be afraid to give your opinion. As long as you can then go on to evidence your point, you are doing exactly what you set out to achieve.

On a final note - personal statements. These can be the be all and end all because this is where you need to summarise yourself as not only a student but as a person. You need to capture the parts of you that matter most academically as well as personally. In my personal statement for York St. John I spoke about my many hobbies but didn't get to go into as much detail as I would've liked. Something I linked to my love of literature was my engagement with the historical context of things and also with my enjoyment of hiking (something many a writer has shared and captured within an infamous poem or successful novel). Depending on where you are applying, you may need a different balance. With Oxbridge, the focus tends to be on what you want to achieve academically, how they can help you achieve this and where you see yourself heading in the future. Do make sure to include at least a paragraph or so on yourself though. Word count is limited, so treat it like the short story format and make sure everyone of them counts. Talk about the things that you care about in a way that will make the person reading care about that too.

More than anything I want to stress here that drafting your application is going to be stressful, so it is important to be yourself. Present yourself as who you are and who you want to be, not some other unrealistic version of who you are who you think they might prefer. The reality is that you are yourself better than you are anyone else and you need to utilise it. If you do make the most of being yourself in an application, you will do all the better for it. With a strong, determined voice you have the ability to change the world. If you write with that conviction and motivation then believe me, you can never be unsuccessful in your achievements.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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, 26 July 2017

27. On Literary Prizes

This week, more specifically tomorrow, the Man Booker Long List will be revealed for the year. It is a time that I think every literature student or avid reader looks forward to because, not only do we get to see our favourite writers and texts of the past year or so do well, we also get to become closely acquainted with new authors through the recommendation of their work by featuring on such a list. It is for reasons such as this that the role of literary prizes within society perhaps is valued so highly.

But there are many othe assests to literary prizes. At first they may seem to be something which are only for scholars or academics - those interested in reading highbrow fiction + non-fiction. Yet if you look beyond the title, you will find that is not the case. As mentioned previously, it is a way to promote authors and provide them the publicity for producing such a worthwile work. If a book looks at relevant themes or if it presents something in an unusual, sparky, creative way, that is the sort of text which will be promoted because when people read it there is a profound effect upon the individual reader. In addition to this, the books on the lists are often the ones which address difficult or complex issues in the most accessible way. So not only does it make literature known to the general public where before it may have been hidden, not only does it provide publicity to the author as a reward for producing a worthwhile text, it also ensures that any reader can comprehend what is going on within the pages and can take something away from it which will improve their way of thinking in a certain regard.

I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book - J. K. Rowling
Returning to the topic of the Man Booker prize, last year one of my favourites (though unfortunately not the winner) was Hot Milk. It reminded me a lot of Burton in terms of its' tone, with a lot of unusual metaphor involved on top of a story which really zoned in on complex ideas such as the mind and the identity. It looked up close at families and asked if there was ever any such thing as 'feeling normal' or having an easy time growing up and letting go of the things that you have always known.

There are so many possibilities for the list this year. I read a really interesting article (to read more, head towards the bottom of this page) which spoke about potential candidates. Personally, I am hoping that Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing gets some recognition. It was an absolutely unique and astounding novel, which covered so many characters' lives. The amount of detail and development was rather overwhelming and it made me think in such depth about slavery, heritage, discrimination, race and individuality. In addition to this, the writing was just of such a rare quality. Like I mentioned earlier, there are many multi-faceted fictional personalities depicted throughout and each of them is developed to the point that they sound like a completely realistic human voice. Yet all of those many different voices come from the same source; The same pen. If anything goes to represent story telling at its' finest, for me it would have to be this.

Other books mentioned in the article which would also be my personal choices for the Man Booker long list are Swing Time by Zadie Smith and Autumn by Ali Smith. Especially with Ali Smith, there is a real presence about what she has to say. Despite it being on the page, it feels as though she is in the room reading it to you. I recently read her short story + essay collection Public Library and Other Stories and was blown away again, as with Gyasi, with the way in which this writer was able to translate her thoughts into so many different perspectives and voices. It must take a great deal of research, time and patience to attain that result yet Smith produces so many volumes of work at such a fast rate that it is hard to believe that the words don't just flow right from her to the page exactly as we see them. She is certainly an Oscar Wilde in that regard.

Beyond the Man Booker prize there are so many other literary awards, varying from the Bailey Women's Fiction award to the Costa book prize. But outside of these there are all manner of essay and creative writing competitions available to the public. As a student, the more I research these opportunities the more I realise how important it is to use literary prizes as a platform to rise to the challenge and create work that shows what we can do best as writers and as readers. Student writing too is some of the freshest and cleanest cut I have come across. Recently I had the pleasant surprise of being nominated for First Prize for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw 'Meeting Europe' essay competition. Seeing my work alongside so many other talented young people is prize enough. If you are interested in reading my article 'Meeting Mr. Composer' you can read it at the link attached below:
And more than anything, literary prizes are a moment for us in which we can pause and allow the importance of art to wash over us. I honestly don't think there is anything that cannot be explored or made sense of in literature. Words are always our strongest allies. And when we are not, there is always another art form to help us make sense of things. For example, recently in Paris an art group made an exhibition that shocked people into thinking that a whale had really been beached by the Seine. This is important for many reasons. Luckily, this time it was just a creative exhibition - but it has served thus far as a spring board for further thought and discussion about the world we live in. It has speculated and shocked people to think 'what if it were a real whale, how would this have occurred? how could we have prevented it?' and as a result, we can make sure that our actions are never the cause of such a thing. We can be cautionary of climate change and of the world around us and channel it through art to make a positive change. Literature and art of any kind has the ability to change the world, just as Malala Yousafzai put so eloquently in one of her most famous speeches. We all have the power to make a difference, literary prizes are just the first step.

Extra reading: 

- The Guardian on potential Man Booker prize long list texts

-Yaa Gyasi on Homegoing and what inspired her to write it

- The beached whale art exhibition in Paris, the Seine

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

26. A Day As A Student

What does a day in the life of a university student entail? What sorts of things will you be doing on a daily basis? What extra work can you do to make sure you are going above and beyond in reaching your potential? Everyone has a different daily routine once they settle into student life because approaches can vary in how successful they are for the individual. For me personally, I find a similar daily routine can be a lot of use. As a big fan of stationery, bullet journalling is also a saving grace as it means that when life is hectic I know exactly where to be and when I need to be there.

Everyday is the opportunity to access something new to learn and become fascinated by - Copyright C.Stevenson 2017
My day begins pretty much as soon as I wake up. During the week, I get up fairly early - sometimes as early as 5am. It always makes me feel a bit fresher and more alert to get a few hours alone to recharge and wake up properly. I find it useful to do some simple brain training exercises during this time and over breakfast to help me keep my strategising up to scratch. Some useful apps for this are Lumosity (a range of brain games every day) Duolingo  (to learn a few new words in a different language) and the New York Times’ crossword. Having something to eat whilst I read through the daily newspapers on my laptop is also a really great way to start the day with some fruit or pancakes. Doing this always leave me feeling ready to take on the world. There is always an interesting article or two which gives me a few ideas on something new to read up about (such as speculative art after the release of the whale in Paris for climate change or people guessing at the Man Booker long list). The 9am lectures feel much easier for it!

Usually I have around 3 hours of class a day, including one hour of lecture and two hours’ worth of seminar. It might not sound like much but because I am a university student, this time can be intense in the amout of detail it goes into on one subject. Whilst the content always varies, my aim upon going into a class is to learn at least one new thing that day. By doing this I am always able to find something intriguing to connect to my research or to develop my thoughts on a tricky topic which I didn’t know too much on before. Seminars are definitely my favourite of the two as I always end up learning so much more from my peers in this discussion/debate environment. I also make sure that I am part of the conversation by contributing any new ideas I come up with and noting down the things exchanged around me.

With my notes, the case is often that the copies I produce in class are much messier and less organised than they perhaps should be. For this reason, I spend a few hours each day revising what I have learnt, making a short summary for a log I keep (kind of like an academic diary with a twist) 
and copying up the notes into another format. I will file the original alongside my neater, colour coded edition because it might be that certain things didn't need to be copied up again but will be useful to retain for future reference (E.g. the name of a book). Because I am a literature student, I also spend a large part of my free time on academic work in a way. If I am not reading something of choice (at the moment I am reading After Auschwitz by Eva Schloss) then I will be catching up on the articles that make up secondary reading or finishing up a novel for a class the following week. I find it really useful to keep a step ahead with the reading, so getting advance reading lists is always a go to for me over the Christmas or summer holidays. 

Tip - Start with the longer books or the ones which you think will be more difficult to get through. This way you are more likely to get to the end opposed to googling Cliffnotes at the last minute to catch you up. You will be a much valued asset to any class room where you have experienced the text in full, are eager to share your opinions and having interesting points to share. 

After or between classes I will do a mixture of things. I fall somewhere between extrovert and introvert, meaning sometimes I recharge super easily by being around others so I can often mix work with play. Me and my friends will often meet up in the library or for lunch to work on our essays and to revise notes with one another, mixing the academic with the casual. Because we do this, it often doesn’t feel like we are working at all because the learning is much more approachable and fun! This is especially useful when a topic is hard or during deadline season when we are procrastinating. We are one another’s cheer team. But I also value the time that I spend blogging in the evening. This is a time when I can be by myself, listen to music and just take things at my own pace. It always leaves me feeling refreshed and sleepy enough that insomnia doesn't bother me too much, which is fantastic for the days when I know there is an early class looming in the not too distant future...

Outside of my study schedule, I am also part of a lot of different societies and clubs. Feminist society, blogging and newspaper activities tend to happen during the day so in a way it is kind of like going to class. Whereas anything musical tends to happen in the evening, such as choir or orchestra, though with projects we often have intense extra rehearsals during the day too. For days with late or extra rehearsals, I find it useful to integrate practice time into my study schedule as well. I also keep frozen pizzas or easily preparable pasta in for the days when I know I won't get back to my flat until quite late. A warm meal is always the first thing on my mind when a rehearsal has been dragging, even if I had a good time overall. Swimming and hiking are big parts of my life. Unfortunately, I don't really get up to much hiking during the semester unless it is fairly sunny at the weekend and I have all of my workload done. But I do make sure that I am swimming as frequently as possible. The best time to swim in my day is usually the evening. It's the quietest time and there is always plenty of space in the pool to get through a few laps before heading back to study a bit more before dinner and sleep.

The most important thing to notice about my daily routine as a student is that there is balance. For everyone I have spoken to in any education environment, the thing that is most apparent is that having a mixture of things going on, from sports to study, is the best way to be successful in achieving your goals. Work independently, work with friends, but most importantly work to find the balance that works best for you and utilise it to achieve the unachievable.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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 July 2017

25. Budgeting Basics

Aside from groceries and deciding what exactly to pack to take with you, the biggest thing to tackle when you are settling down into your new accommodation is budgeting. Budgeting is fiddly for lots of different reasons. Not only because it is the first time that you will be doing something like this, but also because your student maintenance comes in several separate payments meaning you have to keep an eye on the fluctuating amounts in your bank account in order to process what exactly is going on. But whilst those price tags and stats may seem alarming to begin with, they will soon become a part of your day to day life once you know how to keep on top of everything.

To keep your stress levels low and to give you a starting point, here are some tips on how you can keep on top of your spending + get to grips with those budgeting basics.

Making money is art and working is art and good business is art - Andy Warhol
1. Weekly Allowance

I know, I know... you've only just got some freedom and you're just about to head straight back into giving yourself a weekly allowance! But it should hopefully mean that you end up having some money left over when the year is over which you can save or spend as you see fit. I set myself a total of £20 weekly allowance during the semester, with which to get groceries or travel.

If there is something you are planning, such as a group trip to the beach once in a while, it can be useful to have £10 put away so that you can do something fun as a reward for all the hard work. Saving up allows you the luxury of that partial disposable income when you need it most.

2. Finding Work

When out of class + the library, a useful and rewarding part of student life to engage with is work. Even if you don't end up earning too much from a student job, you will gain vital skills and experience from it which will allow you to grow your CV and ability to the degree you wish to reach by the time you graduate.

Finding work whilst a student, for at least one of your 3/4 years of study, can be incredibly enriching and eye opening. There's something for everyone too - whether that be volunteering at a nearby charity shop to develop your confidence with social interaction or entering straight into a paid job at the local book store.

3. Transport

Buses, trains + Co. can be expensive. Look out for First buses in particular at the Fresher's fair as they will often have information about cheaper student tickets and discount fares. It can also be worthwhile to invest in a rail card for when you head home on the train (you have to pay for these but they soon earn those pennies back in what they save). But even with these travel essentials, transport can still prove pretty pocket emptying.

For this reason if you can walk or cycle to your destination, aim to do that instead of spending the change you could be saving up for the laundry machine or a pint of milk. We can learn a lot from the Dutch people in that regard - they cycle to and from work daily, meaning not only are they exercising regularly they are also saving money and stimulating all those positive endorphins that exercise releases.

4. Food + Rent

Your main priorities will be food and rent, so these are the things that you should begin planning for as far in advance as possible. Rent wise, make sure that you know when your student loan payments are coming in and that they cover + are in time for your accommodation dates. I paid my accommodation in three separate instalments and set up a direct debit, so there was never any issue with this so long as I made sure in advance that the money would be in my account with enough left over to eat + live comfortably on for the rest of the month.

As for your food, see my Food Essentials for all of your grocery shopping student must haves! Checking out the prices for different products in different stores will allow you to figure out over those intial weeks which price ranges work best for you. After this, set yourself a weekly budget (for me this was £20) and make a list that you can stick to. It doesn't always have to be too rigid though - make sure you have some ice cream as a treat every once in a while and don't be too scared of changing it up every once in a while so that you can stick within your budget whilst trying out new recipes.

Tip - head to the farmers market for delicious, fresh fruit + veg. Not only are they good for you, they allow a lot of room for experimentation cooking wise and are as cheap and affordable as it gets. My favourite study snack would definitely have to be either pumpkin seeds or sugar snap peas.

5. Important Document Folder

And finally, keep everything in one place so that you have evidence of transactions, payments and the like. Especially when you are moving, this information is going to prove vital for everything from picking up your keys to enrolling for your student ID.

Whilst no-one likes bills or finds a personal insurance number fascinating, it would be pretty frustrating if they all ended up scattered across the different boxes and got mixed in with everything else. Save yourself the hastle and get a cheap folder from Staples, then carry it in your hand luggage and put it somewhere safe (like your top desk draw) where you won't lose it and it will not be on display for anyone to find.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

Monday, 24 July 2017

24. Student Accommodation: Your First Food Shop

When you first move into your accommodation at university, there are a lot of things that you are going to need to get used to. One of the biggest differences between being at home and living alone is that you are going to have to do your own weekly food shop. Despite everyone helping out at home with the groceries every now and again previous to this point, doing it for yourself frequently and getting used to the budgeting aspect can be quite an unexpected leap to begin with. So don't worry too much if this is something you struggle with at first as we all start out this way and build ourselves up.

In terms of your first food shop once in your accommodation, don't go too over the top - you have all the time in the world to experiment with recipes over the next year. For now though, keep it simple. Here are some of the musts when it comes to stocking up your fridge for Fresher's week:

Start with the essentials 

1. Plenty Of Fruit + Veg

Fresher's flu is likely going to hit you hard, what with being in a new place surrounded by lots of new people. It's not if you get it but more so when. However that said, I did manage to avoid getting it last year! To give yourself the best chance of a speedy recovery and of keeping healthy, make sure that you are eating plenty of fruit and veg.

You can mix it into your diet subtly (e.g. a few raspberries on your cereal) but be sure to stick to that 5 a day recommendation. You'll feel much more energetic and focused as a result, which is really handy for those tricky early lectures.

2. A Water Bottle

Not so much a grocery but certainly an investment you should make when you head out to the shops early on. A good quality water bottle will save you so much time and money because it means you have free, immediate access to a drink all day long. Especially as there are likely water fountains pretty much everywhere on your campus meaning you have constant free refills! Plus, did you know that hydrated brains are 25% more efficient overall? Something which will definitely come in handy during exam preparation.

If you aren't a big fan of plain water, you can always purchase a bottle of squash so that you can add a bit of flavour to your drinks. I like to keep a jug of water with lemon slices in the fridge to fill up my bottle before class which adds a crisp flavouring without being too heavy to tolerate early on in the day.

3. Milk + Cereal

You're going to be dreading getting out of bed for those early morning lectures by the second week, trust me. Early mornings are never fun, especially if you wake up late and miss out on the chance to eat. Milk and cereal is a traditional go to breakfast for a reason - it is a life saver when you have only 5 minutes to get up and go on a jam packed, ridiculously busy day.

Depending on your budget, there will be different options. Personally, because of my nut allergy, I find the best options available are usually a standard box of plain Kelloggs or Aldi's own (the latter of which is consistently cheap and perfect for a low budget shop). Having a few cereals to choose from can add a little motivation to eating also, so it can be a good idea to have two or so boxes on offer to choose from each day.

4. Eggs

Eggs are another go to for your refrigerated breakfast supplies because there is a never ending number of recipes you can use to utilise them. Fried, scrambled, boiled or in an omelette form, this is one of those foods which is friends to all students. Begin (or end) your day the sunny side up!

5. Bread

Keep bread in for everything from sandwiches to toast for midnight snacks during deadline season. As with the previous two options, there are so many different ways you can mix bread into recipes and it is full of all of those things you need to be getting into your system.

Again, for both health purposes and to keep things a little exciting, it can be useful to have a variety to choose from. Keep brown and white bread in just in case you want to try something else. However this said, bread can be fairly expensive and quickly goes out of date so it can be useful to find a cheap option and stick to it. For those with allergies, Warburtons are a fairly good and reliable brand to stick to as is Hovis.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

23. Packing - 10 Things For Your Uni accommodation

Heading off to university for the first time is quite the experience. There will be excitement and nerves alike. There will be new things to experience and lots of people to meet. Unfortunately, there will also be packing - and lots of it! When packing, prioritise and plan in advance so that you are well organised. For me, finding the pros + cons in advance of everything I want to take it makes it much easier to decide on the final list. This way you won't end up taking too much.

However, if you are struggling to get a head start then you're in luck. Tried and tested on my own moving days, here are the 10 items which are must haves when it comes to your student accommodation.
Make the space your own 

1. Clothes

You're going to be living in your new place for the foreseeable future, so it's important to keep it seasonal. Pack everything from shorts to a rain coat (it is the UK after all).

2. Clean Sheets + Linen

Usually duvets and pillows will not come with your room unless this is something you have specifically requested and paid for in addition to your rent. Purchasing these things to take with you, along with some clean sheets and linens is one of the most important things you'll need to take with you.

3. Toiletries 

Take the most important toiletries and pick up the rest (toothbrushes + face wash) once you are in your new area to save space. If you are on any medication, this of course should take priority. Though that said, I can only find my favourite honey shower gel at home so I make sure to take a few bottles of this with me so I don't run out.

4. Laptop + Technology

Make sure you have a good laptop bag and an up to date device on which to do all of your class work as this is something you will be using on pretty much a day to day basis for your assignments (as well as for your personal browsing). Also make sure that you have necessary wires to charge all of your technology.

Tip - use sandwich bags and pipe cleaners as cheap organisational tools.

5. Books, Stationery + School Supplies

Be sure to take those key reads and text books so that you have everything you will need for your lectures. Whilst you're waiting for the Wi-Fi to work, it can be a useful time to catch up on some of that reading in advance. And you will of course need your pencil case and stationery supplies which will make for the perfect excuse to go shopping!

6. Pots + Pans

Again, only take the mandatory kitchen supplies so that you have the pots + pans in the cupboard ready for you to make meals. This one is optional as you will be able to go out and get the necessary kitchen essentials once you arrive. I found this useful as upon my arrival, me and my flat mates decided to share various pieces of kitchen equipment.

7. Important Document File

Any move is stressful because it means losing track of things, no matter how well organised you are. Keep everything from your personal insurance number to your payment letters in one folder and ensure you keep this in your hand luggage so that it doesn't get mixed in with everything else. You will definitely need this in order to enrol and get your student card.

8. Maps + GPS

It's not so much something you can take with you, but just a tip - do some research of the area before you head out so that you have a general idea of where things are before you head out exploring. In addition to this, take a map or use the GPS on your phone so that you can go out exploring. The best way to learn your way around is by experiencing it first hand - trial and error.

9. Money For Groceries

As with toiletries and kitchen supplies, groceries are something which you need but don't really need to take with you. Instead take some money with you (or ensure you have some financial support in the bank) so that you can purchase groceries upon your arrival. In the first few weeks, be sure to look around at the different supermarkets and shops to find the cheapest site for all of your required supplies.

10. Feeling Sentimental 

And of course, you are going to miss home being away for so long so be sure to take along some things to help you make your accommodation into your new home. Feeling comfortable is something you can achieve via taping up posters and photographs of your friends + family. Don't go over the top (otherwise you'll end up taking everything!) but do allow yourself the space to pick out some things to decorate your room with and to help you settle in more quickly.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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 July 2017

22. Why York St. John Is For You

It has given me the confidence to experience my dreams and to make them a reality - Copyright CLSS 2017
1. It’s smaller on the inside
Unlike a Tardis, you don’t just enter and get swallowed whole! Instead, there is a slightly smaller number of students because the campus isn’t gigantic meaning often your teachers will know everyone’s names, there is the chance to get involved in other departments and you can get all the resources you need quite easily. The campus is light and open, with a mixture of new and old architecture. The newest part (the student union) was only opened towards the end of 2016. But wandering the picturesque 175 year old quad will bring out the historian in you for certain.
Particularly if you are nervous about moving away from home for the first time or if you want an environment in which you can feel quite comfortable fairly quickly, this is the place for you. The support systems in place, namely the wellbeing team, are excellent at responding to students efficiently and finding the right course of action for every individual. As someone with a severe nut allergy, as soon as I arrived on campus, I was being provided with information on how food was made in the cafeteria and what support was available to me. There is even a GP on campus, which made me feel doubly safe.
2. The Opportunities
As someone who is quite an ambitious person, trust me when I tell you that there are so many opportunities available that you are going to want to get involved in. From sports to journalism, there is a bit of everything. The best part of heading to YSJ is that you will be encouraged to try new things to see if they work for you. Through the activities you engage in, you’ll discover new skills and make friends with likeminded people who are studying across a range of different courses. You might even go full circle and sign up to be a student ambassador to help prospective students find out if this is the right place for them on open days next year.
Currently I write as a digital ambassador for the university which has led to me making so many friends and utilising my love of writing whilst furthering my own skills. Recently I did some training to answer enquiries with The Student Room and also a photo shoot for the university website. All of these different opportunities have opened up my comfort zone so much, meaning when chances come my way it is much easier to say ‘yes’ now than it ever was before. And hopping on to the band wagon often means making some of the best memories I have of my degree experience so far.
3. The Teaching
The teaching is above and beyond! I study literature and in each and every class, the lecturers are enthusiastic about what they are teaching + always ready to answer any questions. Not only do they engage with the content they are informing us on, but they will make links to things in the media which enable us to unpack more difficult content (such as Ovid’s Metamorphosis) as well as introducing us to other books they love which link in with what they are discussing. It is easy to enter class with a positive outlook and the aim to learn at least one new thing. Plus, it's always fun - I've never really felt like I was learning because the discussions are so open and relaxed. There is plenty to learn if you are prepared to listen and get involved, which just goes to show that hard work really is its' own reward.
Plus, because it is a smaller university you are far more likely to get the help and support you need. Throughout my first year of essays, I was provided with so much useful advice from staff because I was able to book the tutorials a week in advance and have a few minutes of another perspective to assist me in further developing the content I was producing. I’ve really noticed the impact of this as well. Whilst my first assignment of the year got a first, it would have been difficult to maintain that average (and to get an increased percentage each time) had I not asked the necessary questions and worked tremendously hard to improve upon my previous feedback each time it was provided. The feedback was often my saving grace! It goes into so much detail, that it was always clear where I had slipped up and then obvious how I could go on to fix it.
4. The City
As a YSJ student, you’ll be right in the centre of the city. Whilst campus is fairly quiet most days (BTW – the library is open 24 hours a day, even on Christmas day) there is plenty to do in the city itself. When you first move in, be sure to get to know the area by being a tourist for the day. Head to see York Minster, the Shambles and the Foss gate cafes. Plus be sure to pick up your York 100 challenge list so that you can start working your way through the bucket list of the many things the city has to offer.
On campus, there is always Archies day to look forward to as well as the carol service, the Easter concert put on by the music department, event months, the literature festival and so much more. My personal favourite would definitely have to be November. We were studying Frankenstein in class around bonfire night and went on a trip to see a walking play production of the book. It focused more on the life of Mary Shelley, but depicted sections of the famous gothic novel as well. I'll never forget the shadows of the actors on York Minster under a heavy blue sky, with all of us wrapped up in scarves and gloves.
It is a place of history, of modernity, of great minds and of adventure. Every corner offers a new surprise. The past year has been one of the best years of my life so far and I cannot wait to find out what happens next. So tell me, will York be your next adventure?
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!

21. Dinosaurs, Proms + Books

One of the highlights of the year for me is always the BBC proms. Each summer, the BBC put together a programme of around 2 months worth of music. Originally formed by Sir Henry Wood, the proms featured beloved classical repertoire of old as well as acting as a platform for composers such as Elgar and Vaughan Williams to premiere new works. To this day the proms continue annually at their home of the Royal Albert Hall, only now as well as the range of orchestras performing classical pieces from all around the world there is an even wider range to choose from. There are many kinds of performances to suit every taste, from late evening jazz to proms open to audiences for participation.

A recent prom was that celebrating the work and 85th birthday of the film worlds' most famous composer. That being of course, the incredible John William's. Featuring everything from the score of Memoirs of a Geisha and Harry Potter, to lesser known pieces such as Goodbye Mr. Chips, it made for an evening of listening that felt like going back in time to the scenes of old Hollywood.

Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting up with friends and family before the busy move out list of August for Erasmus completely takes over my schedule! It's good to be catching up about the past year and to be laughing despite the sadness that always comes with saying goodbye for a while. My friend Emma visited Manchester this week and it was so much fun being able to show her around all of my favourite places in the city after her hearing about it from my own memories and anecdotes throughout the past semesters. 

We headed to Chapter One for a literary snack, the central library to see how many of the Shakesperian crests we could spot and to visit Stan (the T-Rex) at the natural history museum. The exhibition at the moment is all about the role of models and slides in research to produce content for museums. The models on display were from archives throughout the UK, some of them being absolutely beautiful as well as incredibly detailed (particular those of complicated plants) and useful in researching topics such as botany. There was this one little room where there was slide after slide reflected back depicting everything from Dodo birds to ammonite fossils or butterfly wings. Seeing all those hours worth of research compiled in one place is quite something. Likewise, it is a favourite museum of mine because due to how small it is. It becomes possible to fully appreciate each and every exhibit. Being able to put time into reading everything is really important to me and here you get the chance to do that, soaking in fact after fact. Plus there are even some live reptiles and amphibians in the conservation area that you can visit and observe as though they were in their natural habitat.

Manchester + Museums - Copyright CLSS 2017
After encountering the dinosaurs of the museum, we ended up bumping into Stan the T-Rex's brother at Jurassic World. This being a touring animatronic dinosaur experience which was absolutely amazing! I still cannot quite comprehend how difficult it must be to build and maintain such complex models of creatures which no longer exist out of nothing, especially when they are situated outside in a place as rainy as England. When I was first learning about science and history as a child, it was the dinosaurs which I was most drawn to as many of you reading this would also have found. Perhaps it is the magic of knowing how to decode complex Latin names or the fact that we can peer so far back in time with the use of fossils, but none the less it is completely fascinating to learn about, don't you think? Either way, it felt almost like getting a letter to Hogwarts but instead of heading away to learn wizardry I was wandering amongst the creatures of Jurassic Park (the theme was on repeat in my head).
Dinosaur drama - Copyright CLSS 2017
Book wise, this week I have read quite a range. Firstly I read the short, rather gothic modern fairytale Strange Library by Murakami. Whilst I am a huge fan of most translated fiction, reading several of his books has proven that Murakami just isn't really for me as a reader. The dark tone of his work doesn't translate as well as I think it could to English, especially as the whimsy of it all is often fluctuating from one page to the next. It certainly proved intriguing to read this style though as anything remotely scary is usually not on my radar. Me and horror do not mix well! Coupled with a range of ink sketches and old photocopies, it also felt like reading a reference book in a library which is quite unlike anything I've ever read of any genre.

I've also begun reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi. It's part observation collection part autobiography, making for some stunningly poetic writing capturing the tremendously difficult period of time during which Kalanthi was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As a young person who has been a carer for and has lost a loved one to terminal cancer, I cannot recommend this book more. Whilst this is a shift from the light activity of the week previously discussed, this book is incredibly significant to our modern world. It captures a traumatic experience but also goes to show that if we look for those good things, even if it is just three positive things a day, then there is beauty to life. Life is precious and whilst Kalanthi sadly passed away from his illness aged only 37, he achieved so much in this short life time. His writing opens up the taboo social topic of sickness and of death, which is so important for the conversation surrounding cancer and helping all of those affected by it. It is both heart breaking and uplifting to read because his voice lives on so vibrantly despite his death. 

It is because of writers such as Murakami and Kalanthi that I study literature. There is such a depth to it as a subject that encompasses everything about the world around me. Through the thoughts of those captured on paper, I have access to a thousand different perspectives and hence at least a hundred different versions of the same world. Being able to do that is nothing short of incredible. And there is nothing more important than that this art form when it comes to communicating with the many about the significant. Being a writer in the 21st century, and being a reader of books, is perhaps the most vital key to accessing an understanding of both our surroundings and of all that has come before us in order to better make and shape our future as a collective.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my 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!