Best places to study on campus

Ah yes, the student life. Studying day and night. And since you can’t be locked up in your room all the time, you need a good place to study!

Of course, there is the Library, where you might spend most of your time. I sure do – all day, every day. Don’t get me wrong, our library is great – 5 floors of pure goodness + undergraduate and postgraduate reading rooms; but it does get boring and repetitive sometimes. So here are a few alternative places where you might enjoy studying instead

Student Centre

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Our new Student Centre is amazing. Truly. It is open 24/7 and there for the taking. That means that you can go there at 4 am like it’s no big deal (not that you would…).

On the ground floor, it’s full of computers and study pods with projectors, where you might enjoy studying with friends. The pods are also separated by plastic walls you can draw on! How cool is that?! On the second floor there are loads of computers, but also individual study spaces for you to use and enjoy. If you do not like sitting at a desk, don’t worry; there are a bunch of sofas there as well for us lazy ones.

Zest/Orangery

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Located on Square 3, Zest is a vibrant and stylish café and is a great place to visit during the day with your friends. They offer breakfast, cakes, Costa coffee (the best), tea and loads of other drinks ranging from presses to bottled drinks.

Adjoining Zest is the very-helpful Orangery, which features study pods just like in the Student Centre. What is different about these pods, though, is the fact that you can enjoy all the beverages and food that you buy at Zest, right in your pod! So if you fancy a coffee or tea, want to study but you’re not really feeling the SC or the Library – pop in here and enjoy the café vibes while you study. You won’t regret it!

North Teaching Centre

Our new North Teaching Centre is located right in between the North Towers, therefore it is very easily accessible by people who live in the North Towers or Houses. There are a bunch of classrooms there and while you might not be able to access them while there is a lecture, you can always be in the hallway. Yep. You read that right. Right as you go up the stairs, on whichever floor, there are big tables next to the wall with screens mounted on the wall so you may use them as you wish. They are great for a group study session or if you just need more space for your materials. And as I mentioned, they are located right in BETWEEN North Towers, so if you are going to live there next year, you can just pop down there in your pyjamas and study (we don’t judge).

Squares

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Ah yes, the ever-so-busy squares. There have been multiple times where I have seen people sitting on the benches on Square 3, or sitting on the ex-fountain-garden top on Square 4 and studied, especially when it’s very sunny outside. Truth to be told, I would not be able to study there since it very busy and I can’t even hear a fly when I am studying, but hey – different strokes for different folks, as they say.

SU Bar

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Our beloved SU Bar is always full on action. Whether it’s a lazy Saturday morning and they have live music sessions, or if it is a wild karaoke night, you can always count on the SU Bar. Some people, after they are done with their classes, go to the Bar, get a coffee and work on their writing while watching a football match on TV or something of that sort. I have to say, it is quite calming to know that coffee is literally five steps away from where you work.

Now that I have mentioned just a few places to study at our University, I hope all of you will be motivated to work even more and make your uni family proud! Now go and get those firsts!

What I’m Looking Forward to After My Year Abroad

I can’t believe how quick time has passed whilst I’ve been on my year abroad. I have next to no time left before my summer holiday starts! I have loved my time here in America but I really can’t wait to get back to Essex. There’s so many things I’m looking forward to, but here a few things I’m looking forward to most.

1. The Essex campus

IMG_20160831_175718385_HDR I’ll miss this view on my walk to class

My university campus in Arizona is tiny by American standards, but huge in comparison to Essex. I have to get a bus from one end of it to the other. Whilst it is a really beautiful campus surrounded by amazing views, it can be a bit of a pain walking up loads of hills and taking a bus to get to class or go to the union. At Essex, I know where I’m going, I always end up bumping into people I know, and you don’t have to do a full trek just to get to a lecture!

2. Seeing my friends!

DSCN1720 Summer Ball was probably the last time we were all in the same country!

I guess this one sort of goes without saying! I left for my year abroad in August and whilst I saw a few of my friends from home over Christmas in Manchester, most of my friends are in various corners of the globe. I haven’t seen some of my friends in Australia since June and although we talk a lot and Skype pretty often, it’s definitely not the same as seeing them in person and I can’t wait to have a massive catch up.

3. Going out

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Whilst there are parties and a fair few bars in downtown Flagstaff, there are no clubs and even to just go in a bar you have to be 21. A lot of my friends here aren’t old enough to go out and really miss a night out in Sub Zero or a bit of karaoke at Milk It. I can’t wait for freshers which is pretty much non existent in America!

4. The Food

English crumpets with butter close up You can’t beat a good crumpet

Whilst America is known for its huge portions and its fast food (which can be delicious) there are very few British foods available so I’ve had to learn to live without them. I’m lucky enough to have a family who understands my food needs and sends me some care packages including chocolate and gravy granules which, as a northerner, I cannot live without. However, I can’t wait until I can pick up some crumpets from Tesco or grab a sausage roll from Greggs.

5. Being a final year

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This one I think I’m half looking forward to and half dreading! I can’t get my head around the fact that my time at uni is almost over but being a final year means that I’ll have to make the most of every minute of it and even more so because I don’t have a dissertation to do!

I’m going to miss Arizona but I know that I’ll always be able to take a break from England and hop back over to the other side of the pond and visit. For now though, I have a whole year at Essex to look forward to!

 

 

Getting Uni Ready

Getting ready to move out of home and into uni can be pretty daunting. I know for me moving out of the home I’d lived in for 18 years was pretty scary. I had never really cooked anything and left all the washing up to my mum. I pretty much had no idea how to fend for myself, but despite this I adapted really quickly to my new environment – though that’s not to say I ever became a Gordon Ramsay level chef (pasta was my speciality)! So to save you the pain of scrubbing burnt rice off the bottom of a pan, or accidentally dying your white clothes grey in the wash, here are  a few things you can do to help with the transition to uni before you even get there!

Learn to cook a few recipes

As easy as it is, you can’t live off chips and chicken nuggets forever (sadly). Making your own meals can be really satisfying; I felt quite proud of myself the first time I successfully made a roast dinner! Before you go to uni, it can be quite helpful to learn some cheap recipes and there’s loads of student cookbooks out there to help. My favourite meals to make have to be spaghetti bolognese and cottage pie. They can be pretty easy to make and if you cook them in bulk too then you can portion them out to save time and money later on. You might have a few mishaps on the way to becoming a culinary master, I dropped my delicious looking cottage pie on the floor the first time I made it, but don’t let that put you off from cooking from scratch! Take a look here for some recipe inspiration!

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Think about budgeting

Odds are that if you’ve lived with your family all your life you’ve never really had to budget. It does seem quite nice at the beginning of term to have that student loan money appear in your bank account and often it can be hard to resist the temptation to treat yourself to those new shoes or clothes you wanted. By all means, treat yourself, but budget responsibly to make sure you have enough money for the essentials. There are a lot of expenses to think about such as your rent, food shopping, and let’s be realistic, the inevitable nights out. It can initially be quite difficult to balance the essential expenses with the things that you want. After a few food shops though, you’ll probably end up realising the things that you are spending on that you don’t really need. I couldn’t believe how expensive some foods were that I always just taken for granted (I’m looking at you, cheese!)

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Read clothes labels!

This one might seem a bit trivial but clothes labels are there for a reason. If you don’t wash your own clothes at home then you’re probably not familiar with what those weird little symbols mean. There were quite a few times in my first year that my flatmates would come back from the launderette with shrunken jeans and pink tops that used to be white. These mishaps can usually be avoided if you know how to wash your clothes. Take note of the  picture below. After shrinking some of my favourite clothes, I found out where I was going wrong!

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These tips aren’t the be all and end all of what you need to know for uni. You will find yourself learning from experience and work out what’s best to do once you get there, but hopefully this blog will just help you on your way! Good luck 🙂

5 reasons why I love the University of Essex

As I prepare to wrap up my time at Essex *cries uncontrollably* a lot of things have been coming to mind. Three years have passed exceptionally quickly and now I’ve written my last essay (my 16th essay at Essex), sat my last exam, submitted my dissertation and ordered my gown for graduation it has now become all the more real that my time here is ending.

Looking back, these are the reasons that I fell in love with Essex in the first place and why it continues to get under my skin.

Diverse Community

Essex was recently declared the 15th most internationally diverse in the world with 44% of the student population coming from abroad. As a result there is a wonderful mix of cultures on campus, most of whom have their own society which is open to anyone wanting to learn more about their culture (and cuisine!).

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Architecture 

Ok, so it is not everyone’s taste- but come on, concrete was exceptionally fashionable in the 1960’s when the university was built. But brutalist architecture I find strangely interesting, and mix this with the other fantastic (and award winning) buildings on campus then you have some incredible buildings to study in.

Thursday Market

I blame this market for making a dent in my student finance loans! On Thursday the market is a must to pick up bargains and delicious food. Think books, bread, burgers, fruit and veg, sweets, fish, cakes, and CD’s and you’re generally in the right area of what is on offer and how lucky we are to have this on campus!

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Module Variety 

I’ve probably mentioned before that just because you study a particular degree doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same as a similar degree at another university. You have the option to pick modules that suit your interests and one of the reasons that made me choose Essex was the fantastic variety of module on offer. This meant that I could select the modules that I was interested in and wanted to know more about.

Supportive Staff

There is a greater emphasis at university for independent study and performing your own research, but that doesn’t mean that you are left on your own. The staff in your department and across the wider support network are some of the most caring, supportive and friendly people that you’ll ever meet. They are people that you can moan to, laugh and converse with- and their passion for their work is contagious.

I can’t put into words every single reason why I love Essex as much as I do – there aren’t enough hours in the day! But I will say I’m incredibly proud to be an Essex finalist and will miss this place when I’m gone!

Living in halls after your first year

Oh, our lovely campus!

Our uni offers a wide range of accommodation, aiming to match any taste. It is common knowledge that all first-year undergraduates get campus accommodation and following that most just choose to move off campus. But what happens with those that wish to stay?

Under specific circumstances, the uni still offers priority to you. Are you an international student? You are in luck! You will get priority and will have high chances of staying on campus for your second/final year. Additionally, if you are coming back from a year abroad, you still benefit from this priority.

Don’t seem to have any of the above traits? Have no fear, there is still a chance for you! Although first years have absolute priority, the uni holds a certain number of rooms for second/final year students and postgraduates. Sadly, the applications for next year have closed, but, for future reference, it is a very good idea to sign up as soon as the applications start. The system works on a first come first serve basis, so don’t wait for too long if you wish to secure your room!

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Phew! We got that one covered. What’s left now is, well, what to expect. I know most of you are thinking: “Ugh, am I gonna have to live with freshers again?” Thankfully, no! The uni does everything possible so that freshers and ‘non-freshers’ do not share the same flat.

“Ok, well what about the atmosphere?”

I happen to know a lot of second and third years that still stay on campus, and it is always fun to hear their stories. Most say that the flats are very quiet as most give up the nightlife for extra study time, or extra sleep (yes, I am talking about you postgraduates). Likewise, many others say they love it because it is ridiculously close to everything on campus.

For me, this is the second year I’ve spent in Towers, and so far, it has been a unique experience! It has had its ups and downs for sure, but looking back on it, I don’t regret a thing.  What do you think? Would you consider staying on campus for another year? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Our Diverse campus: it’s written in the prospectus, but what does it really mean?

When it comes to universities, the word “Diverse” can be seen in use a lot, but why does it ring especially true at the University of Essex?

University itself is a great place to introduce yourself to new ideas, new people and new cultures. You’re no longer at a school where everyone who attends lives in the same town as you. The people that you meet at university will be from all across the world!

Being diverse means that there will be people of different ages, different nationalities, different faiths, different sexualities and different occupations all brought together in one safe and friendly environment.

Students from over 130 countries

With so many people from different countries, it is not surprising that Essex is the 5th most internationally diverse university in the UK. In fact, a third of students at Essex are classed as international.

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Proud Essex: Students protesting about changes to international students visas

Cultural Societies

There are 36 on-campus societies based around the cultures of different countries. These societies aim to bring together people from those respective countries/cultures as well as people interested in learning more about them.

Faith

For many, faith is an important aspect of daily life. There are 11 different chaplains and faith representatives on-campus who are able to help if you have any questions or would like someone to talk to.

LGBTQ+

The University of Essex LGBT Society is one of the biggest in the UK and has won numerous awards for their work in recent years. Essex LGBT have well over one hundred members, associates, contributors and friends from a wide range of religious, racial and social backgrounds and are able to provide a supportive network for those who would like it.

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(c) NUS.org

Mature Students

This means people who are aged 21 or over when they start their course with around 37% of the Essex student population being made up of mature students. In 2011 the University was shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for providing outstanding support to mature students.

The Essex student experience and how you can make the most of it

There are so many reasons why Essex has given me an amazing student experience, but here are just a few things available that can help your time here to be as good as you’d hoped!

  • The Clubs and Societies

This is a huge part of the Essex experience and the majority of students are signed up to at least one. From the Cheese and Wine Society to the Harry Potter Society, there are loads of societies to try out and get involved in – you may even surprise yourself with what you end up really enjoying! Meanwhile, sports clubs range from things like Ultimate Frisbee to Cheerleading, so there really is something for everyone. Whether you have played before,  or you want to try something completely new, clubs are open to all levels and abilities! Societies are currently £5 to join and it is completely free to join a sports club, so you might as well give something a go! Not only is this a great opportunity to try something totally new, joining clubs and societies is also the perfect way to make friends with similar interests to you – and what would your uni experience be without a huge group of friends to enjoy it with?!

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  • Jobs on campus

Whilst some people don’t really want extra work on top of their studies, earning extra pennies does help you in lots of other areas of student life. Whilst the thought of a job might turn your stomach now, the feeling of not having enough money for food or a night out with your friends is even worse, so it’s something to consider! In your first year you may not hear a lot about jobs on campus, however if you are interested I would recommend you looking online  before you arrive; the Employability and Careers centre is a good place to start! http://www.essex.ac.uk/life/facilities/careers.aspx.

The campus itself has a range of student jobs available; from Frontrunner positions, Student Ambassador roles, internships, bar staff jobs, to retail assistant jobs and many more! The applications for these generally open before the beginning of each term, however occasionally they pop up throughout the term too.

Not only does a job get you that much needed extra cash to do more fun things in your free time, you are also adding to your CV and therefore making yourself more employable. Essex has really helped to build my CV and now I am close to graduating I realise how much the jobs I’ve had here have helped me to develop my skills.

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  • Living in Student Accommodation

As I am from Chelmsford, I was able to live at home and commute to university. However, in my first year I chose to live on campus in South Courts and I am now living in North Towers for my final year. I am so glad that I didn’t just live at home throughout my time here! Living in accommodation introduced me to so many new friends, as well as helping me to become so much more independent. Living on campus means that you don’t miss out on the crazy stories or deep chats that only happen at 3am when you’ve just got back from Sub Zero; it means that you can form proper friendships and don’t have to plan in advance if you want to spend time together after a lecture! The awful cooking experiments, getting ready for a night out all together, and hanging out until the early hours of the morning are some of the best and most memorable times you will have at uni – they are not to be missed!

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  • Sub Zero

Sub Zero is a big part of the Essex experience for many students. It is the club on campus that is generally open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Sports Fed is a big event that takes place there every Wednesday and I feel like that has been a huge part of my experience at Essex. It is a great way to get away from studying, do some crazy dancing, and have a fun night with your friends.

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  • Year Abroad

If it wasn’t for Essex I wouldn’t have been able to go to Australia on my year abroad. The Essex Abroad team were a great help and Essex offering free tuition for that year made it really affordable to go.

I can’t tell you how amazing and life-changing this experience is – just go and experience it for yourself! You’ll thank me later!

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  • Being so international

With students from over 140 different countries studying at Essex, all students benefit from a really diverse environment. I have met people from all over the world, who I know I will stay in contact with and would love to visit in the future. It has made me more culturally aware and I have learnt a lot about different languages and different ways of living. Embracing this diversity just broadens your mind and your knowledge. My experience here at Essex wouldn’t have been the same and I would have never learnt so much about the world if it wasn’t for how wonderfully cultural the campus is.

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I could go on forever, but these are just a few things that make the Essex experience so great!

 

The 7 stages of revision we can all relate to

It’s officially May and you know what that means…exams start this month *cue uncontrollable crying*. This means we’ve all been busy cramming in some revision, or have at least tried to anyway, and with the hours of despair that this brings, I have written the 7 stages of revision that I think we all face!

The organisation stage

The first step of revision is organising all your work to make it look like you actually know what you are doing. You get your  notes out, line your coloured pens and highlighters neatly (because if they aren’t neat you obviously can’t be productive) and get your revision Spotify playlist ready for the long day ahead.  Now your revision is organised, you surely deserve a break?!

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The first social media scroll of the day stage

The first social media scroll soon happens usually after you have organised your notes. That was enough hard work getting your work neat and a cheeky look on Facebook won’t hurt. Or maybe you were able to hold on that little bit longer and start some work by now?! But eventually you give in. It might be because your phone flashed up with a ‘long day in the library’ Snapchat from your mate (which obviously you have to respond to) or someone has tagged you in a student meme that totally sums up your life right now.

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When you actually pick a pen stage

You’re organised, you’re up to date with all the memes, you can finally pick up a pen. And this is when the real work starts. You have worked up to this moment. You have motivated yourself. This is how you are going to get that 2:1.

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Tea break/coffee break/energy drink break stage

Whether your go to drink is tea, coffee, an energy drink, or a fancy Starbucks drink, the thought of stopping revision to have one is tempting. The good thing about this is getting a drink is the perfect excuse to take a break from your revision. You can’t go thirsty can you! You may do this a number of times in the day. My preference is a cup of tea and obviously while the kettle is boiling I have another cheeky scroll on Facebook. My revision is pretty much based around my tea breaks, but if I’m revising on campus, I try not to be tempted to spend money and be unhealthy by going to buy some fancy Starbucks drink. (Then again, it’s exam season… so I deserve a treat right?!)

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The trying to do anything but revise stage

You’re got all your fancy fine liners out, you’re got the revision cards and you’ve got your tasty Starbucks drink. But you can’t seem to focus on revision. You mind wanders, wondering the big questions in the world like “Are Zebras black on white or white on black?” and “What was called orange first, the colour or the fruit?”. Or perhaps you are looking at holidays, planning to tan yourself after this misery called exam season ends. What ever you’re doing.. it’s not revising and it’s not going to help you pass your exams.

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The ‘panic’ or the ‘I can do this’ stage

You’ve been doing work for a number of hours now. You’re thinking about calling it a day on revision, but at this point your study session has gone one of 2 ways; you’re either starting to panic, or you’re thinking ‘I’ve got this!’.

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The morning of the exam stage

It’s the morning of the exam and their are 2 types of people. Those who are trying do that last minute cram revision with all their lecture notes around them in the library or outside the exam hall, or the one that I tend to take, what will be will be and I can’t change it with a last look at my revision notes!

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Happy revising 🙂

What to look forward to this Summer Term

I know what all of you are probably thinking right now: “What could we possibly look forward to during summer term? There’s too many exams!” And you would be right…partially. For many, the summer term is quite stressful because of all the exams that are coming. However, our amazing university is trying every year to make this time as easy  as possible. In what follows, I created a list of the things that our uni organises yearly, to make the exam experience feel less stressful, and also some activities that you can do by yourself.

Exam Angels

I do not know who they are, I do not know where they come from, but these people are heroes. HEROES I SAY.

Since everyone knows a hungry student is a sad and stressed student, they are trying to help us by giving us stuff. Free stuff. Exam Angels are people who go around campus and give out water, food and fruit, because they are that cool and loving and caring. You can catch them during exam time around the squares. During previous years, they also brought puppies around because well…we need a cuddle or two during exam time, let’s be honest. Truth to be told, if that is going to be happening this year, I am just going to be creepily following them everywhere. #noshame

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The Lakes

And I hear you ask: “But Dragos? What about the lake? I can’t swim in it, so what good is it going to be?” I hear you my friend, trust me, so let me tell you a secret (which is not even a secret but I wanted to sound cool): every year around finals time there is a bridge built on the surface of the lake so you can walk on it and everything. BUT NOT JUST THAT…there’s a castle on it too. Yup. You read that right. A freaking bouncy castle because we are 12. I dare say it is the MOST FUN I have had in years. Just going there after revision to destress and jump around with your friends – it’s the best feeling ever.

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Summer Ball

Ah yes, the Summer Ball. The only social event every student is truly looking forward to during the Summer Term. The Summer Ball is the time to relax, dress fancy and pamper yourself before going full-on party mode up in there. You go there, you get yourself a glass of champagne (because, yes, we are fancy), and you celebrate the year of constant battles of papers that you have been through and survived. It is an amazing opportunity to be with your friends and relax after the exams are officially over.

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Warm weather

Mother nature is truly amazing. I have never seen as many people sunbathing, playing Frisbee, and just out and about, as I have seen during the summer term around the lakes. Some people just have a little picnic there, others have full on study sessions there with their friends – and not going to lie, it is kind of motivating to see that. I did it last year too and it felt so good to be out, laying in the sun and still being productive. As warm weather is sort of a rarity in UK, I highly recommend it!

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Here’s just a few things for you to enjoy. Good luck with your exams and enjoy the Summer Term!

Trying to make the work/life balancing act work… I still don’t know the answer!

When I was in first year, a course mate in the year above me described how “second year is just like riding a bicycle’…

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Looking back as a (not so) wise third year, whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was hell, it’s a pretty accurate description!

University life can be difficult to manage. This is especially true, considering that just studying for your degree isn’t the only thing on your mind. A vast majority of students are part of something at University, whether it be a part time job, sports teams, societies, volunteering etc.Then on top of that you need to socialise, eat, sleep and perhaps the occasional alcoholic beverage just to keep you sane!

In the end, it kind of just looks like this…

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Resulting in you looking a little like this…

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Now don’t get me wrong, a rare breed of student can balance it all successfully…

And to those people I salute you and give you a gold star.

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But for the average student, it’s just not possible to do it all. You can try to, but you’ll probably soon see that the “bicycle” is catching fire a little bit quicker than you think when deadlines come around.

Going from a calm relaxing week to one where you’ll have 4 deadlines due, 2 social events on and millions of other things on, is not uncommon.

Now I still haven’t mastered this and I don’t think anyone can really to an extent but here are my tips in trying to reach that elusive perfect balance…

Do something not nothing!

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Now I’m not saying don’t do anything. In fact that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Doing something as well as your degree is always better than nothing. No matter how tempting it is to spend your days locked up in your room watching Netflix!

Don’t be afraid to get the balance wrong

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It’s okay to mess up and get the balance wrong every once in a while. You’re only human! If you feel like you’re not doing enough or you’re doing too much then remember that you always have a choice in doing what you want to do!

It’s physically impossible to do everything

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I definitely feel like I’ve learnt this the hard way.

See, I’m the kind of positive, go getting person who just goes for everything. Coming from a tiny village with little opportunities looking back to my first year as an eager eyed fresher, I was amazed by everything that I could do at Uni.

I’ve been part of societies, peer mentoring, course representatives, volunteering at the Lakeside Theatre, the list goes on. I would exhaust and stretch myself so much that I would have such little time off. Whilst I enjoyed what I was doing, in hindsight it probably wasn’t worth the stress!

Organise AND prioritise   

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This is probably what I’ve learnt from trying to do everything…

I thought that because I was organised with my diary to keep up to date with my life that I was doing everything right. In hindsight that was only half of the battle. I just wasn’t prioritising the stuff that I wanted to do!

By organising everything that you want to do and picking the things you want to prioritise, you soon start to see what’s important. If you’re truly passionate about something, then the choice should make sense in the long run.

So, whilst it may seem that the uncontrollable “burning bicycle” might be taking over your life, there are ways to deal with getting the balance right. It will be impossible to get the balance right all the time.

But by making a conscious effort, you can make things a whole lot better for yourself!