A Level results day: how to handle it, what to do with your results and celebrating!

One of the most exciting yet nerve-wracking things in life has to be A-level results day. You’ve made that wonderful step towards wanting to study those subjects that you love in more detail. Two years later and it is time to see how your hard work has paid off.

So here is what happens:

A-Level-results-day-collection-time-for-2015-pic-1The Build Up.

This year (2017) results are released on the 17th August. All universities, schools, colleges and sixth form centres will receive the results before the release date but annoyingly they are under a legal requirement not to announce until the specified date.

You’ll then go into your school, college or sixth form centre on the day to collect your results (check to see if there is a certain time in which you must collect them).

Remember your grades will NOT be displayed on UCAS Track which will only show if you have been accepted for your university application. UCAS Track will however update at around 8am on the day of result releases- so there is no point in staying up to look at midnight as nothing will change.

Didn’t go the way you’d hope?

Don’t be disappointed if you didn’t get the results you wanted or needed. Find out if there is the chance to retake you exam as this could easily rectify any issues you have.

If you don’t meet the grade criteria for your university it may be worth checking on UCAS track to see if they have still accepted your application, as is sometimes the case. If they haven’t accepted you then take a look at UCAS clearing to see if other universities will offer you place. Last year 33,000 students found a place at a university through clearing.

Better than expected?

Perhaps you didn’t consider university but are so chuffed with your results you now feel like it could be the place for you. In that case you can find a place through the UCAS adjustment system.

How to handle it

Whether you’ve applied for university or not, A-Level results day can feel terrifying. Remember to stay calm and that results are not always the beginning or end of everything. Most people find comfort in collecting their results with friends or family- in most cases they know what you are going through and are able to support you.

Your results can now be used towards your current or future university application and also for applying for jobs or apprenticeships/ internships. In some cases you will be handed a piece of paper with your grades on and will receive your certificates at a later date- either way keep anything with your grades on safe as you never know when you might need to refer to it.

Celebrate

There is no harm in celebrating a job well done. Be thankful that this is now the end of your a-levels- you’re free!

Grab a camera and take a picture of your chuffed self- if the local newspaper hasn’t got there before you.

Perhaps order a takeaway to celebrate but most importantly make sure that you tell your family and friends your results as they will be just as eager to hear them.

Colchester on the Cheap

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Spending money is lame and for people that have it. Here’s how to get the most out of Colchester without having to splash the cash.

Castle Park

On a nice day, Castle Park is a fab afternoon out. A good few hours can be spent, wandering around amongst the flowers, laying on the grass, hitting up the swan pedalos and admiring the roman castle walls and grounds, the castle itself costs money but for a nice lazy sunny stroll, the park itself is free and beautiful. Coming up in September, there’s also going to be outdoor movie screenings of Pulp Fiction, The Goonies and Grease.

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Walk Around the uni

While Castle Park is lovely, you really don’t have to look too far to find a lovely outdoors area to take a walk. Wivenhoe park is a beautiful area, we have the lake, the trees and the ducks to wander around, and on a nice day, the picnic tables and BBQ areas are perfect for a sunny afternoon.

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First Site

Feeling refined? Always daaarling! First Site is a really great artistic space in Colchester, housing galleries and performance and workshop space. Best of all, entry is free and there is some really great art on show there, definitely worth a trip if you feel like being cultured for an afternoon. Coming up there’s the Lubaina Himid and Ed Gold exhibitions, and a number of film screenings, which, although they aren’t free are a bit cheaper than cinema prices.

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The Minories Gallery

Another art gallery managed and run by Colchester School of Art, The Minories Gallery exhibits arts and culture artefacts, and the work and galleries of students of the school. It’s free and located right near Firstsite.

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Colchester Natural History Museum

Don’t go thinking London-scale animatronic dinosaurs, but the natural history museum provides a nice little collection of stuff to keep you entertained without having to spend any cash. It’s really easy to miss, being nestled inside a church just opposite the castle. It’s cute and free, and there’s a range of things to interact with and get nerdy over.

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HollyTrees Museum

Just near the castle, the Hollytrees museum gives a view of Colchester life from over the past 300 years, set in a beautiful Georgian house. Again, admission is free and it provides a bit of entertainment, you can even get dressed up as a servant if you fancy!

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Of course, there’s loads of other stuff in Colchester that you can get up to if you spend a bit of cash, but if you’re anything like me, there’s nothing like the triumph of a free day’s entertainment.

Thrifty Studenting AKA Improvising Plates Out of Cardboard Because You’re a Terrible Person

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Let’s set the scene, you’re a month deep into your student loan, and after buying a fresh pair of creps, an entire new wardrobe and all of the pretentious coffees ever, you’re broke. Student life can be pricey, especially when the nights out get heavier and the desire to order takeaway in place of real food gets stronger. Here’s some ways to save that dollar.

All the discounts.

There’s a huge amount of shops that offer student discount, and you don’t necessarily have to have an NUS extra card, a lot of places will take your university card, or for online, Unidays is a life saver. Everywhere I go, whenever I am spending money, I always ask if there’s student discount, even if it feels silly, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised and get a little bit off.

Shared Netflix/ whatever you watch on. 

This could be hard now Netflix are limiting the amount of people that can watch at one time, but if you live in a house with your mates, and you all watch TV together, maybe consider all going in on a collective streaming account, save paying for an individual one each.

Do you actually need that Starbucks though?

I’m totally guilty of this, you get into your routine, lecture then Starbucks, day in day out. Granted, few can resist the pull of a  pumpkin spice latte, topped with whipped cream, but yikes, how much is that costing you?! Coffee isn’t cheap when you buy it everyday, if you need your fix, go for a flask, which holds more coffee, which is a total bonus.  It may seem like a tiny amount of money to grab a cappuccino at a coffee shop, but add that up, it soon starts to mount.  

Supermarket Sweep

Those little yellow stickers are like a glowing beacon of cheap brilliance as you walk down the aisle, the supermarket reduced counter is a great source for food, the reductions are great especially for things like meat and fish, I tend to stock up on seafood and freeze it.

For food in your fridge, I’ll leave this to your judgement, but for me, sell by dates are for the weak, nose test it and you’re good to go. (I am partially joking about this!) However, if you’ve got a bag of spinach which is still perfectly crisp and fresh that went out yesterday, you’re not gonna die if you use it in your dinner.

What are you doing buying name brand anything you lunatic!?! Supermarket own brand isn’t as bad as you think (maybe not the vodka.) Seriously, name brand food is for Oxbridge students and when you go home to your parent’s house for the weekend. I’m like an own brand bloodhound, that’s how you get when you’re a thrifty student, the packaging may not be as pretty but I promise, the majority of stuff tastes the exact same! In the case of instant noodles, Tesco’s ones are actually better, I swear!

Make gifts, don’t buy them

Christmas and birthdays are so damn pricey, my personal method of avoiding this cost is by hating everyone which makes my birthday list substantially lower, but for those of you that insist on being decent human beings and upkeeping friendships, while you’re at uni, making gifts in the form of food is always a winner. This is a great way to charm elderly relatives, especially my very old-fashioned nan, who up until this point was probably losing hope in her unhomely, terrible at cookery, no desire to get married and have children granddaughter, I made her fudge, and a little piece of her faith in me as a ‘proper woman’ was restored (let’s ignore how ridiculously 1950’s and outdated that sounds.) Plus you can totally eat some as you make it. Fudge is great and really really easy, I used old coffee jars, ribbon and pieces off of Christmas cards to package and managed to make it look like it was from some fancy artisanal farm shop. For friends, who should appreciate you for your ‘quirky’ flair, wrap their gifts up in tin foil, who buys wrapping paper? I’m not in my 40’s yet, that’s far too responsible.

Being Super Tight/ I’m The Worst 

Save water and washing up time and energy

Ok get ready, because this blew my tiny mind, when you buy crisps, push the bottom of the bag up inside itself, it makes a freakin’ bowl… wuuuut?! My housemate changed my life with that, not even exaggerating.

Also, if you’re making food for yourself, why use a plate when you can just eat from the saucepan, it tastes like decadence, just put a mat down and eat that pasta straight out of the pan, like a maverick. Same applies for baking trays, chips and chicken nuggets for a naughty tea? Go on, eat it off the tray, you’re a student, you have no shame.

Re-purposed cardboard is life 

Why would you do that? How many pizzas have you had? I use a lot of cardboard because I paint a lot, rip up that pizza box, boom! You’ve got yourself a palette.

Old cereal boxes double up as plates when washing up just feels a little bit beyond your skill set (for flat, dry food like toast, nothing rolly or runny like peas or ice cream obviously, but if you can’t work that out, you probably shouldn’t be at uni.)

If you’re even more of a money scavenger and you ebay like me, buying packaging for your sells can be expensive, I once sent an order off to a buyer in a re-purposed quavers box which had blown into my garden, that’s thrift right there, I’m not paying money for cardboard!

These are just a few things that you can consider doing, if you’re willing to stoop as low as me to save a penny.

 

 

The Pains of Degree Snobs

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Ok, this is a bit of a ranty blog post, so buckle up, it’s time Chloe lays down the law on why, if you’re a degree snob, you suck.

I have always been of the persuasion that every degree is different and important in its variation from any other. I really don’t believe there is any study that you can do that is better or worse than any other, just different. There’s a really nice quote from our former chancellor Shami Chakrabarti about being ‘anyone’s equal, no one’s superior.’ To me, the beauty of being at university is learning about how many fields of interest there are, meeting people from other disciplines, and appreciating others for having different specialties from your own. But what do I know? I’m just a Film and Literature student.

A bit of background, last weekend, I was at a BBQ with a group of mechanical engineering students from another uni, and being a newcomer to the group, my degree and career path came up in conversation. Now, that’s fine, I do Film studies and Literature and love talking about my degree, everyone likes watching movies, so it’s not like people won’t understand the appeal of studying them right? However I always feel the need to self deprecate about the fact that I study film and I’m kind of bored of doing it, and it all comes from the exact reaction I received on this particular occasion, and so many others like it. If I were paid every time I had this conversation, I’d make Bill Gates look like a peasant.  When I tell people what I do, it normally goes a lot like this:

Them: So what do you study?

Me: I do lit and film at Essex, it’s great

Them: *Disapproving look* Riiight and what are you going to do with that afterwards?

Me internally: giphy fvf

Me in real life: Yeah haha I know right, what an airy fairy degree!

After this I usually politely school them on how many options I have and the very decided career path I want to take, it normally shuts their disapproval right down. What frustrated me on this occasion was the fact I was surrounded by a group of BEng students, all looking down on my BA. The feeling that people think their degree is more legit than mine boils my blood. For the reason that yes, there are some degrees that have very practical and obvious applications beyond academic study, but it in no way makes studying them any better than studying an arts, humanities or any other “less worthy” degree.

I’m an easily riled person, maybe because I’m a redhead, maybe because I’m really bored of this particular conversation, and perhaps I should just brush these encounters off, but what annoys me is how illegitimate these conversations make me feel. I’m pretty sure anyone who’s doing anything like art history, liberal arts, performing arts, sport science, criminology, sociology, or anything else that doesn’t require being a calculator monkey, will have experienced this at least once too. Being made to feel stupid or less legit, because of the thing you feel most passionate about, it feels trash. It’s like when someone slates your favourite band or TV show and you want to headbutt a wall, because of how wrong their opinion is (I am fully aware that opinions are opinions but I’m sorry, if you think my film studies and literature degree is useless, you’re just plain wrong.)

The way I see it, is without these fields, arts, humanities, sport etc. what would the world do beyond work? It feels hypocritical to sit in your Star Wars T-shirt, criticizing people that study and work in cinema. How else is that thing you love going to exist without the people who devote themselves to making it?!

So, moral of the story of my long angry rant is… don’t be a wally. Regardless of what you think about someone’s degree or passion, consider that  it’s A) fascinating to them even if it isn’t to you and B) probably very useful for what they want in the future. Even if it isn’t, there is no shame in studying something you love, and you should never ever be made to feel that there is.

giphy (7).gif …Chloe out.

The Beauty of a Campus Uni

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Come to Essex, you need never leave *evil cackle*.

Recently I had a friend come visit me here at Essex from another university, being from a city uni, I thought I would take him on a mini tour of our campus (totally not for showing off purposes)  he was surprised and slightly envious of  all of the things we have here, and up until then I hadn’t really stopped to think about just how lucky we are to have a campus filled with so much stuff.

Now, I’m not blind, brutalist architecture is most definitely not for everybody, and the harshness of some of the 1960’s buildings is undeniable, the grey concrete, the crazy crazy room numbering, but after learning a lot from these blog posts by Jordan Welsh about some of the architectural history, I started to see the beauty and functionality in our weird concrete labyrinth.

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Aesthetically though, the pretty parts totally outweigh the concrete. As we were wandering, we went around the lakes and up to the top of the hill by the Ivor Crewe, places I may not go on a regular university day, but on a sunny day especially, our campus really does look beautiful.

On top of the aesthetic of our uni, we are so lucky to have so many amenities all in one place. As miserable as it would be to actually come to the uni and then never ever leave campus, it would almost be possible. Campus living is like having its own little mini university village. Food and groceries from the stores, a cinema, a theatre, an art gallery, a bus that serves pie , a post office and all the stationary you’d need from Everything Essex. It really is all there on your doorstep. (Although I definitely wouldn’t recommend never leaving campus, you may go a little crazy.)

Being all in one place really has its benefits when it comes to socialising too. As I learned from the blog posts I mentioned earlier, the campus is designed so that everything gravitates around the core of the squares, meaning bumping into people is always a possibility. Which is really great for impromptu drinks and catch ups, not-so great when you’re on the way home sweaty and red-faced from the gym.

We are super lucky with how much we have on campus, and sometimes it takes a poor unfortunate soul from a city uni to remind us just how much we have here.

Your First University Essay

3093588562_b255f9a2fb_zWhen I got to the end of primary school, I remember a teacher telling me that soon I’d be at big school writing these things called ‘essays’ I remember they sounded really difficult and terrifying to a 12 year old brain. When I got to secondary school, fastforwarding about 3 years, writing a two page English essay and getting A’s based on the argument that red curtains signify anger, felt really legit. Oh my sweet summer child, if only I knew…

When I came to university, I had obviously come a long way since my first essay in year 7/8 and had written loads throughout school and sixth form. But what I didn’t know is that a university essay is most definitely not the same as anything I had done before, and just like that little 12 year old  felt the fear rush over me once again, not of essays this time, but of having to think about referencing. So here’s a few things to keep in mind when you write your first university essay (note not everything applies to all degrees and some styles may vary, but you get the gist.)

Reading Around Before You Start

I can’t stress this enough, don’t just start your essay blindly without thinking about which citations you’re going to use. I made this mistake with my first essay and it’s a real struggle making a point and then trying to find a perfect supporting quote to back up your argument. You will also run the risk of making your point seem really tenuous if you do it in this order.

Don’t underestimate how long this will take! For a whole essay, during a busy term time, I usually allocate about 3 weeks per deadline, the first week and a half of that, maybe even two weeks, is reading and researching for me.

The best thing to do is to get your subject matter first, and a rough idea of your opinion on the argument and then go straight to reading up on it. I personally prefer books over the internet, probably because it makes me feel more studious sitting in the library with a big stack of books. Go for stuff that is roughly linked to the subject and then the index is king, find quotations that may be useful or connected and note them down in full, making sure you have the page number, author, chapter title, publication house, date and location. I like to do this on a word document, making sure it stays nice and organised with little line breaks as I do it.

Use Your Reading to Inform Your Argument

The reality is, you probably can never do enough reading on the subject you are writing on, but there will come a point when you’ve got to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) usually because the deadline is only a few days away and you’re starting to sweat over your empty word document. Depending on the department or task, you may need more or less, but four strong references are probably a good starting point. From these you can formulate your plan (this is where it varies from student to student, while some will plan very heavily, others -myself included- will do a rough plan knowing that eventually that will go entirely out of the window. I quite like this method because it means your essay can flow organically and your opinion can adjust as you write but you still have a framework behind it.)

Think on what the author is saying, you don’t necessarily have to agree with them, you may disagree wholeheartedly, but that can make for an even stronger argument. Then you can shape paragraphs around their point in relation to your own, either the point can heighten your argument or be used as a point of discussion.

Watch your Language

When writing your first university essay, the likelihood is you will be tempted to use all of the complexity that your capability allows. Avoid this. Just because you know the word ‘verisimilitudinous’ doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use it 12 times (although it is a great word.) Of course using the odd term, complex word, or sentence structure may benefit you occasionally, but writing like this all the time can read as confusing and may sometimes make you seem like you’re trying to hide the fact you haven’t got a clue what you are talking about behind big words. Try write clearly and fairly simplistically, essays aren’t a vocabulary test.

Taking a Step Back and Simplifying When Your Brain Feels Mushy

I’m going into my third year now, and with every essay, I still without fail, hit the wall at some point during every essay. There’s a few things you can do when this happens to keep yourself on course. First of all, if you haven’t already, write yourself a little mini thesis, this can even become a part of your introduction or conclusion, write down an extremely succinct version of what your argument is, your essay concentrated. This really helps if you are getting lost or veering off on a tangent, use it to remind yourself what your essay is about. Secondly, if you can’t quite word what you’re trying to say, I find it really useful to try and orally explain the point I am trying to make to a friend. It makes you clarify what you are trying to say and bring it back to basics away from a tangle of words.

The Dreaded Footnote

Ugggggghhhhhhhhh referencing why?! You will have heard of plagiarism and how much of a big deal it is. Plagiarism is important to be aware of, you may think that just not being an idiot and avoiding copying people is enough, but plagiarism covers incorrect referencing too. Depending on your department the referencing style you use may vary, you can easily find guides of each style on the internet, i.e. Harvard, APA, Chicago etc. However a lot of departments will have a style handbook too to help you with that. Referencing isn’t hard once you’re in the swing, but getting it in the right order and correct can be a struggle, but after a few essay’s practice, it is sort of second nature. Be aware too that footnotes and bibliographies go in different orders depending on the style.

Stickler on the Proof

Just for the love of all that is holy, proof your work. Proof read it alot, proof read it until you’re sick and tired of reading it, then, read it again. It may be a struggle for your first essay as you may still feel a little too shy to share your work, but reading and proofing each other’s work is so so useful as well in making sure your argument is clear and cogent.

People work in different ways, all of these tips may prove completely useless to you, but I hope it has dispelled just a couple of those first essay fears!

My Essex Highlights

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My time at Essex has been amazing and I’ve had some great experiences, here’s a few of the little moments that have made Essex special.

Meerkats

At the end of second year, the SU held a petting zoo, bringing a menagerie of animals onto campus to ease the exam stress. There were bunnies, dogs, fancy mice, and the coolest of all, meerkats! We were aloud to get in and hang out with the meerkats for a while, and it was amazing and a great stress reliever!

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They’re literally on me! Amazing!

Hodor

If you don’t watch Game of Thrones, then this will mean nothing to you, but also you should watch it, come on where have you been? Anyway, even if  you haven’t seen it, you will probably have heard of Hodor, AKA Kristian Nairn. Turns out Hodor is also an amazing dance DJ and before Game of Thrones season 6 came out, Kristian Nairn came and DJ’d at Essex and gave away a load of GoT goodies during the night, I got a ‘You Know Nothing Jon Snow’ mug, I was very excited. But best of all was afterwards we got to meet Hodor after his set, he was super nice! My photo is far too shaky because…reasons,  but here’s my housemate with the man himself!

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Sorry Vilde, I hope you don’t mind me stealing your picture!

Milk It Halloween

Milk It is for me by far the most fun night out at Essex, mainly because my music taste is mainly guilty pleasures and cheese, so it’s perfect. This year, Milk It held a Halloween special and needless to say, karaoke, plus costumes, plus beverages, is always a winning combination!

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I am aware that a pumpkin, Maverick from Top Gun, a Hogwarts student and a banana are an unlikely combination.

Think Talks

I love the Think Series, they open up super interesting topics for debate and really open your mind to things you’ve never considered before. At the beginning of second year I attended one on the porn industry and it was absolutely fascinating, they even give you free sweets and drink as you go in! Definitely a highlight of the things I’ve done at uni!

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These are just a handful of amazing things that I have experienced during my time at Essex and I’m sure there will be many more, Comment below what your Essex highlights have been!

University and Long Distance Relationships

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This isn’t an original student blog subject, I know when I was just about to come to uni, I read copious blogs and articles of tips about how to deal with going to uni and having a long distance relationship and a lot of them were absolutely useless. This one probably is too in truth because you can’t make life choices based on what strangers from the internet say, trust me. 

Long Distance

I was very hesitant to come to uni, and although I’d have never admitted it at the time, a large feature was how little I would be able to see my then boyfriend. Of course now that ship has sailed, it is easy, as it is with other singles and people that are less experienced in relationships, to say how ridiculous that is. A lot of the blogs I was reading and the thoughts in my head, along with friends and family were telling me how stupid I was to let a boyfriend stop me from achieving my goals. Perhaps rationally, yes it is, but guess what? We aren’t robots, we’re emotional beings and sometimes being rational isn’t always what feels right.

I have read many blogs that have just flat out told people to break up with their significant other before they go to uni, just because they personally found it hard to be apart and had a bad experience. I’m not going to do that, because if you really care about someone that much, your relationship will prevail over distance, and why not try it rather than just binning them off before you go. Of course this differs, perhaps if you’ve known them a fortnight, the reality is the commitment isn’t there for long distance, because that is the essential part, commitment. The second thing is trust, you have to trust each other, especially if one partner is remaining at home, remember they’re not at uni, and during freshers week, all that partying and meeting new people can be very difficult for them to deal with when they’re sat at home worrying about you. The long and short of it is you must trust each other, and appreciate what is going on in each other’s lives.

Try as hard as you can to talk and see each other as regularly as possible. Depending on how far you have roamed for university, seeing each other may be more of a challenge, but try to skype each other as much as possible, it’s also really nice to have that point of contact to remind you of home and the support they can provide you.

Friends

‘Remember your friends’ says everyone ever when you get a new partner, and it’s so boring to hear, it is true, keeping the balance of your partner and friends social schedule is tough, what is great, is if you can encourage your mates to get on with your partner, then you can all do stuff together and you don’t have to feel guilty! Saying that though, you need to make sure that each party feel appreciated enough, like the other isn’t a priority over them. As long as you don’t cancel plans with your friends to blatantly just hang out with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you should be ok.

You may have found this before going off to uni, but it seems like everyone’s got an opinion about your relationship! Your friends obviously want to see you happy, but they aren’t in the relationship, so don’t feel too anxious if their advice and opinions on your relationship don’t seem to be helpful to you. This is really hard, because you don’t want to fall out with your buddies over your relationship, and it can be frustrating to them if they have strong opinions and you aren’t following their advice. It’s all about letting them know you respect and appreciate the fact that they have your best interests at heart, but also politely telling them that it’s your life and they have to respect your life choices. I still haven’t mastered this, so good luck with that one!

Ignore Me Completely

I mean it! Ignore this blog! So why read it? Because a large part of what I am trying to say is follow what FEELS right not what friends or family or bloggers are telling you to do! Following your heart is never anything to be ashamed of, even if things go wrong, and university is all about making your own choices, so you do you! Do what you feel is right with your relationship. Most importantly, when you do see each other don’t PDA all over the SU bar, no one wants to see that.

 

Ways TV and Movies Lied To You About University

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You’ve seen them, the crazy frat parties, the library romances, the hippies playing guitars under trees. Here’s a list of things you see in tv and movie universities, that are pretty rare in real life. 

Frat parties

Fraternities and Sororities are definitely more of an American thing, coming to uni in the UK, don’t expect crazy hazing or Animal House activities, I’ve never seen a keg in my life! If you’re lucky, the closest you might get is a red plastic cup! Of course there are parties, and they’re great, but they definitely don’t occur in houses like this:

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Meeting The Love of Your Life in the Library

I personally don’t want disturbing whatsoever while I’ve got my study on, let alone meeting my soulmate in the poetry section. You know how it goes, she goes to pull out a book, he goes for the same one, they both giggle from either side of the bookshelf and then you throw up because it’s so soppy and gross. If that happened in real life the most you’d get is an awkward apology.

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Or another old favourite is the running into the geeky girl, causing her to drop all of her books, they then touch hands and smile over their mutual admiration for The Catcher in The Rye and the rest is history. I mean come on really?
Halls Rooms Like Harry Potter

Uni rooms are purposefully basic, and when you watch a movie or show where the characters go back to their enormous flat with a big beautiful fireplace and whatever other ridiculous furnishings ( there’s probably a massive wing chair somewhere) it just seems completely untruthful. In reality, University rooms are a nice and average size and plain for you to decorate.

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Spring Break

Here in the UK, we’ve of course got beaches, but you’re not going to go party it up in Clacton for a week as if it were Miami. In the UK, spring break is most usually spent at home revising. Of course just like movie spring break, there will be regrettable decisions made, but they’re more likely to be eating too many snacks and wondering why you didn’t do the reading when you were supposed to.

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These are just a few things, and don’t get me wrong you will still see some wild things go on during your time at uni, but don’t believe everything you see on TV kids!

 

How to survive your dissertation!

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Most of us eventually have to face it once we reach our final year of study – “The Dissertation”! The final year project is more than the multiplicity of your usual essays; it requires creativity and critical thinking. Let me tell you about my journey of writing an undergraduate dissertation!

Finding a Topic

Deciding on the topic of your dissertation might be the most important step of the whole process since it sets the overall framework of your research. Some departments will provided you with a list of topics to choose from, while others such as the Sociology Department will expect you to think about your own topic.

The first aspect you should think about is picking a topic you’re genuinely interested in, since your dissertation will accompany you throughout your final year.

As a starting point I reviewed the course material we covered in the previous years and browsed journals relevant to my subject, noting down any keywords which caught my attention.

Check if your department archived samples of previous dissertations submitted, those not only allow you to see what kind of topics have been researched by former students, but also help you to get an idea about the general structure of a dissertation in your subject. For instance the Student Resource Centre stores dissertations ranging from undergraduate to doctoral level within the field of sociology and criminology.

I considered what field I am interested to work in my future career and selected my topic accordingly. Writing a 10,000 word dissertation about a topic relevant to your future job, demonstrates interest and determination which might be an advantage for your application.

Deciding on a broad area of research will make it much easier to narrow down potential topics, aim to do it by the end of your second year – however you’re usually still able to change your topic after the summer vacations, so no worries!

Start planning

Your research question might change, your motivation is likely to fluctuate, thus your supervisor should provide a constant you can always refer to. Meet up with your supervisor at the beginning of your final year and discuss your ideas with them. Even if they are not experts in your particular topic, they are still able to provide you with helpful feedback and point out how to find relevant resources.

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Keep reading and reading materials relevant to your topic! Make notes and don’t forget to keep track of your references; I started a table on Excel where I initially added the reference and some key words, and later on evolved it to a comprehensive overview of the literature, including used methodology, comparisons to other literature and evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each source.

Most of us are guilty of procrastinating and finishing some coursework last minute – however be aware of the scope of your dissertation! Many departments require about 10,000 words and weight your dissertation as a full year module, making it impossible to complete it within only a few days but it is necessary to begin well in advance and work on it continuously. Bear in mind that if you carry out empirical research, the process might be less predictable and you should plan some extra time in case anything unexpected happens. Write an outline for your research, setting out what you need to do and set yourself personal deadlines.

Don’t think of your dissertation as one large bulk of work, but plan each chapter individually, roughly outline the key points for each chapter and how many words you approximately plan to write for each section, which will help you enormously to avoid excessive word cutting later on when you need to ensure your work stays within the set word limit.

The writing process

Find your own working style and don’t compare yourself with others, some might have finished the vast majority of their research by Christmas, while you have been working on other assignments, as long as you made a realistic schedule and stay determined you will be fine.

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Create an environment where you can thrive, some of us can only focus in a quiet corner in the library; others get inspired when sitting with their laptop in one of the cafes on campus. Whenever I felt stuck with a paragraph I would leave my work place for some time, and get a coffee from the Starbucks on campus, or take a stroll around the lake to collect my thoughts.

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Always make sure you get sufficient sleep! When being drowsy I felt that my productivity suffered, especially when trying to demonstrate creativity within my arguments. If you are more of a night owl, like me, being more efficient in the late evening, be aware of other commitments such as classes you have for the next day. Doing an all-nighter on a regular basis might disturb your biological clock, so it is best to avoid those nights until the final period if necessary.

Before submitting

Once you finished the writing process, you need to edit your work. Make sure it complies to the guidelines provided by your department, check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and whether you titled all of your tables and graphs. If possible try to finish early and submit a draft to your supervisor who can provide you with some final comments.

Also ask your friends to read your dissertation (or parts of it if there is not sufficient time), ask them to be critical and mark any sections they feel are unclear.

You can print and bind your dissertation on campus in the Copy Centre (though I would recommend to print it yourself in the library or in a lab to save a bit money), but be aware that there will be a long queue on the final day, so plan to be there at least a few hours before your deadline!

Last but not least, don’t forget to take the obligatory selfie with your dissertation 😉