Socialising in a pandemic

Social distancing and 10 pm curfews are becoming a big part of our lives. While it’s important to adhere to the government guidelines it can feel like they are getting in the way of you having fun at university. I’m here to tell you that this doesn’t have to be the case, there are so many things you can still do to enjoy your time at university and spend time with friends.

Go out for food – whether this is breakfast, lunch, dinner or even brunch there are so many places you can try. Me and my housemates have decided to go for dinner once a month. It gives you a great opportunity to sit down, catch up and have some great food. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or a cuisine you’ve always wanted to taste. Try it out, the best part is you don’t have to wash up afterwards.

Have a movie night – rather than going out why not have a cosy night in. Especially as it’s getting colder and the days shorter it can be so much nicer not to leave the house in the evening. Snuggle up with a hot drink and a movie. Maybe even bake some snacks to enjoy as a daytime activity.

Go for a drink or have some drinks at home – yes, if you go out for a drink your night will be cut short but you can still enjoy it. If you don’t fancy that you could just host drinks at home, sticking to the government guidelines of course. It’s a great way to make a night in just a bit more exciting.

Have a games night – get your housemates together for some fun. Whether you play board games or go for a drinking game, it’s a great way to spend an evening.

Bake or cook – make yourself a tasty treat or get your housemates together to make a house dinner. These are such fun activities and then at the end you get to eat what you have created which makes it even better. You could even learn to cook something new or try a friend’s favourite dish just to mix things up a bit.

Take a day trip – within reason of course but there are some great places you can still visit. I recently went to the Victoria and Albert museum and it was a great day out. You did have to book a time slot but it was still free, just means people could adhere to social distancing.

There are so many things that you can do to enjoy your university experience. Most of these things you can do in your own home with the people you live with which is a good option at times like this. Remember to stick to the restrictions put in place by the government but still try and make the most of your university experience.

My goals for third year

Today is my first day back to university, even if it is an online seminar. Luckily I do have half my seminars in person so I look forward to those as I feel they will really get me into the mood to start this year. As I look ahead I’ve decided to set myself a few goals to give me a sense of direction and if I feel lost I can look back at these.

Attend all my seminars: This is such an important thing, even just missing one you could miss something really important. Especially with lectures being online it is so much easier to attend the lectures. Now this does not mean turn the lecture on while you go on your phone, take notes and engage with the seminars.

Work in a work space: I often get tempted to get into bed to do some work but this really is a habit I need to break. I work so much more focused when I work at my desk and that is something I need to focus on. Even though its only the first day back I have made sure to do all my work at my desk today so hopefully this is something I can keep up with for the rest of the year.

Work hard and produce work I’m proud of: I want to come out of university with a good degree that I feel I have really worked for. I also don’t want to see my results and feel I could have done better because of this I hope to work to the best of my ability. Though of course a balance is important which brings me to my next goal.

Avoid burnout: Make sure I get the work life balance right. I feel if I work myself to death, in the long run it will have a negative effect on not only my mental and physical health but the quality of my work too. My goal is to get the balance as good as I can, I know its extremely difficult to find a perfect balance but I hope I can plan things so that it works well for me.

Enjoy the social side: With the freedom of university comes a great social life, which I want to take advantage of. It will most likely be a lot more difficult to arrange time to see friends once university is over so I want to make the most of the time I have. It may be a bit more difficult with the whole coronavirus going on but I hope I will still have a lot of fun and make some amazing memories.

Feel as sense of fulfilment at the end: The most important thing to me is really just to feel that sense of ‘I had an amazing university experience’ when I finish. That’s the big goal really to feel I made the most of it both academically and socially and not feel regrets that I didn’t try something I wanted to do.

Getting ready for the start of term

I have just over a week before I start back at university so it’s time to do some last minute prep. The more you do before, the less you have to worry about once term begins.

Moving into accommodation and settling in: This is an important one, once you are used to where you live hopefully you’ll be more comfortable. Setting up a good space where you plan to work is essential especially as it may be harder to find a space in the library with social distancing. Making sure to separate where you work from where you sleep is vital so that you can have separate mind frames for these spaces. Even if it’s all the same room have specific areas for different things.

Ensure you have the stationary you need: You’ll want to be organised from when you start your course. Make sure you have everything you need to organise your work and write your notes when you begin. The more you organise as you go along the less of a task you will have when it comes to sorting your notes out for revision.

Get to know your way to uni: Even if you are a returning student, if you are living in a new area its a good idea to work out your route to university before your first lecture. You don’t want to be late to lectures because you don’t really know where you are going.

Familiarise yourself with your timetable: It’s important to know where you need to be and when so that you can organise your life around it. Having a sense of routine before you get back to uni can be very beneficial.

Do what you can to get ahead: The more do before uni starts the less you’ll have to worry about at a later date. If there’s nothing you can do at the moment don’t worry about it, enjoy the freedom while you can!

Dissertation Diaries: Summer

I’ve decided to do a new monthly series on my blog all about dissertations. It is a very daunting project and I hope that by talking through what I’ve been doing and what has been working for me I can give you some peace of mind that it doesn’t have to be that scary. If you’re planning on doing a dissertation at a some point in the future hopefully you can learn from my tips and my mistakes. Also, from doing this it will motivate me to keep up with the work! In this post I’m going to discuss what I’ve done so far over the summer and after that I plan to do monthly updates.

So, a little background, I study history. Your dissertation will most likely be different dependant on your subject and your university but I feel there will be similarities in the planning and writing process. We use primary and secondary source material for the analysis and evidence, I know some people will be required to do questionnaires or to collect data instead so just bare this in mind.

First of all, I was required by my university to submit a dissertation outline at the end of second year. This was very much my starting point; it required me to find sources, explain what I wanted to research and break down what would be discussed in each of the chapters. This was actually very useful so I’d recommend even if this isn’t required by your university you just write up your initial aims and what will be included.

I’ve done a large proportion of my primary and secondary reading and picked out key bits of text from these to put in a word document. I printed out this word document and colour-coded the information to correlate with the chapter they were most relevant to so I could use them as a starting point. There are of course materials that aren’t available online so I have made a note of these to find in the library when I return to Reading. Because of this, I know there are gaps in my reading that I will be able to fill when I have all the resources.

I wrote up an in-depth plan of my introduction, this has highlighted the gaps to me and so I know where I need to do a bit more research. I was told that the introduction should be the first thing you start and the last thing you finish so I’m not too worried about the gaps and am prepared to change things up as I go.

I wrote up my plan by hand so I have written up a first draft of my introduction on my computer. Not only has this given me a sense that I’m getting somewhere as I have started working on the actual essay, its given me an idea of just how much I’ve written towards my word count so far.

  • My goals for the month ahead:
  • do reading to help fill in the gaps
  • do an in depth plan for chapter 1
  • begin writing up a first draft of chapter 1

Living alone for the first time

If you’re moving away to university, this may be the first time you’ve ever lived alone. Though the idea of being completely independent can be exciting, it can also be very daunting. I hope this post will give you some peace of mind with your worries and gives some top tips of how to settle in well.

The big thing to remember is that some people will take longer to get used to the new way of living than others which is okay. Please don’t beat yourself up if you feel like it’s taking you more time to get settled. This is a big step in your life and often new things and big changes can be more of a struggle for some individuals. Not only this, but there will be others who are struggling that can hide it so well. If you feel like you’re looking at others like ‘I wish I could deal with change like that’, they may be feeling exactly the same as you. You can always share your thoughts with others and maybe they will relate and you can get through it together.

Not everything will come naturally when you first start out; whether that’s cooking or laundry or just a bit of everything. Everyone will be having struggles and the best thing to do is to help each other out, it’s also a great way to bond with your new found friends. There is always the option of just calling home, which I did a lot in my first year. I had so many random questions especially about cooking.

Home sickness is a thing. I’ll be honest I was so caught up in university life that I didn’t feel this at all until a few weeks in. If you feel this way, call your family, FaceTime your friends. Especially if all your home friends have moved away to their own university they may need that reassurance from you too but do remember they’ll be doing their own thing. Remember different people will settle in, in different ways so be patient with them if they are getting more involved at university. Find times you are both free and have a good catch up then.

Don’t stretch yourself too much. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything at once if that’s too much for you. If settling in means you live off oven food and beans on toast for the first few weeks, you do you while you’re getting yourself sorted. As you get used to the new way of life you can step things up and learn new things as you go.

No matter what be proud of yourself, it’s a very big step. Not only are you suddenly living on your own, you’re in a new city and you’re having to get used to the university lifestyle.

Taking time for yourself

University can be a very overwhelming place and you may feel pressure to be socialising or working every moment of every day. I want you to think to yourself, when was the last time you had a day off? On top of that, when was the last time you took a day for yourself with no worry or guilt?

I often find myself allowing myself time off but I have to get back to it the next day or I can have the afternoon off if I work in the morning. You shouldn’t need to have this sense of ‘deserving’ a break, if you feel you need one, have one. Personally, I’ve been really enjoying taking time for myself lately. Yes, I love meeting up with people and I’ve been doing uni work to prepare myself for third year but I want to get into a habit of enjoying my own company. It doesn’t have to be anything big, I read about people ‘taking themselves on a date’ and just sitting alone in a restaurant with no phone or laptop but I feel that’s a very daunting prospect for me. Maybe I’ll get there one day. For now, I like to take myself on a walk or just go shopping alone (I’m loving charity shops at the moment as they’re both sustainable and cheap which is helpful on a student budget). It’s so good to just be with yourself, it gives you a chance to think things through while getting some fresh air. I find that if I try to reflect on things before bed, which I often find is the only real chance I give myself, it’s not the best time to do so. Just going and doing something more randomly, I feel calms me. Plus, if I ever have a day where I wake up feeling like I really don’t want to do anything, going for a walk can set me up nicely for the rest of the day.

As with so many things, it’s all about finding the right balance for you. Maybe you prefer to plan when you’ll take a rest day so you can get all your work done around it. You may however, like me, prefer to just take them when you feel like you need one on the day. You can just move any work you had planned that day to another. Uni can be a stressful place so you need to look after yourself. Of course, if you feel like you are really suffering with mental health it’s a good idea to reach out for professional help which you should be able to get advice on through your uni. I am no expert on this and I’m not saying taking alone time will make everything better, its just something I find helps me. Remember, while people may make it seem you need to be constantly doing something productive at uni, it’s okay to take time for yourself.

What to pack for university: Miscallaneous

I’ve spoken through the main things that you will need to take to university for different categories; the bedroom, kitchen and stationary. There are a few bits that don’t however fit into those categories and so this last post in the series will feature more miscellaneous things you’ll want to remember.

Laundry: you’ll want to take a laundry basket to keep your room tidy and so that you can easily differentiate between what’s clean and what needs to be washed. Its also important to remember, you will have to transport your laundry to and from the laundry room and so you’ll want something sturdy to carry it in as it may be a bit of a walk. If you don’t want to pay the price to use the dryer you’ll probably want an airer to dry your clothes. Personally, I’d use the dryer for big items like bedding and blankets and would use the airer for my clothes. On top of all that you will want laundry detergent to keep your clothes clean.

Mini First Aid Kit: you never know when you’ll need a plaster or some paracetamol so make sure you take a supply. Just take the bits you’d reach for at home so that you have them there for when you need them at university.

Food: this may seem a bit obvious but I’d recommend doing a food shop before you arrive so that you have your fridge and cupboards stocked for the first week or so. You’ll most likely be swept up in the social side when you first arrive and you probably won’t have time to go to the shop. You’ll also have to work out where it is, so having food gives you a bit of time to settle in before you have to start worrying about that.

Important documents: you’ll want to make sure you remember any official documents, if you have anything you need for enrolment or student finance take it with you. You might not need this as a lot of things are online now but it’s always best to be on the safe side. Also, your passport. Especially, if you plan to get a job you will need your passport (or documentation that proves you are able to work in GB), I left mine at home in first year and had to have my parents post it to me. Not only was this annoying as I had to wait for this to arrive, I had to pay for special delivery as it was such an important document.

Got your results, now what?

A little throwback; me two years ago after I had my results before I headed off to uni.

The first thing I should say is congratulations! You did it, you got through your A-levels and for that you should be extremely proud. Even if you didn’t get the results you were hoping for, you should still feel proud of such a great achievement to have got to this point. If you need it just take some time to come to terms with what happened yesterday. You may feel inundated with people asking about your results and your future plans, just remember this is personal to you and you really don’t have to discuss what has happened with people. It may be a good idea to talk through your emotions and thoughts with someone you really trust to just get it out there or even try writing it down in a journal if you want to get it out privately.

If you’re off to university, you have so many exciting things ahead. As a student blog, I am going to be discussing university as that’s what I know best. Remember you do still have a good month until term starts at university so even though you can begin to make preparations, you do have time.

The big thing you need to do if you don’t plan on living at home, is sorting out your accommodation, if you haven’t done so already. This is often first come first serve so you really need to get that sorted as a number one priority! Once this is all done you can go on Facebook as they usually have groups you can join to meet people in your accommodation or even your flat. It might seem random but I’d definitely recommend getting Facebook if you’re off to university and haven’t got it already. It’s really useful as so many things at university are advertised on Facebook; info for halls, info on societies, course group chats and club pictures to name just a few.

You have so much to look forward to so spend this time with friends and families. Make the most of the summer before you go. Celebrate your success and have fun!

Preparing for results day

If you are waiting for results day, I’m sure you are feeling apprehensive about tomorrow. It’s a scary but exciting time and you need to remember no matter what there are good things to come. Just remember, at this point there is nothing you can do to change these results and even though you are facing uncertainty, what happens will happen.

I know it my be difficult but try and get a good nights sleep. Even if you can’t sleep (I know I couldn’t), try and do something to relax, distract yourself. Please whatever you do don’t just sit around worrying, do something you enjoy, this time tomorrow you will know what results you have. Make sure when you wake up you have a good breakfast and have a breather, I know I checked track first thing but then got myself ready before going to school to pick up my results.

Dependant on what time your school releases results, you may be able to find out your uni’s decision on track before you get your results. This should give you an idea about your results but still go in with an open mind as you never know what the universities have chosen to accept or decline.

If all goes as planned and you get into your firm choice university, congratulations, you can go and enjoy yourself. I know with the situation it may be difficult to celebrate as normal as you can’t go out but there’s still many options you can do. Go for some drinks, have a little garden party with a couple of friends, there’s still ways of enjoying your success while keeping in line with the regulations. Do remember, you may be on cloud nine but others may not, still enjoy and be happy for yourself but do bare in mind how others may be feeling.

If you didn’t get your first choice, track will tell you if you got your insurance choice. You may feel slightly down about this but if you do remember there was a reason you chose that university as a back up. You’re off to university and you will have the most amazing time, embrace it.

If you unfortunately, don’t get into either your firm or insurance choice, remember you still have options. Take some time and think about what you want to do. You don’t want to make any rash decisions when you’re not thinking straight. If you do want to go to university, you can go through clearing, you’ll obviously want to do this when there are still places available so calm down and then have a look at what is to offer. You can go online, universities will have information about their clearing process on their websites. If you’re really not confident going into tomorrow you can check these out today just to prepare yourself. You never know, you may not need it but if you’re really worried it may relieve a bit of the stress ahead of tomorrow. Just remember whatever happens you will find something and you have so much to be proud of, you got through your A-levels which are extremely difficult.

I know of people who didn’t didn’t get into their first choice university who are now having the time of their life. It may seem upsetting on the day but in the future you’ll realise it was meant to happen.

If you get to results day and realise you really don’t want to university right now, there are options. If you got in but want to take a year out you may be able to defer your place, different universities will have different policies on this so check that out. If you didn’t get into the universities of your choice and want to take a year out, you can reapply next year and this time you’ll be going in with your results so will have more security of what is on offer to you. Taking a year out means you can have that extra time to work and save for university while taking a break from academics. Whatever you chose to do, do what works best for you.

I do hope this is all helpful and all I have left to say is good luck and whatever happens tomorrow, it will all work out in the end.

Book review: Heroes by Stephen Fry

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What is it about? Stephen Fry retells the stories of the heroes of Greek mythology. He recounted the adventures of Perseus, Heracles, Bellerophon, Orpheus, Jason, Atalanta, Oedipus and Theseus. The book ends with an afterword where Fry speaks about the stories and their relevance to today’s society.

What did I think? I personally really enjoyed this book. As someone who enjoys reading about myths and legends but doesn’t know a great deal about them, I found it really interesting. There were heroes I had heard of or knew their stories briefly but this book gave more depth and context to what I already knew. He also spoke about heroes I had never heard of which allowed for me to learn something new. I also found that Greek myths are loved by so many people, that having read this I was able to discuss my thoughts and talk about the stories with so many others. I also really enjoyed the voice used to tell the stories, Fry uses humour and sarcasm when telling the stories which I personally loved. The use of footnotes was also really helpful as it gave quick explanations or bits of context where it was needed without disrupting the flow of the story. My only issue with this book was the lengths of the stories. Some were much longer than others, which is understandable, as some had more information that was needed to tell the stories. However, with some of the stories I felt there was too much being said and that made it all very confusing as he jumped between characters (who all had very confusing names) and little bits of context here and there. There were also some stories that I would have loved to read more about. Other than this, it was a greatly enjoyable book, I just found myself having to reread or take it slow over some of the more dense or confusing parts. The afterword was also really interesting as Fry gave his take on the relevance of the Greek myth and the ideas of the different Gods. This was something that allowed me to think about the story in a different light and was a nice idea to end the book with.

Would I recommend? Definitely, especially if the Greek myths are something you are particularly interested in as Fry tells them in a fun yet informative way. Even if you’re not particularly drawn into Greek myths, I’m sure you will be once you read this. It has made me want to read his other book about Greek myths ‘Mythos’ (though I’ve heard you’re meant to read that one first).

What am I reviewing next? A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell