Blake's View, Clubs and societies, Course, Study

Blake’s View: American Studies Year 2

Yesterday, I took my final exam, meaning that I now draw to a close 2 whole years of University. To be honest, I never thought 2 years would go so quickly. This Second Year has been a  whole new experience for me, and I’ve found myself having a lot of fun! Last September seems only a heartbeat away, yet I’ve done so much since then. To keep you informed about my course, please find below a run-down of the units I’ve taken this year in American Studies, with a personal overview at the end.

Race, Slavery and Emancipation (half year unit: compulsory)

Focussing on the stories and experiences of slaves in the Caribbean, North and South America. We studied how and why  slavery differed, how slaves rebelled, and how they secured their freedom, plus slavery’s legacy today.

 US Government and Politics (half year unit: compulsory)

Analysing the structure of the American political system, and looking into how it deals with current social issues in the USA, including hot topics such as: healthcare reform, media bias, the Tea Party, abortion, gay marriage, and gun control.

 US Foreign Policy (full year unit: compulsory)

The unit started in the late 1800s and worked its way each week through the Presidents of the United States and the major challenges of foreign policy faced in their terms of office. A very informative look at the different styles of the Presidents, and how their ideologies linked to their handling of foreign policy matters, which also affected the USA’s domestic affairs.

Democratisation in Latin America (full year unit: compulsory)

Looking at a range of South American countries, we saw how states emerged from times of military rule and dictatorial repression to become the democratic countries we recognise today, such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile. What influenced the paths they took following democratisation, and what were the major challenges? Other topics included the “pink-tide” of liberal social reforms, the problems faced by Cuba’s aging socialism, analysis of the system of ‘illiberal democracy’, and the continuing fight in Peru between government forces and the FARC.

Key Issues in Development (full year unit: optional)

A varied unit covering a multitude of development topics which influence developing nations: agricultural policy, infrastructure, empowering women, social enterprise, development aid, the role of NGOs, and political structure.

 Japanese (full year unit: optional)

I continued learning Japanese: speaking, reading, writing and listening, which I took last year as an additional unit. Very enjoyable because of the small class from which I’ve met a great bunch of friends. Japanese isn’t easy to learn, but at least I tried!

A Final Overview of the Year!

Race, Slavery and Emancipation broadened my perspective of the strange reality of slavery and its legacy. My understanding of slavery was challenged, and I realised what a long process it was to freedom. Many of the racial prejudices which still affect us now were created and embedded at this time. Slavery certainly isn’t a subject confined to the history books as it still has relevance in the modern age.

Government and Politics brought to life many of the issues and debates in the current political sphere of the USA. It highlights how the UK and USA differ greatly on some issues, and the hard-line approach many Americans take on abortion and gun-control continues to amaze me. Sometimes the debates seem genuinely comical (before you realise that they are being serious).

Foreign Policy really brought to life the different Presidents, and I feel I got to understand their characters a lot better, so they are more than just a name or a portrait. It was also great to learn about the USA’s foreign policy over the last century, and how America has shaped the world we live in today.

Democratisation in LA continued our learning from the First Year, and I particularly liked the group project where we created our own political party to stand in an election following authoritarian rule. I was the Finance Minister for the fictional Argentinian Liberal Party, standing for election in 1983. I had a great group, and the project really immersed me in the concerns and problems of this transition to democracy.

Key Issues in Development was a diverse unit and at the end I felt it started to come together, as I realised how all these different factors contribute to development. I also understood the need to question what ‘development’ even is and how we measure it. I particularly liked one of our assessments, which was to create our own index to measure a specific form of development. I feel this was a very practical task and a good learning experience for anyone looking to work in the development sector.

Japanese was a personal choice, though I am extremely pleased I did it. My Japanese skills have surely improved. Yet more importantly, I would recommend studying a language just because of the great people you get to meet. I made a bunch of friends from different courses and also got to meet many native Japanese students, which broadened my view of the world.

Uni Life

A Recipe for Disaster

It’s that time again!

This week I thought I would write about another important, if not the MOST important (which may say a lot about me), factor of student life: Eating!

To do this, I thought I would share a recipe which has got my girlfriend and I through some of the cold dark nights of University and surprisingly it doesn’t involve pasta or a ready meal. No. This is:

THE STEW OF DESTINY (aka Richard’s really bad at cooking and even worse at writing recipes)

THE STEW OF DESTINY for two-ish people (not for vegetarians… sorry guys) comprises of these main (ish) ingredients:

Beef Mince  – buy a frozen bag from your local supermarket… or if you want, be fancy and buy some of the fresh stuff!.

3 closed cup Mushrooms –I like to buy them fresh just because I like to put them in the paper bag.

An Onion – A bog standard Onion, or a spring onion, or a red onion. Whatever you feel like.

New potatoes – that’s the little ones. Not the big ones. 6 to 8 should do.

Tomato Puree – I like to get a squeezy tube because they are fun.

Mixed herbs – dried herbs… which are mixed. It’s in the name.

Beef stock cube –Oxo cubes! Get the beef ones as this is a beef stew.


Ok so first things first, peel the potatoes. Never a fun experience but listening to a funky tune at the same time can help ease the pain. After that, cut them into cubey squarey shapes. I don’t know the technical term for it. Dicing? That sounds close. Watch your fingers!

Cut up the mushrooms and onions too so they are quite small. You probably won’t need the entire onion, but cut up as much as you feel you want. Some people are bigger onion fans than others!

Ok, now throw the potatoes into a pan and set them to boil. Unsure on how to boil potatoes? Here is a google search to get you started.

This might take a while so turn up the music and dance around the kitchen for a bit. Maybe fit in some Air guitar practice whilst you wait.

After about 7 minutes, get your frying pan out and heat it with a little oil. I use sunflower oil because sunflowers are awesome.

Throw (gently)as much of the beef mince as you feel you want into the pan. Once you have heated it up a bit and fry the mince until it is a tasty looking brown colour. Now you can add the mushrooms and onions to the mince and mix it all together. Smells good right? Yeah probably.

Continue on your frying crusade until the onion and mushrooms take on a slightly softer quality. Don’t over-do it though. I burnt the onion once. Nasty.

Ok now add a bit of water to the pan, so it goes up to about a 1/3 of the pan. Now it’s getting more of a stew quality!

Ok so to this bubbling mass of awesome add the tomato puree. The more you add the more tomatoey the end result will be, so add as much as you feel comfortable adding. I usually squeeze in about half a tube. Along with this, add a sprinkle of mixed herbs, salt and pepper to flavour. Also, crush the stock cube between your fingers and sprinkle that over it the food as well. Stir it all together so everything mixes up nicely and let it simmer for few minutes.

By now, the potatoes should be done. If they are, drain them and add them to the frying pan as well, mixing them in nicely with the tasty mess you have just created.

Now all you have to do is serve and eat! I suggest serving into a bowl as it can get quite messy serving it out, but that is a choice I leave to you good reader!

The glorious thing about this stew is that it has infinite variations to fit your needs. Want it more tangy? Add some Worcester sauce! Spicy? Add some chilli! Don’t like beef? Try lamb! Don’t like mushrooms? Why not try sweetcorn!

This amazingly badly written recipe could be the start of a new and exciting cooking experience for you. Also, it has the added bonus of being able to last for a few days so if you make too much you can put some in your fridge and heat it up again the next day, saving you from having to do all that pesky cooking again and allowing you to focus on the more important things in life. Like television.


DISCLAIMER: Richard is a terrible cook. It is probably advisable to completely ignore this recipe and ask someone who actually knows things. Or just get take away.


Richard’s Guide to Every Exam He Has Ever Done Ever

Today, I finished my last ever exam at Portsmouth University! Hooray! Back to bed for me!

BUT before I go back to ‘slobbing around’ as my mother so eloquently puts it, I thought to celebrate this momentous (and long awaited) event, I would describe every exam I have ever done ever and how I felt whilst I took them. Don’t worry. I’ll keep it brief.

Richard’s Guide to Every Exam He Has Ever Done Ever!

Chapter 1 – Revision

Uuuuurrrrgggh. Revision. No one likes revision. Going over stuff you have already been taught again and again and again? That sounds like someone’s definition of insanity

Generally, I try to avoid revision at all costs. I don’t like it. It’s boring and it makes me grumpy. My girlfriend had to keep a constant eye on me whenever I was revising for this latest exam. Whenever she left the room, she would unsurprisingly find me doing something completely different. Like trying to say these as fast as possible.

Today I bumped into two friends in town sat on the side of the fountain on commercial road. I went over to them and asked them what they were up to. They looked around guiltily and mumbled ‘Revision’ before showing me their new nail polish and their now multi-coloured nails.( I’m looking at YOU Maria.)

No one likes revision. But sadly you have to do it. So I suggest buying large amounts of chocolate and temper the sour with the sweet. Push on through it. I believe in you.

Chapter 2 – The Pre- Pre-Exam

Revision is done. Hooray! Now you just need to get the exam over and done with! But… where was it again? And what time do you need to be there?

Last night I woke up 5 times. Each time I rolled over, checked the clock (At 4am that is particularly brutal), checked my alarm was still on for the right time, and then went back to sleep.

BEING LATE FOR AN EXAM IS BAD. DON’T DO IT. I am always extremely conscious of when the exam is and where I need to be. Sometimes, it drives me a little insane. Know where to be and when! Be there early! You are only messing it up for yourself if you are late.

I know. Exam scary. No want to go. But you just have to grin and bear it. Ok, you don’t even have to grin.

Chapter 3 –Pre-Exam

The waiting…. Arrrgggh the waiting!

So let’s say you’ve arrived 15 minutes before the exam starts (which is the suggested amount of time). You see your course mates! Huzzah! People who feel your pain! They can empathise with you! Your suffering will be eased for a few seconds!


You are going to talk about the exam. You know it. I know it.

They will ask about what you revised.

They will tell you about what they revised.

What if they tell you something wrong? They will ask you about things they are unsure about. You might not know the answer to their question. You might panic. What if you forgot to revise something? What if you don’t know what the definition of antidisestablishmentarianism is?

What if you are going to FAIL all because of this ONE THING you didn’t revise? Stay calm. Be confident in yourself. Try not to freak out and make it mess up your exam.

Then you are allowed to enter the exam room. A depressed march of lost souls, you all listlessly trudge towards your chosen seats.

Then, the waiting begins again! Yaaaay!

But this time, you can see your exam paper. You can juuust about make out the first question if you stare at the front page hard enough. But don’t touch it. You’ll get in trouble.

Chapter 4 – That Exam thing

Ok now you can touch the exam paper. The invigilator has read out those rules you have heard many times and know almost off by heart, and has said the magic words. YOU MAY NOW BEGIN.

You turned off your phone right?

Wow. Those questions look strange.

You don’t remember revising that.

Oh wait maybe it’s that thing about that thing…. Better look a bit further through the exam paper and see what’s coming.

I always do this. I look through the exam paper, reading all the questions and trying to mentally work out how many marks I can CONFIDENTLY achieve. Then I try and mentally work out if that is enough to pass. I don’t know why I do that, in fact it is quite a waste of exam time now I think about it. But it gives me a little bit more confidence during the exam and if there is anytime you need confidence it is then!

Take the exam paper one question at a time. Nice and slow. You have plenty of time. Don’t get all worked up if you don’t know how to answer a question. Move on. But come back to it later!

Even a random drawing of a squirrel achieving world domination might get you some marks! Never leave a blank space! Although I would probably advise against the squirrel thing too…

Chapter 5 –Post-exam

You finished the exam! One hour early…. Hmm. Sit around and chill for a while then.


Read through your answers again! Do it! I command you!

I know. Boring. But you might be able to squeeze a few extra marks out of that exam! Maybe put a top hat on that squirrel I mentioned earlier. Everyone loves top hats!

So then you ARE finished! Whether it was one hour earlier, right up to the last second or the invigilator snatched it out of your hands whilst you desperately scribbled out your final answer, it is over. No going back.

However, now you get the second batch of fun.

The ‘After’ talk with course mates.

“What did you do for question 5a?” “What did you think of that question about the squirrel?” “I did REALLY WELL in that exam! It was EASY!” “I’m going to FAIL!”

Nothing like a healthy dose of course mates to shatter your confidence in yourself and your exam right as you get out. They might get you questioning yourself, so I advise one thing.

Run. Get out of there. Go take part in your favourite relaxation activity. You have earned it. Don’t listen to them or what they say. You’re awesome.

And that is it really. My experience of every exam I’ve ever taken ever. Ok so maybe it was a bit long. I apologise. But maybe this little entry will help you in your future exams. Help you cope with the stress a little easier. We all have to do exams, so let’s do them to the best of our ability! Oh wait, I don’t need to do exams anymore! Ok, YOU do them to the best of your ability. I’m going to have a cup of tea.

Good luck everyone!

Uni Life

The Big Red Slide

When I was a wee laddie, my family had a summer holiday in Cornwall. Whilst there, I was taken to a place called ‘Ben’s World’… I think. Memory is getting a bit hazy over the years. Anyway, Ben’s World, or whatever it was called, was one of these big indoor play area places, ball pits, climby things, spinny things, runny around screamy things, it had the works. One of the particular things I remember about Ben and his wonderful World of endless screamatunity was the Big Red Slide. Or as I like to call it, the really really really Big Red Slide. Of Death.  It was big. It was red. It was a slide. It was a vertical drop which smoothed out into a long runway for you to come to a screaming, terrifying, heart pounding stop.

Alright maybe my memory has emphasised the slide a little bit.

The aforementioned slide was the main attraction in this place. The children queued to throw themselves off the top of this thing (because, you know, gravity is fun) and not wanting to miss the opportunity, I joined the queue and waited anxiously for my turn. It came a few minutes later when I reached the top of the stairs and was met by a smiling safety attendant who directed my vision towards the large sign beside him, detailing the list of rules which were for my own safety. Do not stand up on the slide. Do not go down the slide backwards. Do not raise your arms on the slide. Do not ponder deep philosophical issues whilst using the slide (Ok that one was fake).  Then, with a smile he told me to ‘have fun!’ and got me to sit down on the edge of the slide. Now, did I mention the size of the slide earlier? I don’t think I did. It was BIG. I realised that as I stared into the abyss below me. I could just about make out my parents and a few other adults at the bottom waving me forwards. Of course I did the only thing I could do. I started to cry, the safety attendant asked if I was alright and then I got up and walked back down the stairs.

That slide freaked me out. It was scary. It was BIG. And there isn’t a day I don’t look back and feel embarrassed that I didn’t just JUMP. It would have been awesome! (Which I found out last year on my 21st when me and few friends when to Playzone which has an almost identical slide!) Now, why am I talking about the slide? Well, it reminds me a lot of my life now. The end of University. I am sat on the edge of the slide, looking into the abyss again. My life, up until this moment, has been timetabled for me. Primary school, Secondary school, College, Uni. I knew where to be, at what time, and what I needed to have with me. But now the timetable has run out. I don’t know what will happen next year, where should I go? What shall I do? Anything I do could end in failure. The thought of it is terrifying. But, I know that I shouldn’t freak out. I could start crying, get up and walk back to my parents and get them to look after me. Or, maybe I could take a chance. Maybe it will be better than expected. Maybe I stride out into the world and find that it is awesome. It’s time to stop being sheltered and protected. It’s time to put on my brave face. It is time to jump.

Clubs and societies, Course, Study

Another one bites the dust (exam, that is)

Phew! It’s been a busy week, and I’m glad to have reached the end of it. You guessed it – it was my first week of exams! And it was a triple whammy. First of all was an essay hand-in for my US Government and Politics unit, where I spent a lot of time researching Obama’s highly contested healthcare bill. I now consider myself a minor expert on the PPACA, or Obamacare is it is better known.

Then was my most dreaded exam – Japanese. I’m pleased to say that a few group revision sessions with my course friends really paid off. Yesterday was the final assessment for my Key Issues in Development unit, which involved writing 2 mini-essays under exam conditions.

So yes, it has been stressful, but the one thing I’ve fortunately always been good at is managing stress. Of course, I could save myself a whole load of pressure if I wasn’t always leaving it so close to the deadline.

In my First year everything was handed in right up to the deadline. This year most things have been a bit of a last-minute panic. So I’m promising myself that next year, my final year, I won’t rush things. I especially don’t want to rush my dissertation, and I plan to make a start on that early in the summer. But that will come after I have completed my last two exams. At least I have a good week to revise before my next test. The only annoying thing is that I seem to have succumbed to a slight cold, no doubt as a result of cramming hard this week.

Oh, if you’re interested in what the units mentioned above have entailed this year, fear not! I shall be giving you a run-down of all my Second Year units in my next post, so stay tuned. And seriously, don’t leave all your revision to the last minute!

Architecture, Course

Apologies and Updates

I should probably begin this post with an apology for not writing for so long. I have a very good excuse in that my laptop spent about a month in the laptop hospital 😦 and then when I returned to Uni it wouldn’t connect to the University internet! All is now well and I have managed to find a gap in my 9 hours of coursework days to fill everyone in!

The research project I mentioned in my last post has been finished and handed in, it took me a while to get going, and then a while to get finished, but alas it was completed with a day to spare and I am awaiting feedback!

Three weeks ago I had the review for my design project which I talked about in a previous post ‘New Project’. We have a review at the end of each project, this is where we have to pin up the work we have done, which are on A2 sheets, and present our ideas to our tutors and fellow students. We use drawings and scale models to explain our concept, its supposed to represent the type of situation you would be in when presenting an idea to a potential client when working in the industry. At the end of the review we get feedback and a provisional mark and we then have an opportunity to improve our work. All of my design work is handed in at the end of the year in a portfolio, which is then marked again to give us a final grade. I am currently in the final stages of completing my portfolio, which is being handed in on May 14th! 5 days! This is my last hand in, so technically, from Tuesday I have completed my first year of University!

Just a quick update for today, I’ll post again in the next couple of days to write more about how I feel my first year has gone!



Everyone Loves Exams!

Now, as many people know, I love stress. My favourite thing in the world. Nothing better (Note: heavy sarcastic undertones). Over the past few weeks I’ve had coursework hand-ins a plenty, presentations which I’ve panicked so much about I’ve ended up bed-ridden with a fever and essays which eat up hours of my days as I desperately try to write something which is barely comprehensible. But that’s all over now. Yay!

Actually what I wanted to talk about was my exam I had last Tuesday and Wednesday. Yep, it lasted 24 hours, which was a weird experience as the longest exam I’ve had previously was 3 hours long. The weirdest thing about this exam was that fact that I enjoyed it. You aren’t meant to enjoy exams! What is wrong with me? My brain must have finally gone doolally (although people have been saying to me that it has already for years… I blame the talking chickens).

The instructions for the exam were ‘download the exam paper at 9am on Tuesday, complete it, give it in before 3pm on Wednesday’. The exam itself was comprised of 2 essay questions which were about 1500 words in length and required lots of research and analysis which is a general requirement for a ‘Games Research’ exam.  Anyway, I came into Uni for 9am (the earliest I have forced myself out of bed for a while), laptop in hand, brain (just about) awake, water bottle filled with life giving liquid should I find myself severely dehydrated, nerves tingling in anticipation for the task ahead of me, I was prepared! Of course I was surprised when 9 o’clock rolled around, I found out that most of my course mates on the same exam where still in bed. This was an exam! Aren’t you meant to be prepared 15 minutes before it begins? Student card in hand, lined with in thin coating of sweat because of the test on your brain you are about to undertake?

Not this exam apparently. Needless to say, when I did meet up with my course mates at about 11 to discuss exam related matters (talking during an exam? Crazy!) I was already well into the first question by about 1000 words. Overall, I think this was my favourite type of exam because, although it was quite testing, I had to research like crazy on certain topics and there was a moment where I had no idea what I was going to write about, the fact it was spread across 24 hours took a lot of the pressure off. I heard someone discussing the fact that exams were a bad way to test people once as it is a completely unique situation. It is very unlikely in the working world; your boss will walk up to you and say ‘You! Random employee! Go into that room and complete a series of questions based on your job here! Oh and you can have no help from outside sources, you cannot take anything in with you and you only have an hour. Go!’ They add factors of stress and panic which can affect your judgement and cause you to forget things which under other circumstances you could recall. This exam though was kind of halfway between exam and coursework. In fact, a course mate described it as like ‘completing a coursework at the last minute, without all the guilt of putting it off for weeks on end’. I like that description.

I finished the exam paper with plenty of time to spare, allowing me to not only sleep (which I didn’t expect to do) but also look over them again the next day and fix all the silly mistakes I put in the first time around. Also, the fact that I spent an hour or so of the exam sat in subway, eating a sub and thinking about this very blog post may have enamoured me towards the exam in ways which other exams could not. Maybe the talking chickens are right, but I think more exams should be like this. I felt challenged, I didn’t stress too much and I got to eat subway. What more could you ask for in an exam?