May Blog Challenge

The next challenge will be about your university journey. If you are finishing this year how have your experiences shaped you since you first started those many years ago! Are you more mature? More independent? Did you overcome any obstacles to get to where you are now and what new things have you experienced? If you aren’t in your final year write about your journey so far and if you think things will be different when you finally do finish university.
Make your posts engaging and be honest as well as encouraging. Is there anything you wish you could have done or glad that you have accomplished? This is a chance to reflect on your time here.
This challenge is due on the 29th of May but I am aware that many of you would have gone home by then and may not be able to collect a prize so let me know if you would like the challenge to end sooner.

F is for Fuelling Your Mind …

Revision is upon us and exam dates are drawing near. It’s time to focus, this is the last push for me to get the grades I really want. I am revising so much and with four exams fast approaching, the pressure is on.

The best part about revision is getting the new pads of paper and the colourful pens, so go and treat yourself to a whole new load of stationery. It makes revision more fun and also gets you out in the sunshine for a little bit. I have bought a new A4 pad of paper and two smaller books along with 4 new funky coloured pens to categorise my revision. My a4 pad is for my mind maps, writing down all the little bits of knowledge and notes I have from the lecture slides and seminar notes. Its important to get definitions down with correct citations for easy marks in the exam, so these are listed in one of my smaller books. Then I have questions and answers on everything I have revised to test myself later. This method is working for me as the repeat writing is letting the knowledge sink in.

Revision is a personal process as everyone learns differently. This is the time to find something that works for you and stick with it. For me, being organised has really helped – I have given myself enough time, to revise for all 4 exams allowing me to carry out about 3 hours of revision a day. Which is enough for the brain.

Fuelling it is important, drinking lots of water allows your mind to stay focussed and concentrate on the task at hand. This also means more wee stops as mini breaks which helps digest the information. Don’t cram to much in at one time, I find you just don’t remember it. Eating healthy is much better than pigging out on the junk food which everyone does at revision time. A piece of fruit will go much further than a chocolate bar especially when we are sitting so much! Which brings me onto exercise! Exercise makes me feel more energised and allows me to remember more, so go for a walk round the block, go to the gym for an hour, go play football with your mates. Just don’t forget to make time to revise.

Friends and group revision will also help, I find teaching others, teaches myself. By breaking down the information makes it easier to understand and more memorable. It also makes it a lot more fun as you can have a gossip whilst revising!

These are your exams, you have to sit them, its going to be your result at the end of the day, so only you can prepare yourself. If you haven’t start yet, I suggest you do now! If you have, well done! Keep going, your so close to the end. Just think this time next month …


M is for Managing your Money

This month’s blog challenge is to write a post on a topic starting with the first letter of my name – M. So what better to talk about than Money? I know the year is almost over, and this post should probably have been written back in September before everybody spent all their money, but maybe some of these tips can be useful for next year.

One of the greatest challenges we face as students is learning how to manage our money. Once the student loan gets in it’s tempting to run off to the nearest shop and spend it all, but rent and bills need to be paid and there still has to be money left over to live until the next batch comes in. So here are some tips that I’ve found useful trying to make ends meet as a student and being able to save some money along the way.

Keep a budget
Some people think budgets are overrated, but I myself find them quite useful. A budget can be monthly or weekly, and it’s a nice and structured way of keeping track of your expences.

The budget doesn’t have to be accurate at first. If you are doing a monthly budget you can plot in how much your rent and your bills are every month because you may already know how much you have to pay. For expenses such as food and shopping you can write down how much you think or plan to use. If you keep your recepits until the end of each month you can calculate how much you actually spent and see if you stuck to your budget or not. Weekly budgets can be useful, too, because you can add in exactly what week you need to pay your bills.

There are countless budget apps for both iPhone and Android which you can download and keep handy on your phone. Personally I like sticking to spread sheets and use Excel for budgets. Here are two examples of a weekly and a monthly budget plan that I’ve made for my own use. You’re welcome to copy them if you like.

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Plan your meals
Student or not, food is always going to be something you need to spend money on. I’ve found that planning my meals every week has helped me save money in the long run. I’ll sit down once a week and plan what to have for dinner a week ahead and write a shopping list of what I need to buy. Then I do one weekly shopping and try to pick the cheaper options where I can, and shop on sale where I can. I use MealPlan for iPad to keep my meal plan. I’ve tried different apps before but found this one to be good because you can save recepies you use often and it will create a shopping list for you. Quite handy!

Another tip is to bring packed lunches and avoid buying that coffee from Costa every morning. Spending £4 on lunch five days a week easily adds up… Imagine how much money you can save on bringing packed lunches.

Explore deals and sales
There is a lot of money to save on basically everything if you know where to look. Get a railcard if you travel often by train. Get a NUS card to save money on clothes, food and so many other things. Even though you have to pay for these cards it will save you money in the long run. And only but Domino’s on 2-4-1 days. Go out on student nights. Subscribe to your favourite shop’s e-mails and great sale codes might just pop into your inbox when you need them to. There are always deals somewhere!

Start a savings account
And put a certain amount off every month. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Even saving £5 a month will get you £60 at the end of the year. That’s £60 you can to spend on whatever you like or keep on saving.

Chose wisely
One of my friends told me that when she want to save money she picks two things we want to do that week and make herself choose one. So for example: do I want to order pizza tonight, or do I want to go out on Friday? Say you choose to go out on Friday. Then you would take the money you normally would have spent on the pizza and put those in the savings account. Do this once a week and suddenly a little sum of money will start to build up.

Sell stuff
Have stuff you don’t need anymore but might be useful for someone else? Sell it! If you can get money from it, it’s worth a shot. Try selling it to a friend or advertise it on Facebook or a sales website.

Buy things used
Do you really need to buy books new? Maybe there is money to save in buying them used. E-books are also cheap these days so check out the Amazon Kindle app, you can download it to any laptop, tablet or phone to buy and read e-books.

Save on transportation
Transportation cards and taxis are expensive, so try to walk or ride a bike as much as you can. Not only do you save money, you get fit too! Portsmouth students are also lucky enough to have a free uni bus so, which is great if you live far away and close to a stop.

Go to classes
You did actually pay to go to university, so it might be a bit of a waste not showing up to lectures. It can also save you money if you pass the exam, you don’t have to come back in the summer for resits, or repeat your year.

Go home for holidays
This might be a given, but a ticket home for a week might be cheaper than a week’s worth of food. Maybe some time with mum and dad can help you same some money. And possibly earn some if you pay a visit to grandma while at it.

Get a part-time job
If you do need that extra bit of money, you can always get a job a few hours a week.

Hopefully these tips have been a bit useful, good luck!

Coursework, Study

R is for Referencing (& all things dissertation)

Yes, it’s that time of year! The deadly dissertation hand in!
Whilst I’ve spent my Easter (and months before) planning and prepping for my dissertation it’s now that I’ve actually found myself sitting doing it. Finding relevant references, citing them (for some reason this brings me more joy than it probably should!), justifying them and then trying to make it sound a bit more academic; not much of a wild Easter but – don’t fret – I am counteracting it with eating lots of Easter eggs and seeing my friends during my breaks!

For those of you not doing your dissertation at the moment this might be overwhelming – or maybe you don’t know what it is. Well I’m here to give you my top tips:

  • Start early
    Every single third year doing a dissertation will tell you this. Start now. (Unless you’re in 1st year!) Having your idea and research done quickly will motivate you more and won’t leave you in a last minute panic
  • Get your head round the ‘lit review’
    It’s tricky. Few people enjoy doing it. But it has to be done. 1000 words (give or take) about who else has studied the area you’re studying in.. When you want to get into the nitty gritty of your own topic it feels like a pointless/annoying process but it’s relevant! Learning how to write it earlier on is better than struggling later
  • Do something you enjoy
    This is the biggest downfall. You could choose a topic you think is easy to write about but if you find it mind-numbingly boring then don’t do it! You’ve got to write 6 to 12 000 words on it so make sure you’re in love with the subject!
    I chose to base mine on creating and marketing a welfare broadcast for the students and community of Portsmouth. Now I love TV, I love live broadcasts and I wanted to do something to help people; I think (finger’s crossed) I’ve achieved that!
  • Learn how to reference/cite
    If you don’t know how to reference or cite in text – learn now! You will have anywhere between 20 and 200 references for your dissertation and citing each of those is going to be a nightmare unless you learn how to do it properly. In my first year I could never reference but I learnt and now – inner geek coming out – I love it and it’s one of my favourite parts of academic writing!
  • Ask for help
    Your supervisor is here to help you; to bounce around ideas, how to actually get down to writing, if you change ideas.. that is what they’re there for! And if you feel you want more academic support there are so many places you can go in the University for academic skills help. This is a huge unit towards your final degree mark so don’t be afraid to ask for a second, third and even fourth opinion!

Dissertations are difficult; there’s no doubt about it. But it can be done; make sure you take breaks, socialise, get some air. Find yourself a motivator to get it done – if it’s 1 square of chocolate for every 100 words or maybe it’s 1hour of a tv show for every completed chapter – give yourself a treat that suits you.

And to round this off a bit of shameless plugging with my artefact for my dissertation called ‘Mind Matters’. Make sure you check it out as it’s 5 months of planning, filming and scripting all rolled into one!


Easter Break

So, it has been a while since I post anything here! Well, sometimes the University takes lots of time and effort from us. But now we are in the middle of Easter Break, then I took sometime to talk a little bit about what I have done so far!

Because it’s Easter, everybody start to think that I went home to see my family, celebrate the Easter with my beloved ones, but this did not happen at all, I can’t go back to Brazil until I finish everything here in the UK, so I did a trip of two weeks in Netherlands and Belgium. I can say these countries are really amazing. If you have the opportunity to go to these places I really recommend to do it. The city of Amsterdam is just one place where you can find amazing museums and canals. Part of the city was just built more or less 10 years ago, because they need space for more people and don’t want to change the style of architecture. I have been in 5 cities in these fourteen days (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Ghent, Bruges and Brussels) each one with its uniqueness. I could pass all day talking about these places. But I need to be fast.

After passing by these places which have changed even more my way to see the world, I came up with some little joke, I picked-up my second name and did a list based on the letters of my name about what and how to do a trip and don’t regret about anything. This is a list for me, but you can use if you want. Follow the list:

R – Remember the experiences you have lived.
E – Explore each place with an open mind.
U – Uniqueness, each visit in a place even when you already have been there will be unique.
E – Expectations, go without any expectation once the weather or even the city can surprise you.
L – Live every day of your trip like this will be the last one, so you will never be regretful.

See you next time!