Coursework, Future, Student, Study, Time Management, Uncategorized, Uni Life

Tackling the Dreaded Dissertation

I shall begin by letting you know my dissertation is almost definitely different to yours. Mine is split into two halves, both worth 50% of my final grade. My first half, a 10,000 word creative piece, was due in December. The final half is my essay, due at the end of April, like most other courses. Luckily this submission is only 5,000 words!

Having already done the bulk of it in December and receiving a good mark in January I feel I am in a good position to discuss how to tackle them! I am well on my way to finishing my first draft of April’s submission now and am finding myself with even more tips for the essay.

1. Start early!

You will hear stories about the girl who did it in 16 hours and still managed a 2:1. Okay, maybe that girl was super-woman and managed it but chances are she’s lying. Start reading and making odd notes over the summer between second and third year. Buy a journal/notebook and start noting things down – potential questions, interesting points on the subject area, a little reading list, the occasional quote you’ve found, chapters of particularly useful books (ANYTHING).

2. Read! Read! Read!

You cannot write if you do not read. Start collecting some useful books or at least titles you can look up. Use the library website to search for books, journals and articles which may be of use and write them down in your notebook. Print articles off and get highlighting! Once you’ve done the reading you can start the writing. Little and often, little and often.

3. Pick something you’re genuinely interested in.

This is so so important. How on earth are you going to write 10,000+ words on something you don’t care about?! Don’t dread writing your dissertation because you aren’t interested in what you’re writing about – that’s no fun! Pick a topic which you can’t wait to find out more about, pick something you are motivated to research and make your essay something you’d want to read. Don’t see it as a chore but as something you actually want to do. I am excited to learn more about my subject. The beauty of dissertations is that you can pretty much do whatever you want, within reason. You can tailor your research and question to a topic which you are enthused by.

4. Do the bibliography as you go along. 

DO NOT leave the bibliography until the end. It will seem like such a chore! Portsmouth has an absolutely incredible referencing tool – so good that other Universities use it! So make the most of it! If you haven’t got to grips with it yet this tool is sure to help you – it’s a real life saver. You can compile your bibliography before even writing your essay. Every time you read something put it in your bibliography, fully referenced. That way, when you are writing in your essay, it’s already there ready and done. You can always keep adding to it and if you find you don’t read a source you thought you would then just take it out.

5. Make a note of where you found quotes.

This is crucial and I, along with many others, have fallen into this trap too many times. I was determined not to make life difficult for myself with this ever-so-important assignment. When you find a quote and copy it into your journal or word document ensure that you know the author, date and page number for citing. There is nothing more frustrating than having a perfect quote but no idea where you found it, or knowing it’s somewhere in a 500+ page book with no hope of tracking it down again without reading the entire thing cover to cover. If you don’t make note of where you got it, that quote will then be unusable and wasted.

6. Book as many tutorials as you possibly can.

All courses are different. With some you may only be able to show one draft, but with others there may be a lot more flexibility. I was able to book pretty much unlimited tutorial slots and took full advantage of this. The more feedback you have before the final submission, the more likely you are to do well.

7. Create a document or page in your journal with loads of useful quotes divided into sections/topics to use at ease when you are writing.

I have found this to be so immensely helpful. Whilst writing now if I need a quote I just consult my document with all my useful sources in. I simply copy and paste the most relevant one out of my already carefully selected quotes. Making this document is a good place to start before you actually begin writing because that way you have everything already ready and set out for you.

8. Take breaks!

The beauty of starting early means you have lots and lots of time. It is so important to take regular breaks away from you work so you can come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind. It will be much easier to proofread and to improve it if you’ve taken a step back. Work on it solidly for a week then leave it be for a week and come back to it. Breaks are incredibly healthy and will make the process feel a lot more natural and easy.

Good luck everyone, if you’re halfway through yours now or you’re just looking to get an early start on next years!

It is with a heavy heart that I remind you this is likely to be the last thing you will ever write for submission at the University of Portsmouth. Enjoy it!

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Course, Portsmouth, Student, Study, The city, Uni Life

First Year in a Nutshell

Exactly 419 days ago I travelled a fair few miles down to the South coast of England to embark on a new chapter of my life. I waved Goodbye to my family, Goodbye to my friends, Goodbye to food, Goodbye to sleep, Goodbye to all sense of sanity and settled into a new city that would be my home for the next three years.

20150913_123544I had soo much stuff!  It was a struggle to get it all in the car #throwback

This was the first time I had ever really been away from home by myself so I was a little out of my comfort zone. Although I was well-equipped with how to look after myself I had never cooked a proper meal in my life nor had I ever had to do everything for myself, so it took a bit of getting used to.

I must point out that I was also one of the few that unfortunately didn’t get a place in the university halls so I was even more nervous as I was quite a walk from the University and had no idea where anything was. Google Maps definitely helped me through my first few weeks and by then I had scoped out the area, found my University buildings and the local shops.

The city itself was a little different to what I was used to, it was a lot smaller and I soon noticed that aside from the mass of students it was very quiet. I rather enjoyed this though, it made life seem more calm and relaxed.

Freshers week was a real laugh. I didn’t go overboard but I still had tons of fun. I loved the fact that everyone was so open and talkative, happy and enjoying themselves, living in the moment. I met a lot of people from different parts of the UK which was quite nice and some of whom I’m still friends with now. I would encourage everyone to go and have fun, that’s what freshers is all about! And if the freshers parties and club events are really not your thing, you can still go the freshers fayre and attend the variety of society tasters they have going on.

After a couple weeks I had settled into a whole new routine, met some wonderful new people and got stuck into my course. At first, I admit I found my course rather challenging. It is quite a difference to Sixth form or College but more in terms of teaching than content in my opinion. A lot of my first year units built on what I had already learnt so having that foundation made it a lot easier. I’d say the step up from College to University was fitting in terms of my course, especially having done such relevant A-levels (Biology, Chemistry, Maths). The assignments were quite time-consuming but I found them rather enjoyable. I loved doing more research and learning more about different areas of my course. If anyone is debating University because of the work load the only thing I’d mention is that you do have a lot of time. By far a lot more than I had at College. It does depend on the course, but most of the time university hours are equivalent to only 3 days a week.

Although I spent a lot of my free time going out and having fun with my friends I was often found in the library hard at work, especially close to exam time. I managed to finish with the equivalent to a 2:1 which is pretty good.

A year and a half later and here I am. In contrast, I can now successfully cook myself dinner (and I promise it’s not just pasta everyday), I’m managing my schedule pretty well, aiming for a first class grade and almost half way through my degree which I must stay is pretty scary. It’s definitely gone by quick. I’d stay that the first year was quite a learning curve for me and so i’ll leave you with the three most important lessons I learnt…

1. Stay true to yourself

You’ll meet tons of different people, from different upbringings and with different morals. Some people think that they have to change to fit in but University gives you the platform to express yourself, and be you. There is something for everybody. You can still be you and do your own things, just in a different surrounding with lots of opportunities to do things you’ve always wanted to do.

2. Make the most of it

You’re not going to be at University all your life (unless you decide to study forever and become a lecturer) so make the most of the time you have there. Try different things, go out, explore, maybe even join a club or society. One day you’ll look back at your University days, so make it something to remember.

3. Don’t forget what you’re there for

Coming from experience it’s important to keep the right balance between work and play.

“Work hard, play harder”

There is nothing better than celebrating success. Having a good night out after finishing exams or finally handing in that assignment. But don’t be that person with nothing to celebrate.

Hope you enjoyed my post, See you soon 🙂

Antonette

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International, Portsmouth, Student, Study, Time Management, Uni Life, Uni services, Work experience

6 things International Student needs to know

For most international students, coming to study in the UK can be exciting, or intimidating. In order to enjoy both studying and living abroad, it is crucial to be fully prepared. After staying in Portsmouth for 8 months, I’ve spoken to a number of international students and marked down a few things that international students have to think about before arriving in the UK.

  1. Research

It would be good if you speak to anyone already in the UK or the alumni from your country. I’ve asked my friend who is a graduate from the University of Portsmouth and she helps me a lot in the process of applying the course. The next step is have a look on the University website for an idea of the things you might need to consider. Besides, don’t be afraid to contact the university directly to ask about the course details or other arrangements. Besides, there are always local advisers or agencies that provide details on studying in Portsmouth. Learn about the clubs and societies here at the University of Portsmouth.

2. Be academically prepared

If English is not your mother tongue, try to improve it to a level where you can feel confident about using it both academically and socially. Check out Global café in Park Building on every Wednesday, you will be able to meet friends from all over the world.

3. Working in the UK 

International Students usually pay a higher tuition fees than domestic students. Luckily, the Purple Door supports students to find jobs or career planning. Getting a part-time job not only provides some extra money, but also an opportunity to extend your networks and improve your language skills.

4. Student accommodation
Accommodation is one of the most important things that you’ve to concern about because this is where you’ll spend most of your time, meet your first friends and where you have to sleep! Normally you will get into student halls as an international student, here are some advice on choosing student accommodation.

5. Freshers’ Fayre

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This is a week held at the start of the academic year which involves all the way from induction to huge bar crawls, find your way around your campus, clubs and societies and start to get used to living in the UK. As an international student, you’ll find some particular events that are designed for international students such as coach trip to Brighton or Oxford.

6. Finally, the Weather

The weather in UK is unpredictable. Even if the sun is shining, rain clouds can quickly appear and result in short, heavy downpours. Make sure you bring appropriate clothing and always carry an umbrella (even though sometimes it’s too windy to use an umbrella).

 

 

As always, feel free to ask questions or add anything else in the comments below. 🙂

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Study, Uncategorized

Why you should study a language

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Practicing Chinese characters

Studying a language can be very rewarding. Not only will you be able to communicate with people from a different country than your own, you can get an insight into a whole new culture. I studied Chinese as a part of my degree, and it has been a lot of fun getting an insight into Chinese culture and society as well as understanding the language. Here are some reasons why you study a language, and how you can do it at Portsmouth.

It’s not as difficult as you think
Many think learning a new language is very difficult, and this stops them from doing it. But if you use the available resources around you it doesn’t have to be that hard. You can find language classes at the university, and possibly in private collages and evening schools around the country, or you can try and find a tutor who is willing to help you. Make friends whose first language is your target language. And you can also explore the vast range of language learning apps such as DuoLingo and Memrise.

Empower your employability
Knowing a second language can be very helpful when applying for a job. We live in a globalised world where more and more jobs are international. If you know more than one language it can sometimes lead to your dream job. It will definitely add something to your CV.

Discover a new culture
Knowing the language of a culture you might be interesting means you can actually feel and be a part of it. As your level increases you will be able to understand the jokes and humour, discover new music, foods, art and so much more. My Chinese class were invited to perform Chinese songs and play Chinese instruments at the annual Chinese New Year’s Celebration event in Portsmouth – very fun!

Hulusi

Chinese hulusi instruement

Enhance your traveling experience
Many English speakers seem to think the whole world speaks English so there is no need for them to learn another language. Let me tell you this is wrong. If you enjoy traveling you will definitely benefit from speaking the same lingo as the locals as it can help you connect with them on a different level. You will be able to get around on your own, and hear the stories of the people. It is the best feeling.

Cross-cultural friendships
Building on the previous point, it is a lot easier to make friends on your travels if you speak the same language! It can lead to life-long friendships, memories, and invitations to come visit.

You can live abroad!
If your level of fluency improves, you might even want to try living in a country where they speak your target language to get a better insight into their culture and ways. This is definitely a rewarding challenge for life. Personally I have lived in two countries where they speak languages which are not my mother tongue. And let me tell you, having lived in these countries I understand the banter, the jokes, the culture, and the people a lot better. For example, I remember watching Bridget Jones years before I moved to the UK. And yes, it was a funny film at the time, but it was not until I rewatched it after having lived in England for a year that I realised just how English the film is. All the banter and jokes about Christmas jumpers, etc. I only understood after living here!

Learn a language at Portsmouth
At Portsmouth you can often learn a language as part of your degree, or just for interest. As part of your degree you can have a language in your degree title (like mine does, International Relations and Languages), where the language is a very integrated in the units. This is, however, a very big commitment and a lot of work, so alternatively many can also choose to do a language unit in second year, and I believe this also applies to courses from other departments. The third option is to do a language for interest via IWLP. You start off in Level 4, and through first and second years you can do a language course for interest, not part of your course, for free! Perfect if you aren’t sure a language is something you want to do as a degree! I’ve heard the workload and pace of the course is manageable because the teachers realise you are doing this for interest and that you do have other coursework.

In addition you have the Global Café in Park Building every Wednesday where you can meet language partners and practice your target language.

Harry-Potter-in-Chinese

Chinese Harry Potter books

My tips for learning a language
Definitely attend classes, do your homework, and use your teacher’s knowledge for what its worth. I am a master at procrastinating and leaving everything until the last minute, but you simply cannot learn a language the day before the exam. Language-learning is a curve. It goes up and down, and the more your practice the better you get. Have a look around, Portsmouth is a very international university and people come here from all over the world. So even if the university may not offer classes in the language you wish to study, maybe someone is willing to teach you in their spare time.

Sorry this post is mainly about Chinese but it’s the only language I’ve got experience studying at university. There are, of course, many other interesting languages as well such as Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese!

Do you study a language? And if not, is there a language you would really like to learn?

 

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Free time, Student, Study, Time Management, Uncategorized, Uni Life

A Diary is the Key to Your Organisation

I am by nature the most disorganised person you will probably ever come across. Honestly, I’m a nightmare. I would probably forget my own birthday if it weren’t for my calendar and, most importantly, my diary.

In secondary school you no doubt had a ‘student planner’ which, along with providing great entertainment with games of MASH and doodling, also would have had the scribblings of what you had to get done and on which days.

For Christmas this year I received this absolute beauty, which in many ways resembles our old student planners.

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It has honestly become my life in a book. I carry it everywhere. I haven’t forgotten about a single birthday, deadline, meeting or event this year.

It has a clear plastic cover which keeps it in pristine condition – no dog-eared pages for me! It also has a pocket at the back which I use to keep a few cute little notes, appointment cards and train tickets in. It has two little ribbon bookmarks attached which help me to keep my place. I always have one on the week we are on and one on where I have copied out my timetable in the back.

When you open it you have a 12 month-by-month calendar view, like you would on a wall calendar. This enables you to see the whole month at a glance and very quickly get an idea of what you have on.


Then there are weekly pages throughout. Monday to Sunday take up the left hand page, leaving the right page free for notes. On Sunday evening I write a list in the coming weeks ‘notes’ section of all the things I want to achieve that week and I am yet to fail to complete it. This helps to keep me focused and ensure that, especially with deadlines approaching, I am on top of all my work. I may have seven deadlines in the next few weeks but that doesn’t intimidate me any more because I can break it down bit by bit and I only have to focus on this weeks list. I don’t need to worry about next week. Each month also has its own colour scheme and design down the side and so I am using colour coordinated pens for the months (it’s very satisfying!).

Finally, the back is full of so many useful pages. This includes an address book, birthdays & important dates list, travel planning, space for planning museums, galleries & exhibition trips, films & books, to do lists, a further notes section and incredibly useful tear out shopping lists right next to a recipe ideas section. It’s just perfect and has everything you need!

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So, if you don’t have a diary I strongly suggest getting one. It has been absolute key to my organisation this term and I now couldn’t imagine where I’d be without it. You can almost definitely pick them up very cheap now that we’re half way through February!

 

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Student, Study, Uni Life

I would like to know more about…

Not all students that undergo and complete a BSc will either work directly on the area or dedicate themselves to research. The purpose of completing a higher degree is partly to improve and overcome our own expectations, to know more about the world that is beyond us and to grow ourselves as more educated and conscientious as people.

So, in a way, having this opportunity is a blessing. A true gift! I can still recall the thrill of being for the first time at the university. All the new perspectives, the feeling we had the world in our own hands; a world full of possibilities! Every university has its own agenda. So, as students, we should embrace what each university can provide us.

As a fresh student at the University of Portsmouth I am still learning my ways, but one really amazing thing, especially when you are a student, is the possibility of listening from different researchers or professionals in the area we like the most and understand the range of possibilities we could be headed to or even just to have a better idea of the hot topics going on. An easy way to achieve that is by attending seminars, and it is a great pleasure to understand that our University makes a great effort to provide us with several different ones. You can have a quick look here.

I, as a geology student, attend the SEES seminars, weekly on Thursdays, at 6 pm. I try to go to as many as I can since you never know what cool ideas you could get out of the work that another researcher is producing. Of course, the topic is not always clearly related with my interests or my specific research. However, and especially if you are still an undergraduate student, you never know what you will be working on in a few years, and it might be useful later. And for the time being, it broadens your horizons.

Depending on the School, you might even have an “after party”, a social gathering where people can discuss some ideas and socialize. This will surely happen after a SEES seminar, and at around 7 pm both staff and students will be headed to the Brewhouse and Kitchen, down the Guildhall Walk. It is particularly useful if you want to discuss ideas and ask some questions, either to staff or even the invited lecturer if you are shy or you don’t like to speak out in public. Nonetheless, the purpose for these seminars is to provide a place where people can talk to each other and even make some brainstorming.

In almost two months of Portsmouth, I already had the chance of meeting two different researchers that presented really interesting talks on subjects related with my thesis and afterwards we had the chance to discuss ideas for a long while, which is really great (I feel benefited from it!), enjoying nice beers.

On Wednesdays, for a broader community, we also have the Dynamic Planet Seminars, in Richmond Building at 1 pm and my latest experience was awesome! Even though it was more about hydrology and geography, a kick ass presentation about Antarctica Ice sheet was held and 3D models were presented, so we actually used 3D glasses and we had Antarctica in our room for a few moments!

I still remember how I enjoyed attending Seminars like these in my previous University, but, unfortunately, they were not on a regular basis and the speakers were not often from different parts of the world. Even so, I felt at the time that it was amazing, even though several times, about 80% I couldn’t completely understand and probably 40% I forgot with time.

Have a go, organize your schedule and try to go to as many seminars as possible. ‘Knowledge is never too much’, they say. And you never know what the future is holding.

Have you had a good experience while attending Seminars? Do you find it difficult to keep up? Have a say.

Cheers,

Ines

 

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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!

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