Monday, 27 March 2017

On being 23 and "potentially" employed...

As you can see from my last post, the latter 1/3rd of 2016 really wasn't doing much for me. At the time of writing (late November 2016) I was still over a month away from being offered the job which I hope to take up in a few weeks' time. Just under a fortnight to be precise! I can't really talk about the details, and it's not 100% yet (until I pick up a visa, book some flights, and pass a compulsory training course...) but I'd say I'm about 95% certain that this really is happening!

Springtime, time for new life, and fresh opportunities. 

I'm extremely excited. And anxious. Maybe in equal measures? I've started having the classic anxious dreams about being chased and being lost in the dark etc., so that must mean something. Either way, change is coming.

I've been trying to make the most of the past couple of months by studying (bits of Mandarin, Hindi and Burmese), reading (a lot) and continuing my water colour paintings! I feel like I'm moving forwards now, although finding temporary work at home has proven really frustrating, despite signing with an agency I've only been given 2 days of work in about 3 months. I've almost completely stopped tutoring for now, as I prepare to go away again.

I'm pretty pleased with this photo! Having flowers around really brightens my mood, and reminds me of the power of patience - you can't force a flower to bloom at your convenience, and if it is not looked after, it will never bear fruit. 

I can't wait for a new adventure, with new routines, people and places. These past few months I've felt quite "stuck" at points, as if I'd stopped growing as a person, and couldn't find much to really be engaged with, as I wasn't really getting on that well with work, yet I was still waiting, and overcoming one obstacle after another to try and land this next job!

Anyway, onto my last point; there's a new blog. On Wordpress again (I know, I know, this was just another shameless plug after all, but Blogger just hasn't kept pace with Wordpress in terms of design features and online community). This new blog won't focus on any particular trip abroad (as has usually been the case) but will be a platform for all of my thoughts on Travel, Education and Personal Development in general. That way, every time I go somewhere else, it won't mean having to do all of the set-up and customising all over again! Plus I might actually gain some more regular followers!

I have to admit, another reason that I'm deliberately starting up a wide-ranging blog is so that I can keep at it whatever happens in the next couple of weeks. I've realised slightly too late that I've really missed blogging as an antidote to uncertain times, and I'm now too busy to launch myself into one time-limited project!

Without further ado -->  New blog link!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

On anxiety, being over 22.5, and unemployed

I could blog about how great my time in China was, earlier this year. About the friends I made, the places I went, the things I saw. If you want to read about any of those things, you can find them here.

However, it's been over four months since I returned from China, and the travelling that I did afterwards (northern Thailand/ Chiang Mai really does deserve the hype...). Since then, things haven't been quite so great. I've made more than 40 job applications, and had over 20 interviews, but I'm still searching for work. I've done dozens of online tests and assessments, written scores of covering letters, and re-drafted my CV numerous times. And it starts to eat at you.

For the first few months I remained calm and patient. I was happy to be back in the UK again, seeing family and friends, plus, I knew that people often searched for a suitable job for "months". That's fine, I thought, I can wait a month or two. But progress was painfully slow. Many of my applications never received any kind of response. Sometimes a company might take a month to get back to me - with a rejection. I started to despair as October came to an end, and I was bored of living at home again and being mildly broke.

Every new months that has come around since August I'd keep muttering to myself "THIS will be my month, I know it, I can feel it". Now December is approaching, and I don't say that kind of thing anymore. There honestly comes a stage when you stop telling friends and extended family about job interviews, and even job offers, because you've become so used to things not working out. I've had a number of "near-misses" in the past four months, and they've been tough. Some examples;

  • Doing what I thought what a good face-to-face interview, after sending in my CV for a vacancy and having a telephone interview. Then I received a phone call asking if I "would like to continue with my application". I was confused, "yes, of course!" I replied. I never heard anything from that company again. 
  • Being really excited that I was about to be paid for a blog article I was writing for a student website. about the benefits of living and working in Asia after graduation. I had written the draft article, and the chief editor gave it the go-ahead. When I sent in the final copy, complete with an infographic that I'd made, I got an email from another editor that I'd never corresponded with before, telling me that the chief editor was away, but my piece had been cancelled, and I wasn't getting paid for the work I'd done. 
  • Flunking out of the Civil Service Fast Stream application after getting rejected after the first round - which was an online "Personality Questionnaire". Awkward. 
  • Being offered a tour-guiding job in China, only for my potential employers to then get back to me by saying that, actually, I didn't qualify for a Chinese work visa after the job was a no-go. 
  • Having to cancel an interview and decline another interview for two different Social-Mobility charities in London, after realising that, with the salary that they were offering, I couldn't afford to eat and commute to London and back for the internships. Irony. 
  • Not getting an interview for a job that I kind of fell in love with (NOTE: Never do this whilst job-hunting, at least until you get an interview, don't even get attached to the idea of yourself in a certain job). The job in question combined Schools partnerships in the UK, Education/ Charity work and SE Asia. I felt like my previous experience matched every specification point on the job description, but no luck there. 
I could write more examples, but there's little point - the purpose was just to highlight some of the many reasons why it's not always as straight forward to find "a job" as people might think. At the moment, I'm technically employed in two different part-time tutoring jobs. But I really do regard these as temporary employment, not something to really base my career on. I've had another two temporary jobs since the start of September, but I only lasted about a month each in each of them. One was in a "learning centre" where the behaviour of the children was so bad (and the disciplinary procedures so absent) that I was too stressed to continue. Another was an online/ Skype job, with a Chinese company, which started out really cool (with me writing for their blog, editing articles and doing product research) and ended with them trying to force me to make sales calls to their UK customers. I refused. I resigned. That wasn't what I had signed up for at all, and no other team members were made to do it.

However, I've actually learned a great deal in these last couple of months. I feel like I've become a stronger person after having to constantly re-evaluate myself after every Competency form, every hopeful application. On top of that, having more free time has meant that I've been able to revisit some old hobbies, and develop some new skills, including;

  • cooking/ baking (especially Thai and Indian curries!)
  • watercolour painting (especially natural scenes, plants and flowers, at this time of year)
  • Hindi (basically revising that things that I knew off by heart in India, this time last year!)
  • Mandarin Chinese (Trying to keep up my current level of reading/ writing/ listening)
  • Reading stuff that I never got round to at uni, Sense and Sensibility, Midnight's Children, and more modern classics like Orange is the New Black.  
I've also learnt some random things from the temporary employment that I have had. I've had to revise aspects of GCSE Maths for Numerical Tests, and for tutoring. I've learnt how to make infographics on different websites, and how to use online software like Trello. On a simpler level, I've even learnt how to use secondary platforms, like LinkedIn, to search for jobs, rather than relying on the already-crowded watering holes of Indeed, and Guardian/ Target Jobs etc. 

Things are looking up. Next month there's Christmas and New Year to look forward to. I'm resigning one of the tutoring jobs that I'm doing at the moment, as I'm not really enjoying it and I don't make that much money from it. I'm also hoping to hear back about some travel grants that I've applied to, and even if they fail, then I'll probably still book myself a trip somewhere nice (somewhere sunny in Eastern Europe? Or I could push the boat out further...Cambodia?) for 2017, so that I can take a real break from obsessively checking my phone and emails, diary in hand. Of course, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that some of the jobs that I;m currently applying for might turn up trumps next month! 

On the whole though, I think one thing that the last 1/3rd of a year has really taught me is that there are a lot of graduates in my position. I had this naive idea all through university (and probably school too) that I'd graduate, and somehow walk into my dream job, whatever that might be. I underestimated the competition, and just how excruciatingly slow the process can be. Yet I also underestimate myself. A year ago, or maybe even six months ago, when I was first sending out those tentative initial job applications, I'd have never believed that I could really learn anything whilst I was living back in my old room, dependent and fairly isolated. But I have, and I'm still learning. Everything happens for a reason, and clearly something is still waiting out there for me, I just need the courage and patience to seek it out. Good things come to those who wait, right?

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

China; 7 days until departure

Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai campus, summer 2014

Whilst I still have a few final details to sort out before the middle of next week (picking up anti-malarials, printing my plane ticket, writing a packing list, getting the name of the place where I'll be staying in Chinese characters etc...) I'm excited to launch my China travel blog, Chinese Whispers, with a theme that I've been dying to try out on Wordpress. See the work-in-progress here;

I'll be updating this blog for the next couple of months, with all of my antics and adventures in The Middle Kingdom (the literal translation of "China" in Mandarin Chinese). I don't know which I'm more hyped about; moving to China for half a year or setting up a new blog to document it all! Can't wait to see how the mosaic-style home page fills with photos and posts in the near future! 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

2016 and what it might mean for me.

I've neglected this blog for far too long.

I'm in a strange sort of limbo at the moment, having been back from India a month, and heading off again in another month.

My noticeboard, which has evolved into something of a Travel Shrine. 

However, a few things to mention before I get into all of that;

  • --> new artsy Tumblr thing, where I'll be posting edited images themed around all things India and travel. 
  • This blog has officially hit 10,100 views! I can't really believe it, the little project I started at the age of 16 to showcase some GCSE Artwork is still going nearly 5 years later. I'd like to think that it's moved on a bit since then, but it remains a sort of hybrid between an online diary of sorts and a notebook of thoughts & ideas for me. Thanks as always to my regular followers, as well as anyone just dropping by (usually re-directed from Google Image searches, as my Blogger stats inform me!)
So, I didn't think that I'd been up to that much since returning from India, but I've actually been quite busy, travelling hundreds of miles up and down the country by train, visiting friends and family before I depart for another 5 months+ jaunt abroad, 

It's important to touch base with people in between these adventures, otherwise I worry that they'll think I've forgotten them. Plus so much has physically happened since they last saw me that I need to fill them in on some stuff (and vice versa) or we'll never be able to catch-up!

And what next?

Well, here's a small hint...

Not quite to scale, obviously. 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Another job, another blog!

So I kind of failed to update this blog and left everyone hanging, about five weeks ago, when I left the UK to start my new job. I had the best of intentions, but life really did get in the way. I'm currently working as a teaching assistant with the British Council's Generation UK-India programme. I'm based about an hour-and-a-bit (precise!) away from Delhi, and you can read all about my new life here;

Apologies again for the lateness of this update! Hopefully a lot will be explained on my new blog, as I try to summarise what has been a trans-formative five weeks, in an absolutely incredible country. Stay tuned!

Follow me!

Sunday, 26 July 2015


So I have a confession.

I've been running from this blog for several weeks. 

By that I mean I've been avoiding it, because I knew that in my next post I'd have to mention graduation (after all, my time at university, and leading up to it has been a constant theme during the past four years of this blog!). It wasn't really graduation that I was dreading talking about, though of course, my family did manage to embarrass me in front of one of my tutors, and I did find parts of the day quite awkward and hard to get through. Why? Because how do I communicate to my family what the past three years in college have meant to me? How can I explain to them the life I lived, which, since leaving Oxford, no longer even makes sense to myself. 

Anyway, what I was really dreading was having to discuss my exam results. And yes, I do have to talk about them, because I've always written a quick comment about my results, through GCSE, AS-level, A-level and Prelims. Let's be real - studying is something I take seriously and for the past four years or so it has pretty much formed a major part of my life. 

Which is probably contributing to the slightly lost feeling I'm experiencing right now, with my job not starting until 5th August, and having literally no work to do, at all, for the first time since I can remember. I digress. 

I'll cut to the chase; after getting a Distinction in my first year exams I really, really, really wanted to get a First in my Finals exams. It didn't happen. 

In retrospect I realise that I was very lucky with my first-year result - I got an average of 68 or 69% and they rounded up, This year I finished with an average of 68% and they didn't. I got a 2:1. 

Graduation in the Sheldonian theatre, not my photo :P
I should start by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a 2:1, it's a good mark and reflects many years of work etc. etc. However, I was especially disappointed as I had achieved a First in a couple of papers, and was 1 mark off a First in my Extended Essay, but was let down by two exams that got a low 2:1. That's the brutality of the Oxford system - you work solidly (as in, almost everyday for 3 years, including 'vacations') and do well in coursework, but ultimately your marks are determined by a week's worth of exams at the end of your third year. If you have a bad couple of days, it undermines a lot of the effort that you put in to the previous 75 tutorial essays.

So, this has been a slightly unpleasant learning experience for me. It has made me re-evaluate my past three years at university - my experiences do not resemble those of my friends at other universities at all - yet I have the same degree classification as many of them. I'm trying extremely hard not to be bitter about the people I know who (having also worked hard) got Firsts, either at Oxford or other universities. This is what it feels like to throw everything at the target, exhausting yourself in the process, and still miss. It hurts. Big time.

I'm getting there though. Several of my friends had exactly the same experience as me - missing the degree classification they wanted by just a couple of marks overall. We're setting ourselves new targets, and telling ourselves that after our first job, no one will care what marks we got anyway. Perhaps that's true.

I felt ill the night before my graduation. What if I was confronted by my tutor? (Everyone in my class had presumed I'd get a First...) What if my peers kept coming up to me and asking about my marks? Would we have to stand up in order of degree classification? Luckily my fears were largely unfounded, though I did have the bizarre experience of staying a hotel room located opposite my third-year room, which was unnerving. I could literally look into the window where I'd spent so many sleepless nights working, and where I'd returned distraught after a couple of disastrous exams...

After some reflection I've realised several important things;

a) Before I came to university I would have been perfectly happy with being told that I would get a 2:1, and do some fun extra-curriculars. I have achieved this,  
b) Before getting my Prelims results I would have been very content to get a high 2:1 overall in my degree.
c) At the end of third year, and even now, I am satisfied with the fact that I came out with a 2:1 and a vaguely sane mentality, rather than suffering any serious mental health problems, for the sake of, and in pursuit of a First.

Onwards and upwards. The liberating thing about being slightly disheartened by my degree classification is that it finally means, after years of schooling and formal education, that life is not just about grades. At moments I produced work that was worthy of a First, but at all times I conducted myself in a ridiculously efficient and studious manner. I completed hundreds of hours of volunteering during my degree, and I tried to consider the welfare of fellow Oxford students, particularly my friends. I rose above a lot of horrible situations and circumstances, and I never stopped trying.

If someone doesn't employ me with this attitude, then they have a heart of stone.

I will talk more about my new job in my next post as I'm aware of how lengthy this one is getting! Stay tuned, I promise the next post will be far more positive! :)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Catania, Sicily

Since being home from Oxford I've been to Sicily for a week, which was a much needed break. Catania made a remarkable contrast to the northern Italian cities of Florence, Pisa and Venice that I'd visited previously. It seemed quieter, less full of English-speaking tourists (like myself and my friends :P) and more traditional in many ways. Our favourite parts of that holiday were eating out in small, street-side restaurants every evening, and grabbing fresh food from the market or bread from the bakery, everyday. Not to mention a day spent hiking on Mount Etna!

Slopes of Mount Etna, one of Europe's most active volcanoes. 

Clouds rolled in just as I was climbing towards the exclusion zone, after getting the chair lift part of the way up. The view on a clear day is said to be spectacular. 

We were pretty adventurous, venturing to a communal (read:free) beach by bus, instead of all of the commercial, private beaches, which blasted music constantly and were packed with people trying to sell us stuff. I saw some Romans ruins, and the best part was how deserted they were. My friend and I were the only tourists there for most of the hour that we spent at one place, and that was a welcome relief at the height of the summer holiday season in Italy.

Ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, which extend below most of the modern-day city of Catania, but are obscured by more recent buildings and roads. 

All in all, we struck a good balance of sight-seeing, beaches and bars. It was cultural enough to feel as though I've learnt a little bit about the history of Sicily, but relaxed enough that I felt as though I'd had a substantial "brain break" compared to the deluge of exam term at Oxford. I even read my first not-for-study fiction book in over two years - a historical novel set partly in Oxford during the civil war. Whether I was lying on the beach with the waves breaking nearby, or sitting on our apartment terrace with the sound of live music floating up for the piazza, the places of 17th century Newport Pagnell, Stony Stratford and London, were never far away.

Piazza Duomo, the main square of Catania and a major tourist attraction due to it's Baroque style architecture, carved from the black lavastone of Etna. 

Despite the deliberately laid-back atmosphere of our holiday, there were a couple of moments that forced seriousness on us. Myself and my female friends received quite a lot of unwanted male attention, which was awkward, as we were literally just walking around buying food, or walking in broad daylight to get to a tourist attraction. Attitudes towards women seemed more old-fashioned, and at times it was uncomfortable to be cat-called at whilst going to the supermarket, or to feel someone tap your backside as you tried to walk past them along narrow streets.

A more imminent crisis facing Sicily, particularly the port towns, is the influx of migrants, mainly from parts of Africa, but we also spoke to some men from Bangladesh, trying to sell us stuff on the beach. As tourists, we were approached on the beach, in the square, or as we ate out in restaurants, and asked to either inspect whatever it was people were selling (usually jewellery, light-up toys, selfie-sticks) or just asked for money outright. It was hard to know what the right thing to do was. No one likes feeling slightly trapped and awkward as someone playing an instrument walks up to you whilst you're eating dinner, stares in your face, continues to play (even if you didn't ask them, and don't encourage them) before finishing their song and holding out their cap, hopefully. The sorrow and despair as sellers, in the boiling heat, walked up and down the beach, carrying their goods on their back, was obvious. The distress of the man who began by singing, but concluded almost in tears as he entreated us to give him money to support his daughter, was very real.

I hope that Europe's leaders reach a more satisfactory, long-term plan concerning the current migrant crisis, because no one deserves a life of constant disappointment and desperation, yet places like Catania seem unable to cope with the current situation. The line of sellers who would attempt to board the bus to the beaches each day, hauling their wares, and often without fare for a 3 Euro bus ticket, was depressing. I don't like to end a post on such a sombre tone, and this blog isn't normally used for serious blog posts, but I feel as though to talk about "my holiday in Sicily" as a one-dimensional, happy affair, would be to overlook something which I observed there everyday, with my own eyes. I would still encourage people to visit Sicily, as its scenery and old-worldly charm are absolutely pervasive, and tourism is clearly a vital part of the local economy, which appears to have been hit hard by the global recession a few years ago.

View of a church and the winding surrounding streets, from a window in our apartment. 

On a lighter note, it's worth taking a moment to remember that the people I went to Sicily with were some of the same friends that accompanied me to Alicante, three years ago (! It feels like a lifetime since I finished school, but keeping hold of my friendship group at home throughout university is something that I'm very proud of. It's been fantastic to have a constant group of people to come home to from university each term, and share stuff with, remembering school times. It's been even better to keep making new memories with them (the sign of a live friendship) so here's to another group holiday, in another three years, or at least, to three more years of friendship!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Finals and finality

My life. Since March.

Seeing as a detailed summary would be impossible, I've decided that what would be most accurate is a series of photos with extended captions, You add the rest.

Revision strikes :( although note the phone in the HelloKitty phone sock, that managed to break a month before exams, just to add to the already tense atmospherics. 
Don't want to think about the number of hours, from April until the beginning of June, that I spent in silence, and alone. I kept myself sane by doing some volunteering (including residential events) with the University's Widening Participation scheme, as well as trying to keep up with friends. I deliberately avoided any timetabled commitments, but in retrospect perhaps this would have been a good idea. It's alarming how much some people retreated into themselves during exams, to the point where having a conversation which didn't concern exams became difficult, as did they whenever exams were mentioned. This made life, well...difficult at times.
My escape to the....grey English seaside. 
I went to the coast to see my Dad for a much needed week in the countryside. This photo was taken during the Easter Vacation and captures the weather in all its glory. To be fair, walking along the pier was refreshing, at least.
Goodbye to a good room!
My noticeboard display, in particular the chain of photo memories made for me for my 21st, by some of my friends that I lived with. Those photos gave me a lot of comfort whilst working at my desk all day! I'd already pinned up some postcards and stuff to liven up the all-beige colour scheme of my uni room (remember at Oxford we're essentially in halls for all three years, so we're limited in what we can do to our rooms, decoration-wise).
All of the luck
Lovely view from my window, looking onto the back of a collection of strange-looking buildings. Nice cards though.
Exam carnations! 
At Oxford, it's a tradition to wear different coloured carnations to each exam. You wear them pinned to your white blouse, which students wear as part of the Sub Fusc dress code prescribed for official University exams. The first carnation, for the first exam, is white. Then it's pink carnation time until your final exam, when you finally get to wear the coveted red one!

In case you're wondering, your college children (assigned to you as first-years) buy you your carnations, just as you would have brought them for your "parents" when you were in 2nd year (most people have major exams at the end of their 3rd year). The "parent" system sounds odd, but actually it's a great way to introduce students from different years and subjects to each other, so that people feel more connected in college. My college parents were there for me in first and second year when I had questions about the year ahead, and in the same way, my college children  were another group of people that I could do fun stuff with, and receive comfort food packages from during exams!
You can say what you like about Oxford...but it'll still look this good as you're revising. This photo is of a walkway known as 'Dead man's walk' - I don't know why! Maybe the city hanging tree and gallows used to be near here?

Sorry, can't hear you over the sound of the symmetrical stripes mowed onto this lawn...did I hear "perfection"?
Back of Christchurch and Merton college, with some of Christchurch meadow in the foreground. 

Oxford, the beautiful Botanical Gardens. Free entry for Oxford students! I always made an effort to come here in the summer months, meeting friends and getting out of college. Also for the Amber Spyglass references...  

Port Meadow, slightly rugged, and definitely needed in a city as busy and tourist-flooded as Oxford in June. I went here for the first time after my exams had finished, and I literally felt as though my life had started anew. Great place to bring a book and a packet of sweets. Or to sketch the wildlife, if you're as artistic as some of my friends! 
Farewell dreaming spires! It's been cool watching you when I was supposed to be looking at books...
This photo was taken from the cupola of the Sheldonian theatre, where I'll be graduating from in about 2 weeks' time. Again, I'd never been up here before (or up the spire of St. Mary's, which I also ascended) and made the most of my student ID whilst I still good! I'd recommend it as quite a quiet place to get a good view of Oxford's spires. It's indoors, which also makes it a decent call for overcast days.

Another thing that I did for the first time after exams was to play croquet! I surprised myself by being quite good at it (well, for someone who's never played before) and decided that I liked the game, though mainly for Alice in Wonderland references and the sheer cliche of playing croquet as an Oxford student.

I left Oxford with the feeling that I was happy of everything that I'd achieved, but that I was also happy to leave. I've never been one to cling onto places (although I'm sure I'll be more nostalgic when term starts again in October) so I felt like it was my time to go. After finishing exams I had little else to do, with is a weird sensation in somewhere as work-orientated as Oxford. I'll romanticise it in years to come, no doubt, but at times Oxford could be a very challenging place to live though. However, it is that experience that has made me who I am today, and for that, among other opportunities, I am truly grateful.

Monday, 16 March 2015

First post of 2015!

You're never too old for a birthday cake
 Ok, so I feel pretty bad that it's taken me until mid-March to post this year. I think that I always intended to post at some point in January, but then I was behind with coursework, hurried back to university, and literally didn't really stop until Friday when term ended and I handed in my undergraduate thesis! Time flew by, and last term was definitely the fastest term I've ever experienced here, probably because it was sandwiched by important deadlines. Unfortunately, that's a recurring motif in third year, you work towards each deadline, and before you know it, entire months have passed.

I'm especially guilty of looking back over terms and wondering what I did besides work. Luckily I've got my diary and a couple of photos to prove that I did leave my laptop/ the library, but it was genuinely quite a tough term. In eight weeks I did most of the primary research for, and wrote up twelve thousand words, as well as attending some classes for another paper and lectures. So exhausting that I still feel like I'm recovering from it, and the idea of starting revision for my finals exams is...well, overwhelming. I think making a timetable and just listing everything on paper, rather than in my head, will help.

Yesterday I started panicking about how much I had to do, and so instead of a to-do list for revision, I wrote a list of things I've already done; notes summarised, revision cards made, online resources created (I mainly use Quizlet, a free revision-card making website). It was reassuring actually, and I'd recommend it. Now to fill the gaps...
These cheered up my windowsill considerably 
 So my thesis undoubtedly took up the bulk of term, but I did take some time out to celebrate my 21st! My birthday was in the middle of term, which was kind of chaotic regarding work and having a progress meeting on my birthday itself, but it did mean that it gave me something to work towards and look back on fondly as my thesis deadline approached. It feels strange that this will probably be my last birthday here, considering I've been here for my previous two birthdays, and before that I had my 17th at the University of Cambridge as I was on the CUSU Shadowing scheme! Who knows where I'll be turning 22...

When I wasn't working on my thesis I was writing applications for internships and graduate schemes for this summer and beyond. This meant that there was a two week period where I was getting about six hours of sleep a night and spending about ten or eleven hours a day in front of my laptop. It was pretty grim. However, I maintain that it was a good use of time, even if so far I've only had one interview, and one straight out rejection. Rejections can be good, they remind us that we're not superhuman, we have to deal with disappointment in a productive way, and being rejected from one thing means I'll be more grateful when I eventually get something. Also, rejections narrow down my choices, as does the passing of time, so inevitably, I tell myself, I am working towards something, I just don't quite know what it is yet!

The last two years I've been very lucky in that I've had summer internships lined up by mid-March. This year I'm trying to teach myself a lesson in patience, and hope to receive some more news in the next few weeks. I think that I'm particularly keen to get something sorted for the summer because I'm aware that after June ends, I am done with university (for now, as I haven't applied to any Master's programmes) and so 'the real world' awaits. Or something like that. Alternatively, I think I should still be trying to focus on the next six months as a unit of time, rather than thinking that a single internship is going to determine my entire working life.

I guess this is the sort of thing that all final year university students struggle with. Finally I empathise. Dividing my time between applications, coursework and having a vague social life is hard, but I think I did the best that I could at the time. Now I've just got to see how it all pays off.
Exeter college chapel
The last few days of term were a welcome relief. I handed in my thesis and could enjoy doing non-work things completely guilt-free. I went to a concert (which took place in the chapel pictured above), drinks, and meals out without going over thesis edits and grammar corrections over and over again. I could at last talk to people about something which wasn't the subject of my thesis. It's made me consider just how 'free' I'll feel once my exams are over, but at the same time, I've now experienced that weird emptiness that comes with handing in a large, soul-consuming project. The last few days have been oddly difficult precisely because I don't know what to focus on now, my exams are months away and I'm finding it hard to concentrate on work again since term ended, and my mind, if not my body, still feels tired.

I know I'll find a way, eventually. I know that most final year university students feel like this at some point. Being bored and distracted is just as hard as being overwhelmed with things to do, and thus also distracted. In the same way, it's easy to forget about the long-term (e.g., in three months' time, my exams will have ended and I will have something planned for the summer). I've also become obsessed with checking my emails every half an hour in case there's any news. I think the next step is to set myself small, achievable, short-term goals, by day, by week, by month and then up until the end of this vacation.

Better get to it!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Guess who's back (back again?)

Third Year, and its pros/cons

*quick note on photos, I haven't got a digital camera at the moment, so I'm waiting to finish up with my current disposable one before I can get it developed. Hence I don't own any of the photos in the following post, they have been shamefully taken from friends' Facebook pages!

Ok, so this term has been tough. There are quite a few parallels with first year, to be honest;

a) the return of the feeling that you actually have no idea what you're doing
b) the tendency to return to familiar friends/ things rather than try to find new ones (although this isn't entirely true, obviously)
c) the desire to go home and cry about how much work you have to do can be overwhelming 

Just kidding about that last point.

Well, kinda.

So I did actually find that the work/life balance was harder than it had been in 2nd year, or at least. the last half of second year, This basically has to do with the fact that I am spending more time solely on work this year, due to the fact that 100% of my degree is based on my 3rd year performance. There was also the added challenge of the fact that the day before term ended my new thesis supervisor casually informed me that I should probably be on the hunt for new primary sources, seeing as my current proposition probably wasn't steady enough to support 12,000 and original insight etc. I#m trying to tell myself that this isn't the same as starting from scratch's hard to deny that it'll be a lot of work until it's handed in.
Yes, our sports field really does look like this when the sun sets. Problem?

It really is a return to first principles then, I feel like I have, in many ways, come full circle. Just as I felt like I was getting the hang of this whole uni thing, suddenly I feel like someone came along and took the bottom out of the swimming pool I was wading in.

For anyone reading this - don't be scared. The fact that I've worked the hardest I've ever worked during my final year of university is really unsurprising, It's like the fact that I'd always worked "the hardest I've ever worked" every year at school, as I went through GCSEs, AS levels, A2s etc. Although GCSEs were slightly different because there were just SO MANY exams that summer, about 25 hours in total if I remember correctly.

At least there's only 15 hours of exams next June, yay!

Christmas formal

Now for the positives, I had to get my kicks somewhere. Here are some of my highlights of the last term, so that when I look back on this post I don't think that I just spent the last eight weeks completely miserable;

> Movie nights with friends including a copious amount of sweet food. So simple. So satisfying.
> Watching The Imitation Game with flatmates, at the cinema. Yeah, I cried.
> Going to see a student performance of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (they did the same as the Golden Compass film really, covered all of the plot from Northern Lights and then half of The Subtle Knife). There was a fake snow machine and paper mache heads for the daemons. Need I say more.
> Seeing the Japanese studio Ghibli film The Wind Rises with subtitles. Shown in a lecture theatre, by good old-fashioned projection.
> College Christmas party. Chocolate fountain, photo booth and the chance to dress up whilst listening to live Christmas music.
> That time I was having a bad day and the Christmas tree was put up in the middle of the library quad (ditto the time that I was sick of work, checked my post and had received a chocolate bar from an anonymous friend - and all of the times I know for an actual fact that my friends hid chocolate in my kitchen cupboard!)
> The Christmas tree in kitchen quad that was decorated with food including lemon slices and chili peppers

NOT the food Christmas tree from my college, sadly. This is the big one outside Balliol, on Broad Street. 

I still managed to do some stuff outside of studying and having an (albeit infrequent) social life. This included a photoshoot for the new undergrad prospectus, helping to run a stall at Fresher's fair, volunteering in the museum that I know live opposite, and even a quick morning of office work for the department I often volunteer with at university.

Songs that got me through term:

Nope, definitely not a record of the latest trends, nor are they really modern classics. Just what I've found featured highly on my Youtube watch history. 

John Legend - All of Me

MAGIC! - Rude

Kate Rusby - Village Green Preservation Society

That's all I can think of for now, I think this post is long enough. I might update again quickly after Christmas, but we'll see how it goes :)