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Charlotte

Charlotte's blog

Charlotte is currently a first year student at York St Johns University studying English Literature. 

Student finance + saving tips

One of the things I have always found most stressful throughout my life is the idea of student finance. Mainly because I am terrible at keeping up to date on what is going in and out of my bank account, so getting into the habit of this has been really important in order to make sure things are paid on time and everything is in order. Once you do get into the habit of organising things and keeping track of where you are at with everything, it gets much easier to deal with your income, what you can spend and when, without needing to worry too much. Worrying should be confined to the minimum so that you don't surpass your stress levels too soon and burn out before exams/deadlines, so it is important to keep those levels low with as much organisation as you can.
 


With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to combine a few tips in this post so that you have an idea of how to keep things going throughout your years as a student. From a student to a student, here are a few of mine:

1. Apply early for student finance 

When I first applied for student finance last year, and this year, I made sure that this was the priority at the top of my to do list. Mainly because the earlier you apply the more likely it is that you will know in a shorter period of time what it is that you will be borrowing/granted. Through this, you can then move on to step 3 and hence also step 4.

It basically gives you a sum to work from and also to find out the dates which are fitting of each of your loan payments (when they will be coming in) It also means that as soon as you arrive at university, all of this will be sorted and ready to go - you will be able to immediately begin your payments and the university will have your information so that you can keep track of everything and make sure you are paying everything that you need to be when you need to be. This saves many a sleepless night, as I said. Applying early, you might think, means that you have to know for sure where you will be going come September time and you don't yet know your grades. This is of course important, as all of this is information that you will need to enter into your student finance application. However, you should also bear in mind that you are always able to save your application and come back to it later to add in details, and should there be any major changes to any of your application once you have submitted it, you can always get straight in touch with student finance in order to amend this.

2. Savings account + student bank account

Savings accounts are life savers - enough said. This is mainly because you can keep track of money which you know isn't part of your loan and make sure you keep it safe and don't over spend. You can also always transfer money from your savings account into your main bank account should you be in need of it. For example, I have to commute back to Manchester on a regular basis for rehearsals, so I have some savings in order to be able to do this. This money I keep out of my bank account so that I can keep track of payments and I only withdraw/transfer money when I need to get a new train ticket. As for a student bank account, I know RBS has been great for this. Basically, with a student bank account you are offered plenty of advice and tips throughout the year about how to keep your finances in good shape and order, and also you get certain privileges too. For instance, you get a free national express coach card which can help you save a lot of money on travelling home or to explore new places - it means adventure is never too expensive and that sometimes you get access to exclusive things, such as discounts from concert tickets, long distance trips around Europe and the like as different opportunities and promotions arise.

3. Do the math in advance + work out a budget 

Once you have looked at student accommodation which you think is right for you, and you have an idea of how often you will be going out or how much money you will be wanting to spend on a weekly basis, you can then sit down with a pen, some paper and all your documents (plus a calculator) and begin to add everything up, starting with a list of all the things you know or think you will need to pay for often.

Working out your general monthly balance and overall yearly income will mean that you can begin to piece together all these separate branches and begin to see everything in one summarised format. Having an idea of what you will have money wise is extremely important as it impacts on the afore mentioned factors, namely where you can live and for how long your tenancy agreement should last. Those details are important as every penny adds up to achieving them so every single one matters. You need to know this in advance, which is why it can be useful to get in as early as possible with finding out this stuff and applying in advance for your student finance. Getting to a level playing field in this scenario is having everything in front of you where you can see it and figure out how to work around any issue that might arise before it occurs. This will save you a lot of precious study and sleep hours in the future - trust me.

4. Find affordable accommodation (and early on!)

Student accommodation can be on the pricier side of things, so finding something within your price range is very worthwhile taking into consideration earlier on. Think of it like this - everyone will have different income (some more than others, some less perhaps) but everyone is going to want to get as much as they can (the best accommodation) for the least amount of income. This is a fair deal, but is also means everyone is going to be fighting for those cheaper accommodation places.

For your first year, I do recommend living in halls or university led accommodation as they are quite well supported systems that can help you out a lot with getting to grips living on your own for the first time and knowing how to manoeuvre everything. They also tend to be the most reliable in terms of knowing where you stand or how to help you out should a finance crisis occur. Despite the price, you can usually find something suitable. Your student loan should support you of course, but something I found useful to do was to email in as soon as I applied to find out which were the cheapest rooms overall to apply for. And also to make sure that the food was semi-catered: this can save you a significant amount of money as it means you don't have to pay separately for groceries really, other than staples and anything you might need over the weekend.

If you just want to find a house outside of college, go for the places which are not too far away but also not too close, or look out for any uni friends who might be leaving their rooms and want to pass the location on to someone else. Of course always check it is reliable first though before you sign any dotted lines - there can be out fees to pay (if you decide you want to leave early or don't want the accommodation in the end afterall) and also check to make sure that bills are included - if they are not, things might look cheap but they definitely won't work out to be so.

5. Keep all of your documents in one place 

My best friend, contrary to what my friends might think, is my important document file because in here I can find everything and anything right when I need it. Things such as my national insurance number, my UCAS acceptance letter and, of course, every student finance document ever sent. This is your proof and confirmation of your identity and funds. Do not lose these or your life will become much more difficult than it needs to be.

I also have a separate shoe box for any form or receipt etc, because these help me keep track of what I am spending, what needs to be cut down on and also to confirm any room payments or the like if any information should be needed by a company contacting me. Keep records of everything - on top of these I also keep a small note book of records of when I paid what and when my money came in to my bank account. Through these three measures, I have a perfectly organised system that is my personal security guard. Keep these things some where safe and together. Then, when you should ever need them, they will be your life jacket.
 
Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
 
If you like, you can click Here to vote for me as Blogger of the Month. Thank you.

24. Student Accommodation: Your First Food Shop

When you first move into your accommodation at university, there are a lot of things that you are going to need to get used to. One of the biggest differences between being at home and living alone is that you are going to have to do your own weekly food shop. Despite everyone helping out at home with the groceries every now and again previous to this point, doing it for yourself frequently and getting used to the budgeting aspect can be quite an unexpected leap to begin with. So don't worry too much if this is something you struggle with at first as we all start out this way and build ourselves up.

In terms of your first food shop once in your accommodation, don't go too over the top - you have all the time in the world to experiment with recipes over the next year. For now though, keep it simple. Here are some of the musts when it comes to stocking up your fridge for Fresher's week:
 
Start with the essentials 
 
1. Plenty Of Fruit + Veg

Fresher's flu is likely going to hit you hard, what with being in a new place surrounded by lots of new people. It's not if you get it but more so when. However that said, I did manage to avoid getting it last year! To give yourself the best chance of a speedy recovery and of keeping healthy, make sure that you are eating plenty of fruit and veg.

You can mix it into your diet subtly (e.g. a few raspberries on your cereal) but be sure to stick to that 5 a day recommendation. You'll feel much more energetic and focused as a result, which is really handy for those tricky early lectures.

2. A Water Bottle

Not so much a grocery but certainly an investment you should make when you head out to the shops early on. A good quality water bottle will save you so much time and money because it means you have free, immediate access to a drink all day long. Especially as there are likely water fountains pretty much everywhere on your campus meaning you have constant free refills! Plus, did you know that hydrated brains are 25% more efficient overall? Something which will definitely come in handy during exam preparation.

If you aren't a big fan of plain water, you can always purchase a bottle of squash so that you can add a bit of flavour to your drinks. I like to keep a jug of water with lemon slices in the fridge to fill up my bottle before class which adds a crisp flavouring without being too heavy to tolerate early on in the day.

3. Milk + Cereal

You're going to be dreading getting out of bed for those early morning lectures by the second week, trust me. Early mornings are never fun, especially if you wake up late and miss out on the chance to eat. Milk and cereal is a traditional go to breakfast for a reason - it is a life saver when you have only 5 minutes to get up and go on a jam packed, ridiculously busy day.

Depending on your budget, there will be different options. Personally, because of my nut allergy, I find the best options available are usually a standard box of plain Kelloggs or Aldi's own (the latter of which is consistently cheap and perfect for a low budget shop). Having a few cereals to choose from can add a little motivation to eating also, so it can be a good idea to have two or so boxes on offer to choose from each day.

4. Eggs

Eggs are another go to for your refrigerated breakfast supplies because there is a never ending number of recipes you can use to utilise them. Fried, scrambled, boiled or in an omelette form, this is one of those foods which is friends to all students. Begin (or end) your day the sunny side up!

5. Bread

Keep bread in for everything from sandwiches to toast for midnight snacks during deadline season. As with the previous two options, there are so many different ways you can mix bread into recipes and it is full of all of those things you need to be getting into your system.

Again, for both health purposes and to keep things a little exciting, it can be useful to have a variety to choose from. Keep brown and white bread in just in case you want to try something else. However this said, bread can be fairly expensive and quickly goes out of date so it can be useful to find a cheap option and stick to it. For those with allergies, Warburtons are a fairly good and reliable brand to stick to as is Hovis.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.

It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

23. Packing - 10 Things For Your Uni accommodation

Heading off to university for the first time is quite the experience. There will be excitement and nerves alike. There will be new things to experience and lots of people to meet. Unfortunately, there will also be packing - and lots of it! When packing, prioritise and plan in advance so that you are well organised. For me, finding the pros + cons in advance of everything I want to take it makes it much easier to decide on the final list. This way you won't end up taking too much.

However, if you are struggling to get a head start then you're in luck. Tried and tested on my own moving days, here are the 10 items which are must haves when it comes to your student accommodation.
Make the space your own 

1. Clothes

You're going to be living in your new place for the foreseeable future, so it's important to keep it seasonal. Pack everything from shorts to a rain coat (it is the UK after all).

2. Clean Sheets + Linen

Usually duvets and pillows will not come with your room unless this is something you have specifically requested and paid for in addition to your rent. Purchasing these things to take with you, along with some clean sheets and linens is one of the most important things you'll need to take with you.

3. Toiletries 

Take the most important toiletries and pick up the rest (toothbrushes + face wash) once you are in your new area to save space. If you are on any medication, this of course should take priority. Though that said, I can only find my favourite honey shower gel at home so I make sure to take a few bottles of this with me so I don't run out.

4. Laptop + Technology

Make sure you have a good laptop bag and an up to date device on which to do all of your class work as this is something you will be using on pretty much a day to day basis for your assignments (as well as for your personal browsing). Also make sure that you have necessary wires to charge all of your technology.

Tip - use sandwich bags and pipe cleaners as cheap organisational tools.

5. Books, Stationery + School Supplies

Be sure to take those key reads and text books so that you have everything you will need for your lectures. Whilst you're waiting for the Wi-Fi to work, it can be a useful time to catch up on some of that reading in advance. And you will of course need your pencil case and stationery supplies which will make for the perfect excuse to go shopping!

6. Pots + Pans

Again, only take the mandatory kitchen supplies so that you have the pots + pans in the cupboard ready for you to make meals. This one is optional as you will be able to go out and get the necessary kitchen essentials once you arrive. I found this useful as upon my arrival, me and my flat mates decided to share various pieces of kitchen equipment.

7. Important Document File

Any move is stressful because it means losing track of things, no matter how well organised you are. Keep everything from your personal insurance number to your payment letters in one folder and ensure you keep this in your hand luggage so that it doesn't get mixed in with everything else. You will definitely need this in order to enrol and get your student card.

8. Maps + GPS

It's not so much something you can take with you, but just a tip - do some research of the area before you head out so that you have a general idea of where things are before you head out exploring. In addition to this, take a map or use the GPS on your phone so that you can go out exploring. The best way to learn your way around is by experiencing it first hand - trial and error.

9. Money For Groceries

As with toiletries and kitchen supplies, groceries are something which you need but don't really need to take with you. Instead take some money with you (or ensure you have some financial support in the bank) so that you can purchase groceries upon your arrival. In the first few weeks, be sure to look around at the different supermarkets and shops to find the cheapest site for all of your required supplies.

10. Feeling Sentimental 

And of course, you are going to miss home being away for so long so be sure to take along some things to help you make your accommodation into your new home. Feeling comfortable is something you can achieve via taping up posters and photographs of your friends + family. Don't go over the top (otherwise you'll end up taking everything!) but do allow yourself the space to pick out some things to decorate your room with and to help you settle in more quickly.
 
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.
It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

23. On Studying History

When deciding on my modules for study abroad, there was a lot more freedom in choosing a variety of different topics. This is largely due to a cultural difference, because in the UK where students do one set degree pathway here in the Netherlands there are a variety of modules. It's kind of like pick n' mix - you have to get approval for the ones you choose from your teachers back in your home university, but you also get the opportunity to pick out some of your old favourites which you might not have come across for awhile so long, of course, as they remain fairly relevant and you can back up your choice.
 
For me, this meant choosing a lot of historical modules. I studied history up to A level, and part of the reason I decided to study literature at university is because it encompasses so much of history (with the addition of many other topics, from music to art). Yet I've always been curious about what it would have been like to study a history degree, which is why I am very glad to have the opportunity to be practically studying a history degree full time here in Amsterdam. My modules for this half of the semester focus in on the history of biography, grammar and of Dutch culture itself whereas next semester I will switch to a further two modules on the history of capitalism + consumerism, as well as Jewish culture in Amsterdam. All of these modules with their historical focus offer an insight into the world I cannot gain through literature alone and, whilst it is hard work to adjust to the differences and work pace, I enjoy very much getting back to grips with timelines and flash cards.
 
My grandma is a big inspiration to me - Image copyright CLSS 2017
A small project we had to work on for this week was a poster collecting information on a member of our family. I immediately thought of my grandma as, despite every member of my family proving inspirational to me, the world has changed so much during her life time and I was eager to see the contrast between when she was young in comparison to the present day. My grandma (Christine Jane Stevenson) was born in 1948 in the same small town that me and my family have always lived in. Throughout her life she has had many adventures, from travelling and being a part of the Hippie movement to getting to know the musicians who made up The Temptations and The Drifters. 
 
At 18 months old, my grandma caught polio. Due to the war only having ended a few years prior, the polio vaccine was not yet widespread so the illness itself still proved fatal in killing hundreds every year. My grandma was very lucky and was able to beat the illness; One of her earliest memories is of being aided in breathing by an old mechanical device called the iron lung. Because polio is a disease which attacks the nervous system, part of her body is still partially frozen so to speak (she does not have full strength in one arm for example) but with the assistance of a physio school until the age of 5 she was able to make a strong recovery and return to a normal state led school. My grand dad showed me once a reference from her head teacher stating that 'Christine has never once used her disability as an excuse'. 
 
So my grandma comes from a time when the world was different. She was born when rations were just coming to an end, she was brought up playing rounders and learning how to sew, she was part of the hippie movement and she was a military wife. But to me, she is grandma. She is the woman who taught me that everything from a disability to a nut allergy is not a hindrance but is in fact a blessing in disguise, so long as we look at them that way and don't allow our eyes to get too misted over. And she is the person I aspire to be in every way because she is the most intelligent, and yet most humble, human being I know. I am incredibly fortunate to have someone in my life to look up to in such a way and who can tell me first hand through her stories what life was like in a history that isn't mine.
 
Getting to grips with some dates - Image copyright CLSS 2017
History is all around us and is not just limited to the text books that line the library shelves or the facts your teachers provide in class. Nor is it limited to the far distant past, when dinosaurs wandered the earth or pharaohs carved and chiselled their ideas on to stone. Whilst yes, that is history also, it is not the only form. As with every subject, sometimes just talking to the people around you about what their lives have been like is enough to begin writing a biography because we all have one; We are all history makers with our own stories. This is the most valuable piece of information that I have learnt from my lessons in historical modules so far. Everything is interconnected and that is what makes history; People, that's what makes history.
 
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 
 
If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

22. September Favourites

It's that time again where I tell you my favourites of the month, everything from the books that have really stood out for me, to unique experiences or fun new songs. September has passed by so quickly up until this point, and I think this is largely because I am experiencing so much all at once, what with the whole study abroad situation as well as all of my own individual projects. It is an odd combination to have but one that continues on nevertheless. 

In terms of new experiences, and re-discovering old ones, September has been packed full of them. I've seen so many new places, picked up new skills and learnt such a lot - particularly about writing. This past month, I've been working on more written projects than ever in order to develop and shape my voice further academically as well as beyond the classroom. The results so far have already started to pay off which I hope goes to show that hard work really does end up being your most successful quality in the end. But writing won't be a favourite on todays list, simply because otherwise it would have to be every month! The contents of todays' list focuses instead on a variety of things, from the literary to the global. So, without further delay, here are my September favourites:


1. Onset Of Autumn
 
Image copyright CLSS 2017
Autumn has always been my favourite of the seasons because it brings with it crispness, crunchy leaves, warm woollen sweaters and pumpkins. There is something almost magical about it where the line between night and day ceases to exist and instead we live in this comfortable inbetween. It's the perfect time for wandering and sitting somewhere wrapped up in a scarf reading a good book.

Experiencing my first autumn away from home has proved eye opening in lots of ways, firstly in that I never knew you could be homesick for a season. And yet I am! I am so excited for the October break so that I can hopefully get to see some of the fall back in the UK. But until then, I am enjoying the odd combination the Netherlands seems to possess of somewhere between summer and winter. It's too hot to say the crispness is perfect yet, but the leaves are gradually beginning to fall.

2. Zoology 

As you will know, from my many blogs discussing the value of a versatile skill set variety, I have a keen interest in the natural sciences. At the moment, my interest has shifted to zoology which is proving really interesting so far. I am currently using some of the free courses available through Open University, meaning that once I have completed those offered for free I can make a better informed decision on whether this is something I would like to study in the future. If you've never really thought about zoology before and how it can prove fascinating, let me leave you with this thought provoking question to help: How would you define the environment and nature? And how would you say the two compare/contrast?

3. The New Academic Year

The beginning of the school year is perhaps my favourite (other than the holidays during the busy periods of course). Already I am fast approaching the half way point of my semester here in Amsterdam! The work pace is quite different but it also means that we are learning a lot rapidly, keeping us occupied and thoughtful. The new academic year always brings with it new surprises and areas to research.

I always enjoy when there is something we are taught about in class which then follows me around every day. For example, if I learn a new word suddenly I am aware of people saying it more so than I would have been before and it seems to be magically everywhere.

4. The Hunger Games
 
One of my favourite YA books has to be The Hunger Games so getting to choose which book we wrote on for one of our assignments led me immediately back to the Suzanne Collins classic. For those of you who don't know, The Hunger Games is a dystopian book (and movie) series which follows the main protagonists of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as they are forced from their small District into a cruel game where they must fight to the death. But obedience can only last so long in the face of danger, and our protagonists are not so virtuous as they first may seem in following the rules.

Getting to analyse the text and write about it means I am suddenly aware of elements within the book I previously didn't see in a great deal of depth. For this reason, I feel like I am getting the opportunity to read it all over again and it feels like I am back in highschool just as entranced by this grotesque and yet brilliantly constructed world. I highly recommend it as a read, even to those of you who have already read it but perhaps not in a while. Appreciating a book on this level reminds me why I continue to do what I do and to remain so eager to share the debate on literature.

5. Amsterdam
 
The city of bicycles - Image copyright CLSS 2017
And of course, this has been my first full month as a Dutch student! I am enjoying it so far as I say, it is proving the challenge I expected with a few other surprises thrown in for extra measure. But studying abroad has also meant being faced with many opportunities (such as more freedom on what to write my essays on) I otherwise would not have been able to experience, as university life in the UK is very different. I am intrigued by this place, by its' history, and it is certainly widening my perspective of the world to see how culture can subtly render a place into a different version of home; For it is different and yet not so very different afterall.
 
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 
 
If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

21. Space Readathon

Something very cool which is happening at the moment on Booktube (the literary side of the internet) is the space readathon hosted by Booksandquills. I always look forward to when these mini book events occur because it is so much fun to share a love of reading on a particular topic with people on the internet from across the world. It makes me realise how closely connected we all are in a way and (on a more space related note) how in the case of the universe we are all merely tiny specks on a planet. This analogy was also used in the Clarice Bean books I read when I was a child and I remember her saying that because of this, it didn't really matter whether or not she wore the purple or red (or even yellow) raincoat.
 
Having a space themed readathon is the epitome of all things great about these reading challenges because it means I get to read and re-read some of my favourite books. At the moment I am looking at reading the Martian again which is absolutely brilliant and will be a good beginning for heading towards Weir's next book which is out later this year. In addition to this, it also means that I have been presented with some cool new books I can't wait to read, such as The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.


 
Another book I am re-reading at the moment is Hidden Figures by Shetterly which came out very early this year during Oscar season as a feature film. It's an absoultely astounding work of non-fiction, focusing on the lives and works of the women at NASA. These women were working before the civil rights and feminist movements had had the chance to make a widespread impact and for this reason, it is even more astounding that they were able to achieve the incredible work they did in mathematics and astrophysics because it would have been practically impossible to get a job in this industry at the time. It's a book about fierce determination, great strength and bravery, faith and family. Through interviews with these remarkable women, especially Katherine Johnson in my opinon, it is possible to gain an insight into the genius responsible for science that put humankind amongst the very stars!
 
For this reason, I was really happy to see that a part of this series was a short debate/discussion of the book and film. Hearing other peoples' perspectives on literature and movies is always intriguing, especially when they enjoy it because they often pick out parts you yourself never would. For me personally, pretty much all of my favourite moments from the book and film got included in this short talk though the comments veered towards different aspects than I initially picked out reasoning wise. I highly recommend that you do go and watch this if you are at all interested in learning more about these remarkable people and the art published recently surrounding their biography:
 

And on a final note regarding the space readathon, we have of course spent September reading Mooncop - a graphic novel challenging the traditional science fiction genre and presenting a myriad of different questions on writing, the universe and the capability of humankind (specifically in the future). It's kind of a lucky chance that this overlap has occurred, but either way it makes for a great read that isn't too much effort to get through considering it is the beginning of term and there is already a great deal of work to be done. For my review of the book, be sure to click here and if you still want to get involved with the book club for this September let me know your thoughts on what you've read so far in the comments below.

I'm also keen to hear what you'll be reading/watching/listening to for the space readathon. Will you go for the original newsreels of man on the moon? Or perhaps you will listen to everything ever performed by Bowie? Maybe you will follow in my example by combining the excellent genre of space non-fiction, graphic novel and of course Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. Either way, be sure to let me know. For now, to infinity and beyond! -  I'll see you later.
 

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.   

It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

20. Student Reads Review: Mooncop

A project I've been working on over this summer is starting my own mini book club. More than anything it has so far been an opportunity for me to share some of the content that I have learnt about literary analysis (in the forms of a monthly review) with those such as yourself who are looking into whether or not this is the degree subject for you. Especially with reading being such a popular summer activity, it seemed a good idea to put this into practice now when the holiday is feeding into the new academic year and some important decisions will be coming up in the months ahead for those of you who are considering applying to university. 

Many of you will not yet know your future reading lists or might be looking for something university appropriate to read during your free time. If this is the case and sounds like something you would be interested in, all you need is a copy of the book to read along and at the end of the month there will be a post with some further literary analysis of the text, a discussion of some of my own ideas in relation to the themes and a few other comments which will (if all goes to plan) allow you to see into the mind of a student heading into the second year of studying literature at undergraduate level. I don't know everything about the subject yet mind you (and with the number of books available it is unlikely that I ever will) but for me, literature is an open conversation and the best part of it is sharing ideas. Having that collaborative conversation and exchanging all of those ideas is something that I, as an individual, am extremely passionate about.

This month our student read was MoonCop by Tom Gauld.

 
 
MoonCop is a story which focuses in on the protagonist of the same name as he wanders across the surface of the moon attempting to prevent crime. But here it seems the golden age of life in space has passed and everyone is moving home to Earth (the opposite of Wall.E) so not only are crime rates incredibly low but our hero is also very lonely. Because of this, for most people it will prove that there is more to the space environment than purely stock science fiction where there are good guys and bad guys and people fight aliens. It is far from stereotypical and that is what makes it so striking, because this goes against the suggestion of the title and the initial blurb. There are fun antics, philosophical questions and a powerful use of illustration to put into images what exactly it is to feel isolated and to be (in this case literally) the only person on the planet. 

So, as you can see from what we have discussed so far and after reading the text, you'll know that this fits into two categories; Those being science fiction and graphic novelisation. These two fields are both relatively new, especially the latter, meaning that they are part of popular culture as well as beginning to be accepted into the academic sphere of all things literary and canonical. I think this is part of what makes looking at such a text so fascinating, because it is treading on new ground and making a statement all of its own. Unlike a more traditional novel, the approach to writing about graphic novels in particular is not as definite or pinned down meaning it is easy to be creative when approaching academic writing in this area. Afterall, an image is worth a thousand words.

So on that note, let's talk about the images in this particular text. The frames are very successful in conveying the emotions of characters as well as keeping the fluency of the story moving along. Using a limited colour pallette of navy blue, white and grey, the space landscape seems simultaneously flat and ever expanding. As a result, the principal theme of loneliness is easy to to feel without even needing to read the speech bubbles at points. It also meant that it was further understandable as more and more characters left that the space dream accented by the presence of the run down museum has slowly died out and become unfashionable amongst the people. In their shared guise of black and white ink, it is evident that loneliness and isolation is something each of them feels, not just the protagonist. Yet he chooses to stay because there is nothing for him on earth - his dream remains the same, despite the manner in which it isolates him and there is heightened nostalgia in his actions due to this. All of this is best encompassed in the frequent repetition of images, gradually getting further and further away from the character sat alone to show how small he is in comparison the giant blue sky full of stars above him.

In terms of how you might write about this at literature degree level, there are many different approaches. You might want to comment on the two dimensional nature of cartoons and how you feel this genre is not expressive enough, or in great contrast to this you might wish to delve into how complex it is to pick apart multi-faceted emotion which is triggered by photographs. Regarding where I stand from a critical perspective, I think that I fall somewhere in between those two categories.

An example question might be something along the lines of:

Discuss the representation of space and technology in Mooncop.

Again, this is one of those typically vague questions that you will be given by examiners because it allows you to really think outside of the box and come up with a highly original idea all of your own. If I was responding to this question, my first point of research would be to collect a few examples that back up my idea from the novel. Firstly, technology seems outdated on the moon and the 'better equipment' sent up from Earth doesn't work because of the huge improvements that need to be made. Because of this, the attempt to make everything robot-run on the moon has simply resulted in people leaving to maintain human relationships. Where space has always possessed a certain feeling of being the 'final frontier' it seems that again it has prevailed in going beyond all human mastery. Humankind in this future is no further ahead with technology than we are now - in fact, it possesses a rather 90's feel. For this reason I would come to the conlusion (or overall thesis) of: Space is shown to remain un-tamed by manmade technology which remains small scale and outdated in the longrun. 

Another way you might interpret that question would be similar in manner to the previous with a focus predominantly on the interaction between space and technology with the addition of human perspective. In this approach you could look at the interaction between: space and technology, space on its' own and the different elements of it, and humans with both space and technology (easily split into 4 sections, but could be cut back to three main points). Focusing on how space as an environment impacts those living on the moon would make for a really interesting contrast to this invisible earth we do not see but know of somewhere else in the imaginary universe. Such a thesis statement therefore might be something along the lines of: The interaction between humans, technology and the moon environment show space to remain a complex and multifaceted setting beyond the characters comprehension. 

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.   

It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

19 - University: Semester 1, Week 2

Second week is officially drawing to a close and with it, I will have officially submitted my first three assignments which is a little crazy to think about. I've discussed previously how different the work pace is, but it still surprises me that I can already have produced 2000 words in the space of this past fortnight of working as a Dutch universiteit student. My assignments focused primarily on the final projects I will be submitting at the end of the three modules in October and it's intriguing to guess where my intial thoughts and ideas will lead me.

For my class on gender and politics, I produced a paper discussing different resources I had read in relation to gender and space. Initially I read work by figures such as Stuurnam on the role of women and the equality discussion in the early seventeenth century (where important spaces included academies and salons) progressing further forwards to my own question of how space is still shaping developments in the present day, using a reading from National Geographic. As I've stated previously, space is quite fascinating because it assists in the shaping of ideas and decisions in what is usually a subconscious manner - we do not even realise it is assisting in the forming of new terms or ideas until hindsight allows us to look back. 

In contrast my history class assignment was an essay focusing on specific questions about a reading we did on the Scientific Revoltuion during the Dutch Golden Age. This was something I also found really interesting to write on, especially as I haven't yet done a tremendous amount of work on this underrated period of history. Cook (the critic we were reading) argued that consumerism and the strength of the Dutch economy allowed learning to become fashionable, leading to some of the most crucial findings and scientific developments. For instance, elites collected things such as ancient scripts and objects which scholars could then study to form reports on, adding to the wider data base of knowledge available at the time. This is a link I never would have thought of had I not read this particular book, so it just goes to show how important critical readings are to the development of our thoughts and opinions on history as students.
 
The onset of Autumn here in Amsterdam - Copyright CLSS 2017
Classes have also been eye opening due to the several guest lecturers who visited to discuss a range of topics, from how Dutch stereotypes have been constructed to how the genre of biography has evolved over the course of several centuries. We even discussed who we would like to write biographies on if we got the chance. Personally, I quite like the idea of writing on someone such as Anne Boleyn. From a historical persepective, I feel there is still a lot we don't know about her which intrigues me. For example, there are many letters missing which could actually be hidden somewhere in an archive. Looking for long enough is crucial to finding out that which we do not know and, in the incident of the long ago, it is the looking for those missing links not the writing about them which proves the most frustrating.

The onset of Autumn has been fairly sudden. From long sunny days, the weather has all of a sudden switched to being windy and the leaves are falling so quickly from the trees I have lost count. Autumn here, from what I have experienced so far, is much more of an active season than the Autumn back home which feels lazy and cozy.. But I am enjoying the aesthetic of orange 'pompoen' against the backdrop of bicycles and evermoving canals. It certainly makes me glad of my coat and my books because sometimes, sitting still awhile amongst it all can be the perfect break from the fast paced life of study.

As I discussed previously in my Autumn post, I do still miss home a great deal this week. I think this will be a regular feature of my posts as being homesick is one of the biggest challenges I have faced so far. Missing home is not making me regret my decision in coming here though for I know that, during my time in the Netherlands, I am going to acquire new skills which will benefit me in the long run. Plus it will make me look forward to Autumn next year in the UK and I will be perhaps even more grateful for it. Keeping optimistic is my biggest advice for all international students because sometimes, especially when you are down, it is important to focus on the things which matter and which make you happy. For me, writing letters to those I've left in England always makes me feel a little more cheerful and ready to take on the next challenge.
 
Reading + Studying by the gracht and more pumpkins! - Image copyright CLSS 2017
And on that note, I think I am going to have a short break from studying and from writing with some music. Here is my latest arrangement of the main theme from the Disney Pixar movie 'Up'. See you next time - Doei!
 


Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.   

It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

18. A Guide To: Efficient Revision

Heading back to school or university brings not only the opportunity to learn more on your favourite subjects, but also the potential to perfect that system of revision you use every year. Being able to utilise your skill to the highest level of efficiency is incredibly important as a student, because it is through your ability to retain information and develop it as you go that you will best be able to produce successful evaluations around the topics on the exam papers.

I always approach revision a little tentatively for it can be easy to get caught up in the grading and marking systems to the extent that you forget that it is the learning itself which is most important. For this reason, I am posting my revision guide for September earlier than usual in the hope that it will encourage those of you reading to begin your processes earlier on. Remember that if you split up your revision chunk by chunk and do it as you go, it is far more likely that this information will stick with you in the long run. On top of that, it is also much less stressful to work at your own pace and take your time than it ever would be to cram all those statistics and facts in over night the day before your deadline.

Here are my tips on how you can create a revision system which works for you, so that learning doesn't become a chore and exams aren't as scary as they first seem:
 
Image copyright CLSS 2017
1. Copy Up Notes
 
After every lecture or seminar, make several copies of your notes as that way they will not only be incredibly clear and easy to use at a later stage but it will also mean that you are clarifying everything you have learnt that day. Revising as you go can be one of the easiest ways to 'cheat' the revision stress and prevent it from building up over time becasue, if this is something you are making a habit of, it doesn't even feel like revising. 
 
I also find it useful to make several copies of notes. My standard class notes are the first copy which I will then make a plain pencil and paper copy of (stored in a folder) and a colour coded copy (which I also file or occasionally stick on the wall). Having a typed copy of notes can be useful, but personally I find that I am less likely to remember something if I am typing it. In addition to this, make sure you copy up things onto flash cards so that you havea portable set of notes.
 
2. Lesson + Reading Summaries
 
Make summaries on top of copying up those notes. I have an entire wall of these summaries for each class because I am firm believer in learning via osmosis. Surrounding yourself with the information on top of all of your active work is another area in which you can start early to ensure you pick up good habits sooner rather than later. 
 
Label your summaries clearly so that you know what information is contained and pick out the key facts you feel were highlighted in your most recent lessons/reading sessions. You won't be able to remember everything, and being able to pick out the things which you find interesting + important will enable you to begin forming clear arguments right from the start. 
 
Tip - Make sure to include a few key critics if you are doing history as it can be useful to have one or two to refer back to in your questions. Always reference them if you do use them in your paper.
 
3. Extra Reading
 
Working at your own pace also means expanding upon the basic knowledge as and when you can. The easiest way to do this is to look into extra reading. Some of this will be provided by your teacher, but it's important to remember (particularly in the incident of course work) that your own research is also expected. Extra reading can be really fun once you grow accustomed to researching, as there are so many different perspectives to look at the same points through. 
 
For early extra reading, I would recommend finding one or two books which cover a lot of ground. For example, if you wanted something other than a text book to help you with American literautre then you could go out and read some other American texts which are by an author you are studying. When I was studying Of Mice and Men I also read Grapes of Wrath so that I could see exactly what Steinbeck was trying to achieve through all of his work, opposed to in one text alone.
 
4. Planning + Scheduling
 
Making the most of time is your key to success. When you schedule time, you are learning how to create guide line to help you get through the hours in the day which are set aside for individual work and attaining a really useful skill in finding the weak points which need to be developed to be proactive in improving them. When you make your plans, be sure to split your time evenly for subjects but make sure to have emphasis on the elements where you think you might be struggling or know you need a little extra space to finish working something out. 
 
Scheduling doesn't come naturally after a summer of freedom, but the more you do it the easier it will be to adjust to. Block planning (laying out exactly what you want to do each day the evening before) can be a useful way to begin because that way, as soon as you wake up you will know what you need to be doing without needing to remember too much. 
 
Tip - Make sure to get a balance by giving yourself plenty of breaks. Getting involved in extracurriculars can be an excellent way to give yourself some space from work and pick up a fun new skill with your friends. 
 
5. Ask Questions
 
Most importantly, start your revision early so that whilst you are improving on your weakest areas you can work out what questions you need to ask in order to do better than you were previously. Everybody struggles and there is not shame in that, but it is important to take your mistakes and learn from them so that you can progress and achieve the most with your potential. By beginning early, you'll get right to the heart of those questions before it is too late to do anything about them. 
 
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.  
 
It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

17. More Poetry Projections

A project I have been working on recently has been putting together a collection of poems based upon the different things I've seen around my new city so far. It has been fun to put together up to this stage because the things which inspire the creative pieces vary and there is always something new to come up with. It means constantly being on the lookout for the next thing to use as a contribution and sometimes making lists and mind maps to see what would work best in the longrun. It's been especially useful too as I'm not the best creative writer, so having the room to experiment now is really valuable for the future. The name for this project is Poetry Projections, because the aim with each of these texts is to create a vivid image in your mind so that whilst you are reading it a projector is switched on somewhere in your head and you can see it; You can see exactly what has been captured.

There are several pieces that have been put together so far, but this is one of my favourites that I have produced up to this stage (hence why I wanted to share it with you). Poetry seems to be the best way to summarise a place built upon water because it really echoes the movement of such an element. The ebb and flow of words in short prose is the easiest way to go about producing that image, especially with how musical the rhythms make everything. For now, here is one called 'Stanley Fish' which was inspired by the name of one of the critics we have been reading and written in the style of a famous nursery rhyme - can you guess which one? I hope you enjoy it.
 
L. S. Lowry captures the busy nature of the human life; All those people going about their days unaware of one another
Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish was a decent man
A clever man
A proper man
Yes, Stanely Fish was a decent man
Who lived on Small Fry lane.

And he walked to work at a proper pace
Frown on his face
Standard business chase,
For Stanley Fish was a proper man
Who worked at Tuna Sales.

His day consisted of formal files
That took a while
To reconcile,
For Stanley Fish sorted formal files
To ship to a company in Wales.

But Stanley Fish was a thoughtful bloke
The type that folk
Would call Top Yolk
So Stanley Fish, as a thoughtful bloke,
Was certainly. Going. To. Choke.

So the proper man walks to work one day
Sorts through his files and earns his pay
Then turns around and finally says -
'My real name isn't even Stanley, it's Bill!'

Bill former Stanley
Was not typically manly
He works in an art studio in Haarlem
And he'll have you know
It's the place to go
If you want to both love 'em and 'leave him

He is done with the strife
Of his old business life
And the rushing and bustling and worry

Though sometimes he finds himself missing
His old life of filing and business and fishes -
Until he eats Herring.
And then he's ok.
 
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you.  It makes my day every day! If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

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