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Charlotte A

Charlotte A's blog

Charlotte is a first year student.

Summertime Festival Action!

I hope my fellow students are all looking forward to going back to university in the next couple of weeks!
I have enjoyed an amazing summer and it's hard to believe I've had five months off already! FIVE MONTHS!! Time flies when you're having fun.  Whilst I have been away from studying, I haven't been short of work to do.  I have been working alongside the Programme Manager for this years' Greenbelt Festival.  I then got the chance to be one of this years' volunteer video bloggers.  My potential golden opportunity to discover a hidden talent sadly failed to come to fruition! I think it's safe to say I'm never gonna be Holly Willoughby!
(Basically, this was my reaction when I watched myself back on video)

Anyway, whilst I'm sure you'd love to get the worlds smallest violin out and pay tribute to my dashed hopes and dreams (if they ever existed in the first place), I wanted to share my Greenbelt experience with you.  Hopefully this will provide a little bit of an insight to anybody looking for a place to see some prominent activists, public speakers and academics, all in one weekend. To quote the Greenbelt website directly, they market themselves as "a festival of arts, faith and justice" with the theme for this year being 'The Common Good'. Prior to working with the Programme Manager, I had never heard of Greenbelt and I wasn't sure what to expect.  

Their history is predominantly rooted in Christian tradition and I wondered how I would be received at such an event, given that I am not religious, nor do I come from a religious background.  Despite this, however, I quickly discovered it was not an issue and I was made to feel very welcome indeed. Fundamentally, I wanted to attend so I could hear people discussing the current political climate and expand my knowledge on progressive political thought. Lord knows I need all the help I can get with that!

The programme offered up an array of interesting talks from discussion panels about Brexit, to top management gurus such as Charles Handy, to Human Rights Lawyer and activist Clive Stafford Smith. Quite a selection there! As a politics student, I felt this festival was hugely relevant and exposed me to a range of wonderful thinkers I had not previously encountered. The festival has a great set-up for wheelchair users and scooter access and is well catered for young children, allowing families to get in touch with their creative endeavours, regardless of age. It was refreshing to see so many young people in attendance and showing an interest in social justice and alternative ways of living. One thing that certainly struck me was the community spirit and sense of togetherness this festival offers up to its loyal 'Greenbelters'. Check out a link to their website: Greenbelt.Org

  • First and foremost, bring a chair. It's a must have at this festival.
  • Secondly, make sure you take a tour around Boughton House itself if you can.  Definitely worth a look if you like a bit of history and for the bargain price of £5.00 you can't go wrong! 

Finally: Check out my video on YouTube if you get the chance: Greenbelt The Movie .

Enjoy xx

Post exam positivity!

I am pleased to know my exams went very well and I surpassed my own expectations! What a load off!   After the much-needed Easter break, it really couldn’t have been a bigger bonus to return to uni and find out I’d done better than anticipated.  Positive kick off to term three then…winner!
A new schedule has mixed things up for us once again and I will now be concentrating purely on studying.  I no longer have a part time job to think about as my contract finished over the Easter holiday.  A combination of an employment free timetable in addition to my new ‘study life’ app should make the balancing act a lot easier for the last six weeks of year one.  How crazy is that?! Year one is nearly over already…time is flying!
Having only used the new study app for one week, I can already say it is making a difference.  For terms 1 and 2 I have massively struggled to cope with my working week in a timely and well thought out manner.  This app is a great tool  to use for time management and planning out your study time to ensure you don’t over-study (yes that is possible).  It also ensures you don’t under study as well.  Planning the week ahead isn’t for everybody I appreciate that, however, if you’re a natural born worrier like me then this will prove to be an efficient and necessary support.  I gave myself a really hard time at the end of my second term and came very close to giving it all up at one point.  It’s nothing a little bit of assistance can’t sort out.  As mentioned in my last blog, I now have a mentor in place to help me plan and manage my work load a little better. 
Mentor + planning app – work pressure = a successful start to term 3!
Let’s hope it keeps going in the right direction and I may have finally mastered this unsettling period in my life by gaining some stability.  Watch this space! :)

Every little helps

Where to start? Term 2 of year one has by far been the busiest and hardest term I’ve experienced thus far.  Having given up my ‘adult’ life of full time employment and travel endeavours that consumed most of my twenties, I truly underestimated the sheer overhaul my life would require in order to keep on track.  After doing the Access Course, I thought Year 1 at uni would be a breeze in comparison.  After all, I was going on the advice of other people who have been down the same route as me (albeit at a younger age).   By mid-term I hit a wall and really didn’t realise the toll this life changing decision had taken on me.  As a ‘smile and get through it’ type of person, I figured I’d see the light at the end of the tunnel before I was willing to give up.  On this occasion, unfortunately I was wrong.  I reached the middle of my last written assignment, a couple of weeks before my exams, and I completely lost it.  I couldn’t finish my essay and for the first time, I didn’t want to.  I worked myself up to such a degree that I contacted the uni to tell them I wouldn’t be finishing my assignment.  I was happy to accept a 40% cap.  Well…I say happy…as ‘happy’ as anybody could be in my position.  I couldn’t keep up the façade and I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t sapping the life out of me anymore. 
As a bit of a natural self-helper, I may not get it right straight away but I am always willing to go through a process of elimination in order to help myself to highest degree possible.  I’ve blogged about my adaptions thus far, yoga, necessary amounts of sleep, exam prep etc.  This time it wasn’t working and for a moment there I really lost sight of what I am trying to achieve at uni.  More worrying than anything, and true to form of being my own worst enemy, I’d begun to question if I had made the right choice.   Who was I trying to kid coming here? People from my background don’t go to uni! You’re too old! Nobody struggles this much surely?!! Jeez…this was whirring through my head at 100 miles an hour.  I knew I needed help.  Real assistance that needed to come in the form of an expert, not just my fellow students or boyfriend telling me “you’ll get there”.  That wasn’t going to cut it on this occasion.
I decided to contact the disability and dyslexia team at student services based on my campus.  They were so accommodating, non-judgemental and completely reassured me that I am not the only person this happens to.  Whether in first or third year, everybody reaches their limits at some point.  I was assured that it wasn’t necessary for me to be as hard on myself as I was.  This incessant rollercoaster I felt I was stuck on on a weekly basis would come to a stop at some point.  I proceeded to have dyslexia testing and my results showed that I had scored very highly meaning I didn’t register on the dyslexia scale.  Okay, so learning difficulty of that kind, what was wrong with me then? There must be some explanation.  Nobody struggles this much for no apparent reason surely?!
A few days after my appointment I received an email to confirm my results in writing and the advice given to me on the basis that I couldn’t ‘medicalise’ my issue was to attend a study skills class.  I felt really deflated and I just didn’t know what to think.  I mean, I appreciate the advice but a study skills class?  Really? I’ve been to numerous study skills classes, I’ve been in full time education for a year and a half now. I knew that wasn’t what I needed.   Amidst all of this, I had been declined for the internship placement that I applied for and I began to feel like I was suffocating.  Oh dear, I thought.  I’m 30 years old this summer and I’m not even capable of getting through this and landing myself a placement!  It was a low blow that I didn’t take very well at that point.  I felt like a failure
I forwarded the email across to my support worker at student services to advise her of the results.  Later that day I received a response suggesting I get in touch with ‘Momentum’ a mentoring programme I could access via the university website.   She thought a set of learning strategies and coping mechanisms would help me ease into my schedule a little better.  That in itself would be a process of elimination however, there wouldn’t be any easy fix.
I met with a coordinator to discuss my needs and the areas I felt I was (still am) struggling with in particular.  Based on this, I was then put in touch with a mentor with whom I was matched based on my specific issues.  To date I have only met with her once but I already feel more confident.  Sometimes it helps to have someone (outside of uni) who can relate to the plethora of problems you feel you have dealt with (or not dealt with) during the journey that is degree study! 
As it was the last day of term when we met, I haven’t been able to put our first plan into action just yet.  I am hoping the coping mechanisms and strategies help me get my stride back so I can increase my focus and motivation and begin enjoying this experience.  I certainly needed an intervention at that point.  It doesn’t matter how small, every little really does help.  Even if you feel you are usually able to answer your own problems, don’t beat yourself up if you find an occasion where you’re not able to.  I felt a little ashamed at having to ASK someone for help a few short weeks ago.  This is a feeling I already regret because this journey is hard enough as it is.  Berating myself is not the answer.  No matter how early you are into your studies, getting help where you need it isn’t something to shy away from.  I wanted to write about this to highlight to other students that we all need a helping hand sometimes.  With a bit of luck, if anybody feels the same way as I did, it will help to encourage others not to hesitate to get the help wherever it is needed.  Fingers crossed for progress in term 3.

Start Early

Starting early on the job hunt is never a bad thing…especially if you’re starting your education a little late.  Being a mature student has it’s draw backs as well as benefits, just like anything that requires hard work and endurance.  Don’t be reliant on; previous experience + degree = job
Most of you will be aware of that anyway but in the essence of sharing my March experiences with you, I think this is worth a mention.  After all, before I came to university, I didn’t realise quite how much ‘extracurricular’ activity potential employers actually like to see from students in today’s climate.  This is certainly something that is becoming more apparent to me as my educational journey proceeds.  I attended a jobs fair held in a local hotel in Brighton today.  It was a refreshing experience because I got the chance to meet people who currently work within the industry I am potentially hoping to work when I graduate.  I got the chance to show my personality (& my face) and I think that can make a huge difference when you can’t rely solely on your credentials on paper. 
When I was younger, I think I would’ve felt quite awkward about going to a stuffy job fair where you have to be bold, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with people you’ve never met before.  It can seem pretty daunting but luckily for me, my experience today wasn't like that.   You know you are there to discuss your potential future (even if you have no idea what that really is).  It can be a little awkward at times but I have met some lovely people through the experience and it is necessary to do so in order to give yourself that little bit of a boost when you’ve spent a lot of time sending numerous applications for jobs/work experience/internships etc.
A couple of people seemed a little surprised to see me at this event as it was primarily aimed at graduates or third years really.  I appreciate I am a little premature, in the sense that I am still only a first-year student but I don’t think you can ever be too prepared.  Even if you get involved in programmes that aren’t necessarily geared towards your long-term goals, it is all beneficial.  So far, I have signed up for work with a society on campus in my second year.  I have continuously sent applications to local businesses and agencies for summer internships and am building my online presence via linked in.  Every little helps!   It’s still early days but experiences such as the one I had today can be a great way to meet the right people who can point you in the right direction.   Ask questions and don’t be afraid to let people know you’re not quite sure what you want to do if that is the case.  I was always worried this would make me sound a bit flaky or would be received badly but actually, it is your honesty, coupled with your enthusiasm and open minded approach that other people tend to be more willing to buy into.  It’s not enough to say “I’m interested in technology” for example.  Of course, that is far too vague.  I have made it clear to any potential employers or people I have networked with so far, that I am looking to spend the next three years building a portfolio.  I’m conscious of the fact that by the time I graduate, I would have spent four years in education, by which time I will be 32 years old.  I don’t want to make any snap decisions without enabling (or at least trying where I can) myself to get as much diversity as possible - in terms of work placements - in order to complement and support my uni endeavours as well. 
This can seem quite overwhelming when you first move away from home, start uni and try to get to grips with your schedule.  Be prepared for your first 4 – 6 months to feel unsettled (at least).  That has been my finding thus far anyway.  Don’t be too alarmed if after a month or two you’re still feeling slightly lost on yourself and what you’re trying to achieve, it takes a while to work out.  It took for me to spend half of my twenties gallivanting around the world, an access course and nearly 14 years after leaving high school to get to this point, so don’t be in too much of a rush to push yourself to your limits.  Of course, it is always important to be ambitious and stay focused but I would be inclined to advise you to have a little patience and expect the ups and downs that come with this journey.
I think I’ve written to over 60 companies regarding potential placements and I have not had ONE reply! NOT ONE! How about that for a dose of reality! I try not to get a personal complex about it and I remain proactive on jobs boards, linked in, the student room and blogs from people who are currently or have already been on a similar journey to me.  I find it settling and it keeps me going.  I read a blog about a guy who had sent 120 applications before he landed a job.  It helps to know the struggle isn’t just your struggle, ya know. 
All we can do - In the words of Dory, is…"just keep swimming"


I realised when I looked at my course guide for term 2, that I was going to be doing DOUBLE the work I’d done last term.  Instead of one written assignment per topic, I now have two.  In total, that means I have four written assignments to write as well as an exam.  I know I’d much rather have a written assignment to complete than an exam but our tutors have upped the ante now.  It has been made quite clear that there will be no room for errors in terms of referencing, footnotes and the definitive layout of our bibliographies.
Of course, I am fully aware of the importance of NOT PLAGIARISING, as a student, how can you forget, right?  I just find the whole referencing process long-winded.  It’s all a bit of an extra faff in terms of the sheer specificity required.  For the last year, I have been writing essays and finding the editing process of my bibliographies taking up a lot of my time.  To be honest, we all just have better things to do don't we!  Well ladies and gents, not anymore!!!


I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered this website, say hello to my new best friend!


This has made my essay writing process so much easier! It’s very user friendly.


If you have a student email address, then you can set up an account and get started with your easily composed footnotes and bibliography when you've finished, just export the whole thing into a word doc and there you have it - your bibliography in its entirety.  Talk about lifesaver! 

What a difference a year makes

First of all, I would like to wish you all a happy new year! My first post of 2017 has been a little later than expected but it kicked off to an exceptionally busy start.  Getting my head around the new course content for term 2 has left me with no time to do anything else but READ, READ, READ.
On the seemingly rare free time I’ve enjoyed of late however, it did occur to me how much has changed in just one year.  This time last year I was on my access course at home and getting prepared for university interviews.  Nobody particularly enjoys being interviewed but it is inevitable and it will happen to you at one stage or another so it’s best to get used to the idea, no matter how much it might pain you.
When looking for the right university for me, I attended four open days.  I dragged my poor (but obliging) boyfriend around the south of the country in an attempt to gauge what might ‘feel’ right for me for the next three years.  This is no easy task, of course, it is a huge decision and will have a massive impact, not only on your life after uni but your journey through it as well.
I quickly realised, whilst two courses with two different universities may sound the same, in that they have the same title, the content can be vastly different. I originally intended on doing a law degree, however, after spending a year studying History, Politics and English, I decided to opt for an interdisciplinary degree.  Something I had never thought of prior to reading the course content on the UCAS website about the extensive range of programmes on offer so don’t doubt yourself if you find you’re leaning towards a topic you hadn’t previously set your heart on. Important aspects I needed to consider when choosing a university were geographical location, cost of living and opportunities in the area. At least, these were the key aspects for me anyway.  Depending on your background, age, preferences etc, your needs will vary I appreciate.  
As a humanities student wanting to break into the media industry I wanted to ensure I chose a location where there would be plenty of media related opportunities available.  At least if I established a comfortable life for myself in Brighton and decided I didn’t want to leave, I’d have a good chance of breaking into my chosen industry after graduation.   This has been my way of thinking anyway.  The cost of living is the biggest worry for most people in general anyway, particularly for students who are now subjected to the price hikes in fees, sandwiched with the loss of a maintenance grant.   I was lucky in that I could move in with a friend when relocating to Brighton, which for obvious reasons, also had an impact on my final choice, however, if you are not lucky enough to have this option, I would recommend doing a little bit of local window shopping when you go to visit the campuses.  I did this in the towns of each campus I went to see and it helped me work out a rough budget of what I’d need to earn as a minimum to survive, average agency fee’s in the area as well as the cost of the accommodation itself.  Most people will choose to situate themselves in halls for the first year but given that you are only at uni for a couple of months before you’re buddying up and deciding where to move to off-campus with your new-found group of friends, this is something that creeps up on you pretty quickly.
Some uni’s are incredibly slow at getting back to you.  As long as you get your personal statements, grades and options in place quickly then all you have to do is wait.  Although the wait can seem like a lllloooonnnggg one.    I elected Brighton as my first option and when I attended the open day, out of all of the universities I’d visited, my instincts told me it was the right one.  The lecturers and third year students that showed us around were really welcoming and friendly.  You would assume that is a given on applicant days but you’d be surprised.   We had a scheduled meeting to attend and an introductory speech regarding the courses, the lay-out and the teaching methods etc.  The visit, the feel of the place and my experience at the Brighton campus really put me at ease in cementing the idea that this was where I should attend university. 
When it came to having my interview, in the days leading up to it I utilised the ‘hints and tips’ videos that are supplied on the UCAS website and it proved beneficial.  I read and re-read my personal statement just to make sure I had clear and concise answers in case it was picked apart and I was questioned extensively.  Luckily it didn’t turn out to be like that in the end but you can never be too prepared.  During the interview, I remained calm, I kept smiling throughout and I engaged my interviewer in questions I had prepared for him also.   As I was applying to uni off the back of my achievements made on my access course, I wanted to secure my place by providing a copy of one of the best essays I’d written.  It was a political assignment I’d just completed so I took it along to show him.  Some universities may ask for evidence of your academic work so far, on this occasion Brighton didn’t but I supplied it anyway and well…I’m there now so maybe it helped, who knows?!  Don’t be too disappointed if the uni you thought would be the one for you turns out to be a bit uninspiring or a bit lacklustre.  As I said previously, don’t doubt yourself.  You are entitled to change your mind and opt for something else.  If it’s unexpected then even better if you ask me.
I am always happy to answer any questions or general queries about my experiences and surviving as a mature student in general.  Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to ask me anything.
Good luck to all 2017 applicants this year.  Try not to worry, the application process is a journey in itself so explore and enjoy as much as you can.




Phew!! I made it to the end of term one, I couldn't be more pleased. 
After relocating, making new friends, finding a new job and getting used to a new schedule I couldn't be happier to welcome a new year.  All of the changes I have mentioned are certainly positive but just like anything that is worth doing, it hasn't been easy by any means.
I CANNOT WAIT to go home and see my family.  I feel I've lived three different lifetimes since I last saw them all.  Time is flying by so quickly and as each week has fallen off the calendar I have slowly started to become a different person.  Essay by essay, reading by reading, week by week.  I didn't realise quite how much information I'd retained and how much my studies have already begun changing the way I look at the world.  Final exams this week made that very clear to me.  As I walked away from my last philosophy lecture, the exam anxiety set in and my old foe, panic, began to sweep over me and the dreaded 'OH NO I HAVE TO DO AN EXAM' realisation set in.
It hasn't been that long since I've endured the stresses that come with exams.  Despite the fact that my attention span is practically non-existent after about an hour, I managed to get through my last one's in the summer of this year without a fuss.  Well…A few tears but relatively fuss free.  So, how bad could it be, right?  I didn’t have a plan, nor did I have any conscientious ideas on the way to approach the last week of term.  I can’t advise anybody not to panic on the run-up to exams, after all, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to this! 
I can let you know how I got through mine though. 
1.      Rest-up. Firstly, in order to help myself out on the attention front, I made it my business to get plenty of sleep. If you don’t get a couple of good nights’ sleep before sitting a three-hour exam, I wish you the best of luck.  This won’t ‘solve’ all of your problems, granted, but it will enable you to clear your head and get a handle on what is required of you.
2.      Go week-by-week. I went back through my course reader and picked out the subjects that I knew I didn’t really pay much attention to at the time of teaching.  Depending on how your course is set out, will depend on whether you can take this approach or not.  We have a different topic and relevant readings to said topic each week.  We get one seminar and one lecture on each subject.  This makes it so much easier when returning to your subjects for revision at a later date.  The structure is already set out for us. You can break it up into separate areas and then your subject, as a whole, doesn’t seem so daunting.  Nobody wants to look at their books thinking, really, I need to know ALL of that?!  It can be difficult if you are studying an interdisciplinary degree like me. 
3.      Divide and conquer. Our humanities courses at Brighton University are split into disciplines.  Term one gave us ‘philosophy’ and ‘history’ and our second term will give us ‘culture’ and ‘democracy’.  Consistently splitting your time between more than one discipline can be difficult and I sometimes struggle to apply myself evenly to both areas of study.  Again, relating to my previous point, divide your revision into sections and give yourself an allotted time for each of those sections. I am new to philosophical study and felt I needed more time to get my head around the variations of theories that go with this subject, so I needed more time to truly understand the material.  I gave myself ‘philosophy days’ where I didn’t even look at my history course reader and I’d stay in philosophy mode in the hope that some of the information would stick (and begin to make sense).  Once in philosophy head-space I’d pick a topic (in the order it was delivered to us) and re-read the highlighted areas of my course reader, watch YouTube videos and revisit the content that I’d put into my essays as well as lecture notes.
4.      Always a favoured topic of conversation – FOOD. We are bombarded with adverts and information about the importance of healthy foods all of the time.  I certainly find it harder at this time of year, I don’t just mean Christmas but winter in general, to eat what you would conventionally regard as “healthy” foods.  Yeah, me along with the rest of the world, right!  As a student on a low budget (and sporting a permanent hangover) you might think it isn’t important to eat healthily just because you have exams coming up but I think it is, so for me it’s always worth a mention.  Now, I’m no nutritionist but ‘brain food’ has to be better for your concentration, surely?! I don’t buy into a lot of the concepts advertised by the food industry but keeping your diet simple and high in fruit and veg has to be a given?  Like I said, I’m far from a food expert but I know my concentration is aided by an abundance of veg! And water! Never forget the trusty bottle of water!  I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been staring at my books, eating broccoli and drinking bucket loads of water for a straight-up week before exam time but you get where I’m going with it.  Just a bit of food for thought, pardon the awful pun there!
5.      Don’t worry. Finally, try not to worry too much. Some people barely give this stuff a second thought and just waltz through the exam hall doors, do their thing and leave again without a care in the world.  I, unfortunately, am not one of those people.  I have to work a little harder and make an effort to concentrate a little better before I can even begin to convince myself I shouldn’t be worried about pending examinations. Luckily, our university is frequently talking to us about taking care of ourselves, dropping in to speak to our tutors/staff etc. if we have any concerns.  We’re constantly reminded of the support available to us so, given that this is drilled into our minds constantly, I decided to take the student support staff up on their advice.  I sent a request to my tutor to ask if I could sit on my own in a separate room away from the intimidating ‘exam hall’ environment.  I’ve never requested anything like this from previous study institutions before but this time I felt I needed to alleviate my anxiousness and save myself unnecessary stresses. Previously, I would just ‘get on with it’ and suck-up the panic. I’d force myself through the doors and spend x amount of time feeling completely sick, frantically scribbling away until the exam was over. I think we just get less tolerant as we get older, I don’t know but I just thought, no, I’m really not prepared to put myself through that ridiculousness again so I asked for some help. Simply asking for help made the whole process a lot less painful.

So, here I am now.  Post exam, no trauma and I’m ready for a break!! Final tutor meetings went well.  I finished term one with a 1st for seminar performance and 2:1 for essays.  Exam results will be given in the new year but quite frankly, I am temporarily past caring! It’s time to eat, drink and be MERRY!

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all.  I hope you all have safe journeys home.  I am relying on Southern Rail to get back but hey, that’s a rant for another day.

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas

As soon as the days begin to draw in and the nights become both longer and colder, I think aaaahhh it’s that time of year again.  That cosy time of year when all I want to do is wear pyjamas, watch Bridget Jones and eat chocolate.   As my head gets stuffy, my nose becomes more blocked and my concentration wanes, I think about that need for hibernation BUT I can’t give in, not yet.  Oh no! We have exams coming up!  The finish line is in sight but we have just a couple more hurdles to bound over before we fall into a heap (& preferably sleep for 3 weeks) over Christmas.
In order for me to stay focused on my necessary reading/research/revision etc, I need to also allow myself sufficient guilt free, non-study time.  I don’t mean time where I just happen to pick up my phone and begin aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, I mean structured and focused guilt free time ALLOWANCE.  Those times where I’ve planned to put the books down, switch off for a while and not feel bad about it.  Allowing myself to consciously remain a human being, with a personality, as well as a student with a long-term goal!  Without these conscious efforts, who knows where I’d trail off to!
Having spent many Christmases away from home, the run up to the festive period without the familiarity of friends and family is nothing new to me, however, I appreciate that many first-year students are not used to being absent from the comforts of home, in the run-up to Christmas.  I know how it can provoke the feeling of homesickness and nostalgia.  My first experience away from family comforts is far beyond me, but there was a time when it was a first for me none-the-less, so I can relate.  I’m not so old that I can’t remember it either! Not THAT far beyond me I suppose ;-)
 The shopping!
In order to tap into the festivities, I decided to start a little bit of shopping earlier than I usually would.  Firstly, I knew the student bank balance wouldn’t hold up if I tried to leave it as late as I usually do.  Secondly, I knew I wouldn’t have the time and nor could I cope with the last-minute pressures of making arrangements to travel home, buy gifts and look presentable, all whilst trying to fit in daily life at the same time.  Striking a balance for me this year felt important.
The taste of Christmas
Following on from my previous post, and apparent, unintentional continuing theme of being a bit kinder and giving yourself a break, I have found the ultimate quiet moment/winter warmer/’a little bit of me’ perfection in a drink! Who knew??!!  Unlike my usual festive preparations, this drink does not contain alcohol, is appropriate for daytime consumption and won’t affect your ability to concentrate when you return to the books, classes/lectures etc.   It is the Hot Spiced Apple from Costa!  A simple yet extremely rewarding little gem.  Well at least it is in my festive little world right now.  It is quite literally like drinking Christmas! The cinnamon is the best! So, if you like apples and you like cinnamon then this will be a winner for you.
Now, I’m not endorsed by Costa, however, the fact that I pinched this snap from my Instagram account and my classmates have begun to laugh when I walk into a lecture with ‘yet another’ hot spiced apple, is making me think I should be!! I’ve been doing some serious raving about this beverage!  I’ve made a bit of a habit of leaving the house a little earlier on my way to uni and spending an hour or so, in a quiet corner of a Costa café.  I get my books out, spiced apple in hand and I’m happy.  You have to take the simple pleasures where you can when you feel so busy and pressured most of the time! It’s not the most rock-n-roll but it works for me!
Getting Merry on a budget!
I’ve never been a great lover of Christmas and the hassle it brings.  I used to associate it with great expense, effort and aggravation I didn’t really have time for.  This year, I thought I’d stop being a Grinch and get involved.  In essence of my new-found ability to gain a little structure and organisation around the swamp of studying, I thought, as I’m actually looking forward to Christmas for once, I might give the dreaded Christmas jumper a little look. 
My Costa visits will keep me dosed up on hot apple until exams next week and my guilt free, non-study time will be consumed by making my own cheap (& not to mention, hideous) Christmas jumper.  

Be kind to yourself

It may seem like an obvious statement to make but I think it is important to remember not to be too hard on yourself.  I am my own worst enemy when it comes to applying the pressure and beating myself up about everything that could potentially go wrong.  As a person who does not come from an academic or politically engaged background, I cannot begin to explain how strange it feels for me sometimes, knowing that I am getting up every day and going to university to study Globalisation.  Most of my family members still ask me questions like “What’s the name of that course again?” HAHA! I have to laugh, although I do think to myself, don’t underestimate ‘that course’ I’m doing. 
I have friends who have graduated already and whilst I was there to offer emotional support and advice when the notion of quitting felt like their only option, I often found myself thinking surely if you’ve come this far, you can’t quit now?!  How simple it can seem from the outside.  I feel the need to say that nobody can truly understand what it is like to embark on a degree until they’ve done it themselves.   Your friends and family mean well but until it’s their reality….ppppfffttt…it’s just not something that can be understood.  Not really.  I know, I was the advisor and now I’m on the receiving end of the academic challenge, my perspective is naturally completely different.    
For many students, this experience will be the best of their lives.  For some, it will merely be a case of what is expected of them.  For others, the thought of studying will come much later in life.  Some people sail through and others find it a little harder and whichever category you feel you might fall into, just remember the fundamental point - You are at university.  That’s it.  If you’ve made it this far, you’ve won half the battle.  That’s not to insinuate the rest of your academic journey will be ‘easy’ by any means but don’t underestimate your abilities because you’ve reached this position in the first place. Lots of people can’t or don’t for a variation of reasons.  
I am coming from a perspective, where, not only does my background make it less likely for me to attend university, I am also going through this experience as a mature student.  I am joining the academic realm a little later than most people (conventionally) would but rather than allowing that to be a negative factor in my journey, I have made a conscious effort to stay focused on the things I CAN change about my circumstances in life.  Not the things I can’t.  As I mentioned in my introductory blog, I am a worrier, I am a self-doubter and I’m sure there are many of us who feel this way but the key to unlocking the box of apprehension is not letting it get the better of you. 
This week we had a visit from a Wellbeing Counsellor affiliated with Brighton University and she asked us what we thought of, when we heard the term ‘wellbeing’.  Hhhhmm, I thought it was a very interesting question.  I wonder what other people thought in the lecture hall? How does it apply to them?  I thought about my general day-to-day habits, I am far from perfect but I try to eat well, I don’t drink as much alcohol as I used to (Not through choice…I just don’t have the time) and yeah, I could do more exercise I suppose.   It got me thinking, what does it mean?  For me, I would have to say feeling ‘well’ is feeling like I am in a good mental, strong and healthy state.  Do I feel like that right now? No.  I had to admit, I don’t.  I feel stressed, I feel anxious, I worry about workload and I lose sleep over deadlines! It’s manic! And here I am, two months in and I’m supposed to survive like this for THREE YEARS?!!
I’m glad this has been raised so early on.  Some people may feel they are too new to feel the stress just yet.  If you’re anything like me, you would have questioned your abilities and stressed yourself out before you even walked through the doors on day one.  We all cope in different ways.  In life, I have been very free, happy and willing to try new things.  I spent most of my twenties galivanting around the world.  I’m not a person who has been left unchallenged and I’m not a person to leave my fears untested.  Throughout my adult life, I have persistently, one way or another, tested my abilities, so why has this experienced turned me into somebody I don’t feel I am?  It’s almost like something has been disconnected.  It wasn’t until I took the time to genuinely think about it on a deeper level that I thought, Wow, I really am stressed out.  I’m not talking about grab a coffee and relay an embarrassing story to your mate ‘stressed out’.  I’m talking stress on stress.  For the first time, ever, I have found myself in a position where I consciously need to make an effort to be kind to myself.  So, I will do just that!
It is important to remember; the hormone adrenalin is designed to be used in a ‘fight or flight’ situation.  When you get stressed, your brain releases adrenalin, however, unless you are, let’s say “burning it off” by either fighting or running away, then the hormone remains in your system.  It takes your body longer to dispose of, or use up this hormone so it just sits there, and it begins to affect our organs.  I am not writing this with an intention of teaching anybody to ‘suck eggs’ but I always speak (or write) on the assumption that nothing is obvious.  What may seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to the next person.  (Again, with the obvious statements) ;-)  Even if you do not feel stressed now, the chances of feeling stress during your studies, is pretty much guaranteed.  Prevention is better than cure after all so, even though you may not feel you have the time to consider this stuff, I would certainly recommend it.
I’m not a great believer or lover of New Years’ resolutions so I’m going to start making a conscious effort to help myself and be a little kinder right now.  As students, we don’t have time or money in abundance but we don’t always need to have those things to help ourselves out.  So, I am going to finish my entry today with a couple of simple (and again, obvious)suggestions on how you may want to be kinder to yourself if you are reading this thinking, YES, I agree! Phew I’m not alone!!
·         Exercise – If you can’t afford a gym membership (like me) then try and do at least one class a week.  I have chosen yoga.  I find this helps me relax, clear my mind and allows me one hour in the week where I don’t have to think about anything! The plain white box is my ‘nothingness’ so I concentrate on that like a blank canvass.  I find it rejuvenating both mentally and physically.
·         Water – Drink plenty of water every single day.  I wear glasses and am prone to lots of headaches, which are always amplified by stress, so keeping that water bottle topped up and MAKING myself drink it definitely helps me to remain focused.
·         Getting out of the house – Get plenty of fresh air.  Getting up first thing in the morning and taking a walk can be the best medicine.  Even if you think you don’t have time to be strolling around like a lost puppy, do it anyway.  Get up 20 minutes earlier and get out of the house.  If you’re a bit more ambitious, go for a jog.  I keep telling myself I’ll pick up the pace and start jogging but the winter months just make me want my travel mug full of tea and a nice warm coat.  Either way, you’re blowing away the cobwebs and making a conscious effort to take time out for yourself.  It doesn’t have to be lots of time.  20 minutes is usually enough and doing it before you even sit down at the laptop, or the pile of books awaiting your attention, can be really helpful.
·         A long hot bath – This is the ultimate!  Get some bubbles, get in the bath, close your eyes and RELAX.  Relaxing can feel like the hardest thing to do when you have 100 other tasks you could be getting on with.  It is important though so taking the time out is essential.
It doesn’t have to be hard, time consuming, expensive or particularly glamorous to be kind to yourself.  Be aware of yourself and how you feel and know the success of your journey relies on these, albeit small, but incredibly important considerations

Hello and welcome to my blog!

Hello and welcome to my blog! I am delighted to be an official UCAS blogger, however, I will pre-warn you and admit I am new to blogging so please do bear with me.
I just wanted to write a small introductory piece this week and to congratulate myself, along with my fellow first year students for not giving up!!  The four - six week period is the time where, if you're going to drop out, it will be now.  So I'm told.
Now, I don't know about you but I have been completely taken aback by my first few weeks experiencing uni life and did not receive what I expected (not that I knew what to expect I hasten to add).   If you (like the rest of the students I have spoken to) are feeling like you're not sure whether you should be at uni, I cannot stress the point enough...YOU SHOULD!
As a natural born worrier, I have been plagued with doubt on many occasions.  Can I do this? Will it be too hard? What if I don't have enough foundational knowledge to get my head around the course content? Will I run out of money? Will I find a job? Wow - there are so many questions but with a bit of luck, I hope you are beginning to find some answers, just like I am.
Starting university is not easy but anything that is worth having, never is.  Keep going, give yourself a real chance to find your feet and utilise the support services available to you.  I, for one, am welcoming reading week next week! I need to catch up on some beauty sleep! zzzzzz