Posted in Education, Food, studying, University, Writing

Another Day in the Library

First things first, my last post was officially my 100th post! Woo hoo! I think I’m happy with it, or maybe I believed I’d posted more. Anyway, here’s to another hundred.

Monday was the recommencement of the Monday study sessions in town. My Italian class starts back next week, so I used this time to haul my laptop and notebooks with me to work on my Creative Writing assessment. It was a fairly early start (for me) and I was in the library for 12pm and a giant coffee to get things started. Unfortunately, for the first few hours we had to make do with a drafty round table, but later we got using a booth (not the usual one, but good enough). I’m a bit like Rory needing her study tree, I’m a creature of habit!

The second-best booth

I’m terrible for procrastinating, even when something is right in front of me to be done. I also put it down to being more of an evening, nighttime worker but needs must and since being ill my sleeping pattern has improved somewhat. But I had my checklists and tried not to overdo the pressure with the tasks I wanted to complete yesterday. In the end wrote 1700 words for my assessment which is sufficient as the bones of a first draft, it’s not due until the end of January but I can’t leave it because who knows what is around the corner.

Checklists, planners and laptop

The great thing about this library is that it is much warmer than the one in Aberdeen. Granted I felt chilly at points throughout the day, but most of that was to do with the draft from the door way and my brain wanting to curl up and go back to bed.

My plan now is to rework the draft into something I can share to the forums for feedback (I missed the workshop deadline – didn’t have anything to submit), then I have to start worrying about the commentary. It’s a horrible exercise of only 500 words which I apparently still don’t have the hang of. I ought to message my tutor for help, but what can she tell me that hasn’t already been shared in our groups online?

I need to remember more study snacks for the next library session, I had some food, but there’s nothing dairy-free or vegan as options at the coffee shop or canteen as a snack and the vending machines were empty too. You might recognise me on the next trip though, I’ll be the bag-lady laden down with laptop and books and a tote-bag full of food.

e x

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Posted in Education, life, University

First Study Day of 2019

Yesterday was the first day I finally felt better, and to crack on with my every growing pile of work. So, naturally a study-date was called for. Unfortunately, the uni is still in Christmas holiday mode, I arrived on campus and found the library open but no coffee outlets, no food, and empty vending machines. Like the apocalypse.

I met my study buddy at her flat and after going foraging for food at Sainsbury’s we came back, ate and attempted to work. Yes, it took a while to get back into the swing of things, but as I had tried to be kinder to myself with my to-do list I did all right.

My next assessment is at the end of January, I do essentially know what I’m doing now, it’s just doing it that’s the problem and the most time-consuming part. As I remembered from the last assessment, the bibliography is the most awkward bit, because of formatting and remembering everything I read and skimmed over the last few months. I’m glad I started it and have at least the bones and formatting down, just minor information points and a few other sources to reference, otherwise it’s taking care of itself. Still hate writing the commentary though, it’s only 500 words and I’m wordy dammit!

I missed the deadline for the workshop for the second block, unfortunately they’ve been appearing earlier this year and I had nothing to submit, not even a semi-formed idea… in part due to the beating I took from the last assessment. I’ve tried not to take the criticism too personally, perhaps the genre of my work isn’t to my tutor’s liking or… I don’t know. Alas, I’m attempting this assignment from a different angle; I made a list of all the technical points we covered in this block and constructed a chapter where I was actively trying to include many of these points in it. I understand that the assessments are to see how we’re managing with the new topics learnt and if we are able to weave them into our own work… Which is fine, but I think others in my class are as frustrated at not being able to crack on with longer pieces to see how we are developing as writers and not trying to hit bullet points in a marking scheme.

Just my thoughts. Next study date is tomorrow, but I’ve a ton to get on with later tonight. Italian class starts back next week! I’m planning to start a new series of blog posts related to Italian grammar, at the very least to keep it fresh in my head!

e x

Drinking: Black Coffee

Listening to: You look so fine – Garbage

Posted in Education, Uncategorized, University, Writing

Don’t test me!

I’m not great at exams or tests, unless it’s something I absolutely know – but even then there’s a good chance my mind will space out and I’ll get simple things wrong.

I coasted my way through standard grades and even my highers… in all my years, just off what I happened to remember from the classes. I didn’t know how to engage with the information, never mind study or formulate the answers lecturers wanted from me.

When I got to uni, it was mostly all about those essays. My first essay at uni I scored 18/20 in Classics, and the teacher said I saved her soul because my enthusiasm for Classics oozed out of the pages. But then, it set me up with a false hope – when other teachers didn’t appreciate my poetic style and my ability to inform rather than factually analyse the grades dropped and my attempts at essay writing faded year on year.

Then came the exams where you’re expected to remember and regurgitate the coursework verbatim and don’t start me on open-book exams! The crux of all of these is when the tutors don’t explain how to tackle the questions, what to actually do in the exams or they make something up which is the exact opposite of what’s required.

I had classes as well where the essay questions were pre-selected for you, but I could never make heads nor tales of them and in desperate attempt to figure it out, I’d have a whole plan and run full steam ahead. (Even consulting with the course lecturer, hoping I was on the right track but they seemed impervious to my pleas of help) Then the damn things would be returned a few weeks later with a shitty grade (at least comparatively to others – and sometimes just downright shitty) and there’d be no chance of support to improve or understand what the hell they wanted in the first place!!!

The most disgusting and heart-breaking example was my dissertation. The idea struck me in a moment of inspiration in the library while lamenting that I wasn’t studying Italian, nor the Romans and wondering if the Romans ever had any ties to Spain. Ha! Maybe it’s common-ish knowledge nowadays but it was the first time I’d come across the Conquest for Hispania and that it took over 200 years to be conquered. I knew about Carthage, the Punic Wars, and Carthago Novo (now Cartagena in Murcia), but suddenly everything tied together.

My preparation work and presentation scored me a massively high A3 mark, so naturally my expectation was that this would translate into a similar grade.

Eleven months and over ten-thousand words later, despite going to every supervisor meeting possible and repeatedly being told that I had it and was doing fine… I got that plastic bound tome returned to me with not an A grade. The first paragraph of feedback was calling my work stellar, the narrative well-crafted, and that I’d handled the mixture of sources flawlessly, especially for an undergraduate thesis. Alas, what could I do? The supervisor I had was not skilled in European History, never mind Classical Western History and the classics department at uni had been made defunct, not that I could get another lecturer to mark it anyway. I was deeply angry about it for a long time, given how much effort I did put it – so many studyspo posts say that the effort won’t betray the grade, but in real life, it often can do – especially if you’re just not working in the teacher’s realm.

I’m still proud of my dissertation, and plan to rewrite and expand it in the future for MYSELF, because I find the subject endlessly fascinating. Isn’t that what education is? Or should be? About diving head-first into a thrilling new adventure and learning and absorbing all that you can about it… Not about how well you can construct a 2000 word essay or answer eight essay questions in an exam in under 2 hours.

I’m enthusiastic about plenty of stuff, I’m nerdy, brainy and have plenty of smarts, but maybe it doesn’t all translate to a specific grade. It’s a quality of knowledge that maybe can’t be measured but experienced.

Anyone else?

e x

Image Copyright https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:HansenBCN

Posted in Blogging Challenge, Education, Musings, University

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 25

Your Biggest Regret

While it’s not good to have regrets about things we can’t change… what I do regret is all the times in my life where I took the passive route instead of being more actively involved in my own life.

Times where I left early to go home and nap (I do love to nap btw), or missed out on opportunities because I couldn’t be bothered or didn’t feel like it. How often do we have to do things we don’t feel like doing because we must? Therefore when there’s the chance to do something fun but we’re not quite feeling up to it, then surely the right answer is just to do it anyway.

A lot of my regrets are linked to choices I made or didn’t make related to school, college, and uni. I wish at school I could have been more involved and invested in what school represented instead of being distracted by stupid arguments and dramas I can’t even remember anymore. If only I hadn’t taken the easy route, I could have gained a load of highers in fifth year instead of running out on the classes I did well on simply because I couldn’t face another year with said teachers. This is how I ended up being a fifth year with a free period (because I dropped music class), left Int 2 Maths instead of trying to work at it, and taking Int 2 ART in sixth year. What the hell! I wish I hadn’t drifted so much, school wasn’t a means to an end, it was just clocking time until my real life began. (It hasn’t really, yet.)

College the first year was great, I picked a bunch of subjects I was really excited about but then even though I had more free time than I did at school (but with an hour’s travel each way) I still looked to skin more time for myself, which meant leaving at lunchtime instead of spending time with friends – this could have solidified relationships more, gave me more time to study, made me feel less guilty about not studying at home. By the second year, I chose to resit classes I did in high school simply because it meant I’d already completed the course assessments and effectively would have more time to study for the final exam. That’s how I failed higher geography twice, upgraded my higher French and Biology from Cs to Bs… not that anyone bothered telling me they wouldn’t count. Not that anyone ever bothered informing me that four years of highers did nothing for me but kill time and make me realise I never wanted to study Psychology again. Le sigh.

In terms of Uni, I’m still in a love/hate relationship with Spanish. I really wanted to study Italian and preferably in Glasgow… yet every uni in Scotland that offered Italian to degree level all flipped me off and that’s how I ended up doing Spanish at Aberdeen. My consolation to myself was that at least Spanish was a language, it was related to Italian and it was better than doing a degree in something I had little interest in. And again, we come back to the same problems I did at college and school. I buried my head when things got tough and I coasted instead of facing and owning up to the challenges I experienced. I was taking 25 hours of classes a week, working 25 hours a week, travelling to-and-from work for around 12 hours a week and living in student accommodation where I was only allowed to sleep for about 4 or fewer hours a night. Thanks to all this effort just to make ends meet and maintain my place at uni, there wasn’t a lot of time to study… not that I usually had the energy left to study… it was difficult to keep up my great grades and I passed well enough, but it only made subsequent years harder as Spanish got harder and the dreaded year abroad loomed closer.

When I started second year, I had my adviser meeting on the first day of freshers where my tutor (who was also my Spanish teacher) asked me if I was still happy doing Spanish. I said yes without hesitating, and honestly that moment has haunted me ever since…

Posted in University, work, Writing

Tumbleweed

I know things have been quite here for a few weeks, but everything all hit at once; the final assessment for uni, getting ill, birthdays, and working.

Everything has been going well though, I spent little pockets of free time in May to work on my assessment so I didn’t have to rush much at the last minute ( just the commentary, which is horrendous) and I managed to get some last minute feedback on my chapters which was stellar and just a few typos. I’m feeling good about it! Just have to wait until the 17th of July to get my overall results for this first year, so I’m waiting until then to apply for second year. Also still waiting on SAAS because this year they decided to confuse themselves and not properly read my application before halting it… and an eleven minute conversation (six minutes on hold) only got me as far as sending a query to SAAS which they promised to get back to me about within 28 days -_-

I caught another stomach bug (4th in a year!) and was laid up for a few days while still trying to pull off mum’s birthday – I managed it and I’ve survived but honestly the whole weekend is something of a blur. But mum loved all the presents I gave her and how I decorated the living room with balloons and banners and made such a fuss over her. Great treat for a 60th… even if no one else believes her age!

In other news, now that uni has finished until October I’m using the summer to catch up for second year. We’ve been given the reading list that will be used so I have time to work my way through it (some books I’ve already read) and the tutor also gave us an assessment break-down for the year. There will be six assessments and the End of Module assessment of 15,000 words. I used and developed a novel throughout this year which will be book 1 of my novel series. However, as I jumped around a lot with chapters and sections for the assessments, my plan is to use the summer to finish book 1 and to start book 2 for my assessments for year 2. PLAN! So far, I’ve not had a lot of time to work on book 1 so my collated word count at the moment is just shy of 10k words, need to times that by 8 to get my expected word count. Then, I’ll be self-publishing though KDP and onward and upward!

Better get back to writing now, tight schedule!

e x

Posted in Education, life, Musings, University, work, Writing

MIA

So work, real life, and laziness has prevented me from updating in a while. I have a bunch of great ideas for new blog posts that I need to at some point write and schedule… but I’ve been holding myself back. Why? Who knows!

I’ve started the 15-minute-method, like Pomodoro but shorter, for commitment-phobes like myself. Anyway, I’ve managed several days of blocking out 15 minutes to work on stuff I complain I never have time for… and lo and behold, it actually works. But I’ll get back to that later, in another post, which I will write asap.

In other news, I’ve pulled a muscle in my back and it hurts like HELL. It’s making me realise I don’t know enough swear words in enough languages! The last couple of days haven’t been great at work doing repetitive movements, plus going shopping today and carrying the heavy stuff upstairs has taken its toll. I’ve been using a hot-water bottle when I can to try and sooth it, but google informed me it’s just one of those things that has to heal itself. Pity.

In less than two weeks my next assessment for my course is due and while I’ve written a chunk and actually tried to properly craft my commentary, I’m still having major doubts whether what I have is sufficient. This chapter is much slower than the last one, as a bit criticism on my previous work is that I’ve tried to include too many elements into just a few thousand words of a chapter. I just hope that my slowing down hasn’t slowed down the interest in it. I’m hoping to get a draft completed asap and I’ll post it on the forum to get some feedback.

Beyond that, I’m just thrilled that a Costa Coffee has opened near my house, so I finally have somewhere decent close by to study in! And coffee!

I’ll post again soon, let me know if you have any remedies for back/muscle pain!

e x

Posted in Education, Goals, Late Nights, life, Musings, rant, University

Smart and Imperfect

There are many misconceptions about what being smart is. The idea that the grades you earn in school or even university; that they can somehow define your potential, your essence is absurd. You may not have paid attention in school, uninspired and left behind. You may have scraped by and gone on to a University or College into whichever course seemed like a good idea to 17 year old you and you may have graduated/passed with average grades from an average, uninspired performance. You might only have discovered your true passions from a chance encounter well into your 20s or by a passing comment from a teacher on graduation day when it was ‘too late’ to do anything about it.

But what will you be judged by by future employers and puppet masters? Those grades that merely state what you obtained from one day’s exam performance. How well you understood/didn’t understand the course work in a twelve week semester, with a shitty essay that you tried hard on but the teacher was never going to be gentle with her marking.

And doesn’t it seem ridiculous in the end?

I didn’t manage too well in high school. I performed fairly well for most subjects in standard grade and intermediates for fifth year, but in sixth year I was suffocated, desperate to escape the petty associations of high school while my life was falling apart outside of school. Did it matter to the teachers? Nope. It bothered them more that I wasn’t walking around with a smile plastered to my face. They saw my average grades for the prelims and accused me of sabotaging my future by not working ‘to my potential’. They blanked me when and if I tried to explain how I felt. They shamed me for wanting to go to a Further Education College after school instead of University. I was told I would never achieve anything in my life if I didn’t go straight to uni.

Ahem.

So I’ve attended a lot of colleges, I’ve been to Uni in several capacities, including abroad, and while I am not a perfect student or have ever had PERFECT GRADES. I’m still smart.

I’m smart because I’m passionate. Most people have things that interest them, and we’ve all had to study and learn things that bored or frustrated us, but I can talk endlessly for hours, days even, on the things that truly spark me. Is that stuff quantifiable? No. Sure, you can give me an Italian grammar test, or tell me that my ability to speak Spanish is shite, but does that take away my abilities to manage or enjoy these languages? NOPE. If my Spanish is so awful, how then did I manage to survive living in Spain for a year in a town that refused to speak English? I still got my coffee and tomato toast every morning and managed to argue with the cashiers in Mercadona that my Post Office Travel Money card is mine and linked to my passport but doesn’t have my name printed on it because it just bloody doesn’t.

I did the PLIDA exam at B2 in Granada, and I passed 3 of the 4 elements with flying colours to the surprise of my lecturer, but then because of a random, sudden change in the format of the speaking exam I was TWO points shy of passing the oral segment and thus failed the whole exam. Inside it destroyed me. I had worked relentlessly for weeks, to the point I was sick with the stress… and for a part of an exam that lasted about twenty minutes, they basically told me I wasn’t good enough. My Italian wasn’t good enough. My effort wasn’t good enough. Had they heard the whole half an hour I spent speaking in Italian to my speaking partner before the exam? No. Did they know that I had made friends with an Italian in Granada and I asked the others in my Italian class to speak with me in Italian and not Spanish because it was suddenly like someone had turned down the static on a fuzzy radio. It took me a long time to get over the pain of the set back, but then I finished my year abroad with 88% in the C1 Italian language class which took into account my whole ability, for the whole term… and my passion.

I lost a lot of my interest in Spanish because of uni. Because every piece of Spanish work came back covered in red pen and bad marks. Because my oral work was criticised because of nerves or a lack of confidence… and in the end a lack of fucks given. But I got through it, I have that damn degree, and slowly over the last year I’ve allowed myself to remember the good points about it. Every extra Hispanohablante is one more person pissing off Trump. I enjoy Spanish music, I love my Italian singers who also perform and release their stuff in Spanish. I love my original passion for languages, once I realised I could… I couldn’t stop at just one or two, it’s still my goal to dabble in as many languages as possible. I’ve even told a few people that the Netflix show One Day at a Time is helping me enjoy Spanish again… because it’s about the thrill, the education for enjoyment’s sake and not about using the fucking subjunctive perfectly! (I seriously don’t think anyone can!) Plus, Despacito 😉

Another whole pathetic example is my undergraduate dissertation. Now to point out, I was trying to hard to still care about Hispanic Studies at all and so I started researching things I was already interested (Ancient History/Italy) in to see if I could tie it all together. Thus it became about the Roman Conquest of Hispania which by the way took 200 years to happen. Who knew?! It’s a thrilling part of history that not many are fully aware of. Sure, most people have heard about Hannibal crossing the Alps, but do they know why? Or that it was during the second of three Punic Wars between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Empire??? I’ve probably lost you now but this thrills me. Gives me actual goosebumps. I daydream about what would have happened if Carthage had won.

The whole project was about 11 months of work, research, planning, and writing because it could only be a measly 10,000 words. So I had to be as economical as possible. Ultimately I handed in something I was immensely proud of, worked ridiculously hard at, missed shifts at work, turned my day into night, didn’t see my flatmates properly for weeks, and despite all the passion and inspiration, what happened? I got a shit mark. Not a D but still, after everything… And the feedback? Well the first paragraph could go on my gravestone and make you think I was a saint, but then the negativity came. Nothing about my actual work was faulted. It was all about what the tutor thought should have been put in (but I’d filled the whole word count), a few stupid comments about using ‘this’ alone, and other daft things that would have taken the research in a whole other direction. Pathetic. Considering two factors; the tutor had NO knowledge of Ancient Roman History, nor the narrative I was following; and had no idea that Carthage had a base in Hispania which was one of the precipitating factors of the damn Punic Wars and the whole freaking conquest! -_- Also while describing Scipio’s week-long surround-and-starve tactics on northern natives, my writing was apparently ‘too dramatic’.

But!

I’m still passionate about all my interests and hope to expand on my dissertation (because I can) and without the fear of some lecturer and their red pen trying to tell me I’m not good enough.

And please, dear readers, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t measure up. That your smarts and abilities aren’t good enough because you don’t have a degree certificate or some other numbered sticker that is meant to tell the world which box you fit into for the rest of your life. Before I started uni, I had people who were astounded (and told me to my face) that I could form an intelligent opinion about something I literally can’t remember now… the difference was that we were the same age but she was attending uni and I was only a lowly college student. HA!

If anything, attending FE colleges helped me develop myself and my life skills more than university ever did. I had more fun nights out at college, had more fun mucking about the photography studio, and spent more time learning about languages, again, than I did at uni. Uni is like a treadmill set on a ridiculously fast pace, and the goal is just to hang on, eventually you stop trying to run at that speed and you find your own way of clinging on for dear life, until someone calls the race to an end and you graduate with whichever number they’ve deigned to put on that yellow piece of paper.

Remember you are more than that bit of paper.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Bring passion, bring willpower, and forget the fuck about ever being perfect.

e x