How to network your way into a job

graduation goals - networking towards a careerAnybody else looking forward to this moment?

A big part of studying at university is networking. We don’t only want the piece of paper once we finish our degrees, do we? We also want to have developed networks within our chosen field by the end of our degree, because this might make it a tad easier to actually get a job at the end of the day. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want a job at the end of my degree!

There are a number of ways to use networking as a tool to help you gain employment, but these are the some of the ways I’ve used networking to further my career.

Your peers at uni
Creating and using the contacts you make while at university is important. This doesn’t only apply to your university lecturers, who obviously are within your field of study, but also your university peers, who you may just bump into a number of times after uni is finished. Having a relationship with your peers can be beneficial if they find a job in the same organisation or field you are trying to break into. A good word from someone already on the inside can be the foot in the door you need, and we’ve all heard the expression, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.

Work experience
It’s also important to try and work in a related field while studying. For myself, I am working at an Outside School Care as an Educator, looking after children from a range of backgrounds, ages and developmental abilities. This suits me, as I’m hoping to get a job at Kids Helpline next year and, along with my work with Lifeline, this is a perfect stepping stone towards my chosen career path. I have met many like-minded individuals through work, including a number of peers who are studying psychology (like me), education and child services.

Volunteering
If you’re unable to gain a paid job in a related field to the degree you’re studying, volunteering is always an option that will enable you to gain work experience that will help you attain paid employment in future.

digital networking

Technology
A good way to create and maintain the contacts you make during your degree, work experience or by volunteering is via the social media site LinkedIn. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically the professional version of Facebook. People can visit your page and find out your career aspirations and desires and your tertiary qualifications. If you haven’t checked it out, do it now!

After all, we are in the technology age, and I don’t think it would surprise anyone if I say that technology is likely to have a massive impact on nearly every profession in the following years. As a psychology student who volunteers as a Telephone Crisis Supporter for Lifeline, I see evidence of this every week. Similarly, some psychology therapy sessions actually happen over webcam or the phone, due to people living in rural areas of the country.

So, being up-to-date with technology is definitely a necessity for networking with peers.

Connecting with peers during your degree and making industry contacts via work experience, volunteering and by using technology are all valuable ways of networking that will help you get job at the end of your degree.  I know they’ve definitely helped me!

My graduation goals

Wow. I can’t believe it’s that time of year again when students from all around have either just finished their studies, are bracing themselves for summer semester or those lucky ones who have found themselves at the conclusion of their journey. Congratulations, one and all! You made it, however far you have made it along your journey, you are at least part of the way. Studying at university can really take you places that at times feel out of this world.

krisi graduation journey

Which one of these kinds of students am I, do you ask? I am the kicking-on kind. I have just reached the end of a 3-year bachelor degree and I am launching straight into honours. Now that I am moving into a whole new era of study, I have been considering what my goals are for the future.

The challenge I have accepted is further study. The goal I have set myself is to achieve honours of the first class and, consequently, a better chance of being accepted into postgraduate study. Wait, let me actually seriously consider that for a moment. That is a lot of 7s. Before I blast-off at the beginning of the year continuing on as a full-time student, I am really going to have to consider how much rocket fuel I have at this point in my studying career. After all, I don’t want to let my personal needs nor, dare I say it, grades fall victim to outer space!

krisi - victim of outer space

The ultimate question then, is to study full-time or to study part-time. Achieving the best GPA that I have ever dreamed of setting my sights on is going to be no mean feat. It is certainly going to require a lot of my attention to stay on-course to achieve that first class honours. Should I take the longer route that gives me the most time to navigate the asteroids or should I start the count down from 10, shut my eyes and prepare to blast-off along the most direct path?

Lucky for me, I have a bit of time on my hands to think about this before I decide which trip I will take. There is always going to be something great about being a full-time student, studying the maximum course load in order to get to that number one goal of a dream career faster. At the same time, there is a-whole-‘nother world out there that I haven’t even experienced yet. The idea of studying part-time, giving me extra time to study for each course, achieve academic success and have the opportunity to  start crossing off some of my other goals, like traveling, is incredibly tempting.

I am interested to know, what were the goals you set yourself after you finished your bachelor degree? Did you choose to complete further study or decide on another course of action? Who knows, maybe you even experienced the same dilemma as me. I would love to hear about your experiences after graduating!

The slippery slope of mummy self-doubt

Making the decision to study at university was initially easy and very exciting, but then I came to realise that I may have less time to spend with my family because of the amount of time that was required to succeed at uni. Before long, it became apparent that there were many obstacles to overcome and by far the biggest of these were the ‘guilt’ and the ‘self-doubt’ hurdles. Like so many other uni students, I have been a mother 24/7 for many years. I have been busy taking my children to school, picking them up, taking them to after-school activities and, of course, the obligatory after-school sports that they love so much.

I don’t have any regrets about balancing study with family life, but I struggled with the feeling of guilt. Before I started studying, I wondered for months whether I should devote the next three years of my life to something that I want. What would happen to all those little things at home? You know, the everyday tasks that need to be completed, like the ironing, cleaning, washing (including the dog), paying the bills and, of course, the cooking.

slippery slope of mummy self doubtEven while the guilt raged inside me, deep down I knew that I did deserve to study because it has been my lifelong dream. I realised that all those house chores will still be there when I finish studying–it is not going anywhere–and in the grand scheme of things…It doesn’t matter! As for that lost family time… My family will always be family. They love and support me in my adventures and, in the long run, completing a degree will benefit my family. With these considerations in mind, I convinced myself that with a lot of careful time management skills I would be able to spend quality time with my family as well as studying.

The next step was to overcome the self-doubt that was eating me up inside. The questions I found myself asking included:

  • Can I do it (the hard work)
  • Will I be able to do it (for three years) and
  • Can I succeed?

I have found that the best way to deal with these questions is to find what motivates me. Over the last two years of studying my degree, my motivation has come in many forms:

  • My family
    I am doing this for them!  To give them something to aspire to and, as I said earlier, to benefit the family as a whole.
  • Myself!
    I want to study for my own piece of mind and to develop my self-confidence and self-esteem. I am constantly telling myself that I can do it, that I am able to do it and that I will succeed!
  • My friends
    My friends are a wealth of motivation with their: ‘you go girl’s and their ‘you can do it’s!
  • My peers
    My fellow students have provided me with massive doses of reassurance and support as we have travelled together down our separate study paths.
  • Release of results
    I find that regular boosts of motivation also come when my assignment and exam marks come back. Yippee!

welcome to motivation

As for those chores around the house… mid-semester breaks, mid-year break and end of year breaks sort all that out! It usually only takes a couple of days and I can see the floor at home again. A few days more and I can actually see over the ironing pile, and after only one day spent in the garden, I no longer have to fear my children may be eaten alive by possible tigers, hyenas and lions roaming in the wilderness otherwise known as my backyard. The semester breaks are also great for catching up with friends over a long hot coffee (love that coffee), shopping trips (any excuse really) and long lunches (we usually have so much to say). Uni breaks are also great for family catch-ups as well, although I find that with very careful time management I really don’t miss out on anything throughout the semester; it is all a matter of planning. Just sort out the important dates and activities and study around them!

So if there is any ‘self-doubt or guilt hurdles’ in your study plans, remember why you are doing it or why you want to do it. It is either for you or your family or both, and let me tell you from experience, they are both so worth it!

-Lisa

You vs. Your BFFL. Dealing with peer competition: how to maintain friendships when competing for jobs or grades.

Ever since we were little, we’ve been taught that we’re all in competition with each other. In primary school we were given awards for the best macaroni necklace and in high school biology we learned about survival of the fittest.

So naturally, we’re inclined to become jealous of one another if we feel that they’re in the way of what we want.

This is ESPECIALLY not cool if the person in your way is your mate.

The great thing about going to university is that you get to hang out with like-minded people who are working towards the same or similar goals as you. However, this also means you’ll probably be competing against them to get a high grade or, eventually, a job.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

‘Eliza,’ you’re saying. ‘You’re so self-confident and well adjusted, you’d never get jealous of your mates… would you?’

Well guys, this will come as a massive shock to you, but I too have, from time to time, become jealous of my uni mates.

For what it's worth, we're all crazy

No matter what you’re studying, you’re probably going to go through an assignment situation where you have to compete for roles: project manager, group leader etc… In the media program, we have to compete against each other for our desired role when making films.

While this is a fantastic exercise because it’s how job selection usually happens in ‘the real world’, it’s also pretty awful. In the media program, every student has to stand up in front of the class and explain why they’re better than their friends at performing a particular role.

Ouch.

After going through this a few times during my degree, I’ve developed a couple of ways to deal with competing against my mates.

First of all, try to keep the competition as professional as possible.

job-competition
Remember that your friend is probably feeling just as uncomfortable competing against you as you are competing against them. Try to leave the competing in the classroom or interview room; once you’re outside the situation, try to focus on more positive aspects of your friendship. Also, avoid making personal attacks about your mate and focus more on how well you can do the job.

Keep in mind that if your friend gets the job you wanted, you will have gained an awesome contact in your desired industry, which could come in handy in the future.

The second thing to remember is that you are unique. You are one of a kind and you have different talents and skills to your friends.

you are unique - use this to your advantageGoing back to our high school ‘survival of the fittest’ lessons, we were taught that animals are in constant competition in order to uh… avoid ‘going to the farm’. However, another survival tactic animals have is to adapt and find their niche in order to contribute to the world order in their own special way. You can do this too! You just need to find out what you’re special talent is and how you can contribute to the working world order.
A good way to find out where your talents lie are in your grades; while your mate might get distinctions in the communication subjects, you might be better at research and therefore do better in analysis subjects. This could lead to a career in research. Sometimes our talents surprise us, and if this is the case, you might not be sure how they will help your career.

I’m really bad at most sports and I’m not very academic (seriously, if someone can explain long division to me I’ll give you my first-born), BUT I can talk under wet cement and I love questioning everything. While my skills weren’t appreciated too much at school, once I started studying media and journalism at uni I WAS IN MY ELEMENT.
This was because I had found my niche, my groove.

Once you’ve found your groove you can use this as a selling point when you have to compete against your friends. When you’re in an interview or doing an assignment, focus on your unique skills instead of comparing yourself to your friends.

Competition is a fact of life, but when it comes to competing with your friends try not to take it personally. Remember that you’re all just trying to survive in this sometimes brutal world and in the end your mates will be there to support you and help you out when possible.

To quote that one girl from Mean Girls, ‘I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and we could all eat a piece and be happy’.

But that’s not how the world works unfortunately, so just focus on why you’re awesome and you’ll find that trying to get a job or a good grade won’t be as painful as Year 11 biology class.

The heat is on: stay cool and ace Semester 3 study!

For those of you living in Australasia or regions with similar climates, you’ll certainly have noticed the temperatures starting to soar. It’s not too bad but trouble is, it’s difficult to stay glued to your chair long enough to focus and get some serious study done. Add to that the extra pressure created by there being fewer weeks in Semester 3 and I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you started to second-guess your decision to take on study when everyone else is on holidays. But fret not, my dear reader, as I have a few tips to help you keep your cool (literally and figuratively!) to make sure you ace Semester 3 study this year!

keep calm and beat the heat

Location, location, location!
Let’s start by looking at the physical temperature. It’s hot, plain and simple. But before you drip sweat on your keyboard and watch the power board fry out, grab your study basics and head out somewhere with a breeze or air conditioning. If you have no trouble focusing with a bit of noise and movement around you, a café makes for a great spot to get your work done. Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi and of course you can get your coffee on at the same time to keep you awake! You can even throw in a generous slice of baked cheesecake (my all-time favourite) to reward yourself as you make progress (remember my previous post about the importance of rewards)!

cheesecake - study reward
If you’re easily distracted like me, you might prefer a quieter location such as the library (followed by a trip to a café for cheesecake once you’ve finished studying!). If you live near a uni campus you can always head there, but if you’re like me and are much too far away, you can go to the local public library to enjoy the cooler, quieter conditions. They will probably even have somewhere for you to plug in your laptop if needed.

Keeping up with the Jones’s
So now that we’ve got the environment sorted, let’s take a look at the shorter semester. There’s no denying that you’re going to need to be a bit more organised than usual if you want to keep your grades up while covering the same amount of material covered during longer semesters, especially when you consider the shorter mid-semester break with Christmas and New Year’s Eve right in the middle. It’s definitely achievable though, especially if you’re used to taking 3 or 4 subjects during a regular semester. Start by looking at your course’s study guide. Some course examiners will have already set out week to week ‘to do’ lists and goals for you. Keep to these targets (or better yet, exceed them) and you will do fine.

to do list

But what happens if you can’t keep up with the pace that has been set? You always have the option to drop out of the subject for now and take it again another semester. There’s certainly no shame in doing that, just be sure to check the official uni drop dates to ensure you don’t receive any unexpected financial or academic penalties for doing so (you usually have a couple of weeks grace period from when semester starts, within which you won’t be penalised for dropping a subject).

Semester 3 might not be the easiest semester with all that tends to be going on in our personal and work lives at this time of year but it can be a rewarding one. Class sizes are smaller which means you get to know your fellow students that bit more and, most importantly, you will be able to graduate sooner, or take fewer courses during Semesters 1 and 2). Studying during Semester 3 also means that you remain in the study zone and don’t develop unhelpful habits over the summer months. If you can make it work for you, I would definitely recommend making the most of this opportunity.

studying at uni - the heat is on

Happy learning and lots of success to everyone studying during semester 3!

The do’s and don’ts of student adventure time!

Guess what… university is out for the year! We made it! Guys and girls… we did it! Can you believe it? We now have months to relax and enjoy whatever we want to do. We are as free as a bird!

Now, I can imagine quite a few of you adventurous and fun-loving students are going to be heading out of here now that your tertiary education journey for the year is over. Let the travel and self-discovery journey begin!

adventure time - student travel

Do

  • Mention you are a student as often as possible! People often love to help out students when they’re travelling, because they know what it’s like trying to see the world on a student budget.
  • Keep a notepad with you and take it everywhere so you can write down things you like or things you want to know more about.
  • Try to book everything in advance. Once you’re in Europe, a good last-minute travel option is idbus.com!
  • Keep your student ID on you at all times. It will serve you as well as your passport.
  • Prepare some fun university stories to tell your hosts or the local barista. By sharing your experiences you’re likely to make new friends and maybe even get shouted a coffee!
  • Take lots of photos 

Don’t

  • Take your textbooks everywhere you go unless you have to.
  • Book your flights last-minute as there may be hidden fees.
  • Get lured into buying cheap ‘local products’ you think you’ll be able to resell. Do some research and use your head. You are a university student after all! When you get home, customs may not clear those great bamboo chairs you bought for $20 that the seller promised you’d be able to resell for $200.
  • Be so attached to your tour guidebook that you miss experiencing the places you travel to for yourself. You are a student, so explore and learn everything you can about the places you visit based on your own experiences.

The most important thing I have learned about travelling the world as a student is that there are a lot of incredible people out there and most of them are kind-hearted. Many of them WANT to help us struggling students, especially in places like Germany where higher education is FREE. Use your head, be smart and think before you do anything, but it can be OK to trust the people you meet.

When you get home after travelling, remember to share your adventures with others so that you inspire them to go on their own. My mission in life is to be able to tell my stories to my grandchildren and to tell them that my adventures helped others to go on their own.

clock  - uni student travel

If you don’t want to make the commitment of starting your own travel blog or website, there is a website dedicated to helping people share their lives, adventures and stories from stranger shores (www.onstrangershores.com).

With that, I think I can leave you brilliant people. I wish you the best of luck with your travels and will hopefully see you next year for the next round of study. Who knows, by then you guys might have a few travel tips to teach me!

We only have a limited amount of time on this earth, so let’s make it as amazing, magnificent, magical and awesome as it can be.

Live it. Write it. Inspire – José R. Bishop.

#Internlife

As you probably all know, I am about to graduate from studying a Bachelor of Applied Media. One major part of this degree has been gaining valuable work experienced in a relevant industry to my studies.

I was lucky enough to score my current internship with 612 ABC Brisbane after one of the presenters from the ABC came into USQ  with his producer to talk to us media students about his job. After his talk, he said that if there were any students who were interested in doing an internship with himself and his team, to email his producer.

I went out of my way to put up my hand, send the email and, a few months later, I was getting out of bed at 2AM and heading into 612’s office.

The timing of my original internship was perfect because I would work at the ABC from 4AM to 11AM, then head into uni or work. Now that I’ve been shifted to weekends, my uni schedule is less affected. This shows that it is possible to incorporate an internship into your study schedule.

Eliza at ABC - banana

Being able to spend time within the industry has been an amazing and eye-opening experience for me. I have gain so much from learning on-the-job as well as everything I’ve learned from going to university.

I have learned how to act within a workplace, how to use the equipment and software used by the ABC and, because I have been treated as an employee of the ABC, I have learned what it’s really like to work in the media industry… I just can’t wait to be there full time!

I have also made some great contacts and have been given a chance to showcase my passion and perseverance.

Eliza at ABC

So, for those of you transitioning from uni to the work force, I would recommend going out of your way to do some work experience or an internship because, in my opinion, actually getting out there and getting a first-hand experience of an industry is the only way to see what it’s really like.

Good luck!

How to make the most of your summer (while still having fun)!

Summer Loving Efficiency

SUmmer LOving, Grease - Sandy and DannyWhen you think about it, if Danny and Sandy spent less time over summer floundering on the beach and more time productively working towards their future, they probably wouldn’t have got caught up in all the gangs and drama they did.

I was one of the lucky students who never had to study over summer semester, so I was silly and did a Danny.  I spent my first summer off playing xBox and chilling with my ‘gang,’ but soon realised I hadn’t done myself any favours.  With hindsight in mind, here’s some options for you, so you don’t waste your four-month break.

1 – MAKE THAT PAPER
Going to university and the arduous study at home can really get in the way of consistent hours at work.  Having no money sucks, so don’t miss the opportunity to earn some hard dosh while you’ve got time during the week.

So much money! Spend wisely

Also, don’t be a giddy goat and spend everything you make.  Put some away and save towards a holiday, or just keep it as a back-up stash for next semester.

2 – GET OUT AND ABOUT
If you do happen to have money after Semester 2, get out and splash it (responsibly).  It doesn’t have to be as eccentric as going on a Contiki trip around the Greek Islands, but even a trip to Sydney or Melbourne can clear your head and serve as a reward for your hard work at uni.

Summer holidays - travel to ItalyYou might cause some jealousy among your friends with your Facebook photos, but you can always rectify that with some souvenirs.

3 – BE IMPRESSIVE
Summer is the perfect time to get ahead of your classmates and potentially impress a couple of industry professionals.  Get the feelers out early and butter someone up for a week’s work or even more at a company you want to work for.  Whether it’s an internship or volunteering, even if you don’t get paid, you’d be surprised how far making coffee for a week will take you in the long run.

Gandalf LOTR internships

Pro Tip: LinkedIn is the tinder of employment, get on that boat!

4 – DIY STUDY
Just because you aren’t enrolled in a subject over summer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep up to scratch with your learning.  If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, and by ‘it’ I mean the urge to study.  It’s hard to come back from four months off and it can be a real drag to get re-motivated.  The library is still open over summer, so maybe just schedule a few hours a week to hire a textbook and keep it fresh.

I have no idea what I'm doing

5 – HAVE FUN!
After grilling poor old Danny and Sandra D earlier, I do admit that you should flounder about on a beach every now and then.  You should also play a bit of xBox and spend time with friends.  The same as you would if you had uni, practice a good work/life balance and make time for everything.  If you are organised, you can fit all five of these things into four months easily, so if you haven’t already, GET ON LINKEDIN!!  You’ll thank me later.

LinkedIn is the new Tinder

Until next time,
Tom

Staying healthy when really busy

I present you all with the constant problem us uni students face each and every day…

chocolate vs apple - healthy study snack choicesOur busy selves glare at the chocolate when all of a sudden it transforms into Pitbull singing “I know you want me”. Yet, when we look over at the apple, its song lyrics go something like “stay with me, ‘cos I’m all you neeeeed”, Sam Smith style.

Or is this just me?

Nonetheless, because keeping healthy while really busy is challenging, I have put together 8 tips to help maintain healthy habits and wellbeing during a full-on schedule…

  1. Plan meals in advance.
    Take the time to plan what meals you will have during busy periods so that you can stock up your pantry and fridge with as many supplies possible. Not having to go grocery shopping and knowing what you are having each day helps prevent reverting to bad habits such as take-out because of time restrictions.
  1. Healthy snacks.
    While planning in advance, stock up with healthy snacks that you can take with you to uni/work or that can sit beside your computer while you study. We all find ourselves eating for no valid reason when busy, so it’s probably best we fuel ourselves with nutritious foods. The snacks on my list include yoghurt, pieces of fruit, nuts, dried fruit, muesli bars, crackers and low fat dip. This is the only way I have learnt to overcome the chocolate VS apple debate, otherwise it’s so easy to let the chocolate win you over for a sugar hit!

    P.S. I have found having no chocolate in the house helps!
    sugar cravings - resist the temptation!

  1. Stay hydrated.
    Being a uni student often means sitting at the computer for hours on end during busy periods. All of the important things, like drinking enough water throughout the day, are easily forgotten unless you are dying of thirst. I have now learnt to have a water bottle beside my computer at all times to avoid one of those “out of sight, out of mind” scenarios.
  1. View exercise as a priority, not an option.
    Talking from experience during busy times, exercise becomes something we “don’t have time” for. I have only recently begun to shake this bad habit after realising just how much better you feel after just 30 minutes of exercise a day. Whether it is a walk around the block, run on the treadmill while watching a lecture, Wii fit session, gym circuit or whatever else you would prefer, JUST DO IT!
  1. Get enough sleep.
    I am no expert on this tip. When it comes to getting enough sleep when life is hectic, I am as guilty as they come. For some reason, I become a night owl with the idea that staying up until ungodly hours of the night will induce productive work. The downside to this notion of mine is that sometimes the only outcome of this decision is the awesome greeting when opening your Word document that says “pick up where you left off 6 hours ago (3.30am)”. It is probably most wise to remember the advice of health professionals, particularly when life is crazy, and aim for between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night to recuperate and allow the brain to function!
  1. Prepare frozen meals.
    If you find yourself constantly busy, put aside some time on weekends to prepare meals that can be frozen. That way, during the week, it is just a matter of defrost, heat and eat! And the bonus is, it’s healthy!
  1. Bring your planned meals to uni/work.
    Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. It is so easy to become tempted when out of the house to grab something naughty from the close-by cafeteria. This is avoided by taking your meals with you. P.S. Don’t forget the cutlery (advice from she who has done so)!
  1. Say no to stress in your life.
    Try not to make extra work for yourself when life is busy. Although our world would be disadvantaged without “yes” people, sometimes we need to learn to say no. Don’t overload yourself and find time to relax! The last thing we want is to become sick at a time we can least afford to be!

    Have you got any tips about staying healthy during hectic busy periods for me? I would love to hear them!

Getting back into study? Tips for when you haven’t studied for a while

It’s a big step to make the decision to get back into study when you haven’t studied in a while… it can be overwhelming in fact. If you’re not careful, you can fall victim to the fears, trepidations and reservations that are in the back of your mind and this can cause you to panic. It can make you start to doubt yourself and question whether it’s all worthwhile, but I can assure you that it is. You may experience challenges and have some fears about studying again, but there are many ways to overcome them and yes, even beat them back into submission.

time management to reduce stress1. Time management
The first challenge that you may encounter will be the managing your time. Trying to sort out the ‘how am I going to fit everything in’, ‘when is everything due’, ‘where do I have to be and what is it that I have to do’? This can be a tough one to figure out when you haven’t studied for a while, but it is quite simple really.

Solution: have a diary, write everything in it and carry it with you everywhere or, when at home, draw up a study management timetable with all the important how, when, where and what info on it. I will be the first to admit that I can’t live without my study plan, because sometimes there is just not enough room in my head to remember everything. My study timetable is my best friend. It tells the how, where, when and what, a bit like having a good friend to guide you all day long and take the weight off your shoulders.

take the weight off your shoulders2. Not having any friends
Challenge number two is the ‘No friends’ challenge. This is the one where you think that nobody will talk to you and you will feel all alone in a large room full of people. I know that I could tell you that it’s all in your head, but you won’t believe me, so I won’t say it.

Solution: Develop a network, which is a small group of people you can talk to about your assignments and lectures and who you can swap notes with. If you take the time to look around a lecture theatre, you’ll notice that there are plenty of people in the room all probably thinking the same thing as you. Just talk to them casually and when you see them next time strike up a conversation about anything that you may have in common i.e.: classes. Before you know it, you will have a network. I have always been the oldest person in every class at uni, so naturally this challenge was a big concern for me when I first started. But when waiting outside for lectures to start, I just chatted to the other much younger students about the course or assignments (this is an easy one to get another student talking) and bingo! Now in the second year, I always have someone to talk to and have coffee with… I have a network!

3. Technology
Challenge number three is the ‘Technology’ challenge. If you haven’t studied in a while, you are more than likely scared out of your wits about this one. But fear not: it looks hard to understand but it is really very simple and you will need to be able to use it, because universities use computer technology extensively. I speak from experience when I say that it’s easier than it looks.

Solution: The USQ library has sessions at the beginning of each semester on how to use the library resources, including technology. This is an excellent place to start. But if you have some basic knowledge, don’t forget that trusty information source: Goggle. Type in what you want to know into the search bar, for example how to use features in Word, Excel or Powerpoint, and up it pops. I knew very little about computers when I first started at uni, so I decided to sit myself down one day before I started and I fiddled, fidgeted and clicked on every tab in these programs just to see what they did. Before I knew it, I had a fairly good grasp of how things worked and as for the rest, I just used a Google search or if I’m totally frustrated, I ask another student for help.

USQ learning centre4. Getting help
Challenge number four is the ‘Help’ challenge. This is the one where you have hit a snag in you studies or you have a few problems or difficulties handling things and aren’t sure where to turn for help or support.

Solution: If you’re hitting that brick wall, turn to USQ’s Learning Centre for course work-related questions, your lecturers for questions specific to your course, Student Services for those more personal problems and your Student Relationship Officer. Put plain and simple, there is always someone out there who can help… they may even be sitting next to you in a lecture. Just ask! You won’t be the first or last to need support. I have proudly used the Learning Centre for course difficulties, in particular… the dreaded statistics. They have sat with me many times and explained things in a way that I could understand. I don’t think I would have passed some of my courses if not for the assistance my lecturers have given me by setting up consultation meetings with them.

5. Expectations
Challenge number five is the ‘Expectations’ challenge. This is the challenge where you have very high expectations of yourself. You know the one, where you try to do a thousand things at once, expect perfect marks and never say ‘no’ to people and, when it doesn’t work out, you crash and burn.

Solution: Value your achievements! Don’t judge your progress solely on the marks you are given for assignments. Instead, value what you have learned during the process of your degree and certainly, under no circumstances, judge yourself on the results of other students. I personally am very guilty of this one when I spend every waking moment on course and assignments, all the while trying desperately to participate in everything that family and friends ask of me (it’s really hard to say no) and I have found that you have to find that special balance between the two.

The main goal of getting back into study after a long period of time is to learn and to add to your life experiences. So relish every moment, don’t panic and stay calm.