About Georgena - USQ Student Blogger

I'm Georgena, though some know me as Gena, Georgie, George, or Gingercat - it's funny how nicknames develop and how some people find it hard to stick to one. I'm a third year science student, majoring in psych, studying on-campus in Toowoomba. With only three subjects left of my bachelor degree you may think it's smooth sailing ahead, but you'd be wrong. To reach my goal of being a registered psychologist I still have to battle through Honours year and then complete two years in a Masters program or in supervised practice... Looks like I'll be lurking around USQ and gathering nicknames for a few more years to come. There's much more to my life than reading up on Freud and drowning in statistics however. Here are some facts about me, in rather disjointed sentences.. I adore road trips, game shows, and drinking tea. One day I would love to go to Thailand to meet my beautiful six-year-old sponsorchild, Arisa. I lead a camp for young people twice a year in which I usually end up dressed as a man and covered in yogurt. I was born in the UK but am not cool enough to still have an accent. I love animals and am a vegetarian. I started a fitness bootcamp this year; it is hard - all you naturally super-fit people out there, please tell me your secrets!! I work in retail and also have a Cert IV in Massage Therapy. I suppose I am a bit of a 'hippie' - I love the Woodford Folk Festival, I sell brightly-coloured clothes to people all day, and generally I think getting along with each other is the way to go. Oh, and I adore music; listening or making. I am a night-owl and my favorite number in all the world is two.

So what do they call people who aren’t students?

I ask as I am about to put my studies on hold for the first time ever. EVER.

In less than a month’s time I will lose one of my defining features. No longer will I select ‘student’ as my primary occupation on the demographic section of surveys, or flash my ID card for discounts at the movies. My days spent studying/chatting/sleeping in the library are numbered and I may well have had my final picnic (for many months anyway) in the Toowoomba campus quad. The most astounding thing, which definitely hasn’t hit me yet, is the fact that I won’t constantly have assignment due dates in the back of my mind or exam study looming over me. My diary will be devoid of highlighted study reminders, my USB will lose its ‘Uni’ folder, and many trees will be saved from all the journal articles I won’t have to print.

blog1

It’s a freaky feeling to be putting my tertiary education aside but, after much deliberation, I have decided that it is time for a break. I feel like I’m ending a relationship: ‘it’s not you, USQ, it’s me – and I need some space’. Twelve years of schooling followed immediately by a three years’ bachelor degree have taken their toll on my sanity and stress levels (especially as my bachelor’s degree included two doses of summer semester and thus no real Christmas breaks). And then they were followed by this year. Honours year, which is due to be finished in a month (…tell that to my two outstanding assignments and thesis – so close but yet so far it seems!). Sixteen years of being a non-stop student. And to think that at the start of this year I was planning on applying for the 2014 master’s program as well, which would have brought the count to 18 years!

I guess the dilemma which is faced by many goes along the lines of ‘well if I stop studying now to _____ (work full-time/travel/have a family/become a lion tamer and run off with the circus), then will I ever return to obtain the education and qualifications that I want?’ Coming out of high school I figured I’d just ‘knock over’ the six additional years of study taken to become a registered psychologist – better that than be interrupted and lose focus on the end goal. I was naïve and didn’t realise at the time that it would take some kind of super power (that I am yet to possess) to stay focused for so long without my brain making mad attempts to escape through my ears and never come back.

blog2

I am someone who likes to be involved in lots of things and unfortunately the life of a successful student isn’t always compatible with that. So, after many hours deliberating over what to do next year I have come to the ‘take a break’ conclusion. Though I wouldn’t pinkie promise you on it, I do think that I will return to study at USQ sooner rather than later and that time off to relax, refresh, and reassess can only be a positive thing.

So then I had to think ‘wow, well if I’m not going to be a student then what will I be?!’ ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘what better to be than an adventurer?’ I need a real break next year, and whilst I also considered full-time work, in the end travel seemed like the best option, and something that I may not get the chance to do if I go down the career path now. Added to this is the fact that I was born in the UK, have British (as well as Australian) citizenship, and have 95% of my extended family living overseas. Aside from these things, wouldn’t you choose a traveling holiday over work?! So, not being one to mess around, my flights to the UK are booked for April next year (after graduation), and my British passport is in the process of being renewed. The tentative plan at this point is to gain some work in mental health whilst in the UK and then apply for Masters in 2015 when I return to Australia, but I’m also happy to just ‘go with the flow’. Farewell to the student and hello to the happy-go-lucky explorer! Oh wait, I’d better deal with those assignments and thesis first…

So, dear reader, I have a feeling that you may hear from me again before I depart, but if you don’t then all the best on your own study journey, and perhaps you will see another blog from me in a year or so!

blog3

I did not sign up for the circus…

In my last post about working I mentioned that I would write a bit more about managing costs and study load. It really is a juggling act…

g1

The other point I took from the study I mentioned last time (http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30006689/Devlin-studyingandworkingjournalarticle.pdf) was that students aren’t merely working to ‘fund a lifestyle’ (i.e. most of us aren’t just after a bit of extra money so that we can party every weekend whilst wearing the latest ‘threads’ and drive a ‘pimped out’ car).  Apparently most of us have found that we need to work in order to provide for everyday needs. And what makes up the bulk of our costs? Rent, food and other household bills (anybody out there surprised?). So it looks like the bottom-line is that, like it or not, most students will need to work to some extent during their degree. If you’re one of the lucky (or talented) minority that have overly-generous parents or can budget like nobody’s business then you can stop right here – as the remainder of this post will be for those who bravely take on the dual role of student and worker. We’ll look at costs, and budgeting (*all sigh sadly*).

Know your expected costs beforehand

Most people know that it helps to have regular money coming in. But plenty of students (myself included) don’t have a full idea of where their moolah will be going out. “How dare you exchange yourself for two movies, a dinner outing and a new dress this week money?!” I will often ask. It is not uncommon for me to spend more than I’d intended because I haven’t properly thought out the best use for my hard-earned cash. So, know the basic (i.e. compulsory and boring) costs of being a student. USQ has a pretty handy clip for those considering/about to commence study that outlines most of these costs (and also suggests ways to manage them): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1Fs3apNdb4.

If you can stick to just earning enough to pay the bills (always leaving plenty of time to study), then well done – but you are probably not a real-life person. Of course we want to have the $ for a social life and a ‘savings’ account (do these accounts exist?). But really the question to ask ourselves is ‘what is important to me right now?’ Is it more valuable to: a) leave enough time to study properly, understand the course content and submit assignments you’re happy with (avoiding last-minute stress), or b) work lots of additional hours so you can either spend more or put a lot of money away right now?

Of course there is no correct answer, and most people go for a happy medium. For me though, as a full-time student, I had to realise that I have ‘student’ listed as my main occupation – and that this alone should indicate where the most of my time should be spent. So I had to understand my most crucial costs (which, as someone still living at home, aren’t as high as many students) and work from there. Now when I get paid I don’t think first of the possibilities, but the responsibilities, and the need for ‘uni time’ (gosh I am sounding like a parent/policewoman/fictional character rather than a twenty-one year-old here!). Usually these initial thoughts of proper spending/saving disappear once I’m invited on a road trip or dinner date though… I hope you will have more success than I…

Can anyone say ‘bargain’?! It pays to be a cheapskate…

I won’t go into too much depth here as for me ‘student’ is pretty much synonymous with ‘save every cent you can and do not pay one dollar more than you have to for anything’. If saving sixty dollars by sourcing ‘vintage’ clothing or packing your own lunches means that you can work a few hours less each week, then bring on the op-shopping, trips to the DFO, second-hand textbooks, home cooking, loyalty cards, discount books, clothes-swapping and two-for-one deals! There are so many great money-saving initiatives being dreamt up every day, and they’re there to be taken advantage of :)
I would highly recommend a read of Nick’s latest instalment (a hilarious and thrifty USQ blogger himself) which can be found at http://usqedu.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/take-a-study-break-for-10/. It lists ways you can enjoy yourself for under $10. I would also add to ‘trivia nights’ to Nick’s list. Many are free, most are very cheap, and lots are accompanied by prizes, food deals, and a few hours of laughter (plus you’re probably learning something…). The poster below is one example ($50 for a team of six with profits going to charity!) but there are plenty more trivia nights out there held regularly.

g2

So my friends, whilst my rambling has probably added to your confusion, just keep in mind that no one expects a student to be rich. And, if passing your course means missing a much-needed work shift, remember that water is free and that you can always buy a kilo of rice for $2.33 at Coles (and that’s not even on special).

g3

To Work or not to Work?

…that is the question. Well it’s one question anyway. Whilst perhaps not as potent as Hamlet’s Act 3, Scene 1 line that weighs up the meaningfulness of life, the question “will I ever cope working and studying?!” is an important question to ask oneself.

If you are looking for a clear answer within this blog then you will probably be thoroughly disappointed. I mean would Hamlet look for an answer to life questions in an online blog? No he would not. Ask me for an answer about who should win Masterchef 2013 (Rishi) or which Disney character you should be for a dress-up party (The Little Mermaid for girls or Aladdin for boys) and expect a straightforward answer. But, unfortunately, whether or not you should aim to simultaneously work and study, and how many hours of work is the ‘right amount’ are questions each man (or woman) must consider for himself.

blog2

These things being said, my blog today would be a fairly lame one if I left it at that. What type of fourth-year student would I be if I didn’t impose upon you my own experience and opinions?! So, whilst I think that the take-home message should be that only you can determine what you can and can’t handle in regards to workload and life balance, below are several observations of my own…

In true psychology student style I will first present you with some statistics that someone else came up with after much thought and hard work. A 2008 study (see http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30006689/Devlin-studyingandworkingjournalarticle.pdf) said that ‘the typical Australian student is a working student who spends substantial time in paid employment’. 72.3% of undergrads were found to be employed during the uni semester, and over 85% of those surveyed said they’d had a job in the last twelve months. On average, full-time undergraduate and postgraduate research students spent between 13 and 17 hours working every week (and 30-40 hours per week for the part-timers). But enough numbers. The gist is that – whether in part-time or full-time study – most students work, and they work a considerable amount. So we aren’t just talking about an hour of lawn-mowing for your parents or a three-hour shift once a week at your local supermarket here…

So, if you are one of the 72.3% that do need to work, my number one tip would be to realise that the most important person is you. Yes jobs are important and you should aim to be a hard-working, successful employee, but I have seen far too many students do backflips for uncompromising employers (in jobs that they will only be in for a year or two whilst finishing a degree). If any of the following is true for you then it’s time to consider whether you’re in the best working environment.

  1. You’re being made to feel guilty because you aren’t able to take last-minute shifts
  2. You are repeatedly rostered on for more hours than was agreed upon
  3. There is no compromise in shift times so that you can attend lectures
  4. Shifts are regularly cancelled when you have made the time to work them

It’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Though it may take a while to find a better job (and it’s probably best not to quit until you’ve got something else in line), there are always jobs out there! Don’t be afraid to try something new and improve your working situation. I for one know that I am a lot happier now than I was at the start of my casual employment journey…
blogg1

 

 

b3

b4

 

 

 

 

 

The very fancy diagram above also shows that at most times I had two part-time jobs. I was always looking for something a bit better; a bit more flexible or relevant to what I was studying. Having two jobs that both only required a shift or two each week also meant that there was less pressure than one intense job (I’m definitely not recommending two jobs however!). My position as a salesperson at Tree of Life recently ended and so I was really thankful to have my student ambassador position to rely on. In both of these roles I was (and am) able to put myself first. I easily get time off for study and exams, and I have a big say in how often I work – and I enjoy it. I have now even been able to take on a volunteer internship which directly relates to my future career – pretty good deal!

blog4

Keep an eye out for my next blog that will appear in the next few days – there I’ll give my two-cents worth in regards to juggling the two seemingly opposing forces that are study and employment. Happy studying!

2013 – Round Two *ding! ding! ding!*

Time to take on semester two…

“And in one corner we have the seemingly unstoppable, hulkishly huge pile of reading, assessment, deadlines, classes, and more reading!!” I call it the Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron.  And in the other corner? You. Tired from round one and overwhelmed by what lies ahead. You are still partially in half-time holiday mode and have only just properly realised that you’re about to be thrown into student-life all over again. Success seems far, far away. So far that all you want to do is jump out of the ring and run away. It’s just you, on your own, to tackle the Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron.

blog1

Or so it may seem right now…

If you’re like the majority of students chances are that you have two semesters each year, with a break in between. Unfortunately for me, I am one of a smaller group of students who is denied a real holiday, denied the chance to wind-down before second semester. Why, you may ask? Well, because I am an honours year student. And that means that I have a thesis to write – a task so monstrous (well to me at least) that it demands year-long attention and is not deterred by such things as holidays…. Honours year also means that I am sitting in week-long 9am-5pm workshops whilst most people are on holidays; I’m trapped.

blog2

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. I do get breaks. And I love the area that I’m studying.  And I suppose the fact that I don’t have to go to regular classes each week is pretty cool. The point I’m trying to make though is that I know what it’s like to approach semester two feeling drained and like the Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron will get you. Or, you may even be a first-time student this semester, trying to get your head around the change of routine and structure that university life brings. I’ve done that too. And now I’m writing to tell you to ‘have no fear!!’ Today – right here, right now – I will walk you through how exactly I (and millions of other students before me) have managed to beat the Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron. Hopefully some of these observations and tips will inspire you to victory!

1. The first thing I needed to realise when I began three and a half years ago was that I was not alone. There were many resources available to me, just some of which are mentioned here:

  • I had (and still have) many friends and a loving family there to cheer me on, bring me energy supplies, and support me in times of crisis (i.e. impending due dates). My mum and my boyfriend are at the top of this list.
  •  I’ve lots of study buddies lurking in the wings, ready to unite and take down to the Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron. Many study days filled with junk food and seas of notes and textbooks have passed in my living room – and all have had good results! Even just being around likeminded people has amazing effects.
  • I used music to amp me up, or to relax me (and sometimes just to drown out the outside world). Need some help with study playlists and motivational tracks? You’re in luck as USQ Spotify (a music-sharing app) has just been launched! Check out http://open.spotify.com/user/usqedu/
  • Tea, coffee, and chocolate were never far away. Incense was also helpful.
  • A change of scenery (e.g. reading in the park on a sunny day, or moving to the USQ library or computer lab to work) meant that I wasn’t just stuck in the same place, looking at the same thing.
  • Lastly, an entire team of assistance came in the form of USQ lecturers, counsellors, administration staff, and student relationship officers. They were (and are) the coaches and the experts, and probably the most valuable assets in reaching the end in one piece – so make use of them!  Not only are they gurus in regard to content, they can also help ease the stress, and even the workload if you feel that you really need to cut back on study for whatever reason…

blog3

2. Before rushing in, I had to make myself a game plan.

  • If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making lists. Oh the lists I have made and the diaries I have owned. I am also an avid stationary-owner and post-it-noter. You may not be responsible for keeping Officeworks in business like I am, and you may not be one for writing three lists a day (probably a good thing I suppose), but you do need to organise yourself. Print off your study schedules for each week; figure out how you’ll fit in that footy game or episode of Masterchef when you have readings for four different subjects to do; look at all the due dates to see what should take priority; and, most importantly, set some goals.
  • When you look at due dates, make sure you also find the cut-off dates for dropping out of a course without financial and academic penalty (just in case!) and also find out when the SA fees are due. Another tip – get in early with textbooks, as many may need to be ordered in. A delay in textbooks means a delay in getting started.
  • It’s important to have the right attitude. You can do it! And even when I felt like I couldn’t do it, I took some advice from Dory and told myself to ‘just keep swimming’; the end was in sight, and letting my standards drop in semester two could mean wasting a lot of previous hard work.

blog4

3. Lastly, I had to make like the Nike slogan and just do it.

  • The Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron has a sidekick, and his name is Procrastination-guy.  Whilst scrolling endlessly through facebook or watching all nine seasons of The Office in the weeks before major assessment is due may seem like excellent, pain-free ideas at the time, putting things off is the fastest way to get yourself into lots of stress and sleepless nights (believe me, I know!).
  • So, learn from my mistakes; get started early (on course readings/work, assignments and exam revision), pace yourself, and leave enough time to walk away for a while and then come back and check over what you’ve written before submitting it. A very dedicated, superhero-like friend of mine would actually write the assignment due date in her diary as being a week or two before the actual deadline, and she’d always get it done before the new, closer date. I do not do that. But perhaps you are more dedicated than I and can take such a strategy on board.
  • Lastly, always submit a draft if you are given the chance to, and get feedback from as many people as possible. My mum has also become my editor – and believe me when I say that no one is capable of picking up every spelling or grammatical error without help!

blog5

Well, that’s all from me for now. Hopefully my experiences and suggestions will be meaningful to you as you prepare for and commence upon your semester two quest! Perhaps the Study-Monster-of-Doom-atron won’t be so scary after all. Good luck and let the game begin! *ding! ding! ding!*

blog6

Graduation Celebrations

The me of a week ago was a frantic mess; how can I think of my science degree graduation when I’m neck-deep in honours assignments and work commitments? What will I wear?! What if I fall over?! Will the weather be okay? Should I wear heels?! WHAT WILL I WEAR?!!

Blog 1

Today (one awards ceremony and one graduation later) I am a much happier, calmer lady – and a graduate! The weather was fantastic, I didn’t face-plant it on stage, and yes, I did wear heels :) Three year’s work (give or take a few for some graduants) was celebrated in a sea of multi-coloured academic gowns (try not to: strangle yourself, sit on the person’s beside you, or channel your inner Harry Potter and use it as a dementor cape!), mortarboards (is it on the right way? It’s cutting off the blood-flow to my brain!!) and smiling students (or ex-students as the case is now for many). For those who have never experienced a university graduation, I have to say that it was far more interesting than I’d expected – here are my highlights:

  • The entrance of the academic procession – loved the outfits!
  • Our guest speaker, an exceptionally intelligent, hilarious and wise astronomer from Yorkshire (Professor Frederick Watson – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Watson) who spoke of the possibility of microorganisms from Mars creating a pandemic here on  Earth (amongst other, slightly more relevant things)
  • The ‘musical interlude’ which was a  stunning Adele song performed by creative arts students
  • Hearing the crazy shouts from family and friends as their loved ones received their testamurs on stage
  • Shaking hands with the chancellor (she was SO friendly, despite my name being at the very end of a very longgg list)

USQ students are so fortunate to have the Japanese Gardens (which are actually the largest traditional gardens in Australia) on our doorstop – and my group made good use of them by sneaking of for a photo shoot after the ceremony (and after our fair share of delicious snacks and drinks; all that clapping is thirsty work!).

I’d like to quickly mention the unsung heroes of graduation… No, not the staff members who help us fix our academic gowns just before we walk on stage – though they are pretty darn important – or the car park traffic directors (it’s a hard job; I remember working last year – standing in a snazzy poncho in the rain trying to prevent car crashes whilst sending graduants in the right direction). I mean the PARENTS and FAMILIES – thank you SO MUCH for your support; you have stood beside us on our respective journeys, and (unless you can’t take the proof-reading of our assignments and cooking of our meals any longer and move to an exotic overseas island to escape) you will remain by our sides for a long time to come. What is more, you do AMAZING things – like making the delicious ice-cream graduation cake below :D

Blog 5

To my mum, Sandra – you deserve a degree yourself for putting up with three years of stressed-out me!

So, what now? It’s back to the assignments and work commitments, back to normal clothes and normal cakes. With any luck, I’ll be back in the Clive Berghofer Centre graduating from my honours degree next year – bring it on!!

Blog 3

Want to see what some other USQ graduands have to say? Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnIO4JkpaF0&list=UUp0ShvPUKqiKvfj40bexawg&index=3!

The Year to end all Years…

In two days’ time I will commence what I have been told is the most grueling year of a student’s life. A year that will test my academic ability, jeopardize my social life, reduce my sleep bank balance, and compromise my sanity. In two days’ time I will begin a journey that may ‘make or break’ me – Honours Year*. I don’t think the reality of the situation will actually sink in until I’m sitting in that classroom, beginning an 8-day intensive workshop on multivariate analysis, research and thesis proposals, ethical dilemmas, and counselling techniques. For the moment my brain is still enjoying being on holidays, pleased to have completed my undergraduate science degree and to only have casual employment, volunteer work, coffee dates, and road trips to be concerned about. It is hard to comprehend that I should be preparing it for an onslaught of reading, researching, and revising. A week or so ago I was enjoying my 21st birthday with family and friends – not a care in the world – and now I am bracing myself for the return to study; my textbooks and laptop to be my most important companions.

Image

Thankfully, I am not to brave the storm alone. My family and friends – some of whom have already completed similar study – have been amazingly supportive so far, and I know they will be there again, despite how stressed out, cranky, or deliriously tired I may get.

Image

I am exceptionally lucky in that my boyfriend is also a psychology student and about to begin honours himself, as are several of my friends. I have been teamed up with an amazing thesis supervisor, and have been allocated the topic that most interested me for my research project (Autism Spectrum Disorders). I am confident in the USQ staff and facilities. Ultimately, I think I’ve been given the best chance to succeed that I’m ever going to get. I wouldn’t say ‘bring it on!’ but I’m also not running in the opposite direction just yet.

This year will be a balancing act – I hope to continue working and volunteering (I help at Lifeline one day a week) and maybe even to see daylight and my friends every now and then. Stupidly or not, I even have a cruise booked for July (everyone needs a break!). I’ll check in with you again in a few months to let you know how I’m travelling, and just how skilled I am at time-management…

I thought I’d end with the top three events from my holidays (holidays which are about to fade into nothingness all too soon): 1. As mentioned above, I turned 21! 2. My Rotaract Club organised a movie night that raised almost $1200 for Guide Dogs Queensland – thank you to anyone reading this who supported it! 3. Last but not least, I volunteered at the Woodford Folk Festival – and would recommend it to anyone; especially if you are a poor student and fancy a free ticket and accommodation.Image

Oh, and I also got be on a bus, wearing my new, free USQ t-shirt! Make sure to come along to the Phoenix Carnival on the 24th Feb (I am especially looking forward to the fairy floss, movie at sunset, and dunking machine hehe…) Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3CaOfSy5cU

Image

Well, that’s all from me for the mo’ – off to gather stationery for the big day! :S

- Gena

*For those asking ‘what is this insane-sounding honours year?’ Differences from an undergraduate program include:

  • Week-long workshop blocks (with class from 9am-5pm each day), which occur four times a year, rather than several 2/3-hour classes each week. Workshops are often held in the weeks usually considered holidays.
  • A research project/thesis due at the end of the year, as well as other ‘normal’ subjects each semester.
  • Though it is an on campus program (and cannot be completed unless you attend the workshops), more external-style study is required and students must take the initiative in catching-up with their supervisors and staying on task.
  • The program only takes one year of full-time study to complete.

For more information, The University of Southern Queensland website is more accurate than I (check out http://www.usq.edu.au/handbook/current/sci/BSCH.html).

Wishin’ and hopin’…

…And, as Dusty would say, “thinkin’ and prayin’, and plannin’ and dreamin’”. The end of my science degree – which occurred on the 5th of November with my final exam – marked a time of relief, celebration, and sleep; but also a period of anticipation. Not only was I awaiting the release of end-of-semester results, I was wishin’ and hopin’ for an offer into the honours program next year…

For those of you considering a future as a psychologist, be warned: the road is a long and competitive one, especially at USQ (as I am beginning to find). From the hundreds of students enrolled in the three-year Bachelor of Science (Psychology) program at the start of first year, less than forty will be accepted into the honours program that follows it – and it’s your GPA that determines your fate. And, if you do get in to honours, you still need two years of supervised practice in the ‘real world’ or a Master’s degree in psych (which – you got it – is ridiculously difficult to get in to as well) before you can become a registered psychologist. ‘Registered psychologist’; two little, very elusive words that will take a minimum of six years, a lot of hard work, and some luck, to call your own.

So, be warned, the mentality that “c’s get degrees’ at uni won’t get you very far if you dream to be a psychologist. That being said, I really enjoyed my science degree and the journey so far, and though I struggled with some of the statistical courses and medical jargon I’m happy I stuck at it. The support was there for me and I’m proud of my achievements. And the holidays have never been better! Since I chose to study year-round (taking on subjects in the summer semester) in my first and second years, this is my first real break since I started – ♪SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!!♫ now has real meaning.

So how have I spent the last few weeks of freedom? Well until recently they were comprised of waiting, nail-biting, and checking my emails religiously every few hours, hoping for a few little words that would determine what I would do next year. Did I succeed in my quest for acceptance? You’ll need to wait a little longer before you find out (I’m trying, and most likely failing, to build in you the suspense that I felt). During the first weeks of the holidays I also applied to be a volunteer at Lifeline, trying to gain some experience in the world of counselling and human services. I now work voluntarily one day a week there, and it’s incredible – the people I work alongside are so inspiring and the programs really make a difference in the lives of many.

Aside from this I’ve been continuing to work at my retail job of two years, and also helping to organise a fundraising event with my local Rotaract club. “Fundraising event?” I hear you ask “I am dying to know what you mean”. Well, because you asked (and in an act of shameless promotion)…

Lion King

So, if you’re in the Toowoomba area, a Disney fan, and wanting to support a great cause, leave me a message and I’ll get you some more information.

Anyway, now that I have sufficiently harassed you with that, back to my holiday goings-on… It hasn’t all been uni anticipation, work, and movie organisation, I’ve also been able to sleep-in (YES), catch-up with family and friends long-lost to the perils of exam block, and even managed to see a band or two. And what about the reckless partying engaged in by newly-finished uni students everywhere? You may wonder. Well, I’m not much of a drinker but I certainly know how to partayy… As you can see below…

Being pretty hard-core late one night drinking chamomile tea whilst watching a 'gig' (as they call it) at the local pub.

Being pretty hard-core late one night drinking chamomile tea whilst watching a ‘gig’ (as they call it) at the local pub.

I didn’t reallyyy let loose however, until after the 26th of November, when I received a certain email, and later, a certain letter, which looked something like this –

Is this the news you've been waiting for?

Drum Roll

Drum roll…

Offer Letter

The week following  the 23rd of November was an eventful one – I received my semester two results, my official academic transcript, a letter saying I was a graduate of USQ (you may now call me ‘Georgena BSc’), and a letter offering me a place in honours next year. I’m SO excited for what the year ahead will hold, and though I’m told it’ll be one of the toughest of my academic life, I’m just grateful that I’ve been given the chance to take a crack at it.

No more wishin’, waitin’, or hopin’ for me – BRING ON 2013!!

Holidays (what holidays?!) are over – And so it begins…

I’m finding it ridiculously difficult to believe that the uni break – that little beacon of light I’d been looking forward to during past weeks – is over already. I had planned to have a real chance to relax, but my classes start back tomorrow and I already feel under the pump. Where did the opportunities for sleep-ins, road trips, movie-watching days, and uni-work catch-up disappear to? Looking back over the last fourteen days I realise that this break has been more hectic than usual; and I use the term ‘break’ very loosely…

The first day of the holidays arrived; signalling a chance for freedom, relaxation, fun… For me, something else was in store – Monday 17th September for me meant an assignment due date. A week’s extension given to my one of my psychology classes seemed awesome at the time, but when met with my unrivalled knack for procrastination and extra work shifts, it lent itself to a very stressful first day of holidays. I heaved a sigh of relief when I submitted it online with less than twenty minutes on the clock; another close call for this third-year student who should probably know better. After a day or two of contented holiday bliss, I then realised (or chose to finally acknowledge – I had written all my due dates in my diary) that a major assignment for my external English subject was due on the last day of the break – BOOM went any hopes of a weekend away or a day trip to the DFO.

I got the English assignment in by 5pm Friday as required – tired, hungry, and dizzy – dozens of articles on rural masculinity and Australian identity floating before my eyes. I am sure you are wondering ‘Why does she do this to herself?’, ‘It really shouldn’t be that hard to manage time…’, and ‘This girl is carazzayy!’ Though I admit the following is poor defence, let me try and explain my last-minute approach. People may ask what students get up to on their holidays; I’m here to tell you it isn’t all channel-surfing and partying:

This break was BUSY. A shortage in staff at both of my jobs meant I racked-up plenty of hours at work, I was also housesitting for two different families (and the presence of one horrible paralysis tick on one of the dogs kept me worried and the vet busy), birthdays were everywhere – including two 21st parties, and there were committee meetings, trivia fundraisers, and music events to attend and support. The most amazing – and time-consuming – thing to happen was definitely my involvement in a program run for youth, held near Laidley twice a year (in a camp format). And when did the most recent camp occur? 14-16th September – it finished the day before my first assignment was due. As this was my third year as a leader within the program, I was really fortunate to be one of the two coordinators running the team this year (for the first time). The weekly meetings in the months leading up to camp paid off – the participants had an incredible time, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for all the early assignment submissions in the world. Here’s a random glimpse of what we get up to at the camp (filmed in 2011):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQD42VZUPgs

If you’re more of a visual person, here’s my break in pictures:

So you can see that assignments weren’t always necessarily my first priority, and it’s no surprise that the course readings I wanted to get on top of remain firmly where I left them two weeks ago. I really have a HUGE respect for those busy students who – on top of study, work and extra-curricular activities – also have a family to raise, and manage to take care of children and loved ones whilst knowing assignments are due and lectures need reviewing. I think that I’m busy, but you take it to another level. You really are SUPERHEROS.

What I actually wanted to mention in this blog (before I got side-tracked in reliving my holiday adventures) was the noticeable difference in students and the university atmosphere generally before and after the mid-semester break. The tension in the second half of courses is noticeable; assignments have been rolling in for a while, exam timetables have been released, it’s make or break time. Before you lose your mind contemplating how much you have to learn and how quickly time seems to be racing (as I often do), take some advice from someone who’s lived through the lead-up to USQ exam block eight times before:

1. Study tips I have found really helpful when short of time include:

  • downloading lectures onto a CD and listening to them as I drive to and from work, when going to sleep etc.
  • allocating one ‘group study day’ close to the exam (complete with junk food and lots of tea-drinking) as I’ve found it easier to be motivated when surrounded by others trying to achieve the same goal.
  • rather than try to read the whole textbook again in the lead-up to your exam, look closely at the key terms (which are usually highlighted), the glossary sections, and review questions

2. Don’t shut out the people who love you and who may be able to help you.

3. Take your study seriously, but also know that all the stress and worry will come to pass, and that it is definitely not the end of the world if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped. Other options will be open to you and will get you where you want to be in the end. In the scheme of things, this is only one or two months of your entire life. Breathe. Eat properly. Sleep properly. Study will always be there, your health won’t.

I hope everyone had the mid-semester break that they hoped for – and good luck with the second half of semester two!!

Eclectic Electives: Why my degree resembles an ice cream…

When applying to enter the undergraduate science program at USQ almost three years  ago, my former self had little clue that she would be experiencing much more than psychological theory and statistical jargon… She would be putting her fingers in all the pies, stealing the knowledge of many other faculties, and forming a degree that featured an assortment of different flavours and academic sprinklings – it would be like the making of one very creative, epic, delicious ice cream.

But I suppose I should really take a step back and start my story from the beginning…

When I was in grade eleven I stumbled across an amazing thing – they called it ‘Head Start’. What teenager wouldn’t want to drop a subject at school and instead attend a weekly, three-hour Uni class in which you mainly listened to music and discussed the Beatles and Rolling Stones? Whilst pretending to be a witty, laid-back, astoundingly cool Uni student of course…  I heard about Head Start at school and from friends and was excited at the idea, but the huge selection of courses to choose from posed a problem for the 16-year-old Georgena who had no idea what she wanted to do after high school. However, despite being the exceptionally indecisive person I was (and still am), I eventually chose ‘An Introduction to Popular Music’. The class – worth over $500 – was fully paid for by USQ, and I was told it guaranteed me a place there after school if I wanted it, and could potentially contribute to my future degree. I loved every minute of the course and thus began the creation of custom-made USQ journey.

Over the next year I decided a degree in Psychology was the way to go, and I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psych.

Decision made,” I thought to myself “bring on the predetermined classes and structured coursework!” This was not the case however. University threw me a curve ball; only sixteen of my twenty-four subjects were set – the remainder were (you guessed it) up to my less-than-experienced self to decide upon. Instead of a pre-made sundae I was given only the basics – a fifty cent cone which I then had to doll-up myself. You can imagine my dismay upon discovering the hundreds of subjects open to me yet again. And so, instead of a cleverly researched approach, I adopted a pretty happy-go-lucky/crazy woman one… “Introduction to Education? Why not, some of my friends are taking it…” “Journalism? Sure, throw that one in there” “English Literature? Didn’t mind it at school, sign me up!” I didn’t know what I was interested in at the time so I thought why not try a bit of everything; no need to choose between caramel topping and crushed nuts when you’re given the option of both.

I muddled along during first year, completing my set subjects as well as a good few not-so-set ones. I didn’t feel particularly attached to the semester one education course or to the journalism course I undertook in summer semester that year. But, third time’s the charm as I came across a winner in English Literature (thank goodness!) – My choice of subjects finally began looking a little less eclectic, a little less random (after over a third of my degree was already completed…). I decided to take on four literature courses; the four which are considered a minor within an arts degree (the last of which I am completing currently, in the final semester of my science degree) – and I haven’t regretted it since.

I consider literature a breath of fresh air when I get too bogged down in the midst of all that psychology work, and I’m thankful now that I was given so many electives to play around with, and that I experimented until I found the perfect combo. So here’s the final description of my rocky-to-start-with ice cream:

  1. A novice with no background in ice cream buys a flake before even considering the ice cream to be had (i.e. my music elective)
  2. Several years later (the flake maybe slightly melted and forgotten by this point), a much more enlightened being purchases the ‘base’; a very large cone and a generous serve of vanilla ice cream (i.e. enrolling in a science degree with the major of psychology)
  3. A bunch of crazy children arrive and drench the ice cream in mismatched toppings and sprinkles (i.e. the education, journalism, and first literature electives)
  4. Luckily, a seasoned taste-tester arrives and, appreciating the small amount of caramel sauce found, adds more and gets the balance near perfect (i.e. the following three literature courses)
  5. A final passer-by realises that the ice cream is being lost amidst all these new flavours and adds a final scoop, perfecting the recipe (i.e. the third-year psychology elective I chose in the summer semester of my second year)

I think the moral to this somewhat in-depth analogy is that, at the end of the day, your degree should be unique to you, and you shouldn’t be afraid of customising it where possible. Learning is a lot about choices and decision-making (as my former self quickly discovered) – and ice cream tastes a lot better when you make it yourself!!