Dear ‘nervous-final-year’ Jordan

With the return of semester one, I thought I’d take a similar approach to fellow USQ blogger Kara (see Kara’s blog “advice for my pre-exam self” http://usqedu.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/advice-for-my-pre-exam-self/).

Dear ‘nervous-final-year’ Jordan,

HAPPY ACADEMIC NEW YEAR! March came around so quickly and now it is time to get back into the swing of things.

At this point, it is important to set yourself up for success and turn over a new leaf with positive study habits. 2014 is a big year for you Jordan; Not only are you preparing for your final year of university, but you’re also going to have to juggle it alongside full-time work.  It’s not enough to just set your new year’s resolutions; you need to think how you will actually keep them.

Build a study time table. Keep up to date with readings. I know these have been your academic ‘new years’ resolutions’ for the past few years, but you need to now more than ever. Finishing assignments the night they’re due is no longer an option for you. Start early, plan ahead and you’ll have plenty of time to edit without the pressure. Every opportunity to study should be taken – like your train rides to and from work.

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After four years of full-time on-campus study I know that the idea of finishing university online can seem a tad daunting. Always remember, if you are ever concerned you have an amazing support network of family, friends and university staff you can call on. The lecturers have consultation times set aside for student questions and they’ll only be a phone call or email away. Speak to work about your studies and I’m sure they will be able to be flexible when it comes to exam time.

I know you’ll be missing the social side of university, but online study isn’t as lonely as you may think. You can be just as involved in social and discussion forums available on the course pages; if that isn’t enough, you can always set up study groups.

Finally, don’t forget to look after yourself! Not only will you have limited time for study during the week, but you’ll also have to make time for exercise, downtime and (most importantly) sleep! Take a deep breath. Stay focused. Eat well. Have fun. Set yourself goals for this year and work towards them.

Best wishes always and I cannot wait to see what adventures you’ll have this year!

Good luck!

From ‘optimistic-future’ Jordan

From Learning to Earning

With the semester three exam block now underway, I thought I’d take a bit of a side-step and follow on from my previous post. On the last instalment, I shared with you my experiences on summer placement and how it was beneficial in making connections between what I’d learned in university and experiencing it in a practical context.

Besides being able to experience the chosen industry in a practical setting, work experience also provides a great platform for professional development and an opportunity to make some connections with people in the industry. Overall, a big part of work experience, and perhaps the main reason, is having a greater chance of securing employment as a result of the practical experience.

Following a much needed rest and relax over the December holidays, I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time position as a result of completing the work experience program! It has been an extremely exciting time adjusting to the new job; a valuable learning experience and has had its fair share of nerve-wrecking moments.

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With two weeks now passing since I started, I thought I’d focus this blog on the main similarities and differences I’ve found between full-time study and full time work.

  1. Meeting Deadlines – just like managing upcoming assignments, work has its deadlines for when tasks are to fall due.
  2. Working independently – just like university studies, this work is self-paced and working independently of others. Luckily, at USQ students have the benefit of supportive lecturers, student relationship officers and student services for extra guidance and support.
  3. Finding the balance – a struggle every student faces once in a while is striking the right balance between study and life. Work is no different and with full-time hours I’ve found there is even less personal time in each day. Needless to say, this factor will be one I’ll need to work on the most once semester one begins!
  4. Hours of work – although on-campus study may involve up to 12 hours per week of face-to-face classes, the time spent on independent study is not necessarily confined to the traditional nine-to-five working hours.
  5. Money – perhaps the most obvious difference between the two, you are paid to work, whereas you pay to study. While many students (myself included) often grow accustomed to living on a shoe-string budget, university study is a long-term investment and can be the key to scoring that full-time position.

With all this said, I wish all the students in summer semester exams the very best and now the countdown has begun until the start of semester one!

Suit-Up for Summer!

Hello all and welcome to 2014!

While many students have been enjoying their summer on the beach, catching up with friends and   adventuring, I made the decision (unpopular to most) to complete a summer placement. During November and December, I completed a four-week summer program where I was able to experience criminal law in a practical setting. Over this time I was able to experience the day-to-day life in a busy law office, working alongside lawyers and their paralegals. I was able to complete a wide range of work, including legal research, communicating with other law firms, as well as drafting letters and documents.

As this was my first work experience in an office environment, even the minor aspects of the placement amazed me; I’d work full-time hours, dress the part (suit up!) and even have my own desk to work from.

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Although at times feeling like I was thrown in the deep end with some of the work, all of the staff were happy to answer questions and share their experiences with me. Learning first hand through practically completing work was extremely beneficial and allowed me to make several connections with concepts I’d learned through my law study.

Working alongside law practitioners also opened up opportunities to sit in court and observe a number of criminal law matters. Through spending time in court observing, I quickly became familiar with processes of a trial and the functions required by each of the court personnel.

The summer placement also had plenty of other highlights, including the opportunity to attend professional development seminars and was even able to tag along to the work Christmas party. The professional development sessions were beneficial in explaining the practicalities of criminal law, and in enhancing legal research skills. It was great to be able to take my learning beyond the lecture rooms into a practical setting, and I’m sure to use the skills I learned to my benefit in my final year of university.

At the end of the four weeks I had made a number of professional friends and I had the satisfactions of knowing the work I had completed was of great assistance. To step out of my comfort zone in completing tasks was a huge learning experience, which has allowed me to develop both personally and professionally. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience and one which has helped me to think more clearly about career aspirations.

I am so grateful for the experience I had over summer and I look forward to taking up any opportunities the New Year has in store!

Enjoy the rest of summer!

Jordan

Hello Holidays!

What time is it? It’s holiday time!!!

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With the semester two exam season now at a close, the sighs of relief can be heard echoing from students across Toowoomba, Springfield and Hervey Bay.

After completing the usual post-exam ritual of returning library books, cleaning my desk, and packing away textbooks, I found myself at a loose end – there wasn’t any more study to be done, no exams to prepare for. With all the time I now had, I worked out that in the last 256 days of the academic year, I successfully completed 8 courses towards my double degree, which involved attending approximately 104 classes (lectures and tutorials), writing 25 assignments and sitting 5 end-of-semester exams!

Although 2013 seemed to speed by so quickly, I also managed to squeeze in time for a law internship, attended networking events and also had the opportunity to travel to Sydney to represent USQ at on a national’s level. With all the major academic hurdles now behind me, I am able to kick back and enjoy the holidays.

I know many people have exciting and adventurous plans for the summer, but after a busy year of study I’m just looking forward to relaxing and enjoying some well-earned peace and quiet.

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This summer, I’m looking forward to the little things like visiting grandparents and extended family, catching up on a mountain of TV shows and movies I missed out on during the year and playing the next Call of Duty game.

This summer will also involve celebrating two significant milestones in my life – the completion of my business degree (one down, one more to go!) as well as my 21st birthday. After spending the past two consecutive summers studying, this summer break has been a long time coming and it’ll be nice to have some time off to rest up before my final year of study at USQ!

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Surviving semester, one movie at a time

Have you ever wished life was more like movies? I most definitely have! As a lover of superhero and sci-fi movies, I am envious of the superpowers, magical items and abilities which are used to overcome adversity and save the day. With the semester well past the half-way point, assessments have begun to pile up and time seems to be running ever-shorter. In this week’s blog I’ll be sharing my top five abilities, qualities and materials from movies I’d wish for as a student to survive this semester.

A “pause button” for everyday life

In the movie Click, Adam Sandler buys a universal remote which (to his surprise) can pause time, fast forward and manipulate the universe around him. With many students juggling work, study and a social life, time is scarce. With a “pause button” for life, you’ll be able to get the most out of every moment – adequately prepare for lectures and complete assignments ahead of time whilst being able to go out and work solid hours. While I continue my search for a universal remote, the best thing for students is to become experts in juggling work with study – check out a recent post by USQ Blogger Georgina who shares her experience in finding the work/study balance (http://usqedu.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/to-work-or-not-to-work/).

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The ability to learn really quickly

I can safely say that EVERY student wants to be able to learn really quickly! In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper plays a character who discovers a supplement which allows him to understand and learn quickly with ease. Unfortunately, not everyone has a photographic memory and when it comes to exam study many students spend countless hours cramming. Once again, although this ability is wishful thinking to most, effectively juggling study through building timetables can be an effective way to learn course material in the lead up to exam block.

A cure for indecisiveness

When it comes to university study, many decision are to be made – What degree will I study? Will I study full-time or part-time? Recently a dilemma I’ve been facing is deciding between what electives I will choose for my final year of university. In the first Harry Potter film, students were grouped into houses when the sorting hat was placed on their heads. As an indecisive student, I would love to have something like the sorting hat to help make those tricky decisions.

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If, like me, you are having troubles deciding which of the variety of electives available you want to take, check out Georgina’s blogpost on electives within her Psychology Degree (http://usqedu.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/eclectic-electives-why-my-degree-resembles-an-ice-cream-3/).

Time travel

The ability to travel back to the past and see forward into the future has been the subject of many movies, such as the Back to the Future series. As a law student, I would love the ability to go back in time and experience some of the landmark events in Australia’s history – including federation in 1901, to witness the Mabo decision and the removal of the Whitlam government in 1975. On the same token, I would be so amazing to see what developments the future has in store – will Australia become a Republic? Will Australia adopt a Bill of Rights? Will Queensland ever get daylight savings?!?

A Money Tree

Whilst not directly from movies, the number one item on most students’ wish list is for money to grow on trees. Juggling full-time study and an internship quickly fills the calendar and leaves limited time free for work. Although the idea of a money tree is wishful thinking, scholarships are available to university students which can assist by providing financial support. Whether you are a current university student or planning on studying sometime in the future, scholarships are absolutely worth applying for! Check out one of my previous blogs about scholarships, covering how to apply and resolving the many myths associated with eligibility (http://usqedu.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/scholarship-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow/).

Now that I’ve shared my movie-inspired wish list, what things would you wish for?

Jordan

App-tastic ways to study

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Technology is all around us, #theresnodoubtaboutit. These days, social media and smart phones (or tablets computers) are a normal part of our day-to-day lives. Despite many using this technology to share funny videos, photos and status updates; used in the right way, technology can be beneficial to uni students in their studies.

I count myself lucky to be able to study in a time where laptop computers and mobile devices make it possible to study on-the-go, no matter where I go. USQ make all study materials accessible online, which allows students the flexibility to view course content, listen to recorded lectures and take notes without the need to carry a pen and paper.

Just like in minority report where Tom Cruise switches between the images on the large computer interface with the slide of a hand, on my iPad I am able to easily switch through my apps. Since buying my iPad mid last year, it has become an essential part of the things I bring to uni for study. Since I’m in avid apple user (owning two iPods, an iPhone and an iPad), I’ll share with you some of the fantastic apps I use to help organise myself and assist with study; some of these apps include:

  • Calendar – this app comes built-in with current iPhones and iPads and is a good replacement for a diary/weekly planner. Using calendar, I am able to organise my study time around my lectures, work and social outings. As I use both my iPhone and iPad to organise my calendar, Apple’s iCloud syncs any updates made on one device and shows changes on the other – no matter which one I’m using, it’ll be exactly the same!
  • Reminders – similar to the calendar app, reminders serves as a ‘to-do list’ which can synchronize between devices. Alarms and the level of importance can be set for each item listed – handy for prioritising study and assessments.
  • iBooks – free for download on the Appstore, iBooks allows PDF files to be opened and read like an ebook. Through iBooks, I am able to store electronic copies of course materials (saved as PDF) and work through modules on-the-go on the iPad.
  • Pages – Paralleling the windows program Microsoft Word, this app allows documents to be created and edited with a wide range of format, font and layout options. This app has helped me greatly for taking lecture notes and when editing assignments away from computer access.
  • Dropbox (and Evernote) – Dropbox allows internet storage of files which are accessible across devices (iPhone, iPad and computers). This app has been a life-saver where I’ve forgotten to bring a USB stick and have no place to save journal articles or assignment research; once saved to Dropbox all my academic journal articles were accessible from my home computer and iPad.

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Additionally, social media can provide motivation to study (as pictured above). Facebook can be used for study through forming ‘groups’ with people you study with – allowing you to share ideas, talk about course content and post up study notes for the group to share. On the other hand, too much social media can become a distraction from study so remember to limit time on social media and use it as a reward for your hard work.

Overall, the use of technology and study go hand-in-hand; however, discipline is required to make sure you don’t get distracted – no matter how tempting it might be to beat a high score in Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds!

Do you use any apps that have helped you with study or work? Comment and share your app-tastic stories :)

Scholarship Gold at the End of the Rainbow

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It’s no myth or legend that there are numerous costs associated with going to university. Whilst course fees, textbooks and other expenses are encountered by students along their academic adventure, you don’t need a lucky horse-shoe or four-leaf clover to make these costs disappear. Besides working a part-time job whilst studying, this year I was able to cover the cost of textbooks and course fees thanks to receiving a scholarship – my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

The fable

For many students, both those yet to commence university study and those continuing their academic journey, scholarships are often thought of something mystical, elusive and often out of reach. Unfortunately, this perception could not be further from the truth because scholarships are not as out-of-reach as some may think.

All the colours of the rainbow

Just as there are many colours of the rainbow, there are many different kinds of scholarships available to both students commencing and those continuing university study. Some of these scholarships include:

  • Academic – arguably the most traditional form of scholarship, academic scholarships are awarded to a student who has met a certain level of academic achievement based on specific requirements and criteria.
  • Community involvement – Whilst most scholarships are awarded on some form of academic achievement, scholarships can also be awarded to reward outstanding community involvement (and can range from a leadership position in high school to being involved in local sporting clubs or even participating in community events).
  • Equity – Equity scholarships are awarded to assist students in accessing the necessaries one needs to successfully undertake university study (USQ offers textbook bursaries, relocation assistance and rural scholarships). Commonwealth scholarships might also be available to students who receive welfare support.
  • Special – This category embraces the remaining scholarships on offer including sporting scholarships, scholarships for students of genders in non-traditional areas of study, and much more.

Reaching the pot of gold

So now that you know about the kinds of scholarships on offer, the next question is how do we get one? USQ accepts scholarship applications throughout the year until the application closing date usually around mid-October. Applications are not difficult to put together and are a worthwhile investment in your time (considering the fantastic financial reward you may receive).

This year I was awarded the City of Ipswich Scholarship which is donated by the Ipswich City Council to reward a continuing student with a consistent level of academic achievement in addition to community involvement within the city of Ipswich. Not only did this provide financial support for myself, I was able to attend the council meeting and was introduced to the local councillors and the Mayor of Ipswich. Another benefit of receiving this scholarship was being able to attend an awards ceremony where I was able to meet some of the other talented scholarship recipients.

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Overall, I strongly encourage all students currently in university or considering university study to apply for scholarships. Hopefully this post has shown the financial benefits of scholarships, quashed the myths surrounding scholarships and demonstrated the array of scholarships available to students for a variety of achievements – scholarships aren’t just for the A+ students anymore.

What scholarships are you eligible for? To find out what scholarships USQ have available, check out www.usq.edu.au/scholarships.

USQ Springfield Phoenix Carnival – Campus meets community

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After conquering the first week of lectures in this new semester (and the mountain of reading of readings pictured above), what better way to relax than share in the celebrations at the Phoenix Carnival.

USQ ran a Phoenix Carnival at each of its campuses to share and celebrate its success with the local community. I was lucky enough to attend the Springfield Phoenix Carnival on March 2nd and it was a great experience for myself, and many other students, to share our #USQPride with the Greater Springfield region.

The day was a hive of activity – the Springfield Markets from Robelle Domain set up their unique stalls, USQ staff ran various activities and various student groups put their hard work on display (including an Aiki Jutsu demonstration and some amazing short films made by the applied media students). Despite the amount of cloud-cover and rainfall, all those who attended the Phoenix Carnival had a fantastic time.

With 2013 marking USQ Springfield Campus’ seventh year since establishment, Phoenix Carnival was the perfect showcase of the vital role the university has played in bringing together local community.

During the day I was able to meet several of the wonderful people at Phoenix Carnival including USQ staff, students and members from the Robelle markets. Inspired by many of the prominent YouTube V-logers (Video-Bloggers) currently trending on the internet, I have put together a V-log of my time at USQ Springfield’s Phoenix Carnival – help me get this one viral!

My Summer Job

“The only source of knowledge is experience”

Albert Einstein

With the completion of semester two marking and three full years of university study completed, I was now well over half-way through my double-degree program. As the end of my studies was drawing increasingly closer, I have been searching for opportunities to gain practical experience to support the topics and theories discussed in my courses from semesters past.

Unfortunately, the hard part about trying to find a job/intern position in particular industries, is the fact that most employers desire an employee with industry experience. As a student, we are often faced with the age-old dilemma (as pictured below) to get a job we need experience, but to gain experience, we need a job.

Job Experience

To find a resolution to this dilemma, I contacted a Career Learning Consultant on-campus to see if there were any industry experience or volunteer opportunities available during the summer break. From there I was told of a wonderful opportunity to attain practical experience for my marketing studies, through the business component of my program through enrolling in a work integrated learning course.

Work integrated learning is an opportunity to experience applied aspects of working in a particular industry related to a student’s area of study – enhancing learning through the application of concepts, theories and graduate skills to their set workplace activities. Additionally, the benefit of taking this course lies in the fact that the industry experience imparted through this program will also enhance employment opportunities beyond graduation.

So why should students take up work integrated learning during their university studies? Here are the top five reasons why:

1.  Industry contacts

Networking is a great way to help attain a graduate position after completing university studies. Through undertaking work integrated learning, students work in collaboration with real-world businesses and organisations – granting students regular contact with industry leaders and individuals, with a wealth of experience in their particular field. Through establishing positive contacts with these individuals, there is potential for future employment opportunities with the industry leaders or their organisation for students in their graduate years.

2. Your experience looks good on your resume

Ultimately, employers looking to hire university graduates often look toward the student’s experiences beyond their university study in finding a suitable employee. For this reason, a first-hand experience in the industry has the potential to give a student the upper hand in applying for graduate positions in competing for positions with other university graduates state-wide (and sometimes even nation-wide!).

3.Apply your academic knowledge to industry skills

This is the essence of work integrated learning. By providing an opportunity for students to collaborate with real-world organisations to showcase and apply their acquired knowledge, students are able to experience and practice first-hand the relevance of their studies within their prospective industry.

4. The experience will allow you to narrow down your list of potential career.

Work integrated learning allows students to have a taste of the kind of work, duties and responsibilities required of an individual in a particular industry. Through this, students will have a greater understanding of the industry they are placed in and will therefore be better able to make a judgement on whether they would enjoy a career in their particular industry.

5. Unforgettable life experience

In light of the quote by Albert Einstein above, every experience is an opportunity to expand your knowledge and is therefore another reason why work integrated learning is valuable to the student’s learning.

I am now five weeks into my marketing placement where I am working alongside an advertising agency, putting my knowledge into practice in assisting to deliver particular branding materials to specific organisations – including making taglines, creating content for websites and presenting the agencies vision on how promotions should be targeted and coordinated.

I am very appreciative for this opportunity and cannot wait to see what further experiences it may offer.

The Final Battle: Exam Block

Here it is… exam block… The two-week finale where students university-wide are able to demonstrate the fruits of what they have learned throughout the semester.

For a student, this is the equivalent of the final battle before the end of the movie – the epic fight between Harry Potter and the dark lord Voldemort, the showdown between Spiderman and the Green Goblin, the battle of the Morannon in Lord of the Rings…. See where am I going with this?

When it comes to this time in the semester, stress can be sky high and motivation to study can be at an all-time low. However, this can be overcome with prior preparation and by having the right support networks in place. To avoid the exam block ‘SOS,’ USQ’s student services provide timetables and stress-management fact-sheets to assist and help manage students to over-come exam block anxieties.

It’s brilliant to know you’re supported, especially in this time of the semester. In addition to the fantastic student services support, USQ provide several means for students to get help – whether you study on-campus or via distance education.

One thing I have come to understand through my three years of university study is that each student has their very own unique and individual methods of preparation for exam block. Despite my endless search for the perfect methods of exam study, I have found the following three exam-stress tips provided by the USQ student guild extremely useful in my exam preparation:

  1. Develop effective study habits: Establish a study area, find out as many details as you can about the exam, prior to exam block, and use past exam papers to aid in your preparation. The use of to-do lists and study time-tables are beneficial in planning revision in the lead up to exams. Forming study groups may also be an effective way to collaboratively prepare for an exam.
  2. Keep a routine outside of study: Remember to take regular breaks, eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Despite time being of the essence, students need to maintain a regular sleeping pattern and make time for exercise.
  3. Manage your expectations: Most of all, put your exam into context, be happy with your achievements and know what you are capable of – just like the W. Clement Stone quote, “always aim for the moon, for if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.”

With the light at the end of the tunnel quickly approaching, I wish all students the very best in their exams this semester. For all those reading this post who want to know how I best prepare for my exam block, this video will pretty much cover it (and provide some laughs along the way).

Study Hard, and enjoy the summer break!

Jordan