Touchdown in the comfort zone

“Sometimes it’s good to step outside your comfort zone.”

It’s that broken record you’ve heard your entire life, from parents, friends, teachers, and just about anyone you’ve ever spoken to. This begs the question: what actually is ‘the comfort zone?’

get outside your comfort zone

Given my background in debating, I thought I’d break down each word:

Comfort – Recliners
Going furniture shopping with my parents used to be an arduous task, until I realised I was in a room full of beds and lounges ready to be tested.

Zone – The in-zone
I don’t watch a whole lot of grid iron, but I do know that to score points you have to throw the ball to a player who runs the ball over the end of the pitch and into the in-zone!

Somehow, I don’t think the people who are always talking about getting out their comfort zone were referring to a sofa on a football pitch, so I took another approach to try and understand this directive… examples of people leaving their comfort zones.

Weirdly, the first thing that comes to mind is the movie She’s The Man. Amanda Bynes wants to play soccer with the boys team at college, so she pretends to be a boy. While the practical legitimacy of this movie can be questioned, it does prove that the protagonist went the extra mile to achieve her dreams.

She's the Man - out of comfort zone

So, how does this apply to university life? Whether you are fresh out of school, back from holidays or just needed a change, university is the chance to reinvent yourself. I’m not saying dress up as a man/woman, but you will find so many people with similar personalities and interests who you can connect with, even as an online student. There’s Harry Potter clubs, sport teams, chocolate appreciation societies, Dungeons and Dragons, and so much more, so get out and do something!

If you are attending university next year and are looking for a way to step out of your comfort zone, I would recommend going to a toga party. There is definitely nothing more uncomfortable than wearing a bed sheet around people you have only just met, but I bet you won’t regret it!

no toga no party - college toga partiesUntil next time,
Tom

Your A-Z Moving Away from Home to Study Guide

I don’t want to scare you or anything, but moving away from home to study is really daunting… if you aren’t organised. There are so many things to think about, do, plan, pack and organise. It’s definitely a ‘who said being a grown up was fun?’ moment, but trust me, it is all worth it in the end.

move out of homeBetween my experiences and having friends with similar experiences, I have put together the ultimate ‘A-Z Moving Away from Home to Study Guide’.

A: Application for study! There’s a reason this is first on the list. You need to get accepted into your course before you arrange anything else. Pour your heart and soul into achieving success in order to get there.

B: Books and stationery! Do some research on what textbooks you are going to need before starting uni as this will most likely require saving some $$$ before your big move.

C: Clothes! Packing my clothes is up there on my ‘hardest chore’ list. My wardrobe space at college didn’t compare to my wardrobe at home, so it’s important that you do this a couple of weeks in advance to prioritise the ‘I will wear this a lot’, over the ‘But I like this top!’

D: Desk for studying! If you aren’t planning on going to college, buying or moving a desk with heaps of space is essential. A large dining table also comes in handy in times of need, just ask my housemates who deal with my assignment mess around due dates (they may advise you otherwise)!

E: Entertainment! At times throughout the uni semester, it may seem as though you have no time for reading your favourite book or catching up on your favourite TV show, but do make sure you have something on-hand to use as a ‘I need to walk away from this assignment to be inspired when I come back’ tool.

F: Family time! Your life becomes very busy after relocating and starting study, so spend as much time with your loved ones as you can before you go.

G: Government funding! Moving away from home can certainly come at a cost but there are options for some students relocating for study purposes, so make sure you check these out to see if you are eligible.

H: Home reminders! I won’t lie to you, you WILL get homesick, so make your new place feel like home to lessen the pangs. My favourite reminder of home is a crotchet tea towel from my grandmother!

I: Internet! Your best friend as a uni student. Make sure there’s a will and a way to have it when studying.

J: Job! If you know you are going to need a job after working out your uni student budget, try to prepare a resume before moving.

K: Knowledge and advice! Although you may not always agree with them, consider the advice your parents give you and let them support you in your new journey.

L: Laptop! You will depend on this every single day so make sure you have essential software installed that you’ll need for study.

M: Money! Saving doesn’t seem very enticing before you go but you will thank yourself later!

N: Necessities! If this is your first move, pack only the things you will use every day, so that the unpacking process is far less painful.

O: Orientation Day and/or Open Day! Arrange your moving plans so that you can attend one of these days to meet new people while familiarising yourself with the uni and its facilities.

P: Photos! Sometimes having a little snapshot to make you smile will be what gets you through stressful and/or homesick times.

Q: Quality down time! There’s nothing worse than starting uni feeling stressed from moving – make sure you take time for yourself, to refresh before you start study.

R: Rent or a place to live! If you know you want to go live on-campus at college, apply as soon as you can so you don’t miss out on an awesome opportunity. If you want to rent, keep an eye on real estate procedures so you are prepared for the largest process of moving away from home!

S: Scholarships! USQ offer many different subsidies to help make your uni transition so much easier. Have a look at what scholarships you might be eligible for at http://www.usq.edu.au/scholarships.

T: Transport! If you don’t own a car or have a license, research public transport so it’s not a massive problem when you move.

U: Utilities! If you plan on renting, there are connections that need to be made before you move in, particularly electricity, phone and/or gas… unless you want to eat by candlelight and have cold showers!

V: Van or truck to move your belongings!

W: Weekend bag! Pack a medium-sized bag that will fit all the essentials you need if you decide to go home or away for the weekend.

X: X-tras! AKA Extras. Pack a couple of the little things that hold sentimental value to you and you know you won’t be able to go long periods of time without.

Y: Your very own office chair! Ok, so maybe this option is a little on the lavish side, but I absolutely love mine, and a comfy chair is essential for long days of study.

Z: Zen! Meditate, relax, have positive thoughts and most of all, enjoy this huge new journey of your life!

Have you got anything to add?

The Study Playlist

Music is an integral part of many of our lives. I know for myself that few days pass by
without one, or many, of the albums I own resonating through the house. Music enriches our experience in a manner that no other external stimuli seems to be able to replicate. It evokes passion, joy, focus, spontaneity, melancholy, reflection, memories and many other responses.

In the light of our response to music, the music that you choose to play as you study will
impact your ability to study.

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Photo credit: 8tracks.com book.wyrm

The question is, what makes a great study playlist? Here’s a few things I’ve found
helpful.

1. Choose instrumentals. As a general rule, depending on your personality of course,
lyrics act as a distraction. Whether it’s John Mayer, Taylor Swift (any questions regarding
the validity of this inclusion can be directed at All Too Well from Swift’s record RED,
lyrical brilliance), Coldplay or Bob Dylan, lyrics have the capacity to engage and tell a
story and oftentimes capture our attention.

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Photo credit: Pinterest
(PS: Five points to whoever comments with the artist and song this lyric is from)

2. Choose something outside of your normal listening. There’s two reasons for this
one. Firstly, if you’re anything like me, you might be inclined toward analysing the music,
anywhere from chord progressions (I – IV – V anyone?) to the tone of the electric guitar
and the quality of the recording. I’ve found that straying from my usual genre’s of
listening helps to break the analysis and focus on the task at hand. Secondly, listening to
new music breaks the familiarity of tracks previously listened to and allows us to create
new patterns of thinking around the new music. Have you ever been listening to a track
that was a staple at a particular time of life and noticed how it evokes similar emotional
and physiological reactions to that time you first listened to it? This is an example of the
thought patterns we create when listening to certain pieces of music.

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Photo credit: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/

It would be remiss of me to not actually have some recommendations in this blog as to
what you should be listening to as you study. There is many studies that place classical music at the top of the list for productivity, creativity and focus and this (http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2007/july/music.html) piece by the Stanford School of Medicine highlights some potential benefits to listening to classical music while studying. Another well researched (and somewhat conflicted) line of thought is “The Mozart Effect”, that, when initially studied, showed an improvement in spacial reasoning among subjects. Many studies since the original have found both correlating data and incongruent data regarding the matter. In short, the verdict is still out.

My recommendation, however, would still be to listen to Classical Music when studying.
Composers such as Chopin, Bach and Mozart never fail to set a beautiful atmosphere and
block out external sounds which may otherwise act as a distraction. Pachelbel’s Canon in D is still highly regarded as one of the most relaxing pieces of all time and features on many Study Playlists. For some great, pre made playlists, check out Spotify and Youtube. These tried and tested playlists have helped many students get through hours of study and there’s always plenty of comments to help you find your way.

Here’s (https://play.spotify.com/user/127564522/playlist/0CwzkFXVbEK6VJO3Rzo7lX) the link to my favourite Spotify study playlist.

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Photo credit: http://dailydoseofstuf.tumblr.com

After all this, more important than anything when your studying is to create an
environment where you can relax and focus. If you find that it’s ADTR that helps most in
that endeavour, listen to that, if it’s the Top 100 Billboard then listen to the Top 100 Billboard and if it’s Smooth Jazz, listen to that. For me, silence is as good as anything and I’ll put on some classical if I find myself distracted by other sounds. Find what suits you.

Until next time,
Josh

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…

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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.

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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).

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Riding the University Rollercoaster

Kristie 1

Here we are, the end of Semester 2, where has the time gone, I don’t know! It feels like yesterday that I had to wave goodbye to my Mum and Dad as they departed Steele Rudd College – my home for the next little while. From the ups of college events, meeting new friends, lecture recess and volunteering encounters to the downs of panicking when submitting an assignment wondering if I’ve done it the right ‘University’ way and the large amount of study endured throughout lecture recess, it’s safe to say that the past ten weeks have been quite like riding a rollercoaster.

The Beginning of Rudd Life – O Week!

Undoubtedly, my college experience started out with a bang. Thanks to Steele Rudd’s Residential College Committee, there was an array of activities arranged for Orientation Week: Rock climbing, dance lessons, riding a mechanical bucking bull, picnic lunch and games at Picnic Point, water slides, inter-college toga trivia and many more.

Kristie 2

Inauguration Dinner

All USQ Residential College students were invited to attend the annual Inauguration Dinner for 2013. Awards were presented to returning students and new students received a warm welcome from our Residential Life Manager Katharine Bigby. This occasion allowed us to mingle with students from other colleges whilst enjoying a delectable meal. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the icecream! And Pavlova, cheesecake, éclairs… mmmm…

Kristie 3

For those of you like me, who had this awesome idea of a ‘holiday’ in mind, we were obviously dreaming. Although this period meant no lectures or tutorials, this didn’t exclude study and assignment work from our daily timetables – hence the term ‘Lecture Recess’.  In saying this, I found this time to be an excellent opportunity to catch up on any study I had got behind with and to take time out to relax with the fam bam and catch up with friends. Of course, I am still left completing assignments to the last minute (Note to self for the millionth time: Start assignments early!), however I managed to submit them on time!

 Youth Leadership Forum

A memorable and rewarding experience for me so far was volunteering for the Youth Leadership Forum. This was held on Friday the 19th of April and was organised by the Faculty of Education. Being an Education student, I considered this an excellent opportunity to meet new people and gain experience. Potential school student leaders from Years 9 to 12, from nine different schools around the district attended. The theme of the day was ‘Leading a Team, Leading a Project’ with a focus on the practical skills needed to lead a project team. Jean Madden, the founder of Street Swags for the homeless, was the guest speaker. To be able to listen to Jean’s speech was inspirational. Jean emphasised the importance in being determined to complete a project, instead of contemplating only trying to do the project. Her motto was ‘Don’t talk about giving it a red hot go, make that change and ensure it happens’. I spent the afternoon helping facilitate workshop activities with the students at McGregor College. I had a great group – they provided much comic value for my afternoon!  It was an amazing day and I would recommend it to anyone. I already have it on next year’s bucket list!

Kristie 4

Living on college and being an on-campus students adds the convenience of running across the road 10 minutes before your lecture/tutorial starts and not having to find a car park (instead, you get to listen to everyone in class whine about how they had to drive around for 30 minutes just to find a park!) J My tutors and lecturers are great and so helpful (at first I thought I was the biggest pain in my class by asking questions, but they love to assist any way they can!) I have already made lifelong friends who make this experience even more worthwhile.

Although riding the University rollercoaster has at times been challenging, I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.  It has already been a huge learning curve and to sum up what I have learnt this semester so far, I would suggest:

  • Don’t leave assignments to the last minute – start as early as you possibly can!
  • Focus on the one assignment you are doing, and stop thinking about the other four or five that also need to be done!
  • Follow the study schedules allocated – these keep you on track and save last minute cramming!
  • Always remember your lecturers and tutors are there to help, if you’re struggling with something, ask them!

I have come to the realisation – once you overcome the downhill sectors of the ride, along comes the uphill and enjoyable part!

You Can Pass gO Week

It’s that time of year again. The holiday hangover is about to kick in and the stress of exams and assignments will begin. So, why not taken a whole week to settle into uni life, either for the first time or possibly the last? O Week, or as us Concannonites are calling it this year, gO Week, is all about easing back into study and settling into uni life in style. So this year, we have organised the week around a monopoly theme.

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At Concannon we devised a set of challenges and points system for the freshers (first years) to complete by the end of the week. The challenge of picking a flower for one of the returnees is proving a little more difficult for some. The challenges and riddles given to the freshers is just an easier and more fun way of getting to know everyone and easing them into the college atmosphere. There is also a special incentive. With an overall prize including an exercise ball, gift voucher and a few extra goodies, the competition is getting heated. 

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gO Week is jam-packed with uni events, including Market Day (better known as Freebie Day) and the upcoming Phoenix Carnival, as well as college events such as inter-college Toga Trivia and an Olympiad, just to name a few. In saying that, the planning of college O-Week events is not an easy task, I can tell you first hand.

As part of Concannon’s Residential Student Club (RSC) this year, I get to see the hard work and patience it takes to organise all the inter-college events or even just a movie night on college. So please, think of the hours put in to make all this possible for YOU and enjoy the week!

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This week will be a week of ‘firsts’ for many. Not only will it be the first week of uni life and possibly college life, but this week friendships will be made and careers kick-started. For some it may even be the first (and maybe last) time that they will ever do the Chicken Dance while riding a mechanical bull. Yes, that happened. 

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Concannon College and the Chamber of Studies

I think Professor Dumbledore said it best, “I will only truly have left this place when none here are loyal to me… Help will always be given at college to those who ask for it.” Or something to that effect.

Like many students who attended Hogwarts, I moved far away from home not knowing a single thing about my awaiting destination or the people there. I received a letter in the mail saying I had been accepted into the USQ family at Toowoomba. At just 17 years of age, I packed my 3 suitcases (which did not impress my dad or my two brothers who had to help carry them) and set out on a nerve-racking voyage from Townsville. I have since learnt that packing my snow jacket was definitely a good idea this winter!

Before moving to Toowoomba, I had to decide between 3 Colleges – Concannon (the fearless crocodiles), McGregor (the fiery devils) and Steel Rudd (the soaring seagulls). My decision was made and I just needed to wait for the ‘Sorting Hat’ to have the final say. Lucky for me, I got my preference and Concannon was, and still is, my home. With countless college activities, uni club dress-up parties and intercollege events (10 points for Concannon!) it didn’t take long to settle in. While I sometimes struggle out of bed a few minutes before class begins the 2 minute walk to uni assures me I’ll make it in time. And after a long, hard day of studying I know there will always be someone waiting at college when the day is over. Even though I moved so far away from my family, Concannon has become a home away from home.

Living on college gives me the opportunity to meet people studying a range of different degrees from (defence against the dark) arts degrees such as theatre to science degrees like chemistry (potions classes).  If I need a distraction or help I can just open my door or window and I’m sure to see a familiar face. Or sometimes I just bang on the wall to get Hermione’s attention next door. She loves it when I do that.

Residential Shield competitions between the three colleges are obviously a highlight for most. With an event roughly once a week, members from all colleges come out in college colours like a pack of wizards gathering for a quidditch game. With events ranging from soccer and afl to trivia and idol there is something to cater for all (10 more points to Concannon!). The points are then tallied after each event and totalled at the end of the year where the overall winner is announced over a delicious feast. While these events often end in a group celebration or a group commiseration, it is always a group effort.

Even as Harry Potter fought against the difficulties thrust upon him throughout life, he knew he could rely on his family at Hogwarts to battle with him. I know if I ever come across He Who Must Not Be Named that my fellow Concannonites would join forces with the other colleges and stand behind me, Mrs Weasley style.

I think the message to take from Harry Potter is no matter where you are and the troubles you face, you will never be alone. Whether you’re struggling with study or an outfit choice, college life provides more than a place to sleep. Just like Harry Potter and those who attended Hogwarts, I have found a home away from home. So if you’re unsure about studying and living on college consider these words from some wise old man: “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”