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

Summer Holidays: Taking a break to reset yourself

I was listening to John Mayer’s song Wildfire recently and he says, rather succinctly: “‘Cause a little bit of summer makes a lot of history.” Summer, what an opportunity. When I think back to my childhood, my high school years and more recently the years of study, summer has been the source of some of my best memories. New friends, road trips and holidays with family are just a few of my fondest recollections of past summers.

This summer I have a plan. It is simple. Enjoy, relax and grow. Hakuna matata. No worries.

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There is only one thing that really bothers me over this break though. How do I actually make the most of it? It is a pretty easy thing to sit down and do very little over the course of the holidays, and whilst it might be fun at the time, it is doing things that makes memories.

Here’s a shortlist of summer activities to make memories and don’t cost too much $$ (the essential for any uni student).

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Photo credit: @jewelszee_ on instagram
1. The beach. There is no doubt that this is the place to be over the summer. Whether for a day trip or week long retreats, the sun, waves, salt air and sand never fail to refresh body and soul. The options are endless: sunbathing, swimming, walking, fishing or surfing. One way or another a day or week at the beach will never be a waste.

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Photo credit: australiangeographic.com.au
2. Road trips. Perhaps this is one of the best ways to create memories over summer. Bundle a bunch of friends into a car and take off, either to a known or unknown destination. This one is about enjoying the journey. Laugh, cry but most importantly have fun. Travel south to the snowy mountains for a few days trekking Kosciusko or biking Thredbo, dare to travel further and end up in Melbourne or travel north to Hervey Bay, North West to Longreach or a short trip East and enjoy a day in Brisbane or Burley Heads. Do it. Find those unknown destinations and make memories on a road trip.

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Photo credit: Gourmet Traveller
3. Throw together a good barbecue. Invite a heap of friends and tell them to bring meat, drinks or salad and let the fun begin. I particularly love a summer barbie because the sun sets so late and everyone is able to sit around, beer or cider in hand (maybe a glass of wine too) and enjoy each other’s company. Add in a cricket bat, tennis ball and a bin and there’ll be a game going in minutes with plenty of guys able to show off while the ladies (excuse the stereotype) sit back and talk about their finds at the Boxing Day sales.

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4. Finally, one of my personal favourites: Go and see some sports. There’s plenty to see, especially with the cricket this year featuring the T20 BigBash at the Gabba and also the One Day International Series. If you happen to be in a major city around the time of one of the Ashes Tests be sure to go and see a day, it is well worth the time, especially if you’re with good company. And if you’re not into cricket there is also the A-league Football running over summer.

So this summer, take a break. Kick back with something cool to drink, have fun and make memories.

Until next time,
Josh

The pre-exam lull

It’s easy enough to notice how quickly the semester has passed. For most of us (the engineering students at least), the bulk of the assignment work has passed and now is the time to refocus because of the looming exams. Before that is the “in-between”, the break, the calm before the storm. If you are an education student, however, I’d say you know the storm pretty well right now from floods of assignment work, so here’s a chance to just sit back and laugh in the face of exams you may never have to face (that’s what my friends do anyway…). For the rest of us, I thought it would be appropriate to ‘refresh’ our perspective on exams in this blog. Exciting huh.

The most common attitude to exams that I see, and one with which we are most familiar, is the constant dread. It reminds me of some of the shows I watched during my childhood. Early into the piece, the main character is introduced to the monster, usually coming out of the dark, maybe a trap door entrance to their lair. The unknown scares the character but he or she finds some sort of inner strength. Finally, despite the overwhelming fear, our champion would take the plunge into the pit, only to find that the “monster” was as scared as he was, worried by the threat of the incoming warrior. Before the end of the half hour, our two characters – the protagonist and the antagonist become friends.

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I think our fear of exams is much like the story, we fear them and dread them, worry over our results and sweat over the last couple of concepts that are impossible to pin down (although, to say we become friends would definitely be a stretch). However, at the end of the day we always pull through, semester after semester, year after year, we are still here.

Personally, I love this time of year, mostly for the reasons stated in the illustration above. I relish the opportunity to face the giant and come up against the trial. If you are competitive (I am, just in case you hadn’t realised), it is a great opportunity to better yourself. To challenge yourself to be better and finish stronger than ever before. I mean, we’ve only been preparing for 16 weeks.

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So, despite the apparent calm, now is the best time to be preparing. Going over past exams, notes, self-assessment questions and everything in between. This is a great opportunity to spend 3 weeks with heads down and to see great reward from the work that we are doing. So turn the cricket off (if you have been watching the Ryobi Cup like myself) and get a plan going for study. And if you need motivation, just think: holidays are just around the corner.

Until next time,
Josh

GRAAAAAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAH! SEMESTER BREAK IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!

This past (10 week!) term has been the most epic, marathon like event of my uni life. I haven’t studied continuously for such a long period of time since school… which reminds me – this past month brought up 4 years out of school for me. Wow, just wow. Where did that time go?! (Just in case anyone was wondering if I dropped out, no – I was born and raised in the glorious state of NSW, but that is a story for another time).

So, prelude aside, it is HOLIDAYS! Well, a holiday of sorts. We still have assignments piling up (some of us anyway) as we head toward the ‘pointy’ end of semester – THE EXAMS. But while it is here, we might as well linger a while in this honeymoonlike bliss that is the mid semester break and dream of the real break in just 6-7 short weeks (depending on your exam timetable). Where will you go? What will you do? The opportunities are endless. Roadtrip to Melbourne, fly to NZ, spend hours lazing around beautiful beaches to the south at the Gold Coast or the north at the Sunshine Coast. Nevertheless, summer breaks are ALWAYS a time for relaxing, having fun and making memories.

I was trying to think of one adventure for this post until I realised I couldn’t narrow down a lifetimes worth of holidays (admittedly only 22 years…) so here is the revised edition of all my holidays compiled into one big holiday. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to find an adventure of your own.

It all began with a roadtrip. Like most good adventures. Where are we going? Southward!The taste of excitement is lingering in the air as the car sets off. The first memory? Windows down along the highway. Hot air bursts into the car send forth an explosion of hair as the girl sitting next to me peers out the window. Of course, this trip is a family trip. We wait in eager expectation of our destination, asking regularly “are we there yet?” or laughing as the younger boy makes humourous observations about the family dynamic.

Destination 1: The bakery. OH MY! The delights! The smells! Apple turnovers, custard tarts, cream buns and jam doughnuts! Culinary sensations to tease the tastebuds and fill the tummy. The essential stop and destination in any roadtrip satisfies the hungry mouths and gives the adults some quiet as the back seat passengers take a nap…

Rocking rocking rocking. The boat rocks back and forth, but it isn’t harsh, if anything the rocking is gentle, enough to rock a baby to sleep. It is the Spirit of Tasmania. Land ahoy! After only hours we’re running into the fresh breeze around Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain. Take a moment to breathe it in. Glass-like reflections across the water, fresh mountain air, “crunch, crunch, crunch” goes the sandy gravel underfoot. In the blink of an eye you’re swimming in Wine Glass Bay. And before you know it you’re out. Way too cold.

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Jump to an airplane. The first overseas adventure. Burma. Orphanages, children, games and fun. The evening brings out all sorts of strange smells. Sounds to arouse curiosity. It’s the street vendors that sell their food for five to ten cents Australian. The guide shakes his head as you navigate the cracked and uneven footpath, it would NOT be advisable to purchase, despite the pangs of hunger. But alas, when no one is around the corn fritter-thing takes your fancy and…

… by some miracle it is delightful to both the senses and the stomach! 1 – 0 to the cast iron stomach.

Ahh CHOO! The dust from the road causes a sneeze to shake mountains and before you know it, it’s the lights of Singapore dot the horizon. What a beautiful city! Adventures to be had here there and everywhere. Chinatown market fun, Orchard road mischief and the Night Zoo! Monkeys scream at the approach of dusk and fire-twirling Islanders put on a fierce show, entrancing the mind as the rhythmic boom of the drums echo through the heart and mind, flashes of orange-red flames dart across the dark sky and ferocious war cries pierce the night.

A far cry from the streets of Burma, the stores of Singapore offer another enticement. Digital goods. Cha-ching! and the credit card is whipped out at the allure of a new camera. For what is a holiday without good photos?

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Finally, on the last leg of the journey, we enter the streets of downtown Kansas City. It’s cold back home but not here – a lovely 34 degrees. Singlet weather, definitely singlet weather. A monitor is on, advising residents of a “UV warning”. What the heck is that?! Try spending 5 minutes in the Aussie sun, then you’ll get some real UV exposure.

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Besides the lovely temperature, you take in the magnificent Spanish architecture and al fresco dining places highlighted by a faint orange glow as the sun begins to set.

Flying back to reality requires one final stop: San Francisco. Steep hills, COLD breeze and thick fog (you quickly discover the reason for the local saying “The coldest winter you’ll ever have is a summer in San Francisco”) and stunning character. Segway touring is a blast, rolling up hills, down hills and side to side slalom. One last snapshot: giant slices of SF’s best pizza and very sore feet, finally, you are satisfied. It is time to go home.

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Until next time!
Josh

Assignments: The good, the bad and the ugly.

In contemplating this blog entry I spent some time trying to work out how to put assignments in a positive light. “Put assignments in a positive light, put assignments in a positive light…” Ahem, has it ever been done before? I’m pretty sure the only people who love assignments are lecturers, examiners and tutors. Fortunately I remembered the title:
Good – bad – ugly. Then I thought: “Hang on a minute, this is a great time to turn the title into an equation!” (as all good engineers think) and came up with this:

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So to sum that up, two thirds of this post is most likely going to be negative, due to the nature of assignment work itself, sorry!

Introduction aside, let me begin now with the ugly.

“Inhale, exhale, focus…” It’s the day that an assignment is due and you’ve just discovered that, to your dismay, the assignment is a lot bigger than you had first imagined. Oops.

I recently submitted an assignment that hit me like a tonne of bricks, in a very similar way to the description above and I found my self battling to scale the behemoth that the assignment became. This time I got a lucky break though, the majority of students were struggling alongside me and our lecturer extended the due date to the whole class *sigh of relief*. So what do you do to prevent assignment work from sneaking up on you? Here’s my list of quick tips for getting assignments done on time.

  1. Know what assignment work you have coming up. I use my Red Frogs calendar from the beginning of the year to “see” what my next couple of weeks looks like assignment wise. Put up details such as weightings alongside the note and put it in a place that you’ll see it easily.
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  2. Start early. Read over the assignment and make some notes in the couple of weeks before the assignment is due. There is strong research to suggest that the mind’s ability to process problems subconsciously greatly assists in conscious problem solving efforts.
  3. Set a date to begin the assignment, spend some time researching areas that need to be researched and start writing out a draft copy of the assignment.
  4. After finishing a draft, go back over it and read it though, also getting friends or family to have a look and iron out any mistakes you have made. Edit the errors and fill in the gaps before submitting right on time – or early hopefully!

The bad:

Long hours, late nights and minimal social activity. That’s the reality of the mid semester, the agony of assignments week after week and multiple assignments due on the same day. The reality is that assignment work takes WORK. Being at uni isn’t like, dare I say it, a council job. When push comes to shove, lecturers, tutors and the examiners expect a standard of work from each student and to meet the standard and we get to spend hours of time researching, cataloguing references, penning arguments, solving equations, troubleshooting computer codes, rehearsing musical pieces, etc. We’re all familiar with it. It hurts.

To avoid some of the pain, make sure you take the time for breaks and strategise with your time. It is a good thing to take breaks periodically to get refreshed and be inspired. Personally, if I have been working on lots of math and physics related work and equations I’ll play guitar or do some songwriting in my break to switch between the left side of the brain to the right. I find it helpful and I am more refreshed after regaining my focus.

Another bad part of assignment work is the time component. I recently spent over 20 hours on a 10% assignment – LEARN FROM ME! Don’t waste too much time on assignments that aren’t worth much. If you’re finding yourself having trouble, go to your lecturer of tutor and ask questions of jump on the forums. It helps ALOT, and you won’t neglect your other subjects.

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Finally, the good.

If anything good comes from assignment work it is these two things:

Firstly, the immense satisfaction of submitting the finished assignment. I love the moment that you see that the submission has gone through and then end knowing that you never have to work on that assignment again. Oh the joy!

Secondly, you actually learn something (most of the time). As much as is seems that the examiner is trying to torture you, the staff at university really want students so succeed, hence creating assignments that will challenge and grow us into students who are better equipped, more knowledgeable and perhaps even have a better work ethic at the end of our degrees than we did at the start. Think about how body builders build muscle: body builders strain and push against resistance, causing pain to themselves as the muscle fibres tear. Immediately after this resistance, the body begins to repair itself, “building” more muscle over the torn fibres and building strength. Assignments cause a similar process, resistance and growth.

Push forward into the resistance as the assignments continue this semester because despite the bad and the ugly, there will be good that comes from it.

Signing out, Josh.

The stepping stones to teaching…

“Oh you’re studying to become a teacher or something, right?” – This is what I’ve been asked frequently since beginning my Bachelor of Education majoring in Primary at the start of this year. To me, my ambition is to become more than a ‘teacher-or-something’ and to make a difference in children’s lives while continuously doing something I love – learning. I had a mainly positive schooling experience and this inspired my career choice. If you’re currently thinking ‘hmm, I’ve always wanted to do teaching and I can’t see myself doing anything else’ – this was me in my final months of Year 12. So, my two words of advice are DO IT! Allow me to point out a couple of things to convince you why…:

  • Teachers never stop learning, your brain is always ticking (great prevention for Alzheimer’s in old age :P) and sometimes even the kids might teach you something!
  • Having a teaching career doesn’t restrict you to your state or Australia – you can take it overseas!
  • Each day teachers get to work with children – our future generation – and have the opportunity to watch them grow and develop through their schooling years knowing you’ve been a part of this process.  After all, teachers help build the foundation of a child’s future – even doctors, surgeons and scientists are first taught by teachers!
  • Teachers get an AWESOME  (approx) 13 weeks of PAID holidays every year – although many teachers may call this “recovery time” :)

Even though I’m only in my second semester of study, I love every minute. The program USQ provides for the Education faculty is incredible. The teaching strategies we are taught have lead me to have A LOT of “AH-HA!” moments on a daily basis. These are handy and are implemented one day each week when I volunteer at a local all boys’ school to assist their teacher with classroom rotational activities. The students are hilarious and make the smallest things fun (who would have thought that reading ‘brain’ instead of ‘Brian’ would be so amusing!). I enjoy this so much every week that I can’t wait until I’m in a classroom with a class of my very own. If you’re an Education student and have an hour or two free a week, I strongly recommend you head down to a local school and put your name down to volunteer – not only will this be an asset to your final portfolio but it’s a rewarding and fulfilling way to gain experience.

One of the things you have to be mindful of as a teacher is the cheekiness of some students! These pictures below sure had me giggling as they brought me back to my childhood at school being the little rascal in the class thinking and saying these exact things.

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On September 2, I am returning home for two weeks to begin my first prac and although I am a little anxious, I can hardly wait. The principal is allowing me to have a taste of each grade in the Primary sector (Prep to Year 7) throughout this time so I can imagine I will receive an authentic experience! I’ll be sure to report back on how it goes (and whether or not it leads me to make any drastic career changes :P).

On a final note, for those of you who are tossing up which area of study is the right one, especially because of what you’ve heard from others, I believe that only YOU can make that choice. I say this because if I had listened to what was said to me before studying Education, I wouldn’t be in the current position I am of potentially becoming a ‘teacher-or-something’ and loving every moment!

I will leave you with some of my favourite teacher quotes. Enjoy and take care :)
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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.

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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.