How to get an assignment started (when it’s just not coming to you)

Ever experienced the pain-staking task of starting that dreaded assignment late, because that magical epiphany just didn’t come your way? Well even if that moment of great revelation doesn’t seem to come easily at times, let’s see if we can’t make some adjustments for these instances and get that assignment on track and underway!

First things first- fight the urges, you’ve got this. My top procrastination moments include indulging in a gourmet lunch… because that seems like a better idea than staring at the blank document for another second, aimlessly trying to gather my thoughts. How about those times I decided to get up and clean the light shade because I noticed they were getting dusty while staring around the room off-task and distracted… Oh and there goes my son again with the play dough, I might just choose to impress him and make a garage for his match box car again rather than continue on. I have even found myself daydreaming and then suddenly remembering that my hair could do with a fresh colour and my assignment comes out on the bottom yet again.

Egg procrastibaking

(Yes, that is one of my all-time favourite snacks thought of and created in a history making moment of procrastination)

If you are anything like me, there is hope out there! Take comfort that with just a few minor adjustments to approaching those assignments that just don’t seem to be coming to you, you can fight the urges and beat some of that frustration.

  1. It seems obvious but- know what the assignment is, read the outline early and give yourself time before you even need to get it underway to wrap your head around the task at hand.
  2. If it helps highlight, highlight and highlight some more. Highlight that marking criteria, the readings, relevant lecture slides and even learning objectives.
  3. Brainstorm, take the time to make a colourful, creative and interesting mind map of your ideas, how they link together and relate back to the assignment. Conceptualising the assignment in this manner can help open up your mind and give you a framework that you can build on.
  4. Plan ahead and break-it-down. Bite-sized pieces can literally make things that little more easily digested and give you the opportunity to become increasingly motivated, making progress by way of miniature-goals.
  5.  Don’t forget to work logically and if there is an example- follow the format. Relate the points that are covered in each paragraph of the example back to the topic of your assignment and get them covered.
  6. What about getting a change of scenery? I like to take my study outside and catch some of the sunshine rather than sitting in my ever-so un-inspiring lounge room for hours on end. (Tip: Just don’t forget to use paper weights… sometimes the wind comes along to rain on your parade and oops there’s 90 pages littering your entire backyard.)

Study Backyard

Failing all of this I am sure we are all apt or will become at some stage throughout your degree, well versed in the good old last-minute approach. There ain’t no motivation or inspiration like that of the looming 11:55 pm EASE submission cut-off. WARNING to first timers, this approach may result in serious psychological pain and chronic back fatigue. Not recommended for the faint-hearted- that’s for sure! But really you can expect to gain some pretty awesome assignment writing strategies from your degree. Even the most experienced of us struggle at times to get the ball rolling on an assignment.  If you get stuck you might like to think back to this blog and give some of the tips a go or you might use them as inspiration to develop your own.

All-in-all just do whatever gets it done, happy assignment writing my fellow phoenix’s!

-          Krisi

Play that funky music!

So, it’s getting up to that time of semester again. Yeah, you know. Yes, I see you nodding. Study time. And not just regular study time. This is study-because-exams-are-only-a-few-weeks-away-study-time. So, it’s pretty hectic. Yeah, I’m not really happy about it either. What with the work, and the social life, and the assignments that are still to be handed in. It’s not really too fun, right?

BUT. We gotta do it. Like, we just kind of have to, yeah? So, we might as well make it fun. At least that’s the point of view that I have. And let’s be reasonable with one another for a little bit here. No one really enjoys studying.
Sometimes, I get into the habit of doing this:

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Because you know, walls can be interesting.
Ahem.
Yeah, moving on.
You caught me. I don’t like studying.
However (cue drum roll!), there are definitely a few ways to make study more enjoyable.

Take regular breaks

I always try to have consistent breaks that I work towards. They’re normally around 10 minutes in length, and I take them maybe every 45 minutes or so. They’re like a bright light in the miasma of study. It’s a good thing. It’s something that you really look forward to, because looking forward to things while studying is important.

I enjoy getting up to all sorts of crazy shenanigans in those 10 minutes. Often I try to fit as many objectives into that break as possible. I’m basically Tom Cruise on a Mission Impossible mission. I may play with my cat (which somehow ends up in a fight and cat claw marks down my arm), play some funky music (white boy), watch TV (Adventure Time, anyone?) or just sit in the corner of the room slowly rocking back and forth wondering if it will ever be over (don’t stress, that’s a joke. No seriously, it is).

That’s always a good place to start. Just some nice and easy study breaks to get you through it all, but how are you meant to make study fun while studying?
Well, this is my desk right now:

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HIGHLIGHTERS!

Not only highlighters, but 5 highlighters. I know; impressive, right?
While looking over old notes and lecture slides, I often just look over it and try and see if I remember all of the information there (hopefully I remember most). The information that I don’t remember, I will simply just highlight with a particular colour.
I’ll then go over the highlighted areas and re-read, re-write and re-learn this information. I’ll give it a few days, and then go through these same notes with a different coloured highlighter and highlight once again.

Hopefully, there is less information highlighted. Hopefully. The important part is to be impartial. Sometimes I even highlight things that I didn’t highlight the first time. I’ll try and do this (realistically) about 3 times, however this really does matter on the work load I have at that point of time, sometimes I only get around to it about once.

Afterwards, you can look over your old notes and lecture slides and use the visual stimulus that the coloured highlighters have given you. In an exam, you may even specifically remember the colour of highlighter you’ve used (which always makes me super happy) for that particular piece of information.
I suppose I do get a kick out of all the bright colours as well. You may find this unappealing and not worthwhile, and I think everybody needs to devise their own ways of studying, but this is my way (and you’re welcome to use it too!)

The greatest thing that I’ve found about it is that I only look at information that I can’t remember in large detail. The stuff that is securely locked in my memory is quickly brushed over. So it gives me more time on the things I can’t remember but I still trigger that other information too when I re-read it!

This is just a handy idea that you are all more than welcome to use to try and make study seem that little bit less tedious, and a little bit more fun!

I’d love to hear how you make study more fun!

Until next time…

Nick

How my study is like a dinner party

So I feel as though I’m right in the middle of an extravagant dinner party right now and it’s been going on for about a few weeks. Why, you might ask? Well.

  •          I’m currently completing my 3rd year of my psychology (honours) degree. And,
  •          I am doing this full time – so I’m completing 4 subjects. And,
  •          Adding on top of this the 3 casual jobs that I am involved in. And!
  •          I am currently undergoing work placement at Lifeline as a phone crisis supporter (which is the new job name for a phone counsellor).

Pretty cool, right? However, you may ask: ‘Nick, how do you do it? How are you surviving?!’ Well.

It’s not actually all that bad. In fact, I feel as though I’m kind of at a dinner party. I’m really enjoying it all. I’m really enjoying all of the subjects that I am involved in (some of which are actually really, super-duper cool). I enjoy my casual jobs and work placement for lifeline is surreal.

It’s kind of like… I’m at the table, and there is so much awesome food there that I just am not sure how to approach it. A little bit of this, a little bit of that? Or do I grab a great big slab of that delicious looking mud cake? But what if I run out of time/room in my belly? Oh wait a second… maybe I do want to try that octopus over there… Surely it would taste good, right? I am a huge fan of calamari and a bit of an adventure-seeker. Or perhaps the mud cake first…

So there are kind of a lot of different foods to eat. A lot of new food that I haven’t experienced before. A lot of people around me who are interested in how I’m going and what I’m doing. So yeah, there’s a lot. I’m busy, but it’s a good busy. A happy busy.

On top of it all, I try to go to gym, stay healthy, and also maintain a dignified social life instead of becoming a reclusive hermit.

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No, the other type of hermit…

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Yes, that’s better.

And no. I can’t grow a beard that fabulous. Yet.

I get through it all though (at least I normally do) and I do it with quite a bit of aplomb.

The work placement at Lifeline is pretty much the main course for me right now. It’s the big juicy roast sitting right smack-bang in the middle of the table looking a million dollars. And it is the main reason I’m writing to all my fine readers today, actually. I’m sure some of you have gone through some sort of work placement in your lives, but for those who haven’t (or haven’t done it for uni), I thought I’d give you a run down on how it goes.

The university organised it all for me, which is spectacular. They got me into contact with Lifeline and started the whole process off. I basically walked into the door for the first day of training without having organised a thing. Pretty great.

I went through a few weeks of training (about two days a week) to gain a proper understanding of how to take calls, how to communicate with the callers, and how to relieve their distress. Throughout the training, I got to observe one of my supervisors taking real calls on the phone, which was a great learning experience.

I finished the training, and have now had 3 shifts on the phones talking to anyone who needs help. It’s been a valuable learning experience already and I’ve enjoyed it beyond my 32wildest expectations. Yes, it has been very difficult and challenging for me, but it’s been a good difficult and challenging.

I’ve taken calls about suicide, mental health issues, family and relationship issues and many other difficulties in people’s lives. It’s amazing to be in the human services work place environment – it’s a great experience for me and I know it will be an invaluable experience.

Until next time!

Driving all the way from School to University!

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It was not truly that long ago that I graduated from high school, only 2011. I am now going into my third year of my psychology degree; however I still remember some differences between high school life and university life which I would have found useful to know at the time! I learned the hard way – through trial and error.

That development for me almost felt like a rite of passage; I had to find out the wrong and right way of going through university. I found it similar to learning how to drive. Not too much on the accelerator, not enough on the clutch; not enough on the accelerator, too much on the clutch. It was a trial and error before finding that balance. Now, by my third year, I’ve had a few stalls, I’ve had a few (accidental) tyre spins, and I’ve definitely had a few heart wrenching moments of ‘oh no, I didn’t see that car there and now I have one week before its due and this isn’t going to be good!’.

But, of course, there is sometimes that perfect, smooth, rolling start that made me feel like a Craig Lowndes ripping it down Conrod Straight during the Bathurst 1000 and this was similar to some facets of my start of university. I had my ups and downs; however the ups were definitely more prevalent than the downs!

Probably the main pearl of wisdom that I can give any school-leaver is to become knowledgeable in the USQ StudyDesk. Realistically, it has everything you need to pass the courses you are studying. There will be the lecture slides, the tutorial information, the study and introductory book, messages from the lecture and many other bits and pieces that you will find necessary to survive your first semester of university!

Have a decent understanding of the StudyDesk and all of its ins and outs, so that you can have a fair go at finding information throughout semester. You don’t want to finally understand how it all works by the end of semester, especially not after that 50% assignment is due, which had all the information on StudyDesk, but you weren’t able to find it because you had no idea where to look…

During school, I presume your school email wasn’t as important as your email for university will be. A great amount of the information you need for your learning will be sent through email.  Regularly checking your email is a great way to stay up-to-date with all your study requirements and find out what’s happening.

A surprising aspect of uni is the laid-back, easy nature of many of my lecturers: first name basis, happy to have chats during the breaks, and all round nice genuine people! I know, shocking. I even had a lecturer buy me pizza once (long story). So, just remember, lecturers are friends, not food.

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Finding Nemo reference, come on! Surely you get it!?

The last thing that I want to mention is the importance of the lecture slides that you will be using each week. Many students find it useful to go over them before the lecture, so they have a grasp at what they will be learning that day, or to print them off and highlight and elaborate on the dot points that are already on the slides. This is a perfect way to learn and retain the information that is received during a lecture.

I hope these hints have enlightened and helped you understand the bits and pieces that are different, and yet similar between high school and university study and life!

Add your own flavour ‘study parent’!

So you’re a parent and a university student or what I prefer to call a ‘studying parent’, among other roles I am sure. Then I bet you will be/ have been looking to strike a good study-life balance. Balance… you might be saying to yourself ‘pfft, what’s that’ but I am a firm believer that we can have it all! With the right priorities, a little task management and by drawing on our inherent ability to cope with the differing demands of our lives we can find this balance and adapt into the happy and successful studying parents that we crave to be.

Over the course of my degree, I have used many and varied tactics to study whilst parenting. To share more of my story though, I will have to give you the run down about my three and half year old son. He has light, golden-brown, scuffled hair, deep brown almond shaped eyes, is knee high to a grasshopper, the love of my life and FULL of energy. As my son has gotten a little older, we mostly like to ‘study’ together. At first he would read his own books and colour beside me. These days he prefers to copy, pretending to read mummy’s special text books and write with a black biro.

Sometimes before I sit down to write an assignment, I open Microsoft Word, change the page colour and let him type with some funky font and in his favourite colour of the day. After having the taste for feeling important and involved in my university work (or mummy’s Uni as he calls it), he happily resumes playing with his toys for a while. Other fun things that we have done together include making revision cards and sitting side by side wearing our headphones listening to online lectures and the dinosaur train ABC song.

I think the most important thing to take away from this is to add your own flavour to your ‘dual role’ techniques. You might do as I and my son have, or you may prefer do to something a bit different, more suited to your individual personality and unique family dynamic. Once you are settled into your new routine you will be well and truly on your way to achieving the ever elusive balance that may have seemed unrealistic in the beginning.

Til next time.

- a phoenix just like you, Krisi

The budding Psychology student’s guide to USQ Open Day

So you’ve pined over the USQ Psychology Program and Course webpage, and now you’ve cleared you social calendar to attend one of the USQ Open Days in August.  Well done!  You are already better prepared than I was, when I first considered going to uni.  Although I graduated with my first degree earlier this year, it wasn’t all beer and skittles.  I had to learn things the hard way, I made mistakes with my enrolment pattern, and I had no idea about all the resources available to me.  So, armed with my knapsack of real-life experiences, below is a guide to USQ Open Day prepared especially for you, the budding Psychology student:

  1. A Bachelor of Science (Psychology) is just the tip of the iceberg to becoming a Registered Psychologist.  Applying to USQ is too easy and can be done from your smart phone, on a bus, at 4am in the morning, whether you are sober or not.  Courtesy of hindsight, I’d recommend that before jumping in and making any impulsive, long-term decisions about your future, that you talk it through with people who have experience in the field first.  When you decide to study psychology it is important you know what you are getting yourself into.  When I applied I was quitting smoking, going through a break-up, wasn’t happy at work, and thought  “I need a change, I should study Psychology, I’d like to help people.”  Had I investigated further than just the front page of the USQ website and had a broader knowledge of psychology than what I had seen on Dr. Phil, I would have discovered that psychology is more than just couches and inkblot tests.  There is a heavy focus on statistics, report writing, and time-wise it takes at least six years to become a registered Psychologist.  Of course all of this is openly discussed when you talk to faculty members in the Health sessions activities or at the info pods, and is illustrated delightfully below.
    stud psy
  2.  A Bachelor of Science (Psychology) doesn’t have to be an exclusive relationship.  Imagine my surprise when, one year into studying my degree, I realised I could use my elective courses to complete a second major.  It was perfect, I was going to combine it with the Business HR major and become a psych-commerce-powerhouse.  Unfortunately, I had already wasted an elective on a unit I wasn’t even interested in (Intro to Law isn’t as upbeat as Legally Blonde would have you believe).  The moral of the story?  Because I didn’t have enough elective units left in my remaining two years to complete the second major, I missed out on an opportunity to maximise my employability.  So as tempting as it may be on Open Day to just focus on Psychology related sessions, take some time out to visit the info pods of other faculties and check out all the courses on offer.  You will have eight electives, use them wisely!
    psy
  3. Acronym Overload: Know your TLCs, OACs and SROs.  I’m just going to say it; a Psychology degree will require you to be statistics-savvy.  If, like me, you’ve been out of school long enough to forget how to use a scientific calculator, you may be interested to know there are free workshops held by The Learning Centre (TLC) that help you with just that!  If you have been out of school for a really, really long time, you may not even know how to start your uni journey, thankfully the Open Access College (OAC) can point you in the right direction.  Of course, I had no idea about either of these resources until after I needed them, so consider yourself ahead of the game there.  One resource I did utilise was my Student Relationship Officer (SRO).  Uni can feel like a big place, but the “Ask USQ” button on the USQ website will get you in touch with your SRO whenever you need a hand, without the subscription fees of Ask Bongo or Ask Jerry.  But don’t just take my word for it, TLC, OAC, and SROs have info pods at the Open Days, so remember to meet these acronyms in person!
    acronym

Although the Acronym IQ isn’t a scientific construct, I think it should be.  Masters thesis maybe?  Finally, to give you a taste of being a student, here’s some further reading… you’ll see this a lot :-/

If you’ve got any Open Day advice of your own, for Psychology students or others, share it below!

Nick

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.

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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.

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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

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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!!