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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build Your Networks

Networking is an essential part of building wealth – Armstrong Williams

Humans are social creatures. It is in our nature to seek a sense of belonging or identity within a particular group or groups brought about through social means. So what is networking? Through my studies of business, networking refers to the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients and/or customers. As my university studies extended beyond the 3 year mark, it was now the perfect time to commence building my professional networks for my graduate years.

As mentioned in my previous blog, my travels to Melbourne in July proved an excellent opportunity to extend my networks interstate and nation-wide. This occasion was a chance to represent the university alongside the USQ Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) group, at the SIFE national conference. Along with the chance to network with fellow university students Australia-wide, several industry experts and organisation representatives attended the conference, forming the judging panel for the competition.

On the flight back from Melbourne, I decided to put further into practice my newly acquired networking tips, through confirming my student membership with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. After attending several networking evenings and breakfast events, I had met a vast variety of the Chamber’s members, with their backgrounds inclusive of IT, finance, accounting and real-estate. These events gave me the opportunity to gain perspectives of real-world practice in a number of disciplines – with some members even sharing tips on their days at university.

With 2012 marking significant growth for the Chamber of Commerce, I was also able to meet several key figures relevant to the Greater Springfield region. The University of Southern Queesland’s Springfield campus was home to a networking event by which Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas shared her vision for the campus and its role within the rapidly developing Greater Springfield region.

 More recently, I attended an event with the Chamber for the official book-launch of Maha Sinnathamby – the inspirational innovator who founded the Greater Springfield area. At this event Maha detailed several triumphs and hardships throughout his life – spanning from his early days in Malaysia, through to his travels and settlement in Australia. The central theme of his speech was consistent with the title of his book – Stop Not Till The Goal is Reached.

One message in particular I took from Maha’s speech was that the darkest night brings the brightest dawn. He spoke of this in relation to the sleepless nights he faced throughout the turbulent times past, and how overcoming the most impossible obstacles bestow the greatest reward.

This goes to show, no matter what you study or where you are in your journey through life, networking is an essential part of building wealth. Whether such wealth takes the form of money, knowledge, education or inspiration, every opportunity is a good opportunity to network.

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.”