You vs. Your BFFL. Dealing with peer competition: how to maintain friendships when competing for jobs or grades.

Ever since we were little, we’ve been taught that we’re all in competition with each other. In primary school we were given awards for the best macaroni necklace and in high school biology we learned about survival of the fittest.

So naturally, we’re inclined to become jealous of one another if we feel that they’re in the way of what we want.

This is ESPECIALLY not cool if the person in your way is your mate.

The great thing about going to university is that you get to hang out with like-minded people who are working towards the same or similar goals as you. However, this also means you’ll probably be competing against them to get a high grade or, eventually, a job.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

‘Eliza,’ you’re saying. ‘You’re so self-confident and well adjusted, you’d never get jealous of your mates… would you?’

Well guys, this will come as a massive shock to you, but I too have, from time to time, become jealous of my uni mates.

For what it's worth, we're all crazy

No matter what you’re studying, you’re probably going to go through an assignment situation where you have to compete for roles: project manager, group leader etc… In the media program, we have to compete against each other for our desired role when making films.

While this is a fantastic exercise because it’s how job selection usually happens in ‘the real world’, it’s also pretty awful. In the media program, every student has to stand up in front of the class and explain why they’re better than their friends at performing a particular role.

Ouch.

After going through this a few times during my degree, I’ve developed a couple of ways to deal with competing against my mates.

First of all, try to keep the competition as professional as possible.

job-competition
Remember that your friend is probably feeling just as uncomfortable competing against you as you are competing against them. Try to leave the competing in the classroom or interview room; once you’re outside the situation, try to focus on more positive aspects of your friendship. Also, avoid making personal attacks about your mate and focus more on how well you can do the job.

Keep in mind that if your friend gets the job you wanted, you will have gained an awesome contact in your desired industry, which could come in handy in the future.

The second thing to remember is that you are unique. You are one of a kind and you have different talents and skills to your friends.

you are unique - use this to your advantageGoing back to our high school ‘survival of the fittest’ lessons, we were taught that animals are in constant competition in order to uh… avoid ‘going to the farm’. However, another survival tactic animals have is to adapt and find their niche in order to contribute to the world order in their own special way. You can do this too! You just need to find out what you’re special talent is and how you can contribute to the working world order.
A good way to find out where your talents lie are in your grades; while your mate might get distinctions in the communication subjects, you might be better at research and therefore do better in analysis subjects. This could lead to a career in research. Sometimes our talents surprise us, and if this is the case, you might not be sure how they will help your career.

I’m really bad at most sports and I’m not very academic (seriously, if someone can explain long division to me I’ll give you my first-born), BUT I can talk under wet cement and I love questioning everything. While my skills weren’t appreciated too much at school, once I started studying media and journalism at uni I WAS IN MY ELEMENT.
This was because I had found my niche, my groove.

Once you’ve found your groove you can use this as a selling point when you have to compete against your friends. When you’re in an interview or doing an assignment, focus on your unique skills instead of comparing yourself to your friends.

Competition is a fact of life, but when it comes to competing with your friends try not to take it personally. Remember that you’re all just trying to survive in this sometimes brutal world and in the end your mates will be there to support you and help you out when possible.

To quote that one girl from Mean Girls, ‘I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and we could all eat a piece and be happy’.

But that’s not how the world works unfortunately, so just focus on why you’re awesome and you’ll find that trying to get a job or a good grade won’t be as painful as Year 11 biology class.

The do’s and don’ts of student adventure time!

Guess what… university is out for the year! We made it! Guys and girls… we did it! Can you believe it? We now have months to relax and enjoy whatever we want to do. We are as free as a bird!

Now, I can imagine quite a few of you adventurous and fun-loving students are going to be heading out of here now that your tertiary education journey for the year is over. Let the travel and self-discovery journey begin!

adventure time - student travel

Do

  • Mention you are a student as often as possible! People often love to help out students when they’re travelling, because they know what it’s like trying to see the world on a student budget.
  • Keep a notepad with you and take it everywhere so you can write down things you like or things you want to know more about.
  • Try to book everything in advance. Once you’re in Europe, a good last-minute travel option is idbus.com!
  • Keep your student ID on you at all times. It will serve you as well as your passport.
  • Prepare some fun university stories to tell your hosts or the local barista. By sharing your experiences you’re likely to make new friends and maybe even get shouted a coffee!
  • Take lots of photos 

Don’t

  • Take your textbooks everywhere you go unless you have to.
  • Book your flights last-minute as there may be hidden fees.
  • Get lured into buying cheap ‘local products’ you think you’ll be able to resell. Do some research and use your head. You are a university student after all! When you get home, customs may not clear those great bamboo chairs you bought for $20 that the seller promised you’d be able to resell for $200.
  • Be so attached to your tour guidebook that you miss experiencing the places you travel to for yourself. You are a student, so explore and learn everything you can about the places you visit based on your own experiences.

The most important thing I have learned about travelling the world as a student is that there are a lot of incredible people out there and most of them are kind-hearted. Many of them WANT to help us struggling students, especially in places like Germany where higher education is FREE. Use your head, be smart and think before you do anything, but it can be OK to trust the people you meet.

When you get home after travelling, remember to share your adventures with others so that you inspire them to go on their own. My mission in life is to be able to tell my stories to my grandchildren and to tell them that my adventures helped others to go on their own.

clock  - uni student travel

If you don’t want to make the commitment of starting your own travel blog or website, there is a website dedicated to helping people share their lives, adventures and stories from stranger shores (www.onstrangershores.com).

With that, I think I can leave you brilliant people. I wish you the best of luck with your travels and will hopefully see you next year for the next round of study. Who knows, by then you guys might have a few travel tips to teach me!

We only have a limited amount of time on this earth, so let’s make it as amazing, magnificent, magical and awesome as it can be.

Live it. Write it. Inspire – José R. Bishop.

Getting back into study? Tips for when you haven’t studied for a while

It’s a big step to make the decision to get back into study when you haven’t studied in a while… it can be overwhelming in fact. If you’re not careful, you can fall victim to the fears, trepidations and reservations that are in the back of your mind and this can cause you to panic. It can make you start to doubt yourself and question whether it’s all worthwhile, but I can assure you that it is. You may experience challenges and have some fears about studying again, but there are many ways to overcome them and yes, even beat them back into submission.

time management to reduce stress1. Time management
The first challenge that you may encounter will be the managing your time. Trying to sort out the ‘how am I going to fit everything in’, ‘when is everything due’, ‘where do I have to be and what is it that I have to do’? This can be a tough one to figure out when you haven’t studied for a while, but it is quite simple really.

Solution: have a diary, write everything in it and carry it with you everywhere or, when at home, draw up a study management timetable with all the important how, when, where and what info on it. I will be the first to admit that I can’t live without my study plan, because sometimes there is just not enough room in my head to remember everything. My study timetable is my best friend. It tells the how, where, when and what, a bit like having a good friend to guide you all day long and take the weight off your shoulders.

take the weight off your shoulders2. Not having any friends
Challenge number two is the ‘No friends’ challenge. This is the one where you think that nobody will talk to you and you will feel all alone in a large room full of people. I know that I could tell you that it’s all in your head, but you won’t believe me, so I won’t say it.

Solution: Develop a network, which is a small group of people you can talk to about your assignments and lectures and who you can swap notes with. If you take the time to look around a lecture theatre, you’ll notice that there are plenty of people in the room all probably thinking the same thing as you. Just talk to them casually and when you see them next time strike up a conversation about anything that you may have in common i.e.: classes. Before you know it, you will have a network. I have always been the oldest person in every class at uni, so naturally this challenge was a big concern for me when I first started. But when waiting outside for lectures to start, I just chatted to the other much younger students about the course or assignments (this is an easy one to get another student talking) and bingo! Now in the second year, I always have someone to talk to and have coffee with… I have a network!

3. Technology
Challenge number three is the ‘Technology’ challenge. If you haven’t studied in a while, you are more than likely scared out of your wits about this one. But fear not: it looks hard to understand but it is really very simple and you will need to be able to use it, because universities use computer technology extensively. I speak from experience when I say that it’s easier than it looks.

Solution: The USQ library has sessions at the beginning of each semester on how to use the library resources, including technology. This is an excellent place to start. But if you have some basic knowledge, don’t forget that trusty information source: Goggle. Type in what you want to know into the search bar, for example how to use features in Word, Excel or Powerpoint, and up it pops. I knew very little about computers when I first started at uni, so I decided to sit myself down one day before I started and I fiddled, fidgeted and clicked on every tab in these programs just to see what they did. Before I knew it, I had a fairly good grasp of how things worked and as for the rest, I just used a Google search or if I’m totally frustrated, I ask another student for help.

USQ learning centre4. Getting help
Challenge number four is the ‘Help’ challenge. This is the one where you have hit a snag in you studies or you have a few problems or difficulties handling things and aren’t sure where to turn for help or support.

Solution: If you’re hitting that brick wall, turn to USQ’s Learning Centre for course work-related questions, your lecturers for questions specific to your course, Student Services for those more personal problems and your Student Relationship Officer. Put plain and simple, there is always someone out there who can help… they may even be sitting next to you in a lecture. Just ask! You won’t be the first or last to need support. I have proudly used the Learning Centre for course difficulties, in particular… the dreaded statistics. They have sat with me many times and explained things in a way that I could understand. I don’t think I would have passed some of my courses if not for the assistance my lecturers have given me by setting up consultation meetings with them.

5. Expectations
Challenge number five is the ‘Expectations’ challenge. This is the challenge where you have very high expectations of yourself. You know the one, where you try to do a thousand things at once, expect perfect marks and never say ‘no’ to people and, when it doesn’t work out, you crash and burn.

Solution: Value your achievements! Don’t judge your progress solely on the marks you are given for assignments. Instead, value what you have learned during the process of your degree and certainly, under no circumstances, judge yourself on the results of other students. I personally am very guilty of this one when I spend every waking moment on course and assignments, all the while trying desperately to participate in everything that family and friends ask of me (it’s really hard to say no) and I have found that you have to find that special balance between the two.

The main goal of getting back into study after a long period of time is to learn and to add to your life experiences. So relish every moment, don’t panic and stay calm.

Juggling a career, family and study

First things first… tadaaa!

superstudy

There’s a superhero in each of us, albeit maybe not quite a latex-clad, dark, mysterious and cape-bearing kind! It’s no mean feat as a mum or dad to juggle school drop-offs, a job and university studies… it takes some awesome skills! We all need to start by giving ourselves a pat on the back. Whether you are a current studying parent, a parent, or maybe even working and just considering studying, I have some hints and tips on how I juggle it all.

Once you start your degree at university, it is important to know that you are not alone! There really are all kinds of university services that can help support you in achieving your dreams. In my time at USQ, I have personally have used The Learning Centre for some free advice on assignment writing etiquette, been to see Student Services and gained some career advice from the university’s career’s guidance officer. These services were particularly helpful in clearly establishing my career goals and were a great resource in my job hunting. I would encourage everyone to give them a go. I really can’t speak highly enough about the support I received.

krisi 2

When you are in the midst of juggling everything in your life, please don’t forget that your family can partake in this awesome journey that you are on (the kids included). By this I mean, from getting help with cooking dinner to making studying a fun experience, your kids can join in. As my son has grown older, he loves to ask me if I need my text book or if he can have a ‘read’ himself. This is very cute, so remember to take photos, as these are all special memories!

I find it really important to keep a diary. This way I can best manage my shifts at work, assignment due dates and special family occasions. It is just a really visual way of remaining as motivated as the day you started and keeping on track. The university sends out a super-large calendar at the beginning of each year. I pop this up on the wall for all of my family to see. I must admit that it has gotten me the odd dinner or two cooked curtsey of my family!

Occasionally I have taken a course off-campus and online. This meant that in the second year of my degree, I had some more free time during the week to get more work done. I really enjoyed listening to the lectures online, and I even downloaded some as audio files to listen to while on long trips in the car.

To sum it all up, I linked in with some support services at university, enjoyed getting my family involved, managed my time with ease by using a calendar and took the opportunity for flexible study options when needed. Everyone is different, but with the goals that I have kept in mind along the way, I found these methods to be key in my success along the way!

superstudy1

What are some of the things that you put in place while juggling carer, family and study? I’d love to hear some really creative brainstorming!

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?

Studying with technology

I didn’t grow up with technology. As I have grown older, especially since I started studying at uni, it has been thrust upon me. I grew up in a generation where the most exciting technological innovation was colour television (1975), after having spent most of my childhood watching cartoons in black and white. I know it doesn’t sound that exciting in today’s terms, but you have to understand that, at the time, colour TV was cutting-edge stuff.

original computer

So, you must appreciate that trying to understand the digital world that we now all live in can be a little bit of struggle for me at times, although I do try my hardest. I have a confession to make. Before I started writing these blogs, I didn’t even know what a blog was and had to ask. Oh, I had a very basic understanding of computers, but I do mean very basic. I used emails and I was familiar with what a keyboard was but, unfortunately, that was the limit of my knowledge. I was not a complete fool because I was enlightened with regards to the any key.

press any key

At this point in my life, I would definitely consider myself a pre-tech geek. But when I started at uni, I had to learn… and fast! I started off with a copy of Office and sat down day after day in the weeks prior to starting uni trying to figure it all out. ‘I am going to be on top of this technology thing’, I thought. I clicked on this button and that button and even tried screaming at my computer, but I soon realised that the screaming didn’t help. It was frustrating, aggravating and somehow exhilarating, especially when I finally understood something!

When I attended my first week, I realised that simply being able to write an assignment in Word was not enough at uni. They were talking about PowerPoints, Excel, Access, Publisher, MathType, Endnote and wikis. This was a foreign language. I started to wonder whether I had gone to sleep and had woken up in another country. I had serious doubts in the first semester that I would ever get it.

googleit

By the end of Semester One, I had managed to struggle through and, to my great surprise, even did pretty well in my Excel and Access assignments. But Semester Two was just around the corner. Well, it started off again like a broken record (that’s the original MP3 or iPod, for those of you that have never heard of a record): peer reviews, statistics, more PowerPoints and Turnitin. And yet, again, to my great surprise, I made it out the other end of another semester completely unscathed, apart from the occasional caffeine overload.

Now, here I am at the end of my second year with all of the tech frustration behind me… almost! I still forget to save my assignments occasionally as I am writing them and hit the delete key without meaning to. But I now know how to find them hiding on my computer and have just recently set my computer to auto save… I wish someone had told me this was possible two years ago. PowerPoints, Turnitin, blogs, wikis, publisher, MathType, peer reviews, social media, skype and studying online… easy! It all seems so easy now.  I no longer hit the panic button, reach for a strong coffee, go into denial or wish there was another, much more tech-savvy version of me when things go wrong. I now have the answer… Google it!

coping mechanisms

Learning about technology when you didn’t grow up with it can be difficult, but it is possible. In my spare time, apart from the standard boring hobbies that people of my era have, I do enjoy playing computer games. I still don’t understand many of the technologies that are about today and I still don’t have an iPhone, but I now consider myself well on the way to being a full-blown tech geek. Here is a bit of computer humour that I can now understand:

  • Some things man was never meant to know, for everything else there is Google.
  • Failure is not an option – it comes bundled with Windows.
  • You know you’re a geek when you try to shoo a fly away from the monitor with your cursor.

If you didn’t grow up with technology either, I’d love to hear about  your experiences learning how to use tech at uni.

How I study while travelling the world

Kaixo zer moduz? (Hi, how are you?) It’s the zany circus writer again, this time writing from a deck chair in a maze of hundred-foot bamboo, drinking a ‘Chai of the Tiger’ after packing for my birthday of travelling escapades this weekend.

Happy birthday to me…

Jose's birthdayStudying while travelling, how is it done?
The majority of people in this world believe travelling and productivity don’t go together. Mes amis, I am living proof that they can blend as well as Ben & Jerry’s and watching The Notebook! Unfortunately, as I value your wellbeing, I must tell you that (like eating a liter of B&J ice cream), it is not easy. But it can be done!

Being a successful travelling student is about making the decision to do the preparation and work. Here are a few tips to help you succeed:

Choose the right university
Choosing the right university is important in any case, however, it is of paramount importance when studying en voyage. It’s vital to choose a uni that provides you with great online support and flexibility, such as USQ, because you will be on the move.

USQ

Choose the right travel buddies
Nobody likes travelling with a bad group of people, so ensure you travel with people you enjoy spending time with but who will also respect you and let you study when you need to. You do not want to have to choose between their friendship and your study goals. Furthermore, you do not want your prior engagements to be a burden on the group; if you travel alone, this doesn’t apply.

Plan, plan, plan!
Make sure that when you leave to go travelling you pack all your necessary textbooks and stationery; you don’t want to have to orchestrate the shipping of a hundred-dollar textbook overseas! More often than not, it won’t arrive in time for that assignment… or at all. Also, make sure that if you need to access online services for your study, your accommodation has reliable internet access.

Doesn’t that view just enthuse the student mind?

Doesn’t that view just enthuse the student mind?

Be realistic and set goals
Before embarking on what could quite possibly be the greatest adventure of your life, make sure to ask yourself, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ If you do, schedule out how much time you will set for study and how much time you will have for exploring your destination. Be realistic. Moreover, set out your goals for each study block. There is no point in sitting down to study for 5 hours and only getting through 2 pages because all you can think about is the local Marrakesh markets outside!

Mo-ti-va-tion time, come on!
Zig Ziglar once said, ‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily’. Apart from organisation, motivation would be the most important aspect to ensure you successfully complete your goal of studying while you travel. Thus, you should bring lots of motivational tools. My personal favourite motivational tool is to make a deal with myself, such as: ‘you can go exploring for 5 hours if you complete Module 3’.

Jose basque

Enjoy your time on stranger shores!
Finally, it is really important that when you are touring and exploring places, you enjoy it! You are so lucky to be one of the few people who can travel and learn!

As you can see, studying while travelling is in many ways similar to other student’s lives, you just have to amplify your organisation.

So go and travel the plethora of stunning and exciting places on this earth, while getting a top-notch education. As I always like to say ‘I got a PhD in travel life, without ever stepping in a lecture hall’.

4 Days before my birthday

4 Days before my birthday

Handy Group Assignment Tips

group assignment hangover referenceWe’ve all been here, haven’t we? The massive group assignment that nobody really wants to take a part in, but we have to because, well… we need to pass the subject! We all know those feels. It’s difficult to trust another person with a particular section or part of the assignment because we just don’t trust that they will do it, or do a good job.

But, I think there are a number of ways to help the group assignment process go more smoothly. I recently completed a 50% group assignment where we had to give a 45-minute presentation to our peers and I think there were a number of things that helped this assignment go relatively well.

To begin with, we’ve all been friends for a number of semesters now, which made things incredibly easy. We already have each other on Facebook, so organising get-togethers wasn’t difficult at all. We all knew each other’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses. If you’re able, I definitely recommend trying to create an assignment group with people you know and, better yet, people you are friends with!

This way, people normally feel relatively guilty if they social loaf, or turn up late to group meetings or don’t do their assigned part of the paper as well as they could. And, of course, it’s easy to tell them that they’re slacking off too (in the nicest way possible of course!).

Try to organise things early. Just like with every assignment, if you leave it to the last minute, it’s going to be difficult, especially with a number of people trying to organise its completion.  For my latest group assignment, we had it completed two weeks before the presentation date, so we had plenty of time to practice our presentation beforehand.

Try and make as many group get-togethers as possible. Texting, phone calls, emails and Facebook messages can only go so far when there are more than 2 of you. And this way, you can really figure out how far the others have gone with their allocated section, as well as brainstorming how to fit each section into the final assignment.

Try to have fun. I know… that sounds crazy, huh? I always try to at least enjoy one part of the assignment if I can. Whether it’s writing the actual paper (on something I really enjoy), or doing a fabulous job of researching, or even that great feeling of presenting on the day and absolutely nailing it! I find I normally get a decent mark on the assignments I enjoy and although that’s obviously not always possible, we can at least try, can’t we?

Having fun in group assignments can be as easy as having a chilled break in the middle of a get-together, going to get a coffee or chatting with your group members about things other than the assignment. This will build team rapport, and make the group assignment just that little bit easier.

I hope these group assignment tips have been useful, and will help you brainstorm some new ways to smash out a group assignment next time you have one!

Why my degree was right for me

Once upon a time, when I was a wee lad, a huge storm broke over the horizon. Gusts of wind picked up and threw everything around in its path, including our family trampoline. We woke the next day to discover our trampoline had landed on the roof of a neighbouring house across the road. Some years later, that same neighbour greeted me on my first day at university as a lecturer.

Tom's trampoline after stormLooking back, that was probably just coincidence and not really fate. However, there were some key indicators over the years that reminded me I was studying the right degree for me. One of these was the style of learning. At school, I really struggled with maths because I couldn’t apply myself practically. Had Applied Media been a textbook-based course, I don’t know that I would have made it through. Luckily, my course was much more like physical education than maths, meaning you couldn’t really be marked on anything you couldn’t physically create. It is always different for everyone, but this was a huge plus for me.

One thing I never did at school was hand in an assignment early. Maybe it was the thrill of pushing the limits of deadlines, maybe it was just laziness. Something must have clicked at university, because I handed my first assignment in one week early. This unprecedented event was rewarded with a 7 (High Distinction) and an enlarged ego. I was so excited about handing in assignments I seemed to forget… I WAS EXCITED ABOUT HANDING IN ASSIGNMENTS! Who had I become? Was this maturity or had I been brainwashed? It couldn’t just be because I enjoyed the work I was doing, could it…?

If you’re anything like me, the first time you went to Dreamworld you refused to leave the gates at 5pm. I’m not going to lie, that’s exactly how I felt at the end of my degree. Not to say knowing I’d never have to hand in an assignment again wasn’t a great feeling, but I was left with an empty void. Having spent three years at USQ, I felt like I was leaving a massive part of myself behind on graduation day. The first thing I did after I graduated was search for post-graduate degrees and similar courses I could study just so I could stay.

But it wouldn’t have been the same. Much like watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you can try and recreate the magic of the first time you saw the films on the big screen, but it will never be the same. Frodo didn’t get to the top of Mount Doom and say ‘let’s do that again.’ Instead, he got on a boat with Gandalf and began a new adventure, cherishing the memory of his nine-hour, multi-million dollar, blockbuster quest.

End of LOTR trilogySo, I figure, if you cherish the memory of your university experience so much so that you consider going back just so you can relive it, you chose the right degree for you.

Until next time,
Tom.