Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A little rave...

If you go looking for information from people who have had to deal with Student Finance, there is one word you will get used to seeing very quickly: "Useless". I know so many people that have had horrible problems with Student Finance that there seems little point in saying much more here. They are notoriously slow, difficult and hard to deal with. Adding to the already plentiful list of negative comments about Student Finance seems pointless.

Instead, I want to talk about something good.

The Student Support service at the University of Nottingham have been consistently brilliant. University can be a hugely stressful experience if there are problems and having the ability to solve those problems quickly and efficiently is a wonderful luxury. Every time I've had a problem, I've found the Student Support staff to be friendly, approachable, knowledgeable and practical. There has never been an instance of being told that something is "not their job" - a response that can often throw up obstacles when trying to resolve an issue - instead, when this has been the case, they've put me in touch with someone who is better-suited to help.

Peace of mind can mean everything at times, and the Student Support team seem well aware of this. There has never been an instance where I've been made to feel as if I'm asking a stupid question or being over-cautious. The reassurance that this reliable, approachable and efficient team are there can make a world of difference.

The counselling service is another incredible resource for those who need it. There's a short waiting list due to the huge number of people who use it and the limited resources they have, but they make sure that the service continues to run as efficiently as possible.

It's not something that most people consider when choosing a University, but it's something that has really impressed me while I've been at Nottingham.

Monday, 5 September 2011

19 days to go!

Getting VERY excited now! Under 3 weeks until I get back to Uni and I can't wait!

I managed to locate reading lists for the modules I'll be starting this term. Making a start on reading any of the books on the list that I already own as well as anything that might prove useful. Right now I'm reading The Histories by Herodotus (which has it's good points, but some of it is SO tedious!) and The Ancient Greeks for Dummies by Stephen Batchelor because it never hurts to go back to basics and see if there are any gaps in your knowledge!

I've not actually started packing yet, but I am planning it! Trying to decide which guitar to take this year - last year I took my 12-string acoustic, but I'm considering taking one of my electric guitars this year instead. Decisions! I need to wash all of my bedding as well. I've got a double bed at Mother's house and a single bed at uni, so I can't use my uni bedding at home! I think it was clean when I packed it all up, but it's been packed up all summer, so it'll probably benefit from being freshened up a little!

Social life
One of the other reasons I'm looking forward to going back is all the going-out things to do! Where my Mother lives is pretty remote, so nights out are usually hard work! In Nottingham, most things I want to do are within walking distance - or a short bus ride at the most! Looking forward to having a few interesting nights out!

Of course it's going to be good to see the people I met last year again (apart from The American, who has gone home to America... It won't be the same without her!) but also looking forward to meeting new people. Lots of new people in halls and maybe some new people on my course too. It's going to be interesting to see who's around!

I think I've posted about this before - but I'm really looking forward to some of the modules I'm doing this year! Last year was mostly general Greek and Roman history, but this year I get to focus a lot more on the things I'm really interested in! Very exciting!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

It's September!

I think I'm officially allowed to get excited now!

I don't move back into halls until 25th September, but at least I'm in the right month! I've been trying to get a bit of extra reading done in preparation for going back, but it's hard to know what is going to be useful!

I'm SO tempted to start packing my clothes now - I've got all the boxes and bags ready to be filled up already!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

"Help! I don't Drink!"

Another thread I keep seeing on TSR is from people starting Uni soon who don't drink (for whatever reason).

Here is all the advice you really need if you're a fellow teetotal person:

Nobody is going to notice !!!

Seriously, honestly and based on personal experience - you will be fine! 

I know that Uni (fresher's week especially) gets portrayed as a kind of booze-soaked orgy with occasional breaks to attend lectures in a dishevelled and hungover state, but the only part of this that's in any way compulsory is the lectures! 

There were a number of events last fresher's week (and afterwards) that weren't exactly my sort of thing - dubstep and r&b nights, pub crawls, cocktail nights, traffic light parties (which *terrify* me, even now!) so I didn't go. This isn't a stubborn refusal to try new things - I just saw things elsewhere that interested me more! I went out in town, went to see bands that sounded more like my sort of thing, had nights out in nearby cities (Derby and Leicester are both easy to get to from Nottingham) and went to less drink-centric uni events like campus tours (very useful!). 

So what about the rest of the year? If you're a non-drinker, you're not confined to spend every evening locked away in your room or stuck in the library (although both of these are a good idea now and then to get some actual work done!) I love exploring the local area - on foot or by bus. It might be finding someone who knows the area a little better to show you interesting things nearby, or there's always the internet if you're surrounded by other new people! 
You don't have to *only* go to uni-run events either - after your lectures, you're free to go where you like! I'm a big music fan, so looking up local gigs seemed a logical place to start! As much as I like my uni-mates, I've found it useful to have some local non-uni mates as well. Even if the people on your course are great fun, it's nice to have some variety so you're not with the same people all day and all night! 

But what if people try to talk me into drinking?
Easy. Say "no thanks!". If they continue to put pressure on you - walk away. You don't have to do anything you don't want to, and if people can't respect that, they don't sound like great people to be hanging around with. Universities are rarely short of people - you can make other (better!) friends elsewhere. 
Since being at uni, nobody has so much as questioned why I don't drink - it's not a big deal! They have their drink and I have mine - the conversation carries on regardless of what happens to be in my glass! 

Monday, 22 August 2011

"Help! I'm Old!"

I've been reading through TSR again recently and found a lot of threads I can really relate to:

I'm starting Uni this year and I'm 20 - what are people going to think?

I'm 25 and want to live in halls - will they allow this? Will people think I'm weird?

Last year, that's pretty much what I was thinking too. When I started last year (and moved into halls) I was 25 and worried how I'd get along with everyone else. The simple answer is "pretty well".

Classes and Lectures
These are the easy bits. In lectures, there is usually a sea of people there and you're pretty much just a face in the crowd. Just sit down, shut up and pay attention! Similar thing in classes really - nobody is going to care how old you are because (if they have any sense) they'll be paying more attention to the class. In both cases I wasn't the oldest person there by a long shot. I know all courses will be different, but there were a number of older students in most lectures I went to and nobody paid any real attention to this.

Making friends/Social stuff
Again - not a big deal. The trick is to talk to any and everyone! Worried you'll have nothing in common with your coursemates? Well, you're all at uni - that's a good start! My uni mates are a mixture of people much younger than me and other mature students (my age and older) and they're all surprisingly similar once you get talking! The only time my age came up at any point was during a conversation about 21st birthday parties and I pointed out that mine was a few years ago. Their reaction? "Oh... cool. So anyway...." and that was it. The thing to remember is that it's only going to be a big deal if you make it one!

Another thing I've seen worrying my fellow mature students is the question of living in halls. Personally, I loved it so much I'm going back into halls this year. Yes, it can be a bit noisy, but most of the people there are fairly reasonable and will shut up if you ask! For me, halls are a massive help! They're close to where I need to be, so there's no massive commute every day (just a short bus ride or relaxing walk!) and they're catered which means no washing up! That frees up a LOT of extra time!
As for being the oldest in halls, that wasn't a problem for me. The halls I was in had people from all years (including a few postgrad students) so I wasn't the oldest and just kind of blended in and got on with it. I've heard that some halls try to group older/mature/postgrad students together in one part of the hall, away from younger students - but I couldn't advise on which halls do this (TSR is the place to ask though! Someone will know how to find out!)
If you think you might be the only older student in halls (unlikely, but possible!) I think all you can do is front it out. Don't make it in to an issue - nobody else is likely to. If you do end up with any hassle because of it, halls have staff who are there to sort these problems out - talk to them.

Whatever you do, don't let age get in the way if you want to go to university! So far, it's been the best decision I've made - I had a fantastic year and can't wait to start the next one. Based on my own experiences, I'd encourage anyone else who is considering it to go ahead and at least try uni - preferably by jumping in with both feet and not giving a damn what anyone else thinks of them for it!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

It's that time again!

Getting very excited about going back to Uni, even if it is a whole month away!

Student Finance
Finally got my letter confirming that I can get my loan! Scary stuff waiting for that... Student Finance seem to get worse every year - I know plenty of other people that still haven't got theirs sorted!

Geeking Out
Looking forward to next year FAR too much! Can't wait to get started on planning my time and making a start on my work! I was thinking about getting a new filofax (the one I use at the moment is amazing, but considering getting a slightly larger one) but can't find one I really like. Got my timetables through - tempted to start planning them out already!  I'm terrible about the things I use, so looking forward to buying things like new folders for next year... I'm fussy about what feels "right" to use!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Almost next year!

I've been relaxing a lot over the summer, so not much to write about here! But here's the updates:

Student Finance
Oh, this has been a nightmare! They kept sending me offer letters for £0 for next year. Not happy about that at all! Many angry phone calls later, I have a sensible offer of money for next year - only got the forms through today, so they were signed and sent back straight away! 

Exam Results!
I've got no intention of putting my actual results up here because that tends to encourage competitive people and I honestly don't think education ever benefits from being a competition. I'm very happy with my results from last year though - room for improvement, but I know what I need to focus on now! I think that's the most important thing I learned over the past year - how to get my work done!

Next Year
Looking forward to starting again already! September can't come quickly enough for me! I miss being at uni, I miss lectures and seeing people, I miss having my little routines and most of all, I miss living in Nottingham! I'm stuck in the wilds of the Peak District for another month (Which people keep telling me is a good thing. These are usually people who are unaware of how horribly allergic I am to everything here... Feels like I haven't breathed properly since July!)  and can't wait to get out!

Hoping I get to stick with the modules I chose for the next two terms... Autumn I have "Ancient Art In Context" and "Greeks and Barbarians: Connected Histories" to look forward to. I love art and really like the lecturer we're going to have for that course, and the connected histories module sounds very useful - I'd like to know more about Ancient Greek relations with other cultures.

I've decided to stay in halls again this year. It seems so much easier! The halls I'm in are catered, so I don't need to cook (or wash up!) and they're in a really convinient location for me to get into Uni whenever I need to! I've heard a lot of Universities only let you stay in halls for your first year, but Nottingham actually seem to encourage students to stay in halls after their first year - which I like a lot! 

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Revision Music

I think I have to begin by pointing out that different people like different music, and that's fine. Also, that what works well for one person, won't for another - it's all part of life's cosmic kick-to-the-pants...
But I figured it might be useful to someone out there if I compiled a list of music that was really good for revision, based on my efforts with Foobar and trying to cram all of Roman history into my head at once...

The good:
Ozric Tentacles - Erpland
Ozrics make excellent revision music! It's interesting enough to keep your brain ticking over, but doesn't get too distracting. Nicely relaxing too! I tend to prefer music without vocals (usually) for revision, but find a lot of music without vocals seems to be missing something - this isn't. This is just right!

Eat Static - Prana
More tunes that go "bleep!" a bit... Quite new to Eat Static, saw them (him?) at a gig a few months ago (I went for Here & Now and stayed for Eat Static). Some of their stuff is a bit speedier than Ozrics, so better for all-nighters when caffiene alone isn't doing the trick! Tends to make me work faster too, I've found! 

 Hawkwind - Alien (I am)
Most Hawkwind goes on the "not great for revision" list, for reasons I'll go into later... But 90's Hawkwind seems to work for some reason. There's probably some impressive scientific reason why work becomes easier when accompanied by the sound of Ron Tree pretending to be an alien.

Tim Blake - Lighthouse
Not too far away from Hawkwind (what with him being in the band and everything...) Tim Blake does nice, spacey tunes that seem to help with the whole sitting down and actually doing some damn work thing. Some of them are a bit on the odd side, but this one is nice!
Soft Machine - Hope For Happiness
When it's all getting a bit too much, a bit of Soft Machine can work wonders!

The not-so good:
IQ - Human Nature
Don't get me wrong, I love IQ. Often in a way that's not quite healthy. But I can't revise to them. Their lyrics are too engaging. I blame most of this on the fact they have the most charismatic singer in the whole world - he DEMANDS your full attention at all times, which is brilliant for gigs - useless for revision!

Hawkwind - Urban Guerilla
Again, Hawkwind are a band I love to bits, but for revision, they're useless. Especially anything with Robert Calvert singing on it - same problem as IQ really, he commands so much attention, it doesn't leave much left over to focus on the work that needs to be done...

Genesis - I know what I like (in your wardrobe)

Great song, but useless for revision. I know if this is playing, it'll be a matter of moments before I'm on FarmVille...

The Imperial Pompadours - Brand New Cadillac
It's brilliant in it's own way, but getting ANYTHING done with this going on is a bit difficult! Save it for post-exam partying (or playing loudly in order to worry the nighbours into going out for the afternoon...)

Hopefully this will be of some use to someone out there! I doubt it will be, but you never know!

Oh dear...

Apparently, keeping this thing updated did not go as planned!

I thought about it a few weeks ago, but had a heap of revision that also needed to be done, and that sort of won out in the end...

Also been ill, currently on my second dose of tonsilitis in as many months. Not what I'd call enjoyable!

Expect things to appear here soonish!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

First term...

I really am terrible at keeping this thing updated! Here's what has happened since the last update:

I decided to drop Greek after all - I just didn't understand it well enough to make it worth carrying on - at least not in classes. I think I'm just a slow learner when it comes to languages and the class was going far too fast for me. So I've dropped that class and I'm taking Dark Age & Medieval Europe instead!

I've applied to stay in halls again next year. I know some Universities only allow first years to stay in halls (or other years under special circumstances) but we've actually been encouraged to apply to stay in halls next year as well. I like the halls - they're occasionally a little noisy, but it's not terrible and it saves a LOT of hassle! I don't have to house-hunt or worry about who I'm living with (of course, there's a possibly that I'll end up being close to unpleasant people, but in halls, you can make a complaint if things get out of hand...) and to be honest, it's just less work. The halls I'm in are catered, so I don't have to worry about food shopping (and budgeting for it) or cooking (or washing up!), they're a nice distance from the main campus, so I can either enjoy the walk or take the (free) bus. If anything breaks in my room, I can get it fixed - it's nice to have that not to worry about so I can just get on with my work!

I really like a lot of the people on my course! That was something that I did worry about when I started at Uni - I'm older than them and was worried that either they would avoid me because I was the creepy older person in classes (I'm not the oldest in most of our classes...) or that I wouldn't be able to put up with them being immature. So far, that's not been the case at all. I've got a nice little group of mates!

Exams and Revision
Or "What I Should Be Doing Now"...
I still had to do a Greek exam, despite dropping it. It really didn't go well - I seem to have revised all the wrong things for the exam and can't imagine that I did very well at all - I doubt I passed. So far, that's the only  exam I've had - tomorrow is Classics and Popular Culture (which I enjoyed! So hopefully some good will come of that) and Friday is Greek World - which I was revising for before I came on here... The last exam is a week on Friday - Prehistory. I loved Prehistory as well (it was from the first humans to the first farmers - VERY interesting stuff - more on this in a moment!) but I'm not sure how well I'll do in the exam. I've got another week to revise it, so I'm not too worried - yet!

Other things I've been doing
-I wrote a song! Krankschaft held a competition for people to send in lyrics and they'd make songs out of them... You can hear it at http://krankschaft.soundawesome.com/ or download the full album (and a "making-of" Podcast - very reccomended!) at http://www.doremi.co.uk/krankschaft/songpoems.html . The tune I wrote was mostly inspired by a daydream following an interesting Prehistory lecture - just goes to show some of it must have sunk in!
-Getting overexcited about summer festivals! There doesn't seem to be much going on gig-wise this time of year, but a few festivals have announced their lineups - The Blyth Power Ashes and Sonic Rock Solstice should be excellent again this year!
-Not much else. Seem to have spent the whole Christmas break asleep - oh dear!

Good luck to everyone with exams this and next week!