By the time the Christmas holidays arrive, I often feel burnt-out from the Autumn Semester and can find it tempting to do nothing but binge-watch Netflix. You can do this for a few days over the break (especially if you’re feeling particularly fragile after all the festivities), but it’s also important to make sure you’re being productive. Here are some of my top tips for doing just that!
Get the important stuff done first
If you’ve got deadlines in January then these should be your priority. I have a 4,000 word essay to write and a difficult exam to revise for but I’m going to try and get a lot of this work done before Christmas so that I can fully enjoy myself. You don’t want to be worrying too much about all the work you have to do when you should be relaxing and having fun!
If you’ve got lots of reading to do for the Spring Semester then it might be worth trying to tackle some of this early. Or, if you’re in your final year, you might be looking to apply for grad jobs but just haven’t had the time at uni – so now is your opportunity! For other years, it might be good to think about your Summer plans – do you want to do an internship, go travelling, or work part-time? Start applying before everyone else!
Catch up with family and friends
Don’t waste your break being in your room on your own (though, as discussed above, this is often tempting!). The Winter Vacation is a great time to properly meet up with family and friends that you probably won’t have spent quality time with in a while.
Get into a good exercise routine
Nothing helps to spur your productivity like exercise. If I go to the gym, I often feel more energised and able to tackle the various other things I need to do that day. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym to do this – you could work out at home, or go for a run in your spare time.
It’s so important to enjoy yourself and give your mind and body some well-deserved relaxation time. If you need to sleep a little longer than usual, go ahead! It’s Christmas!!!
You may not think it but your surroundings play a huge part in your happiness and ability to study. With that said, here are my top 5 tips for making your student house feel more like a home!
- Pick up some decent fairy lights.
I must admit, I do have an unhealthy obsession with fairy lights! But they make so much difference in a space that is otherwise dominated by unusually harsh lighting, e.g. in the kitchens of halls. You can grab them for relatively cheap, in a range of colours and styles and can even get outdoor ones for those evening summer BBQ’s (or just the one BBQ, when the weather is somewhat nice on that one day in the middle of exam season).
- Bring things from home that make the space your own (especially in your bedroom).
This may sound rather obvious but you’d be surprised how many people turn up to a shell of a room and leave it that way for the whole year. Little things like photos, soft furnishings or souvenirs from a favourite trip can all make your room feel a little bit more ‘you’.
- Dress up your house for the holidays!
If you love Halloween, carve pumpkins to your heart’s content! If people in your house celebrate Christmas, then give the house a Christmas makeover! Or, ask your housemates about any holidays they may celebrate that you don’t – you never know, you might even learn something!
Purchasing some easy-to-care-for plants such as small cacti can really help to brighten up a room. Or, if you want to be extra lazy, you can get some very real-looking artificial plants for very cheap. This year, my house got some artificial flowers to add a splash of colour to our bathroom and they only cost about £1.50 from Wilko’s!
No one likes walking in to a house that feels fusty and, unfortunately, lots of student houses and flats seem to have that smell, particularly when you first move in after the long vacation period. Candles may not be allowed due to health and safety but that doesn’t mean your house can’t smell nice! Pick up some cheap reed diffusers, plug ins or air fresheners instead.
It’s November and the days are dark, rainy and veryyyy cold. You have deadlines looming but the only thing you want to do is put your fluffy pyjamas on and watch endless episodes of the latest Netflix series or Louis Theroux documentary. Whilst this is ok to do some of the time, it is important to remember that uni work is your priority! So, here are some of my top tips for staying motivated during the dark times ahead:
1: Create a study timetable.
Having a study schedule written down on paper makes your to-do list feel more manageable. Prioritise the most important tasks (e.g. revision for an upcoming exam over general course reading) and ensure that your timetable is realistic and achievable.
2: Reward yourself.
If you’ve been in the library from 9am-5pm and got loads done then you are more than entitled to go to the pub with your mates that evening! You can also give yourself small, short-term rewards, for example allowing yourself another piece of chocolate if you write another 150 words of your assignment. Little things like this get me through a difficult essay!
3. Think about the end result.
Whilst it sometimes may seem tempting to sack it all off, think about how far you’ve come. You’re already at a Russell Group university studying for a degree so don’t give up now! Just picture yourself on graduation and remember how proud you, your friends and family will be knowing that you stuck it out.
4. Get support.
Ask housemates to proofread your work, speak to the library about referencing information or come to us at 301 for study skills help! Putting yourself out there and accessing support makes you feel like you’re being proactive in your success – a great motivator!
For some people, university life brings with it quite a lot of free time and often it can seem like there’s almost too much of it. Whilst I definitely do not feel like this in third year, I did find that I had some time to offer particularly in my first and second years of my English Lit degree. For me, volunteering was the perfect solution!
There are so many projects available across the university and also the wider Sheffield community. Here are just a few examples of current volunteering projects:
Clubbing Crew Volunteer: involves supporting adults with learning difficulties to have a fun night out at your SU!
Charity Shop Volunteer: roles are currently available with Oxfam, Bluebell Wood Hospice and many others around the city.
Guildford Grange Volunteer: form friendship with an older person through arts, crafts and games in a local residential home to help combat loneliness.
Word Club Volunteer: Work with Year 2 children after school to supplement their literacy learning.
WISE Mental Health Volunteer: deliver workshops to educate young people on mental health and common mental health illnesses.
These are just some of the projects available – there are so many more to choose from! Have a look on https://www.sheffieldvolunteering.com/ to find a project that works for you and to register your interest. Alternatively, you can pop into the Volunteering Office in the SU (near Coffee Revolution) to see what else there is on offer.
Volunteering is great for developing skills that you can’t necessarily get from your university degree alone. And don’t forget, you can also get HEAR recognition for your sustained commitment on a volunteering project!
The summer break is pretty long and once September comes I often find myself feeling a little unprepared for the year ahead. For me, it takes a while to get back into the swing of writing essays, reading literary criticism and contributing to seminar discussions.
A great way to positively start your academic year is to brush up on your study skills with our workshops here at 301. Whether you’re a first year or third year, it’s likely everyone feels slightly rusty! I found the workshops really helpful in developing my writing skills as they provided key hints and tips related to essay structure – something that I found particularly difficult to grasp during my first year.
We have a number of workshops coming up, all focused on different study skills – you simply choose the ones that suit your needs! Examples include Speed Reading, Time Management, Note Taking, Presentation Skills and Mind Mapping (and these are just some of the options we have!).
Also, it’s worth noting that attendance at the workshops is recognised by the university under The Academic Skills Certificate. You are simply asked to reflect upon your experience at each of the workshops in a 2,500 word reflective piece. This goes on your HEAR and can be used as evidence of extra-curricular participation – which almost always comes in handy for job interviews!
To book, simply go to our homepage at https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301. It’s completely free!
So it’s now the end of August and before you know it it’ll be time to lug all your stuff back up to Sheffield (if you’ve not already done so). Or, if you’re a first year student, you’ve got your first big moving in day – exciting times!
Whilst this time of year is really fun, especially with the chaos of Freshers’ Week, it can also sometimes feel like you’re expected to snap straight back into the swing of studying after a long summer break. When lectures start you’re still getting over the dreaded Freshers’ Flu and suddenly you’ve got 6 pieces of reading and a report to write. However, do not fear! Here are my top tips for getting your body and brain into ‘study mode’:
- Invest in a diary/planner/calendar. I honestly could not live without my diary – I have no idea what I’m doing on a given day until I check it! I make it a habit to write down all my class times, shifts and social plans as soon as I can to ensure I have my week organised on paper. It really helps you to visualize the week ahead and figure out when you’re going to do that seminar reading (or when you can go to the pub!)
- Start any course reading early. This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and spend £200 on books that you may not necessarily even need. However, if your module conveners have stated specific textbooks ‘recommended for purchase’ then it may be a good idea to do so, even if it’s a cheaper edition from the local charity shop or a second-hand copy from a previous student. By making a start on your reading early, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed in the first week of term as you will have already got a good grasp of what your tutors are talking about.
- Set some easy-to-do small tasks. Things such as drawing out your teaching timetable, familiarising yourself with the course structure and ensuring you’ve got a handy pack of highlighters are all great little things you can do to get yourself off to a good start. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking those things off your list!
- Take care of yourself. Of course, Freshers Week is fun albeit a little crazy. However, at the risk of sounding like a concerned parent, it’s also really important to make sure you’re getting enough sleep and are eating well. You’re unlikely to feel brilliant in the first few weeks of term if all you have been doing beforehand is going out, staying up until 5am and spending loads of money on takeaway food (though this is fine to do some of the time!). It is crucial to be well-rested and refreshed ready for uni!
I hope these tips have inspired you to feel ready for ‘study mode’ – have a great few weeks before the hard work (and great fun) begins!
I’m sure you’ve heard everyone say it, but travelling really is an amazing experience. This is particularly the case if it’s coupled with something meaningful, for example getting involved in a programme that gives back to the community or equips you with valuable work experience.
Last summer, I travelled to China to teach conversational English skills to 7-10 year olds at a Chinese summer camp. I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. After I had completed my placement, I travelled around China with some of the other summer teachers – we went to Beijing, Shanghai and of course climbed The Great Wall!
Although such experiences are truly incredible, many volunteer/work programmes can be pretty expensive and I did have to save up for a while in order to be able to afford it. That said, the university do offer bursaries to help students fund their placements (depending on the rules of your department). For instance, I’m in the Arts & Humanities Department and I received a £500 bursary from the university which essentially paid for my return flights to China!
These things are often planned in advance so I am not suggesting that you try and get yourself onto a summer placement before uni starts! However, it is something to think about for next summer and, if you’re sure it’s something you want to do, you can certainly start saving early.
I suppose the purpose of this blog post is to encourage you to be brave. Save up, take a deep breath and go out there and see the world!
SUMMER is finally here, yay!!! Exams and essays are done and it’s time to relax and take a break from all things uni.
Whilst it is very important to enjoy yourself over the summer, it’s also a great time to get some work experience. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a summer placement or internship – though these are great ways to get experience that is specific to a certain field. However, part-time work in sectors such as retail, hospitality and care are also fantastic opportunities to develop those all important ‘transferable skills’ that graduate employers are always talking about! Here are some of the skills part-time work can equip you with:
- Working under pressure. This is particularly the case in shops, bars, pubs and restaurants as these places tend to be pretty busy over the summer period. You will learn how to keep your cool in fast-paced, high-pressure environments, proving to employers that you’re able to cope with the demands of the working world.
- Motivation. Nothing says ‘I’m motivated’ like making yourself go to work when the temperature is in the 20’s and all your mates are sat outside at the pub. Whilst this may seem a bit rubbish at the time, it will show employers that you’re driven to succeed as you’re willing to work over the summer period when many others aren’t.
- Communication. Most jobs involve some level of communication, whether this is with customers, other team members or in writing. Being able to communicate effectively is a vital skill in our modern world and one that is highly desired by many graduate employers.
- Problem solving. Maybe someone has received the wrong meal, a member of staff has phoned in sick or just everything seems to be going wrong on that particular day. It is your job to assess the issues and come up with a reasonable solution so that the working day goes as smooth as possible. This shows that you can think on your feet and don’t simply panic whenever there’s a problem!
I hope this has inspired you to think about the part-time job opportunities that are available to you over the summer period! So, go out there and look for some work – you won’t regret it!