When you realise you actually have to start knuckling down: 5 ways to really help you study productively if you’re a fresher

Okay, I know what you are all thinking – yes, I’m only in year one and yes, it’s only the fourth week. Yet this can be the point where most fresher’s start to feel the toll and their high on student life takes a big dive to become a serious low. You realise that you worked so hard to get into university to do…well, more studying (or partying and some hard-core procrastination heavily assisted by Netflix).

Jokes aside, I have managed to come up with ways to help me study productively. I’ve not become the most conscientious student but I’ve definitely come up with some improvements to help me in the last few weeks. Here are five ways to help you study more productively at uni:

1. Break it down

It sounds easy to break your work up into chunks, but it’s definitely easier said than done. Most of us decide to settle for the ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ excuses, but in most cases even doing an hour’s work can really help. As an English Literature student I have a lot of reading and rather than trying to read everything at once, I try to break it down into sections by looking for various themes or concepts. Of course, this is not applicable to everyone but in general doing a bit of work every day or every couple of days can really lighten the load. Of course, not everyone studies like this and some people just prefer just to do it all in one go – if I have a lot of time I sometimes do this too. It’s important to figure out what is best for you, whether it’s an hour’s work or a good few hours to knuckle down.

2. Have food on standby 

This probably calls for another article altogether (cooking and cooking at university are two entirely different experiences) yet this has definitely helped me study more. If possible, on the days you plan to study more, try to cook less – or not at all. Batch cooking is a great way to get around this; meals such as chilli con carne or chicken curry that can last for a couple of days are great and fill you up well so you’re not constantly snacking (as a proud snacker of biscuits, this doesn’t always work for me – I snack well whether I am studying or not). If you can cook some long-lasting meals on days you have a lot of free time, you can save a lot of time for studying on other days.

3. Work with people who work as hard or harder than you

Study groups can be amazing if you’re all actually studying. Unfortunately, many of us do fall into the trap of five minutes of reading and then a good gossip about the night before. Personally, I prefer to study alone but this is definitely an exception. You can learn a lot from peers doing the same course as you and if you can find people who have the same level of work ethic or have an even higher one, it may just motivate you to do more work. If you’re finding it hard to look for people to study with on your course, even just going with a friend to the library who you know you can work with side by side (silently) can help you study better. If all the people around you are working hard, something might just click in you to do the same.

4. Do the bits you hate first and the stuff you enjoy later 

Like most students, I have bits of my course that I love and bits that I definitely don’t love. However, when it comes to revising, I always do the bits I struggle with or simply dislike first. This helps in two ways: one, instead of wasting energy by dreading the boring work I’ll have to do afterwards, I’m focussing the energy on actually getting the work done; two, I actually have something to look forward to afterwards so I feel more motivated to complete the work. I understand this won’t work for everyone – alternatively, some people like to start with something they enjoy to help them get into the mood and then tackle the more difficult stuff later. Again, it’s whatever works for you.

5. Finally…if you’re not going to do it, you’re just not going to do it 

While it does sound a bit discouraging, I believe this is more realistic than anything. One difficult lesson I learnt that there are some days you will just not be in the mood to study – and that’s ok. Rather than wasting your energy and staying at home telling yourself that you’re going to study when you’re not, sometimes it’s better just to accept you won’t work that day. Once you do, you’ll immediately feel better and you can actually enjoy your day instead of constantly feeling guilty for not doing work. You can either use it to recharge your batteries or get some errands done (like the batch cooking I mentioned earlier). Procrastination may feel familiar and comfortable, but it can also seriously drain your energy levels which could be used more productively doing other things.

It’s important to remember that you’re not going to suddenly perform all these five ways to perfection and it will take time to improve your study routine. These ways are also subjective and will not work for everyone, so the bottom line is to try to find really works for you. I still find myself low on food on days I don’t need it, putting off work and trying to read all at once; yet improvements have been made and any improvement is something to be proud of. However, don’t let that make you get languid – if you think you’re capable of more, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t push yourself to the limit.

 

We can forgive, but we must not forget: Shashi Tharoor in Edinburgh

Shashi Tharoor

As I mentioned in my last article about confidence, I had the phenomenal opportunity of meeting Indian MP and bestselling author Shashi Tharoor. Students, teachers and visitors from outside the University all attended the lecture, based on Tharoor’s latest book ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India.’ The politician went viral in 2015 after he gave a speech at the Oxford Union as to whether Britain owed her former colonies reparations. Tharoor, who believed they did (though he does not believe in reparations in the form of money as such, rather a simple acknowledgement of what happened) made a strong case and since then has been lauded as a hero by Indians across the globe. However, many of you will not know who Shashi Tharoor is – and why he’s so important.

Going to school, I hardly learnt anything about the British Empire. We did have a unit in Higher History called ‘Migration and Empire,’ though how little we learnt is astonishing. Hundreds of years of colonial history was boiled down to two columns titled ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ one of the weaknesses being ‘not getting on with the locals’ (if you want to call not getting on with the locals killing at least three million Indians in the Bengal famine – and many more in other famines the British decided to ignore – and a massacre in Amritsar that saw open fire to peaceful protesters.) Tharoor has ignited a debate in Britain, from whether it does owe reparations to her former colonies to the question of why it is being left out of the curriculum.

The fact is, my generation and many before me have little knowledge of the empire. Whether or not you believe it was a benefit is a different issue, but not to know about it at all is dangerous. Why does it matter that we know, you ask? The empire is a pretty significant reason as to why many countries, such as India, are in great poverty today. As Tharoor says, “India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” Many people as a result (and no, not just ‘poor people’) have emigrated from their countries and come here because their own homeland cannot give them the good life many British people can have in their native country. In addition, much of these people are well-educated already, including my own Mum who is a Dentist. It is not far-fetched to say that the immigrants you see from post-colonial countries, in short, are here because the British – or whatever other European country colonised their country – were there.

Being of Indian heritage myself, I find it astounding and almost insulting that this country has left out a significant part of its history, a part of history that affected millions of people including relatives of my own family. Hearing questions like “does it really matter now” is downright ignorant. Just because Britain is no longer living a harsh post-colonial reality, doesn’t mean her former colonies are not.

Of course, many people will still disagree on whether it still matters – including Indians themselves here and in India (I can’t speak for all of them.) I’m not saying India hasn’t made her own mistakes, because she has. Yet, the state it was left in 1947 was a poor starting point and considering this, I’d say India is doing pretty well: it’s one of the fastest growing economies in the world and an emerging world power; though I think the latter is still far off. I’d urge those who think it no longer has any significance to at least think of the people still living the consequences of the empire in India, Africa and the countless other places that were colonised. So much of the wealth generated from the empire was invested in Britain and of course, can still be seen today in countless buildings and cities: including Dundee which boomed during the First World War because of Jute from India; Glasgow, which was said to be built on the empire’s wealth;  industries such as Tetley tea and Tata Steel (this may be a bad example, now that it is India-owned.) Britain is wealthy largely due to the empire she had.

So what can we do about what Tharoor calls the ‘historical amnesia’ in Britain? Education is pivotal and a great starting point. Teaching children about British colonialism should be just as important as teaching them about World War, World War Two and the Romans is. In Germany, pupils are taught about the country’s ugly history with Nazi rule and the Holocaust. America teaches its children about the slave trade and disgusting treatment of black people. Why should Britain be any different?

Whatever people think of the Empire, one thing is clear; generally, people do not have enough knowledge to make an informed opinion. However much I may be against it myself, I know why I am. As Shashi Tharoor says; we can forgive, but we must never forget.

 

Are You Confident? The Answer May Not Be As Simple As You Think

A couple of days ago, I had the most amazing opportunity (understatement of the century) to see Indian politician and bestselling author Shashi Tharoor speak at the University of Edinburgh at the magnificent McEwan hall. As he entered after a lengthy introduction, I noted that he walked in as if he were another student seeing the hall for the first time; his eyes drifted around as if no one were there, in awe of the high ceilings and paintings that decorated the walls. However, what struck me most came next; as Dr Tharoor sat down at the front, a couple of feet behind the podium where another speaker was still reeling on about the achievements of the politician, he fished out his phone and began to take photos; he took no notice of the audience in front of him, nor did he look like he was about to speak about the British Raj in India. It was then the question struck; what did it take to be that confident?

Many of you will probably answer money and fame – both of which Dr Tharoor does have. However, before Shashi Tharoor became viral in 2015 with his speech at the Oxford Union, where he argued that Britain did owe reparations to the countries she colonised (we’ll leave this debate for another article), he was only really known in India as an MP. Coming to Oxford and giving that speech must have taken some guts – that too in the heart of Britain!

People often answer “Yes” or “No” to the question of confidence and self-esteem, yet I feel that actually we’re not answering the question properly and furthermore, we’re not asking the right question. Confident in what? Cooking, singing, acting, driving, playing an instrument – surely, the question is too broad?

I believe that confidence is relative – even self-confidence. We all have confidence in ourselves, just not for everything. Very few people are confident in everything. I myself am very relative when it comes to confidence, and it’s an issue I struggle with even today. I can talk the ears off my own parents and close friends about an issue, or in our small tutorial groups make points about a piece of literature at University – yet, I would never dare to put my hand up in a lecture or go beyond 30 mph in a car (my driving instructor actually told me I was dangerously slow. Dangerously slow!) Yet, for years I had convinced myself I just wasn’t confident in anything and thus, was absolutely useless. I did have self-confidence – in playing the piano or having a debate with my friends; I just hadn’t recognised it in the areas it existed in. Therefore, my whole self-esteem suffered as a result.

Well, how does this help anyone improve their self-confidence? I believe that perspective can change a great deal about how you look at yourself and life, thus I think a shift of perspective is key here. By realising that you do actually have confidence in some areas of your life, you are already changing your answer from “No I’m not confident” to “I am confident in these areas,” depending on how you answer the question. This recognition already makes you someone with more self-esteem than before, and can enable you to make those changes to other aspects where you lack this esteem.

Once you make this change, you can start channelling the confidence you have into the areas you lack it; of course, it’s not as simple as that (pushing the pedal down on the piano is not the same as clutch control.) But you can begin to dissect further; what is it I do when learning the piano that I don’t do when I learn to drive? Do I enter with a more closed mind-set before I even begin? Do I hesitate to ask my instructor questions that I don’t hesitate to ask in my piano lessons? By asking these questions, you can find answers as how to improve your outlook – and thus build your esteem – in those areas. Keep your eyes open for an article on ways you could do this (I’m still figuring it all out myself, don’t worry!)

In summary, don’t tell yourself you have a lack of confidence because it implies you lack it in everything, which is simply not true in most cases. Work out what you do have confidence in and go from there. I realise this is vague, but I believe it’s better than nothing. So many self-help guides and articles give you countless ways to be more confident in an x amount of time, without even acknowledging that everyone has different levels of self-esteem in different areas and different ways to tackle it. A list of ways can be overwhelming to apply all at once; this way, you just get a foundation to build on. Don’t expect immediate results – confidence will take time to build, and it deserves all the time and attention it gets if it means you live a happier, more positive life.

 

 

5 tips for fresher’s week from a fresher

I had my fresher’s week almost three weeks ago now and had an absolute blast! Though I definitely have some introverted tendencies, I loved meeting new people – and having some old high school friends while out partying definitely helped! Here are some tips on how to enjoy fresher’s the best way possible:

1. Know your own tolerance of alcohol

Many of us like to get wasted at fresher’s – I certainly did a few times. I knew roughly what my tolerance of alcohol was (not very much) but I thought I was handling everything absolutely fine until I woke up the day after fresher’s with a horrendous cold, which turned out to be a flu (I’m still not 100% now!) My throat was killing me, I couldn’t breathe out of my nose and I felt incredibly dilapidated; it was not a good way to start university. My advice is, try to know your own tolerance as best as possible and drink plenty of water afterwards. Also, alcohol isn’t the only way you can have fun, which leads me to my next point…

2. Widen your experiences as much as possible 

As quite an anxious person, I know how stomach churning going to certain events could be – the amount of times I was analysing every possible outcome and regretting going before I even got there was numerous! However, once I arrived it turned out everything was fine! There are people just as nervous (if not even more nervous) than you are. It turns out a simple starting sentence like “there are loads of people here” or “I have no idea what I’m doing” can lead to friendship! There is so much to do on fresher’s week other than partying, go and try something new – film making, writing workshops, escape rooms, taster dance classes etc. Even if you do one thing outside your comfort zone on fresher’s, you’ve done a lot better than most people!

3. Don’t feel like you have to go to everything – or much at all

Okay, okay. I know this sort of contradicts my last point, but hear me out. I said widen your experiences as much as possible, but this might range might vary from person to person, and that’s ok! If the whole process of simply being away from home is overwhelming for you, or if the whole week is proving stressful,  slow down and take time to settle in. I read a brilliant article in The Student (Edinburgh University’s student newspaper) about whether fresher’s was for the “extroverted few”- though I think Edinburgh had a wide range of options, I agreed it was still quite extrovert orientated. If you feel like it is all a bit much for you, start slowly – you have years to make loads of new friends and try different things; fresher’s week is just a starting point.

4. Make use of the free shops and freebies fair 

At Edinburgh we had plenty of free shops and a Fresher’s Expo – both of which I benefitted from (I am literally wearing a jumper I picked up for free right now.) There will be absolutely loads of stuff to pick up, from discounts to free crockery and cutlery you might need, as well as second-hand textbooks. By investing some time at these fairs you could pick up vouchers that could be saving you money for those first vital weeks at university.

5. Get your miscellaneous errands done 

Whether it’s registering with your local GP, completing your University’s matriculation process or meeting with your personal tutor – get as much done as you need to in fresher’s week, particularly the first one. I woke up with a funny cornea on my first day of University and going to the GP and having to wait with a sore eye was not fun. Don’t leave everything last-minute!

6. And finally…enjoy it

As cliché as it sounds, try to enjoy Fresher’s – but as much as YOU can. There is a ridiculous amount of pressure to have loads and loads of fun when in actual fact everyone is stressing out all the time about where to go and who to be with. However, if you just decide to accept you’re not going to enjoy absolutely every moment and that you possibly won’t make it everywhere you want to go, it becomes so much easier. Be present and be in the moment; that advice applies beyond fresher’s week too.

 

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog everyone!

My name is Vaishnavi and I am an eighteen year old student currently attending the University of Edinburgh studying English Language and Literature. I love to read, write (obviously) and snack endlessly on bourbon biscuits and more recently, dark chocolate digestives.

I have always loved writing stories, but also love writing persuasive pieces and articles and decided to give blogging a go. I can’t promise any regularity quite yet – and this is just a hobby for now – however I plan to give it my all!

On this blog you can expect to see opinionated pieces about current affairs or strong views of mine, general findings and tips on student life and possibly some creative writing.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts as much as I enjoy writing them!