Making It Count

February 13, 2012

Au Revoir!

I arrived in Paris yesterday. After getting tremendously lost and sleeping for 17 hours I'm up and going and excited to travel around my favorite city! Today I went to see the L'Orangerie, my favorite museum, because I found out that tomorrow the Monet Lilies, the main attraction at the museum, is being closed for maintenance until February. 

I'm going to be here until Saturday, seeing my favorite museums and taking in as many of the sights (and crepes!) that I can before I head back to the UK. Even though I love Paris and I am really enjoying my vacation, I find myself missing my University and the town that I now consider to be home. 

Unfortunately, this is going to be my last blog post. I feel a little sad that I won't be able to inform and help others about not only my University experience but what to expect not only in overseas Universities but in those in the US. I do have a few parting words before I take off on the rest of my vacation and the final semester of my first year at the University.

Remember that when you are in a University you are part of a wonderful community. Even if you leave your hometown to take off to a University far away from any of your old friends and your family, you have people all around you who are experiencing the exact same things you are experiencing. You are never alone. Try to get out there and meet people. Almost everyone is in the same situation that you are; as a first year everyone is a little confused with the whole University experience and looking for friends. Things may be tough, but you wouldn't have been accepted to your college if the administration didn't think that you could manage what it would throw at you. You'll get through if you know how to manage your time. With that said, don't stay in your dorm all the time studying. There is a vibrant social life in college that every person will be able to find a niche in if they look hard enough. 

This is a wonderful time in your life and I hope you enjoy it to its fullest. I wish you the greatest success and joy in college and beyond. 

~Flora

February 06, 2012

Inter-semester Travels

Whew! Well, after weeks of studying and three two-hour exams, I’m free! Exams weren’t as difficult as I was dreading; I think I did pretty well. I was really intimidated at first because I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I went into a University exam, but I feel a lot better about them now. I’m still a bit nervous about the results, but they should be posted any day now so my anxiety will be relieved.

At my University there is a two-week break between exams and second semester. It’s a kind of weird system that they’re changing next year to coincide better with other US and UK schools but I’m not complaining this year; a vacation is always welcome. I don’t have enough time to go home again, plus two sets of transatlantic flights and jetlag so close together would be tough, so I’m traveling around Europe for a little over half of the break. I really enjoy traveling so I’m really glad to be taking this trip. I’ve spent a few days in Edinburgh, which I have only ever flown into. It was lovely. Tomorrow morning, much earlier in the morning than I would like, I take off for one of my favorite places in the entire world: Paris.

I’m an art fanatic so I couldn’t be more excited to be back in the home of the Louvre and D’Orsay; the abundance of crepes doesn’t hurt either. But I’ve somehow managed to find a way to bring work along with me. I agreed to write a few articles for newspapers back at the University, mostly ones reviewing art exhibits, during vacation. Usually I wouldn’t let anything in the world interfere with my precious vacation time but I’m going to see the art anyways so I am more than glad to contribute.

Have a happy second semester!

~Flora

December 16, 2011

Home for the Holidays!

At 2:45 tomorrow morning I will depart for the airport to go home. It’s not exactly the most opportune time to be up and going, but I’m excited nonetheless! Though I love it here and will probably miss my new home, I’m excited to go back to my childhood home for a couple of weeks, especially since I only get to go home twice a year. It will really be nice to have someone else do my laundry for a while and be able to sleep in my relatively giant bed. I tend to be the one who cooks in my family when I’m home so I doubt I’ll get a break from that, but I love cooking anyways. I won’t be able to completely neglect schoolwork since I have exams as soon as I get back, but at least I’ll have two weeks away from lectures. I’m ready to relax with a cup of hot chocolate (even though it’s about 70 degrees at home right now!) and watch "It’s a Wonderful Life!"

I hope that everyone reading this has a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! No matter where you are or where you are I hope you enjoy the holiday season. Talk to you next year! 

~Flora

December 15, 2011

Private Housing?

In the UK it’s very common for students to move out of University-owned accommodation and into privately owned flats or houses by their second year in University. This is still something of a weird concept to me since in the U.S. some colleges require that students live on campus for all four years. I asked my housemates about why this is such a common thing and they said that British parents are actually very supportive of students moving into private accommodation as soon as possible because it makes them more independent and responsible. Since this is such a common thing to do, not only is finding private accommodation fiercely competitive but being accepted for limited University-owned accommodation after first year becomes unlikely. Finding private accommodation becomes a very intense competition towards the end of first semester and at the beginning of second semester. Since I don't want to risk not getting University housing, I'm entering the competition. 

The house-hunting game is a little bit stressful but always manages to make me feel mature in the end. A year ago I never would have thought that I would be apartment hunting and comparing rent prices, but here I am! According to everything I’ve heard from my friends in the higher years, the same skills that will keep you on top of your academic work will also ensure you a good house. You have to plan ahead, do your research, and be prepared.

I know this post may not be particularly relevant to a lot of U.S. freshman, since renting may not even be in the picture, but for everyone attending University in the UK or thinking about coming over here it’s something that needs to be considered. It’s not impossible to do or something that should stop someone from coming to a school they love, but it is an important component of coming to University in the UK and even in going to some schools in the U.S. Just be responsible and aware of what you’re getting into.

~Flora

 

December 12, 2011

Exams

Even though I’m free from all my extracurricular responsibilities I still have one big hurdle for this semester: I have exams. Of course, this situation isn’t as dire as it seems. My University, because it starts later than most, also ends the semester later. As in after Christmas. It’s kind of an odd system (but they’re changing it next year) and it means that I don’t even start with exams until I get back from Christmas break. This is nice for now since I don’t have to worry about them now, but during Christmas it certainly won’t be nice to spend the time I have back in my hometown studying for exams I have when I get back to the UK.

So I’ve come up with a solution for this problem. I’ve always been a proponent of gradual studying, of working a little bit every day before a test instead of cramming at the last second. Tests are stressful enough on their own because they force you to recall a lot of information in a short period of time so it just seems silly to add more stress to that situation by not only worrying about being able to quickly recall the information, but also quickly relearn it beforehand. Though it’s not fun and not cool it really is best to just bite the bullet and plan ahead. So when I have time I try to start studying and working on papers at least a week before they’re due. I’m going to do a slightly extended version of this for exams. I figure if I start studying now and refresh myself on what I learned during the semester and, most importantly, KEEP studying in small intervals over Christmas so I don’t lose it, I should be in a good place for my exams.

This is the plan anyways. Of course I know there will be the standard exam panic and brain frying before exams, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to stick to this plan and alleviate some of the stress. For everyone back in the states, and perhaps here in the UK, who are going through exams right now I wish you the best of luck!

~Flora

 

December 09, 2011

Back to Normal!

Whew! Last night was the final night for the play I was acting in. You know what that means? It means that I have no more producing, no more acting, and no more papers to turn in. I just get to go to class and find Christmas presents for my family. It’s such a relief! This morning I woke up and looked around at my room and realized just how busy I’ve been. My room was a mess of play posters, notes, and clothes that I had been too tired to put away. My housemates have, on several occasions, jokingly asked if I actually live here anymore.

As of now my room is tidied (though there are no guarantees on how long that will last) and everything is starting to get back to normal. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing the plays and I definitely don’t regret being dedicated about my school work, but it’s really nice to have a low-key couple of weeks before I head home for Christmas. It’s kind of funny how a few weeks of intense work can make a full University class schedule look easy. 

Best of luck with exams for all of you in University this year!

~Flora

December 03, 2011

Closing Night

I’m writing this post from behind stage right before my play, the one I’ve been producing; it's going up for the second and last time. Yesterday was opening night (we’re having a short run) and everything went great! It was a huge load off my mind and oh so satisfying to see months of work finally pay off. Everything I’ve done culminated into a wonderful show with the help of my fantastic cast and crew.

As I’m finalizing my papers and studying for my upcoming tests (on Monday and Tuesday), I can’t help but feel some similar satisfaction. Sure, I have exams when I get back from Christmas break, but these are the last assignments of the semester so I feel like all the studying and work I’ve done over the semester is about to pay off.

I’m afraid that I don’t have a very long post for today… I have to go round up my actors for our last set of warm-ups.  I just wanted to share a little bit of my contentment; it’s been a busy semester and now the end is just within sight. That’s not to say that I’m glad it’s over in that I haven’t enjoyed this semester, but I’m going to be glad, even during the last few weeks of the semester when I just have lectures and now assignments, to take a break from all the crazy things that have taken up a lot of my time, drink a cup of tea, and just read and regenerate.

~Flora

December 01, 2011

Final Stretch

So, this week is my “hell week.” No, I’m not just being melodramatic; “hell week” is a theatre term used to describe the nonstop workweek before a play goes up. And I have two plays going up next week. So maybe I’m in “double hell week”? Regardless of what I or anyone else calls it, this week has been nonstop schoolwork and play rehearsals. It’s a little exhausting and a lot nerve-wracking, but the further I get into the week, the more confident I feel that everything is going to be okay. I’m ahead of schedule on my essays, I’m making good progress on studying for an economics test, and today I put the last few pieces of the play I’m producing into place.

I know the rest of the week isn’t going to be a cakewalk; after all, if I want to keep ahead on my papers, I have to keep my nose to the grindstone and I need to polish my lines and blocking for the play I’m acting in next week. I think that in addition to the assurance that it will all be over in a week, what has really helped me get through all the work is the knowledge that others are just as overwhelmed as I am.

In fact, there has actually seemed to be a good deal of bonding not just on my front, but all over campus, as lecturers push hard through the final stretch of the semester, as my fellow theatre kids are shocked by the amount of plays being shoved into the end of the semester, and as the writers try to cram in a few last articles before the final editions of the semester go up. This is one thing that I really enjoy about University, if you’re working hard and struggling a little, it’s guaranteed that someone else is feeling just a little too overworked as well. So there’s no reason to suffer in silence. Even if it just means commiserating about essay deadlines or test dates to the person next to you or if you get together for a study session to work your way through the insanity collectively, you’re part of a community. Take advantage of it; there is strength in numbers.

~Flora

 

November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Abroad

As you may or may not know, they don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK. And since it would obviously be a little silly and impractical to fly back home for a holiday that lasts one day, I’m staying here. I have to admit that it’s a little sad; even though my Uni has a pretty solid percentage of students from the US it’s not the same without all the food and family. And while I couldn’t have my real family with me for the holiday, I enlisted my surrogate family, my housemates, in a mission to create Thanksgiving dinner. I had to wait until Friday because of my school schedule, but the wait was definitely worth it.

I’ve been planning this for over a month now. After all, I feel it is my duty to introduce my housemates to the glory of sweet potato pie and cream corn and since I enjoy cooking, I love an excuse to make an elaborate meal, especially when my housemates are lending financial support. Tonight we gorged, laughed, and collapsed in a turkey-filled collective in order to watch the first Christmas movie of the season. I’ve been really busy recently, so having one evening where I could put schoolwork and theatre aside was really nice and though I’m still in something of a food coma, I feel energized and ready to push through the next few weeks of intensity.

Tomorrow when I wake up I’ll be back to the normal hustle and bustle of University life, but for now I’m very thankful for the new “family” I’ve assembled with my housemates and the break from work our Thanksgiving meal has given me. I guess the point of this post is just another little reminder that though it’s important to work hard, sometimes it’s useful and completely fun to put down your work, pull away from your laptop and deadlines, and enjoy where you are and who you’re with.

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving

~Flora

 

November 24, 2011

Dealing with a Tight Schedule

If you look back at my posts from the beginning of the academic year, I strode very nobly and smartly into the club-world of my University, dedicated to the proposition that I would NOT get overinvolved. I did, in my defense, keep that up for quite a bit of the semester, but this week marks the official defeat of my earlier resolve. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m producing a play. I’m also doing the publicity for the set of five productions it is being presented in. I also stepped in at the last minute to play a part in an adaptation of Richard III that debuts in less than two weeks. I’m also writing for two newspapers and preparing for dance recitals in two different forms of dance. Oh, and then there’s schoolwork.

I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to the most recent of my commitments, Richard III. I knew that it meant I would have to buckle down, work hard, and cut down on my Tetris (it’s my favorite game!) playing time. There have been some tough moments in the last few days where it seems like no matter how hard I try I’ll never be able to juggle things. But then I pull out my trusty calendar and see exactly what I have to do and when I have to do it by and I feel a little better. Since this semester has turned me into something of a professional activity-juggler, I thought I could share a few reminders of what it really takes to manage a ridiculous schedule.

First, it is vital that you stay organized. If you want to make sure things get done, you have to know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. The last thing you want to do is waste time scrambling for a missing schoolbook or paper when you’re working against tight deadlines. Also, no matter how hairy things get, make sure you take care of yourself. There’s no point in pushing yourself so hard that you get sick or exhausted and can’t function. Take breaks. Relax. Eat and sleep the way you’re supposed to. Finally, accept that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t do everything all the time. If you have to cut an activity or two to salvage the quality of your work on other projects, do it. And though saying this may make me the bad guy, balancing a full social schedule can be impossible if you’re wound up in a lot of time-sensitive work. Though what I said about breaks before is true, if you’re really resolved to push your way through a long schedule, you may have to make the mature decision to put some social activities on a temporary pause.

No matter what you decide to do, make sure it’s something that works for you and doesn’t hurt you physically and emotionally. Though sometimes, even just with schoolwork, things can get frantic. Relax, be organized, and find a system that works for you. 

~Flora