A piece of paper:

success

That piece of paper we are handed on results day has too much power over us. We lose sleep over it. We doubt our abilities over it. We accredit the day to being either the worst or best day of our lives because of it. When, in reality, it’s just a piece of paper.

Some of us take comfort in the saying ‘everything for a reason’ and that’s enough to subside the anxiety this day thrusts upon us. For those who can’t help but look beyond this, I remind you to look at the bigger picture. Yes, these are an important indication on what to do next – they help us see where our strengths and weaknesses are, where we are excelling and where we are not, what steps we should take to getting our lives on the track we want them on. They do not, however, mean you are dumb, or incapable or unworthy.

If they went as planned, great. If they did not go as planned, also great. The truth is the reason this day is so important is because it’s the first time in your life you are actually in the drivers seat – you’re in a situation and have to decide how to move forward, by listening to your instinct and exploring your options – decisions others can help you with, but can’t make for you.

Someone once told me you learn more from failure than you ever do from success, and this is a prime example of this saying in action; the way you handle this day says a thousand times more about you than this piece of paper will.

 

Why I recommend a study semester in Europe:

‘Studying abroad is just another year at University, so I’m wasting my time, right?’ Wrong. And here’s 5 reasons why:

 

1.Independence: ‘Nothing screams independence like moving to a European country.’

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One of the biggest skills you’ll gain from studying abroad. Moving to a non English speaking country isn’t for the faint-hearted; not everyone is brave enough to make such a big change, and employers later in life will realise this, it’s something that can really set you apart. Studying in Europe makes you independent in many ways;

  • It gives you time by yourself to really start figuring out who you are away from the comfort of your childhood friends, flatmates and University clique.
  • You rely less on your parents, due to both the physical distance and the cultural differences which means they may not understand the nature of some of your issues.

 

2.Time period: ‘not too long, or too short.’

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Most people automatically rule out going abroad because they don’t think they’d cope well being away from home for so long. I was one of these people until I started thinking about shorter time periods: how I’d feel about a summer abroad, and then a semester abroad. A semester is the perfect amount of time to go abroad for because you’ll be in a mentality where you’ll want to travel and experience as much as you can because you understand your time is limited. Also, unlike with a whole year, for the 4-5 months you’re abroad, things will still feel relatively new and exciting, leaving little time to feel homesick!

 

3.Expanding that skill-set: Organisation, Time Management and of course, Languages.

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Studying in Europe is completely different to studying in the UK;

  • In most European countries, timetable construction is completely down to you; you have to enroll in your own modules ensuring there is no overlapping, that you have the right number of credits and that both your home and placement University approve your selections. This process alone requires you to be extremely organised, helping improve your skill-set from the very beginning.
  • Assessment is normally constant in the form of regular midterms and presentations, giving you the chance to improve upon your time management skills as well as communication and team work.
  • Learning a language is 100 times easier when you’re constantly hearing it around you. It’s not boring like it was at GCSE where you’re sat in a classroom doing lots of grammar. In Madrid I have found that people are patient with me and are happy to see me try, even if it’s not perfect.

 

4.The people: The Highlight

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It’s a lot easier to make friends when you’re studying rather than working abroad; you have opportunities in your classes, your housemates, and societies like the ‘Erasmus Student Network’ where you meet people from all over the world. Not only am I learning a lot about Spanish customs and culture on my placement, but about countries from all over the world, I’ve made friends from Canada, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, France and Germany…

‘I just don’t understand why women need the vote’ – Saudi Arabian student in my Comparative Government Class.

‘Who is the President of the UK?’ – American student in my Comparative Government Class.

‘People from Switzerland are Swedish’ – My unfortunate moment with the Swiss student in my Comparative Government Class.

Needless to say, Comparative Government gets interesting.

 

5.Travelling: ‘the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’

Travel

Your biggest expense with travelling around Europe is getting out of the UK; from there, it’s all about cheap trains and flights and Air BnB to see all of the wonderful things Europe has to offer! Your Erasmus Grant can help cover the cost of getting around, or it can be used for your rent so the money you’ve saved before placement can be put to good use. Furthermore, European countries are within good distance from the UK, so should serious homesickness or an important event require your presence, home is a short plane ride away.

 

Goodbye London, Hello Madrid!

This week I became a big girl and moved to a foreign country. The stress of organising my trip and getting all the paperwork done for this process was worth it. Of the little I have seen of you, you’ve been beautiful, Madrid, and I can tell it’s only going to get better from here. I can’t wait for the semester to kick start! #UC3M #Erasmus2015 #HalaMadrid

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Summer Jobs:

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As well as taking a break from studying, a Summer job is the perfect opportunity to build up some experience in your areas of interest as well as help keep busy during this long break. Though the prospect of applications can be daunting, a good starting point is to research a few openings you may be interested in and start to construct a CV.

Here’s a few tips I found effective when applying for jobs and constructing a CV:

Rule number 1: Don’t be generic: Like a cover letter, you shouldn’t circulate the same CV to every job you apply for.

A great way to catch an employers attention is to take what qualities they’re looking for in the provided job description and tailor your experiences and the skills you gained from these experiences toward this description. For example, if a job requires you to work effectively in a team and you have retail experience, emphasise on how you had to work as a part of the store’s team in order to reach the store’s targets.

Rule number 2: Keep Concise: Your CV shouldn’t be more than a page long.

I know it’s difficult to fit all of your education, work experience and skills all on one page but a CV that’s more than a page long and full of sentences is most likely not going to be read all the way through. With this being said, you want to keep concise, but avoid just listing – bullet point the important points and anything extra can be written about in your cover letter or expanded upon in interviews.

Rule number 3: Languages

Languages are a highly desirable skill among employers so it seems like a good idea to highlight your GCSE in French, which is fine, but this doesn’t entitle you to say you’re fluent in French. Be honest about the level at which you are able to communicate in, if you’re really struggling to pin-point where you fall on the proficiency scale, take a quick look at the ILR website: http://www.govtilr.org/index.htm

Rule number 4: Don’t lie!

Although it may sound like a good idea to brag about having extensive experience in order to get a job, this only puts you in a sticky situation when you’re asked to illustrate these abilities though are unable to do so!

 

Staying Focused:

It’s that time again: early mornings and late nights in the library, living off of the Tesco Meal Deal diet and of course, procrastinating. The final exam season of the year is normally the one I find hardest – the weather’s warming up so the last thing you want to do is be in doors all day staring at a book or screen, the pressure is on with most modules having their biggest assessment this season and your friends at other Universities always seem to finish before you leaving you trying to live vicariously through their Snap-stories. Staying focused can be difficult, to say the least.

One of the things I find most useful is thinking about why I started in the first place and remembering the bigger picture: things that seem like the small steps now, often end up being the big ones when you look back. You don’t have to know exactly where you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time, just have a rough idea of career and personal goals. Think of all the hard work you’ve done this far, it’d all be worth nothing if you decide to give up now. It gets difficult, but if it were easy, everyone would do it. Above all, remember to keep positive – every day may not be good but there is something good in every day.

Diamonds

p.s. the signs in the library are getting even better:

Really makes you think what people have been up to
Really makes you think what people have been up to

 

 

Managing Second Year:

With the end of this term, it makes sense for me to share some pearls of wisdom:

Second year is exciting. You’re anxious to catch up with the friends you didn’t see over summer, settle into your new accommodation if you’re living out and check out the new student nights as well as return to the much loved favourites from previous years – Mooch Wednesdays, Gosta Mondays. In the midst of all of these exciting social aspects of university, it’s easy to adopt an ‘I’ll catch up later’ or ‘Missing one lecture won’t hurt’ attitude. And when it comes to placements, it’s easy to put your search off until ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’. It’s no shock that my biggest recommendation is going to be – don’t put things off, start early!

‘Early Bird Catches The Worm’

Keeping up with the work from your lectures on a weekly basis means that when it comes to exam time in particular, you’re not in a panic to get things done and you’re actually revising instead of learning. In terms of placements, getting a head start is useful for a variety of reasons;

  • The first step is getting the placement team to check your CV. The placements team are a lot less busy at the start of the year so you’ll have a better chance at getting your CV checked at a time that suits you.
  • Deadlines for some companies close as early as October due to them being open to applications throughout the summer period.
  • With two assessment seasons, you don’t want to be worrying about placement deadlines as well as exams and assignments, so take advantage of the lack of assessment toward the start of the year. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to be writing placement applications and attending interviews/ assessment centers in or after April
  • Although some companies state their deadlines to be later in the year, so you think you have a few months to submit an application, many companies – especially companies abroad – require A LOT of documentation that you many not necessarily have access to at university: A-level certificates, medical checks, scans of ID. You need to organise yourself early on so that if need be, you can go home to collect these documents or make appointments with your GP to get medical checks done or interviews for international VISAs.

Keeping on top of things has its advantages, it helps you find that balance between work and socialising.

This term flew by, I can’t believe my second year is almost over. Here’s some highlights from this term:

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Diya 2015:

This March, Aston’s Hindu Society celebrated the tenth anniversary of their annual fundraising event, Diya at Birmingham’s Tower Ballroom. Diya presents students with the chance to experience the Indian culture by dressing in traditional clothing and enjoying an Indian three course meal whilst fundraising for great causes. The two main charities Diya fundraised for this year were first, the Divya Seva Foundation which looks to empower underprivileged and marginalized communities in less developed countries by providing the means for better education, health care and clothing. Secondly, Teenage Cancer Trust which looks to improve the services available and provide life-changing care and support for young people fighting cancer in the UK.

Throughout the evening we were reminded of these causes and the amazing work these charities do to help fight the problems in today’s society. One of the moments that really stuck with me from this event was a phrase from a speech made by the Vice President of Aston’s Hindu Society in which she said:

‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’

and I couldn’t agree more. Thinking about the work these foundations do and how important humanitarian aid is in helping shape you as a person, I got thinking about how I could spend this summer doing exactly that. I’ve always admired Aston’s Hindu Society for the pride they take in helping others and am happy to say they have inspired me to do the same.

With an array of catwalks, presentations, dancers and singers; a delicious three course meal; candy floss and popcorn stands upon arrival, Diya certainly lived up to all its expectations. Congratulations to the 2014/15 committee  of Aston’s biggest society for pulling off their biggest event. Diya 2015 was most definitely a success.

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