New Year’s Resolutions

After a hectic Christmas, I have already submitted my first deadline of 2016 and am currently preparing to move back down to Exeter for the start of Term 2. New modules and challenges lie ahead, so I thought I may take the time to consider what I can do to make life easier for myself in the coming months by looking back at the previous term. These are not New Year’s resolutions as such, as I am terrible at keeping them, but more guidelines to help keep me on track while I tackle the new term.

Having spent most of Christmas in the kitchen eating everything that I could find, I thought that my student diet may be good place to start when considering the New Year. Now, I know many people try and change their diet after Christmas and do not always do so well, so I have decided not to make any radical changes, I just won’t spend all day with one hand in a packet of crisps and the other in a pack of mince pies.

The two things I will hopefully focus on is my cooking and packed lunches. I am sure I am not the only one to say I should probably stop eating pasta morning, noon and night, so I will attempt to vary my cooking. However, every ‘healthy eating’ recipe I find seems to require kale in vast quantities or ingredients that I don’t think the Sidwell Street Tesco even sells. This may have to be a gradual change. The other food related aim is to try and make packed lunches. I usually find that by the time I have stumbled out of bed, just about got myself ready and have had enough caffeine, even the thought of making lunch will make me late, so making one the night before may be a possibility. The problem now is what to make. Almost anything I have managed to make over the past year has bordered on offensively loud to eat in any study area, so some research and brain storming may have to be done.

Talking about study areas, that reminds me of my academic aims. I was rather proud of myself last term for avoiding my academic disasters and for the most part, avoiding any break downs over having to read a small library for my history module. However, while my time so far at Exeter has massively helped with my organisation, it is fair to say there is still work to be done. Looking at my friends, it appears that keeping a calendar is actually quite helpful, so that is one suggestion I will take on board that will hopefully avoid me from turning up half way through the seminar. My only concern is that I will spend more time colour coding the calendar instead of using it.

My second academic aim is getting my seminar and lecture reading done in plenty of time so that I can reflect on what I have read and how it relates to the wider topic. What has happened a few too many times is that I find myself so disorganised that I have had to bring my books with me to campus and then home again. As most history students know, walking with all your required reading in your bag is essentially a gym session, so at least I’m working out at the same time. I have found that Exeter does really encourage you to keep on top of your reading, because being in a seminar and being able to contribute and discuss with the tutor is so much more beneficial to you and your course mates than sitting there clueless, having never even heard of the author before. So, keeping on top of my reading is certainly important, especially as we grow ever nearer to exams.

When I’m not studying, I want to make the most of Exeter by attending as many events as possible. Even taking the time to walk around the city, especially the Quay and all the green areas, acts as stress relief and means I’ve been able to get to know the city. Student organised events are also wonderful, allowing you to feel like an active member of the university with the vast array of events always going on. One of my favourites was the carol service organised by the Evangelical Christian Union that took place at St James’ Park in December. It was attended by students and locals, with a local primary school performing a few carols. These sort of occasions are great for bringing everyone together and really help feel like you’re making the most out of your university experience in a new city. Keeping an eye out for events, even those organised by a society that I am not a member of, will hopefully help me see the city and make the most of my time at university.

My final, and perhaps most significant, consideration is the future. As with most second years, the realisation hits that in a year and a half you will be leaving university and will actually have to get a job and start your post-education life. I remain hopeful that there are many opportunities for me, but it is safe to say I still do not have a clue what I am going to do. Building on my aims of last term, I would like to start making the most of the advice that Exeter has to offer. My Career Zone has a host of talks, questions and answer sessions, work experience and general advice to offer and I fully intend to take advantage of this in the coming term. Last term I attended a few talks aimed at humanities students, and although the 8:30am start originally deterred me from getting out of bed, it was endlessly reassuring that there are plenty of other students in the same position as me, with a huge amount of support offered from the university. I have already begun to list what I definitely do not want a career in, so hopefully this term I can start adding to the list of what I do want to do.

Second Year Version of Myself

Second year is well and truly underway as everyone collectively realises just how much work they have to do. Scrolling through ELE, reading lists and questions about topics you’ve never even heard of fill your screen. Perhaps these are problems you can deal with once you’ve made that colourful calendar which you’ve been meaning to devise since arriving back in Exeter 7 weeks ago.

While such challenges of second year are certainly making themselves known, this year is so far suiting me far better than last year. Originally I imagined the transition between first and second year would be going from the excited fresh faced 18 year old who is ready to see the world to a tired student who’s lack of sleep and constant stress leaves them unable to tell the difference between their toothbrush and mascara. I mean, I’m not wrong about the stress. What do you mean I have a deadline tomorrow? Is it possible to read 300 pages and make notes on them in half an hour? Perhaps the stress is already getting to me. Last week in my seminar I managed to make up a word. Meaning to say ‘industrialisation’ I somehow fabricated ‘capitalisism.’ Where was I going with that? The following week I was convinced the same seminar started an hour later and leisurely walked in only to discover a somewhat displeased tutor. Let’s hope he has a decent level of patience.

Coupled with rising stress, getting closer to the end of university means actually having to decide what to do when you become a fully-fledged adult. While History is by no means a vocational degree, I am finding out there are many options to choose from, the only issue is trying to find work experience and formulate a plan for the future. The first year version of myself merrily ambled around with no thought towards life after university, that was a problem for the second year version of myself. Unluckily, I am now the second year version of myself. Building up a CV when you am not quite sure of where you are headed is proving difficult. I won’t lie, I’m still holding out for the opportunity to become the female Indiana Jones.

Sure, year two entails more work, but there are so many bonuses. Instead of wandering around the city centre vaguely lost and unsure of where you’re planning on going, you know exactly where you are and are only slightly confused as to what you’re doing. You’ve already discovered the gorgeous little cafes and the copious amount of green spaces that Exeter has to offer, now it is all about using all these places to your advantage and making the most of them before you find yourself actually having to be a real adult.

Ideally, I would be the artsy student who sits in the café while reading classic literature. Unfortunately, my bank account does not revel at the idea of daily trips to the café and I will be too busy sleeping if I have time off reading historiography. When I do get the chance to saunter into town to enjoy a hot chocolate with as much whipped cream as possible, Boston Tea Party, The Glorious Art House, The Hidden Treasure Tea Room and Mango’s are highly recommended.

Not only do you know your way around town in the second year, campus has also become ever so slightly easier to navigate. It is now a rare occurrence to see a room on my timetable that makes me think ‘I have honestly never heard of that place’. Luckily, history students do not have to relocate too much around campus, the hardest location is the random seminar rooms that only appear after walking around Amory for a minimum of twenty minutes. Walking into the Forum is no longer the over whelming experience of ‘there are so many people here and I know precisely one person but only because they served me at the Pennsylvania Co-Op a few weeks ago,’ but somewhere I now know my way around flawlessly and bump into the occasional friend to have a quick catch up before running off to the next lecture. However, pacing the speed at which I walk around campus is one thing I certainly have no mastered, nor ever will. I can either risk powering up Forum hill to seem like I know what I’m doing, but look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, or walking slowly and arriving late at my class. If anyone knows the optimum method for conquering Exeter’s hills, do let me know.

I may have much to learn and many words to write, but I am welcoming the challenges of second year with an open mind and a library card ready to take out half of the history section. Well, the half I didn’t take out last year.