It’s getting to a tough time of term. The deadlines are piling up, reading week is a distant memory, and the Christmas holidays are pretty near – but not quite close enough. This past week for the first time since I’ve been back this year, I’ve genuinely missed home – the home-cooked meals, having a kitchen you’re not afraid to walk about barefoot in, my dog, being able to have a bath, and my family.
The events in Paris have cast a shadow over the past week, but they have also put everything into perspective. Deadlines and early starts might be a pain, but never have I been more acutely aware of how lucky I am to be studying at a world class university in such a safe and tolerant society. There has been significant debate about why the world media ‘cares’ more about attacks in France versus daily attacks of a similar nature in Syria, but in some ways it has served to highlight exactly what current migrants are escaping from, and if that brings greater understanding to their cause it can’t be a bad thing. The more I read and hear about the conditions migrants are leaving, and the ones they’re facing now, the more grateful I feel to have lucked out on being born in the UK. In light of it, all our various complaints and grumblings seem superficial and almost offensive, but in some ways, they’re just the continuation of human life. Awful news fills the headlines most days, and yet we still bemoan burnt toast. It’s just the way we are.
I started writing this post a while back, and though part of me thinks it’s tremendously shallow, I thought I’d post it anyway.
It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice who spends a significant amount of time on campus that apparently the entirety of the Exeter student body seems to live with iPhones glued to their palms all hours of the day. Even with my now dated fourth generation, I am no exception to this. This past term I’ve been carrying out vague investigation into apps to improve my university experience, and I’ve discovered a number of truly very handy widgets for the iPhone (and possibly Smartphones in general – I can’t say I’ve done my Android research) that I thought I would share here.
iExeter – FREE
- This is bit of an obvious one I know (and not a university endorsed plug), but the Exeter App, despite it’s occasional crashing, is a good’un. It’s easy to use, and has direct links to your timetable and email, transport and bus updates, food and retail outlets on campus info, maps, and even a system of telling you how many washing machines are in use in accommodation laundry rooms. I did admittedly use it more in first year than this one, but I’d say it’s an essential for all Exeter students to download at some point and see if it’s for them.
Wunderlist – FREE
- Now I’m sure there are plenty of excellent ‘to do’ apps and the like out there, but Wunderlist is a good place to start. I especially like it as you can sort your ‘to do’s into folders, and that as you log-in, it automatically syncs between your phone and a nice little widget on your computer as you add or check things off. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and for an added bonus it makes a hugely satisfying little ‘ding’ every time you tick a to do off. (I have friends who’ve listed things like ‘get out of bed’ and ‘have a shower’ just so they can enjoy that minor sense of accomplishment.)
Duolingo – FREE
- As I mentioned in an earlier post, I made the somewhat brave decision to resurrect my AS French this year and take an FLC module as part of my degree. It has been a bit of a baptism of fire, and on the recommendation of a linguist friend, I started looking into language apps to try and get me back up to speed (‘Mrs Vandertramp? Subjunctive? I’m sorry, what?’). Duolingo was widely recommended (it won Apple’s app of the year) and my goodness I can see why. It offers a huge range of languages to learn, and operates by prompting you to do a little bit of practice every day. Through a combination of listening, reading and speaking translation exercises – all in super simple phrases – it has gradually built me back up from ‘le chat est gros’ to a standard vaguely on a par with my module. It has been really helpful to have on the side as a daily 20 minute consolidation of my language learning, is very easy to use, and I honestly can’t recommend it more to anyone wanting a language app.
Focus Timer – FREE
- Focus Timer has been a new venture for me. I have a tendency to be an appalling procrastinator (to the extreme) when it comes to actually getting down to putting pen to paper for my degree and it was reaching a dire situation by reading week. Instead of vaguely faffing for an afternoon therefore and claiming I’d done ‘about 3 hours work’, Focus Timer encourages me to, as the name might suggest, genuinely focus. It essentially acts as a timer – it begins as soon as you turn your phone face down, and stops whenever the phone is picked up. As a result it’s handy to keep track of how long those little ‘breaks’ to check Instagram actually are. The app allows you to have different timers for different subject specific areas too, and you can also keep track of your week’s progress and make goals for what you’d like to achieve. Of course, time is no real measure of work achieved, but it’s a start!
1 Second Everyday – £2.29
- Devised by Cesar Kuriyama, ‘One Second Everyday’ is pretty self explanatory, but for the real inspiration behind it, Cesar’s TedTalk on the project has over a million views. A one second video, every day, for as long as you like, with the aim to compile a short video capturing a brief snapshot of your life. I first heard of it when it was suggested to me as a student project for my blog, and although it took some getting used to, I’m now hooked, and am consistently taking a mini-video each day. Although it’s at a cost, I think the app is a very valid investment for a really nice idea. I like the fact that it captures all aspects of daily life, not just those special events you get the camera out for – but the dull days and the rainy days too. You can set reminders each day so you don’t forget, and at minimal effort, I think the final result is going to be a wonderful way to look back on how I spent second year.