An Honest Reflection of My First Year of University

Hello! Hope you’re all doing well! I am currently on my summer holidays?!??! Which is mad because that means that I’ve SOMEHOW survived first year of university?!!!? If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that this year hasn’t been plain sailing and you’re probably very fed up of me rambling on about university, but it’s been a massive change in my life and I feel like my blog as become an outlet for me to document my experiences as a student. It’s definitely been a tough year and there have been points where I have wanted to give up but I feel like I have grown immeasurably as a person since last September and have learnt many skills for life throughout my university experience so far.

In all honesty, my mental health has suffered significantly since starting university and this exam season especially has been the toughest few months I’ve ever had to go through. Whilst I know it’s going to take me a long time to recover from the mental and emotional exhaustion of this year and get my mental health back under control, I don’t regret coming to university as I feel like my experiences here and the independence I’ve gained have helped me find the confidence to seek help for mental health issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. I don’t want to focus too much on the negatives though, I just really wanted to be honest and break the expectation that university is the “best years of your life” because believing that is partly what caused me to struggle so much this year. There have definitely been many high points throughout the year and I should be proud of myself for everything I’ve achieved. I’m going to talk about some different aspects of university life this year and share some of my experiences with you.

Living with other people

This was, perhaps, the thing that I was most apprehensive about when moving to university. Would I get on with my flatmates? Would I be able to look after myself? Can I even cook!? There were so many questions and worries that I had before moving into halls, which I think is COMPLETELY natural. One thing I’ve learnt is that everybody’s living situation is very different. The people that you end up living with in halls are allocated completely randomly and whilst some people get on well with their flatmates and become best friends, for others it can be a living nightmare. I’m quite happy that my living situation turned out to be somewhere in the middle of this spectrum as although my flatmates and I are very different and don’t have a lot in common friendship-wise, we get along well enough to live together. Sometimes I’ve wished I lived in a more sociable flat where we ate together and went out together instead of just five-minute small talk whilst cooking in the kitchen. At the same time, I’ve loved having my own personal space and the fact that I can stay in my room all day if I want to without seeming rude. Living with people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries has definitely been a learning curve but it’s been a very unique experience that I don’t think I would have got if I hadn’t had come to university. I’ve lived with people this year that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise and it’s helped me to become more understanding of different people. Of course there have been times where I’ve been fed up with the mess in the kitchen or the state of the bins but that’s just part of student life and adjusting to living independently. I think we’ve all coped quite well, aside from flooding the hallway, a ladybird infestation and the sad death of Henry Hoover. I’m actually quite grateful that I wasn’t close friends with my flatmates, even thought I’ve struggled with loneliness throughout the year, as that forced me to go out and socialise with other people! One thing I would say is that if you don’t find your best friends in your flat, try not to worry or compare yourself to the experiences your friends are having in halls as their living situations will be completely different to yours!

Independence

I guess this follows on from the first point but moving out of home as definitely given me more independence. I feel like almost a completely different person to when I moved in here. I was unable to cook anything and didn’t like using public transport or going shopping by myself. I quickly picked up how to cook for myself, I think you have to when you’re put in a situation where no one else will cook for you! And whilst I used to dread having to take the bus into town alone when I lived at home, now I will quite happily travel across the country on various modes of public transport, including going into London by myself and navigating the tube (which was honestly terrifying at first!!). I’ve also become a lot more independent in other ways such as looking after myself when I’m ill, taking myself to the doctor’s and reaching out for help from personal tutors and the well-being services when I need it. In that sense, I feel like I have more control over my life now. Part of me still can’t believe that I’ve managed to keep myself alive for the past year?!!?

Going out of my comfort zone

So pretty much the whole concept of moving out of home to the other side of the country was out of my comfort zone this time last year. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it through Fresher’s Week but when I got here, I just kind of threw myself into everything and realised I could do a lot more than I thought. University is full of challenges and changes and I feel like I’ve really made a conscious effort to do the things that scare me as I know that’s how I’ll become more confident. In Term 1, for example, I went to a hiking society taster session BY MYSELF which was absolutely terrifying but it actually worked out okay and I ended up spending the whole day hiking with people I’d never met before (and unfortunately never saw again as they didn’t join the society, but that’s not the point!). I’ve also made an effort this year to keep in touch with some of the friends I made in Fresher’s Week and meet up with them throughout the year. I personally find inviting people to meet up very anxiety-inducing so this has been a big thing for me but I’m glad I put in the effort to keep in touch with people as now I have two good friends who I meet up with regularly for coffee or lunch that I met during welcome talks in the first week of term. Travelling to London by myself was very much out of my comfort zone too, but now I’ve done it dozens of times, it’s not scary anymore! Finally I applied to be a peer mentor in second year, which means I get given a group of freshers from my department to mentor throughout the year and help them settle in. It’s something I really wanted to do as I feel like I’ve been through a lot this year and would really like to help people settle in to university better than I have. To my surprise, my application was accepted and I attended training last week, which was daunting in itself, having to do group work with strangers! I think expanding my comfort zone is one of the biggest things I’ve gained from first year and I definitely feel like I am more confident than I was in Sixth Form.

Adjusting to a new environment

Another key part of moving to university for many students is living in a new city/area. Personally, I was really excited to move away from my hometown as nothing much really happens there and I wanted to escape all the bad memories that were made there. I’d only visited my university town twice before move in day and I somehow failed to notice that it was so hilly?? Like, the whole campus is on multiple hills. So the hardest thing to adjust to has been having to walk up two hills everyday to lectures and walk up another hill on my way back from Tesco with my bags of shopping (it is AN ORDEAL). My university is on a campus near a small town on the edge of London so I think it’s been easier to adjust to than being in a big city as it didn’t take me long to figure out where everything is. Although occasionally I still get lost walking down some of the residential roads as all the houses look the same! I’ve actually found living somewhere new really refreshing. It may sound weird but uni is starting to feel more like home than my hometown as it’s the first place I’ve lived independently and I’ve actually chosen to live here.

Homesickness

Although I have struggled this year, homesickness was surprisingly one thing I haven’t struggled with. There have maybe been one or two occasions where I’ve thought that I want to go home, but that’s more been because I’ve been struggling mentally and couldn’t look after myself properly rather than actually missing home. However, it is 100% okay if you are homesick as the majority of students go through this. Moving out for the first time is a big shock! I think what helped me not feel homesick is the fact that I told myself I could go home half way through term when we had our reading week, which was about 6 weeks after move in day. I was determined to stay at uni for as long as possible so I could let myself settle in and adjust to a new routine and setting a date in the future where I knew I could come home helped. I definitely think if I had gone home the first weekend, I would have been a lot more homesick. Also, I think choosing a university that is 3-4 hours away from home has worked well for me too as the hassle (and cost) of taking the train back puts me off from wanting to go home!

Friends

I think making friends at uni has been really hard for me. At first, it was easy to talk to people as everyone was friendly and wanted to socialise but as soon as people started forming little groups, it felt impossible. I was lucky in that I met a group of people at my departmental welcome party that I’ve stuck with throughout the whole year in lectures. Although they are all lovely, we’re not very close as I feel like we don’t have a lot in common so I kind of wish I’d branched out a bit instead of sticking with the first people I met. But I’m hoping next year I’ll get to know more people on my course as we split up into different modules. As I mentioned, I haven’t become good friends with my flatmates either which was hard. I think I just felt like the outsider from the beginning and as I’ve struggled with my mental health, I became quite withdrawn and avoided them at some points throughout the year. I have made two good friends though who I meet up with every few weeks, one who I met at the languages welcome party (as I started uni studying French and Politics) and another that I met in a Welcome Talk on the first day as I just sat down next to her and started chatting. So I am glad that I have them although we do different courses so I don’t see them as much as I’d like! I think making friends really depends on who you end up in a flat with and who’s on your course, but it’s never too late to make new friends!

Nightlife

Honestly, I was dreading this before coming to uni. I had only been to a club a few times back home and really hadn’t enjoyed it, mainly because the pressure to drink made me anxious. I did end up going out once in Fresher’s Week but after that I didn’t go out or drink again until about March because I just really didn’t like it. But then I made a good friend on my course, who I’m living with next year, that respected the fact that I don’t drink a lot so I’ve been out with her about ten times over the last two terms. I’m actually starting to enjoy going out now and figuring out what I do and don’t like drinking but if you’re not a fan of nights out, it’s definitely not the be all and end all of university life!

My course

Finally I should probably talk about my actual degree. As some of you may know (because I keep going on about it lol), I actually changed degree within the first few weeks of university as it just wasn’t right for me. This was very disruptive for me and I think it stopped me from settling into my flat as I was so stressed trying to catch up on work that I spent most of my time in my room studying. Sometimes I do miss studying French, but I don’t regret my decision as the way it was taught here just didn’t work for me and I probably would have ended up dropping out. So, I switched to Politics and International Relations and studied four core modules: Intro to Politics, Intro to IR, Classical Reading and Research Methods. IR has definitely been my favourite module this year. I struggled a lot with Classics because it’s a philosophy module and I had no clue how to go about writing essay or why Plato and Aristotle were relevant to my degree, but at least it’s over now! I’m still not completely satisfied with my course as it doesn’t offer me everything I wanted to get out of university, like the opportunity to study abroad for example. When I was doing French, I was enrolled on a four year programme with a compulsory year abroad which I was really looking forward to. However the PIR department doesn’t have ANY study abroad links, which I didn’t realise before I applied here. It’s really frustrated because I know if I studied politics at pretty much any other uni, I could do a semester or year abroad and still get the experience of living in France that I really wanted to get out of university. But I guess I just have to accept that that’s the way it is and there’s not much I can do about it now. In terms of the workload, it sort of fluctuates. As I only had 9 contact hours a week – 5 lectures and 4 seminars – keeping up with my weekly reading wasn’t too challenging as I had a lot of free time. However, in both November and March I had four coursework submission dates within the space of two weeks, which was very stressful and it was difficult to juggle writing four essays at a time whilst attending lectures and doing weekly reading. When it came to exams, I had one for each module in which I had two hours to write two essays. I’m honestly not expecting much from my results and it will be a miracle if I pass because I’ve been quite physically/mentally ill through exam season so was barely able to do any revision. At one point I almost didn’t turn up to an exam as I’d been sleeping for about two hours per night for the past few weeks and was having a break down at 5am on the phone to my mum when I had to get up two hours later for my 9am exam. So, exams were NOT FUN to say the least, but I’ve managed. And next year I’m definitely going to try to stress less and take better care of myself so this doesn’t happen again.

Wow, that’s been a lot of writing and I’m sure I’ve missed out some important stuff! Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for sticking with me throughout the past year and putting up with my rambles. It’s been tough and I’m so glad I have to whole summer to recover, I definitely need a break!

If you’ve just finished first year too, how have you found your university experience? 🙂

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How I Spent My Student Loan: A Guide for How (not) to Budget

As I’ve now officially finished my first year at university (eek!!), I decided to look back at how I’ve managed my money since moving out in September. One of the biggest responsibilities you have as a student is managing your income as for many people, university is the first time where you are expected to pay for your rent and bills by yourself, whilst also somehow having enough money to feed yourself and socialise.

I’m quite a visual person, so things graphs and charts mean a lot more to me than just lists of numbers, so I thought I would create a pie chart to breakdown my spending this past year. Throughout the year, I have been recording everything I spend in a little notebook, as it helps me keep track of how much I’m spending each week so I don’t end up in my overdraft. I’d highly recommend doing this as it’s a straightforward way to keep track of your spending and budget better. Also, if you’re bored and miss doing maths like me (who am I kidding??!), you can then spend hours creating fancy pie charts at the end of the year!

For context, my living costs at university have been funded by a maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company, along with a bursary from my university itself. Luckily my loan covered my accommodation costs but I know for some people this can be a struggle and they find they need to work alongside to support themselves.

The first chart I made is an overview of all my spending throughout the year.

Pie chart titled: Year 1 spending
Rent = 58%
Deposit = 10%
Other shopping = 7%
Groceries = 6%
Holidays = 4%
Social = 4%
Transport = 3%
Books = 2%
Other = 2%
ATM = 2%
Laundry = 1%
Top-up = 1%

As I expected, the rent I’ve paid for my university halls of residence has been the biggest outgoing, followed by the deposit I had to pay for my second year house (which was ridiculously expensive arghhh!!). Most student’s will probably end up spending the biggest chunk of money on their accommodation, unless you’re commuting then transport might be the biggest cost. Aside from the rent and deposit, all the other things I’ve spent money make up a relatively small percentage in comparison, so I’ve broken this down further into another pie chart, excluded the rent and deposit.

Pie chart title: Non-accommodation spending
Other shopping= 23%
Groceries = 19%
Social = 12%
Holidays = 12%
Transport = 1-%
ATM = 7%
Other = 6%
Books = 6%
Laundry = 3%
Top-up = 2%

So, excluding the amount of money I’ve had to spend on actually having somewhere to live at university, my next biggest cost by far is ‘other shopping’. I didn’t really know what to label this but basically I mean things I’ve bought that isn’t included in my weekly grocery shop, so non-essential items. The majority of this spending has gone on clothes, birthday/Christmas presents for friends and family and the new phone which I had to buy myself in first term as my old one decided to give up on me. I honestly expected transport to be by biggest non-accommodation cost, so this was quite surprising. I definitely think next year I can aim to spend a lot less on unnecessary items so I can save more money for after university.

After shopping, I’ve spent the most money on groceries which is to be expected as food can be expensive!

I’ve also spent a lot of money this year on holidays, which isn’t that surprising as flights and accommodation can be expensive! I also had to renew my passport this year which cost A LOT, but at least it’s valid for the next 10 years now. To some people, holidays/travel may seem unnecessary but travelling and exploring new countries is something I do for fun and to relax, and whilst some people might spend £100 on a night out, I’d rather put that money towards travel. I’ve spent the same amount of money on socialising, which includes things like paying for society memberships and events, going out for meals/for a coffee with friends and going to the Student Union club nights. The amount of money I spent on socialising definitely increased a lot in second term as I made more friends and although I have spent a lot of money socialising this year, I think it’s important to find a balance between studying and social life. It also proves to me that I haven’t been as anti-social as I thought I’d been this year!

Then transport is my next biggest cost and I was totally expect this. I think I’ve spent almost £400 on train and bus tickets this year, just travelling around the UK which goes to show how extortionate train tickets are here. It costs me £50 for a return ticket every time I go home, which is why I’ve only been home 4 times throughout the year as it’s too expensive to go back more frequently. I’ve also travelled a lot around my university area, going in and out of London multiple times and visiting my sister at her university in Portsmouth, so that accounts for the rest of the transport costs. I think next year I can aim to cut this down as well. One thing I’ve noticed this year is that when things get tough, I have a tendency to want to run away and escape, which usually results in me jumping on a train to London or another nearby town/city to go and explore for the day. I have enjoyed exploring the South East, but I think next year I’ll have to try and travel less frequently to save money.

The next three biggest costs which each make up around 6% of my spendings are books, cash withdrawals from ATMs and ‘other’ (which includes random costs such as posting parcels and buying new glasses, which are ridiculously overpriced!!). Honestly, university books are so expensive and I can’t wait to sell them at the end of my degree, even if I only get a fraction of the money back. I put ATM withdrawals as a separate category as I can never remember what I spend cash on specifically, but I guess it’ll usually be groceries or bus/train tickets.

Then finally I’ve spent the smallest amount of money on laundry (3%) and mobile phone top-ups (2%). I thought laundry would be a lot me, considering it costs me around £7 each week to wash and dry my clothes. However the good thing is next year I won’t have to spend any money on laundry as my house has it’s own washing machine and tumble dryer, so that’ll be some more money I can save. As I’m not on a contract, I only top-up my phone when I need credit and I’ve only spent £50 on credit this year, which just goes to show how good value pay-as-you-go phones are (well for me anyway)!

I know finance isn’t the most interesting of topics, but I did find it quite fun making these graphs and seeing what I’ve spent money on this year. I think the fact that I’ve spent more money on shopping for clothes etc. than groceries reflects the fact that when you’re student loan comes into your bank account, you kind of get a bit carried away and start buying unnecessary things. But next year I can definitely work on cutting down this unnecessary spending and reducing the amount I spend on transport which will help me to budget better!

I hope you found this useful in some way to see a breakdown of what I’ve spent in my first year at uni. I know every student has different priorities and will spend their loan differently, but I thought this might give people who are thinking of going to university in the next few years an insight into the types of costs you might want to factor into your student budget.

Good luck to anyone sitting exams right now! I’ll be back soon (*fingers crossed*) with a post about my experience of first year. 🙂

Uni supplies haul!!!

Greetings mes amis! As I’ve now finished A Levels (exactly two months ago) and will be going off to uni (exactly one month from now!), it’s fair to say I’ve had a lot of shopping to do in terms of supplies for uni.

I’ll be moving away from home – 121 miles away to be exact – hence I am going to be living in university halls. I was really excited to start buying bits and bobs….until I realised just how much you need to buy when you move out and how expensive it is! Nevertheless, I have enjoyed stocking up on the essentials this summer, so I thought I’d share with you a few of my favourite items so far (because if I showed you everything, it would be a VERY long and probably not very interesting post!).

My accommodation is self-catered, so I had to buy all the stuff for the kitchen too but luckily my duvet and pillows are provided by the uni so that saved me a bit of money!

(Also I’m sorry about the poor quality photos!! I am just,,,not good at blog photography oops. I’ve tried to include where I bought stuff from and prices if I can remember them too!)

Coat hangers

T K Maxx/Homesense £3.99

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Okay so coat hangers aren’t the most interesting of objects, BUT THESE ARE FLUFFY AND GREEN (grey??) AND I LOVE THEMMMMMM. Also I love the rose gold metal too! I have a feeling I’ll need more than 12 because I don’t have any drawers at uni so most of my clothes are going to have to hang, so I’ll either get another set or just take some from home.

Duvet covers

London duvet – Argos – £11.99

Colourful duvet – Primark – £8

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The first duvet cover I got is a sort of hand-drawn map of London. As I am moving to London, I couldn’t resist buying this!! The back of the duvet cover is black and white with London street signs on it.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The second one I got is a very brightly coloured one!! The photo is just the pillowcase because they are double duvet covers so I couldn’t fit it all in the shot, but the whole pattern as yellow, blue and red geometric shapes on it and on the other side it is just black and white polka dot.

Both of these items were in the sale so I don’t know if they’re still available!

(Also once I’ve moved in, I’ll probably do a little room tour so you can see what the duvets and other various items look like).

Crockery

Dinner plate – Wilko – £2.50

Side plate – Wilko – £2.00

Bowl – Wilko – £2.00

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My next favourites are my bowls and plates!! I bought two dinner plates, two side plates and two bowls in case I break some or have someone over to stay. The two plates are from the Mediterranean collection at Wilko which I just had to get after going to Marseille last year and falling in love with the Med! The bowl was from a different collection because the Mediterranean bowl was really flat (??) so it doesn’t really match the others but I still like it!

Saucepans

T K Maxx/Homesense – £14 (ish)

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Okay so I know they’re just saucepans but???!!! THEY’RE BLUE. AHHH. I don’t really know what else to say lol. I think they were about £14 for both but I can’t remember the exact pricing!!

Stationery

Office Outlet/Staples – Pukka Pad 200 pages – £1.99

Office Outlet/Staples – Campus Refill Pad 300 pages – £2.49

Office Outlet/Staples – Hole punch and stapler set – £3.99

Tesco – Crayola Super Tips 24 pack – £3 (ish)

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I was thinking about doing a separate stationary haul but realistically I don’t think I’m going to need to buy a lot this year as I’ll reuse lots of stuff from sixth form. However, I did pick up four pads of paper because I get through so much of it!! And I needed a hole punch and stapler (after I broke mine last year trying to hole punch a 30 page document oops). My felt tip pens had been running out for a while so I treated myself to a 24 pack of Crayola ones (yes, I feel like a little kid but oh well) for bullet journalling and general revision! They should last ages since I won’t be using them all the time! All the stationary I bought was on sale at around half of their original price, which is why I stocked up on so much paper as it is usually so expensive!!

Cacti

Sainsbury’s – £5

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The last item in this mini haul are my cacti!! I already own two pot plants which I will be taking to uni with me but when I saw this trio of cacti I couldn’t resist!!! My mum and I have given them names haha. The little glass pots they are in are actually tea light holders from Flying Tiger (my fave shop) which were 2 for £2!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little haul. There are obviously many more items that I’ve had to buy for uni which I haven’t included (if I had I’d have to unpack all my boxes!!), but these are my favourites so far. I definitely need to get some more decorative bits for my room, although I am taking some stuff from home. I think I need to hit up Primark’s home ware section 😂

Bye for now 🙂

Results Day 2018 (+ A Level recap!)

Right. I’ve already written this post out TWICE but somehow managed to lose the drafts?? (WordPress is CLEARLY conspiring against me!!!!!!!!). So now I’m handwriting it up in a notebook to type up later because I don’t trust technology anymore!!

As it was A Level results day last week, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the past two years now that this chapter in my education has come to a close. I don’t know if this will be interesting but I like reflecting on things and can’t really believe A Levels are over???

For context, in the UK after you finish secondary school at 15/16, it is compulsory to staying education until you are 18 and one pathway you can choose to go down is studying A Levels and that is what I’ve been doing for the past two years. After having a bit of difficulty trying to narrow down which 3 (or 4) subjects I wanted to study, I finally settled on geography, history and French as these had been the subjects I enjoyed most at GCSE. I did contemplate taking law as well but decided to drop it on enrolment day as I wasn’t really interested in it. Even though the college tried to force me to take four A Levels due to my GCSE results claiming I’d “get better results” if I did four as it would “make me work harder” (I ranted about this here lol), I was happy with the three I chose.

I think it took me the best of September to December of Year 12 to settle in at college. Everything was new to me. I had to take an hour bus journey instead of a short walk, my timetable was very different with lots of free time that I had to learn to manage effectively, the workload was very demanding and I was surrounded my so many new people. However, all of these new experiences have really helped me to become a lot more independent and confident.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably read my various rants about my different A Level subjects (perhaps I’ll link some of my A Level related posts at the bottom of this one in case they’re useful to someone??). I think when you study subjects in such a level of depth as you do at A level, you soon discover what you’re most interested in and best at. Although I loved geography at GCSE, the A Level really was an uphill battle. I definitely enjoyed most of what we were learning and the broader perspective it gave me on global issues, however the scientific and geological aspects really weren’t my strong points, not to mention the maths! I probably did the most independent work for geography as well as it just took me forever to get my head around things. At the end of Year 12, I kind of wished I could drop geography as I didn’t know how I would cope with another year of it, but I persevered and I’m so glad I did. In my exam recap, I explained how badly I thought the geography exams went. I feel like I never really understood how to do the geography exams?? Or answer the questions?? I think my brain just works differently to how a geographers brain should, and it didn’t help that my teacher didn’t really understand what the examiners wanted from us and didn’t like marking our work. Either way, geography was definitely my hardest subject. I’m just so glad I spent so many hours writing and re-writing my coursework because my results last week confirmed that the exams didn’t go too well, especially Paper 1 and 2, so my coursework really saved me there! (And thank goodness for low grade boundaries!!!!!!!).

As for history, I didn’t really enjoy the course as much as I’d hoped. History had always been my favourite subject and I was sure I wanted to study it at uni but I just?? I don’t know what it was but I just didn’t love it that much. It’s not that the content wasn’t interesting as I did like the paper about changing democracy in Britain in the 20th century and the coursework on the origins of the Holocaust,  I think I just realised it wasn’t for me anymore and I wanted to broaden my mind and knowledge in other ways. I still worked really hard for history though, and the exams went really well so the hard work really paid off!!

French was the subject I was most apprehensive about because back in Year 11 when I chose my A Levels, I was very quiet and wouldn’t contribute in class, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do a subject that depended so heavily on speaking and having confidence. However taking French has been the best thing I’ve ever done. It really has changed me and I have so much more confidence now!! Languages are so rewarding to study and out of all of my subjects, I made the most progress in French across the two years. I barely knew French grammar or could string more than a sentence together when I started, and somehow I managed to do a 20 minute speaking exam, write essays on a book and film and complete translations with decent accuracy???? I was just SO SHOCKED when I opened my results because I couldn’t believe how much progress I’d made??? It’s so hard to maintain a constant grade in languages as it really depends on the paper and what comes up. Literally the week before my final French exam – the literature/film essays – we did a mock and I got a D which really threw my confidence as I’d been getting As and Bs all year, but I worked so, so hard after that and managed to write the best essays I’ve ever written in the final exam??? I just CAN’T believe that I did it and got the grade that I wanted????!!?! AHHHH.

I can remember in first year being very nervous before our fortnightly speaking sessions or before reading passages in class, even translations were scary when we first started doing them and now they’ve become something that I love. I’m so, so glad that I’ve had such a good teacher over the past two years and supportive classmates. Some of my best memories from college come from French and I’d love to do it all over again.

As you can probably tell, I am most happy about my French result because I just fell in love with subject and when you do well at something you love, it’s such an amazing feeling. I am proud of my other results too though. I know I could’ve gotten better results in different circumstances but there’s always more work you can do but that doesn’t mean you need to (this me is attempting to deal with perfectionist part of my brain lol). I still can’t believe my friends and I have made it through A Levels and are now going on to the next stages of our lives. It’s a very surreal feeling.

I know this has been a bit rambly, but as you can probably tell I’m just a liiiiittle bit emotional after results day. I’m so happy with what I achieved and it feels SO STRANGE that I never have to do A Levels again?? I’m a bit sad about finishing college in a way because although it had it’s fair share of drama, stress and tears, I feel like the struggle of A Levels really has shaped me as a person. I can’t quite put my finger on it but reading back through some of my posts from Year 12 and 13 just feels so weird?? Like, I can’t believe how much my friends and I have changed. I will definitely cherish the good memories!! I didn’t miss secondary school after I left, but I will definitely miss college.

I sincerely hope that everyone who received A Level results last week got the grades that they needed to progress onto their next step. You should be so proud of yourselves for making it through and I hope you can look back on A Levels with some good memories in spite of the all the stress!! Good luck to anyone collecting GCSE results this week too 🙂

I’ve linked some previous posts about A Levels from the past two years in case they might be helpful! This will be the last post I ever write about A Levels so from now on you are free from my rants haha 😂

A Level study/revision tips  (this is from Year 12 so by Year 13 I’d developed a few new ways of studying but these tips may still be useful!!)

A big thread of A Level advice

My French journey including thoughts about A Level French!!

My experience of Year 12 and what going to college is like

Summer between Year 12 and 13 study goals

Tips for starting sixth form

Sixth form stationary haul

The School Routine Tag

Study with me: Year 13 revision edition

Study with me: Easter revision edition

Exam season thoughts 2018

A Levels are over!! Exam recap

The A Level Days Are Over!!

Hey! Here I am, re-emerging from the depths of exam woes to tell you that I am DONE with Sixth Form! I had my last exam yesterday morning. The relief hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I thought I’d give you all a little update (*cough cough* RANT) about how I found this exam season.

This exam season has without doubt been the hardest exam season ever. Of course, I knew A Levels were going to be hard but these exams really did push me to breaking point. Unfortunately, I have had a lot of stuff going on in my personal life throughout exams, which has been inconvenient to say the least. It really has been a struggle just to motivate myself to study or even turn up to exams because to be honest they felt insignificant whilst it felt like my life was crumbling around me. I do feel like this has affected by exam performance (I mean, I turned up to history Tuesday morning after having a massive breakdown at 1am so y’know) and honestly, I am a bit disappointed with myself, because I’ve worked so hard over these past two years and I feel like I majorly underperformed in some exams, however I know that most of the things that have been going on are outside of my control so I shouldn’t be to hard on myself. Anyway, I thought I’d do a little breakdown of how each of my subjects went, if anyone is interested, probably more for self-reflection on results day so I can see if the exams went as badly as I thought!
Geography

Argh geography! I’ve probably ranted about geography on here before. It’s been the subject I’ve struggled the most with during A Levels I think. There’s just so much content??? Everyone says geography is just colouring in maps but in reality learning about the world involves aspects of several different subjects, like biology, politics, history, maths etc. You need so many skills to do geography and questions range from statistical tests to long essays to analysing English language in one paper (I’m looking at you, human geog paper…why did we have to analyse the negative tone of a blog post!??). I feel like I never really mastered exam technique for geography, some of the questions are so vague you have no idea what the examiner wants from you. 

Paper 1 (physical geography) was probably my best paper, although at the time I thought it went badly because I did 40 marks worth of questions in 15 minutes because I was running out of time. The following papers however, were much MUCH worse. Paper 2 (human geography) was just??? I can’t even explain. Was it even geography?? Edexcel what WERE you thinking?? Why are we analysing postage stamps and the case study of Hull (which wasn’t even on the spec)? Also (I could have a whole rant about this but I’ll spare you the misery) my college really messed up with exam invigilators. I mean, they only had enough for one per exam, which is against the rules anyway, so in my Paper 2 exams our invigilator had to make two phone calls IN THE EXAM HALL to ask for extra paper and because someone needed escorting to the toilet. I was so annoyed I couldn’t concentrate and shortly after that, I asked for extra paper and the invigilator gave me a paper someone had already written in for a different subject?! It was A Mess™. But at least everyone found it hard so it wasn’t entirely my fault that I felt like I did badly. Paper 3, on the otherhand, that was entirely my fault. I was so tired and not in the right mindset to be sitting an exam. This paper is synoptic so it aims to cover all of the compulsory units from the other two papers. The actual case study that the resource booklet focused on was decent and I knew some stuff about it, and the questions weren’t awful, but my exam technique just went out the window and I felt like everything I wrote was a load of waffle. Oh well. So, I don’t think I’ve done as well in geography as I was hoping, which is frustrating.
History

History has always been the subject that I just sort of seem to be able to do without spending hours and hours on it. I was a bit nervous about the exams because I hadn’t revised for them as much as geography (and look what use that was. Ha!) but thankfully Edexcel were kind to us and gave us three really nice papers!!!!!! In total, I wrote 8 essays – 3 on the transformation of Britain’s democracy in the 20th century, 2 on USA boom, bust and recovery 1920-1955 and 3 on the 16th-17th century witchcraze.

Most of the questions which came up I’d actually seen before (or seen a version of) in the example questions in text books and revision guides (because we don’t have past papers), so that was great! In the Britain paper, we had a source essay on Thatcher’s economic policy which was something I was really confident on so hopefully that went well. And in the USA paper, the source question was on the KKK and was almost identical to one I had written and sent to my teacher a few days before!! And one of the sources was exactly the same!! So luck was definitely on my side for that exam. The witchcraft exam surprisingly went well too, even though it was my least favourite topic and I barely had any sleep before hand. 
French

The first exam I did this year was my French speaking, over a month ago now! I can’t remember exactly how it went to be honest. It consisted of two parts – talking about 1 of 12 topics we studied over the past two years (I had the choice of family or diverse society so went with the latter) and then our individual research presentation, which I can’t really describe other than being a spoken version of coursework?? I had to do a lot of research for my chosen topic – the Calais jungle. Both elements of the exam are followed by a spontaneous discussion and in total it lasted around 20 minutes I think?? I feel like the research project definitely went better than the card on diverse society, I almost had too much to say about Calais and my teacher had to cut me off! But overall I think it was okay?? I managed to use complex phrases and idioms, but whether my grammar was accurate is another question!

My other two French exams I did this week – paper 1 on Monday and paper 2 today. Paper 1 was reading, writing, listening and translation and makes up 50% of my grade. It was my longest exam and definitely the most tiring – foreign languages take so much concentration and effort! After I came out, I realised I made a few stupid mistakes, which is inevitable I guess. I can’t really tell how well I’ve done though, because a lot of the questions seemed as if they were trying to catch me out, particularly multiple choice. It wasn’t the hardest paper I’ve done, but it wasn’t the easiest either. Who knows!

Paper 2 this morning was an essay on the book and film we study – Un Sac de Billes and La Haine. I did a mock for this two weeks ago, and it went really badly, mainly because I chose the wrong question (it appeared easier at first but turns out I had no ideas after I started writing it oops) so I was so stressed about this exam. However I think it went okay?? I mean, my film easy was definitely worse than my book essay, which is sort of normal for me anyway, but I do feel like I didn’t mess up the film essay as badly as in the mock, my ideas were just a bit wishy-washy. I tried really hard to use complex phrases and grammar and a variety of vocab, so hopefully that paid off! I kind of wish I could have kept that paper because I was so happy with my Un Sac de Billes essay (the book) lol.

Overall, I’m not really sure how French went. I really, really wanted to get an A in French because it is my favourite subject and I’m going to be carrying it on at uni. Also I’ve been getting A’s all year so I hope I haven’t let myself down at the last hurdle with a load of silly mistakes! I guess only time will tell, but I am slightly more hopeful about French than geography.

So, that’s how my exams went. I had 9 in total, and although that seems like not many compared to GCSEs, most of them were over 2 hours long so I was absolutely shattered after finishing each exam. I am proud that I scraped through exams, with everything else going on, and I’ll just have to see what happens on results day. I know my place at uni is secured, unless I fail everything, so that’s some comfort at least!

I would just like to say to anyone that has been taking exams these past few weeks – or is not quite finished yet – I am so proud of you and you should be too! 

That’s all from me for now, I’ve got to sort through all my A Level notes and mounds of text books and paper, although I don’t think I can bring myself to recycle to years of hard work, stress and tears just yet!

Hopefully I’ll be back again soon with some more exciting posts now it’s summer. 🙂

(Featured photo is of the yellow roses in my garden which have been bringing me happiness throughout exams – THEY’RE SO PRETTY)

Exam Season Thoughts!!

Hello! As a lot of you will know (and as I keep going on about), it’s currently exam season here in the UK. I thought I’d take some time to check-in and share some thoughts with you I guess!

Exam season so far has been a bit of a mess for me. Firstly, I was ill for almost three weeks with a flu type thing. I’ve only just been feeling better this past week, which was lucky as I had my first exam on Wednesday (French speaking) and it would have been an absolute disaster if I still couldn’t speak properly. Being ill in exam time is really inconvenient. I had to take time off from college and revision and I felt really overwhelmed because I’d got so behind on work. Then once I started getting better, the stress hit me like a tonne of bricks and I found myself having almost daily breakdowns because everything was overwhelming and I just couldn’t cope.

However, I’ve managed to pick myself back up again and I’ve learnt a lot about the importance of finding a balance between studying and looking after my health. So I guess I feel like sharing it in case it helps anyone else – or my future self – out.

Personally, I have always been very organised when it comes to exam season, as in, I like to have my revision completely planned out so I know what I should be doing when and I’d make revision timetables months in advance. However this year, I’ve probably made about six different revision timetables and just haven’t been able to stick to a schedule. I’d end up missing revision one day because I was too tired or had other commitments then found myself constantly trying to catch up with all the stuff I’d missed as well as get all the stuff I’d scheduled for that day finished and quite frankly it just didn’t work and made me way more stressed out than I needed to be.

My teacher said to me a while ago that the secret to good revision is to stop planning and start doing, and I’m only know realising how right he was because I’d spend hours trying to figure out a revision timetable that worked, in the mean time getting frustrated and stressed about the amount of work I had to do and lack of time, then I’d be too worked up to actually do any work and before I knew it the day would be over and I hadn’t achieved anything. Now I’ve decided that revision timetables just don’t work for me anymore or with the demands of my A Level subjects, so I’ve developed a new, much better system.

Basically, I just write out a list of everything I need to do in the near future to feel confident for each of my exam papers, then each week/weekend I’ll choose the paper that I feel most concerned about at that moment and will focus on getting as far through the list as possible that week/weekend. That way, I’m not stressing myself out by saying I need to write so many essays on this day, instead I just get on with it and actually do some work. I can be a lot more productive if I’m not telling myself I will fail if I don’t get through a certain amount of work each day, and I feel like I’m learning and remembering a lot more because I’m less stressed. Revision is actually becoming a bit more enjoyable.

I know different revision techniques work better for different people, but I thought I’d found my ‘revision style’ after going through two GCSE exam seasons, but I guess they in which we study best changes when we grow and learn more. So the lesson I’ve learnt from this is that I should be more open-minded to shaking-up my revision and studying a bit and to not stress myself out by setting unrealistic goals!

Good luck to everyone doing exams at the moment, make sure you take time to take care of yourself too. 🙂

Study With Me: Easter Edition!!!

Hello! Although I – uncharacteristically – have lots of inspiration for blog  posts at the moment (namely philosophical musings about life inspired by public transport and weather and all sorts of other not-very-exciting-things-which-keep-leading-me-to-consider-deeper-meanings), I’ve decided to do another study with me, because I don’t have enough time to do any of these thoughts justice, but I still wanted to write a little update. Hope you enjoy 🙂

8:30 – Wake up (to the annoying sound of my alarm because otherwise I’d sleep until 10am lol). I had some breakfast, got ready and made my to-do list for the day.
Sticky note reading: USA flashcards and quizlet, geography coursework, la famille vocab and la famille speaking mock
I’m actually a day ahead with revision, because I did all of today’s scheduled revision yesterday, so I decided to do tomorrow’s today.

10:00-11:00 – History flashcards

I managed to get through half of the unit I’d planned to make flashcards on because it took a lot longer than expected, but that’s okay because I’ll finish them off tomorrow.

Flashcards
11:00-11:20 – History Quizlet

I typed up the key polices, dates and statistics from my history flashcards into Quizlet – which is quickly become one of my favourite revision resources. It basically allows you to create a virtual set of flashcards which you can complete various activities and games with to help you learn them, it’s particularly useful for language vocab but works for history too!

11:20-1:00 – Geography coursework

My coursework dealdine is in 8 days, so I’m trying to use any non-revision time to work on editing it. Somehow my word count keeps increasing even though I’m trying to make it shorter?? I’m already over the 4000 word limit so it’s going to take a lot of time to get it below that.

4:45-6:00 – French speaking practice

I had a bit of a break in revision for lunch then I had to go to town to do some shopping and visit the bank. When I got home I was so tired I had a nap (#studentstruggles). But! Once I started French revision I got a lot done. I went through all the vocab for “La Famille” unit on Quizlet, then read through all the key facts/statistics and responses to “unpredictable” questions for that unit. After that I did a mock exam using a speaking card like the one’s we are given in the first part of our exam. We get five minutes to prepare (hence my scruffy handwriting pictured below) then have to give our responses and answer a few unpredictable questions for a total of 6 minutes. I recorded myself speaking as well (although in hindsight this wasn’t a great idea – listening back to yourself trying to speak a foreign language is the worst thing ever).

French revision guide with annotations
6:45-8:15 – Geography coursework

After dinner I went back to my coursework and tried to make some progress. I did a bit of editing but mainly sorted out my bibliography and positioning of photos (because aesthetics are important clearly). In the end I was too tired and kept going round in circles so I gave up for revision for the day and did a bit of yoga to wind down.
Thank for reading and, as always, hope you are well! 🙂