Advice from a 2nd year: Top 5 Fresher Tips

I’m now a second year at University, which is both scary and surprising. Considering at the end of Sixth Form I was not interested in going to Uni at all, and would actually laugh at the idea, I’ve managed to somehow get this far. Though, it hasn’t all been rainbows and happiness. It was hard bloody work. For all of you going to University, and even to those that aren’t, here’s a few tips that may help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made over the past year:

 -Keep an Open Mind- 

You may already think you have seen all you can see in this world. You haven’t. For this reason it’s so important to keep an open mind to everything you experience, don’t judge a book, all those cliché sayings. Doing this will allow you to get to know some of the most interesting people out there, some of the most creative people, and it will also help you really get to know yourself. People will appreciate you for listening to their opinions in a conscientious manner, instead of shouting your own over everybody. As quite an opinionated person, this is something I could have done with somebody really explaining to me before I set foot into my new environment.

Keeping an open mind doesn’t just apply towards the people you’ll meet, it’s also really important to remember this during your fresher week activities, in particular, the societies fair. This is a vital chance to sign up to some activities and meet some people outside of your halls. I didn’t sign up for anything. Please, please avoid this. If you want to sign up for the tea-drinking parachuting club, you go for it! You shouldn’t give two thoughts to it, just put yourself out there. University will be one of the only times in your life you will have the opportunity to be as free, and you should make the most of this. It really doesn’t matter if your flatmates don’t sign up for something you want to – meet new people!

University Societies

– Create a Comfortable Environment – 

OK, here’s the basics: your uni halls shouldn’t just be a place for you to collapse in after your ‘mental’ night out & it definitely shouldn’t have the capabilities of hiding stray cats/cones/sign-posts in. Well, unless that’s your idea of comfortable. Your tiny, 5 metre square room is, inevitably, where you’re going to be spending the next year. For this reason, respect it.  I didn’t appreciate this at first, and my uni room wasn’t homely at all. Nothing seemed to really match, and this made being away from home even harder.

Do what it takes to make it even a little bit better, plaster pictures on the walls or keep it minimalist, it’s your little space, you decide. It’s easy to get swept up with the excitement of things in the first week and forget about how rewarding it can be to finally own (well, rent) your own little place.

In terms of the communal spaces, such as your kitchen, you can’t control other people. No matter how many passive-aggressive notes you are capable of writing, people are always going to do their own thing. And that’s fine. Yes, it is going to get messy. Yes, it will smell really, really bad and the bins won’t get emptied for weeks. Cleaning rotas never work. That’s the blunt truth of it. This is why it’s exceptionally important to make your own room exactly how you want it. Just avoid arguments about whose plates haven’t been washed in 5 weeks, it’s not worth it.

I found a fairly decent article here about making your uni bedroom just a little bit better (sorry, it is slightly outdated, but it was the only piece I could find that wasn’t particularly sexist…)

University room

– Be Prepared – 

Freshers week is really, really fast paced, so it’s important you’re actually ready for your lectures & seminars the next week. Don’t do what I did and ask the seminar tutor for a pen and a piece of paper whilst looking extremely hungover. That will guarantee you an enemy for the entirety of the first year. Buy your pens, buy your paper, buy your books, whatever you’re going to need to guarantee yourself a head start in those first few vital weeks.

Secondly, beware of the vicious statement ‘your first year doesn’t count anyway’. This is not a right of passage to then attend 3 lectures out of 25 and sleep through the rest. Here’s a reality check: you have to at least pass your first year to even attend the second year. You will learn all of the vital skills you need to write your essays in that first year. Treat it as more of a test-run for the forthcoming years. This is also your chance to get to know your lecturers, who will be a huge help and also an academic support network. After all, you’re potentially paying up to £9000 a year for tuition, don’t waste it.

Sleeping in a Lecture

– Have Some Time Out – 

By some ‘time out’ I don’t mean some time out getting ‘absolutely slaughtered with the gals #town’, I mean some time away from the drink. Some time to be actually be on your own for a while and adjust properly to this new life you’re living. Don’t become someone that everyone expects you to be, just be yourself. Do not force yourself to go out drinking, and certainly don’t succumb to peer pressure. Do what you want to do.

You don’t have to be around your flatmates 24/7; go and explore the new city you’re living in, snuggle up and watch a film, or even go for a run. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what makes you happy. I’ve always had respect for people that are truly individual and not a clone of the typical University ‘fresher’.

Relax

– Keep in Contact – 

Finally, it’s crucial you don’t desert everybody you know from back home just because of this new University life. Particularly your family. Make an effort to call your mum, she’ll be worrying like crazy. People naturally drift apart, but this doesn’t stop you making an effort. Your family have raised you, you have only known your flatmates for a few days, and trust me, true colours take a while to show.

Keep your routine, yes you may not be able to pop home for Sunday roast, but you can at least have a weekly Skype call. I find it incredibly sad when I see Uni students rejecting phone calls from their Mum/Dad, especially thinking about how worried they must be. Plus, they’re going to be doing your washing, so keep on their good side.

Washing

I hope this reassures anybody that is feeling a bit strange about Uni life even a little bit better, you’re not the only one 🙂

A Year On…

It seems so strange to be thinking that it’s around my blog’s 1st birthday. No, I won’t be shoving a birthday cake into my computer screen, or getting all emotional and lighting a Chinese lantern to reminisce on the past year of continuously becoming frustrated with WordPress wanting money from me to simply change the colour scheme of my site. Instead, I had a huge urge to delete my blog and all of the content on it. This morning, I genuinely hovered my mouse over the ‘delete site’ button, because for some reason, what was written on my blog didn’t seem real, or good enough, any more. For example, I have recently become more absorbed in other things in my life that have kept me from writing content, and for so long I went on about University not being worth it for young people, all of which seems to have amounted to nothing. One of the most difficult things about writing is looking back at your work and knowing that’s it’s not good enough and doesn’t meet your standards.

Obviously, since you’re reading this, I haven’t been a complete idiot and deleted my blog, because I realised that even though what I have produced in the last year may not have been good enough for me, there have been multiple occasions where what I have written has pleased, and maybe even impressed, other people, and my blog has helped me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.

Firstly, my blog gave me more of a voice (cliché), because frankly there’s no way I could have got away with writing about UCAS or Gove in the way I did, in some sort of school newsletter. It also gave me a unique voice. Whilst it’s all fine and dandy blogging about make-up, hair, and shoes, I feel like there’s something much more empowering about being controversial and writing about topics that maybe other young people don’t have the courage to.

Secondly, as an aspiring journalist, my blog gave me an easy and free platform to write on, which then lead on to me writing for Wannabe Hacks, Future Talent, Lunacy of Ink, and as of today, I am a writer for Shout Out UK, with many, many more exciting projects in the pipe line. Plus, being nominated in the Cosmo Blog Awards still doesn’t feel real yet.

Lastly, writing my blog has caused me to mature. Though I may post the occasional (hilarious) cat picture on Twitter, I’m much more aware of how to have a structured conversation/debate with an adult about difficult subjects, for example I had a conversation not too long ago about the scam that I believe to be Private & Independent schools.

Overall, I should be proud of how far Through A Fresh Pair of Eyes has come in a year, and strive to create better content if I am not happy with what already exists. What can you take from this? Creating a blog is a really great opportunity and experience, but if you’re not going to make it original, and mean something, then is it really worth it?

I’m still on the search for guest bloggers, so if you fancy have a little whine on this website as opposed to your website then just contact me laurenleacunningham@gmail.com.

The Top 10 most asked interview questions – TRANSLATED!

I felt it was only suitable, since many young people will begin to look for jobs this summer, to write the most cliché post about interview questions, but with a twist and some honest brutality! I found the most asked interview questions from The Telegraph (https://jobs.telegraph.co.uk/article/10-most-frequently-asked-interview-questions/), and I’m going to translate them for you. Aren’t you lucky? ‘But Lauren, they are simple’ you say? There, you are mistaken…

So, in no particular order:

‘Tell me about yourself
What it may appear to mean: The interviewer is interested in you as a person, and wants to know all about your hobbies and the mates that you hang around with, and that one time your cat ate your goldfish. How lovely of them to ask. 

Honest, brutal translation: I don’t actually care about you, or what you do when you are outside of these offices, but my manager says I can’t phrase it like that, in case we do hire you. I want you to give me the character profile of who we are looking to hire, and try and make it at least a little bit convincing, I’ve had five people in before you who were plain terrible at lying. 

My advice: Research the type of people that already work at the company (without gaining a restraining order), and try to see what their qualities are. Obvs, be sensible with this; do not say you are into computer science (because you saw one of their employees had a degree in this), if firstly you are not, and secondly you are applying to a completely unrelated job, e.g Chief Tea Maker. Finally, it’s not worth changing yourself completely for one job, you won’t enjoy it as much if you can’t actually be yourself.

 ‘What are your key skills/strengths?
What it may appear to mean: This is secretly a challenge, I want you to list as many good things you have done in your life in thirty seconds, GO!

Honest, brutal translation: I need you to let me know that you actually have the skills to fulfil the job that you are applying for, otherwise you’re completely wasting my time. Oh and for gods sake make the skills relevant.

My advice: You can’t just list random skills, they have to relate to the job you are applying for. Don’t try to list as many as you can, prioritise your best and most relevant skills. Tip: Strength does not mean physical strength. I can tell you many horror stories of people that have mixed this up, but that’s for another time. 

‘What are your weaknesses?’ 
What it may appear to mean: Wow, up to now you appear like the perfect person for the job, please dear immortal, tell me where you flaw. I’m certainly going to believe you if you say ‘I don’t have any’. 

Honest, brutal translation: Every other interviewer in the history of interviews asks this question, so I should probably do it too, you know, to keep up. Plus, if you’re cocky and think you’re amazing at everything your co-workers are probably going to hate you, and that’s even more paperwork for HR. 

My advice: You have a weakness. If you think you don’t have a weakness, make one up. If you’re a crier, like me, please avoid anything that is going to start the tears flowing. For the love of god, the interviewer doesn’t want to know that you are emotionally unstable. Plus, here’s a top tip, show how the weakness can be improved quickly by getting the job you are being interviewed for. No cheesy stuff, avoid the cheese. 

‘Why did you leave your old job?’
What it may appear to mean: OOO give us some juicy detail on that MASSIVE argument you had with your boss. 

Honest, brutal translation: Show us you can have some confidentiality and handle yourself well in pressurised situations. We don’t like a gossip. 

My advice: Unless it’s for legal reasons, you don’t have to tell the interviewer everything. The best thing to say when asked this question is something along the lines of ‘I felt like I could not advance any more where I was’, or something more suitable that proves you are serious about this new job. 

And finally, the gut-wrencher…..

‘What are your salary expectations?’

What it may appear to mean: IF YOU SEEM GREEDY IN ANY WAY YOU ARE NOT GETTING THE JOB. TIME TO WORK FOR FREE, SUCKER.

Honest, brutal translation: Money is pretty important, that’s kind of one of the main reasons you will be working for us. Let’s test you and see what your priorities are. 

My advice: You don’t want to get into a difficult situation with money that causes an argument in your interview, so handle this properly if you get a job offer. During the job offer, try and emphasise that salary is negotiable, and when asked for a figure give a realistic range of numbers that isn’t going to scare them away from you…

I created you a playlist!

I said a while back in one of my revision-help posts that it was  better to create a playlist before you started studying, instead of trawling through YouTube trying to pick a song every 3 minutes. So, I made it a bit easier for you all – I created a playlist for you! It’s around half an hour, non-stop, meaning that you have no excuse to be going on YouTube or any other sort of music website. You can simply just do half an hour of focused revision.

The playlist includes some upbeat music, of different genres, as I don’t know what everybody’s tastes are! I have to warn you, some of the songs do include swearing, just in case you don’t like that type of thing 🙂 Hopefully it helps you, and if it does, please let me know and I will expand it, or create different genres.

The playlist can be found here:
https://play.spotify.com/user/throughafreshpairofeyes/playlist/0CR41eHJi55H58EedlMzBG

 

21 creative ways to survive during exam season

1. Actually revise. Duh.
2. Read examiner’s reports.
3. After becoming frustrated with examiners blaming everything on students rather than the difficult paper they set, eat.
4. Eat some more.
5. Eat even more, that you’re full enough so you won’t have to leave your room for the rest of study leave.
6. Somehow break your internet. It’s officially the worst distraction.
7. Make a song about what you’re revising. Any genre. Other than k-pop. K-pop sucks.
8. Try not to regret not paying attention in lessons.
9. Accept the fact you probably aren’t going to have any friends for a few weeks.
10. Make sure you actually own enough stationary to get you through the exams.
11. Eat.
12. Sleep.
13. Breathe.
14. Remember to stay clean, you can afford 20 minutes not revising in order to have a shower.
15. Revise at some point without music, you won’t have Britney Spears to listen to in the exam.
16. Use The Student Room as your way to vent. Not Twitter. Please not Twitter.
17. Recite: ‘Procrastination is bad’ whenever you start to procrastinate.
18. Place post-it notes the places you go most, i.e the fridge.
19. Occasionally throw darts at a picture of Michael Gove.
20. Turn up to your exams.
21. Read this blog to make yourself feel a little bit better.

 

There is no such thing as becoming ‘old’.

Hi, yes I’m still here (this introduction is becoming all too familiar), though I am rapidly drowning in a sea of past papers.

I once had an enlightening conversation with a stranger when waiting for a train, and I feel like now is the time that it is really relevant to speak about. Perhaps it was fate that I had forgotten my headphones for that particular journey, as I am not usually the type to speak to strangers on a station platform, as romantic as it may sound. Let me set the scene for you, it was a very early morning, and I was impatiently waiting for a train to take me to a talk about future careers, in London, and to be perfectly bleak with you, I wasn’t looking forward to it. ‘It was going to be like all the rest’, I thought, other eighteen year olds will come up to introduce themselves and bare their teeth at me in some sort of perverted grin, simply looking to rip my hopeful future prospects into pieces in their imagination to make themselves feel better about their own. I’ve done it before – smelt the competition in a room full of other adolescents, hoping that I’d never have to come across them again, because quite frankly, they’re all a hell of a lot better than me. The rain was pouring, my clothes felt uncomfortable, my hair just didn’t seem to sit right on my head, and all I could think about was whether my mascara was smudging. I wasn’t even thinking about the people around me.

In hindsight, it was clear that this day was going to be different. Well for a start, it is the only time I have ever witnessed chivalry at a train station; a man saw that I was stood next to the bench and offered me his seat, which I took, which is strange because thinking of it, I would usually say ‘Oh no thank you, I’m fine’, using the forced smile I give to customers at work when I’m holding a plate that is practically burning my entire hands off to convey ‘Please take the sodding plate from me before I Frisbee it across the table’.  Being exceptionally British, I had arrived at my platform in time for another train to arrive and depart before mine came to collect me, meaning that the chivalrous man had left, and there was only myself and a few others left on the platform, including a very elderly woman sat on the others side of the bench. I hardly even heard her when she spoke, mostly because the birds around me were fighting violently over a croissant crumb that somebody had dropped. I had to do a double-take at what the lady had said, though. It was one of those moments where you need to know for definite what the person had said, due to the danger of looking like a complete idiot by giving a random reply. The lady had said ‘Everybody looks at you the same when you get old’. I’ll admit, at first I was tempted to get up and move to another bench, which is completely awful of me, but I really wasn’t ready for a lecture like this, but there’s just something about people that really intrigues me, and my curiosity kept me firmly planted.

She continued without me having to ask her any sort of awkward question, and she went on to tell me that she hated the way when humans become older people look at you with such pity, as if you haven’t lived, and she had lived, she assured me. The thing she said that stuck with me most was that ‘there is no such thing as becoming ‘old”, and if you think about it, she was completely right. We describe fashion trends as ‘old’, or we may say that we have ‘old friends’, and in these cases it means to be in the past, to be gone, not to relevant any more. It is truly terrifying, to think that as soon as your skin creases, and your posture deteriorates that automatically you are described in this horrifying term. No wonder people say ‘Oh no, I’m getting old’ so often, and being described as ‘elderly’ doesn’t make it any better, it’s simply an adjective. It’s like describing somebody as ‘big’ rather than ‘fat’; we all know what it means. It made me realise, there is no deadline in life, no point at which you can stop doing the things you love, no time that you have to admit your expiry date, and so my impatient wait for the train was seriously minuscule in the big scheme of things. Your revision? It isn’t the end of the world. You have a whole life to lead, living your life never really stops unless you admit defeat.

So this stranger, who I never caught the name of, and who simply uttered a few sentences my way, really got me thinking. I’ll probably value the words of strangers more, instead of only viewing myself in public strangers.

I wanted to dedicate this blog post to Stephen Sutton, who very sadly passed in the early hours of the morning. Reading his story, and connecting the words spoke by the stranger I met made me realise that I don’t believe in comments such as ‘He hardly got to live his life’, because I believe he did. Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow, and I believe Stephen lived with this philosophy as much as he could, even having terminal cancer. He is one of those rare people in the world that are completely honest through and through, and even though I didn’t know him, I am so proud of his achievements. I think it’s a really beautiful thing to rise through your own personal tragedy to care more about the needs of others. Rest in peace, Stephen.

Interview: Jess Green

Jess Green. The woman behind ‘Dear Mr Gove’. In my opinion, a genius.

‘They say they don’t care. And why would they? I don’t blame them. Not when you lot in power got to their families three generations ago. Divided and conquered, belittled and humiliated, until no family on that street was left with work, or a pension, or one ounce of ‘get up and go’.’

‘Thank you for the bibles, Mr Gove, but I don’t think it’s God we need right now.’

Just two of the quotes from the poem that seemed to have grasped both students, teachers and education professionals alike. The video seemed to have appeared from nowhere. One day I just clicked on Facebook and it was everywhere. My friends were sharing it, without a comment, because frankly, one is not needed. It is so powerful on its own.

Before you criticise, like so many others, that ‘she isn’t even a teacher’, ‘how would she know?’. Jess Green does not need to be a teacher to comment on what so many others are thinking, to present the thoughts of anyone even remotely connected to education. At least she has the guts to do it, and I am so glad she has been listened to.

I managed to conduct a short interview with Jess, and I really hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

Can you explain exactly what you do?
I am a performance poet, I perform around the country at gigs, in theatres, at festivals in pubs etc. I also deliver poetry and creative writing workshops in schools, theatres, libraries and with the probation service.
What inspired you to write that poem about Gove, is there an interesting back story?
The poem is part of a whole show that I’m writing called Burning Books. The show is an hour long music and poetry show and is set in an inner city secondary school. I am performing with two musicians, Dave Morris and Will Savage. The Gove poem comes towards the end of the show and is from the point of view of a 60 year old teacher fighting for her pension on a picket line. The poem is based on my experiences of working in schools and from talking to teachers.
Are you surprised to see what great feedback you have had from the poem? Also, how do you deal with the not-so-nice comments?
I was totally blown away by the response the poem got, we absolutely didn’t expect it. We thought it might get around 1000 views because obviously it is a popular subject with teachers but I was over whelmed by the amount of emails, tweets and facebook messages I had from teachers who wanted to tell me about their experiences, students who could relate to the poem and other public sector workers.
Nasty comments were to be expected, it’s the nature of the internet. I’m actually quite surprised there haven’t been more. If you got upset by every nasty thing anyone ever said about you you’d go mad!
What is your view on education at this time?
Like many people I’ve seen how the amount of pressure on teachers is having an effect on teaching standards. More teachers than ever are suffering from stress and mental health problems, a huge number of newly qualified teachers don’t even make it through their first year, teachers who are sticking at it are worn down by the pressure to make sure all students are reaching often unrealistic targets, so much so that the quality of teaching is suffering because of the stress teachers are under. On top of this there’s always the finger of blame propelled by the right wing press which is firmly pointed at teachers for young people’s short comings.
For everybody who loved the poem as much as I did, where can we see you performing next?
I’m doing a gig at Hoxton Hall on 24th April, I’m in Exeter on 4th June, I’ll be at Latitude this year plus my regular night in Leicester, Find The Right Words. You can keep up to date with gigs on my website www.jessgreenpoet.com