Advice

Revision and Relaxing

When the revision period starts, this is an opportunity for me to test my knowledge on everything I have learnt, and identify any gaps in my current understanding. In the past I may have dreaded the revision period due to the natural stresses that exams can cause, but now I am more relaxed which mainly comes down to giving myself regular breaks when revising and rewarding myself daily for hard work. A typical revision day for me involves treating my day as if I am going to university. I start revising around 9am until 6pm, taking regular breaks when needed. I first start with the most difficult module, as I feel mentally fresh at the start of the day, and continue with other modules later. In general, I find studying 2 modules a day to be optimum for myself although other people may find this to be different.

Image 1: This is an example of a study area at QMUL which gives a more relaxed environment for studying.

Image 1: This is an example of one of many study areas at QMUL which I use to study.

Once I have finished revising for the day, I always make sure to reward myself. Psychologically, this makes me feel much better about revising because I always know I will have time for myself if I work hard. Therefore, I am more likely to be focused entirely on revision when studying, and completely switch off from studying mode when having fun. Another reason why I always reward myself is that this gives my mind a chance to relax. I like to think of my mind as a funnel which I fill with information, but there is only so much information I can absorb and process. In this case, feeling overwhelmed would be equivalent to the funnel overflowing, while having time to relax would be the funnel emptying so that next time I am ready to absorb new information. If I could share my top 3 tips when it comes to revising I would say the following:
1) Always try to make your study notes easily accessible
2) Always try to keep your study area tidy – Think “Clear desk, clear mind”
3) As long as you tried your best there is nothing more you can do when it comes to revising.

Image 1: Don't forget to relax as well !

Image 2: Don’t forget to relax!

Revision is meant to challenge you and ensure you are well prepared for an exam. It is also completely normal to feel stressed at times.  Why not try rewarding yourself more next time? You may even be surprised to find you actually study better and more efficiently as well. Evidence has actually shown that having time for yourself especially when revising, could increase your ability to retain information!

Caffeine, Confidence and Careless Planning: A Personal Guide to Revision

Advice on how to get the most out of your revision, from information on visual aids to what foods you should be eating, is available everywhere.   As someone who is prone to stress, I often feel overwhelmed with everything that I am told I “should” be doing whilst revising.  After years of trial and error, I have found a few things that really work for me:

1.       Mathematics can be intense and overwhelming so I find it incredibly useful to take a few hours to remind myself why I’m doing the degree.  If I’m finding a module particularly wearing I’ll find an article, book or video loosely based on the subject to spark my interest again.  For example, after reading through my probability notes for a few hours yesterday and very almost losing the will to live, I decided to watch a video by Vsauce about the maths behind shuffling a deck of cards (which, by the way, is mind blowing).

2.       Finding a suitable place to revise was actually a bit issue for me.  At home I get too easily distracted but I can’t deal with the silence in the library.  Coffee shops were my saviour.   When I’m struggling to revise, I walk to a local coffee shop, order myself a drink and set out all my revision on a little table.  I enjoy working within a lightly bustling area; I can concentrate well but also when I need a break I can get some fresh air and take a stroll.  Obviously, the big upside to working in a café is the possibility of a constant supply of caffeine which is extremely alluring. 

3.       One major issue I used to have whilst studying for exams was confidence.  I would always compare my work and results to my friends’ and subsequently be far too hard on myself.  During exam season, I find it useful to remember that people work at different paces and revise in diverse ways.  It is for this reason I tend to steer clear of ‘group revision’ as I know I am more comfortable going through things at my own speed.

4.       Finally, I find it most useful to be ridiculously organised during exam season.  Revision timetables are my strength, however I must remind myself to be realistic.  If I had followed the first timetable I had made for myself this year I’d be clocking a solid ten hours of revision a day, and subsequently, probably would have died after about a week.  Setting myself unattainable goals is a bad habit; I am never going to be doing ten hours a day and that is completely fine.  I find it important to set myself reachable goals at the end of each week and if I was unable to finish everything one week I go back and assess what the issues are. 

There is roughly twenty-two days, one hour and 35 minutes until my first exam.  I am soon to be completely submerged in scrap notes, past papers and post-it notes.  My hands are decorated with black ink smudges.  I am simultaneously completely exhausted and also experiencing a caffeine-induced spark of motivation.  My brain seems to be completely incapable of completing any tasks that aren’t maths related; for instance, after making a cup of tea, I proceeded to put the milk in the cupboard, tea bags in the fridge and spoon in the bin. 

Revision sucks.  There is no point in sugar coating it.  However now that I have found my own little preferences, it sucks just a little bit less.

Saving money just got easier, what?!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of university? For some the first instinct is to fantasize about the endless social encounters. Others are excited about the opportunity to actually learn and build a proper future for themselves. Most of us, however, are feeding off the thought that we finally become independent and can start our lives as adults. What we don’t think of right away, though, is that it all comes at a price…known to the general public as student loans.
I neglected this aspect, I was wrapped in the excitement of leaving home and starting from scratch that I forgot I won’t be reliant on my parents for much longer. £9000 per year, that’s already on my debt list…and it is only the beginning. I can’t study without textbooks and other resources and we all know the lecture slides can only do so much. So I had to figure out a way to make money…better said, to recover some of my losses. I decided to sell all the materials that helped me to get a first.
I thought it was going to be easy, people want to buy stuff at a much cheaper price, they want firsts…the lethal combination. The only problem is that these people are really hard to track down ! Luckily, I came across a website called Campusboard.co.uk, which is basically an online marketplace where you can trade unwanted items with other students: textbooks, electronics, and even accommodation, the useful stuff you need to make your uni life easier for a bargain (half the normal price!). I posted my Statistics textbook and a few days later another student from QMUL contacted me with an offer to buy it. We met on campus the next day and completed the exchange. I earned money on my textbook and they got it for much cheaper than on Amazon. What I like the most is that it is completely safe and you know for sure these people are students who are in need of help, just like me and you.
I really recommend it to anyone who wants to buy or sell stuff for amazing deals and also get the chance to meet other students. I am not the one to trust the virtual world easily, but this one is really worth it!

Women and Space

“Science” is the term encompassing the study of our natural and physical world; its structures and behaviours.  A “scientist” is an intellectual with expert knowledge of a particular branch of science.  From the intense study of the human body we gain knowledge of disease and are then able to construct medicines.  By observing the nature of the stars in the sky we are able to assemble a broader perception of the universe in which we live.   Science is the foundation of our society; the knowledge, health, sources of entertainment and standard of living we have today has been built upon centuries of scientific study and discovery.  It is for this reason, I find it incredibly perplexing that science and scientists have not been immune to discrimination.   

In school, we discuss Newton, Einstein and Pythagoras.  At university, I have considered Fermat, Euler and Euclid.  With this education, it wouldn’t be outrageous to believe that female scientists accomplished very little.  However, this is definitely not the case.  The list of influential women within science is, actually, a rather extensive one; but I would like to focus on one in particular. 

Katherine Johnson, an African American physicist and mathematician, made substantial contributions to the US’ aeronautics and space programmes at NASA in the 1950s and 60s.  From a young age, Katherine was a gifted mathematician with a passion to succeed.  Her early career consisted of teaching jobs; as work within mathematics for an African American woman were few and far between.  In 1953, Katherine was offered a job at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, which she accepted and so started her career within the early NASA team. 

For five years, Katherine worked in an office labelled “Coloured Computers”.   The women who worked within that office were required to do all of their daily activities completely segregated from the white men.  Regardless of how important their work was, these women were unable to put their names on reports they had contributed to.  Katherine herself said that women needed to be “assertive and aggressive” in order to be recognised; which, she was.

When NASA disbanded the “computing pool” in 1958, Katherine worked as an Aerospace Technologist until her retirement.  A women, who was once unable to use the same bathroom as her scientist colleagues, was now a vital part of an important team.  She calculated the trajectory for the first American man in space, she calculated the launch window for the 1961 Mercury Mission, she plotted back up navigational charts and was asked personally to verify the numbers for John Glen’s orbit around the Earth.  Katherine helped calculate trajectories for the 1969 Apollo mission; as well as helping to establish confidence in new technologies with her work with digital computers.

Katherine Johnson is just one example of many under-appreciated women working in NASA at the time; and is just one of thousands of under-appreciated women contributors to science.  Despite increasing rates of women studying mathematics and science at universities; the percentage of women within STEM careers is still extremely low.  It is vital to celebrate and learn about women who were not only major contributors to science; but had to overcome all kinds of social barriers to do so.  

What do rocks, pebbles an empty jar and sand have in common with prioritising?

Many of us, especially students, are faced with multiple tasks that need to be completed every day. So how do I make sure I get all the important stuff done while still having time to carry out my hobbies? Let’s solve this problem, using an analogy you might have heard of.

Below you can see a list of things I need to complete, as well as what I would like to do for the day:

Important tasks (rocks):
1. Attend lectures
2. Write lecture notes on tissue mechanics.
3. Email lecturer about problem with answering exam question.
4. Write blog for Widening Participation student ambassador work.

Less important tasks (pebbles):
1. Top up my bus card.
2. Renew my borrowed library book.

Leisure/Fun (sand):
1. Watch my favourite TV show.
2. Go out with friends.

The challenge is how to fit all these items (rocks, pebbles and sand) in one jar. The jar represents the amount of time you have in a day.

Image 1: Rocks, pebbles, sand and empty jar to start off the day with.

Image 1: Rocks, pebbles, sand and empty jar to start off the day with.

 

Image 2: Trying to complete the least important tasks and hobbies first, mean I cannot complete all the important tasks (Rocks) in a day (Jar).

Image 2: Putting off the important tasks means I cannot complete them all in a day.

 

 

Image 3: If I complete all the important tasks first, followed by the less important ones and hobbies, I can fit everything I need to do into one day.

Image 3: If I complete all the important tasks first, followed by the less important ones and hobbies, I can fit everything I need to do into one day.

Remember that this rock, jar, pebble and sand analogy is not the only way to organise completing your tasks, and should be considered as a “tool” if required. I have used this technique throughout my time at university, and have had a lot of success with it. It is definitely worth giving it a go if you haven’t tried it out already!

The Ultimate Goal

After two years of decision making, months of revising, weeks of planning, hours of driving and lugging the far too many suitcases I brought up five flights of stairs; I had finally made it.  For me, university always felt like the ultimate goal; a route out of a small town; a way to learn things that genuinely interest me rather than being dictated an enforced curriculum.   However, within a week this euphoric independence already began to wear off.  I was not as prepared for University as I initially thought.

 

Before attending university, I was a little unsure of how exactly I would be taught.  I was so used to my school timetable; I had a good relationship with all my teachers, knew all my classmates well and was completely comfortable with the course.   However, with a little time I got used to the new university system I found myself in.  I use lectures to soak up as much information as possible; each one of my lecturers offers invaluable insight into Mathematics and, even if I don’t understand all of it yet, I write as much down as I can.  During my tutorials, which usually only contain 20 to 30 students, I ask any questions I need to and discuss any topic I feel necessary in order to get myself as comfortable with the material as possible.

 

Despite all of the academic support available, a substantial amount of independent learning and self-discipline is often required in order to do well.  Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoy this part of university.  As well as attending everything that is required, there are often extra lectures and events put on by the university that explore different aspects of the subject and offer an insight you won’t obtain anywhere else.   In addition, even though there isn’t usually specific ‘required reading’ for a first-year mathematician, there are so many resources available to deepen your knowledge in general.  If a particular theorem, idea or field of mathematics sparks an interest during a lecture or whilst completing a piece of work I can research that specific item at the library and possibly use it to further my studies.  Mathematics can be a rather intense degree, but I personally find that the more engaged with it I become, the easier the work load is to manage.

 

When deciding what course to apply for I read a brief overview of module options and a snippet of their content.  In reality, the courses are much more in depth and detailed than I could ever imagine.  In the first semester, we pushed our A Level knowledge further in Calculus 1, we tackled Mathematical Structures where number systems and proofs were discussed, we were introduced to the world of Probability where we built on our knowledge of expected values and random variables, and we were exposed to procedures and plots in Computing.   Within the first week I found myself researching Fermat’s Last Theorem for an assignment and getting far too carried away with what was supposed to be a “small summary.”   After five months at QMUL, I can positively say that I have not “made it.”  Being here isn’t in fact the ultimate goal, but it is assisting me in discovering what my “ultimate goal” actually is; whether its working in finance or scientific research or something completely different and unexpected; I am excited to keep studying and find out.

 

Why my second year is better than the first

You usually hear people tell you how much harder second year of university is compared to first. Your first year “practically doesn’t count” so “don’t take it too seriously”. There’s no lie; workload is heavier this year and counts for more towards your final grade. But overall, my second year is going way better than my first. Why?

 

Firstly, I’ve familiarised myself with workload. I know how much to expect, when to expect it, and how to deal with it. Though my work is harder this year, I know not to neglect it too long and how to get it all done. This way, I do well in school and also have time to enjoy my life.

 

Secondly, I love my degree subject more. Maybe because I’m living in the era of Brexit and Trump-onomics where Economics is in the heart of every hot topic right now, I’ve really learned to appreciate my studies and everything that it will have to offer me in the future. My goals are more clear, I know what I love and don’t enjoy as much, and I get more involved in Economics events.
Lastly and most importantly, I’m settled. When you first move to a new place, especially as one as daunting as London, every day can be nerve-wracking and you can even find yourself quite lonely for a while. Don’t worry – this is completely normal and you WILL find your place. You will find who your friends are, your favourite hangout spots, places to eat, a good balance between work and social life, etc. It’s a natural way the universe works. You can’t force it and you can’t resist it – you will eventually become a citizen of London.

Building Kingdoms, Chasing Dreams

Happy new year to all of you! 2016 has been a rather interesting year for all of us, but I believe 2017 would be a better year for all of us if we act upon our dreams and our goals, and be motivated and passionate about our ambitions. I too, have personal dreams and goals – both short term and long term – and by living each day driven by the will to become better, we experience circumstances that acts as stepping-stones that bring us closer to our aspirations. In my own opinion, our education is one of these stepping-stones. There are in fact numerous simple things that you can do now that will contribute achieving greatly in university or even after. Here are some things that I personally do:

 

  • 1. Manage my time, by having a calendar beside my study table and on it are upcoming events or deadlines.

 

  • 2. Keeping my room always organised, and not only when I feel like cleaning up!

 

  • 3. Set up a ‘goals and to-do’ list, as if making SMART goals, but less strict with the time limit, for example, ‘Go to Bermondsey and eat Padang food’ and ‘patch my jeans,’ as you can see in the picture below!

 

img_6464-1

Above all these, I believe that there is one thing that will motivate you, drive you, keep you fuelled up and burning with passion – your purpose. Finding your purpose liberates you from work that you may see as burdens now. Finding your purpose is not at all easy and can be time-consuming. It is a slow process, but it is an investment. I am also still in the process of discovering myself. I wouldn’t say that I have found my purpose, but it seems to me that I would love to become an inspiration to others, and this idea of becoming an inspiration has encouraged me more than ever before. Other than that, pushing yourself beyond your own limits and being a life-long learner are just as vital.

At Queen Mary, how are you doing? Are you pushing yourself in understanding the materials in the lectures, or do you have a more apathetic attitude towards learning? Remember, again, education plays a major role in achieving your dreams. Most importantly, keep in mind that “your mind has to arrive at the destination before your life does.” Let us all not just create new year’s resolutions, but act on it! #hustle2k17

Is reading a thing only girls do?

You may think of reading as something you do intuitively, but for some people, it is not a skill that comes naturally. Many males in particular are known to be unmotivated when it comes to reading according to news outlets such as the Guardian and BBC, and subsequently have poorer reading skills compared to females.
I am currently taking part on a new Widening Participation programme here at QMUL, called “Boys, Books and Blogging”, where I will be working with year 10 male students to read and discuss two books that have been selected for them. Below you can see the title of the two books I am currently discussing with the students:

tuesdays-with-morrie

Book 1: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

 

Book 2: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Book 2: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The sessions with the students will last 7 weeks, where I aim to encourage the boys to become more interested in reading and read more in general. The boys will also be discussing their approaches, attitudes and time management in regards to reading, and will write blog entries about their experience on the programme. They will also be going to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” at the theatre in December. These blogs will be published on the Widening Participation QMUL website. Here are some pictures that were taken this week:

Quiet reading time with some of the year 10 students

Image 1: Quiet reading time with some of the year 10 students.

 

Image 2: Great to see the boys engaging in the blog writing!

Student summarizing his thoughts so far on the book he selected.

Image 3: Student summarizing his thoughts so far on the book he’s reading. Brilliant !

Another student writing up his blog

Image 4: Another student writing up his blog !

Being part of this programme reminds me of when I was in year 10, where I also was not fond of reading. I discovered that reading what interests me most (whether that be football, robots, food and other topics), is much better than not reading at all. If you look at me now, I can’t get enough of reading and always find time to read especially on the bus journey to university. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Reading is a powerful tool, and one in which everyone must have a great grasp of in order to reach their full potential in life. Without reading, you are bound to come across problems as simple as reading a job application for a job you want. Don’t let that person be you!

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