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A Day in the life of an English Student

This week I thought I would blog about what I get up to on a typical day so you could gain an insight into the everyday life of an English student. My schedule varies day-to-day: my Tuesdays are hectic as I have two lectures, each of which are followed by a seminar. However, on Mondays and Thursdays, I only have one lectures and a seminar. I have eight contact-hours per week. This means I have four lectures and four seminars per week. This may not sound like a lot, but the nature of an English degree means that I have to spend a lot of time preparing for these lectures and seminars: doing the set reading, researching historical and political contexts, and exploring the critical framework of the texts. I also have to do assignments throughout the year for each of my modules, so I have to plan and write essays nearly every week. On top of this, I have to balance part-time work and other social commitments. So here is a summary of what I got up to last Tuesday:

6:30 -8:00 am:   I am afraid I am one of those incredibly annoying morning people! I woke up, had a shower, got ready for the day. Then I had breakfast as I caught up with the news. As a Humanities student, it’s always important to be up-to-date with current affairs – you may never know when you will need a topical reference!

8:00-11:00 am:  I read Oroonoko by Aphra Benn for Renaissance Literary Culture – my favourite module!

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

11:15-12:00 am: It takes me approximately 20 minutes on the tube to get to Mile End from my house. But I have to walk to the station from my house and then walk from the station at Mile End to my lecture theatre, so it actually ends up being a 45-minutes journey altogether.

12:00-1:00 pm: I had my lecture for Renaissance Literary Culture.

1:00-2:00 pm: My lecture was followed by a seminar

2:00-3:00 pm: Lunch!

3:00-4:00 pm: Romantics and Revolutionaries Lecture.

4:00-5:00 pm: Romantics and Revolutionaries Seminar

5:00-6:00 pm: A very quick catch up with my friends, Kendra and Xenia

6:00-7:00 pm: I met with my Romantics group to discuss our presentation. We brainstormed some ideas, and allocated tasks, and topics for each of us to research.

7:00-7:45 pm: Journey home

8:00- 8:30 pm: I had dinner and watched a bit of Made in Chelsea (I know it’s reality TV, but it was a very long day!)

8:30 – 11:30 pm: I started on my Postcolonial and Global Literatures reading.


Incredible book. I would definitely recommend it!

11:30 – Bed time.

This is my typical Tuesday but some days are much more relaxed. But I just used Tuesday so you think I am super productive, and also to give you an insight into my most busy day!


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!

Mile End Campus


This is ArtsOne. This is the home of the School of English and Drama. We are located all the way up in the third floor! It’s where my persona adviser, lecturers and tutors have their offices.

This is ArtsOne. This is the home of the School of English and Drama. We are located all the way up in the third floor! It’s where my personal adviser, lecturers and tutors have their offices.

As I have mentioned before in this blog, Queen Mary is a campus-based university. This means the teaching facilities and the student accommodation are very close to each other. Queen Mary has 5 campuses: Whitechapel, Charter House square, West Smithfield, Lincoln Inn Fields & Mile End. I am based on the Mile End campus. This week, I thought I would write all about the places on campus where I spend a lot of my time.


 This is Ground. It’s a café that’s run by our Student Union. It’s a great place to grab a coffee and hang out with friends between or after lectures. I would really recommend their Mediterranean veggie wrap!

This is Ground. It’s a café that’s run by our Student Union. It’s a great place to grab a coffee and hang out with friends between or after lectures. I would really recommend their Mediterranean veggie wrap!



Here is the Library Square, and you guessed it… it’s where the Library is. The Library Square is used for events, stalls, and socialising. It’s always busy and with lots of people milling around. The sculpture that you can see in the picture is called ‘knowledge’. The sphere is the globe, and the arms represent the open-handed sharing and communication of experience and knowledge. Behind the statue is the Bancroft Building. This is where I have most of my seminars.

This is People’s Palace. I have my Arthurian Literature and my Postcolonial and Global Literatures lectures here. The original People’s Palace was opened in 1887 by Queen Victoria. It provided a library, reading rooms, a swimming pool and winter gardens for the local people of East London.

This is People’s Palace. I have my Arthurian Literature and my Postcolonial and Global Literatures lectures here. The original People’s Palace was opened in 1887 by Queen Victoria. It provided a library, reading rooms, a swimming pool and winter gardens for the local people of East London


The Regent’s Canal is right next to our campus. It passes through Mile End, Bethnal Green, all the way to Camden, right through the middle of London Zoo. The area surrounding the canal is beautiful, especially during the summer. On the left hand side, you can see some of our student accommodation. I have shown you a few places in Mile End Campus, but there are so much more to see!! I would strongly encourage you to come and visit us and have a look for yourself. We run campus tours throughout the year. You can book your tour via this link: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/openday/cant-make-it/campustours/index.html 








Sunsets, Science and Sunflowers

Exploring London is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable elements of living in this city.  From scouting out hidden treasures; obscure coffee shops and underground bars; to being able to weave through the crowds of tourists and relax with a book on parliament square with Big Ben in view, the quote “When a man is tired of London; he is tired of life” has never felt more true.  Here are 3 of my best-loved outings at the moment:


Columbia Road Flower Market
Between the hours of 8:00 and 15:00 every Sunday, Columbia Road transforms into a vibrant floral paradise.  After popping to The Hackney Coffee Company for my early Sunday morning caffeine fix, a stroll through the bustling flower market is the ideal way to begin my day.  The incredible aroma of the plants intertwined with hint of coffee coming from one of the many independent shops along the street, as well as the hundreds of people socialising whilst boasting their large bunches of sunflowers and attempting to balance their over-sized orchids on under-sized coffee tables makes Columbia Road Flower Market my happiest place in the city.


The Science Museum
London boasts an impressive range of Museums and Galleries, however the most significant one for me is, of course, the Science Museum.  I could spend hours meandering through the Space section, gawking at the rockets suspended from the ceiling.  Every so often the museum opens its doors after hours and hosts a range of unique workshops and interactive experiences, as well as a silent disco.  An evening spent talking to astronaut impersonators and dancing to Beyoncé below a suspended United States Scout was undoubtedly one of the most memorable evenings I’ve ever had.


Primrose Hill
After 15 minutes attempting to navigate the streets encompassing Regents Park in what felt like arctic conditions following a rather temperamental phone which occasionally told me to “make a legal U-turn”, I finally noticed a rather large hill poking out from behind some houses.   Honestly, the difficult journey and slight dizziness just made the view from the top even more satisfying.  Roughly 65 metres tall, Primrose Hill offers panoramic views of the entire city and on a wintery evening at sunset, it is one of the most spectacular things I have ever laid eyes on.  At the top very top is a stone with a William Blake inscription, reading “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”


I have an ever-growing list of favourite places; and an ever-growing list of places I want to visit.  I am so thrilled that I have another 2 and a half years in this city; although I highly doubt that this is an adequate amount of time experience everything London has to offer.


Breathing the London Air

Hal: Palace of Westminster Moving in to London, a bustling metropolitan city saturated with cultural differences and varied social backgrounds is to me an exciting challenge. During the first few weeks I moved in, I was busy with opening my student bank account, sorting out all the books that I need to purchase and decorating my room. Mingling with people here at first is difficult, especially when the kind of humour is different from where I come from – Indonesia! (If any of you wonder what and where on earth Indonesia is, it’s a tropical country home to Bali located in the Maritime of Southeast Asia.) The weather to me is a shock, perhaps more shocking than the cultural differences as the chilling wind stung my skin and made me shiver constantly. I underestimated the cold…I really did.

As a slightly socially awkward person, making friends and breaking the ice was tough. It took me time to find people I became comfortable with, and eventually spend time studying and playing around with.img_5232 Transitioning from school to university isn’t too rough if you keep this in mind – be open-minded! I’m glad to say, some first year modules supported the process of this transition, simultaneously refreshing your knowledge of the course that you are taking. Moreover, studies isn’t everything – you need your fun. I have joined the rowing club amongst the other hundreds of societies that the institution offer and I have been enjoying it to its fullest extent. Overall, eventually things get better over time and as the days and nights go by, Queen Mary and London feels more and more like home. Now I wonder what will London surprise me with next!

Part-time Work

Like a lot of university students, I work part-time. Not only is it great to have a bit of extra spending money on top of my maintenance loan, I think working part time is a really good way to gain professional experience. Also, since I started working, I believe I got better with organising my time. I have to fit work around my studies, and the only way to do this is to manage my time efficiently. Time management is a key skill and I believe it will come in handy in the future, after university.

Nevertheless, always remember: your degree comes first. I would recommend that you find work that’s quite flexible so your education is not compromised in any way. Whatever you do, don’t overcommit at work because then you wouldn’t have enough time for studying and assignments, and might feel overwhelmed. You need to look after yourself first and foremost. You may want to work less during term time and work more during the holidays. This summer I made the monumental mistake of not working. I told myself: ‘I have finished my first year at university so I deserve a break’. I was bored after a week. By the time this realisation hit me, all jobs were gone. I think the best thing to do is apply as early and as widely as possible.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

My friend, Dina and I at Campus Tour Training. We run Campus Tours so prospective students can get a better idea about what a university campus looks like.

I have to admit, I have heard some horror stories from my friends about horrible bosses and rude customers, but fortunately for me, I have never experienced such distressing things. I have had admin jobs before – I am not going to bore you by writing about the exciting world of photocopying! My favourite jobs, by far, are my current roles as an Ambassador for the School of English and Drama (SED), and a Widening Participation Student Ambassador. I have gained a lot of transferable skills from being an Ambassador. It has increased my confidence, improved my communications skills and helped to make me a better team player. I have talked about my job as a SED Ambassador before in this blog, so I will tell you a bit more about Widening Participation.

My fellow Student Ambassadors - Dina and Hanya

My fellow Student Ambassadors – Dina and Hanya

Most, in fact I think it is all, universities in the UK have a Widening Participation Department. Statistically, if you: are someone whose parents did not attend Higher Education; are eligible for free school meals; have parents who are from non-professional occupations; have a disability; are a young carer; are estranged from your family, or have lived, or are currently living, in local authority care, you are less likely to apply to university. The aim of Widening Participation is to address this, and encourage young people from these social backgrounds to consider attending university.

My job as a Student Ambassador is to engage and interact with school students, and to provide an insight into university life. For instance, this summer, I helped run the Year 9 Humanities Summer School at Queen Mary. This was one of my favourite projects! A group of students from our local schools got to spend a week as a university student, attending lectures, workshops, and a theatre trip. My task was to supervise them throughout the day, as well as to take part in Q&A sessions – answering questions about student life. We run lots of events throughout the year, I am going to include a link to the Widening Participation website below so you can check out what we are all about.

Widening Participation at Queen Mary: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/teachers/wp/index.html




Open Day

A few weeks ago, I was working as a Student Ambassador for the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary’s Undergraduate Open Day. I really enjoy working at Open Days because it is great to meet so many prospective students and talk to them about university, student life, and about studying English. My job is especially easy because I genuinely love my course so I could talk about it for hours!

Prospective students at our Summer Open Day 2016

Prospective students at our Summer Open Day 2016

Open Days provide prospective students with the opportunity to find out more about the course that they want to study, visit the university campus, and meet current students and staff. I think going to Open Days are invaluable when deciding your university options. There are many great higher education institutions in the UK, but you need to make sure you pick the one which is right for you. Attending Open Days makes it so much easier to narrow down your choices. This was certainly the case for me. I went to a lot of Open Days across the country during Sixth Form, but it was only after I came to visit QM that I felt certain. I don’t really know how to describe it – it was a gut feeling. I think all universities have a certain set of preconceptions attached to them so it’s always best to go and investigate for yourself. Here are my top three reasons why I would recommend you go to Open Days:

1.       Location, Location, Location

You are going to spend three – for certain courses more than three – years of your life at university. It is vital that your university is located somewhere that you would actually like spending so much of your time. I wanted to go to a campus-based university. A campus-based university is where the teaching facilities and the student accommodation are very close to each other. I think this is great because it makes students really feel like part of the university and student community. But at the same time, I wanted to study in London because, for me, it is the best place to be a student. There are so many different opportunities and so much to do, you would never get bored! Queen Mary is the perfect blend of the two. You may have a completely different outlook and want to get away from London as soon as possible or never want to step in it in the first place! I would recommend that you have a look around not just the university campus but also explore the surrounding areas to make sure it’s the most suitable place for you.

2.       The Course

This is, possibly, the most important factor when choosing your university. If you hate your degree, it would be very difficult to enjoy university. You need a reason to get up for the 9am lectures – well for me, the earliest is 12 o’clock but still! Lots of universities will provide similar course content. For example, I highly doubt there are any undergraduate English courses in the UK which doesn’t teach Shakespeare at some point within the degree. However, each university will have a different approach to teaching similar content. This is why I think it’s very useful to attend subject talks to find out more about the structure and style of the course. Talk to the academic staff and the current students about the university’s approach to your subject and think if it’s something you would enjoy. Find out about the assessment outlines: is it exam-based? Or is it heavy on coursework? Or is it a mixture of both? I would suggest that you play to your strengths and pick a course where you can thrive academically. Also, most universities will run workshops and taster sessions. I would recommend going to these because they provide a flavour of what it is like to study at an undergraduate level.

Taster session

Taster session


3.       The students

I think the best way find out more about a university is to talk to its students. Find out about their experience of the course: what aspects do they enjoy? Is there anything they find particularly challenging? How do they find the workload? Ask them about the effectiveness of the pastoral and academic support system that the university has in place. What made them want to choose this university? You might also want to know about their opinion on the local area and student accommodations.  

I am including two links for the date and time of future open days below. I really hope you go to as many of them as possible to find the university that’s perfect for you!

Queen Mary University of London Undergraduate Open Days: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/undergraduate/openday/

Upcoming Open Days for other universities: https://www.ucas.com/events/exploring-university/find-open-day

What is it like taking notes at university?

As I finish the second week of my third year at university, I thought it would be useful to share how I take notes during lectures. Although I took lots of notes during college and secondary school, one particular skill I didn’t use much was multi tasking. Typical note taking at university involves listening to a lecturer talk and, while they are doing this, taking notes. This was something I needed to adapt to. In the past teachers have allowed me time to take notes before transitioning to the next topic. At university, this tends to happen less in the majority of lectures. For students that prefer not to multi-task when note taking, lectures are recorded so students can review them in their own time. I use this tool a lot, and even get surprised at the amount of information I miss. Below is an example of what a recording would look like from the internet portal known as Q-review , which is accessible to all QMUL students.

QREVIEW lecture

Image 1: On the left screen are the lecture notes and on the right screen there is a recording of the lecturer in person.

When I am concerned about missing out on too much information during lectures, there is no need for me to worry, as most lecturers also provide lecture notes beforehand that students can use. For example, there is currently a module I study that has a lot of theory, and I find it useful that the lecture notes have dedicated space for me to write my own notes. You can see an example below of lecture notes I printed out this week:

Image 2: Example of lecture notes with my own annotations.

Image 2: Example of lecture notes with my own annotations using s the space provided.

In addition to lecture notes, instead of writing on removable paper pads, I buy blank exercise books like you may have at college/school now. These are very useful for easy access to information when needed, especially if you want to avoid having lots of loose paper from different subjects. Below are notes I took using my exercise book:

Image 3: Extra notes taken from a lecture.

Image 3: Extra notes taken from a lecture.

If you would like to see more examples of lecture notes, a simple internet search will give you many examples to look at. In a future blog, I will also be talking about the online platform, students at QMUL use, known as QMplus.

Welcome Week

Last week was Welcome Week at Queen Mary. Seeing loads of first year students, milling about the campus with a bewildered yet excited look on their face made me smile, and pause to reminisce about my first day as a fully-fledged university student.

I remember the night before the start of the term last year. I was terrified. What if I don’t make any friends? What if I don’t fit in? What if I hate my course? What if I wear the wrong thing in lectures? These questions kept swarming in my head. I could hardly sleep. My anxieties, however, were mixed together with a sense of adventure and excitement. For me, getting into university was the culmination of years of preparing for exams (GCSEs and A Levels) and months of waiting for the results. This was it. As clichéd as it sounds, I was about to start a new chapter in my life – meet new people and study a subject that I really enjoy. My fears were balanced and calmed by a feeling of optimism.

Recently, I was talking to my friends about this and realised I wasn’t the only person who felt nervous. For a lot of students, this is the first time they are moving away from home, from family and friends, and it is quite daunting. But the important thing to remember is that everyone is in the same boat. The issue with ‘what ifs’ is that the complete opposite of your worst fears are also a possibility: what if you met a group of really interesting and friendly people? What if you absolutely loved your course? At school, I think, we spend a lot of time worrying about fitting in but it is completely different at university. It is ok to be different and to have a different opinion to other people. I can guarantee you that you will gravitate towards people who have similar interests to you. You will also make friends with people who are very different to you, and that is a brilliant thing because I think we should celebrate difference as it expands our outlook and introduces us to new ideas.

My friend, Dina, packing up the information point

My friend, Dina, packing up the information point

Universities have Welcome Weeks to ease the transition into Higher Education. During this week there are no lessons. There are induction talks by each academic school, welcoming the new students to university and their course. The School of English and Drama asked me to briefly talk to the new students about my experience of university so far. I was a bit nervous but I am happy to report that it went really well – people laughed at my jokes! My department also held a Welcome Party which was a great way for the students to meet members of the staff and other students in their course. There were, of course, countless events organised by our Student Union. This included events held during the day and night.

The fabulous Student Ambassadors from the UK Student Recruitment Team

The fabulous Student Ambassadors from the UK Student Recruitment Team at the Freshers’ Fair

One of the best events to attend is the Freshers’ Fair. This is when all the student-led societies congregate together and set up stalls. Both old and new students can visit each stall to find out more about what they do and sign up. Societies are a bit like extra-curricular clubs that you have at school – only so much better! At QM, we have hundreds of societies. There are academic societies, sports societies, political societies, Wine Society, Game of Thrones Society, Harry Potter Society, just to name a few. Societies are a great way to make friends, and to meet people from different years, and people outside your course. Last year, I have to say I went a bit overboard and joined quite a few societies but I didn’t end up going to a lot of them. So, I’d definitely recommend you try out as many societies as possible, but perhaps make sure you’re really going to go to them before committing long-term.

I hope you have found this insight into Welcome Week a little helpful. My advice about starting university would be to have an open mind and a positive attitude. Try out new things – you never know you might really end up liking it!


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