Undergraduate Blogs

Moving into the Real World

After a fantastic first year living in student accommodation, for my second year studying at Queen Mary I have moved off campus and into private accommodation. The residential block I live in is clean and modern, with easy access to local shops and amenities. I share my flat with one of the many friends I made on my course last year, he’s friendly, reliable and clean, so that’s the major boxes ticked. My flat is a convenient 20-minute walk from campus and only 5 minutes from the nearest railway station. Dealing with landlords and estate agents, living off campus and managing bills myself, means I have some more responsibilities than I had living on campus in the first year; where most of my bills were incorporated into the cost of rent. As I no longer have the comforts of student living, most notably a cleaner, and my neighbours are not students who go to Queen Mary, for the first time, I feel like I am living in the real world. Here’s a look at some of my flat’s highlights:

Living Room (Image 1):

 

Image 1:

 

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First stop on the tour is the living room. This is the main communal space and social hub of the flat, hence my flatmate and I spend most of our time here. In the room we’ve got a television and sofa, whilst the adjacent balcony offers views of the main road below. Most importantly, the living room has witnessed a great many victories from myself on Mario Kart.

 

Bedroom (Image 2):

 

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Next stop on the tour is my bedroom; I definitely did not just clean my room before taking this photo. Otherwise known as the essay factory, my bedroom is where most of my work gets done, but, equally, it is a place of rest and relaxation after a long day’s work. That bed looks very tempting!

 

Kitchen (Image 3) and Bathroom (Image 4):

 

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I hope these next two rooms are self-explanatory.

 

Rooftop terrace (Image 5):

 

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The aspect of my flat that drew my flatmate and I to it when we were initially shown the property was the access we had to the communal rooftop terrace, which, on a good day, offers some really nice views of London.

Writer’s Block

For an English student, there are few things scarier than a blank page. This hasn’t happened to me for a while, but last week I was struck by the dreaded writer’s block. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t know how to begin my assignment. My ideas didn’t feel original. I hated how I was expressing myself. I just wanted to screw up the piece of paper and throw it in the bin with a dramatic flair – except I couldn’t even do that because I was working on my laptop. Chucking that in the bin would have been a rather expensive way to vent my frustration!

I am happy to report that I managed to complete my essay… eventually. It was a far more stressful event than it should have been. However, this process did allow me to identify a number of effective ways to overcome the writer’s block:

1. Free Writing

This is a technique that’s often used in creative writing but I think it also works for essays. In free writing you write continuously for a certain period of time. You don’t need to worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation. Take a look at your essay question and start writing the first thing that comes to your mind. Don’t think about whether what you are writing makes any sense, let your mind wander, let it jump from one idea to the next. It’s a great way to warm up and to stretch your writing muscles, while keeping a log of your thoughts. Later, you can organise these ideas in a coherent fashion or you may feel that the ideas you have come up with are not useful to your question, but that doesn’t matter because the point of free writing is to get you started and get over the initial block.

2. Mind map

Get a massive piece of paper and lots of coloured pens (you don’t need to use coloured pens but I just think it’s fun to use them and your notes look pretty). Jot down everything that you think will be relevant for the essay: evidence from your primary texts, possible line of arguments, critical thoughts. Seeing everything together is a great way of spotting the connections that will show you the way forward.

3. Talk through your ideas with a friend

Find a friend who is disciplined and motivated and discuss your ideas with them. I find that through the process of explaining your idea to someone, you actually end up gasping a better understanding yourself. They can also give you constructive feedback which will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your argument.

4. Change of scenery

If you are sick of your spot in the library where you have been sitting for what feels like hours, go for a walk and get some fresh air. Some light exercise often helps to clear your mind, and a change of scenery might give you a change in perspective.

A walk along Regent's Canal is always refreshing

A walk along Regent’s Canal is always refreshing

5. Get rid of distractions

I don’t know about you but I am easily distracted, especially by social media and the internet. I would sit down and promise myself that I will get my essay done by this afternoon but before you know it, 4 hours have passed and I’m on BuzzFeed figuring out which Harry Potter character I am (Hermione, if you must know). Force yourself to turn off your phone. I would also recommend installing apps such as ‘StayFocusd’ on your laptop which allows you to set a timer on time-wasting websites and once you have spent your allocated time, it blocks the sites for the rest of the day so you have no choice but to get on with your work. If the temptation to turn your phone back on is too much, try downloading ‘Freedom’ which can block your access to Internet for 8 hours at a time. As scary as it all sounds, it does increase your productivity!

I really hope you never have the misfortune to experience the writer’s block, but it is inevitable that you will at some stage of your academic career, whether it is during your GCSEs, A Levels or when you start your undergraduate degree. So when it happens, fear not, these simple steps will help you conquer it.

Delving Deeper Into Yourself

I reckon most of us have probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Indicator Type test. Well if you haven’t, you can check your ‘personality’ at https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test. According to this test, I am an ENFJ-T. However, I won’t elaborate too much about this –  there’s something else interesting about your personality.

 

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Do you know that every individual also has a risk personality? Psychological Consultancy Ltd created an assessment to evaluate one’s risk personality. These personalities are shown in the Risk Type Compass® below.

 

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Unfortunately, we would be unable to take the assessment as these are mainly created for businesses. This assessment has particular relevance to the banking and finance, insurance, energy, manufacturing and consulting sectors. Why do I have to say all these? Because as maths students, many of us are attracted to those industries.

 

Especially in the sectors mentioned above, an effective management of risk within the industry is vital to its growth. A study done by researchers over a 19-year period on over 1000 senior bankers from more than 150 were carried out. The study measures the riskiness of strategies of these bankers. It found that personalities were the integral factor in risk-taking.

 

Most organisational failures are typically caused by taking too much risk or taking insufficient risk, e.g. a group of predominantly risk-takers tend to amplify risk-taking, and a group with a great number of risk-averse members are less likely to take them. Hence, we need a more diverse range of personalities to balance this out to achieve an effective risk management! Of course, there are other factors that would make this work, such as establishing working relationships and concise communication with your colleagues in the firm. Other than winter, a number of us are in the season of applying for internships. Perhaps, if you are confident of your risk type or personality, could this probably be a point to mention to employers? (ehem, maybe.)

 

It is good for us to know ourselves deeper. Not just our risk personalities, but who we really are. More fully understanding yourself is a catalyst to personal growth – in studies, applying for jobs, decision-making and many more. Most significantly, always be genuine to yourself – no one is better than you at being you!

 

 

Living at University

New responsibilities

When I arrived on campus for my first year in student housing, I did not know what to expect from university life. I knew I was going to be living on the same site as my lecture buildings, which would come in handy. But this was the first time I was going to be fully responsible for myself,  previously I had only ever lived with my parents.

At first my new responsibilities, like cooking, cleaning and money management, seemed daunting, but with the passage of time these became part of my everyday routine; they were nothing to get too stressed over. I nervously anticipated the start of my time at university, wondering if my flatmates would be friendly, but most importantly how clean they were, as, after all, I would have to spend a year living with them.

 

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Image 1: The view from my flat window

My Flat:

My apartment was modern and came with all the essentials for student living. It was an en-suite, with a personal fridge in my room, eliminating the confusion caused by shared fridges. There was something going on most nights; the kitchen became the main social area of the flat. It came with the essential facilities, including multiple ovens, and was cleaned weekly as part of the cost of rent, but, as you can imagine with nine people sharing one communal area, it got messy quickly. As I am relatively low maintenance, a weekly shop of around £20 covered my shopping for essentials. It also had to budget for travel, because I was living away from my family, and I still wanted to go home and see them from time to time.

 

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Image 2: My kitchen, which, thankfully, was regularly cleaned by the university’s cleaning staff.

 

Fantastic Flatmates:

I lived in Pooley House with eight other people, four were exchange students from America and Australia and four were home students (from the UK). Thankfully, my initial anxieties were quickly extinguished by my new fantastic flatmates, who were all very kind and welcoming. With them I have made friends for life. Over the course of the year we bonded as a flat and had a lot of fun, making my time at Queen Mary particularly enjoyable. What’s more, the experiences I’ve had with them has enabled my social life to flourish, in a way that it had not done so previously. Indeed, the bustling university night life, in the heart of London, is something I wouldn’t have been able to fully experience, had I stayed relatively isolated from it all at home. Since moving out, I have enjoyed more freedom than I would have at home, I can now choose when to go to bed and what I want to eat.

My first year flew past. I am now in my second year and have moved into private accommodation, ready to do it all again with new flatmates.

 

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Image 3: A birthday surprise from my flatmates. One of the highlights of my year was the birthday party my flatmates threw for me, it was also lovely to receive the card signed by everyone and the presents they bought me.

 

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Image 4: Another great part of living in student accommodation were the themed nights we had, these included: burrito, curry and movie nights. This picture was taken on one of the burrito nights we had, and, as you can see, my flatmate approves.

Getting Used To Readjusting and Experiencing More to Life

I used to sit at the back row in lectures sipping on my long black from Ground Café, while I listen to the lecturer explain. I’d nod in agreement and understanding of the material, and write down vital key points. I usually hit the gym or get extra sleep after lectures like these.

Keywords: USED TO.

Second year is tough as you have to readjust some things again. I’d come early to be able to save my friends and I some seats closer to the front. That implies waking up earlier as I no longer stay in the convenient halls on campus. I still tend to daydream in classes of my summer back home in Indonesia with good friends – and although it sounds really depressing how the start of this year goes, it actually isn’t.

Keyword: READJUST.

I find that the materials in second year are mostly based on your first year. Without a strong fundamental knowledge in first year, this year will feel difficult. However, as I am studying Mathematics with Actuarial Science, I feel that the modules made compulsory for me included the technical skills and knowledge that I need to becoming an actuary, for instance, “actuarial mathematics”. It has been very busy this year, considering internship online applications were mostly opened at the same time as term started. So I definitely recommend making a timetable for yourself so that you can balance and have time for other things as well, may they be work or leisure.

For the first years reading this, I recommend you to get work experience that would be relevant to your CV for second year internships.

For the second years reading this, join me in applying for internships. I’ve been rejected by a few but I’m still going. Hold on tight and keep going – we’ll get there.

Now, I drink my coffee quicker and take my notes faster than my cognition. I put on my earphones and launch Spotify while I revise in the library during hours between lectures or tutorials. I come home and after getting dinner, I continue either my revision, coursework, or online applications. This repeats until the weekend wakes me up like the morning light that shines on my face as it slid through the gaps in the blinds. Trust me though, despite the stress, challenges, and difficulties, it’s all part of that missing word, that in real life has the potential to make you grow and learn over time.

Keyword: EXPERIENCE.

It’s OK to not be having fun

“It’s such a doss year!”

“Freshers is so epic!”

“Everyone is so nice!”

These are just some of the phrases I heard both before, and during my first year in medical school.

With freshers’ week fast approaching, I imagine prospective students are starting to feel the fear and excitement that comes with opening a new chapter in one’s life. It’s no wonder; the first year of university is often portrayed as the most instructive and adventurous time in our studies, even in our lives….perhaps that’s why it was so easy for me to feel alone in my unhappiness during this period. Between moving away from home, being dunked head-first into a flurry of confusing lectures, and navigating the foreign social landscape, I felt as if I were caught in the eye of a storm: directionless, isolated and hopeless. It’s hard to know who to listen to during freshers- the second-year who tells you it’s OK to miss lectures? Your friend who says you should start revising a month early? Your specialist lecturers who insist their teaching will be imperative for your future career? How did everyone else have it so together?

This is not meant to put prospective students off. In fact, that time of struggle taught me a lot about being a “grown-up”:

  • Never set your standards (professional and personal) by the apparent certainty of someone else.
  • Never think that the people around you aren’t as scared as you are.
  • Never think that bad times will last.
  • At some point, someone will gossip about you. Move past it and so will everyone else.
  • Friendships happen.

I hope that by writing this, or through my interactions with scared-looking freshers, that I’ve helped pay some of these lessons forward. As for me, the lesson I’ve learned is to always be helpful and gentle to the people around you…especially freshers going through the torture of FunMed!

A Day in My Life: Wednesday 27th September 2017

Summer is over but a new chapter of my life is beginning, I have just started my second-year reading History and Politics at Queen Mary. As I am no longer new to the university, finding my way around campus and adjusting to my new timetable is easier. The campus at Queen Mary includes the teaching buildings and accommodation on one site. Below is an outline of how I spent my first Wednesday in second year – an example of a day in my life:

8:00 am: My alarm goes off, but it’s bit early for me, so, with time on my side, I stay in bed a little longer.

9:00 am: Finally, having mustered up the energy, I wake up and get ready to go.

10 am: To shake the cobwebs away and prepare myself for the day ahead, I did a quick session in the gym. Queen Mary has its own gym, the Qmotion sport and Fitness Centre, and I used this last year when living in university accommodation (halls). However, now that I have moved into private accommodation, a rented flat a short distance from campus, my new, local gym is more practical to get to, but has equally good facilities and customer service.

 

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Image 1: Me on the roof of my flat, just before heading to the gym.

Midday: After walking to campus, I arrive at my History lecture. A lecture is a talk by an academic on a given subject, where students are expected to take notes. Class sizes are a lot larger than in secondary school, with potentially over 100 students attending. Today’s focus was early German history, from its formation to World War 2. I’ll spare you the specific details today, but (spoiler alert) it didn’t end well.

1pm: Straight after this I went to a free taster session for Fencing, one of Queen Mary’s 60 sports teams, having signed up at the Welcome Fair. During the 2-day event the full range of Queen Mary’s 200 plus societies are showcased and students can sign up to the societies they are interested in. It was a quick and fun introduction to Fencing’s basic techniques aimed at novices, like myself, of any academic year, who wanted to try out a new sport before fully committing to it (I have since signed up for the full year).

2.30 pm: I then went to Queen Mary’s Mild End Library, where I printed off, read and made notes on my lecture readings. As part of my degree I am expected to read around my subject independently to supplement the lecture so that I can participate in in-depth discussion, in much smaller groups, during the seminar tomorrow.

5.45 pm: Finally, time for dinner! I usually make my own meals, as it is cheaper and healthier than ready meals or take aways, today I had Chicken in a satay sauce and noodles (image 2).

 

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7 pm: Over the course of my first year, I made many new friends for life; some were people who I lived with and others I made through my course. A few of them have become my new flatmates for this year. With my work finished for today I could enjoy some downtime with them. It wasn’t all relaxing though, as our game of Mario Kart Wii got very intense (image 3), although I’m pleased to say that I eventually won the race. Afterwards, we went out socialising.

 

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11.30 pm: Exhausted, we returned home and swiftly went to bed (image 4).

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Top 10 Places to Visit in Mile End

Are you new to Queen Mary and exploring the area? Maybe you are a Queen Mary veteran who simply wants to leave the house without having to endure the tube. Whatever your age, interests (or the weather), Mile End has an abundance of activities to suit everyone. To help you enjoy those long summer days, here is a helpful guide to the top 10 places to visit without having to leave Mile End.

10. Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is London’s most urban Woodland, and one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries. Whilst the Cemetery is now a designated park and hasn’t been used for burials since 1966, the unique history and solace of the park makes it the perfect summer escape. From the stories of mass graves burying up to 30 deceased bodies during the 1850’s to being bombed 5 times during The Blitz, the cemetery is now a nature reserve and educational facility. From my experiences, the Cemetery Park is the perfect place to escape to with a good book on a sunny afternoon, although it is open from dawn until dusk. Looking for something to fill in the long summer days? The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park are always searching for volunteers to join their team and help tend to the park.

9. The Half Moon (AKA ‘Spoons’)

Everybody knows that Wetherspoons is a student staple: cheap food, cheap drinks and a relaxing atmosphere. Mile End is home to the beloved Half Moon Wetherspoon franchise, “the local” for Queen Mary students. The pub and restaurant is the former home of the Half Moon Theatre and a Methodist Chapel; the interesting history and architecture of the Half Moon therefore makes it a must-see for anybody visiting Mile End. If you’re looking for summer drinks, ‘pub grub’ or in need of a substantial meal, The Half Moon is the place to go. And fun fact: The Half Moon was dedicated to showcasing modern socialist plays during its time as a theatre.

8. Mile End Skate Park

Looking to take up a new skill? Mile End Skate Park is perfect for learning the art of skateboarding, with several ledges, flat areas and manual pads to help assist beginners with getting their balance on board. Come rain or shine, Mile End Skate Park has indoor and outdoor ramps and many unique lines on which you can spend all day practicing. You could even pass the time at the skate park celebrity spotting, as Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks filmed their music video for “Heart Skips a Beat” in Mile End Skate Park back in 2011 when the park first opened.

7. The Coffee Room

With all the leisure facilities and sporting opportunities available in Mile End, this list would not be complete without a hip café to refuel and relax. My personal favourite is the Coffee Room, situated on Grove Road. Run by a team of friendly Italians, the coffee and food is perfezionare and the café has an authentic Italian ambiance. Whilst the coffee may be slightly more expensive than coffeehouse chains, it is worth paying those extra pennies; they even serve a bespoke Italian hot chocolate. As a lunch option, The Coffee Room offers a healthy selection of foods which can be enjoyed in an intimate terrace or cosy indoor seating area. Ultimately, I would recommend The Coffee Room for its delicious selection of cakes, cookies and brownies (and its baked goods in general, of which I have shamelessly tried them all).

6. Mile End Leisure Centre

Also known as Mile End Stadium, this venue has multi-sports facilities available to use at reasonable rates. The leisure centre currently holds 10 sports courses, ranging from street dancing and trampolining to a specialised Tom Daley Diving Academy. Alternatively, the leisure centre has a variety of facilities such as a fully-equipped gym, sports hall, studio and swimming pools which you can use on a pay as you go basis or for a subscription fee. If you’re looking to get fit with friends, Mile End leisure centre also has numerous pitches and tracks which can be hired out for group sessions.

5. Mile End Park

Running alongside Queen Mary is Mile End Park; a unique park divided into different zones, each with their own personality. A popular hangout for Queen Mary students during the summer months is the Art Pavilion, which hosts community events including farmer’s markets and summer fetes. My personal favourite part of the park is the Ecology Park, which is home to many species of wildlife that live in the picturesque lake. In addition to wildlife spotting in the Ecology Park, the Ecology Pavilion is also a popular venue for weddings and christenings. And of course, no park is complete without a play area… the one situated in Mile End Park is very impressive and boasts state-of-the-art children’s playground facilities (which I unfortunately haven’t tried). As the park is an impressive 32 hectares in size, there is also an audio walking tour to help you discover all the opportunities Mile End Park has to offer.

4. The Greedy Cow

For award-winning burgers and steaks, Mile End’s Greedy Cow is a must-visit restaurant. Every visit to the Greedy Cow has been an exciting fine-dining experience, with exotic meats such as Wagyu, kangaroo, bison and crocodile recently appearing on the menu. Matching the unusual steak cuts is the quirky interior of The Greedy Cow, which has a rustic theme but a cosy atmosphere. The Greedy Cow has also won several TimeOut ‘Love London’ awards for its quality service and quality meat. Great food and good value really does lie at the heart of The Greedy Cow, and with a special Student Lunch Special offering a burger, side and unlimited soft drinks for £7.50, missing it would be a real miSTEAK.

3. Mile End Climbing Wall

If you’re really looking to challenge yourself over the summer months, look no further than Mile End Climbing Wall which has some of the highest walls without roped protection in the country. The 16,000sq ft climbing surface has something to offer for everyone, as the centre runs sessions for complete novices to seasoned professionals. Famous for having one of the friendliest and most relaxed atmospheres of all the climbing walls in the capital, Mile End’s climbing wall has the perfect environment and tailored sessions to help you learn; including taster sessions, level 1 bouldering and weekend or evening beginners’ classes. Looking for a more social occasion? Why not book a party or join the climbing club at Mile End climbing wall?

2. Roman Road Market

As a self-confessed shopaholic on a student loan, Roman Road Market is my paradise. Whilst the shops on Roman Road are an eclectic mix of modern and traditional, the market is primarily a clothes market which sells branded favourites, such as Topshop and French Connection, but at a fraction of the price. Roman Road Market has been running for over 150 years and is situated on the oldest known trade route in Britain; its long-established history therefore attracts some of the best market sellers around. The market runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; although I’d advise anybody to get there early to grab the best bargains.

1.Victoria Park

Number one place to visit in Mile End is, of course, the famous Victoria Park; London’s oldest and most beautiful parkland. The 218-acre park is also known as the People’s Park, as it was created by the Queen Victoria to provide a recreational space for the working classes of East London during the Victorian era. Today the recreational function of the park continues all year round, with Victoria park offering numerous leisure facilities, including a boating lake, lawn bowling area and a large bandstand. During the summer months, the park really comes alive and hosts some of the UK’s biggest music festivals, such as Lovebox and Field day. The park actually hosts an extensive summer events programme, and all the events are free! Moreover, for the best brunch in London, look no further than the Pavilion café in Victoria Park. Situated in the Western area of the park, the Pavilion Café sells a delicious range of brunch classics (well, in my experiences, a delicious range of avocado-related dishes which have satisfied my avocado obsession). Whilst an afternoon chilling in the park is a quintessential perfect summer afternoon, in Victoria Park you can spend your day in London’s best park without even having to leave the comfort of Mile End!

Hello From The Other Side!

How’s everybody doing? I hope everybody’s having a great time relaxing, or preparing in advance for many things ahead! Summer’s always the best time for everybody – personally for me, this is the first time I am experiencing summer that lasts for around 3 months and this explained fully why summer is said to be the best 104 days (according to Phineas and Ferb…anyone?). Why? Because this is not the case from where I come from, that is, Indonesia!

 

Coming from the other side of the world means that coming home after 9 months of living in London has made me miss home more than ever. Coming back to Indonesia allowed me to meet my family and friends, and also savour all of our dishes and street food and all the small things that I have always been craving for in London. Of course, happiness is meant to be shared and hence I will share my joy with all of you through some pictures to allow you to see through my eyes.

 

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Food as expected – and a bowl of chili!           Nighttime culinary market called Cibadak.

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Nature! Indonesia attracts tourists mostly for its natural scenes!

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A bowl of meatballs in soup would cost about 1.5 pounds and two or three bowls are enough to make you full! Definitely, the picture on the right is a restaurant that serves everyone’s (ehem) favourite instant noodle – Indomie – that is topped with Indonesian traditional spices and sauces!

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Being at home means being able to play with the cats again!

 

Even though summer is such a great time for all of us, let us not forget a few things! For many of you applying to Queen Mary, don’t forget to sort out your accommodation, tuition fees, or even your visas if you are coming from outside the UK. Get prepared for university life! It may be hard to settle and fit in in the beginning, but eventually ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ and you will meet the right group of people for you, and QMUL is even glad to help you out with their buddy scheme which allows you to feel more than welcome on campus. Most importantly, going to Queen Mary means that you are about to be surrounded by a diverse environment, and you will be able to see the beauty coming from the differences every one of us owns.

 

With that, have a fantastic summer and have a good time, and see you soon!

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