University: My Experience

A week ago, I donned my (uncomfortable) cap and gown and finally confirmed that three years of reading, writing essays and fretting about every minute was finally over.

I won’t lie to you, I’ve delayed writing this post because, whilst I’ve been celebrating completing my degree and beginning post grad life, I’m struggling to believe it’s over. Just like that.

Before I go into post grad meltdown, I’m going to share my uni experience with you.

It all started three years ago

In 2016, after surviving secondary school and somehow getting the grades I needed (anyone who knows me will know A-Level history was a nightmare for me and, I’m pretty sure, could’ve been the reason I didn’t get to uni), my time at Liverpool John Moores University began.

It was a strange thing. Up until that point, I’d gone through my education with my twin sister, so (even though she was only a street away at University of Liverpool) university marked the first time I was on my own, which was exciting and terrifying all at once.

Of course, I got into my work full swing. Soon, I was reading plenty of books every week, trying to write to academic standards and actually enjoying myself.

Despite finding the best group of friends in my final year of school, school itself was one of the worst times of my life. I hated how people treated me at times, I struggled with maths and I cried a lot. It was good to see, as I got into my first year, that all those annoying things about school hadn’t stuck around for uni.

I realised things about friendships

I was lucky in a way. Only a few of my friends chose to leave home and head to universities outside of Liverpool, so the friendship group I’d built up over the years stayed intact.

That being said, going to uni made me realise just how hard you have to work at friendships. As I hadn’t left home like most people on my course, I didn’t see making friends as a necessary part of my uni experience, so as people made lasting friendships and friends from home posted pictures of their new friends, I felt weird and isolated.

Except I realised two things as my time at uni crept on. 1. People are obviously going to show their best bits of uni (there’s no point in them posting about how much they hate Slaggy Sandra for not doing the dishes, really) 2. Just because I don’t see or talk to my friends as much, it doesn’t mean they like me or I like them any less.

Looking back for this post, though, I do wish I’d branched out a little bit. I made a few friends, but more “friends” in the sense I knew they’d sign me into lectures if I needed or they’d sit with me in lectures and seminars then we’d part ways until the next week of lectures. I suppose the good in this is the fact that I know I’ve got to work harder and be more present in my friendships.

It wasn’t all great

The small amount of research I’d done before uni was completely overshadowed by the books and movies I’d read and seen over the years. The picture of uni that painted was all parties, no work and having the best time of your adolescent life.

I didn’t go to parties a great deal. I went out a few times but, after a while, my social calendar dried up because everyone soon realised work had to be done. Society makes students out to be constantly drunk or hungover, not really focused and not really caring about their subject or career. That’s not true.

As much as I would’ve loved to party my nights away, I realised that I actually wanted to do well and- honestly- I preferred getting my essays done and chilling than going out and fretting about them over a Berocca and a hangover.

They don’t really ever speak about how stressful uni is, either. It’s all about “snowflakes” and “they won’t know true stress until they get into the workplace”. You’re not only carving out an identity, you’re balancing your personal life with uni life and attempting to produce work that lives up. It’s a lot of pressure, a lot of stress and I cried a lot more than I thought I would over essays and reading and uni life.

It wasn’t always the great time I’d been led to believe. Sometimes I had those moments where I thought I’m not cut out for this, I can’t do this. Of course, I stuck it out and- eventually- I proved that annoying part of me that said I couldn’t was wrong!

Writing my dissertation was harder than I thought

(I wrote about the dissertation writing process: 1| 2| 3| 4| 5| 6| 7| 8| 9| 10| 11| 12| 13)

I always knew I’d have to write 8,000 words at some point so the actual prospect of writing my dissertation wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was how hard all the writing, redrafting, referencing was.

Of course, by sheer miracle (and several library trips), I eventually completed my dissertation “An exploration of female madness in Jane Eyre and The Woman in White”.

I think, looking back on it, I would’ve done a few things differently. I would’ve planned better, consulted my advisor more and gone over the word count (understandable when my feedback was full of “this needs to be explained more”). That being said, I was happy with my mark in the end…and I was glad to see the back of it!

I don’t know what I’m doing afterwards

A common question you get asked in (and outside of) uni is “What are you going to do next?”. I didn’t know the answer before uni and, honestly, I don’t know now.

The only thing I do know is that I don’t want to be a teacher. Even though it’s the “common” thing for English grads to do, I’ve never seen the appeal and, frankly, I don’t think I’d be very good!

The goal, for now, is to get started on my novel. It’s something I’ve said I’d do for a while and, considering I have time on my hands, this is probably the best time to start.

Obviously, I’ll have to get a ‘real’ job because – as the many writers and journalists I’ve encountered during my degree have said- (for most of us) “writing doesn’t pay the bills”. So, after my holidays (I’m headed to Florida next week and Portugal after that with the girls), I’m going to get into looking for jobs, writing and finding more to do than relaxing and boxset binging.

I’m worried about the future, I’m not going to lie, but I’m just going to take every day as it comes.

University wasn’t everything I imagined. I didn’t come out with a handsome boyfriend who reads (priorities, eh?), or loads of edgy friends who write poetry. Instead, I came out with a first class degree, a group of friends who didn’t abandon me despite our busy lives, and more confidence in myself and my ability than before.

An accurate representation of how I’m adjusting to post grad life

The hat hair was strong on this one

Life after Uni: An Update

It only seems right that today, when the sun is out in full force and everything looks fresh and new, I come out of blogging-based hiding (which is definitely a thing) with this post.

This post has been in my drafts for a while, mainly because it was unwritten and, secondly, because writing what you’re about to read hasn’t actually sunk in.

In about two weeks (though my time keeping and maths are awful, so it could be less), I’ll officially have a degree in English. Now that sounds like nothing in the grand scheme of things but, considering there was a point where my parents were told (because my twin sister and I were born premature, and I had hydrocephalus, a condition which means that there’s a huge buildup of fluid on my brain) I wouldn’t be able to walk and talk etc, this is actually a major thing.

At first, I didn’t feel the sense of relief I thought I would or the sense of joy, either. The inevitable “what on Earth do I do next?” question hung over my head and I just felt unmotivated and bored.

Fast forward to now and it’s not as bad. Luckily, I secured a casual job working alongside a lovely group of staff at an event in Liverpool I otherwise would’ve missed (Gaia at Liverpool Cathedral, for those of you wondering) which was my first EVER job interview. Then, during that time, I managed to get an internship at uni which is me to a T (gathering quotes, collecting recipes and blogging about all things food and literature).

Of course, that big, scary question still hangs over me a little now and then. In amongst the panic, though, I realised I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a clue about post uni life but I’ll figure it out soon. For now, I’m just going to enjoy the summer, get back to blogging, reading and baking and enjoy whatever post grad life has in store for me.

Recent posts

Dissertation Diaries: March 2019

Dissertation Diaries: February 2019

Dating: My Experience

Dissertation Diaries: 3 Months to Go

Hello!

Apologies for the lack of entries in my Dissertation Diaries series of posts. I’ve been super busy over Christmas and going into the New Year…just not “busy with dissertation reading or writing” kind of busy.

(You can find out just what I’ve been busy doing in my recent update!)

I’ve had two 2,500 word essays to write over the holidays, so my attention has been (and still is) on them- curse uni and post-Christmas deadlines! This has meant I haven’t concentrated on my dissertation quite as much as I hoped I would.

Starting next week, though, I’ll be focusing more because (if you can’t tell by this entry’s title) my dissertation needs to be done in three months. I’ve been relatively stress free going through uni, minus pre-essay submission panics, but writing a dissertation is actually pretty stressful. My feedback wasn’t too fantastic so, based on that alone, I know a lot of tweaking needs to be done.

I’m not really a resolutions person but, in terms of uni, my aim is to absolutely smash my remaining work, including my dissertation.

It’s scary because I keep doubting myself and my writing, and I love the comfortable bubble of neglecting my uni work and growing as a person. Yet, in doing uni and this final piece, I’m showing how much I’ve grown. I’m no longer the shy shell, used to people not knowing my name. I mean people don’t know my name even now, when I don’t have a smaller, skinnier surname sharer around to confuse people (I still think we look nothing alike) but I’m more confident in myself and- I hope- in 3 months time I’ll be happy for my name to be on this piece of work, showing how much I’ve worked my arse off!

Dissertation Diaries: Drafts and Deadlines

Hello! I hope everyone’s had a pleasant week and weekend. I spent mine part stressing about upcoming assignments (two on the week we finish semester one? Cheers uni, that’s very kind. NOT.), part getting the assignments actually done and (most importantly) I enjoyed the company of family I hadn’t seen in a while, celebrated my Dad’s birthday and danced the night away to Miles Kane (which was, in part, ruined by someone pouring their drink down me mid-gig!).

I’m hoping from next week (as I’m finished for this part of the year), I can post more on this blog. Maybe something Christmassy, hopefully the follow-up to this. For now, though, here’s my annual Dissertation related update.

As you’ll know, if you’ve been keeping up with my Dissertation Diaries posts (onetwothreefourfive, six, seven), I am now well and truly into it. My proposal has been marked, I’ve met with my advisor and today I completed my 2000 word draft chapter due on Friday.

Very productive, right?

I feel a bit of both about it, which basically means I feel good that I’m getting bits done with my dissertation and I’m feeling productive. It’s just…I’m worried that what I am producing is just, to phrase like a A-level teacher might’ve done, waffle.

Though it felt horrible getting 2000 words done, I’m looking at this positively. In a way, this is a good thing. I’m 2000 words into my dissertation, so only 6000 words need to be done after this (which is still a lot, but it’s less than when I started and 8000 words was such a daunting target), minus tweaks. Plus, getting feedback from my advisor will mean that either I can carry on writing how I am, which is great, or I just need to make changes. Either way, I’ll have a clearer idea of where my argument is going to go.

It’s just a shame that all I want to do at the moment is be cosy and work-free with a Christmas film on…is it acceptable to do just that in January/February onwards?

Asking for a friend (ok…me).

Dissertation Diaries: Why it’s Alright to Rewrite

Hello! Long time no blog! I apologise for my lack of posts recently, my attention’s been elsewhere with uni work, society duties and still having a personal life whilst everything’s going on. It’s times like this that I wish I could switch my worker-brain off, recline and enjoy a lemon drizzle muffin (though other baked, or healthier, treats are available).

Alas! The horrible thing about uni is that you are more or less always in work-mode. Third year, as I expected, is no different. I’ve chosen to take two modules this semester (and three next semester), with my dissertation popping up in sneaky little intervals.  Whilst it’s nice to be in two days a week, my chosen modules are still incredibly demanding: with plenty of assignments and reading you actually have to read AND remember quotes, secondary material and what the books are actually about…

(I need a nap just writing this post).

Of course whenever I get the chance, I write something for my dissertation (which I’ve documented in my Dissertation Diaries,   Dissertation Diaries: What to do once you’ve finished your proposalDissertation Diaries: Making a startDissertation Diaries: Getting there and, most recently, Dissertation Diaries: Chapter One), whether it be a source, a chapter or even just ‘I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING’. What I’ve found, though, is that with writing comes rewriting.

Rewriting happens, to me at least, when I spot something wrong grammatically (or Google spots it, when my eyes fail to do so!) or when something just doesn’t flow right. This whole thing used to annoy me so much, as I’d get attached to words and not want to get rid of them. That’s why I’ve written this post, to assure people (and myself) that rewriting isn’t a bad thing!

Why?

Well, you can write over your mistakes. If something doesn’t flow well on first read, or first glance, you don’t have to keep it. Plus, rewriting even just a small bit of an essay might change the way you think about an essay as a whole, leading to new ideas and possibly a different conclusion than you first thought.

Though rewriting feels like effort, it’s worth it.

In other news, I am 2,086 words into my Dissertation. That’s an intro, an abstract plus one and a half chapters- something I didn’t think I’d even get close to so soon. My dissertation proposal has been marked and, last Friday was supposed to be the week I finally got my feedback. Due to circumstances beyond my control, this feedback has been delayed but (I’m hoping) it’ll be some point this week. I’m worried about how this small part of my final project will be received, and the first mark is always the most brutal. That being said, it’ll either encourage me to work harder when it comes to the dissertation and the draft chapter or I’ll know I’m on the right track and there’ll be no sweat.

Word count: 2,086 words

Dissertation Diaries: Chapter One

Hello! My inspiration to blog has sort of wavered recently, as I’ve got uni and other things to focus my time on, so I apologise if my content is lacking a little recently.

Anyway, I hope you’ve all had a pleasant weekend. I went on another (fancy gin fuelled) date where I more than likely did something to embarrass myself (so, again Date, I can only apologise 🤦🏻‍♀️) and spent my Sunday shopping with just a little bit of uni work sprinkled in (completely forgot I had reading to do for Monday, which is always great).

(Catch up with my Dissertation Diaries posts: Entry One| Entry Two| Entry Three| Entry Four| Entry Five)

I’m happy to report that I’m now well over 1,000 words into my dissertation! A 2,000 word draft chapter is due next month and, compared to in my earlier posts, this actually doesn’t make me feel terrified beyond belief!

Of course, I know this is by no means my final outcome, there’s going to be a lot of tweaking and changing before I’m happy with it (and it abides by pesky “English Style Guide” regulations) but I’m incredibly happy with how it’s going so far.

This wouldn’t be a Dissertation Diaries entry without me giving some advice, though.

1. Reading: Read all the time. Read as you work, read when you’re not working, read around your subject. It’s boring and annoying at times but, who knows, you might find that breakthrough idea you’ve been looking for.

2. Sources: Harvard Referencing is a bitch. If there’s one thing I’ve hated all the way through this course it’s the constant need for every source to be referenced correctly. I know it’s so undeniably simple, but I’ve found referencing so difficult. So, here’s some ways to get around it. Keep a note of sources as you go along (with names, titles of the work, year, publisher, place of publication and page numbers) so, when you get to the dreaded Bibliography, it’s less of a nightmare. If, like me, you are shaken to your very core by the idea of referencing: get someone else to do it. I’m not saying pay someone else (although that’s tempting), but there are plenty of websites that will do the hard work for you…I won’t tell if you don’t!

3. Take breaks: The temptation with any assignment is to cram the word count into a given time frame then smash it out in one go. Though it’s incredibly tempting to cram, don’t. Yes, your proposal and actual project have to be in at a certain date, I get that. Just respect that you need time to do other stuff, too.

4. Say it, out loud: I’m not asking you to out your vampire lover with this one, don’t worry. This is just some advice I’ve fully taken on board after a dissertation presentation. Reading aloud is horrible, I get that. Of course, looking at your work in this way is good, to see how it flows and for picking up any errors you definitely miss from scanning over. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, print out your work and skim over it. Sometimes seeing it off screen you pick up those glaring errors we all miss.

5. The library is lovely: Libraries are disgusting. Not very good phone signal, busy and no food/drinks allowed in some parts, sounds like a nightmare! I think every student (or maybe even every person who’s had to go to one of these in their lifetime) has thought this about the library. I mean, yes, it’s not always the ideal place but the library is full of resources, can be quiet at times and (more often than not) you end up actually being productive. So, libraries are lovely, really. If they really aren’t your cup of tea though, coffee shops or book shops are perfectly fine too. Just find the best study environment for you…(it can even be your bed 😂).

That wraps up today’s entry. I don’t really know what the other content on my blog is going to be so…if anyone has any clue what they’d like me to write about, let me know! I know this blog is for me, but it’s also a space for me to talk about things people actually want to read.

Dissertation Diaries: Getting there

Hello! I hope you all had a great week and a fabulous weekend. I went on a date (which was full of laughs and strange conversations, so I apologise profusely, Date, if you’re reading this), got an assignment checked off, did some reading and spent today with family (and prepping myself for uni tomorrow after a long, tiring Reading Week).

If you’ve been keeping up with my “Dissertation Diaries”, you should know that, every Sunday, I try my best to get somewhere with my dissertation and- every Sunday- I post my progress (or lack of) just for you!

(Lucky you).

In my first post , I was in the dark. I was terrified at the prospect of writing so much on a topic of my choosing and it just felt so horrible and so unknown…eek! In my second post, I was getting somewhere and- honestly- I was hoping to get passed the planning stage. In my third post, I talked about what to do once you’ve stopped planning (which, in short, is to actually write).

In my most recent post, I spoke about making a start. It’s scary but, eventually, you have to rip the planning plaster off and get started. So today, instead of spending the day binge watching Netflix or, well, doing whatever else to avoid working, I got stuck in.

I’m 1000 words down!

All it took was putting the “Hold” app on my phone (which is free to download and rewards you with points for every 20 minutes you spend off your phone), putting on some tunes and powering through it.

I’m feeling a lot better than I did at the start of the dissertation, more sure of my topic, my writing and the dissertation.

Now, here’s a question. What should I post on Wednesday? The Great British Bake Off finished a while back (my thoughts on the final are HERE) and I tried out posting about books, but what would you like me to write about?

Dissertation Diaries: Making a start

Hello! I hope you had a pleasant week and a lovely weekend. I spent mine shopping, getting some reading done and wishing I had more of the spooky chocolate brownies  I made for Halloween!

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts on Sundays, you’ll know that I’ve started writing my “Dissertation Diaries”: a series of posts about my dissertation, what progress I’m making and any advice/tips I’ve learnt along the way.

Well, everyone, I’m happy to report that I’ve come a long way since my first Dissertation Diaries entry. In that entry, I wrote about how nervous and less than optimistic I was feeling about my dissertation (I mean, being forced to write 8,000 words with limited guidance? Who wouldn’t feel horrible about that?). In my second Dissertation Diaries entry, I spoke about getting passed the so-called ‘planning stage’ (which is pretty difficult if you’re comfortable just planning and not ready to actually write, like me most of the time!). Thankfully, my third Dissertation Diaries entry moved on towards ‘next steps’, as I spoke about what to do once the proposal’s over.

So now, it’s a matter of waiting for feedback on my proposal and- well- actually writing the dissertation! I’m actually terrified of the feedback for this proposal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with what I’ve done (minus, I came to realise when I started quoting a source today, using the WRONG surname in my proposal and bibliography!) but it’s by no means my best work. Plus, despite how lovely my adviser is, I’ve got a feeling there might be a harsh mark coming my way.

Of course, I have two options once I get my grade:

  1. If it’s good, I know my line of argument for my dissertation has some legs and I’ll happily go from there
  2. If I’m not happy with my grade, I’ll look closely at the feedback, read more and write the actual dissertation as best as I can

I can let out a sigh of relief now, considering the fact that that’s one hurdle jumped over. Now, my next thing is my draft chapter. This part is due mid-December, and should be 2,000 words. Of course, being who I am, I’d ideally like to get a good bit of my dissertation done before second semester starts (considering the fact that I’m taking three modules in that semester, rather than two).

It feels a bit nerve wrecking at the moment, knowing that 8,000 words can’t write themselves and (eventually) they’ll have to be done. I’m making sure I look at how these types of essays are structured, plus I’m ensuring I’ve read into the subject carefully and precisely. I know that, from now, a few library trips will be essential but what’s truly getting me through, minus keeping positive and the encouragement from family, is the end result: I’ll have produced something I’m proud of and be on my way to finishing my degree and whatever the future holds for me awaits.

On that note, I’ll leave this entry here. This Wednesday I’ll be trialing something new: talking about books. It’s a bit nerve wracking going from talking about one thing, gaining some love from that, to then talk about something different. As much as this blog is to get myself out there as a writer, it is always about me talking about what I love and, if you haven’t guessed it already, I love books.

As part of this new direction, I’ll be taking a bit of a different route: What I read last summer. I’ve put so much effort into the baking side of my blog, and I’ve began on the student aspect, but books haven’t really had a look-in. So, I’m hoping after Wednesday’s post that I’ll start talking about books more….and I hope you guys like that direction.

Word count: 654 words

Dissertation Diaries

Hey guys!

I know you’re probably thinking “where’s today’s recipe post?” considering that’s what you’re used to seeing on this blog on Sunday. However, I wanted to move away from posting baking content so much and towards something I talk about in my “About Me” section.

As well as an avid baker, and book lover (I’m sure you’ll find out in the future!), I’m also a student at Liverpool John Moores University. I’m loving my time there so far, learning more about my chosen subject (English Literature) and myself (like the fact that I will always fret about getting assignments done and I will almost always get them done early!).

In order to get a feel for uni life, or at least my uni experience, I thought I’d start posting my “Dissertation Diaries” , where I’ll keep you updated with how I’m feeling, any obstacles I’m facing (or any good things I’ve found) and the all important word count. It’ll be a place for me to vent and let off some steam but, also, I hope it’ll be a place for people who haven’t got there yet (or are in the process) to realise that your Dissertation actually isn’t as bad as you think!

It’ll be four weeks ago this week that I sat down for my first dissertation related lecture and meeting with my advisor. I was incredibly scared at that point, as (even though I’ve known that I had to do it since I got to uni) there’s been little mention of the dreaded D word until now. I mean, if someone told you to write an 8000 word essay, you’d feel panicked too, right?

My love of Victorian novels I’d developed on the course meant that, if I only knew one thing about my dissertation, I knew I wanted to write about Victorian fiction. This led me to choose Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Woman in White.

Where did I go from there? I thought about how they linked, in the way that they all show mental illness in women and- in my eyes- place has an impact on the women’s mental states.

At the minute, my dissertation is in the planning stages. A proper proposal is due November 2nd, which I’m nervous about (considering it’s not done and I’m worried I won’t be able to convey my ideas and research in the way I want to). Instead of letting it get the better of me, I’m just going to go for it and see how it goes- it counts for 10% of my final grade, which feels scary. BUT I know that either it’ll work out well and I’ll feel great going into the main part (writing the actual thing) or I’ll know what I need to work on.

At the minute, I’m living by three R’s:

Number One:

“Read”: You know what people say, you write better when you read a lot. So I’m reading a lot. I’m going to read around my subject more, read about how to structure my proposal more and just read, read, read!

Number Two:

“Research”: After all, you can’t write about something you’ve not researched. It means I’m revisiting some stuff I’m familiar with but, also, I’m looking at new perspectives in terms of my chosen books and ideas.

Number Three:

“Relax”: I know it sounds like I’m defeating the object but, as well as working really hard, you’ve got to make sure to give yourself some time to unwind, recharge and relax. This also works for if you get yourself in a bit of a flap over your dissertation (which I have, and will still do), relax. It feels scary at the start but, eventually, you’ll start feeling better in yourself and your ideas.

So that’s this week’s Dissertation Diaries done. At the minute, I feel a little bit stressed about it but- as hard as I can- I’m trying to let myself not be stressed.

That’s me, for now, but you can still catch my thoughts on the latest episode of The Great British Bake Off on Tuesday!

Current word count: 0 (still planning)