Need to do x, y & z

Uni Updates

While thinking about writing this entry I couldn’t help but think ‘I really need to get better at blogging’. It’s a thought I had just under a year ago, and many times before that. There are so many things I need to do, so many I have done and the last year really has just felt like an ongoing list of things I need to do. I guess that is what life is about, moving from one thing to another and on a positive note at least I am progressing. It’s especially important that I remember that right now because since September I have been quite seriously ill. Not at death’s door or anything like that, but my god did I feel like it a few times. I caught the flu and for three weeks it was absolutely awful. I’ve only ever had flu one other time I can recall and I had the same reaction. It’s why I am such a big fan of the flu vaccine and have been getting it since I was 16. Unfortunately the flu vaccine isn’t a cure, and every year the doctors need to choose which flu strain they think will be the most prevalent. Apparently this year they made the wrong choice and one of the other strains turned out to be more widespread, so my flu vaccine did nada.

 

As if flu wasn’t bad enough my body decided to add to the fun; I developed tennis elbow in my left arm and had sinusitis. The flu took such a toll on my body that I developed became post viral which basically means my immune system got smashed to bits. For a while there I had pretty bad fatigue and every day I’d get up for an hour or less before having to collapse into bed with crippling fatigue. I’m still feeling post viral, which basically means I’m really run down, have not been able to concentrate for more than 15 ish mins at a time (end of term essays were great fun…), and generally feeling really crappy with every symptom under the sun. I’m  slowly regaining my health back because I have exams in May and being able to concentrate for 15 mins at a time ain’t going to cut it in a 2 1/2 hour exam.

 

I missed pretty much all my classes, including the creative writing workshops I have been looking forward to for years. Fortunately I managed to persevere and got my dissertation completed, as well as all my assignments on time. The past few weeks have been incredibly difficult and stressful, but I did it. Now just my exams and that’s my final year over with and I graduate. What I’ll graduate with is yet to be seen. I had planned to go into teacher training, however, my Maths GCSE grade doesn’t quite cut it up here in Scotland. I could go to college for a year, struggle with the one subject I find terrifying and still not get the grade. I’ve also had time to think about it and have decided for various reasons not to pursue teaching. My dissertation supervisor, the author Laura Marney, was very supportive of my writing and teaching takes an awful lot of time up. If I want to seriously pursue my writing I don’t think I have the time to do both. So I am applying for a postgraduate course in Library and Information studies which leads to working in libraries (duh) as well as publishing.

 

At present I am coming to the end of my ‘week off’ before hitting the revision. I really enjoyed the selection of texts from my term 2 courses, Children’s literature and Science fiction, to the point that they both added a pile of more books to my ‘to read‘ list. I’ve also registered with our local library at last, which is handily located at the end of our road πŸ˜› So I am catching up on some much needed reading for pleasure πŸ™‚  Also playing some WoW and catching up on various online projects.

All Change

Uni Updates

In the past few weeks I’ve had to change my class timetable several times, so the post I previously wrote about classes is now pretty much null and void. One of the changes I had expected; Creative Writing Dissertation is for 4th years or 3rd years doing a general humanities degree. Since I am neither it means that I don’t need to take it this year. The good news is that I don’t need to resubmit a portfolio next year; I just need to email to say I’m still interested. While I was looking forward to it, I have to admit I am a little glad of the delay. The last year has been very difficult and while I’ve been planning my novel out in my head, I’ve not actually touched it for months. So a year of getting involved with it again will really help πŸ™‚

The other change is that I am no longer taking comparative literature courses. I received a very unprofessional and condescending email from one of the senior lecturers. There was a specific bit where my disabilities were mentioned and that is all I am saying. I felt extremely uncomfortable after this and have therefore chosen not to take the courses. I’m disappointed because I was looking forward to them, but the bad outweighed the good. It has actually worked out in my favour because it meant I was taking an extra course due to the weird 20 credits for comparative literature modules, where as english literature ones are 30 credits. That means two courses per semester, where as with the comparative literature I was doing 3-4 – the comparative literature ones lasted 2 semesters. Each english lit course is just one semester. It likewise has given me a much nicer timetable; I’m off both wednesday and thursday, with one 10am lecture on fridays.

So what am I actually taking now? I’m still taking Victorian Literature. This term it is accompanied by Medieval English Literature:

On this course Honours students will have the opportunity to explore texts from the period of Chaucer’s lifetime, when English literature exploded into life. The texts selected will be contextualised within the fourteenth-century cultures and societies within which they were produced and received. Themes and theories covered will be based on topics such as authorship, patronage, sexuality, gender, piety, personal identity, historicism, legend, medievalism, audience, manuscript production. At the end of the course, assessment will give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability (1) to translate and comment on select passages of late medieval literary texts; (2) to discuss and locate select texts within the culture, society and linguistic and literary milieux in which they were produced; (3) to discuss the approaches and techniques available to and used by critics and commentators in the interpretation of these texts.

 

For those of you who don’t know; I did my history of art dissertation on manuscripts. Apocalyptic manuscripts to be precise. I also really enjoyed a manuscript based course I did in third year, so this is essentially looking at manuscripts from the opposite side; literature rather than art. I also took a previous medieval studies course during the same degree, so I figured this would be building up on knowledge I already have.

In term 2 I still have Humanities in the classroom, and now also Modern Literature 1945 to Present.

This course offers an opportunity to study the key writers, genres and movements of the immediate post-WWII period through to the contemporary moment. Through an extremely varied programme of lectures and seminars, students are introduced to a range of literary texts (poetry, drama, novels and graphic novels), placed in relevant historical and cultural contexts and critical debates. Students will be encouraged to read widely in order to understand the diversity and innovation that characterizes contemporary writing. Lectures will address the impact of a range of important cultural and political concerns (e.g. war, racial and ethnic diversity, national identities, changing attitudes to sex and sexuality, ecological crisis) as well as changes (and continuities) in the forms and genres through which writers have engaged with these issues.

I like my literature the opposite way to my art; I prefer modern literature, especially this time period. Plus getting to study Angela Carter, Neil Gaimen and graphic novels is just awesome.

The class changes are not the only changes. For the past month and a bit I have been working at my university as a part of the enrolment and registration support team. And as of today, that job is officially over πŸ™ I really enjoyed the job and met some amazing people who I intend to stay in contact with. It just feels so weird now that it is over!

I also had my assessment with the private physio and wow, just wow. I don’t remember ever not feeling some sort of pain or discomfort, and she did some nerve work on my arm/shoulder/neck where there is pressure on the nerve. I felt pain free for a while and it was blissful. She was lovely, so understanding and not at all judgemental. So I’m just starting a new period in my life; she’s the first person in 8 years to actually help me battle against my hypermobility syndrome. I have my first proper appointment on monday, and I just hope I can go. All that time around freshers has inevitably given me Freshers Flu. I’m due a new flu vaccine and it only covers the most popular forms of flu, so this one has managed to slip in under the radar and I feel terrible.

 

Advice for new students to the University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow: Advice for new students

The idea for this blog post came about after talking about safety with Jen. There are some aspects of student life I have no experience with (i.e. halls/student accommodation), but there’s also a lot I do have. Some of this post will be useful for all students and some will be tailored to those taking literature courses. If you have any questions feel free to comment or ask me a question on tumblr.

A few key terms

To start us off there are a few key terms that you will hear throughout your time at Glasgow University.

GU – Glasgow University.

GUU – Glasgow University Union, one of the two university unions (more later).

QMU – The Queen Margaret Union, the other university union and also known as ‘The QM’.

UG – Undergraduate; if this is your first degree/first time at university this is probably you.

PG – Postgraduate are students who have completed an undergraduate degree and have therefore graduated.

GUID – This is your student number, also referred to as a matriculation number. This number doubles as your username for logging into any of the university computers and services. If you forget it, don’t worry because it is printed on your student id as well πŸ™‚ To log into any computer or web services you need to put your student number and last initial – i.e. Sally Smith’s GUID would be 5566777S.

Seminar/Tutorial – Tutorials/seminars are classes you take alongside your lectures and follow the more standard ‘class’ setting you’ve had at school. Depending on your degree you may have labs instead of tutorials. Both the names are used by different staff and departments, but a tutorial and a seminar are usually the same thing.

 

Information & useful websites

At the University of Glasgow (also referred to as Glasgow Uni) there are a couple of key websites that will make your life a lot easier. First up is your student center which you can access through this website (it requires a working GUID). If you’re already registered and enrolled for classed you’ll probably already be familar with your student center. It is the place where you can enrol in classes, view your grades, pay fees, and also houses all of your personal details.

Next up is Moodle 2. Moodle 2 has a very funky long winded title and explanation, but the majority of the times you will just hear it called Moodle 2. New students are generally told about it in their induction sessions at the beginning of term. If you want to get a head of the crowd and want to hunt d0wn reading lists, you can access it at http://moodle2.gla.ac.uk/. Moodle 2 is the online center for course information, lecture hand outs/slides – anything to do with your classes.

Need to set internet up on your laptop or mobile phone? No problem. You can find this out and other technical information at the IT Helpdesk website. There are also print out setup details for using the wireless internet and printing available outside the IT Helpdesk on level 3 of the library. There are also student mobile apps available, including a timetable and room locator which is brand new this year. You can find these here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/apps/

The library website. Need I say more?

The Student Representative Council, fondly known as the SRC, is pretty much what it sounds like; a council of students. They are here to help every student and are your representatives if you have any problems. They are always fighting to help students and their website is armed to the teeth with useful information. Definetly check it out, especially the advice section as it covers a bunch of stuff that new students need to know such as council tax, academic appeals, accommodation and much more. Don’t be afraid to go see them or get in contact with them; they are friendly and extremely helpful πŸ™‚ More importantly they genuinely care about each individual student’s case.

Lastly, there is an online help center where you can log support calls for help. If you’re a new or returning student, this is a very handy website to remember. It is located here and it means you can sort out any problems without visiting the campus. So if you’re at home for the summer, or you’re an international student not coming to Glasgow until the start of term, you can get quick and efficient help from where you are. Just remember if you do log a support call give as much information as possible, including course names and course codes or screen shots of errors. This helps your problem get sorted quicker!

 

The Campus

We are blessed with a gorgeous campus with loads of facilities and even our own Howarts (yep, that’s right, the Main Building was J K Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts) – but it is very confusing. Don’t let this put you off Glasgow Uni; all campuses are the same and we’re fortunate enough to have one of the most beautiful ones. If you’re a new student you’re most likely going to be on campus for Freshers week (see here for more info) and I really advise taking the time to explore the campus. There will be loads of student helpers around (decked in brightly coloured shirts and high-vis vests) so if you get lost just ask. You’ll generally find that most students are friendly and have been in your position, so don’t be afraid to politely ask someone for directions. We’ve all been there πŸ˜‰

I really recommend printing off a copy of the university campus map (the pdf is here) or taking the one you got with your information booklet. Even now in third year I still carry it with me, and have a pre-term date with my best friend to find out where our classes are. They change every year and I don’t think even the staff know every inch of the campus πŸ˜› If you’re worried about getting between classes take the time to route your journey before classes start. Each class is supposed to finish at 55 minutes past the hour and start 5 minutes past; however, it isn’t uncommon for lecturers to run over time. If you have to make a mad dash between classes make sure you’re sitting close to the stairs and leave 5 minutes early. The lecturers are not going to be offended, if you’re worried that they may be, speak to them before they begin and just explain.

As mentioned in the key terms the University has two unions; the Queen Margaret (QM) and the Glasgow University Union (GU). In general terms you will find the geeks, nerds, gamers, roleplayers, punk/metal/rock fans at the QM. The GUU tends to appeal more to the opposite type of crowd. That’s not to say these guidelines are specific or requirements of either Union, that is just how it tends to work out. For example, the QM is where the GUGs (Glasgow University Gaming Society) have their weekly events/meetings.

 

We’re no longer in Kansas Toto

University is not high school – it seems obvious right? Wrong. The biggest bit of advice I can give to new students is that everything is now your responsibility. You need to locate your classes, you need to have your reading/tutorial work prepared and yes; you will be expected to do an oral presentation. Don’t expect your tutors or lecturers to spoon feed you. If you don’t understand something ASK. Your tutors are usually Post-Grad students so they’ve been in your position before.Don’t be afraid to email and ask questions!

This bit of advice is especially important to remember in year 2 when you start thinking about honours. Some courses may require submitting a separate application or portfolio. If you want to ensure you get a chance to apply then it is YOUR responsibility to ask someone about it. I know that some people missed out on applying for the Creative Writing Dissertation option because they waited for the university to tell them.

 

Facebook Groups

My biggest pet peeve is students relying on facebook groups for answers to questions related to courses (such as exam dates, timetable clashes, reading lists) – don’t. If you have a question email someone. It might be your tutor, the course convener, your advisor of studies, or even the department secretary. That being said; facebook groups are useful for asking your peers for help with work, notes from lectures you missed, or trying to track down that awesome quote that you can’t quite remember. You’ll also find older students offering copies of texts as well. You can find all the groups for Glasgow university here.

 

Contacting the University

I’ve already mentioned a few ways to contact the university (support calls, emailing) but I feel that I need to pass on an important lesson I’ve learned – go to the department office. If you’re waiting for the department to reply to your email or you’ve been trying to phone them without – just go straight to the department office. The same goes for tutors or lecturers; go see them during their office hours. Don’t sit waiting for someone to realise you’re waiting because it could be weeks.

 

Journals & Databases

This is more of a specific one for literature or theory based subjects. Online journals are collections of articles and databases of electronic data which you can use for secondary sources in your essays. The biggest one is JSTOR but you can view a list of them over here on the library website. Just select your institution (the university of Glasgow) and log in with your GUID. You can also sometimes find some hidden gems in Google Books.

 

Books

As a literature student you will find yourself spending a lot of money on books. However, there are a few legal ways to lessen the cost. Any books over 100 years old are no longer copyrighted and this means free e-book versions. You can find a lot of these on Project Gutenberg and also the Amazon Kindle store. You don’t need a kindle to use the Amazon Kindle store; just download their computer version.

There are also a few online sites where you can swap books for free. Bookmooch works on points; you earn points for swapping books and use these points to “buy” books. Readitswapit is similar, but you swap a book for a book – so you’re only paying for the cost of the postage.

 

Disability & Long Term Illnesses

If you’ve had a hard time at school due to health problems, you’re probably feeling pretty jaded and fed up. I know how you feel; I had the same problem. High schools and colleges are just not equipped to understand or help students with disabilities or long term illnesses. Thankfully universities are better and I really suggest contacting the University Disability Team. They will offer you an appointment where you will meet with a disability advisor who will discuss the various ways that they can help make your studying easier. This could be listing you as flexible attendance so you don’t get in trouble for missing classes, getting the library to collect books for you to pick up, or giving you extra time in exams. These are just a few exams I am aware of personally and I really do recommend these guys. They are extremely supportive and understanding, and most of the time they have heard of your health condition/s before. So you don’t need to sit and explain every little detail to them. Also, each college and department have an assigned disability coordinator who liaise with the Disability Team and your tutors. They are easily reachable via email and are very helpful and understanding.

On a similar note the Counselling and Psychological Services is also brilliant. Mental illness gets a lot of bad press and stigma attached to it, but these guys are here for any students who need help. They have drop in sessions, one on one appointments and group sessions available.

I recommend both these teams with a lot of personal experience. If you have any questions or worries just ask πŸ™‚

 

Safety

And finally we’re at the topic which started this whole advice idea. My friend Jen was asked on tumblr whether Glasgow was safe and here is her response. It got us talking about safety advice for students, so here’s a few key points on that subject:

  • Lock your doors and close windows. This may seem obvious but if you’re not from a city you might not be used to doing this. Get into the habit!
  • If you need to walk home alone then choose a direct route through public areas. Avoid parks, dark alleys and so forth.
  • Always keep your keys or an umbrella at hand; if you’re worried about being followed holding these in your hand can act as a deterrent and as possible weapons.
  • There are always self defence classes available and I highly recommend anyone taking them. You don’t need to be super fit or an awesome fighter to pick up a few defence moves that could save your life.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink when in a pub/bar; take it to the bathroom with you if you have to! Also, covering your glass with your hand stops someone from dropping something in it.
  • Don’t flash your electronics about in public or on public transport!
  • If you feel uncomfortable anywhere then leave. Preferably with other people, but if not then make sure you’ve got a safe way home. Real friends will look after you, not force you to stay somewhere/with people that make you uncomfortable.

 

Questions?

If I’ve missed something or you want to ask something I’ve not covered then just leave me a comment πŸ™‚ You can also follow me on twitter @jadedlioness

Hypermobility, thy name is pain

Spoonies R Us

As mentioned in my previous entry, my hyper mobility was one of the major health related problems that caused me so many problems in Term 2. In the past week I’ve been to see my doctor about it, had a physio assessment and had an asthma review by the nurse. All of these were steps in the direction of getting myself healthier in terms of pain, weight and mobility. My doctor examined my knees and straight away saw the problem; my left knee is very hyper extended. To quote a dictionary this means; “extend a joint beyond its normal range”. That is basically what my entire body does, but my left knee apparently just “looks wrong” :-/ The right knee I’m not sure about as it’s pretty banged up from me falling over the week before, so that may have obscured stuff or it may not be as bad as the left one.

I have admittedly been putting off seeing my doctor because as many hypermobile people know, there isn’t that much that can be done about this condition. Doctor’s don’t know what to do with chronic illnesses, and physios can’t solve every problem at once. I wasn’t hugely happy with the assessment I had for physio which involved a whole lot of talking and no actual assessment of the physical problems. I would have expected them to at least LOOK at the problem area. Plus as soon as I mentioned ‘weight gain’ it seemed as though everything else I said lost legitimacy. It’s at least a 4 week wait on the waiting list, so hoping that with my new diet and exercise that I can start to shift the weight before the actual physio begins.

My new diet – I hate diets. I feel that there is too much social pressure to be a certain weight and by saying you’re dieting you are enabling it. As highlighted by the physio’s tactless ‘well that won’t help’ comment, my weight needs to lower considerably. Not just for my HMS but to stop other health problems from arising. Plus I am not comfortable in my current form. This diet is unlike any I’ve had before, it’s very strict which I usually avoid as they are very salad and fruit heavy. I can’t eat either, however, the one we’ve put together for me is easily tailored to me, helps prevent cravings and got the thumbs up from my doctor. It’s called a low-GI (glycemic index) diet and if you google it, you’ll find more information. It aims to work with your body’s natural processes by maintaining your blood sugar levels so that food energy is released slowly. I’ve only been on it a week, but the cravings seem to have gone down and I’ve already vetoed some foods that I just cannot stomach. Namely cottage cheese (looks like vomit) and skimmed milk (looks and tastes like wee wee). The hardest part has been the lack of coffee and I’ve tried some stuff which I was surprised to find very yummy. Once I’ve gotten a settled meal plan I’ll post it up so people can be nosey.

It has been hard starting a diet while concentrating on my resit, but I think it has also helped though. It’s helped me remain positive, by sticking to the diet I’ve been able to feel like I’m succeeding at something difficult and I’ve funnelled that into my academic work. I handed in the resit essay yesterday and I actually feel pretty confident about it. I put everything into that essay and if I don’t get a good mark then I don’t deserve to be studying honours. I also went to an exam workshop yesterday which was very very helpful and explained a lot about what I did wrong last time. I basically regurgitated every fact, scared of all the big fancy names and techniques and thinking that I needed to prove what I knew. I do a bit, however, the markers are looking for our own ingenuity and view point. What we notice and can put together. We went through a lot of questions and themes as well so that helped me to understand the last exam better.

 

The exam is next week and then that’s it. I’ve either done it or I’ve not. It’s a scary prospect and also a bit relief as I’ll have my summer back again. I can’t think of anything else right now except this resit and I feel guilty if I spend my time doing something else worth while. So I’ve primarily been watching tv, reading and playing little games on facebook during my study breaks.