A blog all about academics and academic choices

Featured post

Struggling student? Ways to earn money (part-time)

Many students wish they had more money in a month, to actually buy the things they want (and not have to stare at people who are holding the...

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Flashback story: High heels and see-through tops

I was sitting and thinking tonight (whilst doing some work) about my earlier days as a student. My friends and I were so young and naive back then and this used to lead to some very amusing scenarios at times.

 I found myself laughing out loud whilst reminiscing and therefore decided to share some of my old stories with all of you as I remember them. I will be calling these postings my "flashback stories".

Way back in 1998 I was at college completing my business studies. I had a nice bunch of female friends back then and we used to make a game out of looking great each Friday. This served two purposes. The first was to have a little competition amongst ourselves to see who was the best dressed, and the second was to look good for our Friday night clubbing sessions, which normally started just a few hours after our daily classes came to an end.

One Friday I decided to wear these stunning black stiletto heels I had in the back of my cupboard. I remember putting them on and feeling very chuffed with how great they made my legs look (even though I was wearing a pair of jeans). I added a nice black halter-neck top, did my hair into a nice up style and applied far too much make-up (which was the norm still in the 90's). Once satisfied with my overall look, I grabbed my bag and off to class I went.

The weather was miserable and gloomy that day and when I got to school I was just grateful that it hadn't started raining yet. Can you imagine walking on wet paving and wet raw cement in high heels? Well I couldn't so I considered the dry ground a blessing.

Anyhow, my friends started arriving and although they all looked great, they didn't have a chance at beating me. I was confident that I had won the weekly contest hands down until my last friend arrived. She looked absolutely stunning, wearing a long white vintage lace top and black leggings. We all decided on the spot that she looked the best and that she was going to "rock" at the clubs that night. Then, with our weekly winner decided on, we all went to class.

The day went quite well until around 11 am, when I started having difficulty walking up and down the stairs (to my different classes) in the stiletto's. Suddenly the difficulty walking turned into agonising leg and foot pain which worsened with each step I took. In a flash the reason I kept those shoes hidden in the back of my cupboard all came back to me - they were torture devices!

Now since there was no way I would ruin my reputation by walking barefoot I decided to try and walk as normal as possible when someone was close enough to see me. As luck would have it, half the school decided to use the stairways and passages I was using. It was total torture!

At 2 pm our classes had ended for the day and we all grouped outside for a smoke. The sun decided to come out behind the clouds at that point and shine at its brightest just as my friend who was wearing the gorgeous lace top came walking out of the building. It took me half a second in the bright light to notice how see-through her top was. Not only that, but the sheer white camisole she was wearing underneath it was just as see-through, meaning that you could see more than just her pretty face.

Before I could call out to her, a gathering of boys started to appear (from out of nowhere it seemed), staringly. She was enjoying the attention though, oblivious to the actual reason for the attention (just assuming it was her great look of the day attracting it).

My protective instincts then kicked in and over shadowed my better judgement. Before even thinking about the fact that I was wearing those awful shoes (and that my feet and legs were in agony), I ran on the now wet paving (from earlier rain) towards her, planning to cover her up and inform her quietly of the free show she was providing. Only it did not play out that way.

Before I reached her I slipped and twisted my ankle which caused me to lunge forward, grabbing and ripping her top in the process, as well as tearing my jeans between the legs. Everyone (and I really mean everyone), came running towards us to see what happened.

Then as luck would have it, it started to rain again. There we were, standing in front of everyone with torn clothing, wet hair and messed make-up. Lucky for us one sweet kid gave my friend his t-shirt and another gave me a raincoat that I could drape around myself (as a skirt). The embarrassment we endured was completely and utterly agonising though!

Luckily I had just sprained my ankle that day and everyone at school felt so bad for us that there was no gossiping or joking about the incident (well none that we heard of at least). I never wore those shoes again (but still have them for nostalgic reasons) and she never ever wore lace again.

Just goes to show that looks really can kill!


Edit: Rereading this posting I think it is fitting to add the following. University (or any educational institution) is not the place for a “fashion show”. Yes it is important to look great and feel good about yourself, but it is honestly not functional to dress as if the paparazzi is going to appear out of nowhere to photograph you. You are there (at the institution) to study/learn and dressing comfortably makes much more sense than looking as if you are trying to get on the cover of a magazine. I wish I had the sense back then to rather wear slacks and tennis shoes. Sure I wouldn’t have looked very “hot”, but at least I would have been able to walk up and down stairs and sit comfortably on chairs. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Starving student? Budget food ideas

So you have managed to do it yet again. You are two weeks away from receiving your part-time job pay cheque (or your money transfer from dad), and you are almost completely broke. What are you going to do about food for the next few days?

What went wrong? Was it all the boozing and partying? Or maybe it was because you bought that new game you just had to have. Well whatever the reason, you are totally screwed. Or are you?

Most students live a life of meagre means, due to the high cost of studies (including books), student accommodation and living the general "party every night" existence. But this does not mean you have to starve or sing on the streets hoping people throw food at you. There are many low budget options out there guaranteed to fill you. Just don't expect any champagne and fine dining.   

Some of your options include:

1. Instant noodles - This option is very versatile (and wallet friendly). You can rev it up with canned peas, beans, corn or bits of sausage. You can even turn it into a soup. The options are endless. I love the cheese flavoured variety (on which I eat extra grated cheese), but the beef and chicken flavours are probably the most versatile ones (since they can be made into soups and other dishes).

2. Vienna sausages - One of South Africa's much loved instant meals. Very versatile as well since you can make hot dogs, viennas and chips, enhanced instant noodles or scrambled eggs using them.

3. Bread - A MUST have. Can be used to make toast, sandwiches, pizza bread (bread with melted cheese and bits of sausage on top) and jaffle's (filled toast). When you are on an extremely tight budget all you need each week is bread, margarine and jam (jelly), and you'll survive.

4. Instant soup packets - Another winner since it's cheap and you can eat it on the go or whilst learning. They (the soup packets) can also be used to make a gravy for potatoes or meat (not that you will be able to afford meat mind you).

5. Eggs - Love them or hate them, eggs are a nutritious winner. Not only are they filled with protein, they are also very versatile. You can fry them, bake them, boil them, poach them or scramble them. They can be eaten with bread (or toast), tomato's, beans etcetera.

6. Potatoes - Cheaper if bought in larger bags. Can be used to make chips (fries), mash, soups, stews, hash browns or baked potatoes.

7. Corn on the cob - Relatively cheap and easy to make. Just boil them until the kernels are soft and you are ready to eat.

The top list should get you by until your next pay day. However if you only have a few cents or rands/dollars left to your name, try hosting a board games or puzzle building evening at your house/flat for your friends (or any activity that won't cost you money to host). Make each person bring a food stuff such as chips, peanuts, pizza or sandwiches (any food that can be stored afterwards will do). You can then freeze the left over pizza, vacuum seal (or seal in a bag) the chips and peanuts, and toast the sandwiches. This should ensure a supply of food for the next few days.

My tip for you for next month however, would be to first put aside some food money before splurging on booze and other non-necessities (even though many students will argue that booze are the main priority and a general necessity).

                   Keep well and happy budgeting (yeah right)!

Edit: Just thought I would share a little tip with you. As a student even when you have money, you don't really have money (well enough of it anyway). I am sure you all know what I am talking about. So why pay full price for take-out or cafe food if you don't need to? What many students don't realise is that there are often Groupons for foodstuffs available on the Groupon website. Just look under the "Food and Drink" category and/or the recently added "Delivery and Takeout" category (added on Groupon.com only). This way, even your little "treats" can become budget food items (providing there are coupons actually available in your area that is). 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Battling to concentrate and focus?

A problem so many of us face during our academic lives is the lack of focus and the inability to concentrate. The most simple reason for this being, we start getting incredibly bored with our field of study and/or study materials.

You sit at night watching the most mundane things on television, convincing yourself you are enjoying what you are watching, or you opt to spend an evening cleaning out the refrigerator because you just realised it is long overdue. Basically you find any excuse under the sun not to sit with your books and study, or to do that assignment that is due. Maybe you are one of those students who is actually sitting with your study materials in the evenings but often finding yourself looking at the walls, deciding on a new paint colour that would look good and go better with the curtains. Can you relate to any of this? Well, if so, you are not alone. Most of us tend to develop issues with focus and concentration at some point during our studies.

In my opinion this is completely normal since most fields of study, and the related learning materials that go with them, are still seriously behind the times. The world of academics is still using such outdated content and near primitive methods of instruction, that it is very hard for most students to consider these interesting and informative. This results in us getting bored and it is near impossible to concentrate and focus on anything that we find boring.

So just how can we make the uninteresting, interesting for ourselves? Well this is challenging since even the nicest cheese sauce cannot make brussels sprouts more appealing. However, we can choose to eat something with our brussels sprouts to kill off the taste a bit and prevent ourselves from gagging. In other words, even if we can't do anything to spruce up the existing methods/content, we can still add interesting factors to the uninteresting methods/content, which should in turn liven things up a bit. The best way to do this depends largely on the field of study you are pursuing.

For instance, say you are studying for a degree in Art History and you fall asleep when the lecturer is giving his lecture in class, or you sit drawing stick figures in your books when you are suppose to be studying, I think it would be safe to assume you are feeling bored and uninspired which in turn is the cause of your lack of focus and concentration.

In this instance you can try to liven things up a bit by finding and reading interesting books on-line (or at the library) concerning the topics you are currently dealing with, and/or you can search for essays and articles written by others concerning the topics. Then you can use the new and more interesting information you have learnt/gained to supplement the existing content and when you have to listen to a lecture or learn the given work, you can link it in your mind with the more interesting factors/knowledge gained. Trust me this does work since prescribed textbooks and the lectures given by most lecturers seem to be designed to be as dull as dishwater and any new information gained from other sources is bound to be more enticing, or at the very least, to add some flavour. Even the shear process of finding new more interesting content/information serves as a means of livening things up a bit.

As said above, the best ways of adding interest depends on what fields you are studying in but it does in essence all boil down to finding ways of supplementing the content with more interesting factors or even in some instances, more interesting study methods (to prevent boredom).

Be creative, come up with some of your own ideas (and please share those here with us), just remember the main goal is to spark some level of appeal or else you are doomed to a life of parrot/rote learning and incredible boredom (usually paired with abysmal marks/grades as evidence).

Don't let boredom get you under. We are living in the 21st century and we are most definitely intelligent enough to think up creative ways of making the uninteresting seem like caviar and champagne.

Get focussed, concentrate and happy learning!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Coping Mechanisms

Being a student can be incredibly overwhelming. So much so that many people crack under all the pressures the student role poses. This however can be avoided by implementing a few coping mechanisms.

Again I can state that there is no "one size fits all" solution for everyone. What works for someone else might not work for you. The trick is not to give up and keep trying different solutions/ mechanisms until you find one, or a few, that is/are perfect for you.

The internet is filled with resources, tips and tricks regarding this, however I have found that the advice given to me during my studies (by other students) are the solutions that work best.

A few of these include:

1. Have a life outside of your studies. This is probably the only rule/solution that IS universal for everyone. One of the biggest mistakes I made was to let my studies overrun my life completely. This did not happen overnight though, but gradually. That is most probably why I did not realise just how much my studies were consuming my life until it was too late, and it had completely taken over my whole being. Balance your time accordingly and don't ever let your study time, override your personal time.

2. Try different relaxation techniques. At times I would get completely overwhelmed. So much so I even battled to breath and it felt like the walls were closing in around me. Unfortunately I was only given the relaxation tip/advice when I was in my fourth year of studying. By this point I was so high strung already, that it seemed to be embedded in my psych. Meditation seemed to help me a bit though, but not as much as I am sure it would have if I had just made it a part of my study routine from the very beginning.

3. Join study groups. This is yet another thing I wish I thought of doing from the beginning of my studies. One of the many advantages of studying with others, is the fact that it has a calming effect on a person, because it affords the opportunity to be surrounded by people (other students) who understand exactly what you are going through.

4. Talk to your family and friends about the challenges you are facing. Don't make the mistakes I made. For years I rather kept everything bottled up inside just because I felt too embarrassed to admit or express my feelings to my nearest and dearest. Heaven alone knows why I did this. I realise now how good the venting would've been for me. We all need a release of some sort and bottling up your issues will just make things worse for you, until the point you feel like exploding.

5. Planning, planning, planning. As mentioned in point 1 (and some of my other postings), you need to balance your time accordingly and PLAN in advance. Work out your study plan in the beginning of each semester and stick to it religiously. If you allow yourself enough time for studying and you start doing this early in the semester, your stress levels will dramatically decrease. Incidentally this was one of the only tips I enforced since the very beginning of my studies. The problem with me though was the fact that I didn't account for personal time (HUGE mistake).

6. Stop trying to be overly perfect and realise you are only human. Failures are bound to happen once in a while. I pushed myself so hard that it is actually surprising I did not crack a lot earlier. I only realise now how stupid this was. Yes it is true that we should always try our best, BUT don't develop a fear of failure to such an extent that you push yourself beyond healthy limits. I made myself so afraid of doing badly in anything that I forced myself to over excel in everything. What do I have to show for it now? Absolutely nothing. Try your best, relax and say "sh@t happens" if you happen to fail at something or do badly once in a while. It is NOT the end of the world, it WON'T kill you (unless you obsess over it and make yourself sick that is) and the sun will shine again tomorrow.  You can always redo an assignment, exam or test, remember that.

Let me end off by adding that nothing in this world is worth giving up your health over. If you get to the point where you feel that you simply cannot cope, no matter what you try, then maybe you should seriously consider giving up your studies or studying something else.

You are all unique and special, and the sheer fact that you are studying shows how hard you have worked in your life to get to this point. Be proud of yourselves no matter what happens.