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This blog attempts to show how my reflections might be recorded in an audio file. Its a conversation I had with my mentor

 
Nb these blog entries have been transferred from a previous site that also contained photos. I did this in order to have the additional features of the pro-version of weebly (eg video and audio). You can visit my original blog by clicking this link.  


Reflections on Starting University 11/22/2012


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I have now been at university for eight very busy weeks. Since coming to university I have had many experiences, ranging from wonderful to unpleasant, along my journey I have encountered many challenges and have learnt numerous lessons. 

The first few weeks at university were filled with so much activity they feel like a blur, the first lesson I learnt was simply about survival. Being new in a big city, the first thing I had to do was  to learn my way around something that presented a challenge for me as I was used to growing up in a small town. At this point having friends became very important to me, we would walk together around Nottingham. Together we would find our way around the city, making the whole experience of getting lost more interesting and helping us bond. However, we still had to learn our way around by ourselves, and with very little information. My most memorable day at university so far was during week one when I was trying to get the bus home from university. I had no idea where the bus was leaving from, it was raining and I was completely by myself- at the time this felt very traumatic, but a few weeks later I was able to laugh about it. I am still learning about being at University and being in Nottingham, every day I learnt new things such as when the market takes place and cheap food shops. However, already I look back on where I was seven weeks ago and I think about how much I have learnt. 

Perhaps, the most important lesson I have learnt in the first few weeks is balancing friends and the social aspect of life with study. Coming to university is like starting a new life, whereas in my old life my family, in particular my mother was able to motivate me and remind me to complete homework since coming to University it is completely up to me to motivate myself. Only I can tell when it is ok to spend time with my friends and when I need to knuckle down and do some work, over the last two months I have been trying to balance both and in some instances have made the wrong decision, for example not spending enough time on a piece of work. However, as the weeks have progressed and I have come to grips with the requirements of each module knowing what has to be done is less of an issue, however motivating myself to study whilst my friends are out remains a challenge and one which I suspect will last the whole of my university life. 

One of the greatest challenges I have faced since coming to university is loneliness. From the moment my family left me I decided to be proactive in going out and meeting people and as a result I have been very fortunate in that I have made lots of friends. But no matter how many friends you have there are bound to be times when you have nothing to do. At first, in these instances I tried to fill my time with work, however in the last two months I have discovered it is better to fill the time with something you love. The key to fighting loneliness is by giving yourself a purpose, for example if you throw yourself into writing a play then not only are you doing something productive but you are also distracting yourself from your negative and dissempowering emotions.   

Another challenge I faced was simply the art of looking after myself, over the last few weeks I developed whooping cough simply because I wasn’t eating the right foods. When living by yourself you need to ensure that you are eating the right food and keeping tabs on your money. Learning to manage my finances has been a considerable challenge, I have been forced to budget which has meant I have been forced to be more responsible even when it comes to our weekly shop. I remember my mum saying to be once “You can’t spend the same pound twice” I have learnt to prioritise what it’s important to spend money on. Interestingly I found motivating myself to cook more of a challenge then motivating myself to study, I have to study if I want to get a degree however if I’m hungry I can simply get a take away. However, then I got ill. I realised that this is what happens  if I don’t look after myself, after struggling to get up to go to lectures and missing several seminars I realised that looking after myself is possibly the most important thing I have to do, if I’m not well how can I study? And if I can’t study then I won’t pass my degree. Furthermore being stuck in bed is not pleasant for anybody.

Working towards my degree has also challenged me academically, writing essays which are a higher standard and understanding what my lecturers want from me has been difficult. I am still trying to grasp what is expected of me, but with every piece of coursework I feel I am getting a better idea of the standard I should be working at. My learning has become much more social, often I will discuss work with my friends and may read several peoples coursework to look at different viewpoints. 

The most important lesson I have learnt since coming to University is to enjoy every second. university, like life, has its ups and downs but overall it has been an amazing experience, I have encountered many different kinds of people and experiences. Everyone I meet is completely different to me, this has shown me how we are all individual and how important your upbringing is in shaping you as a person.These people and the experiences I have had are shaping me as an individual and I feel that as a consequence I am becoming more mature, confident and more well rounded

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Starting a project 09/20/2012

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Over the last few weeks I have begun writing my lifewide development blog, in writing articles I have discovered my biggest challenge is how to start each entry.  Starting anything is a challenge, especially when it comes to motivating yourself. When you are starting an essay or a blog you have to remain focused and disciplined, when you have got out of this routine (as I have, having finished school several months ago) getting back in the habit is a great challenge. 

However, if you are highly motivated in what you are doing then starting is no longer a drag but a pleasure. For example, in preparation for university I have been reading both political books on the European union and study skills book. The knowledge that these books would help me in the future meant I relished the prospect of reading, and this has continued to spur me on. 

Therefore in starting anything it’s important for me to be in the right frame of mind, in order to motivate myself I think about what I’m doing how it’s helping me develop as a person, this gives me the motivation to begin my chosen project. 


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Lessons at home 09/06/2012

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Much of my learning comes from relationships with my family and observing things that happen at home. This has become particularly relevant at this moment in time as so much is taking place, my stepsister Jodie having just given birth to twins, I am observing motherhood first hand, whilst my sister has just moved to Reigate grammar, as a result I am observing her transition between schools. 

Through watching by stepsister I have learnt how much effort goes into parenthood, furthermore as well as two babies she has a five year old son called Max, through observing her I have also recognised the importance of balancing time. She has to allocate her time wisely, looking after the babies whilst also giving Max attention and cleaning and cooking etc. Since listening to my stepsister and her friends discuss pregnancy and motherhood I have  discovered just how much information is passed through word of mouth between friends and family. 

Through observing my sister move schools I have learnt about the way different people deal with transitions, I have moved schools several times, however watching her I have learnt no two people deal with moving schools in the same way. In trying to help Neda with her transitions I have become more empathetic, also through looking at the way she deals with different situations I have found a new insight into her character and the differences and similarities between us. 

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Learning to Drive 09/06/2012

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Over the last few months I have been trying to learn how to drive, however I have been facing a number of challenges in the process. 

The first challenge is remaining calm, even though driving can be a stressful situation. Often if something goes wrong your confidence takes a knock and you are so shaken that another mistake happens. Since learning how to drive I have learnt to leave my emotions out of the process, if something goes wrong instead of panicking I have learnt to calmly asses the situation and where I went wrong. Following that, I put it behind me and focus on the present. 

A second challenge of driving is staying alert, this is something I struggle with. As I mentioned earlier it is important not to get too stressed, however being too relaxed is a dangerous scenario, especially if you get cocky and stop focusing on the roads ahead of you. Often, I would fail to think ahead, consequently I would try to rush turning corners, I would either stall or I would turn the corner at a high speed which is very dangerous. However, now that I have acknowledged this as a problem I have been able to tackle it. 

A final challenge is perseverance,  driving doesn’t come naturally to me, as a result I have to stick with it and continue to practice, even if the lessons haven’t gone well. As I am about to go to university, driving is no longer my priority at this point, however, I now know that when I do decide to take my test I will have to put aside three months where driving will be my priority. 

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Writing my first CV 09/06/2012

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A CV also known as a curriculum Vitae is vital in the area of employment, a list of your strengths and experiences it is handed in to any possible employers who then use it to help them judge if you are fit for a position in their organisation. For this reason it is very important, I have just written my first CV and therefore have encountered a number of challenges. 

The greatest challenge in writing a CV is reflection, thinking about what you have done and the skills you have gained from those events. It is especially challenging as it seemed as though I learnt the same skill in several experiences, for example working as a shop assistant in Oxfam and in Cancer research. This forced me to look deeper into my experiences to find differences in what I learnt. Through this process I learnt that no two experiences are the same and you learn different things during different experiences no matter how similar they appear on the surface. 

A second challenge I faced was deciding on how to structure my CV. I began copying other peoples structures, like my brothers, with academic achievements and experiences. However, I discovered that we all have different experiences that we want to emphasise therefore I have to be inventive, for example Gold Duke of Edinburgh was a massive achievement so I mention it twice. Through the process I learnt the importance of understanding where most of my learning came from and focusing my structure around this. 

                                                                    
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Driving, the forgotten lessons 08/10/2012

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A few days ago I took the DSA (driving standards agency) Theory test, a test in which members of the public are required to answer questions on road signs, first aid and driving documents. I felt that the test was the perfect symbol of Lifewide learning, in order to pass everyone needed to understand the process of driving which came from the informal process of driving, but it also required a certain amount of memorising, which is a very formal process. 

For me, the informal act of driving was the most beneficial in helping me past the test. When I was driving, either myself or I was in the passenger seat, seeing signs would reinforce something I had read or studied. Furthermore in seeing it at actually happen it was embedded in my mind, something that never happened when I simply read it in a book. Furthermore I found it easy to spend an hour driving, as it is a practical activity I remained engaged. However, whilst this informal act of learning was more engaging it would have been impossible to use by itself, often, when driving, we wouldn’t come across any signs whereas in a book all topics are covered. 

The formal aspects of Driving whilst more tedious was also important in helping me pass the Theory test, especially as the repetitive character of revision embedded the lessons which I had learnt practically. 


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A Double Gold 08/03/2012

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In the lead up to the Olympics there has been a focus on which medals the great british athletes will win, I have also  been working towards gold medals, although these were not in the Olympics but in LAMDA (an acting scheme) and Duke of Edinburgh (a scheme that rewards all rounder  students who participate in sport, the arts and volunteer all at the same time). 

What makes this “double gold” so precious is that LAMDA and Duke of Edinburgh are so different, both schemes challenged different aspects of my character helping me to develop in many different ways. In LAMDA my main challenges were creating and communicating a character to the examiner, this helped me to develop my creativity as well as my performance skills. In Duke of Edinburgh the challenge was to develop my endurance, trying to force my body to ignore the exhaustion and pain to push through to the end of the day, only to get up and do the whole process again. The most important lesson I learnt was perseverance and the scheme gave me the confidence to tackle physically challenging situations.

However, despite the difference in the schemes, the skills I learnt in one became pivotal in helping me succeed in the other. For example, in Gold D of E through using my imagination, which grew thanks to LAMDA, I was able to distract my body from the pain of walking up the highest hill in south wales. Furthermore I was able to use the discipline required from D of E to ensure I learnt my lines and then practised constantly for LAMDA. 

I am particularly pleased with the way I could utilise the skills these schemes taught me, such as creativity and apply it to my revision, making formal education more engaging. Through the creativity I developed in LAMDA I was able to come up with creative solutions to make revision more fun. An example of this is the giant flow chart that I used during history revision, doing this on a whiteboard made the activity more engaging so I learnt more during the process.  Furthermore the perseverance that I learnt through Duke of Edinburgh meant I could remain focused on my revision, even in the most tedious of times.