Monday, 16 March 2015

First post of 2015!

You're never too old for a birthday cake
 Ok, so I feel pretty bad that it's taken me until mid-March to post this year. I think that I always intended to post at some point in January, but then I was behind with coursework, hurried back to university, and literally didn't really stop until Friday when term ended and I handed in my undergraduate thesis! Time flew by, and last term was definitely the fastest term I've ever experienced here, probably because it was sandwiched by important deadlines. Unfortunately, that's a recurring motif in third year, you work towards each deadline, and before you know it, entire months have passed.

I'm especially guilty of looking back over terms and wondering what I did besides work. Luckily I've got my diary and a couple of photos to prove that I did leave my laptop/ the library, but it was genuinely quite a tough term. In eight weeks I did most of the primary research for, and wrote up twelve thousand words, as well as attending some classes for another paper and lectures. So exhausting that I still feel like I'm recovering from it, and the idea of starting revision for my finals exams is...well, overwhelming. I think making a timetable and just listing everything on paper, rather than in my head, will help.

Yesterday I started panicking about how much I had to do, and so instead of a to-do list for revision, I wrote a list of things I've already done; notes summarised, revision cards made, online resources created (I mainly use Quizlet, a free revision-card making website). It was reassuring actually, and I'd recommend it. Now to fill the gaps...
These cheered up my windowsill considerably 
 So my thesis undoubtedly took up the bulk of term, but I did take some time out to celebrate my 21st! My birthday was in the middle of term, which was kind of chaotic regarding work and having a progress meeting on my birthday itself, but it did mean that it gave me something to work towards and look back on fondly as my thesis deadline approached. It feels strange that this will probably be my last birthday here, considering I've been here for my previous two birthdays, and before that I had my 17th at the University of Cambridge as I was on the CUSU Shadowing scheme! Who knows where I'll be turning 22...

When I wasn't working on my thesis I was writing applications for internships and graduate schemes for this summer and beyond. This meant that there was a two week period where I was getting about six hours of sleep a night and spending about ten or eleven hours a day in front of my laptop. It was pretty grim. However, I maintain that it was a good use of time, even if so far I've only had one interview, and one straight out rejection. Rejections can be good, they remind us that we're not superhuman, we have to deal with disappointment in a productive way, and being rejected from one thing means I'll be more grateful when I eventually get something. Also, rejections narrow down my choices, as does the passing of time, so inevitably, I tell myself, I am working towards something, I just don't quite know what it is yet!

The last two years I've been very lucky in that I've had summer internships lined up by mid-March. This year I'm trying to teach myself a lesson in patience, and hope to receive some more news in the next few weeks. I think that I'm particularly keen to get something sorted for the summer because I'm aware that after June ends, I am done with university (for now, as I haven't applied to any Master's programmes) and so 'the real world' awaits. Or something like that. Alternatively, I think I should still be trying to focus on the next six months as a unit of time, rather than thinking that a single internship is going to determine my entire working life.

I guess this is the sort of thing that all final year university students struggle with. Finally I empathise. Dividing my time between applications, coursework and having a vague social life is hard, but I think I did the best that I could at the time. Now I've just got to see how it all pays off.
Exeter college chapel
The last few days of term were a welcome relief. I handed in my thesis and could enjoy doing non-work things completely guilt-free. I went to a concert (which took place in the chapel pictured above), drinks, and meals out without going over thesis edits and grammar corrections over and over again. I could at last talk to people about something which wasn't the subject of my thesis. It's made me consider just how 'free' I'll feel once my exams are over, but at the same time, I've now experienced that weird emptiness that comes with handing in a large, soul-consuming project. The last few days have been oddly difficult precisely because I don't know what to focus on now, my exams are months away and I'm finding it hard to concentrate on work again since term ended, and my mind, if not my body, still feels tired.

I know I'll find a way, eventually. I know that most final year university students feel like this at some point. Being bored and distracted is just as hard as being overwhelmed with things to do, and thus also distracted. In the same way, it's easy to forget about the long-term (e.g., in three months' time, my exams will have ended and I will have something planned for the summer). I've also become obsessed with checking my emails every half an hour in case there's any news. I think the next step is to set myself small, achievable, short-term goals, by day, by week, by month and then up until the end of this vacation.

Better get to it!