6 Things I Learnt From 3 Years at University

Earlier this year, I graduated from university and, what with lockdown and no proper graduation, it’s been an odd end to 3 years, but an end nonetheless. Looking back, it’s hard to put 3 years worth of memories into a singular blog post, so instead I’ve decided to write about 6 key things I’ve learnt during my time at university – perhaps some of you can relate!


1. How To Be Responsible

This is an obvious one to start with, but it is what university teaches us all to do – how to become independent and live apart from our family. For some this is more difficult than others, but for all of us it’s new territory. I remember the first night staying at university and it felt like I was in a hotel, yet all of my stuff was there. It’s a scary moment for us all, but then the food shopping, utility bills and renting rooms becomes normality, and quicker than we know it, we become adults.

2. Who I Am As A Person

I think most people have some sort of idea about who they are as a person before university, but during university is when you truly experiment with hobbies, societies, meeting new people, and you learn how you react to all these fluctuating circumstances. I think we all try out at least one different version of ourselves at university, just to see what it’s like, whether that’s pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone or befriending someone we wouldn’t usually talk to. Eventually, you figure out how you actually want to spend your time, and I felt like I left knowing a lot more about who I am and who I want to be.

3. Self-Discipline

It’s no surprise that university teaches you how to take control of your life. Because no one’s going to do that for you. The teachers no longer spoon-feed you exam content, and no one is there to tell you to study. It really is down to yourself to manage your time effectively to get work done. I think this is something I was already fairly good at, but it did help me set up a schedule and be more proactive in seeking help and guidance when I needed it.

4. Who Your Genuine Friends Are

As cliché as it sounds, university makes you realise the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. It’s crazy the amount of people you meet when you first get there, and it’s so different to anything I had ever experienced, but it was so interesting seeing the similarities and differences between everyone. I often found myself in those stages of “friend acquaintances” and not knowing who was a proper friend and who wasn’t. But ultimately, it’s those that still make the effort to contact you and who are there when you need support. I’ve always preferred having a few really close friendships than lots of surface-level acquaintances, and I found that by the end of university, even after experimenting with both, I was back to my roots.

5. Confidence

This one plays a massive role in my time at university. I used to be a really shy person (and still can be, in some ways), but exposing myself to so many new people and new situations, which were way out of my comfort zone, really helped me become more confident. One of the things I learnt during university – mostly towards the end – is that it’s good to do things that scare you. That’s how you overcome those mental limitations you put on yourself. So now I am actively trying to do things that scare me, and letting myself lean into them with confidence.

6. The Importance of Self-Development

The university fresher in me would look at this one with utter confusion, but I think that’s a statement as to how far I’ve grown since beginning university to now. Particularly in my third year, I realised how important it was to work on my self-development. After struggles throughout university with my mental health, alongside falling ill in the middle of second year, I learnt that overcoming these difficult moments in life require self-care, self-acceptance and a desire to take action and make positive change. Self-development is called self-development for a reason – only us, the self, can do it. And when we put our mind to it, we can achieve a lot more than we think.

We take steps, not knowing where we’ll go or where we’ll end up, but knowing one day it’ll mean something.

Have you also been to (or currently go to) university? What have you learnt during your time there?

Let me know in the comments below!


5 Things I’m Grateful For This May (2020)

Here’s my monthly gratitude reflection!

My University Experience

This month, I sent off my final ever assignment towards my degree! Despite things feeling very uncertain at the moment, I feel so grateful for the last three years. It’s been a journey of many ups and many downs and I don’t think I could have grown this much as a person if I didn’t have the experiences that I did.

A week ago, I shared a post on how many words I’ve written in my entire degree (for a bit of fun!), so you can check that out here. I’m sure I will also share a larger post at some point reflecting on my university experience in a bit more depth!

 

My Blog

Something I’ve realised over the last few weeks, is that I rely a lot on my hobby of writing to keep myself feeling productive with a overall good sense of wellbeing. Without having blogs to write and social media posts to share, I think it would have been a lot more difficult to cope with ending university.

I’m so grateful to have a platform where I can speak my mind and connect with others. I’ve had a lot of really genuine and lovely comments on my blog this month, where I’ve inspired people to make changes to their everyday life, and convinced some to try out a new book! It feels good to be making that kind of difference, even if it small.

So thank you, so much, to all of you ❤

 

Books, Books, and More Books!

Since being in lockdown, books have essentially become my life. There are 3 ways I’ve been enjoying books and I’m super grateful to be able to do all of these:

  1. Reading books – the obvious answer!
  2. Cooking/Baking – I love finding new recipe books!
  3. Writing a book – yes, I’m actually in the process of writing the first draft of my novel! 😱

 

The Sunny Weather

Doesn’t everything just feel that little bit happier when it’s sunny? I’ve loved the rise in temperature and the fact that I’ve been able to sit outdoors in the sun to read, or go on a nice walk. It definitely helps with getting some fresh air in lockdown.

 

Learning to Make Do

I think what I’ve learnt the most during lockdown is to learn to make do with what I’ve got, to make an everyday life and routine out of about a tenth of my normal belongings. I’m sure it’s made a lot of people rethink the amount of stuff they buy because they think they need it, but, in reality, we don’t really need much at all.

I’m really grateful to have the things I do have – a house to live in, food on my plate, books to read, and a family to keep me company.

When I return back home, I’m determined to declutter my room and get rid of all the things that I honestly don’t need!

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What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Sign up to my Weekly Wellbeing Newsletter here.

How many Words have I Written in my Entire University Degree?

A week ago, I sent off my final assignments towards my university degree in English Literature with Creative Writing at UEA. It was a very odd moment – and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet – but I am so glad I don’t have to write another essay again! As much as I love books and discussing ideas and concepts, it definitely wears off after a few years! I am so ready to dive back into my own world of books and writing.

I thought it might be fun to work out how many words I’ve written throughout my time at university. I think it’s a nice way to end my three years because it’s a reflection on how much I’ve actually achieved. It’s easy to look back and feel like everything has been a blur, but these numbers prove that I’ve put in so much time and effort into getting the grade I want and every single one of those words counted.

The numbers below are only a reflection of my summative assignments, so those that counted towards my final grade (as I’m sure I wrote a lot more words for practice essays and note-taking, but it would be very difficult to include everything!)

I hope I can look back on this and feel proud at everything I’ve done.

 

1st year:

= 13,608 words

(Modules = Literature in History 1, Reading Texts Tutorial Class, Creative Writing Autumn Semester, Literature in History 2, Reading Texts 2, Creative Writing Spring Semester)

 

2nd year:

= 20,317 words

(Modules = Literature and Philosophy, Film Theory, Eighteenth Century Writing, Publishing, Contemporary Fiction, Creative Writing Prose Fiction)

 

3rd year (no dissertation):

= 20, 572 words

(Modules = Lyric, Nervous Narratives, Children’s Literature, Creative Writing Prose)

 

Total: 54,497 words

Overall Grade: 2:1

 

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The Lake at UEA Campus

 

Who else has graduated this year? Or is studying a similar course?

Drop me a comment below – let’s share each other’s experiences and achievements!

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

5 Things I’m Grateful For This March (2020)

Here’s my monthly reflection on gratitude!

 

Meditation

A few weeks ago, I went to my first ever meditation workshop! I’ve meditated before – I sometimes use the apps Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer to help with this – but I’d never actually been to a class on it. It was a really insightful experience – it was nice being in a room with others who had a similar outlook. We did a variety of different meditations, such as chanting, body scan, focusing on the ends of each inhale and exhale, and looking at the seven chakras of the body. This session, as well as a podcast I listened to by Dr Chatterjee, got me thinking a lot about my breath and how I can work on decreasing stress through learning to breathe more deeply and slowly. I’m grateful for these experiences and resources that encourage me to make positive changes in my own life.

 

The ability to help others

As I mentioned earlier this week, in this blog post, I have recently created an email newsletter called the Weekly Wellbeing Challenge. Every Monday, I am sending out a simple challenge, to those that have signed up, for them to focus on for the week. Each challenge will promote wellbeing and productivity and it’s ultimately a fun way to try new things too! I’m hoping it will help everybody that is self-isolating, me included. I’m really grateful for sites such as Mailchimp that make creating this newsletter accessible and for everyone who has signed up, because this project makes me really happy and it’s nice to know that people are willing to support it and join in too.

If you’re interested in joining, here’s the link: http://eepurl.com/gW_SHz

 

Independent cafes

This month, before the pandemic hit, I was exploring Norwich and finding some really nice independent cafes to sit in and read a book! It was a nice way of changing up my scenery and taking a break away from studying. Unfortunately, due to recent events, all these cafes, along with many other places, have had to shut. It makes me sad because it is the independent cafes that will lose out most and I can’t imagine a world without them. It’s made me even more grateful for the joy they brought me earlier this month and I’m glad I got the chance to enjoy them before I moved back home to my family.

 

The Simple Things

As I’ve just mentioned, the pandemic has caused a lot of people to rethink the way they’re living their life. It has forced us to consider what our basic needs are, stripped back from materialism and unnecessary obsessions. It’s made me realise that, when it comes down to it, we can live on very little. We don’t need to have everything to live. I feel grateful to even have a house to live in, a family of support, electricity and technology. We are very fortunate – staying inside is nothing in comparison to those that had to fight in a war hundreds of years ago. We must remember this.

 

My university experience

Alongside many others, I am one of the students who has been stripped of their final moments of university due to the coronavirus. What I thought was going to be another month of last seminars, last yoga sessions, last band concerts and final goodbyes is now replaced with self-isolation, and it’s kind of surreal to think it is all over. Whilst it makes me sad to think that I have left the city of Norwich and all the memories within it behind sooner than I expected (or was prepared for), I’m very appreciative of my time there in the first place. It’s been a crazy three years but I’m so grateful to have lived them.

 

March has started and ended on two completely different notes and there’s no denying it’s overwhelming, but all we can do is focus on the present moment and try not to think too much about the future. Now, more than ever, is a good time to practice gratitude and remind yourself of all the great things that do still exist in your life. I will be continuing with this series, whatever happens over the next few months, and if you’d like to take part too, feel free to post on your blogs.

 

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What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

 

How to Find Time to Blog Whilst at Uni (or Working)

I’ve seen a lot of posts on twitter recently from students that are struggling to keep up with blogging whilst at uni. I thought it would be helpful to put together some useful tips! These may also be beneficial to those of you who work as well.

1. Create a blogging ideas list!

This is definitely one of the most important things to do if you’re a blogger. There are so many things in the world that can trigger great ideas, but there’s no point ignoring them when you could write about them! Whenever something pops into your mind, jot it down in a notebook or on a piece of paper. Your brain will thank you later when you’re lost for what to write about.

2. Write posts in advance!

The first step to get your blog in a flow is to write posts in advance. I never used to do this, but since I have, I’ve felt so much more productive. It may be difficult to start doing this at first, since writing 5 posts at once may seem a little draining, but perhaps take a week off blogging to put together some posts and start the following week! Whenever you feel the urge to write or have a great blogging idea, write it in the moment – you don’t have to post it straight away! I currently have 7 drafted blog posts, some of which I wrote months ago, but it means I always have something to post, even if I don’t write for a couple weeks.

3. Plan!

I may be biased because I absolutely love organising and planning things, but it really is useful when trying to get your life blog together. Every Sunday, I sit down and plan two blog posts I’m going to publish the following week, normally three or four days apart (if you’ve written posts in advance, all you have to do is simply pick two from your drafts folder!). I normally have a little blogging weekly planner that I stick on my wall [see below] so I know the exact days to publish things, and how I will market each post on social media too (e.g. what photo on instagram I’m going to use). I also find this extra helpful since my part time job is running the social media for a bookshop (until December), so I use the planner to organise this as well.

Example of my weekly planning 🙂

If you’re not an organised person, this may sound completely overwhelming, but I’ve found that it actually works a lot better for me! If you don’t want to publish two posts a week, you can aim for one and build it up from there.

4. Write whenever you have a moment!

You may have decided which posts in your drafts folder you’re going to publish this week, but it’s a good idea to continue writing so you have more choice for next week! When it comes to writing itself, I actually have no schedule whatsoever, because I feel like you can’t plan writing. Whenever I feel like doing something productive, but I’m fed up of studying/working, I result to blogging because it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile! It’s also a great break between writing essays (I’m currently writing this post now because I’ve reached a standstill on my essay, so I’m taking a break to blog and then going back to the essay later!).

You can also try blogging instead of scrolling through social media. For example, if you’re waiting for your food to come out of the oven, why not blog? If you’re sitting on a train or at the station and you’re bored out of your mind, why not blog? There are lots of moments where you can easily whip out your phone and type a blog post out on the “notes” app. Even if it’s just a sentence or two. Those will eventually add up and you’ll have an entire post!

5. You’re allowed to take a break

This is one I have to constantly remind myself – it’s okay to take some time away from blogging! We’re all human, and there’s only so much our bodies can put up with before we start to crumble. If you need to take a break because life has been super busy and you can’t keep up, no one is going to hate you for it! A couple months ago I went on a week long holiday and completely disappeared off my blog and social media with no warning, but I needed that time to reset my body and look after myself. It would be weird if you didn’t take a break. So enjoy blogging, but also get some much-needed rest.

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You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Post Viral Fatigue (my story over the past 5 months)

Today, I’m going to share something a bit more personal. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a while now and I want to just ramble a bit about what I’m going through in the hopes that it’ll help myself, but maybe also other people in similar situations. I find it hard to explain it all in person because it’s been super complicated, so hopefully typing it out will be easier and give myself a sense of perspective.

(Apologies this post turned out to be really long!)

Back in February was when I first started to feel unwell. I had a sudden onset of brain fog where I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything properly, I didn’t really feel like I was in the present and living, and consequently I was exhausted. Around this time, I was extremely stressed out. There was a lot going on and it was a period of anxiety for me for sure. Perhaps this caused me to become ill, but I still can’t be certain.

Despite the brain fog and tiredness, I continued on with my life. Because that’s what you do when things go wrong, right? You just push through and hope for the best. But in this scenario, this really wasn’t the best thing to do. Weeks later, I became so fatigued I just didn’t know how to cope. I’d look in the mirror and I didn’t even look like myself. I was just so pale and exhausted and I was often crying out of frustration. I was at university at the time so it was super difficult trying to keep up with work and socialising when I was so ill. I could barely get up to do anything. There were many occasions where I pushed myself to get out the house to go to lectures or career talks, but I could barely make it up the street without feeling out of breath, like my legs were super weak and my throat feeling super uncomfortable (because my glands were so swollen). I remember sitting in a lecture room with my eyes barely even open and feeling like an absolute ghost of myself. I would go home and immediately jump into bed and sleep. But the worse part was that, even though I was so exhausted (exhausted beyond what I’d ever even experienced or imagined to be possible), I couldn’t actually fall asleep (I often struggle with sleep problems). And even when I did, I woke up feeling exactly the same as before: tired. Except the word “tired” now means something completely different to me. Before “tired” meant feeling low in energy and finding it difficult to do things. Now, “tired” means my body feeling absolutely drained, my whole chest heaving for breath, a heaviness to the way I feel and move, so much so that the extent of the tiredness sometimes makes me feel numb. It makes me wonder why I ever complained of tiredness before.

Honestly, the beginning of this illness was the most frustrating period of my life because I had no idea what was wrong with me. At one point I thought it might be related to my mental health since I have struggled with anxiety and mild depression in the past, but it seemed that whatever illness I was struggling with was causing symptoms of anxiety and depression, not the other way around. I would tell people I’m ill and they’d say “oh you don’t look ill” and I felt so helpless, because on the outside I looked healthy, but on the inside I felt like something was gnawing away at my insides, swallowing up all my energy. How could I make someone else understand when I didn’t even understand myself?

And the problem was that I went to the doctor multiple times and it got me absolutely nowhere. First time, they gave me antibiotics, thinking it was some flu-related illness due to swollen glands and a fever. I took the antibiotics, twice a day for a week, and if anything it made me feel worse. I felt so nauseous I had to force myself to eat and I spent a week in bed doing nothing, which is so hard for me because I’m such a productive person. So I went back to the doctors again. They thought I might have glandular fever so they gave me a blood test. I waited a week for the results to then ring up and find out that they didn’t have any results and I’d have to redo the blood tests. I was absolutely exhausted and did not have the energy to leave the house, but I had to force myself to the hospital to get them done. I think I might have ended up at the hospital twice because the results were inconclusive again, but either way, the blood tests came back completely clear and I didn’t have glandular fever at all.

At this moment in time, I was so conflicted about the results. Part of me obviously didn’t want glandular fever, but another part of me hoped the blood test would show something wrong because I was fed up of not having an answer. I had to keep telling my lecturers that I was ill and couldn’t turn up to class, and had to miss out on all the university societies I was a part of, but I didn’t know how to explain it when I didn’t have any proof. I felt like I was lying even though I knew it was the realest thing I’d ever faced.

Skip a month or two and I was back home for Easter break. I decided to go to the doctor in my hometown to get a second opinion. I was told to have another blood test so I did, and it all came back clear. I went to see a kinesiologist and she told me it was likely stress-related (which I’m unsure about since it’s summer now and I’m not stressed) and gave me some remedy drops. I took these four times a day for three weeks and I think for this period of time I did almost feel like my normal self. I somehow managed to complete my uni assignments and finished the year (hooray!) However, when I stopped taking the drops and started reading again, the illness came flooding back again. Every time I concentrated on something, whether that was reading or playing a game or even holding a conversation, brain fog and exhaustion hit. It felt like the slightest hope that I was going to recover was just pulled right out of my hand.

Fast forward to a month or so ago, I went to the doctors again. I took in a notebook and listed all my symptoms and everything that had happened only for the doctor to look at her watch halfway through and say “I don’t have much time.” You can imagine how distraught I felt to have gone through 5 months of illness to have a doctor totally disregard my attempt at an explanation. But she did give me one small piece of information that I’m holding on to for lack of any better explanation and that is: I might have post viral fatigue. I had never heard of this term before and honestly I don’t even remember having a virus back in February, but I guess these things can hit you without you even realising. The doctor gave me a sheet of paper for an online sleeping course to help my insomnia, and then told me she’d “send me information” about a consultant referral. She couldn’t refer me to a fatigue consultant herself since I was registered permanently at my university doctor (and only temporarily in my hometown).

As you would expect, I waited for the doctor to send the details, but no details were sent. I rang up to query it a week or so later and the receptionist told me “a temporary account only lasts 14 days so your account is inactive”. She then told me that I had to come back to the doctors to fill out a form before I could be given information. Why didn’t the doctor tell me this at the appointment? And how did I make an appointment a week ago if my account was inactive? It was absolutely ridiculous and by this point I had had enough.

So here I am now, with another doctor’s appointment booked at my university doctors for when I make a trip up there in a week’s time. I am determined to get a referral for a consultant appointment so I can finally get some support!

I suspect that with post viral fatigue it’s a case of resting and waiting for it to just disappear, but honestly I’m worried about when I have to start uni again in September. Although my fatigue is not as bad as it was in February, brain fog still affects me and my energy levels are still lower than usual. Every time I feel particularly exhausted my throat feels inflamed due to my gland (which seems to be permanently swollen) and I feel nauseous. A lot of the time my head is so cloudy I don’t feel like I’m really with it and it’s difficult to process things. I’ve noticed that sometimes I forget a word for something, or I type out a word that’s different than the word in my head, and it worries me. All I need is some reassurance and support from someone – a doctor, consultant – who understands what’s going on in my body so that I can make changes for recovery. It’s just been so difficult to even get to this point.

Honestly it’s been such a whirlwind of a year, but I’ve made it this far and I feel like, despite all this, I’m staying positive. If you’ve made it this far on this post, I’m impressed. Five and a half months of my illness shared in one post is a LOT to take in, but it feels good to share it out in the open.

If anyone has any advice for me, please leave a comment below (at this point, I will consider literally anything!) and I wish you all the best health ❤️

For an update on this: check out my post on stress/anxiety here.

shoe bottles. [poem]

April is National Poetry Month and, since I have the whole of this month off from uni, I am planning to publish a piece of writing every day based on a list of prompts! Feel free to join in and leave links to your own writing below if you’re also taking part! Here is the first prompt: A Fresh Start

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shoes lined up like bottles

numbered round the clock. one

chair to the left of the stranger. two

hands hung off the desk. three

books stacked on the table. four

students coming forth. five

minutes to read a passage. six

seconds to answer the question.

quick – seven – remember the names

leave soon to get back for eight.

it’s nine and the streets are silent.

ten lampposts to guide back home.

eleven thoughts chasing a new life.

twelve ways to forget you’re alone.

shoe bottles every morning.

and numbers on a watch.

but it doesn’t feel like home –

even when you try so much.

 

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6 Ways to Switch Up the Way You Study (check out my first article!!)

I am super excited because my first article for the Graduate Recruitment Bureau’s blog was published today!! It’s not often I connect this blog to my life outside of the written world, but I feel like my confidence has grown so much since starting this blog that I’m no longer afraid for you guys to see the real me behind the page (or at least some of it).

The link to the article I’ve written is below and I really hope that it is useful for any of you who are also studying at university. Please let me know your thoughts 🙂

https://www.grb.uk.com/blog/6-ways-to-switch-up-the-way-you-study

 

My Favourite Mental Health Books

Today is World Book Day, but it is also University Mental Health Day. Since I am a huge lover of reading and have struggled a lot with my mental health whilst at university, this day is really important to me. Therefore, what better to do than list some of my favourite mental health books?

1. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig Image result for reasons to stay alive

I know what you’re thinking, I’m talking about Matt Haig again, but his books have been really helpful to me over the past couple of years. He gives an account of his struggle with mental health with no filter and that’s what I love about it. He doesn’t make it seem cool or sugarcoat it – it is his raw feelings in book form and I really admire that. For people who struggle with anxiety and/or depression, this may be really useful to you. Read my book review here.

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2. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

If you thought I’d just stop at one of Matt Haig’s books, you’d be very wrong. Whilst this one also tackles mental health, it is vaster in its approach to technology and social media. These are things that have become second nature to us and Haig discusses how this affects our minds. I think anyone who finds themselves even mildly attached to the internet can relate to this book. Read my book review here.

3. How to Survive the End of the World by Aaron GilliesImage result for how to survive the end of the world

Technically I haven’t actually finished this book yet, but I’m in the process of reading it, so that counts, right? This book focuses on topics similar to Matt Haig, but has more of a focus on anxiety. I really like the humour that Gillies brings to this book and the informal way it is written. It is split into categories, such as “My anxious brain vs the morning” and “My anxious brain vs socialising” which makes it really easy to pick out the parts as and when you need them. This one doesn’t have a book review yet (sorry).

4. Your journal

So I got to number four and realised that I haven’t actually read as many mental health books as I thought. Go me. However, having your own notebook and jotting down your thoughts is just as much a mental health book as any. It’s a way to release tension, to rationalise your thoughts, and you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes writing out your inner thoughts can be scary because you don’t know what’s lurking there, but it is unbelievably rewarding. Trust me.

 

I really hope this list was somewhat helpful, despite my slight downfall at the end with my lack of ideas. Today is a day about sharing books and caring for others, and I think that’s the perfect day.