And with that, I’m officially done!

Every year the Residential Colleges host a Valedictory Dinner for graduating residents and their families. On Saturday the 24th of October, it was my turn to attend the dinner as a soon-to-be USQ graduate- Yes, the perfect excuse to buy a new dress! At the dinner I had the privilege of delivering the speech on behalf of the Steele Rudd graduates, and while I did get nervous, I got through it and managed to get a few laughs from the audience. #winning #success

New dress- ready for the valedictory dinner

I love an excuse to buy a new dress

Making the Speech

Despite the nerves, I made it through my speech

At the dinner we all shared memories, received advice for the future and were thanked for our contributions to the Residential Colleges community. We laughed and danced late in to the night, continuing to make memories and forge friendships at our final college event before moving into the ‘big wide world’.

Celebrating the evening with friends

Celebrating the evening with friends

I first moved to Steele Rudd College in February 2011 as a very shy and innocent 17 year old who had never been away from home for more than 10 days at a time. Looking back, I can remember I was extremely uncertain about what the next few years of my life would hold. I remember thinking things like, ‘What if I don’t make friends?’, ‘What if I don’t fit in?’, ‘What if I get homesick?’, ‘What if I fail?’ and ‘What if I don’t like what I am studying?’ It took me a little while to settle in, but I discovered that lots of ‘freshers’ felt exactly the same as me.

It didn’t take long for me to make friends in fact, the friends I made in my first few days at college are still my friends today. I discovered everyone is welcome and no one is left out, everyone fits it. I learnt it’s perfectly natural to get homesick and that it’s not something to be ashamed of. My friends stuck by me and helped me through when I was feeling really homesick. I made trips home to visit my family and friends whenever I could. I even spoke with my family on the phone every night, and still do.

First Year

Friends in my first year (2011). Myself, Sophie, Dimity, Cassie and Ash

Now

This year (2015) Ash, Myself, Sophie and Cassie at Dimity’s wedding.

‘What if I fail?’ While I’ve never failed a course, I did fail an exam in my first semester. While I was disappointed I’d failed the exam, I chose to learn from the experience. The next semester I was more dedicated to my study and started preparing for my exams much earlier. I’ve always told myself that I would only truly fail if I gave up, and I never ever give up.

In high school, two of my best subjects were business and legal studies, which is why I decided to study a double degree in business and law at uni. At the end of my first year I realised law wasn’t for me. I contacted my Student Relationship Officer (SRO) who helped me change from the double degree into a single business degree and apply for credits for the courses I had already completed.

I often hear people say high school is the best time of their life, but for me uni and living on college have been the best experiences of my life! The friendships I’ve forged and the memories I’ve made will stick with me forever.

Friends and memories collage

The friendships I’ve forged and the memories I’ve made will stick with me forever

Five years since I was first handed my key, I have grown as a person and have learnt heaps, and I don’t just mean academically. I’ve learnt how to be a good person, how to budget, how to manage my time and how to overcome the challenges life throws at me.

With the click of a button and nine minutes and 34 seconds to spare, I submitted my last assessment piece for my Master’s on Friday the 30th of October, I was officially done! 🙂

Last assignmnent finised

The last assessment piece of my degree submitted.

If you’ve never studied, are only just starting to study, are half way through, or have completed your studies, never give up! Embrace the opportunities life throws at you because, as Mark Twain once said:

Explore. Dream. Discover. Quote

For those of you who are still studying, good luck with your remaining assessments and courses. To all of you who are now finished your degrees, I wish you all the very best of luck for whatever your future holds, I hope all of your dreams come true.

Outwitting the Thief of Time

Chances are – if your great grandma was Australian – she spent the formative years of education carefully copying out ‘Procrastination is the Thief of Time’ in her best cursive. These days, we have motor cars, computers and YouTube which all threaten to still away our precious time.

Here are some ideas to harness time to your advantage

1. Procrastination be gone!

Watch one of the good, helpful YouTube video on why you procrastinate (the task seems all too big and overwhelming?) and then ask yourself what you can achieve in the next 5 minutes. Then start. Right now. For five minutes.

The key here is to not procrastinate by attacking procrastination head on.

2. ‘You eat an elephant, one bite at a time’

It all adds up. Spend 10 minutes a day summarising the main points you have learnt, for one of your subjects, this week. Chipping away at the Mount Everest in front of you, is not as daunting as breaking out the mental TNT, and it all adds up…

3. ‘Stop Nesting, Start Studying’

This beautiful concept, nestled amongst the pro-tips included in the link below, can be good to remember, if you find yourself unable to start anything until you have all of your coloured highlighters in rainbow order, on your desk. While a tidy, efficient workspace is a great way to lift your mood and cue your mind to focus…there comes a time when fluffing the pillows needs to be tossed aside…

http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-7-dumbest-things-students-do-when-cramming-exams/

4. Live at the Library…

Great for avoiding the urge to redecorate your room, and great for avoiding social gatherings you would rather attend. I use a little suitcase with wheels, to transport loads of library books. Socially awkward, yes…but pretty sure both great-grandma and the average chiropractor, would approve.

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5. Smell the roses… while you are jogging past…

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Daily exercise really is an investment in better sleep, reduced stress, and more mental alertness. Aim for 30 minutes. Not a huge part of your day. If you can manage a walk in the morning sunlight, so much the better. Consider a brisk walk around the tranquil Japanese Gardens. Connecting with Nature, and getting your blood circulating is a great way to multi-task.

6. Multi-task and Multi-media

Look for sensible, productive ways to do two things at once. Download lectures and listen on bus trips. Walk on the treadmill while listening to lectures or watching relevant documentaries. Break out the coloured pens and butcher’s paper, and affix the main points to your wall, with stick figure cartoons – for fun *and* study, simultaneously.

7. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Having a daily timetable and diary seems really basic…yet, used to maximum advantage, stops that time slip-sliding away, never to return…

8. Real World in Real Time

Challenge the soothing sense of connectedness offered by Facebook, and meet up with your friends in real life – maybe even have Study Gatherings together. If you live at College, make maximum use of Study Hall. Keep each other honest and focused, and motivated. Encourage. Empathise.

Seek out friends and family with Real World features such as cuddly kittens, and build these little purring stress reducers into your busy week.

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9. The Ol’ Cost-Benefit Analysis

Remember why you are at uni. Where do you want to be in 5 years? What will you be able to do (have a great career, afford to buy rather than rent your dream home?) in the years ahead?

Do a quick search of literacy rates globally, and reflect that – even though sometimes it seems never-ending and laborious – education is a privilege. Try to recapture the enjoyment you felt in learning, as a child. Do your best to work hard, in gratitude for your life opportunities.

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If this doesn’t help…think of all the chocolate you will be able to purchase, when you use your degree to be gainfully employed.

Do you have any never-fail time management and motivation strategies which work for you? Please let me know, below!

All the World’s a Stage: the Pros and Cons of College Life

Living at a Residential College can be a unique and incomparable experience; one you will carry with you for life. As with many aspects of existence, of course, there are pros and cons in the mix.

Location, location- Pro

Living in such a tight-knit community is often brilliant. Giving your all at a Residential Shield Event, clad in College colours. Enjoying a hilarious conversation over dinner. All the conveniences of living actually at the university, having one bill to pay, the internet on, and food ready and waiting for you, without fuss. You don’t even have to clean the toilet!

Finding Your Tribe- Pro

There is almost always someone keen for a chat or happy to share your chocolate. You are surrounded by people who know exactly what it’s like to be a student, in all its challenge and glory. Activities help you locate and befriend the people who resonate with you, and meet new friends from all over the world.

McG RAs

All the World’s a Stage- Both Pro and Con

People talk. This is great when you know half the smiling students on USQ advertisements. There’s no place like home!

Living in a fishbowl can also be initially somewhat daunting, particularly if you are a private or shy person. Having survived high school though, odds are you will adapt to College living A-OK. The intensity of community life is a blessing, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Seeing happy couples when you are single or seeing the person your own promising love story didn’t work out with every day can become too much.

The wise resident knows when to escape college, or at least find a quiet corner in the library or gardens, for a few hours to reset perspective and press the social ‘refresh’ button. Your RAs are bound by expectations of confidentiality, and your College Community Advisor, Mel, is a great ally if you ever just need to get something personal or vexing off your chest, knowing it won’t be going any further.

Missing your furry friends- Con

One of the most obvious down sides to Res College life is the absence of fluffy pets. Manically sharing cute kitten videos can only do so much to alleviate times of intense longing for those little furry friends so many of us love. Mobbing the cute quacky ducks and adorable lambs at USQ petting zoo events is a common side effect of Res College life.

The late night noise- Con

Student life is traditionally alive with late-night assignment binges, and occasional night club frivolities and merriment oft-enhanced by a quiet ale or three. If you like to go to bed early, you are a light sleeper, or you are not always a fan of sharing an enthusiastic neighbour’s choice of music, you may wish to invest in some earplugs, so you can sleep like a baby. That is, the baby which isn’t crying and waving its fists in frustration.

 I don’t feel like chicken tonight…- Con

Living in Catered splendor has its challenges: launching out of bed in time for breakfast, late night snack attacks when dinner finished at 7pm. You may not always be in the mood for the evening’s menu, until you see the diabolically delicious dessert… There is a self-catered option for those who prefer to cook their own food.

 Lifelong friends and memories- Pro

Every cloud has a silver lining, but living in a lively, supportive, buzzing Residential College Community, with people who will become lifelong friends truly is pure gold.

mcG girls

 

 

The highs and lows of being a Resident Advisor

This year I am a Resident Advisor (RA) at Steele Rudd College, one of the three Residential Colleges at USQ’s Toowoomba Campus and have often been asked what it is like to be an RA. An RA is a resident and student who is trained to help other residents with academic, social and welfare issues they may be having while living on college. There is always an RA ‘on duty’ outside of business hours at each of the three colleges who assists residents with things such as lock-outs, safety or security and maintenance issues, first aid and the hiring of vacuum cleaners. Being an RA is both a rewarding and challenging experience.

2015 USQ Resident Advisors celebrating the end of training

2015 USQ Resident Advisors celebrating the end of training with cupcakes

For me, being an RA is rewarding because I get to help people, something I have always enjoyed doing. I have seen first year students grow from being shy and unsure in the college environment, to being an essential vibrant member of the college community. I get to smile with and celebrate the big and small achievements of college residents as they move through their university journey. And it always brings a smile to my face (and makes me feel like a bit of a superhero) when a resident comes up to me with a simple ‘thank you for your support’ or ‘thank you for being there for me when no one else was’.

RARecruitmentApplicationSuperhero

As an RA I even get to plan events for the residents of my block to help foster friendships and create some fun and stress relief in to the chaos that is uni. #winning! I love organising events! Movie nights and block BBQs are always popular events (who doesn’t love free food?)!

Being an RA can also be challenging. Sometimes, other residents think of me as the ‘fun police’ for asking them to turn the music down during quiet hours when other residents are trying to study or sleep. And occasionally my friends shake their heads at me for asking ‘are you sure that is a good idea?’ when they talk about their plans to prank another friend.

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Some nights the phone rings for a lock-out or noise complaint at 3am when I have been up until 1am trying to complete assessment I know I shouldn’t have left to the last minute. And very rarely, it feels like I don’t get any sleep at all.

not-sure-if-i-should-sleep-futurama-fry

Occasionally I will be helping residents through stressful times at uni while also stressing out myself. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Being an RA has been one of the best experiences of my life. The skills I have learnt along the way outweigh the occasional night of sleep deprivation by a mile. I have had the opportunity to make friends with people I never thought I would make friends with. Seeing residents overcome the hurdles they face and succeeding on their path to fulfilling their dreams is possibly the best thing I have ever witnessed.

If you have ever thought about applying to be an RA, my advice would be to go for it. There’s no real way you can know what it is like to be an RA until you actually are one, but I’ve never regretted my decision to apply.

Budget? Some ideas to budge-it from ‘in the red’ to ‘in the pink’…

Being a student means you have to be very careful with your money. I thought I would share my top 11 budgeting tips with you.

  1. Take full advantage of social events on campus and in the community.

Many have free food! Also, enquire about student discounts on everything from cinema to bus tickets. Retailers are often sympathetic, if you explain ‘I am on a uni student budget’.

community and sunshine

Toowoomba Languages and Culture Festival

  1. Plan well ahead for good internet deals on plane tickets

Also try carry-on luggage, and odd hours to fly out. Check connecting bus timetables, use the sky train or ask a kind friend – offering them petrol money – to pick you up and minimise the taxi cost conundrum!

  1. Invest in a good pair of jeans, and some quality boots (with waterproofing)

Good quality items will last for years, and provide a classy outfit foundation. Also keep an eye out for thermals and puffy jackets at travel and camping shops’ end-of-season sales.

  1. Try your luck with Op Shops

Toowoomba has a wealth of riches and Op Shops. Thoughtful browsing will soon have you up to speed with the feel and genre of each cluster of pre-loved goodies. You are also helping to fund charity! Double win! Monitor for new arrivals and experiment with forays into new and promising personal styles.

  1. You can still accessorise!

Near-new bags, funky jewelry, and even amazing shoes may be on offer for the lucky bargain hunter at a local Op Shop. A pair of faux pearl earrings from a budget jewellery shop will add lustre to any outfit…and really, no one will know but you!

  1. You can still feed your book/ reading obsession

Love to read? The university library has newspapers and periodicals! Join local libraries for more books, glossy magazines, and DVDs. Op Shops have entire shelves devoted to pre-loved best sellers, so stay alert as volumes by your favourite authors cycle through. Also consider buying cheaper e-book versions, and scout Project Gutenberg for thousands of free online classics!

  1. Stay healthy

Procrastinate no more! Use that gym membership! Staying healthy is ultimately going to save you money. Clean your teeth and save for your annual check-up, a $150 filling this year could be a $1000 nightmare by the end of your degree!

  1. Pack snacks and a water bottle wherever you go

Stash a reserve muesli bar in your backpack and carry your own water bottle which you can fill with the free filtered water on campus. Don’t forget your USQ multi-use mug, the Hub kitchenette has a hot water jug and microwave!

  1. Watch TV in the Common Room

Watch TV in the common room instead of buying a TV of your own, you may also discover that you share a favourite TV show or movie with another resident in your block.

  1. Revive second-hand furniture and decorate your space

Add a spray of Glen20, a colourful swatch of fabric and some paint in your favourite colour scheme to refresh second hand furniture. Hit Bargain and Op Shops for glass vases, river stones, decorative candles and tasteful art pieces. Cut pretty borders from leftover wrapping paper to outline your photos and add style. Indoor plants also look amazing, try selecting something sturdy yet root-bound from the discount tray, soak overnight in half a bucket of water, and check it the next day. If it doesn’t make it, try again with a new one! (And the same goes for your budget!)

  1. Make the most of free calendars

Don’t forget free calendars, especially your USQ wall calendar. Calendars are a great way to plan your study, work and social commitments. Free calendars can also have really cool pictures which you can cut out and use to decorate your room.

Finding what works for your budget might involve some trial and error but you will work it out eventually. If you have any other budgeting tips, let me know in the comments box below, I’d love to hear them.

Keeping in contact with your friends

It’s the end of semester: you’ve finished exams, your last assignment has been submitted and you’re ready for whatever the break might bring. When you’re living on college there are lots of people you can celebrate the end of semester with. But you may also be faced with the realisation that some of your friends are now moving off college because they’ve completed their degrees, or for other reasons.

I recently said goodbye to one of my close friends, who is moving home to Western Australia. While we won’t be in the same town, or even the same state, I know that this goodbye isn’t forever. During my five years on college I’ve seen many of my friends finish their degrees, go back home to be with their families and start other things, so I thought I’d share my top five tips for keeping in touch with your friends over the holidays as well as after college and uni.

Tip 1: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

We all get busy, but if you wait for your friend to call or text, you may never actually speak to them. If you call and they don’t answer, leave them a message or call them back later. I like to text my friends before I call to make sure they’re available, because a text message is much less distracting than their phone ringing.

Tip 2: Social media is great

Using social media is a great way to keep in contact with your friends, particularly if they are in a different time zone. You can send them a message and they can reply whenever it suits them. This way, you aren’t accidently waking them at 2am. I have a friend in Germany and we often use Facebook messages to organise our Skype sessions.

social media

Tip 3: Skype, Skype, Skype!

You may not have seen your friend in person for months, or even years, but with Skype you can have face-to-face conversations on a regular basis. Make sure you have a strong internet connection so you don’t have a call with lags or worse, have your conversation drop out completely.

skype

Tip 4: Write letters and postcards

I always get really excited when I receive mail and I know my friends do too. The messages and stories on the back of postcards help me imagine what that place is like, and make me want to travel there one day myself. Email is another great way to write to your friends, and it gets to them instantly.

Tip 5: Make the time to visit

While it is easy to visit your friends who are in the same town or only a couple of hours away, it’s more difficult to visit those who are in different states or countries. I’ve never been to Sydney, Western Australia or Germany but I’m looking forward to some great holidays during which I can catch up with friends, plus free accommodation means more shopping!

The most important investment you can make isn’t your job, the money you make or the car you drive, it’s the relationships you build. Building and maintaining these relationships will take effort and time, but no amount of money will make up for how good it feels to have friends there to celebrate the big events in your life with you. So what are you waiting for? Make contact with your off-campus friends now!

Do I need everything except the kitchen sink or will I need that too?

Packing to move to Residential Colleges can be a very daunting experience. The stress of moving away from your family and friends, possibly for the first time is often compounded by the stress of remembering everything that you need to pack.

When I was packing for my first year, I was worried that I wasn’t pack the right things and that I would leave important things behind. Now, there is no reason for you to have the same worries.

This piece below is a great way to remember what you need to pack and help take some of the stress out of moving, I wish I had this information in my first year.

http://social.usq.edu.au/uni-lifestyle/2015/07/pack-res-college

Let me know if this piece has been helpful for you in the comments below!

Happy packing!

Kim 🙂

Living on College- a Mature Aged perspective

Life’ said John Lennon, ‘is what happens while you are busy making other plans.’ Apparently, so the saying goes, ‘Life’ also ‘begins at 40’.

You’re never too ‘Mature aged’ to start embracing the selfie trend!You're never too mature aged to start embracing the selfie trend!

That’s the unexpected thing about our existence. According to our culture, most of us probably began the adulthood journey with a concept of our life’s trajectory. Free spirits with a love of flying solo and seeing the world…happy homebodies perhaps with a significant other installed in our cosy cottage, along with a cute kiddie in designer clothing, and a fluffy pet or three. Oh, and window-boxes augment this charming, country scene. But, as Robbie Burns reminds us in his Scottish dialect Ode to a field Mouse whose home he destroyed with a plough, life is unexpected:

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Fortunately, the various life ploughs which ail us humans – including the sobering realities of divorce, death and dashed dreams – are no great match for the community spirit and life-affirming oasis which Res College life offers the mature aged student!  It’s like living in a warm, buzzing beehive, really. Rather than lurking anonymously in the suburbs. Where you ‘always’ have friends over for dinner.

Where else can you find a ready-made group of friends (both young and mature age) to offer study support, hugs, enjoy a DVD or board game with, or join in a quick game of touch footy, soccer kick-around or basketball bounce, before dinner?

Fun and Frivolity old-school style!

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Few can boast a team of chefs creating soups, mains, salad, fruit, dessert, with endless ‘cuppas’…where you don’t have to do the washing up! You can even choose the self-catering option, if you prefer to scoff your own gourmet DIY cuisine and still enjoy the support and company of the College Community.

having cooked for myself for many years, it’s great to have someone else cook for mePic 4

Not only do you have the opportunity to embrace an instant, structured social life, but there is also the convenience of simplifying your financial outlay. It can be soothing to pay just the one bill which covers a range of things – Wi-Fi, heating, water, and parking, did I mention food? Oh, and the transport to classes is easy, simply walk! – and when the juggling act of life begins to toss in flaming torches, there is even an approachable, confidential no-cost Res College Psychologist you can chat too. Can’t ask for much more than that!

Extreme camping, for the young and young at heartPic 5

Pitching in moral support at the cricket
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It’s a relief to have a team of approachable managers and administrators, cleaning and kitchen and maintenance staff, and the university’s gardeners, all working together, for your ultimate benefit. A sports complex – Gym! Yoga classes! – And a friendly university library; even a tranquil, tourist attraction, the Japanese Garden, is right in your backyard!

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Honestly, yes. There will come a day when Gough Whitlam or Wayne Goss pass away, and you weep openly into your cereal, when fresh faced friends innocently make enquiries such as ‘Who is Gough?’ mature age residency at College is a bit like Democracy really – never going to be perfection, but we’re parked as close to that bay as we can manage…

Cosy and colourful for a happy homePic 8tend to the Community Garden, or build your own, if that’s more your stylePic 10

So, if life really does begin at 40 (or 30 or 50 years old) for some of us, in cheerful defiance of The Plough…a Res College can be a very promising place to start, you won’t be the only ‘mature aged’ resident there.

Decorating and personalising your college bedroom

Before moving to college, many students don’t realise that they can personalise their college rooms. When I first moved to college I packed my favourite doona and pictures of my family and friends. These things are still in my room today, along with lots of other things to decorate my room with.

I thought I would share with you some of my tips to transform that standard college bedroom into your own personal space. Although I am a Resident Advisor this year and have more space than other residents, I still know what it is like to have a normal college bedroom.

  1. Decorate your desk and bookshelf

You will be spending a lot of time at your desk, especially towards the end of the semester when assignments are numerous and exams are creeping their head out from around the corner. Make sure your desk is welcoming so that you don’t dread having to sit there. To ensure that I am as productive as possible, I have created a wall of motivation to help keep me on track. I also have my pens and highlighters in close reach and my USQ wall calendar with all important dates nearby. I have never been the type of person who can sit still so I have also replaced my chair with a gym ball, which helps me to exercise while I’m studying. When personalising your desk make sure you leave enough practical space for your books and computer when you are studying.

Making the most of my study space at exam time20150604_22140320150513_154938My study space has always been personalised and practical. Now that I have my ‘wall of motivation’ I find it so much easier to achieve my study goals.  

  1. Personalise and decorate your bed to ensure you get the best sleep possible

 

It is important to get the recommended amount of sleep each night so that you have enough energy to get through your classes and study for the day. Make your bed as comfortable and personal as you can. I have additional pillows and my own doona my bed. Other residents also like to bring mattress toppers to make their beds softer and more comfortable. Cushions are also a good idea as your bed doubles as a couch when your friends come to chat.

 

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  1. Personalise your bathroom

 

Bathrooms are different for everyone. If you’re accommodation type is one in which you share a bathroom with the entire block than you won’t be able to personalise the bathroom. If you have an ensuite room or only share a bathroom with one other person, you will be able to bring some of your own style into it. Personally, I have some artificial flowers and pink towels and bathmats in my bathroom.

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  1. Photos and Posters

 

Don’t be afraid to put posters, pictures and calendars on your walls to make your room feel like home. I have lots of pictures up around my room (Command stick on hooks are a great way to mount photo frames). I also have paper lanterns, posters and other cool memories, such as invitations on my walls.

 

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  1. Additional items

 

Depending on the amount of space in your room, you might like to bring some additional items. You are more than welcome to bring bar fridges, small fans, small TVs and small bookshelves. Just remember that you have to pack everything up at the end of the year and storage space on college is limited. I have quite a few additional items in my room, including a bookshelf, bar fridge, TV and bedside table.

 

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I’ve had lots of fun decorating my room and making it how I want it to be. I hope these tips help you to personalise and decorate your college room.

Decorating my bedroom

While my standard college room was smaller than my RA flat, I still made sure to decorate and personalise it.

 

My Study Abroad experience- six weeks in China

It transpires that Kublai Khan, grandson of infamous Genghis Khan, established Beijing as the ‘Northern Capital’. Beijing, with its ‘amazingly mild winter this year!’ in which temperatures hovered around minus 5, and desert-like dryness such that it snowed slightly twice in the six weeks I was there remains China’s capital city. The supreme hardiness of the local people does, for me, hark back to ancient times when the world lacked thermal long-johns and central heating.

This reads 'Beijing' (literally 'Northern Capital')

This reads ‘Beijing’ (literally ‘Northern Capital’)

From mid-December ’14 to late January this year, I had an amazing time studying at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). I learnt Mandarin from 8am to noon each day for five weeks, at the Intensive Winter Language Course.

In class at the BLCU

In class at the BLCU

With dawn just breaking each morning, I pulled on layers of clothing, including facemask and set off for the massive three floor dining hall to start the day with a takeaway steamed bun breakfast, and a warming cup of freshly blended mung beans. The food was amazing.

In the Dining Hall and some of the amazing food I ate while I was in China177 183 280

I had the luxury of my own room in the hotel on campus, which even included a TV. I tuned this constantly to the beautiful (if tragic) Imperial soaps; listening to Mandarin, even while glued to my desk, writing out reams and reams of new characters daily.

My class comprised mostly of lovely, friendly, sweet young South Koreans. I readily embraced the Asian tendency to ‘yi qi qu’ – let’s go together –enjoying many lunches and outings with classmates. We tackled the breathtakingly (literally) steep Great Wall and wandered for hours through the confronting Art Precinct. The Temple of Heaven – at a crisp minus 7, when the rash on my legs hinted I’d forgotten to don thermals beneath jeans – was another cultural highlight of my stay.

Ice skating with my friends

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I felt like China had changed since the last time I was here, with the flood of advertisements for Western products all around me. But, as I manically photographed chubby-cheeked babies held aloft by proud parents ‘walking the babies’ in the subdued winter sunshine I realised China hasn’t changed much. The fleets of cleaners on the university grounds, expertly cycling ‘bike utes’ complete with brooms fashioned from tree branches. The shock to my friendly, country Australian system, of the famous Northern ‘lihai’ – formidable – public persona was that small talk was non-existent, along with eye contact which might have been interpreted as customer service.

You discover the humanity-affirming warmth and hospitality of Chinese people when you have established a relationship with them. I travelled to Tianjin on the high-speed train and met the family of my Chinese friend still studying back at USQ. As I hugged her beautiful, welcoming mum, I gave thanks for the priceless personal opportunity which Study Abroad had given me.

I was thrilled to be navigating the Beijing Subway on my own, attending 4 hours of lessons each day (taught in Chinese) and enjoying meals with classmates who didn’t speak any English at all.

Eating in a Café with my friend Yuri Chan

Eating in a Café with my friend Yuri Chan

I talked to students from North Korea, Djibouti, Benin and Kazakhstan. I coped with SWAT squads, sniffer dogs, an incredibly thorough airport pat-down…AND managed to not miss my flight from South Korea to Brisbane, despite chancing upon a Hello Kitty Café moments before boarding.

If you ever, ever get the chance to be a uni student overseas, my advice is, of course you should – surprise yourself! With the backing and assistance of USQ behind you, enrich your life by seeing how other people live! View your home through new eyes upon your return! It is an opportunity you simply cannot miss. Apply today. As the Chinese proverb reminds us “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!