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!

2015: A College Odyssey

This past year has certainly been an adventure, full of changes, exciting moments and late nights of study. I would like to dedicate this blog to this past year and all the amazing people who I have shared it with.

O-Week:Pic 1

This year at Concannon we used O-Week to conquer (pun intended) all the parties, all the activities, and most importantly meet everyone. My personal highlights of 2015 O-Week include; Steele Rudd’s Rodeo, Concannon’s Beach party and the Concannon Wedding, always a highlight. Special mention to all the incredible Concannon freshers who spent O-Week looking fly in their sun safe hats.

 

Semi-Formal:

Concannon’s 30th Birthday party, was an amazing time, costumes that all started with ‘C’, and birthday cake, what more could I have asked for? Also the amazing semi-formals that Steele Rudd (Famous People) and McGregor (Superheroes and Villains) hosted, I was lucky enough to be able to wear the same costume to all the semi-formals, the best way to justify the purchase of an expensive costume.

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Concannon Parties:

Who doesn’t love a themed party? Life is too short to spend your time with people who don’t like dressing up for a themed party. Some of Concannon’s themed parties from this year included; St. Patricks Day party, Hero Day (to celebrate our graduates) and Golf Day (since we are such incredible athletes).

Formal:Pic 3

Formal, what would a year on college be without formal? Concannon’s Casino night
involved a little panic (setting up) and a lot of fun. And in classic Concannon fashion we made sure there was lots of laughing, lots of dancing and excellent food. Thank you to the RSC for organising the formal and getting everything done, to the Block representatives for all their support and to all the residents who attended and made sure it was an incredible night.

 

To all the college residents of 2015, thank you for making 2015 an amazing year, and of course, make 2016 an amazing year as well.  Have an incredible rest of the year and best of luck to everyone during these final weeks of university and during exam block!

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The formalities of McGregor College

It’s the day! You have the perfect dress. You know exactly how you are going to have your hair. You know exactly when you are doing everything. You are ready for one of the best nights of your life! Being a college resident gives you the best opportunities to spend time with your friends, especially at the semi-formal and formal. But, it’s not what you think.

During the first semester we enjoy the semi-formal. This year the theme for our semi-formal was Superheros and Villains. The costumes ranged from witches to avengers and from ninja turtles to Steve Irwin – it was quite the sight to see. Throughout the night, a number of proceedings took place ranging from residents getting silly awards to the photo booth being used. Not only do you have photographic evidence of what exactly happened that night but you get the best three-course meal you will ever have in your time at college. Not only do you create some of the best memories, you get to do it with all your friends.

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I bet you are thinking that formal is exactly like your school formal; that you have to be dolled up to the nines and have to wear your ball gowns. It is nothing like your school formal – it is much more relaxed. Yes, you have to wear a formal dress but it can be any type of formal dress. Men, however, you will be required to have your yearly shower around this date because you have to at least smell nice. Both last year, the year before and again this year, I have worn the same formal dress – started at Year 12 and now we are here. Moral of the story – wear what you have. Again, you get one of the best meals of your college experience – chicken or steak, anyone? Not only do you get to dress up and sit at a table with all your friends, it is the chance to honour those who are graduating, welcome the new RSC and congratulate outstanding residents. It is honestly one of the most fun nights, I have experienced and was better than my school formal.

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So, you are thinking about coming to college? DO IT! You get to experience so many events throughout the year, semi-formal and formal included, that allow you to enjoy time with friends and enjoy a great night organised by fantastic people. Hopefully, I will see you at the next ones.

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

 

 

Organisation 101

University has been one of the best experiences of my young life, and one of the reasons is the social aspect is so much fun! But in between all the fun, you are meant to study. Luckily, I have found a few tricks to help with being organised to make sure I never forget when an assignment is due, when a Res Shield event is or when the next social event is. Here are my five tips for being organised.

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  1. Make a list

I know this might seem like a very obvious thing, but my list is more detailed; at the beginning of each semester I make a list of all the assessments I have for each class, including the assignment type (Quiz, Oral, Assignment, etc.), when the assignment is due, and the percentage it is worth for the class. Additionally when I receive a result back I note what percentage I got to keep track of how I am doing in the class.

  1. Colour Code Everything

I highlight everything. My big yearlong calendar has so much writing and highlighting on it, and it makes such a difference;

  • Res Shield events; purple
  • Assessment; blue
  • Birthdays; yellow
  • Res College Social events; green
  • Parties and Social events; pink.

Trust me, it makes events a lot easier to find.

Additionally with colour coding, if you have individual books and folders, get ones in matching colours, that way you always know the book and folder belong together.

  1. Desk Organisation

Make the most of your space at college. The best way I have found is having desk organisation/storage.  I can actually see my stuff and am more motivated to study. It is so much easier during exam block to know where everything is; pens, sticky notes, notebooks, highlighters, all within reach and easy to see.

  1. Closet OrganisationPic 2

Now I understand some people like to bring a lot of clothing and such to college, so it is important to make the most of your closet space. Hanging storage has been such a space saver for me. I have a hanging section, shelving for bags/shoes/jumpers (depending on time of year), and hanging organisers, it has saved me so much space, honestly.

  1. Under the bed

My biggest asset for hiding all of my mess is giant storage boxes under my bed (labelled so I know where everything is). Additionally I keep a shoe rack under there, and for anyone who plays sports or just generally owns far too many shoes I would recommend this as a must!

I hope these tips were useful for you. Let me know if you have any other organisation tips in the comments below.

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.

When InSaNity takes over

As Hannah Montana once sang, “Everybody has those days … Everybody knows what I’m talking about … Everybody gets that way.” You’re on point Hannah, especially when it comes to uni!Pic 1

We all have those days where we just want to crawl up into foetal position in the corner of the room and rock back and forth. No? If you don’t, you seriously need to share with me how you keep a uni/work/life balance. I, for one, admit that I am a stress head – I stress about the smallest things to the biggest things and it all takes its toll, often at the worst times. It has taken me years to finally realise how to unwind and have some ‘me’ time, to minimise the effects that uni and study have.

It’s good to have stress in your life, it’s inevitable and sometimes a useful motivator. Some stresses can assist you in studying and some stresses can prevent you from studying. Imagine you are swimming in the ocean with waves. Assistive stressors are at the point where you are comfortable swimming, you are able to tread water and float over waves. Preventative stressors feel like you have gone too far into the water and a wave is crashing down on you and you are struggling for air. Hint: you don’t want to reach this point.

Here are some of the tips I use when I can see that wave of stress coming and don’t want it to come crashing down on me.

  • EXERCISE: I’m the type of person that doesn’t run unless they are being chased by a serial killer or see a snake. I personally despise exercise but incorporate it into my daily life (well, try too anyway). I find that when I am stressed, if I go to the gym for an hour I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back into study.
  • CALL MY FAMILY or FRIENDS: My mum is my go to person and I call her pretty much every night (I know, a mummy’s girl). She listens to my worries and gives me advice on how to deal with them. If she’s at work or I need a hug in-person, I go to the friends I feel comfortable with who are always willing to help me out (need those people in your life).

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  • DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY: Sport, painting, crafts or binge watching your favourite or new addictive TV Show. Everyone is different and enjoys different things. I personally like crawling into bed and watching my favourite TV Show (Friends or Grey’s Anatomy) for an hour or five.

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  • GO HOME: Living away from home takes its toll and sometimes all I want to do is be at home in my own bed surrounded by my family. Plan to go home to see your family and friends – it will be exactly what you need (because who doesn’t love a good home cooked meal).

Pic 6To minimise the effects of stress be organised and create a weekly planner of exactly what you need to have done and when you need to have it done by (INCREDIBLY HELPFUL WHEN ASSESSMENT IS DUE). By finding what relaxes you and how to handle and minimise stress, you will live a happy and healthy life!

Remember: Stressed spelt backwards is desserts – eat a bunch of desserts!

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.

It’s all in the preparation- My three tips for balancing Prac and Uni

Practical experiences are a very necessary and exciting part of many university degrees.  Unfortunately this is often the busiest time of the semester. For many of us, whilst on prac our uni subjects continue, content continues to be distributed and assignment due dates loom closer. As I prepare for my next practical experience (woo hoo!), I would like to share with you my top three tips for balancing university studies and practical experience.

  1. Prepare your assessment

Prior to practical experience, prepare to complete as much of your assessment as possible.  Get everything you can to a point that you would be happy to submit.  Prac is an absolutely wonderful experience, one you want to be able to embrace and not be worried about the assignment due the next day which you haven’t started yet and have three lessons to plan for the following day as well!  It is much easier to edit drafted assignments than trying to research, draft and edit an assignment when you are exhausted after spending a week at work.

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  1. Prepare a study plan

Prepare a study schedule to follow during prac. As I found on my first practical experience, completely disregarding all uni work during prac will only come back to bite you later. Prioritise your work. Every little bit that you do during prac is something that you don’t have to worry about later. Write your schedule and stick to it! Everyone has different study patterns and you need to find what works for you.

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  1. Prepare to communicate

Practical experiences are your first glimpse into the big wide world of work that you will be entering into in a few short years. Ensure you contact your practical site as soon as you know where you have been placed to clear up any queries you may have and find out their expectations of you. Once you arrive, be honest and open to your supervisors. They know you are a university student and also have study to complete whilst on prac. They are not mind readers and hence need to be told if you are struggling or have assessment due. They too went to university at some point and know what you are going through! They are there to help you through your practical experience…help them to help you!

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Be true to yourself.  Your practical experience is a very busy, yet exciting time. With sufficient preparation, you will be able to both stay on top of your university studies and enjoy your precious taste of the workforce! Good luck! J