So You Want To Study: English Literature!

Afternoon everyone! It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another post in the So You Want To Study series! This week’s post comes from the lovely Lilith, who is here to share her experience of studying English Literature at university. I hope any of you who are considering studying English Lit find this helpful!

so-you-want-to-study-english-literature-advice

When I joined first year English Literature at the University of Glasgow in September 2010, my course had well over a hundred students. So many, lectures were given twice in succession to accommodate us all. There’s no doubt about it —English Literature is one of the most popular of the arts and humanities courses.

But, it’s not a subject choice to be taken lightly. It’s not an easy option and certainly not one to take if you “can’t think of what else I’d do.” What the study of English Literature is, however, is mentally challenging and rewarding. It’s a discipline that will make you see yourself, others and the world around you in a whole new way. No, seriously.

What made you want to study English Literature?

I’m one of those incredibly annoying people who always knew what they wanted to study. As soon as I learned what university was and what English Literature was I put the two together and I knew that was the path for me. By my sixth year, I had no other plan B in mind. I loved writing, reading, books, thinking critically, argumentation, research and analysis. Sound like you? Read on. Chances are you’ll make a fab English Literature student.

Expectations vs. Reality

I had many many fears before leaving home to go to university (they would be a whole other blog post). A key one was that I really wasn’t qualified to be there. I was terrified everyone would be streaks ahead of me and I’d never catch up. Everyone would have read Camus in the original French and be quoting from Ulysses. Why did I feel this way? It was totally irrational.

Let’s be honest, there will always be people who have read more than you, this is true. There are people who will have read less. And people who have read the same. And also, of course, there are people who will just have read, written, experienced different things. The study of English Literature isn’t really about quantity. Don’t think of others as your competition. Engage with each other, Learn from each other, teach each other. You will develop confidence in your own abilities and you’ll find your footing very quickly.

What is the workload/assessment process like?

English Literature at university is not like English at school. The main difference is quantity of work and the pace at which you’re expect to work. Remember at Higher when you spent six months studying Sunset Song and knew more about Chris Guthrie than you did your own best friend? Not so at university.

You study a text (novel, poet, a play) a week. You are expected to have read it (shock), understand its key themes and be able to talk about it in a tutorial. You may return to it later for an essay, a short verbal presentation or an exam or you may not.

In first and second year you’re given primary texts to read and won’t need to deviate much from this list. A lot of first year is learning the basic skills required for your degree: Close reading, understanding literary themes and contexts and having an overview of literary periods.

Later on, you’ll be encouraged to think more widely, engage with texts more critically and they’ll be much more of an emphasis on original essay ideas. Thinking outside the box and approaching things just that little bit differently (as long as you can evidence your claims) will always serve you well.

You’ll still probably have a core reading list but as long as a text falls within the general time period you’re studying, it’s probably okay to study. Just always check with your tutor.

On average I had one or two essays per semester per module. The first usually around 2000- 2500 words and then a final one of up to 4000 words. Although in the first couple of years the word count was a bit less. At the end of the semester (either December or May) I had a two-three hour exam where usually I had to write two essays in that time.

What’s my advice for handling the pressure?

The work load is fast paced and it can be tough. For that reason forward planning is essential. Get ahead, try and be at least a week ahead with your reading – a necessity particularly if you have a Monday tutorial. That said, there will be times where you might need to skip a week and you just don’t have time or the inclination to read the novel for that module’s weekly tutorial. This is okay. Just don’t let yourself fall behind massively. Also, go to the tutorial that covers that text anyway. You might pick up something useful for another text, essay or even module. Also, never underestimate the power of the to do list.

What was my favourite bit?

I absolutely loved my degree so it’s actually very hard for me to choose this. I would say it was research and writing essays. I loved finding original ways to look at texts, feeling ideas click into place to form my argument, saying the unsaid, finding new territory. This all came to a head in my fourth year when I did my dissertation. I felt I’d finally found my niche and it was so so good.

What was tough?

I faced a strong feeling of impostor syndrome. There were simply weeks where I would sit in tutorials and not feel clever enough to be at university. Everyone else’s ideas seemed more mature, more fully formed, more exciting, more original. Most of the time these feelings are completely in your head. Secure yourself with the feeling that almost everybody gets them.

What am I doing now?

I graduated from Glasgow University with a First Class Degree (proudest moment ever, not going to lie). I applied for a Masters in Modern Scottish Writing at the University of Stirling in July and deferred for the year.

I’ve spent the first part of this year out September-January working in an art gallery and theatre which had been my student job. In January, I was lucky enough to land myself a role as junior copywriter for a small content agency here in Glasgow which has turned out to be the perfect job for me in so many ways.

After my Masters I’d like to do a pHD and I’m passionate about pursuing academia as a career. It combines my two passions – teaching and writing. So here’s for the next chapter…

so-you-want-to-study-english-literature-lilith


Thank you so much to Lilith for a brilliant post! English Literature is a subject I know a lot of people are interested in, so I’m sure this post will be a great help to a lot of readers! If you have any other questions for Lilith about her experience, you can tweet her over at @lisforlilith

As for The Student Switchboard, I’ll be back again on Monday with another video, and there will be another “So you want to study…” post this time next week!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

Lynsey x

 YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+

Advertisements

3 Differences Between Undergraduate and Masters Study!

Hello all! Today I thought I’d talk a bit about what I found to be the main differences between studying my undergraduate degree, and studying a Masters.  I’ve mentioned enough times before that I had an absolute ball on both of my courses, but jumping into my Masters was certainly a learning curve, and so I thought I’d share my experience of that with you! This post, then, contains the three biggest difference I found, and how they impacted on my experience.

As a quick side-note – don’t be put off by points one and two.  It sounds intense, and it is, but it is so, so worth it!!3-differences-between-undergraduate-and-masters

1. The Workload

This is an incredibly obvious one, but the workload at Masters level is definitely a step up from undergrad! This will differ from course to course, but generally the amount of work you have to do will increase during postgraduate study.  In my case, I had seven modules, all done over the course of nine months (September to May), each with an equally intense workload. That meant assessments and/or exams for each in December/January, and the same again in April/May.  The April/May period was the most intense, with over 25,000 words worth of assessments, several group projects and an exam within the space of three weeks! This was followed by a 12,000 word dissertation between June and September.

What this taught me:

Time management, organisation and self motivation.

2. The Amount of Class Time

This is obviously connected closely to the first point, but I noticed a massive increase in the number of hours I spent in class between undergraduate and Masters! I was in class five days a week, pretty much 9-5, with the odd hour here or there free, which was a shock to the system after the relaxed timetable I’d had before! Again, this will vary depending on the course, but expect to spend a bit more time in the classroom again!

What this taught me:

Prioritising – the time outside of class becomes precious, and it’s important to use it effectively, both for studying and unwinding.  It also taught me that balancing a part time job with a Masters can be tricky!

3. The Dedication

One really positive thing about postgraduate study, which I mentioned in a recent video, is the fact that at this point, pretty much everyone who is on the course really wants to be there! Something I have a post planned on for some point over the next few weeks is how difficult it is to figure out what you want to do with your life, at any time never mind when you’re just seventeen or eighteen! A lot of people end up going to uni because they think it’s what they should do, or they aren’t really sure what else to do, and that can land them on a course that isn’t right for them. That lack of passion comes across, and can affect things like group work and even class morale.  At Masters level, however, people have already been through their first degree, so actively making the choice to come back and study some more suggests that this is something they are genuinely interested in, and means people will really work hard.

What this taught me:

That collective positive energy is great for keeping you going at some of the more stressful times of the year! When the whole group is striving to do well, it pushes you to do your best, and focus on the end goal (even when you’ve been in the library for what feels like a year of your life!).

I hope you enjoyed that post – I felt inspired to write it after filming my “My Masters Experience” video a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve gone through the undergrad to post-grad transition, what were the biggest changes you experienced?

Thanks for reading!

Lynsey x

 YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+

So You Want To Study: Creative Writing!

Hello everyone! Hope you’ve had a great week.

This week’s “So you want to study?” post comes from the lovely Beth from Toasty Writes. She wrote about a subject which has a special place in my heart, and her post gave me one of those “I wish I could go back and do that too!” moments – she’s studying creative writing! So, if this is a subject you’re considering studying, this is the post for you!

so-you-want-to-study-creative-writing

For me, the decision to go to university happened very quickly. I had abandoned any plans for a career in dance after realising that I just didn’t have the heart for it, and had no idea what to do next. ‘I know,’ I thought one day, ‘I’ll do a writing course!’ and set about applying for a Creative and Professional Writing degree.

Some people go to university with a set career path in mind. Others want to focus on a particular area and see where it takes them, and I definitely fall into the latter category. I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I could hold a pen, and I have always written, whether it was stories for school, an angst-filled teenage diary, or, eventually, my blog. Studying Creative Writing seemed like the next logical step.

What happens in a Creative Writing class?

Instead of the traditional lecture/seminar set up, classes take the form of workshops. People bring in their writing, read it aloud, and then everyone is invited to comment on it: What worked? What didn’t? What did you love? What could be improved? It’s as terrifying as it sounds, although it does get better (I still have to jiggle my foot under the table when I’m reading, to let out the nervous energy, but it scares me less than it used to!) You then go away and re-work your writing, taking constructive criticism on board.

As well as honing our own writing skills, we also spend a great deal of time reading. You cannot be a writer without being a reader, and we’re encouraged to read as widely and as often as possible. Breaking out of your comfort zone helps enormously — I try and choose books I might normally overlook — and we’re also given plenty of material to read together in class. Often, a piece of writing might be inspired by what you’ve read: it could be a technique a writer has used, or the way they’ve structured the narrative, or the setting, that grabs your attention.

Expectations versus reality

I should note: the contact hours are minimal. I’m just coming to the end of my second year, and in the first term I had eight contact hours a week. In the second term, I had six. It’ll vary from university to university, but at mine you take four modules a year, and these are taught in weekly two-hour classes. Some of them end in January/February (hence why I only had six hours a week this term).

The danger is thinking that this means a Creative Writing course is easy. It’s not. Sure, you have a lot of free time, and can work around your own schedule for most of it, but during that time you need to be writing (or reading) if you want to get anywhere. The best work comes about through trial and error, through trying something out, submitting it for workshop, and then smoothing out the bumps, and that doesn’t happen if you go to the classes and then spend the rest of your time relaxing. It is important to take a break every now and then (the best cure for writer’s block, I’ve found, is to step away from the notebook/laptop) but you need to allow yourself the time to experiment and get better. If you have the passion for it then it’s definitely worth putting the effort in.

Workload/assessments

Examples of modules I’ve studied so far include: Starting to Write, Writing Media, Writing Fiction, Writing Non-Fiction, and Writing For Children. My university also offers a Writing Poetry module. Creative Writing is coursework based, and we usually submit portfolios of our writing for assessment. The word counts vary according to how many credits each module has. The word count for the 20 credit module I took this year was 4000 words, whereas the word count for the 40 credit modules I’m taking is 10,000 for each portfolio.

This sounds intimidating, but we were eased into it in first year, with portfolios of 3000-4000 words. It’s still a big jump to 10,0000, but there’s no reason why it can’t be achieved if you keep working at it. And by the time the dreaded dissertation comes around, you’ll be used to it, which should relieve some of the stress (I’m hoping!).

Beth-So-You-Want-To-Study-Creative-Writing


Thanks so much to Beth for taking the time to write this post – I hope it inspired some of you as much as it inspired me!

You can find Beth blogging over on Toasty Writes, and follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram at the highlighted links :) If you’d like to write a post for this series, drop me an email at thestudentswitchboard@gmail.com

Be sure to check back in next week for Wednesday’s post, and another edition of So You Want to Study next Friday! And, as always, there will be a new video over on my YouTube channel on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Lynsey x

 YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+

Exams: How To Prepare Like A Pro!

It’s mid April, which can mean only one thing – exams are just around the corner. Timetables vary from university to university, but generally exam season is late April to the end of May and it’s a period that results in a lot of stressed students camping out in the library, cramming for their final assessments.  Coupled with the fact that you probably still have coursework due in, April and May can quickly become the months we dread the most each year over the course of our degrees!

So this post is just a few tips on preparing for your exams like a pro! Taking all of these tips into consideration might make this stressful time a little bit easier.

exams-how-to-study-like-a-pro

1. Get Enough Sleep

This isn’t just a study tip, but a general life tip, and it’s one that I’m still having to work on. And since it’s currently 1.30am when I’m writing this, I’d say I still need to improve! I’m a night owl, always have been, and there’s nothing wrong with that – if you’re at your most productive at 1am, that’s great! Just make sure that you don’t have to be up at 6am the next day. Your sleep pattern can be whatever works best for you, as long as you’re clocking up enough hours before and after a huge study session. Sleep does wondrous things for us – it is proven to improve memory (clearly a plus when revising for exams!), increase creativity and lower stress!

2. Get Organised

When you have several exams to study for, it can become overwhelming. You might have three exams in a week, so sitting with all of your notes for each subject scattered around your desk will not help you feel any better about it! I’ve mentioned enough times by now my love for To-Do Lists and planners, and these can be your best friends at a time like this! Write down all of your exams dates and prioritise. That way you know exactly how much you have to do and rather than worrying about it, you can just start working on it!

3. Figure out what works for you

Group study sessions do not work for everyone. When it comes to prepping for exams, some people like nothing more than to congregate with their classmates to study, and there are lots of benefits in this. Bouncing ideas off one another might spark something in you, and can be a great way of covering more ground quickly. However, for others, group study sessions are a nightmare – you begin to panic that everyone knows more than you (which they don’t!) and you’re lagging behind (you’re not!), and that can have a massive impact on your ability to concentrate. So just figure out what works for you and go from there. As long as it isn’t during a group project, there’s nothing wrong with deciding you study much better holed up alone in your room!

4. Take regular breaks

Your brain can only take in so much information at a time, so don’t try to force yourself to keep going when you’ve reached that point. If you’ve been in the library for five hours and realise than in the past twenty minutes you’ve read the same sentence ten times, while absent mindedly checking your phone, it’s time for a break. Going for a walk, stopping to have lunch with a friend, or even just giving yourself a half hour “social media” break to check your twitter/instagram/Facebook can work wonders. You’ll feel much better taking a deliberate break than you will if you accidentally waste an hour just sitting blankly staring at the computer screen!

5. Take the pressure off

This sounds like an absolutely ridiculous thing to say considering these marks affect your degree, but try to take the pressure off, and remind yourself that you can only do your best.  If you’ve put the work in, you’ll more than likely be absolutely fine. And if it doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, it’s not the end of the world! It’s all part of the big old uni learning curve. This is something I was terrible for – I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself round about assessment time, and it’s never conducive to a calm mind set!  Keeping things in perspective is always helpful – each exam is just one piece of the university puzzle, and while striving to do well is great, it’s never worth making yourself ill with worry! Put in the work, do your best, and that’s all anyone can ask of you!

If you have exams coming up soon, good luck!! I hope you’re managing not to stress too much, and just think about what a great month June will be!

What are your top tips for exam study?

Lynsey x

 YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+

Study Playlist #2

Music is a massive part of my life, and played a large part in my studies.  In my first study playlist, I talked about the huge impact finding the right music to listen to while studying can have on how successful a study session is! Pick the wrong album (in my case, anything with words!) and you might find yourself distracted, singing along and getting nowhere.

Find the right music, however, and you can be well on your way to getting that essay or report out of your hair forever!

study-playlist-2-the-student-switchboard

Today, I’d like to introduce you to another three albums which I listened to repeatedly during that crazy assessment period last year! I can hardly believe it’s April again already. This time last year, I was just a couple of weeks off finishing up my classes, and preparing to lock myself in the library for what were three of the most hectic weeks of my life.  These were some of the songs that kept me company during that time – and probably kept me sane! – and I hope they can do the same for you.

Departure Songs by Hammock

Hammock weren’t a band I had ever heard of until last year, and I discovered them around the same time I discovered God is an Astronaut and Tycho. Described as having a “unique sound that effortlessly melds elements of ambient, electronic, neoclassical and post-rock, this is another instrumental band, perfect for studying without the distraction of vocals!

Go by Jonsi

Jonsi is the lead vocalist from Sigur Ros, who are one of my favourite bands in terms of this sort of music! However, I know Sigur Ros just a bit too well, and while I can’t exactly sing along to Icelandic vocals, it was reaching the point of being a little distracting. Enter Jonsi’s solo album, Go! If you’re looking for something super cheerful and uplifting, this album is it. You might recognise track one “Go Do” from a Philadelphia advert last year!

This Will Destroy You by This Will Destroy You

And finally, another post-rock band, This Will Destroy You’s music is along similar lines to God is an Astronaut and Hammock, and I love it. It’s unobtrusive in as much as it’s instrumental, but it has enough of a kick that it keeps you awake rather than lulling you to sleep like some instrumental music can start to do! I’m not sure why this album motivates me so much, but I’d definitely give it a listen if you’re struggling to find music to suit your studying!

So there you have it – three more of the albums that made studying for my Masters just that little bit easier! Even if you aren’t studying, I would recommend checking out these albums because they are all fantastic!

What albums have you been listening to lately? Let me know in the comments! And remember – there’s still time to enter my book giveaway, it closes on the 6th April!!

Lynsey x

 YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+

Book Review and Giveaway! “How to be a Knowledge Ninja” by Graham Allcott

Hello all! Hope you’re having a great week! I know this is a seriously busy time of year!

I just wanted to let you know, if you’re not subscribed to my YouTube channel, that I have a super exciting video on there this week! I reviewed “How to be a Knowledge Ninja”, by Graham Allcott, a book which aims to help you “study smarter, focus better and achieve more”. It is packed full of amazing advice, but if you want to hear all my thoughts, check out the video!

What’s more, the lovely folks over at Icon Books, who published this gem of a productivity guide, have given me two copies of this book to give away to you guys! The giveaway is running on Twitter and on YouTube, and closes on Monday 6th April at 6pm. To enter, here’s what you have to do!

The knowledge ninja has nine characteristics, which are as follows:

Balance, zen-like calm, ruthlessness, being weapon savvy (using the right apps, planners etc to get organised!), stealth and camouflage, mindfulness, preparedness, focus and accepting that you are human, not superhuman (nobody is perfect!). So, with that in mind…

To enter on Twitter, follow me @studentswitch, and tweet me, using the hashtag #knowledgeninja telling me which ninja skill you’re keen to improve! Do you need more balance between study time and socialising? Or maybe you could do with improving your focus!

To enter on YouTube, subscribe to The Student Switchboard and leave me a comment, using the hashtag #knowledgeninja telling me which ninja skill you’re keen to improve. Could you do with learning to be more ruthless, and say no to extra time consuming projects?

Also, please feel free to share this video on Twitter – I was very kindly sent a copy of this book to read, but I can honestly say I think it is a brilliant resource.  There are chapters in there that have me rethinking the way I’ve done things all my life, and it is so well written!

Good luck!!

  YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+

The Perks of Being a To-Do-List-er

Do you see what I did there with the title this afternoon? Got to love a little play on a book/movie title! Today’s post is a tribute to my love affair with list making.  Ever since I was little, I’ve loved getting a new notebook, and once the initial fear of writing in it (the panic of making a mistake and spoiling the first page is very real, am I right?) subsides, I love to make lists of any kind.  As a student, however, a to-do list can actually be one of the most useful things you can do to help yourself take charge of your workload.  Whether it’s a to-do list for school, university, work, home, whatever – here are, what I consider to be, the perks of writing a to do list!

perks-of-writing-a-to-do-list

You’re less likely to forget something

This seems like I’m stating the obvious, but it’s true.  Having a to do list on paper, or on your phone, is much more reliable than keeping it in that head of yours. Why? Because that paper or note on your phone won’t get distracted by texts from friends, new episodes of something on Netflix, or even just something as simple as popping out the shop to buy groceries.  It’s natural that when you have a lot of work to do, your brain picks and chooses the pieces to prioritise – if you write everything down, there’s less chance that the last minute presentation your tutor scheduled just a week in advance will be forgotten about!

It can help to calm you down

Especially during your assessment periods, whatever you’re studying, it’s easy to become a little overwhelmed.  With essays or reports due in for every class, and time dedicated to prepping for group presentations, with exams looming, it’s very natural to feel panic stricken.  You might start to think there is no way you’ll manage to get all of this work done, because your mind runs away with it and distorts it.  By writing everything down in a to do list, you can see exactly how much work you have to do, and by when.  Of course, it’s still a lot, but it becomes much more manageable when you have a list of dates to work towards.  You can start to prioritise more easily, and set specific blocks of time aside for specific projects, instead of sitting in the library, staring at seven folders for seven different classes and not knowing where to begin!

There’s a huge sense of satisfaction in ticking things off a list!

It’s hard to explain, but there really is something satisfying about ticking things off a to do list! Having a physical list of everything you have to do, and scoring or ticking things off can make you feel much more in control of your workload.  Seeing things disappearing from the list creates a sort “light at the end of the tunnel” feeling, and there’s a massive sense of relief when the first item goes – it signals that you’re on your way!!

Those are just three of the reasons you should grab that notebook and pen and get writing a to do list! Look out for Monday’s post and video – I have an exciting book review/giveaway coming up, and this book has a particularly useful section on the benefits of list making.

Are you a to-do-list-er? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks so much for reading – have a great weekend!

Lynsey x

 YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Google+