Julia's University Page.
The Musings of a University Student.
I considered myself one of the lucky students when Covid-19 hit the end of my second year of university -- I wasn't a 3rd year who was about to enter the real world without job opportunities, parties and all the photographs that come with graduation day. By the time summer was over, I (alongside thousands of students around the country) saw how wrong I was.
As we all know, Covid-19 has permeated all aspects of real life. Meeting new people is entirely off the charts, as most students have been timetabled to have all contact time online. This means that by the end of my day, I'll have spent 8 hours in front of my computer instead of walking around campus to meetings and coffee dates. When I do make use of the campus for study spaces or the library, I'm supposed to book weeks in advance: sit down in my designated spot or click and collect. This means: no bumping into people, absolutely no browsing the shelves, and definitely none of what would constitute life outside of concrete plans. More than that, I haven't been able to complete a scholarship that would've funded £1,000 in overseas travel due to the current measures. Writing the reflective essay on how attending a few lectures changed my life isn't quite the same!
It isn't all negative though. Due to chit-chat being cancelled, lecturers have more time for 1:1's, which means I get more feedback on my work. Also, universities have been extremely lenient when it comes to grading course work. If I learned anything during lockdown, it's that life truly is what you make it. I spend more of my time reading and writing than pleasing other people, and I've had a brilliant time of it! I also self-check to get outdoors enough and connect with friends.
Spending time at home is a good thing, as long as it's kept in balance!
All the best
Second Year Now All Wrapped Up
So after the second semester being drawn to a close online, I'll be moving on to the third year of my degree this autumn!
With modules taking place over zoom calls and emails rather than face-to-face, I've even managed to have a lesson in my pajamas.
Jokes aside, the online version of university added a layer of simplicity disguised as complexity that none of us expected.
One of my successes this year is that the Eco Society, of which I am President, won Highly Commended Society of the year!
As all events in the second half of the year were cancelled, I was forced to give my writing and quality of life all of my attention -- and it paid off.
I've ended the year with a solid First Class average, and can't wait to return.
I even surprised myself by writing a play that took place in the apocalyptic environmental degradation of the present and got the highest marks in the class!
Next year, I'll be focusing on non-fiction - a module that will run throughout the year. The writing I produce in this module will count as my dissertation.
Student Life During the Pandemic
The past six weeks have meant a whole lot of adapting to virtual life: university lectures, poetry meetings and friend dates.
Since my university went online, more aspects they usually offer have followed suit. I’ve joined in on Zoom meetings with the Careers Team to learn about building a Creative CV and to Start My Own Business. There’s a whole team dedicated to WorkFest at the moment, helping students with their entrepreneurial ideas. I will absolutely be applying!
Also, I’ve been having a weekly quiz with my friends from home, every Friday at 7pm. Each of us picks a topic and draws up ten questions so we can take part. It’s so important to have time to just catch up!
Apart from this, I am still President of the Eco Society, which is part of the SU at my University. I’ve just finished putting together our nomination to become the Society of the Year. I hope we get it!
I hope you’re all well, wherever you are. It’s been a weird time. Please reach out if you need someone to talk to :)
So, if you would like to send me an email, click here.
‘I Didn’t Sign Up for This!’
My University Has Gone Online Due to Covid-19
It’s been two weeks since my university decided to go online due to the Covid-19 crisis that has most of the world’s population housebound.
Not wanting our education to stop, all lessons have turned to platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Slack for videoconferencing and communications.
Need it not be said that this has been a major step for everyone involved.
Personally, I’ve adapted well to this change. I get to spend none of my time commuting on the late buses or chatting to people I’m not emphatic about -- we all have that person in our lives who is a friend of a friend who stops us in the halls. Instead, I spend more time reading in bed, doing yoga in my bedroom, and finally changing out of my pyjamas to dress into normal clothes to go walk the dog. Sometimes, I even let the gravity of the situation get to me and write some heartfelt words, like my BA Creative Writing expects of me to be doing.
Others haven’t quite liked the push to this enclosure-style of living. They have confessed to a messy sleeping schedule, catching up with friends until the early hours.
The lesson time has proved to be tricky too. I’ve spent enough time waiting on a lecturer who doesn’t understand how to talk to a camera and so has us all typing for three hours instead!
Of course, some lecturers have stepped up and promised extra 1:1 time and are even available to answer questions this Easter holiday.
All in all, my quality of life has massively increased. I’ve got abs *coughs* and I’m keeping my immune system up with all the vitamins in the cupboard. I even have a better, albeit different, social life -- my friends and I watch films together on Netflix Party!
It's been a wonderful break. Now that we're back from the holidays, it's important to reassess what opportunities university can grant. I reached out to my Careers Team, who had an opening to write on their weekly newsletter. So, I can share my post about getting through the exam period with you below:
"2020 Exam Guide"
How to do everything, do it well, and still have a positive mindset.
By Julia Archer
My resolution this year was to stop; to say ‘no’ to more things. This is the mindset I’m approaching the last few weeks of the semester with. As I’m sure we’re all stressed with the workload of deadlines and exams, below are a few tips to keep calm and get good marks.
Have you heard about the 80/20 rule, aka the ‘Pareto Principle’?
Divide your time so you’re using more of your effort to fulfill the ‘vital’ 20% over the ‘trivial’ 80%. The tasks that will make the largest impact are usually the hardest, but getting them out of the way will do your future self a favour. This applies to more than just exams!
Include days of study and days of rest. Nothing equates to that feeling offulfillment you get when ticking off all those hours doing nothing.
Do you know what your best style of learning is? Do this test to determine your best learning style. Use a combination of study methods: recordings, mind
maps, charts, symbols, colour coding, flash cards... Engaging with information in a different way can improve memory!
Use the pomodoro technique to focus intently for 25 minutes then have a break for 5 minutes. While you rest, you might readjust what you’ll work on next.
There are apps that grant rewards for not touching your phone, like Hold (points to gain real life prizes!) or Forest (grows a tree on your screen).
In the exam, your performance will improve with confidence! Think about what you do know and forget about what you don’t. Breathe.
Keep calm. If you’re struggling, help is always there for those who ask. The Writing and Learning Center have sessions on Academic Writing, Report Writing, Reflective Writing and more, throughout the year. Wellbeing comes first. Remember you aren’t going through this alone. If you’re stuck, turn to your peers, your tutor or a family member. Make sure you have someone to talk to during this stressful time.
Check in with yourself. YouTuber Unjaded Jade not only shares exam tricks, but promotes positive affirmations and healthy routines. Speaking of healthy routines, you can find a yoga video in your 20 minute break that will get your body moving and you feeling a lot better! Even sitting outside for that time can be the breather you need to get back to revision with a positive mindset. Remember this week is Stamp Out Stress Week and there are loads of
activities happening around campus you can attend to keep you going, from mindful study
sessions to wellbeing walks. Approach life with a ‘less is more’ outlook and enjoy what is right in front of you!
What I care to do this year is not only say 'no' to more things, but to do the things I do better.
December 30th 2019
At university, you get to pick what your day-to-day looks like. Another student in BA Creative Writing here at Bath Spa University, could be taking completely different modules to me, which means writing differs in style and teaching. So, my average week looks like this:
My personal tutor, Lucy, teaches this. She writes autoethnography pieces —she adds to the history books with facts of her own life. Lucy encourages our own creativity, as she has set the 2,500 word essay due next week to be about any 3 books based on someone’s life. This could range from autobiography to essays to stories based on fact. I’ve really enjoyed reading and writing for Lifewriting. I’ve picked Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know, Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide To Getting Lost and M. Jackson’s While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change.
I then take part in the Theatre Society from 19:30 until 21:00. I’m also Social Secretary, so I organised the Christmas Meal last week.
Short Stories 10:00-13:00.
My lecturer for this seminar is Sue, who taught me last year. She hates it when you’re late or haven’t brought anything to workshop. In seminar time we discuss the short story we read for previous week’s work and spend time reading and giving feedback to each other’s drafts we’ll be submitting next week too.
I’ve really enjoyed this module too. I’ve developed characters through action and dialogue rather than internal monologue, and written from multiple perspectives.
Wednesdays and Thursdays:
I don’t have seminars, but I spend these days improving my work from feedback and keeping up with other commitments, like the Global Citizenship placement and the Bath Spa Award. Also, I spend a lot of my time on the Eco Society, of which I am President. We are constantly addressing our aims, which are to: share tips and tricks for a more sustainable lifestyle, increasing wellbeing, promote conservation by working with the university, the grounds team and other societies & influence legislation on a local and national level.
Sudden Prose 14:00-17:00.
Carrie teaches these seminars. The first half of learning was Prose Poetry, which is a short piece of writing that focuses on a central idea and doesn’t have to rhyme. At the moment, we’re learning about Flash Fiction, aka the Short-Short Story, which can be up to 750 words, and evokes (rather than tells) a story through character and narrative.
Overall, I’ve picked modules that reflect my interests and am really pleased with my routine. Choose modules you’ll enjoy too!
November 14th 2019
I’ve spent the last few weeks adapting to the university schedule again. Currently, I’m sitting in the library, which has recently been redone, due to student complaints that it wasn’t a nice place to study. I am lucky that my university holds the student voice at such a high esteem. We now have fancy, comfy chairs to sit in and more desks to work at.
Along with my studies comes my responsibilities as more than a student: I am the Student Representative for my Creative Writing course, which means students can come to me with any concerns or questions about the course. I also have a job with the university as a Student Ambassador; I promote Bath Spa University on our Open Days, when prospective students visit our campus.
Then there’s personal life and other interests. Socialising, being a part of Extinction Rebellion, work at the bookshop and being at home to do things like cleaning and cooking all crowd the dwindling hours I should be spending writing.
This is why I’ve sat down, finally, to make myself a timetable and update this Diary with these notes.
Tips and Tricks
When doing things, like replying to emails, try to keep an eye on the clock! Set yourself timers every 25 minutes and then have a 5 minute break. That way, after 2 timers have gone off you can change the topic and remain proactive!
When writing extensive pieces that you’ll be spending a while on, try waking up at the time and as if you’ll be heading somewhere that day. Do yoga, have a shower and dress in normal clothes. Then sit at the desk. I have stayed in my pajamas until night time before -- it’s not a nice feeling!
October 3rd 2019
After a long and busy summer, it’s important to look back to see how far you’ve come and not just forward to the new year ahead.
Here’s my summer, by the months!
July: I moved to my new place on Moorland Road (in the student hub of Oldfield Park) with my sister. We now live together in a healthy home environment. If you can, find someone you feel comfortable enough to live with early on in uni -- it’s nice to come back to a tidy place! In between moving, I was working 3-4 days a week at the bookshop.
August: I handed in my notice at Toppings and Company Booksellers. Having been an independent bookseller with Bob for so long, it was odd for me to work in a team where things change quite quickly day to day. I decided it would be best for me to have a quiet place to work again. Then, I luckily stumbled upon Oldfield Park Bookshop (http://www.theoldfieldparkbookshop.co.uk)! The owner’s colleague had just left to finish his PhD after 9 years of having shelved it, and I was the perfect fit! The place is idyllic, with only two rooms and a large stock of Children’s books, it is in the heart of the family atmosphere of Moorland Road.
September: When the last month of free time came along, things got busier! In previous months, I had been searching for an internship. I got in contact with my sister’s boyfriend’s friend, who had done 3 years in a row with the independent literary journal Tears in the Fence (https://tearsinthefence.com). It has been going for 35 years and is internationally recognised. I was there for the weekend of their annual festival, listening to poetry and fiction, as well as doing a reading myself! It was a brilliant place to meet writers of all ages and backgrounds, and even some of high esteem that I will be studying for my degree this year!
Just like me, my sister had been seeing what she could do in her profession: Sustainable Fashion. She had contacted a graduate on Instagram a year before for advice on how to source certain fabric. Upon watching her story one day, my sister saw a casting call for any volunteers to model her collection at London Fashion Week. She asked for my sister and I to model, and a few weeks later we were on the runway! It was all made of reclaimed leather that would have otherwise gone to waste. The experience itself was invaluable, and led to us modelling a second time a few days later at the heart of BioFashion: Open Cell (https://opencell.webflow.io).
Don’t leave things until the last moment! Try to book up events a few months in advance before it passes you by and you have nothing to show for it. Also, make the most of your weak links! They are where the best connections come from.
To those of you starting university this year, don’t push yourself too hard!
September 8th 2019
Now, more than ever, it is important to keep a balanced outlook on the climate crisis we face. As you know, I’m President of the Eco Society at my university. The reason I am, is not because I know better about sustainability than others, but because I supplied the demand. There wasn’t a society that addressed the climate crisis, so I created it. Along with another four close friends, all of whom are studying for a BSc Environmental Science, we will be forming the committee this year. Don’t be afraid to do more than you’ve been told you can!
Together, we will be leading many events, one of which will entail a conservation walk of our campus grounds and a mindfulness lesson by the lake (“Conserving Calm”). Also, the Vice President and I met up with the Student Union team to discuss how to lead a more sustainable university experience for the academic year 2019/20, which we hope will be the greenest yet!
I have found that the best way to cope with global problems is with “local” solutions: close-to-home charities. It wasn’t only when the fires in the Amazon started burning that I thought we should address these issues despite the knowledge we may have of carbon in the atmosphere, the definition of ecology, or what two degrees of warming could look like. Not long ago, I met a couple from my hometown who started a charity called The Word Forest Organisation (https://www.wordforest.org). The money they raise goes straight to women’s employment in the planting of trees in Africa. In exchange for their labour they get a decent wage and a teacher to learn numeracy and literacy skills. And we get more carbon sinks — it’s a win-win! Have a look at what they’re doing and at how you can help. Nothing is ever out of your hands.
As a tip for anyone out there thinking of running a society, social media presence is key! Our members follow our Instagram tips (@bsuecosociety) more often than they turn up to meetings. We share ways to reduce our carbon footprints, like #secondhandseptember!
Welcome! Some Tips for Sixthformers.
Last updated September 6th 2019.
Perceptive readers will have spotted that for several years I learned the book trade at The Sanctuary Bookshop in Lyme Regis, finally becoming their full time Manageress in 2016. In August 2018 I left Lyme Regis for Bath Spa University, to read for a three year B.A. in Creative Writing and English Literature. I am now in the second semester of my first year. In view of the interest in the Sanctuary Bookshop Diary that I helped set up and write, it occurred to me to contrast this with my new life at University and maybe offer some help and tips for would-be applicants.
This will initially take the form of a regular Diary entry (most realistically fortnightly, we will see how it goes...).
So the first entry for May 11th at the bottom below, is more of a resume.
Incidentally, feedback from readers would be fun, especially if you are currently in your school 6th Form.
If you have any questions about University life, they will always be most welcome. I will try and help where I can.
August 30th 2019
Forming a Community by Joining a Society.
Like many others, when I joined Bath Spa University I felt the most daunting change would be the Social Life. Not only fitting in, but making a corner for who I am; finding ‘my tribe’. I knew that the fastest way to form a clique would be by sitting right in the middle of one.
There will be so much nightlife, and the freedom associated with it in Fresher’s Week, that you may find it tricky to be sober in the daytime, let alone get up in the morning. Here’s a tip: block out the evening before the day of the Fresher’s Fair so you can get there before the crowds. It’s worth having a look at all the stalls — you never know who you’ll meet, or what new hobbies you could take on.
At the time of my Fresher’s Fair and Welcome Week (above center), my interests were poetry, the environment and, because I wanted to challenge myself, Drama.
Funnily enough, the day of auditions for the end of year show in the Theatre Society (above left), I wasn’t planning on trying out (I didn’t think I was good enough under pressure), but I was still given a great role and became close with some of the funniest people. They weren’t just friends that I got to meet up with once a week during practice, but became family who I went out with in the evenings when I knew no one else.
Another great reason to join a society: they automatically expand your social circle outside of who you’ll be sitting with at lectures. Because my friends were from all backgrounds and ages, we engaged in various discussions and they gave me tips about university.
Don’t be afraid to speak up! You’ll never know what you may have in common with a new face sitting beside you. This is how I founded the Eco Society (above right): I sat next to a girl at one of my Publishing lectures and we bonded over the reusable containers and bamboo toothbrushes I was going to write about. She told me about her journey in Veganism, and in no time we were running the Instagram (@bsuecosociety) and meeting members who had noticed the lack of an environmental approach! The two girls I run it with now are the best people I’ve met this entire year.
So, there is no one way to go about something; as long as you’re eager to learn, you will succeed!
July 17th 2019
Then and Now, Part II
After school, my sister and I wanted to go straight to university, but were advised against it. “Take a year out!” the teachers said. And so we did. Rather unrefreshingly, both of us spent the year working full time jobs. I worked at the Lyme Regis bookshop, of course. Along the way, though, we grew into the responsibilities of having our own schedule and paying for our own things. We even dabbled in modelling together (below center)!
When September 2018 came around, my sister decided to go to Bath Spa University (far right image, below) to study Fashion. I, having spent my gap year writing and reading, had discovered my love for English Literature, and went on to study the A Level (my fifth!) with Open Study College in a few months. I wanted this year to be different, so I moved out from home and worked at the town library (below left).
New experiences and pushing boundaries may seem daunting, but is always worth it.
Bob sat me down in the Bookshop one Saturday, to tell me that the world belongs to the brave — “make your corner!” And so I am.
At Bath Spa University I have just finished the first year of a BA, in English Literature and Creative Writing, with a First!
June 30th 2019
"Then and Now". Part I
As you haven’t spoken to me in person, you wouldn’t know that my accent is different, and we wouldn’t engage in the typical “Where are you from?” conversation. So I’ll tell you myself. I was born in Florida to South African parents. Missing the laid back, sunny lifestyle from their sailing days (Mum was a chef and Dad a captain on a charter yacht), they took my twin sister (below left) and I (below right) to live in Mexico as four year olds. We learned Spanish, we grew into the friendly culture and then our parents separated. Lacking an influence from an extended family for twelve years, Mum thought it best to move to England, where her twin brother, and our cousins and grandmother, lived. So at sixteen, we packed up our belongings and our two dogs, and headed to Dorset.
We were lucky enough to get accepted into "The School on the Hill", The Woodroffe School, (see below) in the seaside town of Lyme Regis, for our A Levels. The trick with picking them was that we played to our strengths. We both did Fine Art, as we had weekly art lesson since the age of eleven, we did Spanish because we knew the language and it was a guaranteed good grade, and we did Environmental Studies because it was in our interest — you’ll always do well if you enjoy what you’re doing! But, we differed in our fourth option, where I picked Graphic Communication.
I was certain, for a while, that this would be what I would study at university.
I was wrong!
Part II will be uploaded in a fortnight!
June 15th 2019
Topping & Company.
Top Tips at Toppings.
That you’ll need to budget at university is common knowledge. Many students opt for cutting down on food quality, with Cup Noodle taking the form of their food pyramid; each of its five tiers! Unlike other students, I love the variety in my cooking, and I needed to be able to fund that for myself this year.
Having worked at The Sanctuary Bookshop, I knew I wanted to sell books. I emailed out my CV to the bookshop I had visited at the beginning of my university experience: Topping and Company Booksellers (located at The Paragon, Bath BA1 5LS). Like any other business, they may have been too busy to reply, so I felt it essential to meet face to face. I pestered them, visiting every couple of weeks, and was constantly denied — “We have no vacancies” they’d say.
With Christmas, the New Year, and the amount of reading and writing, it was April before I walked past the shop again on a day out with my sister. I casually inquired again whether they had any positions open, and this time they replied they had and if I had brought my CV with me. “No, but I sent it to you back in November,” I said “I have four years’ experience in the book trade.” This surprised them and taught me that persistence pays. They proceeded to give me an interview on the spot, with complimentary tea. In the coming weeks, I would learn this to be a part of the customer experience at the shop. I got the job! I now work there once a week on the weekend, which will become three days a week in the summer.
We’re a welcoming bunch. We sell all genres of books, offer signed editions, and even have events with the authors of the latest publications in the evenings.
May 25th 2019
Theatre Society Struggles It’s show week!
The play we are putting on is “13”, by Mike Bartlett.
Haunted characters, political decisions and individual actions affect the plot. We’ve had many late nights, many drop outs and fall outs, many lines learned and forgotten and repeated. In the big rush to getting the performance perfect, promotion has not been prioritized. 100 seats sold, out of of 300. Not exactly a sell-out show. The director has had his own distractions, leading to more actors taking on bigger responsibilities than they’d been given. The recently self-assigned Costume and Set Designers are my friends, and they’re the reason I show up.
Myself? I’ve got an exam, two big deadlines and my birthday coming up — my own fair share of “other things to cope with”.
But here we are (above center), stepping into a story, becoming another character, and forgetting about this all; if only for three hours an evening, three nights this week. However, The Theatre Society has made me feel a part of something. They were the first to get me to party hard before working hard. Just like anything good in life, they’ve shown me that when you commit to something, that’s it: you’re devoted to it, to getting it done to your best ability. Sometimes that means missing a lecture, and sometimes that’s just going to have to be okay. They’re the relief and the burden, simultaneously. So, this whole week we’ll be skipping classes and making fools of ourselves in front of possibly-not-many-people. It’s my first year of university — it doesn’t count. That’s my excuse! The time to make mistakes is now, and these are the people I’m taking down with me.
May 11th 2019
The world heritage city of Bath is idyllic in size and location (see below). Nearby from where I am are Booksellers, Clubs and Restaurants, and Bristol is just a 12 minute train ride away. I believe my three years here are about the experiences I make outside as well as inside of University, and so Bath’s history with Jane Austen and other literary figures really influenced my decision to come here to study.
Starting with nothing and moving to a place where everything seems to be happening, university life can be overwhelming. Fresher’s Week comes with many fairs, activities, and events that make one feel you have to divide yourself into a million pieces to attend everything. With this comes the pressure to settle into the new house, the unavoidable hangovers, and the unnecessary gossip and stress of getting to know new people — let alone live with them. This is why I sat down months before the turmoil to plan:
Where did I see myself settled?
In private accommodation, not halls. At 21, I thought that being classified as a ‘mature student’ would create a gap between myself and peers. I was right, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying myself. I now live with three second year students, all of whom are studious girls. We have our dramas, but we keep the place tidy.
What kinds of people did I see myself being friends with?
I wanted to be in a community that challenged me: to do well in my studies, to improve my lack of confidence, and to grow my interest for the environment. I then signed up to society’s that would promote these areas of my life: the Spoken Word and Poetry Society, the Theatre Society and later, the Eco Society.
What did I want to spend my time doing?
I wanted to learn as much as possible, wherever possible. I signed up to many workshops that the Careers Hub at my university promotes on newsletters. Don’t miss out on these — they’re all a part of our (very expensive!) education package. Some of these included introductions to freelancing, mindfulness, and other interests I thought I may develop. Also, I wanted a part time job (more on that later) and I wanted to improve my physical health. I signed up to the university gym — which has a nice annual discount: look out for them!
Once I knew what I wanted to do, it was a lot easier to plan my days. Whether you’re an analogue or tech person, a planner is an essential in student life. Quick tip: schedule in time for study and time for reflection. These are two key areas that you may forget to do if you have too much to go to! I learned later on that booking yourself up leads to burning yourself out. Prioritize, and you’ll find it easier to stay on top of things.