It is a cold, snowy week here in Pittsburgh. Jelly Bean and I are home alone, settled in for a good snuggle and read. We enjoyed a long eleven-day holiday celebration with a house full of visiting relatives, and a few visiting playmates for Jelly Bean. This morning everyone is on a plane home to Wien, Washington D.C., and Baltimore, and my husband went off on a business trip. After a fun afternoon playing in the snow together, my collie dog is ready to curl up on her blanket, watch the snowfall, and wait to bark at the corgis and cats that live next door. Despite all of her anticipation and excitement, I am quietly enjoying a mocha latte and reading the posts in our VLE to get back into the swing of studying. Many newer students have a great question as they plan their study agenda: what books on the recommend reading list are the most useful and merit purchase. Read the rest of this entry »
So it’s one month on and sadly/happily this student has now left South Sudan, after two and a half years living there. It was a pretty hectic last month, trying to get everything finished before I left, and of course full of a lot of emotions, and goodbye parties. In amongst all that I must admit there was not a lot of time for studying, although now I am safely arrived in Cairo and have my own room to study in, this trend is changing. I had a lot of fun being massively culture-shocked going into a supermarket to buy stationery for studying :). I am trying to be philosophical about the small amount of studying I’ve done recently and hopeful that I can catch up.
One thing I did read over the past month, however, on a day when the internet wouldn’t allow me access to my textbooks, was the excellent article by Sir Richard Doll which outlines the causal link between smoking and lung cancer.
I found this pretty amazing because, of course, it’s a knowledge I’ve always had, for as long as I can remember. Yet this article really does clearly start from a position of merely having a hypothesis that is then stringently tested, nothing is assumed. As could only be necessary in a former era when this was not necessarily something that all people knew or believed, and a desire to show facts in a purely scientific matter was also paramount. I thought he did so in not only a convincing but also an elegant way, addressing every possible riposte to his conclusions.
The neurons of my grey matter were almost overloaded with the different formats of the Java programming language five years back. They meant nothing more than permutations and combinations of alpha-numeric characters - ‘system.out.println’, still stuck in my memory. It was time for exam preparation, rather preparation for puking it out during those tense hours. I had already sensed that computer programming (the backbone behind modern computing) was not my cup of tea.
It is late in the evening now, and I am writing to you from my kitchen table after celebrating Thanksgiving Day here in America. The kitchen windows are frosty but Jelly Bean and I are snug and warm. I am baking brioche and enjoying a steamy pot of tea while she snoozes on my feet with her favorite toy under her head. Winter arrived early in Southwestern Pennsylvania this year. We have already had more than a foot of snow, which is unusual here. It has been cold and snowing all week giving an early start to all the activities I enjoy most. We like being out-of-doors, so winter fun like tobogganing, skiing, ice skating and frolicking in the snow with Jelly Bean are a real treat. For me there is nothing like a day exercising outside in the crisp winter air and sunshine then relaxing in the warm, snug kitchen of our home with my collie dog close beside me. Winter here is under-appreciated, I think, and many people do not understand how it can be my favorite season when summers here are so lovely. But for me, winter is bracing, invigorating, and a chance to indulge in my favorite things.
If you are anything like me, disruption to your finely balanced and structured schedule can be challenging to recover from. While a little change in routine, like studying in different locations, can be highly beneficial and easy to appreciate, some disruptions can feel more problematic, like how to manage big changes to our schedules and shifting responsibilities. Right now I am considering adding a client to my professional workload while enjoying the festive season that admittedly begins a bit early at our house. For me these big disruptions need some thought to accommodate successfully.
How do you ‘recharge?’ This week a dear friend of mine reminded me how important it is to rest, relax, and recharge during times of high engagement, demands, and busy schedules. Not only is she completing her licensing requirements as a master’s level therapist, and her area of professional interest is quite demanding. She specializes in equine assisted psychotherapy and works with children and families coping with autism. We talk a lot about the concept of self-care and the importance of ‘recharging’. As a therapist, she is obligated professionally and ethically to ensure she is unimpaired for each counseling session. Unimpaired means nothing is distracting her focus, and she can give one hundred percent of her attention to each child. She has to schedule time during each day to restore her own sense of well-being before going onto her next appointment. Sometimes, especially during a hectic week like this one, the idea of being professionally required to schedule recharging time seems remarkable, even blissful! The trick is knowing what will make that time most effective.
I have attempted to write this blog post on new beginnings, several times during the last month, only to leave it incomplete. I couldn’t bring myself to write it because for me, it didn’t feel like the academic year had actually begun. Yes, I had selected the subjects for the year, registered online, and even downloaded the subject guides but I didn’t have any hard evidence to pull me out of my prolonged holiday bliss.
Then I came home last evening to find the now familiar cardboard box marked University of London. For a moment I just stood there looking at it. My books had arrived. Procrastination was not an option anymore. The new academic year had indeed begun.
A few months ago, I gave up caffeine. My addiction was come by honestly, as I remember nipping espresso from the unguarded cups of grown-ups since I was able to hold a cup. Now that it’s time to ‘fall back’ in most of America, it occurred to me I have never faced a time change without caffeine to power through. I will save the humorous details of the week for another time and focus on how to get through the busiest time with study, work, and the coming holidays.
The end of daylight savings time marks the beginning of the holiday season, my busiest professional time of year, and a few weeks away from registering for exams. Instead of gaining an hour of sleep on at least one night I seem to have lost two or more every night this last week. I started to wonder if, perhaps, holding onto my espresso until May, or at least January, might have been a better plan. I am coming to you a bit sleep deprived and without caffeine but quite contemplative and very realistic about getting it all done, and making sure there is time for effective study. Jelly Bean and I put our heads together, assessed our options, and came up with a plan.
Do you recognize the butterflies in the stomach that come with realizing exam time will be here sooner than you think? Maybe it is really a cold panic. Instead of feeling like a far off five and a half months away, the month of May, darling buds and all, instead feels more like it is about five weeks away. Moreover, exam registration time is a mere sixty days or so away. Glancing between the growing stacks of books on my study desk and the mountain of work on the desk in my home office intensifies the feeling. There is positively no time for procrastination. Here are some words of wisdom from an author I am reading this week, Louisa May Alcott: ‘Whatever we can do and do well we have a right to, and I don’t think anyone will deny us.’
Kia ora and Asalam-oualikum to the University of London student blogosphere. *Awkward wave* As this is my first post, it’ll be pretty much housekeeping: who I am, where I am, why I’m studying and what else keeps me out of trouble. ☺ I promise it’ll get more interesting after that!
I’m a Kiwi (New Zealander) currently residing in Pakistan with my Irish husband and just starting the MSc in Public Health. I made the decision to head back to graduate study actually largely thanks to the nudging of my supervisors during a recent consultancy with UNICEF – and after umming and aahing I finally settled on Public Health for a two reasons…
1) Everyone, everywhere needs to think about health…and there are so many different things you could focus on, I’ll never get bored! (Commitment issues perhaps?!)
2) I studied social science and business as an undergrad, and have found myself enthralled in the humanities in recent times…and firmly believe that we need these sorts of perspectives alongside the ‘scientific’ paradigm to adequately deal with the physical reality of our bodies, and minds, that simply don’t always work the way we’d like them to and can also do incredible things that we can barely imagine.