With a background in neurosciences, and currently practising as a psychotherapist I have always had a keen interest in how the brain (actually) works, and perhaps more importantly how we might utilise that knowledge to maximise our mental capacity when it comes to approaching the (undoubtedly) challenging University of London LLB (Hons) that many of us are harnessed to.
So, 3 years into this degree and the thing that still drives me nuts is essay writing. It takes me months to start writing answers that I am halfway happy with. Anyway, I hope this resonates with you all. If it does, keep reading ‘my roadmap to essay writing’, the steps I usually go through to write a Politics/International Relations Essay.
Step number 1: Getting my head around the material.
Before I can even think about an essay, I have to study the material. Usually this involves going through the Study guide and the Essential Reading. Whether I write the essays as I go along or wait till I finish the syllabus, it depends on the module and how well I understand it. Continue reading
It’s been quite a long time since my last blog post, but…life happened. First I was sucked in by the Christmas craze, then had to reconnect when I got home, then the Little One had an incredibly hard time with upper canines (yeah, one night she got up at 3 a.m and did not go back to sleep), then I was sucked in by the formative assessment whirlwind and I have basically started to breathe again just two weeks ago. Of course, since life can never throw that much on me I made a serious and committed plan to eat healthier and to exercise because the “I just had a baby” excuse is getting old when the baby is almost two years old. And on top of everything, I thought it would be a good idea to do something more artistic and have taken up hand-lettering. And here I was telling myself that I am a laid-back person.
I will start by addressing those of you sneering in the back of the room and saying: “Right, like I have time to journal”. Continue reading
Have you ever thought about age becoming an obstacle for us to study at the university again? I was concerned whether I’ve left it too long to study for a bachelor’s degree as I am 21, which is an age most students obtain the degree. I am sure that many of you have heard this worry before, but I believe now that it’s never too late to start again. Here’s my brief story before I enrolled at the University of London.
Technology completely streamlines the studying experience with the University of London International Programmes. The distance in distance learning has been shortened considerably: students from all over the world can hook up face-to-face on Skype or Google Hangouts, share resources on the VLE’s discussion forums, access hundreds of journal articles in the online library with a keyword and mouse click, and access lectures from different universities on iTunesU.
But in a few months time that technology will desert you, facing the exam with just a pen in your hand and blank paper in front of you. Some candidates will be armed with a calculator, but most will rely on a pen to frame their argument through legible handwriting.
We are all quite familiar with the formula: write every day, as it is the only way to hone the craft. And, keeping a diary is the best method to do this. Quite convinced that regularity is truly the way, I too, have been keeping a diary for about six years, to persuade myself to write something every day. Recently, however, I had not written a word in it for nearly 20 days.
Eventually, I decided that it was time to finally extinguish that flame of December festivity, which I figured was where the heat of playfulness got a little out of control. I had allowed it to foil my plans for too long. But, when I decided to pick up my long neglected writing, as well as my studying, I was shackled by lethargy. I could not get into my stride. I could not read even for 15 minutes without feeling restless. I somehow managed to cook up an avalanche of excuses – I need to go to work, I need to cook, perhaps I should rest for awhile before I begin, etc. “Awhile” became “a day”. By bedtime, the panic mode would take over. I would try to redeem the hours lost in a day, all in that few hours before bedtime. It would never work out well: reading was done in a haphazard manner, without registering anything; writing was insipid, lacking in texture. I realised that I could not cheat myself any longer.
It is the first week of a very hot summer here in Pennsylvania. Jelly Bean and I sit in the shade of our enormous maple tree for our favorite activities. She indulges me in one of my favorite activities, reading and we wait for a chance to indulge in her favorite activity, romping with her canine playmates as they come by on their walks. Now that I have no specific course to study for, I am suddenly aware of how much reading I have been doing over the last several years and how much I enjoy reading with a plan and a purpose. Even without preparing for a course of study, since May, my reading list surprised me: two novels by Hilary Mantel, one by Rushdie, Malory’s complete works, and Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain. Right now, I am back onto Victorian poetry. I wondered what I would choose to read without a syllabus or course goals for structure. How much our course of study has affected how I read is a constant, pleasant surprise. How did this happen, exactly? Other students seem to be curious about this too, according to conversations in our student chat areas. Many wonder which texts on the recommended lists are the best aids to degree level study. How I read now has been influenced by some helpful texts.
Some readers have asked what it is like to study English in our distance learning program. I have been thinking about how to describe the experience, and what my practical approach to degree study would be if I were starting the program today. For me, the program has been such a marvelous experience that starting over today would be a delight. The required courses are very interesting with the opportunity to focus on such a variety of texts that reading them again would be very interesting work. Although the advanced courses I selected were my first choices there are several others I would enjoy reading. The process of studying in this program is very rewarding and offers a treasured opportunity. Here are some notes about what to expect.
During the time I have been studying for my degree I often wondered how my course work would affect my leisure reading and other work. Until last week, there has not been much time for leisure reading over the last year. My leisure reading time has been so limited that my treasured subscription to The Economist lapsed without my even realizing it. The stack of New York Times newspapers have been nothing but recycling material for some time now. Instead of a holiday, my post exam relaxation is hugging Jelly Bean, rearranging furniture, and leisure reading.
For the last week, I have been reading some texts that even I, with my liberal definition, might think twice about calling literature. Surprisingly, now that exams are over and I just might have completed my degree, my personal reading has, well, blossomed in ways I did not expect. It surprised me to find arguments and rhetoric jumping off the page in a completely new way. This changed the experience of reading a little. While I thought it might be a distraction, the opposite is really the truth of it. It is quite nice to trace the hand of the author in the work.
‘Say what you mean’ sounds like a deceptively simple comment, but for me it is a stubbornly elusive ideal on my horizon. A few years ago one of the tutors in the marking scheme made that comment about a paper I submitted. It was a very startling and enlightening comment. Actually, it made me kind of angry; I’ll explain why in a bit. The tutor’s comment made me realize I usually do not know what I want to say when starting to write. It also brought attention to the process of writing, and to my understanding of academic register.