Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Time to get down to business

It’s time to switch from holiday mode and back to study mode. Can’t say I’m particularly happy about it when looking at the pile of books and lecture notes I have to go through in less than a month, but when writing this it's exactly 22 days until my four month long holiday. This Easter has been what I’d like to call a cultural Easter. I’ve been to Blenheim Palace where Churchill was born (30 mins by bus from Oxford), to Stratford upon Avon where Shakespeare grew up (just over 1 hour by train from Oxford), and to London (1 hour 40 mins by coach from Oxford) visiting all sorts of museums and watched Billy Elliot with my mum and sister (and of course did my fair share of shopping). That's a great thing about Oxford, it's close to so many different things. 

If I’m not entirely mistaken it was exactly a year ago that I had received all my offers from the universities I applied to, and I had to make up my mind about which to accept. UCAS is a completely different system than what is being used in Norway, where you have to rank the universities you apply to due to the fact that you only get one offer. If you're from USA, Canada, Norway or Latin America I strongly recommend contacting Across the Pond, these guys know what they're talking about, it's free and they do all the tricky UCAS things for you. And they also have "letters" from international student in the UK on their website where you can read about both advantages and disadvantages, so have a look! 

Anyway, if you get offers from all the universities on your list, you have a job to do, if you haven’t already made up your mind of course. So I thought I should help you a little bit, in case you’re new in this game and perhaps also an international student. I don't know about you, but I was craving information when I was in that situation, so without further ado, here is some advice:

#1 Open tabs for all the universities websites in your internet browser
All the universities offer you different kinds of things, and if you're not sure which university can offer you the best education for you, then you should go through them all. Look at different modules of the course you have applied to, the content of them if they're available, and information about the overall course such as graduated students' current jobs and experiences, work placement options etc. It's also smart to look at the tuition fee and if they will increase during your studies, and if there are any "hidden" course fees such as field trips. You can find information about fees at Brookes here

#2 Use Facebook 
 After spending hours trying to wrap my head around different terms and academic information I realized that I had completely forgotten about Facebook! So after having a look on the websites, search for the different universities on Facebook (Brookes here). At least on Brookes’ Facebook page you’re able to find out about different events going on at campus, information about services being provided and the most important thing – pictures. Of course the page is not going to tell you the advantages and disadvantages, but you'll be able to see pictures, videos and maybe some reviews from former students. You should also try to search for any Facebook groups/pages for your specific course, as you may be able to find information relating specific to you. 

#3 Attend Open Days
If I had the opportunity I would definitely have attended the open days, but unfortunately they were all on the same days as my exams in Norway. It’s just something about walking around on campus, seeing with your own eyes what it’s like, and maybe explore the neighbourhood and the city. You won't get to explore and feel the actual vibe through Facebook or the university’s website. And in case you’re wondering, Brookes has two different vibes on the same campus. Inside the John Henry Brookes Building it’s vibrant, colourful and somewhat crowded, especially now before the exams. In the other buildings it’s more quiet and calm, and you’re able to actually hear your own thoughts. It’s something for everyone. Information about Brookes open days here.

#4 Look at different types of accommodation 
The last thing I’m going to mention this time is accommodation, which was what I was most worried about. I bet I’m not the only one worrying about it, but having been through it all I can say – don’t worry too much about it. I mean, you should offer it some thought and explore your options, but you don’t have to lay awake at night. They will always have room for you somewhere. You have a variety of options at Brookes, such as halls varying both in size and location and shared housing. I wasn't aware of shared housing and it took me quite some time to find the shared housing list, so I recommend spending some time at the accommodation pages as well. The great thing about being an international student at Brookes is that they guarantee you a place to live in your first year. You might end up in halls far away from your campus or with flatmates you can't stand, but at least you have roof over your head. And if you can’t stand your flatmates or whatever, it’s possible to switch, the staff at the accommodation office always try to help you, but you have to give it a go. Brookes' accommodation website here. If you're considering renting private, Brookes Union has some useful tips, and you can also contact them if you have any questions. Brookes Union website here. If you want to read about different halls and campuses, David has written about all about it here

I hope you found this at least somewhat helpful, and should you have any questions or something you want to read more about, then please comment below! :) 

Now I'm going to do some more studying and try to fight off the cold I've managed to get during this lovely, rainy, cold spring weather!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Shut your pie hole, pretty please

This time I want to start the blog post with an encouragement regarding something that has annoyed me for a while now... When you’re in a lecture, or a seminar, or at an event, is it really that hard to just shut your mouth and be quiet? I mean, play Candy Crush on your phone, check Facebook, Instagram or whatever, but do you really have to whisper about the guy you met last night during the lecture? I love gossip, don’t get me wrong, but I’m paying £11,400 a year for this education, and I really want to make the most of these three years. And I bet most of you want the same! We’re spending so much money on getting a proper education, and you’re just going to waste it on talking rubbish during all the lectures? Unfortunately I don’t have the balls to say something, but the lecturer should have. I don’t know why the staff at Brookes just accept that students are being rude during their lectures. It has actually only happened twice at my time here at Brookes that a lecturer has told someone to either be quiet or leave. It really shouldn’t have to be like that. It’s just silly. I can't help myself comparing experiences in Oxford with Norway, but during my two years at university in Norway, if someone had the nerve to giggle and whisper more than "hey, can I borrow a pen?" during a lecture, the lecturer would stop the entire session and ask the student(s) to leave. So with all my humbleness, shut you pie hole. Please :)

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have been quite stressful. I live in a block (off campus), with a really quarrelsome couple living next door, causing me to oversleep on the one lecture I really was looking forward to, due to them having a huge fight. At some point I actually thought she was going to start the Third World War, when she started throwing stuff around the room, smashing things into the wall, where I was trying to sleep on the other side of the paper-thin walls. I’ve never heard a British girl swear that much before. At least something good came out of it, I learned a few new British swear words and got to know all about him cheating. Did I mention that I love gossip? Even when it’s 2 am and my lecture starts at 9 am? At least I managed to drag myself to the gym before lunchtime. If you become a student at Brookes you’ll discover that lunchtime at Brookes Sport is a place you don’t want to be. It's people everywhere you turn. 

Apart from essay writing in sociology and international relations, Brookes has hosted some really interesting debates as well. One of the debates was about how the Cold War was won, lead by Lord Powell, the foreign affairs private secretary during the 1980s. As a student studying International Relations and Politics, I know that the Cold War is going to be a constantly returning topic during my time here at Brookes, so it was a great opportunity to hear Lord Powell’s own experiences and gain some extra knowledge. I didn’t dare to take a picture of him though, he is after all a Lord. No one else was taking pictures of him, and I didn’t want to be the international girl with no manners. The whole Lord thing is also quite intimidating. We don’t have that in Norway, not even a Sir. Am I even allowed to take pictures of a Lord while he‘s telling stories about Margaret Thatcher? And in case you wondered, some students managed to eat crisps and giggle while Lord Powell was speaking. Rudeness! 

The other event was hosted by BROOKESfocus, the newly established Social Sciences Student Association. They hosted their first debate on the topic of whether institutional racism exist in the British criminal justice system or not. The panel consisted of an ex-offender, a barrister, the Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Law at Brookes, and a music writer and activist. It was interesting to hear about their own experiences and opinions, and I’m sure I’ll be able to use it in my exams. Oh, and we got free wine and food, and that’s always good. Hi-fives to BROOKESfocus for hosting such a good and interesting first debate! I'm looking forward to the next one. 

And whilst talking about racism, if you already haven't seen it, the I, too, am Oxford campaign is really something to think about. We should have come further than this in the 21st century. 

Today my Easter break started. I'm really looking forward to two and a half weeks of just doing nothing after having turned in two essays, held a presentation in French as well as a French in-class test. The part about doing nothing is not true though, I have so much exam revision to do with two exams on 7th May and another one the 14th.

If you're as lucky as I am and having an Easter break, enjoy it! Make sure you eat lots of those easter eggs, and just kick back and relax!