5 Pieces of Advice

A new semester has begun at Murdoch University. For some it is now time to reenroll, dig out that book list and start crawling out of bed for those blasted 10:30 a.m. classes. But for others, it is their first time experiencing some of what Murdoch has to offer.

For those lucky newbies I offer the following 5 pieces of advice. These are not pearls of wisdom that will ensure your success, the only person that can guarantee that is yourself, but rather some helpful information that I certainly wish I had possessed in my first few months. To all of you, old and new, good luck. Murdoch is a wonderful place and you are bound to have a good time.

1. Participate

Clubs, societies and guilds can all be found on campus. You don't have to join one but it is a great opportunity to meet like minded people that share your interests. The best part is, if you can't find a club you like you can always create one! It is a great chance to make new friendships and meet lots of different people. That's not to say that every club will be perfect, but if you join one you hate you can always quietly ignore their emails and never see those people again. Not that I speak from experience…

2. Look beyond the glass

Drinking heavily happens in those first few weeks. It's easy, in fact, to let most of freshers pass you by while you recover from hangover after hangover. There's no long term harm in doing that, unless you're drinking by yourself, but consider this. Alcohol is available 24/7, you'll only really get that freshers experience once. Or twice, depending on how badly you do in this next year. If you're an international student, put the glass down long enough to go on some of the tours and meet some of the people. It'll be worth your while in the long run.

3. Look beyond your books

It's terrifying how inadequate I felt when I was given my first assignment for class. I resolved to spend every evening in the library until I had finished. Hitting all your problems head on is the only way to solve them right? After my third consecutive late night I was prepared to admit defeat. I obviously wasn't smart enough to be here. I got back to my flat and lay on the couch in misery. That's when a new friend I had met through other people, Cameron, came in. He could see how miserable I was and it didn't take much prodding to tell him the full story. Within half an hour he had not only shown me how to succeed, he had taught me how to study smart rather than just by investing a lot of time in it. Burying yourself in work won't make you a better student. Taking the time to break a task down into manageable pieces really is one of the most important lessons I learnt.

4. Everyone has a story

One of the competition's for the Murdoch blog was to design a poster. With the help of my very awesome friends I was able to pull off something a little exciting and, as a result, I got to meet a lot of fellow students that I might never have run into otherwise. As they would write their belief on my poster it was amazing to see how their different experiences shaped their perspectives. Every single person you see on campus will have a burning desire to do something, a special talent and the potential to change how you see the world. But you will never know it unless you take the time to talk to people. It can be hard, believe me as an introvert I know, but persevere and you will meet some pretty cool people.

5. Explore

Murdoch is one of the largest campuses in Australia and that means there will be one or five secrets. If you're between classes, killing time, go for a walk down one of the many winding paths that exist. You'll find cool little studying spots, hidden cafes and even back routes to your classes. It is like being at Hogwarts with the cool, ever changing castle without the constant threat of dying horribly. I can't believe I just used a Harry Potter reference.

In summation this is advice you can live without but, hopefully, taking some of it onboard will enrich your experience. On the surface we all go to University to get a degree but just below that we have our own motivations for being there. I don't think it particularly matters what you study at Murdoch, you're likely to get a good education whatever the choice, but whether you enjoy yourself is solely your own responsibility. I hope you do!

Unravel the knot

When you first start a new job there is definitely a pressure to perform well. You're fresh, inexperienced and very young compared to some of the people in the office. You want to fit in, you want people to be impressed by you and you want to get promoted so that your bank account won't look like it had suffered  a personal GFC.

Something you will probably be given when you start at this new job is a company email address. This is usually quite exciting. yourname@bigcorporation.com. It has a nice ring to it and you get a strange sense of satisfaction at the personalised signature that every email goes out with. Maybe that bit is just me and maybe it says more about me than I would like it to.

You may even get an induction checklist, an exciting piece of paper that is meant to disguise that you are just another cog in a very replaceable series of cogs. One of the items on that checklist might be, "Set up email on phone". Seems fairly innocuous right?

Soon you are settled in and life is going well. You've got clients, a nice spot you like to go for lunch and you know that Kathy from accounting will be having a birthday soon which means a nice lunch out on the company money.

But something is nagging at you. A little niggle in the back of your mind. You sit at home after a long day, checking your phone and answering your client emails. There may even be one from your boss, asking for your figures from last week. Sure, you could answer it when you get in the next day but what the heck? You have your phone and the figures are just a click away.

A few weeks later and things have maybe deteriorated a bit, one of your clients is a monstrous beast from hell that seems to think your every waking hour should be spent thinking of them and that time spent dreaming of things that aren't their profits is a cardinal sin. Your phone might go off at 3 in the morning, the client is an insomniac and knows you check your emails at home and has sent you an updated graphic to use. This one was designed by his grandmother who saw a play once. At 3 a.m. it is not a pleasant picture. The next morning it has not improved.

Nevertheless, you deal with the problem and soon the client is happy again. Or at least placated enough to go back into their den. Still, your mind is one edge. Now, whenever your phone buzzes in the night you check it. You can't afford to miss an email as it might mean losing a client and that would mean you were directly to blame. For not checking your emails. At three in the morning. Time you are most definitely not getting paid for.

Now we have the problem.

It may make sense to have your emails on your phone so that you can deal with fires that might occur when you aren't in the office but you need to set the expectation that, just because you have the ability, does not mean you will also use it to perform work out of the hours you are paid for. This isn't an argument against all the extra stuff that sometimes needs to get done, that has a time and a place, but rather a suggestion that you should remember that your leisure time is yours.

Doing work for free at home might work for some but it will also lessen the time you give yourself to relax and unwind. Turn the phone off, sleep without thoughts of what might happen and finally feel that knot that has formed in the back of your head unravel.

So what goes here?

It has been nearly a year since I last put something on this blog. Nearly 365 days of silence. Yet life went on. I had a job, quit, found another job, still in the second job, found a house, kept that house, was adopted by a cat, went on adventures, got sick at various points in the year and generally got on with the business of being alive.

So why then, if there was so much going on, did I not take the time to write any of it down?

The truth is, I wasn't sure how.

This blog was tellingly called, "Inside the mind of a student". An unimaginative but accurate title that conveyed the flavour and style of content you could expect. Would anyone have cared or related to my struggle to understand credit cards? Would someone on the other side of the world, looking for advice on whether or not Perth was the city for them necessarily care that I do not understand how promotions or raises work in the real world?

The temptation was then to simply accept that I was no longer a student and could no longer really offer an insiders guide to University. The one thing I always wanted to be, was genuine and I didn't think that giving Uni students advice on which campus eatery was the best would be any good given that I haven't visited Murdoch in over a year. Yet comments still sporadically appeared, people saying that they liked a post or asking for a more in-depth description of some point. I loved them for it. It dragged me back and reminded me how much I had loved writing this blog, how much I didn't want to abandon it.

So what goes here then? I have had many people give me lots of different opinions on what they would like to see me write about. All of them kind and all of them did not suit. Someone recommended that I turn this into a blog that teaches people how to make simple, healthy meals that are cheaper than fast food. Those exist though I don't know how to make them. I strongly urge that person to make that idea a reality. I'm just not the one to do it.

Instead what I offer is this, a blog about life. Specifically, life as I find it. It probably won't illuminate any of the great mysteries and it certainly won't help you differentiate between a fixed rate mortgage and throwing your money in a hole. It will offer exactly what it does, nothing more and hopefully nothing less.

In this way I will take a bit of the pressure off of myself to be genuine. I don't need to just talk about experiences unique to students but can talk about ones that I have experienced in the life that comes after academics. Murdoch was the place that nurtured me, helped me to find a part of who I am and always supported my dreams. I'm sorry to leave it as a topic but I hope that I will have the opportunity to revisit it one day.

To everyone that has been reading up to this point, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope that I can reward the loyalty by making this next chapter of this blog worth reading.

Finding a house

I am currently looking for a house. Well, I say house, I mean any dwelling that I can live in and store my stuff. The problem is that I am still vastly under-prepared for life in the real world and so cannot fathom the steps required to get to the point where I will put ink on a piece of paper that will legally give me permission to live somewhere. 

Compounding this problem is my friend Cato who has, in a hilarious lapse of judgement, given me carte blanche in selecting the next place where we will live. Cato is currently in Brazil doing something with animals (helping them I suspect) and so relying on me entirely to find a place. I do hope she doesn’t read this before she gets back.

The main issue I seem to have faced so far is getting the agents to get back to me, whether by phone or e-mail. I am a bit perplexed as I am perfectly willing to give them money to let me live in someone else’s house but they seem incapable of returning a phone call. Has anyone else experienced this? Is there a code phrase I can leave on their voicemail that will grant me access?

In the meantime, while I wait for my e-mail to chime or phone to ring, I am composing a list of things I suspect Cato would like in a house.

  1. A roof over at least most of the house - good for rain
  2. A garage - these are handy for cars. Cato does not own a car but I hope she will invest in one soon.
  3. Doors - For safety
  4. Windows - In case we lose our keys to the doors
  5. A fridge - if I know Cato she is going to want a place to put food
I’ll be keeping this updated with my progress. Please chime in if you have advice!

Getting into University

I have a degree. It’s still in the envelope they sent it in, tucked away in one of my many ‘important document’ drawers and there it shall stay until my living arrangements become more permanent. 

The reason I say I have a degree is because this was not always the case. Once, not too long ago, I was in the same position as some of you are in. The grades I’d received were not nearly as good as the ones I had wanted and my future looked quite bleak. I didn’t think I would get in to any University and that I would be stuck working in some job I would hate for the rest of my life. 

That’s when my Dad dropped another piece of his, not always but sometimes, excellent advice. Talk to someone at the University. I scoffed at this because I felt that the people at the University probably heard hundreds of cases like mine and were probably used to turning them down. This is just one more example of me being wrong and being happy to admit it.

After some persuasion I sent an email to Murdoch and within a day (bear in mind I was in Zimbabwe at the time) I had a response. The email was very kind in tone and it outlined all my options about the various courses that were open to me, including a few that I had thought I wouldn’t be able to get into. Within 48 hours of receiving my results I had made my application to Murdoch, something I would not have thought possible when I had initially opened the results letter.

So the three important lessons that I learnt were: 1. Your results are never quite as bad as you initially think they are 2. Sometimes your Dad will know what he is talking about and 3. People at Universities (particularly Murdoch) are people. People that will happily help you if you ask. 

If you’ve just got your results and are feeling like all the opportunities have gone up in smoke, simply ask for help. In three or four years time you could have a fancy envelope with a degree in it showing up to your house too. 

On being a Graduate

I decided to take an unannounced break from blogging as the end of semester and end of exams really took it out of me and I needed some time to recuperate. Never fear though, I have returned to give you your weekly bathroom reading. 

I received my final University results and to the surprise of everyone, especially myself, I had managed to pass everything. For those of you following my exciting story that means I have met the prerequisites for leveling up from undergraduate to, the far more prestigious, Graduate. Upon reaching this new stage in life a number of options become available and I would like to spend this post discussing them.

Immunity from Prosecution

I’m not a lawyer, or even remotely qualified, but I’m pretty sure the number of words in your degree title is the number of days per year you are allowed to act with full immunity from the law. So as I have a Bachelor of Arts in Security, Terrorism and Counterterrorism Studies with a Minor in Journalism and a Minor in International Studies, I get about twenty days a year where I can do as I please. Obviously though this only starts next year as they still need time to put my details into the system.

Instant Knowledge

This one is great. Basically anytime you are involved in a conversation/argument/debate/shouting at strangers in the street you are entitled to say, “Well from what I learnt at University before I graduated.....” and then you fill in the blank with whatever statement you think will win you the argument/conversation/debate/respect of strangers in the street. The best part is that no matter what you say it immediately becomes true because you are a Graduate. It is inadvisable to twist reality too much. 

Graduate Surcharge

From now on, whenever you perform any service whatsoever you can apply the “graduate surcharge”. This, again, entails adding up the number of words in your degree title but this time for a percentage. Mine, for example, is twenty percent and I can now add an extra twenty percent charge onto any service I render. The graduate surcharge, unfortunately, cannot be added onto any dealings with family members as they will likely just scoff and remind you that they used to change your nappies. 

Though these are all wishful thinking I have enjoyed being a graduate so far. I’m sure, when the realisation that I will have to get a real job and stop publishing rubbish on the internet sinks in, I’ll eventually start to have a predictable panic attack. When I do I promise to document it for you and write it up for this blog. 

How I do it (Part Two)

I do realise the irony of having a blog post about my time management skills go up two days late. Please accept my sincere apologies and enjoy this rather late offering.

Midyear enrollments are fast approaching and Murdoch have asked me to do a post on one of the most common concerns people have when considering enrolling, namely that they won't have enough time to study. In this post I will address some of the issues I’ve faced, trying to balance working at a part-time job and studying full-time.

If you’re an international student you are entitled to work 20 hours a week during the semester and that automatically affects how you balance work and study. Honestly, it can be hard to make enough to live by with the work limit but if you violate the rule you can lose your visa. I have, on occasion, come close to going over so my first tip is make sure you and your employer keep a close eye on how many hours you have done each week. Below are a couple of tips that I’ve found useful for keeping my academic reputation up while making some money.

1. Flexibility 

When you take a job make sure it has flexible hours. Having fixed shifts isn’t a bad idea but when you are really struggling with an assignment, being able to swap shifts around can be a lifesaver. This also comes in handy during the exam period.

2. Savings
    Save up some of your paycheck every week. I’ve suffered quite badly when I take time off to study and suddenly I don’t have any money coming in. This is a serious problem when rent is due and you don’t have enough to afford groceries as well. Nothing impairs your ability to study like not eating.

    3. Avoid the trap

    Once you start earning money, life suddenly becomes a lot easier. The more shifts you work the more money you make, until you realise how exhausted you are from working and decide to skip class in favour of sleep. It’s an easy cycle to get into, one that I know quite well.
    Finally just remember that balance isn’t something you’re born with, you have to learn it. It sounds clich├ęd but practice really does make perfect. If you are really worried about if you’ll have enough time to study then perhaps you need to look at alternative options, such as part-time or external studying. All of which can be found on the Murdoch website.

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    Perth, WA, Australia
    I live in Perth and this blog is about navigating that life in my own way.


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