Hey thanks for stopping by!

Hey guys!

Welcome to my blog :) I've been infrequently writing this blog for about two years now. It's been super helpful for me to be able to put my thoughts on a page and hopefully someone somewhere has enjoyed reading at least one of my posts!

Enjoy reading and please leave any feedback you have!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

No alcohol you say? I don't believe you!

Some of you eagle eyed chaps will have seen that I posted a link to my cancer research dryathlon page, you may have also noticed that I said I'd write a blog post detailing why I'm doing it, if you're reading this then that means I've stayed true to my word. Welcome to my justification for saving money, giving my liver a break and raising some cash for charity.

I guess this post might sound a little selfish but I'm not going to apologise for that in fact I'll ask you to hear me out and then judge me if you want to. I do not have a great deal of exposure to those suffering from cancer but then again I don't think that should be the only reason we partake in fundraising. Cancer is a b*tch. I guess that's one of my reasons for taking part in dry January, but it's not my first.

My first reason is to predominantly to prove to  a whole range of people I can survive without alcohol. This range includes my mother, my "friends", other family members and myself. I can't even count the number of times my mother has looked at me disapprovingly because I've tarted myself up and said "I'm going out", or the number of times she has worryingly expressed her thoughts that I drink too much. I'm twenty-three, it's not uncommon for someone of my age to be out at the pub or the SU every friday right? But, I guess she has a point, my liver is probably screaming out for a break "thank god she's come to her senses" I can hear it gurgling as I write this. So, mum, I'm taking a break to prove to you that I can live a life that doesn't involve getting pissed every weekend. (please excuse my language).

I mentioned I wanted to prove to my friends I can do it, this one is definitely linked to my insecurities. I worry I'm not that much fun, I worry people only enjoy spending time with me when I'm slightly pissed. Although I know this probably isn't true, I'd like to prove it to myself and there's only one way to do that. Most of my friends will agree that if anyone is up for a drink or a night out it's me they might question how easy this'll be for me. The answer is it won't, it's going to take a lot of willpower from my end but boy I love a challenge, so friends please don't stop inviting me cause I wanna party with you, but sober.
Kronenbourg you were my drink of choice for years but it's time for a break xx

My second reason is probably more selfish, I want to save money, I don't want to waste my time, I don't want to feel hungover!! Let's talk hangovers, sometimes I feel utterly crap the next day and it's a complete write off, other times I'm able to get up and be a little more productive but most of the time I experience what I refer to as hangover blues. I'm sure a lot of you may have heard or experienced hangover blues but I am fed up of feeling shitty and worrying about things I know I probably wouldn't if I'd had a good sleep and rested rather than enjoying a tequila slammer. Also know that feeling where you wake up andyou think "I know I had a really good night but I legit don't remember what happened after we go to ..." that's me probably after 80% of my nights out. Which is really f'in sad, I want to remember all the laughs, all the slut drops, all the smiles so I'll be embarking on some sober nights out - watch out I'll probably document that too!

Let's talk money -  I reckon I could save at least £100 a month if I didn't drink, I could spend that money on something much more enjoyable and worthwhile. I want to take this opportunity to enjoy myself without a bev, to really enjoy my friends company and to give my self a break!

As I've mentioned fundraising is a reason, even if lesser so than the other reasons, to partake in dry jan. In a world where I feel like I have very little input it's important to me that I do a little something to give back to the world, to help a little bit. So this January instead of thinking what's cheaper double vodka cranberry or splitting wine, I'm going to be thinking "this money will go towards a worthy cause".

So please if you fancy supporting me through what is gonna be an interesting yet challenging month head on over to https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/ursula-takes-on-dryathlon anything will be appreciated!

Enjoy your holidays and think of me whilst your nursing that baileys!!! Goodbye pints, goodbye shots, goodbye cocktails *tears streaming*


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

PhD to wannabe socialite...

Good evening guys!

So I'm aware it's been a few weeks since I posted, it's definitely been a busy few weeks so I'm sorry about that. I've been finding my feet and whilst it's all be such fun it's also been quite intense, I'm gonna give a little run down of what I've been up to and also how I've been managing my time! As time management can really make or break your progress.

What have I been up to I hear you asking, well here's the exciting stuff. Reading. I've been doing a lot of reading. And by that I do not mean casually skimming a book here and there. I mean true academic reading. I'm sure lots of you are aware of what I mean by that but for those of you that don't, what I mean by academic reading is the process of first of all finding relevant information, digesting that information, and making notes and processing such info. It's quite amazing how long properly reading something can take, it's easy to spend hours on a couple of papers because either they're majorly interesting or incredibly complex to understand. The process of passing your eyes across the words might not actual take all that long but note taking, recording what you read, how you found it, any comments you may have really does take a while. Most researchers will tell you they have a database of what they read, when they read, why they read the paper and any thoughts they had as a result of reading the paper. Notes notes notes. So important! What's also important is collating all your thoughts which I'm currently in the process of doing, I've read a fair amount and now I'm ready to let that spill out of my brain.

Other academic stuff, meetings, meetings, seminars, lectures, training, etc etc.

Aside from all that desk time what else have I been doing I hear you wonder. Not going to lie, I've probably spent far too long in the gym. It's just so easy to waste hours upon hours in a gym when you not only have a workout to do but also people to socialise with. I'm so glad I joined as not only do I benefit from a structured training programme but I also get to train with some awesome people. My lesson from this is always going to be about how matching hard work with socialising will always make for a well balanced life. I won't bang on about lifting too much as I'm still a novice but it's soo rewarding when numbers go up 🙌.

Oh, and of course I can't forget to mention my fave thing foooood, I've eaten out waaay too much lately. I can't help it as I absolutely love spending time with my pals and especially when it's over a good meal. In the last couple of weeks I've been out for Thai multiple times, pizza, tapas, chinese, steak, and a good burger to mention a few. Shit. Sometimes I wonder why I'm not lean then I remember ha ha. 

Always remember that work life balance. Read a good paper? Have a glass of wine. Wrote a few hundred words? Grab some sushi. Delivered a seminar? Treat yo self to a long gym session. Whatever works.

The most important thing I've learnt about the way I work is that I need to manage my time very carefully and also to plan it! Every Sunday I spend a little time thinking about commitments I have scheduled during the week, the main research goals I want to achieve and how I'm going to compliment that with down time. Then, each evening I have a flick through my diary check whats going on the next day. This is so important to me as I'm able to mentally prepare myself for what's coming up, my diary is easily my best friend atm (love all u other besties too). Of course not every hour of my day is scheduled, although sometimes it feels like that. One thing I observed whilst working and I've noticed it here to, is the scheduling of "desk time", this is great for saying okay I'm going to be at my desk for a solid amount of time, this is great when you're an extremely busy person and need to reserve your time. Whilst I'm not that in demand it's still a good concept, I can mentally say to myself okay I'll spend two hours at my desk followed by a 20-30 minute break. I try my best at the start of each session to spend a little time thinking about what it is I exactly want to do and boy does it help. No point mindlessly opening google scholar if you don't know what you want to discover!

Lists. Lists are also the other key enable to me getting all ma stuff done. Whether it's a list for personal life stuff, such as "register to vote", "book haircut" or more specific academic stuff, lists are so useful for putting into perspective things that need to be achieved immediately as opposed to actions that are a little far into the future.

Hope one of you lovely lot found that enjoyable to read 😊 xx

Enjoy a cheeky pic of me and some friends I met the other weekend.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Happiness, qu'est-ce c'est?

Happiness is a journey not a destination, happiness is a way of life, happiness is a mindset. We've all heard a least one of these sayings before but what actually is happiness? Scientifically, happiness can be defined as the release of "happiness hormones" such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin but I'm not gonna focus on that, instead I want to reflect on what makes me happy and why it's important to recognise when you're not happy.

Right now, I'd say on a scale of 1-10 (1-miserable, 10-completely happy), this of course is a subjective scale, as I'd call myself a realist and I find it harder to reach the extreme ends of a scale. However, this kinda thing helps me put things in perspective as it makes me question my judgement, by doing this I'm forced to consider different aspects of my life and look at how they're working out, or not. Perspective is a great thing and really helps ground me, it helps me identify areas of my life I reckon I could improve.

Background info. I've experienced times in my life when I was definitively not happy however I didn't really accept it, you know when your life starts to spiral a little bit, it can be days, weeks, however long until the realisation hits you. I'm sparing you the details as I'm not here asking for pity just offloading I guess. That was five years ago. Today I've learnt to listen to my feelings (may sound a little bit wet but I assure you, you can leave this page at any time) and I can't tell how much better I feel for it. Over the last couple of years when I've felt seriously unhappy I've stopped, taken some time for myself and critically assessed my life. I've made changes, mainly lifestyle changes, I decided to look after my body, I acknowledged I was consuming far too many Kronenburgs, (disclaimer I'm not saying ceasing to drink beer will make you instantly happy, nor that you can't be happy and have a pint) and perhaps not giving my body the exercise and shit it needed. Fast forward to now - I still drink (probably still more than recommended - ooooops) and I regularly exercise.

Whilst your physical health can have a significant impact on your happiness, it's super important to recognise that your mental health also plays an important role. During my third year of uni I was unhappy and it took me a long time to deal with it, but I did and I sought out support to do so. I'm a talker but when it comes to talking about real deep shit it's hard but it helped. Whether your support network consists of your family, you friends or someone unknown it's important to know there are people out there who will listen. Sometimes just talking about your thoughts and feelings helps to understand and rationalise them, I know when I bottle things up in my head I'm in serious danger of overthinking and over complicating things.

Sometimes a change of environment is needed, no one should live their daily life doing something that makes them question their happiness. This is why I think it's important to consider aspects of your life that you can change and how you would change them if you could. For me, this meant recognising I wasn't satisfied and accepting that I really wanted a change of environment - mainly I wanted to be in academia. Whilst we can't love everything we do I really believe we shouldn't subject ourselves to doing something that negatively affects our state of mind.

I think what I'm trying to say with this post is that it's okay to take a minute or several to reflect and it's even more okay to do something about it.

Happy picture time.

Beacon Hill

Sorry if this is totally too much info, but sometimes I like offloading.
Ursula x

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Undergraduate to PhD - what's new?

Hey pals,

Welcome to the next installment of "my PhD journey"!

As you can imagine I've had a range of responses from people when I tell them I'm doing a PhD - from "Wow, you must be so clever" to "You're just avoiding work aren't you?" I guess I wanted to address these, by saying that no I don't think I'm super clever, but I do enjoy research and the academic environment. Read on for some more of my thoughts and reflections on my PhD journey so far.

Lots of people will argue that a PhD is just an excuse to stay in academia and hold off entering the real world. Well let me say it now, they're not entirely wrong but there's so much more to it than that! As an undergraduate you are experiencing the beginning of what's possible within academia. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love studying. Being able to read and immerse myself in knowledge is just rather rewarding. I've always been an advocate for reading, I still have a shelf full of Jacqueline Wilson books next to my bed (along side some more gripping stuff like the Belgariad series). So imagine having a whole academic library at your finger tips! One day you could be reading about modelling carbon footprints in supply chains and the same afternoon you could have a cheeky read up on the effect of cortisol in the body.

As an undergraduate student, most people are starting to deepen their knowledge of a particular field, I appreciate for some students a degree is the means to a particular career however you're still investing in your knowledge of that area. So why continue studying with a PhD? For many people an undergraduate degree and the university experience is enough to set them up and instill a desire to begin their career outside of academia, but for some - like me, it's enough to say "I want to contribute to this body of knowledge, I want to be an expert in a field so I can pass that expertise on to those studying in the future".

So I guess what I'm saying is that whilst a PhD is an extension of postgraduate taught and undergraduate study it's got some major differences. Firstly, there is no such thing as a syllabus, this can be both a blessing and a curse, on one hand you have the freedom to study whatever you wish but on the other hand you can lose so much time to reading irrelevant papers! It's a mentally resource intensive journey, I've only been at it for three weeks but from my experience and from observing those around me I can say it takes commitment and drive. For the first few weeks I'm trying to establish good practices now so that when I'm slightly further in my journey I don't have to force myself out of bad habits (if you're interested in reading about such habits check out my earlier post - Old habits die hard).

Besides being less guided study what's different about a PhD from undergraduate study? Well for one, the opportunities to work collaboratively with researchers from other disciplines. This isn't something I have personally done however I have witnessed multiple exchanges where researchers have discovered someone else in a different discipline looking at similar areas of research. Totally furthering my love for knowledge sharing, it's great to see how people are open to communicating and sharing their ideas! One of the other pluses is the ability to check out what else is happening as in other departments, I reckon this is true for most universities but I'm not sure how many undergrads would take advantage of this - as a member of the university you can attend any lecture you wish. I've toyed with the idea of attending lectures probably not directly related to my field of research but are in areas I find myself interested in. Obviously my research comes first but I read some advice somewhere (don't worry if this was a legit paper I'd reference this 😏) that mentioned how it was important to read and study things other than that directly related to your research.

Sorry if this post has been super boring and less emotionally intensive than you were anticipating! I do hope this isn't the case and I hope someone out there is enjoying this and getting some insight into PhD life!

Ursula x

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

My biggest fear (and it's not spiders)

Hey chaps,

It's blog time! Get excited as this one's got a bit of grit to it, I'd like to talk about something that I'm sure there's a few of you out there can relate to. The fear of rejection. This is a fear I experience in every aspect of my life, from my career/academic life to my personal life, behind almost everything I do is the fear of rejection. So I'd just like to put it out there and address how I deal with it and maybe someone out there will relate.

I'm only 23 years old young but nonetheless I've experienced rejection in my career. From a young age I seemed to do pretty well for myself, I was successful in part time job applications, my university application, and my social life. Fast forward to my first proper job interview. I interviewed with British Airways, I'd passed the preliminary tests and made it all the way to Heathrow, my gosh it was daunting. Don't get me wrong I loved it, it was enjoyably corporate yet mildly intimidating. I think I knew when I walked out the room that I didn't get it, so of course I held back my tears for a long as possible. Then the tears came. I guess that's my first tip for dealing with rejection, let those tears out baby! Coming from a cry baby I guess that's easy for me to say but in all seriousness, crying is a great stress reliever and once the tears are dry you can start to think objectively about moving onward and upwards.

I've experienced rejection from scholarships and rejections from a PhD application, all of which can be incredibly demoralising! When you put hard work into something and it's not perceived as 'enough' that just doesn't feel great. One thing I've really worked hard at is rationalising things, for example, take an unsuccessful job application, there will be a reason you weren't selected for the post. I know upon reflection that in some instances I haven't possessed the crucial skills for a post when initially I thought I might. Dealing with rejection in this kind of way can really provide self-insights and provide opportunities for you to better yourself. Because let's face the world doesn't end if you don't get x job. Another will come along, and you never know it'll probably be even more your cuppa t!

So, from a different angle I'd like to talk about rejection in my personal life. One of the saddest things in life is losing a friend. I've lost one or two friends over the years, some have just drifted away and others have been slightly more drastic. It's very hard not to take it personally, it's like someone's saying "actually I don't like you and I don't want you in my life". Here, time is the best remedy, you'll be able to accept their decision and perhaps think okay I can understand that maybe we weren't ever going to be long lasting friends. Or if not, you'll find yourself thinking about it less and less.

Also, put your hand up if you've ever been rejected by a romantic interest. *both hands up*. That is a fact of life and I can accept that but especially since the rise of dating apps rejection is so blinking common. One of my biggest insecurities is that I'm always thinking "well, if they're not paying me attention they surely must be paying someone else attention", yes I know that's rather silly but hey I'm human! In these instances it's so important to remember that there are way bigger issues in the world and you aren't going to bloody die if someone doesn't text you back. Bring in the distraction activities, I love a distraction activity, something that gets you away from the life sucking social media (soz for being a hypocrite but sometimes it's good to have some time out), whether it's a gym sesh, wiring a blog post, reading a book or watching mindless tv shows - it all helps.

One thing to remember throughout your life is to celebrate the small wins, without the rejection those wins would not be half as rewarding as they are. Celebrate finding and reading an awesome academic paper (you know it could be the key to the research gap you've been looking for), celebrate doing well in an assignment, celebrate being healthy, having fabulous friends, hitting a PB (personal best) in the gym! In this short life we have so much that is worth celebrating.

I leave you with a picture representing one of my fave achievements at the moment. It's kinda nice being able to say I'm part one of the top ten institutions in the UK (*insert reference*).

As a parting thought, it occurs to me to question whether I'd really strive to be the best I truly can be if I had no fear of rejection?

So that's it, thanks for reading and remember you are fab and you can achieve so much.
Ursula x

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Week one, day one.


Believe it or not but I survived my first *official* day as a PhD student. I say *official* as over the past two weeks I've been involved in events and coming onto campus a fair bit considering I was meant to be 'taking it easy before I start'. This post is for all you chaps who want to keep up to date with my activities, for those of you who are just curious as to what a PhD student really gets up to and for the rest of you who are a little nosey (I'd probably be the latter if this wasn't my blog).

So let's get to it.

My day started at 7:15, I could probably get up at midday and no one would notice but as I may have said before (or not), I love routine and I'm going to try and stick to a solid routine from the beginning. My first task of the day was to drop by the SBE (school of business and economics) finance office with my passport so they could check I have the right to work in the UK, super simple and easy to ease myself in. Then I made my way to the student enquiries desk, typically when I went to pick up my ID card I didn't take my passport *eye roll* so I needed to swing by and show them as well. I made my way over trying to remember which building this was in and casually strolled in to Hazlerigg when in fact I wanted Rutland, both of which are stunning buildings so can you blame for getting them mixed up? Looking at the queue which was spilling out of the front entrance I thought "sodd this, I can come back when these kids are in lectures" quite funny 'cause I'm definitely still a kid but I just don't have lectures.

Having done attempted to complete a few admin tasks I made my way over to the PhD office I'll be based in - this is basically a big computer room with an unofficial hot-desking policy, so unofficial in fact that all the good desks had been claimed and the desk I was left with was not perfect, I fancied a desk tucked away in a corner preferable near a window but to no avail, I'm stuck in the middle of the room near the door. Beggers can't be choosers though, some of my fellow PhD students have been here 2 years and 8 months and I've been here a day... So I settled in, first thing I did was to write my to-do list. Who doesn't love a list? Like seriously, there's something so satisfying about being able to put a little tick and give yourself a YAY for completing a task. Although, it's probably important the list is realistic, mine was 15 items long. Perhaps a little long but I thought I can carry this over the next few days. I checked my diary to see what I had planned (nothing) and got stuck in. I enrolled onto some events that'll be useful to my development, mainly "what is a literature review?" and "Literature review: best practices" I also booked onto the doctoral college induction, which isn't until November, kinda a little late on but as PhD students start whenever I guess it makes sense, I'm just lucky I started at the start of the academic year. I emailed someone about attending some modules that might be beneficial to my learning, this excites me as I'll get to sit in a lecture environment and take notes, think of the stationary dreamsssss.

I carried this on for a bit, then headed back over to the student enquiries desk, even though there was still a queue I wasn't gonna turn around for a second time. Boring stuff done, I went back to my desk and completed the first part of a teaching module that'll be doing, cause ya know I get to take a few seminars already (I'm still struggling to imagine myself at the front of a class rather than perched on the first row 😆). I was at my desk for an hour or so and I felt my fitbit telling me to move, so I thought perfect opportunity I need to go to the library and IT services so I trekked over there. And yes it really is a trek but I refuse to catch the free shuttle, my legs are fine!

Fast forward a few hours, I've read a few articles, made a few notes, sent a few emails and I'm ready to meet my supervisors. We discussed how I'm going to really get started, in terms of journals to read, papers to search for etc. Not going to lie, I was super excited and I still am! I came away with a new to do list ready for the next day and so here we are. I'm doing #1 which may not be official business but in a way it is, because I'm keeping track of my daily activities and that's a plus for me.

Stay tuned to hear my review of my first complete week, Loughborough's top for so much lets see if they can hit top marks in "Ursula's PhD review: week one".

Peace x
P.S. sorry no piccy this week, and sorry for the excessively long post.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Pre PhD Preparation

Firstly I guess I should say I can't take full credit for the idea behind this blog post, I spent the weekend (and what a lovely one it was) with my family celebrating a birthday and my mum mentioned how it might be a good idea to write a few posts throughout my journey just so people who find themselves in this position have something or someone to relate to.

So I plan to write a bit more regularly about my experiences, my expectations and a few of the life lessons I'll pick up as I embark on my PhD. As I haven't actually started yet for this post I'm just going to go through some of the things I've been doing to set myself up with the best start possible!

#1 Get to know your place of research!
This is perhaps a little bit easier for me than it would be for others as I'm local to the town I'll be researching in and I've already completed a year of study at my institution. However it's still super important to get familiar with everything, I've already been back on to campus just to have a wander, and to see where I'll be spending the next three years of my life. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a fellow student researcher who was extremely helpful and gave me a guided tour of the areas I may not have ventured into as a MSc student.

#2 Show yourself as willing to your supervisor(s)
I have a pre-existing relationship with my primary supervisor, but I felt it was still vital to introduce myself to both my primary and secondary supervisor as their newest researcher. We met as a welcome for myself but also as an ice breaker before I start. From then I've attended a meeting with my supervisor, his current research group, and a research group from a different school within the university. I have another conference to attend lined up, and another meeting with my supervisor. I'm really trying to  get stuck in and show that I'm taking this seriously even before I've started. Hopefully my supervisors will see this and recognise how hardworking I'll be!

#3 Familiarise yourself with the necessary IT!
I made a slight boob in that I registered my email account using the wrong platform and then wondered why I didn't have a single email that wasn't a welcome email from gmail... Since setting up my email using the correct platform I've been able to catch up on all the missed emails but I'd definitely recommend checking this as early as possible you never know what could happen. If you're coming from a different institution it can be quite a strange thing getting used to a new VLE type thing (what do you call them?) for example I made the leap from Reading's Blackboard to Loughborough's Learn. I'd definitely recommend browsing through as much as possible to get yourself up to speed, you can access everything from Learn which is fab.

#4  Relax!
Whilst it's great to be proactive and get set up for the next chapter I'd like to think it's really important to take some time for yourself, to be healthy and happy. Whether you've just finished studying or just finished working (like me) you may find yourself slightly tired and in need of rest, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that! You're about to embark and what has been described to me as "a relationship with a menopausal individual" slightly scary but I don't doubt that! So it couldn't be any more important to ensure you're in the right head space to give it your all.

#5 Make sure you've got plenty of provisions
By provisions I mean anything from snacks to stationary. I am a stationary junkie, like quite a lot of academics I guess? Another top tip I've been told is to have a book that is purely dedicated to ideas and to even keep this notebook by your bed because ideas come to you not when you're slumped at your desk but at 2am when you're fast asleep. Make sure you've got an outlet for stress whether it's a gym membership, running shoes, art, knitting just have something so you won't go too crazy.

Here's a little peek at some of my fave stationary and some welsh cakes (I did say you needed snacks).

And with that, concludes my mini list of five things I'm doing to prepare myself for October!

Thanks for reading and I hope someone found it interesting!!
Ursula x