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!

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 πŸ˜†). 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

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Old habits die hard

Hey guys!

I've been back in Lough for a week and I've enjoyed my free time a lot, it's been so good to take some time to chill and get myself in a healthy head space ready to start my next chapter (which I am so excited for!). I have felt though that it could be so easy to slip into old habits, both good and bad! I suppose the purpose of this blog post is just to make myself a little more accountable, to ensure I get off to the best start I can have by embracing the good habits and dropping the bad! So please, go ahead and read but don't judge me!

Starting with the good, I've been exercising regularly which we all know is beneficial in many ways, not only do I feel like I'm in fairly decent shape but I'm also healthy #winning. I've yet to actually join a gym as I've been trying to convince myself to try out a new gym but then on the other hand, I'm familiar with the current gym I'm using which has it's positives and negatives. I've got plenty of time to try though and when I muster up the courage to venture into a new gym I'll let you know. Isn't that weird? I'm so comfortable in the weights section of my usual gyms but take me to somewhere knew and I'll cower away as though I've never held a dumbbell - weird right?

Okay so the not so good, a few people have told me I drink too much, parents included. I've always laughed it off but thinking about it I'm always so up for a drink which I guess isn't a bad thing if you know your limits - which I clearly don't oops. So I'm vouching to myself I'll have a little more self control and consume a little less!

Another thing I've been labelled as is a shopaholic, I won't deny it, in the past I've had such an unhealthy relationship with shopping. I used to spend  waste so much money on clothes, I don't want to count the number of items I've bought and never worn... From shoes to shirts and dresses I always found new clothes made me feel happier and better about myself which is so stupid 'cause people won't notice if you've worn a top more than once πŸ˜† (which I was so scared people would and judge me for it!). Today has been one of those days where I've really felt like I needed a pick-me-up and I've fought the temptation to do a spot of online shopping  alllll day. And I won wooo! Good thing too because I have zero storage space atm (try moving home again uuurgh) and I'm low on funds. YAY. But I'm alive, I'm well, my bank balance will thank me and I won't have to deal with shoving more things under my bed.

I've accepted I'll never be a fab blogger because I'm so inconsistent but I like to spill my thoughts onto a page every now and again, and hopefully I'm not offending anyone in doing so!

So, here's to the next few years, and to accepting the good habits all have and working on losing the bad ones.
Ursula x

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Aaaaand breathe

So it's been just under 10 months since I last wrote a blog, that's kind of shocking isn't it? And whilst I wish I could say that it's been the best 10 months of my life and I've really found myself I'm afraid I can't. This isn't a blog of complete doom and gloom though! I just wanted to share what I've learnt and most importantly how I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am young, I am lost and I have plenty to be thankful for. 

Well then, what have I done? Well, I graduated (again) from Loughborough, I've been on a few short trips and I'm nearing the end of my internship. Most significantly I've not got a freaking clue as to what I want to do next. The notion that society should place less pressure on young graduates to find the job of their career and how my generation and others are more likely to have several jobs throughout our career is one that resonates with me. However, this is said by those who have successful careers! I find myself forever asking what I want from my life, do I want to be rich? Do I want to be successful? Wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of idea as to what I want to do with my life?

I know I am in a position many would argue is an incredible one to be in and I am not taking my position for granted. I have worked hard to get where I am, although I am ridiculously self critical and have never truly felt I deserved anything. Right now I'm thinking MAN you are such a drama queen but hey I'm just saying what's been on my mind for a while...

One thing that strikes me as important in terms of finding myself is doing something that puts me out of my comfort zone, I'm rather aware of the fact that I haven't really done anything to push myself and perhaps that's an explanatory factor in my dissatisfaction? And I don't think pushing myself in the gym counts, although it does make me feel good because endorphin's! A few weeks ago I wrote a list of things I wanted to achieve, it ranged from run a 5k to write another blog post (oh heyπŸ˜‰). I'm definitely working on the former and if you're reading this then I've achieved the latter! I reaaaaaaaaally want to travel at some point in my life but I think I'm far too busy wallowing in the feeling of being lost to get organised. Hoping to wake myself up a bit with this post I think!

A few things recently have thrown me off balance, I shall spare you the details but truthfully they've dulled my spark a bit. I never thought I'd say this but I do miss retail, I miss knowing I'll get that interaction with people, although it might not be meaningful but I'm a people person you know and not going to lie I miss the discounts. I thrive off talking to people, well, pleasant people har-har. At the moment I'd rather be anywhere but where I am right now, and I suppose I should accept that because life isn't all dandy and happy all the time is it? But I am healthy and I have wonderful family and friends so it's up to me to find what makes me super happy. 

This post has been majorly therapeutic to write as it's like just letting all my emotions out and anyone that knows me knows that I am THE MOST EMOTIONAL PERSON EVER, so even if you didn't enjoy reading this I enjoyed writing this (well maybe enjoyed isn't the right word but yano) xxxx

PS Here's a photo of my ab fab purchase from Cheltenham's vintage fair! Thanks Lou Lou's πŸ’‹

Friday, 26 August 2016

Why Retail Has Taught Me So Much


So I'm sitting preparing for my penultimate shift at my current job and it's given me a bit of time to reflect. I've worked in retail for six years and over those many years I've learnt so much and it's definitely shaped me into the pretend adult I am now (definitely not a real adult for about two weeks ;)). I've worked a steady weekend retail job since I was 16 and juggling school life, work life and a personal life.

Without this I reckon I wouldn't be half as hardworking as I am, I always did my school work to ensure I could enjoy some free time and make it to work without being super stressed. It certainly wasn't easy, working every weekend, socialising and revising was a major test of my abilities, sometimes my grades reflected this but hey look I've come out on top now. One thing I know for sure is that working taught me to be punctual, I think in six years I've been late for work about twice and this is pretty true for my social life too. You know how in a group of friends you have that one (or three in my case) who are always late? Well I'm the opposite, forever turning up on time and waiting around for the stragglers to turn up! Yes I do tell some of my friends a meeting time that's half an hour earlier than the real one...

Apart from now being super organised and super hardworking (sheesh could I blow my own trumpet any more?!), working in retail has taught me manners and the importance of how you present yourself. Sure I've been in some foul moods and whilst when I was younger I wasn't so good at hiding this at work but now I know that it's much easier to put on a smile and pretend everything's okay because believe me once you force yourself to smile everything seems that little bit brighter! Also, the way you interact with others can be so crucial to setting the tone of your day and your career, if you're pleasant and chatty to people they instantly warm to you rather than thinking you're shy or obnoxious. Having grown up a bit I now feel a lot more confident in striking up a conversation with someone at the till point, after all we're all human and a friendly chat can be the highlight of someone's day.

One thing I'd love to say retail has taught me is the value of money but alas I'm still learning this one. Ask anyone who knows me, I have a reaaaaaaally bad spending addiction. Sure, when I was in school I got paid weekly and it was nice having that extra bit of cash but once I got a taste for shopping there was no going back. Working and saving (haha trying to save) has meant that I've been able to go on some great holidays and trips and I'm super grateful for that. However, for the first year at uni I was without a term time job and boy did I feel it!! Not entirely sure how I managed to get through that (thanks parents!!!). I was still spending as if I had a job and yes things got a bit tight, so back to work it was.

I've had a range of jobs, working for a couple of major high street retailers and a little cafe and I've loved everyone of them. I've worked in some great teams, met some fabulous friends for life and learnt the importance of hard-work. Whilst I'll be super sad to say bye to retail for a 9-5 office job (eek) I'm sure when I'm old and grey I'll end up volunteering in a charity shop or something similar!

A little secret all retail workers know is that it's not "the customer's always right" it's "let the customer believe they're right even though you know how wrong they are". Boy I've dealt with some difficult customers and my tactic is to be polite and deal with the problem in a manner that's professional and shows the customer you're there to help them. In some instances this isn't the easiest but I always think if you're being helpful and polite and they don't appreciate the help, who's worse off?

Anywayyyy, I'd better finish getting ready! I'll miss the short shifts and easy hours for sure but it will be so rewarding doing a job that's going to further my career!

Ps. Shout out to all my bosses and colleagues, past and present, thanks for everything :)