Diary of a Fresher 2013/2014- Part 3…

So the end of the first semester is upon us and I can’t quite believe how close Christmas is. Because Christmas seemed to creep up on us so quickly, in an effort to make my floor more festive, I took the liberty of buying of what was imaginatively named “Snow in a can;” with which I sprayed on door windows around the floor. Rather than appreciating my handiwork, people unknown to me thought it would be a good idea to write obscene words in the snow within hours of the decoration being up. I was only trying to add some cheer, but hey ho (ho ho…)

In any case, workloads have been relatively heavy, and this culminated in my first proper student all-nighter last night, in order to finish my last essay. 6.19am was when I finally finished. I thought I would shut my eyes for a few minutes afterwards, the next thing I knew was it was suddenly 1 o’clock. Always good. Unlike normal people, I’ve been, let’s say, ‘blessed’ with an ability to not actually find anything to write about until a deadline is approaching. Not the worst trait to have as a journalist, I think (sincerely hope), but it doesn’t exactly help the blood pressure…

With different courses finishing at different times, goodbyes have already been said to some, and the floor definitely feels emptier. That said, my time to leave is tomorrow and I’ll definitely miss the flatmates/friends from the course over the Christmas period. I’m sure this is the same in other places, and as I’ve said previously in this little series, it feels like we’ve all known each for a lot longer than we have done, which means everyone has grown pretty close quite quickly.

As much as I have enjoyed uni life so far, it will be nice to spend some time at home. There are only so many pasta dinners/late nights a man can take… so a bit of time to recharge will do some good. 

Another piece of good news is that I have Fridays off in the second semester, which means I will be able to go home for the odd weekend to break up the time at university; which I haven’t been able to do at all so far. Seeing most people I live with go home for most weekends does leave the place quite empty, and with, frankly, not a lot to do over a weekend. I’m almost certain that my flatmates (that do stay over a weekend) will agree with me as well. 

However, back to now and it is a strange feeling I’m experiencing at the moment. It’s a mixture of excitement to go home again, to get back to my job, sadness at leaving uni for Christmas; and, I can’t stress this enough, massive-bags-under-the-eyes tiredness. But, a night in your own bed is probably the best thing many people can experience, and it is SO underrated…

Diary of a Fresher 2013- Part 2

So tuition is now firmly underway, and time is definitely moving a lot faster. Hard to believe that I’ve been living here for almost a month already! Looking around and from speaking to people, I think it’s actually starting to hit home to most of us that being at university isn’t just about drinking and going out. Who knew?

Time passing will bring different kinds of challenges in every sense of uni life. I know I’m not exactly end of third year, but hey ho. For a start, you’re actually learning again, and that can be an issue in itself! But as previously alluded to in the first post of this little series, the flatmates are there to help each other get through everything that can possibly be thrown at you. Which is always handy as a nice safety net.

But one particular path that we all must cross at some point is the subject of hair. Being the son of a hairdresser, paying for a haircut is something I’ve never had to worry about, nor have I had the dilemma of watching a stranger cut my hair completely contrarily to how I asked it to be done. But I decided to be the ‘guinea pig’, and be the first one from the hall to try the local barber.

I had a thought to myself over the summer, and worked out a little philosophy for myself to live by: If you can afford to pay a little bit more for something, do it. Because nine times out of ten, you’re more than likely to be better off than when you pay half the price for something that will only last half as long/be half as good in general.

Being a student, I now almost see it as my duty to be perpetually skint. So I decided to go against my own advice and choose the cheapest local barber I could find. Bad idea. In short, I essentially paid a distinctly reasonable (I think, I’ve never known the price of a trim!) £9.50 for a very friendly Italian man to ignore how I asked for my hair to be done, and for him to quite literally attack my hair with clippers and scissors for half an hour. It would’ve been less than that had he not decided to have a tea break half way through to chat to his mate, while I sat in the chair scared for my life… I had asked for the top of my hair to be trimmed very slightly but even my trademark quiffe has now disappeared! I’ll now spend what I saved on a hat for the foreseeable future, methinks. On top of that, after the haircut he decided to slap some product in what was left of my hair, and slicked it back to make me look that bit more sleazy. Cheers, Claudio…

Weekends in halls are a decidedly different experience from that of midweek; particularly during the day. From my side anyway, being around 300 miles away from home doesn’t exactly lend itself to simply popping home for the weekend, like most of my flatmates can do. Nor does it exactly fill any friends from home with an immediate urge to come and see me up north either, which is completely understandable. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t a lot quieter at weekends, especially when there’s no football on that we can go and watch! But I suppose that’s just part and parcel of living away from home. There are good days and there are not so good days, but once again that’s when friends come in handy! (I know, I even made myself cringe with that one…)

With this newfound independence of living away from home, I have discovered one thing: I’m terrible at ironing, washing, and just generally keeping everything tidy in my room. Who knew that my parents would actually be right about me being useless at domestic everyday tasks? You can’t fault them for trying to teach me but there’s only so much they could do… I guess I’m just going to have to step up a bit. This could go one of two ways…




Diary of a Fresher 2013/2014

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fresher already, about to be a fresher, or have memories of being one in years gone by. If you do read this to the end and think “Well, that’s happened to me, what was the point of that then?” The point is that you are going through/have gone through the same thing. Because the main thing that I have noticed already from being on campus at Leeds Trinity University is that EVERYONE is in the same boat. That empathy has led to close friendships being formed instantaneously from walking through the door for the first time. I feel like I’ve known my flatmates for months already, and it has only been five days so far. Being chucked together in the same hallway tends to have that effect, I’d imagine. Perhaps in the same way that cell-mates in prison get to know each other when they’re put away. Or an analogy to that effect that sounds a bit more cheery.

Not that I’m trying to compare University to prison in the slightest; it’s quite the opposite. From a personal perspective I can’t say a bad word about the place as yet. Yes, the ceiling in my room has inexplicable holes in it but I’ll cross that bridge when they become big enough to make me freeze in winter. No biggie. In a sense, that cheap and cheerful student lifestyle adds to the whole experience; we know we aren’t in five-star hotels but we just get on with it and enjoy ourselves.

As I write, tuition hasn’t started yet. When it does, the complexion of life may change somewhat, as we will actually be here for a purpose other than a cycle of drinking, meeting people and sleeping (in that order). I know for a fact that most, if not every student at any University this year will be looking forward to starting their course if they haven’t already. I’ve already had the all-too-uncommon thought “Oh yeah, I actually want to learn…” I can’t say that’s happened to me before any academic year. Ever. The only reason I can think of behind this is that everyone is here because they have the ambition to get the degree and job they want, without having to go through lessons that they don’t like at all. I can’t say that RE was much of a highlight when it was on my school timetable…

Of course, homesickness is a factor, and it will be the same feeling whether you’re three miles from home or 300. For most freshers this is the first time we’ve been away from home, and for some it is harder to adjust to that than others. But the beauty of empathy is that you will always have your flatmates to lean on whenever you’re not feeling great about being away from home.  

In any case, I’m sure I’ll keep you updated through the year; and if you’re going through the same thing, that makes writing this worthwhile. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get changed into a “Where’s Wally?” costume for a themed night. I’m loving Freshers’ Week.


Language is changing, just not simply…

Language is not in a good way. Certain new elements of language are popping up and they’re becoming increasingly problematic as they grow. This is especially as they add next to nothing in linguistic terms. If you disregarded these issues before reading this piece, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed to notice them afterwards.


Number One: The Pointless Adjective. Fairly self-explanatory, but like any adjective it acts to describe. Fair enough. Using food and drink as an example here, whether you’re describing what you have just eaten as “delicious” or “vile”, that’s generally how normal adjectives serve their purpose correctly. But when the supermarket you buy said food from decides to make your mind up for you even before you purchase the items? That’s just a no-no. “Tantalisingly Refreshing Duck à l’Orange?”, “Horrendously Artery-Clogging Mature Cheddar?” Sounds, well, just lovely. Some among us may actually (willingly) be swayed into purchasing by these needless acts of time consuming nonsense, but I would preferably like to form my own opinion of what Tesbury’s and Adrose are offering me; if that suits you, Mr Corporate? I mean, we have even witnessed the humble Ready Salted Crisp become victim to being known as “Classically Ready Salted” by a certain firm represented by a large-eared retired footballer. How is this helping?!


Some linguist-types may well propose that, while the Pointless Adjective has no official place in language lore as yet, I’m fairly sure it won’t be long before this particular neologism is recognised fully. But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, perhaps an extra adjective is Advertising’s attempt to try and get us to use more words again, as they probably know that a defamation of language is occurring right underneath our noses as much as we do. Utterances are generally getting shorter, with a larger use of word shortening measures such as initialism having a detrimental effect on eloquence among some; in the younger generations particularly. The formation of “Text Speak” can’t have helped too much, either.  There is no doubt that this more ‘clipped’ version of language is often more efficient than fully constructed sentences, seeing as we live in a linguistic universe that now has an acronym for near enough any situation. Maybe we’re too lazy to type/handwrite full words now. Maybe our minds are always on the next part of our day, rather than focussing on the current situation; meaning that less really is more. Or I’m just looking too deeply; one or the other. LOL, if you will. 


Number Two: Cele-Blending. Admittedly, the name itself is actually blending (or portmanteau, for the more official among us). Ironic, but the point still remains. You’re most likely to find Cele-Blending in glossy magazines or in a tabloid newspaper, so essentially wherever there’s a “Celebrity Gossip” page… Cele-Blending is more often than not used as an affectionate term for a celebrity couple that everyone will find ‘cute’. Think “Brangelina”, “Kimye”, “Robsten” and the like. This probably has pragmatic links to magazines feeling more ‘in touch’ with their readers by using universal Cele-Blending that everyone will know; possibly even endearing the celebrities involved indirectly. Nonetheless, it remains an inconvenience. Imagine if you were Cele-Blended as an individual without wanting to be, forever being known as “K-Stew”, “R-Patz” or “Sam-Cam”. I don’t think being called “Hen-Val” really suits me, do you? However, as many celebrities themselves irritate me too, let’s allow this one to slide. But don’t let it spread to the civilian world, if you can help it. It could turn into the whole country being blended in one form or another. So now and forever more we live in “G-Brit”…


Now, it wouldn’t surprise me if you hadn’t have heard of these features before. Hopefully, you haven’t, as I have just made them up (Unless the internet had invented them already, which is also likely! Please don’t sue me, I plead ignorance…) So they haven’t been recognised as official terms as yet. But I’m sure if we use them enough, the Oxford English Dictionary may have to sit up and take note. They usually do. If “Eurogeddon” and “Omnishambles” can get included, so can Cele-Blending. Your copy of the petition will arrive in the post…


I understand wholly that there’s nothing that most of us can actually do to stop language changing. And we shouldn’t. That wouldn’t help us develop at all. Language needs to change for it to reflect the age that we live in, and if it has to be this way, then so be it. But for future reference, if we could make language a bit simpler to understand without having to actually Google who “Speidi” are or read through how “Mature yet Mellow” the cheese I’m buying is; that’d be great. Much appreciated.

Exams: An Idiot’s Guide, by A. Pillock

As way too many of my age group are aware, the dreaded EXAMS will have started, or will be very soon. But someone (no idea who!) said once that “To overcome fear, you must stare it in the face” or something like that. So this is my very helpful guide on how to pass exams, and believe me, it doesn’t have to be as hard, lonely and scary as so many of us think it is.

Exams at all levels in the UK are simply memory tests. I mean this by remembering certain terminology, or “buzz words”, and using them relating to context. This leads me to my first point: Always Read The Question Carefully. By taking the time to look at what the examiners want from you, it’ll take some time out from frantically scribbling, just to relax and bring your head into the right place. Also, it’ll help you to identify which “buzz words” to remember and to write in your answer, gaining much-needed marks in your quest for a good grade.

Secondly, the work before exams is very important. Not necessarily revision right now, but coursework. The better grade you strive for and hopefully achieve in your coursework, it’ll take some of the pressure off in the exam hall. Put simply, the better you do before, the less marks you need to get what you want.

Now for possibly the most hated word for any teenager: REVISION. It sends chills through many spines, but by god it is helpful, and I can guarantee that you won’t even realise it. There are 6 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance. And no collection of P’s could ever be more true. But if you’re like me and say “I don’t know how to revise!”, you’re not the only one. But there are lots of different ways to overcome this problem, although everyone has their own way of doing it that works for them.

First of all is the most popular revision technique: Flash Cards. Simple small pieces of paper which detail different aspects of subject matter and terminology, all nicely highlighted and quick and easy to go over. Highlighting is preferred for many as it makes colours stand out on the page, making things easier to remember.

Secondly is my personal preference of revision method: The Revision Book. Essentially flash cards, but all kept nicely together in a little notebook, to save all the fumbling around trying to find your most important ones. Keeping separate topics and subjects sectioned off from each other helps memory as keeping topics consistent in your revision will help your mindset stay in the same place, retaining information longer.

The final revision technique is by far the messiest, but perhaps the one best suited to retention: Repeated Writing. Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Writing out the same thing over and over again helps brain patterns with retaining the information that you want to put across. An excellent choice if you want to learn definitions, but bear in mind the piles of paper left in your room in the aftermath of the exams.

In terms of Past Papers, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they are by far the best way to prepare for exams, coupled with revision! Past Papers give you the perfect practice for exams, because it allows you the opportunity to see how questions are worded, as well as the layout of the paper, and what’s actually been in the exams in years gone by. My best advice for pre-exams is to get through as many Past Papers as possible to acclimatise yourself with the specification, and looking at the mark schemes will always help too. So revise everything that the specification says in the official textbook for the exam board. They provide the textbooks to spell out exactly what they could ask you, so they are essential reading for any student.

Now for the exam hall itself. An ominous location to say the least. The paper is layed out for you, your candidate number sitting in the corner. Firstly, a bottle of water is an absolute must. Research has proven that concentration levels are increased by 30% with a good swig every so often. Having a break to sit back and have a drink can also take the edge off and is a good chance to read what you have done so far. Secondly, don’t even bother taking your phone into the exam room, even if it gets taken away in a tray. It’s best left with any other potential distractions safely in your bag or left at home. Thirdly, and most importantly, just flick through the paper when the exam starts, to save any nasty surprises that may follow and might stump you. Look at the questions that you can do immediately without even thinking, and do them first, no matter how long or short they are. Safe marks first are the cornerstone of a good grade, so get them in the bag as soon as you can. Allow the questions to get progressively harder as you go along, but always pick the “easier” questions out of them. Otherwise, trying to do hard questions first can throw you off and stick in your mind for the rest of the exam.

I hope that this has helped if you were worried before, but all I can say now is good luck in your exams. And remember, if you are struggling for anything, your teachers are paid to help you with whatever you need, so definitely don’t be afraid to ask for help!

With love, Yours Truly,

A. Pillock