Friday, November 18, 2011

The perks of college life :-)

Yes, that is me in the picture with 'The Man in the Hat'. Got the chance to go up to Dublin to cover a debate on assisted suicide in TCD and jumped at it! A fascinating evening with the bonus of getting a brief interview with Sir Terry and some of the other speakers. Full report should be available on next week but the overall impression of the evening is that most of the speakers were excellent, the arguments persuasive and the moderate majority carrying the motion 'That This House Would Provide Assisted Suicide for all Adults' was reflective of the debate.

Now that this exciting event is over, it's time to get on with the serious business of essay writing and preparing for the one exam next month. Strangely enough, I don't feel too pressured because I know that I've worked steadily over the term and read constantly. It's just a matter of keeping calm, focussed and putting everything down on paper - well, screen in this technological era.

Once all this scrivening is behind me there's plenty to look forward to - my guy is coming for a visit from London and the lads have bought him tickets to a gig as his Christmas present, so that'll be my reward for hard work during the term; then it's home with the gang for a family Christmas, for which, I believe, the baking will be completed before I get there :-)

It's been a concentrated, concentrating semester. One final push and it'll be over. Hard to know whether I'll be glad to see the back of it as it's been so great. Half way to my degree already!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Time to quit procrastinating!

With the hiatus of Hallow'een over, the second half of the semester has begun with three out of five essay assignments handed out this week. How to choose between titles is the hardest part but have begun preparations by sorting out secondary sources and actually tidying my lecture notes. Was rightly accused this week of having 'too busy' a mind (thank you my wise friend) so need to get more focussed for the next month or so.

How on earth can one be focussed when so much reading is filling my mind with endless possibilities? The sunshine is another distraction and I'm missing the beaches of Mayo and the family - two and four-legged.

Was irrationally pissed at one of the grades I got for a mid-term assignment. After thinking that I'd be lucky to get a B, the B+ of 69% was irksome, to say the least. One mark off a First!!! How cruel is that? That magical glass ceiling of 70 appears to get more opaque in second year. Never mind - it gives me something to aim for.

Oh, the moral dilemma about what to do with last Friday afternoon sorted itself. Seeing as how the majority of my friends are in my Philosophy class, I joined them rather than go to the radio show on my own. We've got a trip planned that will more than make up for it - heading to Dublin on Nov 17th to TCD's debate on Assisted Suicide. One of the proposers is none other than 'The Man in the Hat' (Sir Terry Pratchett to the uninitiated) and as I'm going to be reporting the event for 'SIN', with a bit of luck I'll get to chat to him :-)

This will also make up for the fact that I'm not at IDWCon this weekend due to lack of funds. Am thinking of everyone down in Ennistymon and hope the craic is as good as in 2009. Cheerie is with you all in spirit!

Anyway, it's time to choose between Shakespeare (again) or Plato to be my companion for the day.`Or maybe I'll just spend a little time out in the fresh air first?

Procrastination, procrastination :-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In a time bubble

Halloween is almost here and I've no idea where the first half of the semester went to. Time must move at a different pace on campus compared to the rest of the world. One minute I was helping out at the Failte Fest and now it's weeks later and I've read 8 Shakespeare plays, 3 novels, 3 short stories, lots of poetry, goodness knows how many critical essays and books on literature - and that's just for English! Philosophy hasn't got quite so much reading, but it's seriously intense and I'm loving it.

I may have been neglecting this blog, but I'm keeping to the plan of working steadily and making the most of college. As well as being a mentor, I'm Secretary of the Philosophy Society, Class Rep for Philosophy and write for SIN - the student newspaper - regularly. Am also involved with a 'think tank' on Embedding Innovation. Not bad for six weeks, especially when I've also submitted 4 essays and go to our class-organised Philosophy study group regularly!

As you can imagine, I'm loving college more than ever and my only regret is that there just isn't time to study more. If last year I learnt about myself, this year I'm learning just how much I DON'T know! Every bit of research takes me on another journey that has to be cut short if I'm going to stay focussed and meet deadlines - 5 more essays, a presentation and an exam to look forward to before the Christmas holidays; after reading another 4 plays, a very long Hardy novel, some more poetry and the usual secondary reading of course. Much as I love Shakespeare, I am going to be completely sick of him before the semester is over!

Oh, I did sneak off campus the other night to see my Rob performing in the Galway Theatre Festival. Fantastic play - watch out for it when it is staged again: "Gun Metal Grey". Absolutely hilarious and Rob made a very believable 85 year old :-)

What else is there in the way of news? Don't think I've had time to do anything, or notice what's going on outside my little bubble. Tonight I'm chilling by a lovely turf fire and not going to open a book (or read an on-line journal). Tomorrow I have the opportunity of going to the live recording of Sean Moncrieff's show for Newstalk... will Moral and Political Philosophy win out over an afternoon of free wine and great entertainment? Hmmm....Decisions, decisions :-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Incoming tide

First week is over and already getting to grips with new courses and timetable. Managed to get lost on Friday, trying to find an English lecture. Nothing new there but not a good sign when about to become a mentor with the job of showing 1st years round campus.

Was allocated what seemed to be a huge group of newbies at orientation and got 22 of them round safely and signed up as my 'mentees'. So hard to believe that only a year ago I was one of the bewildered masses arriving on campus. Lovely to see familiar faces in the crush - friends of my son from both Galway and Mayo, one of whom is in my little 'family'. Hopefully they will all settle in well and enjoy their first year at NUIG as much as I did.

Today is the Failte Fest - that mad rush around campus to collect stickers while sampling everything on offer and playing games. I'm working in the sports centre and expect to have a fun day, wearing my 'Ask Me' t-shirt again :-)

What a difference a year makes! Putting aside the academic aspect of university, the most important thing I've learnt is how to make the most of life and relate to other people better. Still got a long way to go (IMO) but I've started on the right foot I think.

This year is going to be great :-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Did we really have four and a half months off?

First day back and after a few hours it was hard to believe we'd ever been off campus!

Okay, so a few things were different: There are a few thousand 1st years yet to arrive on campus; the paving outside the library has been re-laid (again); there's a new print shop on the concourse; Room 201 has had its desks replaced with tiered seating - very nice and a shame this has not been repeated in all the concourse rooms; Aras na Maclein has a new automatic door that is so slow to open it's hard not to walk into it; and the ladies loo in the college bar has been done up. Oh, and no more Stella Artois on draught at the bar :-(

Meeting up with friends from last year was great. No matter where I went there was a friendly face and a greeting. Lots of talk about what subjects were being kept on this year and how hard it was for some people to decide what to drop. Listening to others, I definitely made the right decision about quitting Spanish - the course is much, much more difficult this year.

Our first 9am lecture in Philosophy was great, despite getting homework, and starting as I mean to go on, worked in the library for a few hours before meeting up with a mate. Ended up going for a pint to christen the new year! The introductory English lecture gave a good outline of what is ahead and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the courses. Was the first to slip my seminar choices in the drop-box so, fingers crossed, I'll get my first or second choice this semester.

What a difference from the first day last year! Straight in the deep end and picked up where I left off. Got my locker, bought some books, borrowed a few more from the library and only have my fees to sort out and I'm all set.

It's good to be back :-)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Second Year and maybe a little more mature?

Summer is over and lectures begin next Monday. It's been a long few months away from Galway and I missed campus life a lot. Mind you, the break away from serious study was nice - read a lot but mainly enjoyed spending time doing ordinary things, either at home with the boys or in London with my partner.

Did a lot of thinking about the future, particularly about continuing Spanish in college. After weighing up the pros and cons, discussing the matter with friends and family, and shedding more than a few tears, I decided that doing an Erasmus year was not practical and that there are other ways I can get to live and work in Spain. (This is how the mature part of me thinks). Having studied the course options, I am choosing Philosophy as the subject to accompany English for the next two years.

Making the decision felt like a huge weight being lifted from my shoulders and I began to look forward to getting my nose stuck in the books more than ever. Must be the right choice :-)

Now we have moved into a much nicer house in Galway, with a longer walk to NUIG so my fitness level should go up! My books are growing along the shelves and it's just a matter of having a relaxing, enjoyable weekend before I am, once again, a Mature Student.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

School's out!

It's official - having passed all my exams, I am a second year NUIG student. First year is now a thing of the past and I've already disposed of the notes from the courses I'm dropping. Okay, so I kept some of them out of interest, but the recycling bin is pretty full :-)

Before I go any further, congratulations to all my classmates and hope you are happy with your results. To those still doing exams (especially my Sam), the best of luck to you!

After all the hard work, I wasn't expecting any fails but still felt nervous yesterday as the magic hour of 4pm approached. Was I being over-confident? What grade had I been given for my final English essay? How badly had I done in the Spanish exam and would it drop my overall grade to a B? Most of all, would the results validate my decision to go to college?

The noise I made when the results' screen finally appeared must have been heard all over Galway! The grades were everything I'd hoped for - and more. All I could do was laugh and 'woo hoo!' and hug everybody in the house. It was a completely different high from the one after finishing the Christmas exams; this had depth to it. It came all the way from 30 years ago when going to college was an impossible dream. "YES!" it said. "The brain was always there and now you've proved it to yourself." Never mind that everyone had told me I'd do well - the (now printed) results were there in black and white. I'd managed to 'beat' myself LOL.

Then came the realisation that the numbers meant that I had built a foundation for the next three years and, as long as hard work and application continue, I can improve. A new goal to strive for :-)

As I giggled my way around Tesco later on, there was a sudden change of mood - If only my parents were alive and I could see their faces as they heard the news. Dad's smile of approbation was always enough to make one's heart nearly burst; Mum would grin from ear to ear while telling me not to get cocky. She was always warning me not to get too big for my boots!

Maybe her warnings worked. I've already started reading literature for next year and my Spanish result is spurring me on to get back to the grammar books asap. School may be out but the little grey cells need constant exercise if they are going to keep working at the pace I've set them.

No, I won't spend the summer totally glued to the books. Have been lucky enough to get a few clients to type for, including transcribing stories for a famous Irish storyteller (got to be the best transcription work ever :-). Still haven't been able to organise a trip or two to Spain, but that will happen. No way will I go back to college without having had a couple of weeks total immersion in the language!

It's going to be a very different summer from last year but just as busy - I don't get holidays from being a mum. Time to put out the washing and then do some work.

Life goes on, in and out of term time. Happy Summer everyone :-)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where did the year go?

Ten days after finishing the last exam and I'm feeling empty - no more lectures, no more studying, no more structure to the day. What am I going to do with myself for five months?

It was good to get away for a few days after the end of term, the only problem being that it wasn't for long enough. I was just beginning to relax when it was time to come back. Of course, the old brain wouldn't stop working the whole time - reading on the journey I found myself analysing the imagery in the novels I'd brought and then (to my delight) I found a book in a charity shop called, of all things 'The Sunday Philosophy Club'! Reading it on the way home I wanted my text books so that I could check the references to Kant and Hume and the rest.

What I'd like to do today is have a Spanish class and then spend a couple of hours doing homework and writing an essay. Discovering the pleasures of academia later in life seems to be addictive: my maturity may be doubted but I am definitely a Student. Switching back to life off-campus is not coming easily to me. Oh yes, there's plenty for me to do, especially all the things I put off until 'after the exams', but with everyone home for Easter it's easy to keep procrastinating.

This week it's important that I sort out how I'm going to occupy myself for the next few months and make a living so that I can afford next term's books and a laptop. It will involve visiting Westport and seeing a few people, after which decisions will have to be made. For now I'm in 'limbo' - a place I abhor - and will just have to put up with it!

Exam results out on May 6th... maybe I'll just procrastinate until then!

Friday, April 8, 2011

One year over - the best bits

My first year in college is over, bar the exams, and it's time to look back at the most outstanding moments which will stay with me for the rest of my life. Serious reflection can be done another day. These are not in any particular order.

1. A lecturer begins term by announcing that the first few lectures will be on teleportation - and those interested in how to make a light-sabre can speak to him afterwards! - and, of course I did :-) Definitely the most mind-bending module for me and love philosophical gymnastics.

2. The magical feeling after finishing the Christmas exams and the sense of pride and achievement which was felt by all of us who celebrated together with a bottle of Cava.

3. Attending the word games evening with the English Soc and meeting with a group of Pratchett fans (including our wonderful lecturer Frances). A social night playing and talking with many like-minded people.

4. My first A for an English essay and the Peel prize nomination.

5. The Pachacuti song and 'marvellous bureaucracy' - thanks Kate Q :-)

6. Chocolate muffins and lattes in Smokey's.

7. Discovering Linguistics as a subject and lectures from Graham.

8. Eamon keeping the Spanish class in fits of laughter.

9. The constant feeling that campus is where I belong.

10. Last, but definitely not least, the wonderful friends I've made - you know who you are. Thanks for everything, especially the giggles and the hugs.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another one bites the dust

Taking a little time out to relax after the Spanish oral exam. Went surprisingly well and the pair of us managed to raise a few laughs with our prepared jokes. The time flew and we were let out with three minutes to spare! Saw the examiners had ticked off a list of things they were expecting from us so guess we impressed.

With this and the culture exam we had last Thursday over and done with, it's just a matter of preparing exam questions for next week and then First Year is over. So glad I got all my essays out of the way because I'm feeling less pressurised than before the Christmas exams. Maybe I didn't take all of the advice I gave myself at the beginning of this semester, but I did pace myself better than the first term.

After doing precious little for the past few days except immerse myself in Spanish, re-adjusting my mind and applying it to my other subjects isn't easy - hence my scribbling here rather than working on philosophy! Maybe a walk on the beach with the dog is what is needed.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Counting down

Where has the year gone? It's so hard to believe that there are less than three weeks until the exams are over and that after last week I will never have another Philosophy lecture. One course finished and this week will see the final lectures in everything else. This time last year I was only doing the Aptitude Test for NUIG and now I'm almost finished First Year. So much has happened in the past 12 months and it's going to take a while to wind down for the summer.

The sunshine last week had crowds of students sitting outside the library. One topic of conversation was which courses we are keeping for next year and realising that many of us will not be together for lectures again. We'll see each other around campus of course but there are some people I will miss a lot. Have been thinking that 2nd year, with smaller class groups, will be an opportunity to get to know some students better, and thankfully most of our Spanish class will be moving up together. It is going to be a whole new experience again.

Now it's time to get the head down to the books for the final push before the exams. I'm not as nervous as I was before the Christmas exams - maybe a bit too laid back - but am only interested in passing everything on the first go and moving on. This semester we had way too much work piled on us and keeping the head above water has been an achievement in itself.

Roll on 4.30pm on Friday, 15 April - the countdown has begun.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It never rains...

Taking a breather from two hard weeks of slogging - this time with plenty to show for it. Got an essay on teleportation done for Philosophy and another on Early Welsh Poetry finished this afternoon, so only English to go. I don't count the weekly Spanish essays as they are part and parcel of life now. Prepared and gave a presentation with two of my English tutorial class last week as well - a great way to prepare an exam question!

As if all the book-work wasn't enough, have been lucky enough to get myself an 'Intercambio' - a mature student from Spain to meet up with so we can both practice our second language with a native speaker. Jesús is a really nice man from, of all places, La Rioja. He lives in a small town between Haro and Legrono so I will be able to meet him and his family when I visit my friend Arancha in the summer. As I hope to do my Erasmus in Logrono, I couldn't have found a better person for my Intercambio. It's a really small world! Speaking Spanish in the 'real world' seems to have unlocked my reluctance to speak it in class. Chatting with Jesús is like being in the pub in Conchar or a cafe in Durcal - and boy am I 'homesick' for Spain!

Oh well, less than four weeks before this semester is over and it won't be long before I'm sipping Cava in the sun again :-)

What else has been going on? Well, have got myself some work doing typing and proofing for a couple of M.A. students. It does eat a bit into my study time but will last all summer (on and off) and I can advertise for more work next month. It's nice doing my old job again - the only drawback is that I've had to cut short my nails again. LOL

Must comment on the huge change that has come over campus. The fine weather has tempted people to sit out again but the atmosphere has completely changed from September. The high-jinx are over and students sit alone reading or in small groups, talking seriously about work. Even the guitar players are muted. It's as if we've all grown up a lot over the past few months and the impending exams are being taken far more seriously than the pre-Christmas ones.

Just wait until April 15th - we First Years are going to celebrate big time! :-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The bookworm emerges

I can hardly believe it is over a month since I last blogged. The pile of books that needs to be read this semester grows daily. Making headway with primary English reading but have less than six weeks to get the secondary reading done for three essays and all of the exams.

To be honest, it's all a bit head-wrecking and at times it all seems to be too much. Add in (of course) the daunting amount of work needed to keep up in Spanish and - well the only word for it is 'meltdown'. Last Wednesday, after yet another confusing grammar class, during which I managed to get almost everything wrong, ended up in floods of tears all over two of my friends from class. This was probably the best thing I could have done as they told me that I had hit 'The Wall' - something that they and a few others had done over the previous couple of weeks. It seems to be a phenomenon peculiar to mature students and worst for high achievers. My friend explained it to me as a natural reaction to the increased workload of the courses this term after doing well in the first semester. It just isn't as easy now and, after setting a high standard to begin with, you feel compelled to continue getting top grades and end up with the mistaken belief that you are useless and shouldn't have dreamed that college at this time of life was an option. Yeah - for supposedly smart people we can be really dumb!

The goal is now to get through the exams at the first attempt, get all essays submitted on time and just do the best I can without turning myself back into a blubbering lump of jelly. Ease off the pressure girl!

This is Rag Week and, with the return of the sun, campus is lively and the bar is packed. Lectures and tutorials are half-empty with only the 'oldies' like myself turning up. My college 'madness' has been to colour my hair red this afternoon instead of going to a Philosophy lecture. Keeping away from the boozing and taking advantage of extra space in the library to work.

Oh, after 10 weeks, I'm finally off the crutches and receiving Physiotherapy for the knee. One less thing to worry about. Now, back to the books!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Raising the bar

Last week was one of the most amazing in my whole life. It was all about personal success and I'm still having trouble taking it all in. A few days which were all about ME and new milestones and achievements.

Monday began with the arrival (just as I was about to leave for college) of my author's copy of 'The Mammoth Book of Hard Bastards'. Was torn between going to Spanish class and revelling in seeing my work in print but dedication won out and I just popped it in my bag to savour later. My concentration was out the window in class of course but I carried the glow of being a 'published author' around all day. When I finally got home and actually read some of my words in print it brought tears to my eyes. It really is like giving birth and seeing your child for the first time! Of course, I immediately picked up on a couple of things I'd have changed but I guess that's normal for a writer LOL.

More ego-boosting with the discovery that I'd managed to come joint first in Spanish Culture last term. Only the end-of-term results to come and the elusive grade for my English poetry essay. With all things going well I was beginning to get rather nervous that my luck wouldn't hold. It did. No repeats to do and firsts in Spanish and Celtic Civilization. Almost got the magic 70 in English but, after some initial self-flagellation, learnt that not being one of the 15 out of 500 to get an A was still a great result. Even managed a passable C in Philosophy! All the hard work and angst had paid off and the results have spurred me on to keep the nose to the grindstone this semester.

After all the academic highs of the week, had the whole family around at the weekend to celebrate my youngest joining the ranks of teenager-hood. It was a couple of days of being a mother and having fun. No matter how great things go for me in college, when push comes to shove, my greatest success in life is raising three wonderful young men :-)

Without the worry of waiting for results it is now time to steady myself and concentrate on doing better this semester. The reading load is huge and every course is demanding a lot more than before. Seems like it will only be a matter of blinking and exams and Easter and the end of term will be upon us.

One final 'rush' today when, at last, my essay grade was posted by the English department... Yes, I got my first 'A' and it's probably the achievement that put the biggest smile on my face.

Oops! NOW I have a lot to live up to!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back in the deep end

The first week of the new semester is over and already I'm exhausted. I'd forgotten how tiring being in college was and the literal mountain of reading to be done over the next few weeks is very daunting. Of course, having to lug myself round campus on crutches doesn't help and, by the end of the day, my leg is very painful and swollen again. The price of dedication!

The new courses are more interesting than last year's. We have new lecturers and seem to be expected to work at a higher level now. Friday's Philosophy lecture was a blast! Teleportation and the consequences thereof. A question to think about for next week is how to get from the lecture discussion to why we should be nice to other people? That certainly made for a very interesting and hilarious conversation in the car later on! We were also invited to ask the lecturer afterwards if we wanted to know how light-sabres work.... and you know that I did :-)

Best of all is being with friends again and chatting over coffee in Smokey's or sharing a cigarette in an alcove out of the rain. I wasn't the only one who found the holidays long and missed campus life. We 'matures' seem to be more focussed than ever. One of the girls has even been to a careers seminar to help her discover where next year's subject choices will take her. We are going to start having a Spanish study group to give us a chance to actually speak more of the language and I am getting a Spanish-speaking partner for oral practice.

It's all go again! Harder than ever to fit in 'normal' life. Guess it will all sort itself out in a week or two. Time now to do some housework and try not think of all the college-related things I should be doing - Read Jane Eyre; do Spanish essay and homework; photocopy Welsh poetry; read Celtic Civ for next lecture... Oh! And buy more books :-)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Holiday over

Three whole weeks of not being a student and the new semester looms. Typically, despite a couple of attempts to open the books over the holidays, I've left all the homework for this weekend. Have the house to myself for a change so will have to immerse myself in Spanish again. It's so hard when there is so much sport on tv today!

I found it very odd not going to college for so long. Really missed campus and the daily interaction with my friends. However, had all the boys at home for a change and we did have a great time together. It did me good to switch off the little grey cells and be 'mum' again - even on crutches!

Yes, I did go to the hospital after the exams and had the leg x-rayed. Nothing actually broken but really bust up my knee, ankle and shin and should NOT have been given only one crutch by the college clinic. Still on painkillers and not able to walk far without the crutches but definitely on the mend.

Finally got some feedback on my second English essay yesterday. No grade yet but extremely positive comments and not a correction in sight! Was almost crying with happiness. All the work I put into the essay was worth it. Maybe this will be my first English A?

Come on girl! Time to get working again.