On Stationery, and Being a Postgrad Fresher

A new term has begun.

After a year out of academia, I’m returning to university to do a Masters course in Medieval Studies. I’ve always been a big fan of the September-back-to-school feeling, and this year is no exception. I’m going back to big school! I love autumn anyway, but this is also the part of year where everything is possible: new subjects to try, new promises to be super-organised that I know will last about 3 weeks, and, of course, new stationery to open and notes to colour-coordinate. I am a bit of a stationary addict (Chartiophile? There must be a fancy term somewhere, other than just “oddball who likes pens”).

So many pretty notebooks! Not that I want to sully their prettiness with my words.

So many pretty notebooks! Not that I want to sully their prettiness with my words.

That aside, I’ve been excited about going through my old stuff from university ready to take it away again. I’m living in student accommodation, but looking through my household things, I just can’t wait to have my own gaff that I can furnish with all the penguin-themed stuff I’ve acquired over the years. I also love any excuse for a good trip to Ikea.

Including these kinds of penguins.

Including these kinds of penguins.

I am a little out of practice though. After my year out I’ve completely forgotten how to structure essays, though I only realised this when I found an old notebook full of plans from second and third year. A useful find, and interesting to mark my planning evolution from nice, neat handwritten bullet points to scattered points on post-it notes with arrows connecting the appropriate parts together. This isn’t a bad change – part of university is working out what learning techniques work best for you, and writing individual points on post-its and shuffling them around happens to be what I found the most useful (otherwise the perfectionist in me can’t write down a bullet point plan until I’ve decided on all the order). I’m hoping all the essay-writing info locked away in my brain comes flooding back, with the right prodding, though my undergraduate regime of an essay a week probably stands me in good stead.

Even after three years of undergrad, I’m still looking for effective ways to organise myself. This year, colour-coding will be a big theme (in theory), thanks to my lovely multi-colour biros, and as much as I do like those big ring-binder project books, I’m going to be making reading and lecture notes on loose sheets of paper to stick into files. I recently read a very interesting article on The Still Point London on the benefits of “piling, not filing” and I think this will certainly be useful during dissertation time. The idea is to avoid sticking your notes away under one subject title when in reality they fall under many areas (no article you read is going to just cover one point) and to use different notebooks as visual clues to remember what you wrote. When writing essays, I’ve always been a fan of rereading and highlighting my notes in different colours depending on which essay section they relate to, though this gets tricky when you run out of colours. We’ll see how I get on, anyway.

Work will come, though. The first week’s all about settling in. I personally don’t feel happy in a room until I have all my postcards up on a noticeboard, and this takes a while because I have a LOT of postcards.

This is merely a small selection.

This is merely a small selection.

The graduate freshers’ week has definitely seemed a lot more chilled than my undergrad one. The only real bother I’ve had so far is with my electric hob – none of the dials make any sense and the instructions have rubbed off the darn thing so I’m just twisting, hoping something somewhere starts to heat up. The same goes for the oven. Besides that, though, we’ve spent every evening in the pub but haven’t felt any of that pressure to be around people 24/7 or else feel like you’re not making friends, which definitely was in the air four years ago. One of my new friends had her birthday last week, so we all celebrated with cake, and, you’ve guessed it, pub. I think it helps that, having made it through undergrad degrees, by this stage we’ve all had a bit of practice at drinking and so no-one threw up, unwisely hooked up or otherwise made a tit of themselves this week. Well, didn’t make too much of a tit of themselves.

But anyway, just when I’m feeling settled in and raring to go, I’ve picked up a cold. Damn you, freshers’ flu. Damn you.

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