Staying healthy during exams

The final exams are coming up. (Insert angry exclamation here)

You’ll start writing up notes, going over old assignments, joining study groups and memorising as much as your brain will let you. With all the stress and anxiety that comes with exam preparation, staying healthy is often placed as a lower priority. When the exam day finally rolls around, many students find themselves with a cold or flu, or just flat out exhausted due to sleep deprivation. Coffee and Red Bull do not help, despite our desperate claim to the contrary.

Grrr

Think about it – you really don’t want to delay doing an exam. Once everything is over and done with, you can finally relax. Nobody wants to be stuck inside studying while their friends celebrate with champagne, singing and overenthusiastic dance moves.

 

Here are my tips on staying healthy while preparing for your exams:

  • Drink plenty of water. Try to give up your daily dose of soft drinks, energy drinks and coffee (yes, even coffee). Your body is made up of 70% water so give it what it wants.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. To save previous study time, many of us tend to purchase junk food for our 3 daily meals over the exam period. Take the time to cook yourself a nutritious and carefully-portioned meal. The extra energy will help you to think more clearly – if you over-do it with a full roast dinner you’ll put yourself in a food coma.
  • Start studying early. Cramming is unhealthy, as it leads to all-night study sessions and mass consumption of caffeinated beverages.
  • Ensure you sleep at least 7 hours every night. Personally, I am a nightmare if I don’t get a full 11 hours – do everybody a favour and just go to bed.
  • Exercise regularly. If you can find at least 30 minutes during the day to do something active – a jog, a swim, an intensive yoga session – you’ll be more energised and focused afterwards.

Time to celebrate!

 

So, there you have my tips. It’s important to remember that healthy eating/living doesn’t just apply to the exam period, but all the time. Take a lesson from this blog and you’ll be one of those students singing and dancing when the torture is finally over.

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Happy Fathers’ Day!

AwwThis Sunday will be Fathers’ Day in Australia; a day to show appreciation to the man of the house by treating him out to a nice meal and showering him with gifts. I celebrated Fathers’ Day with my family last Saturday night.

I can hear you thinking, ‘Wait a minute, didn’t you just say Fathers’ Day is this Sunday? How confusing.’

You are right (and I’m often confused), but from past experience I know what to expect this Sunday: multitudes of families squeezed into every available restaurant booth, table, nook and cranny in town to celebrate Dad’s special day.

Shopping centres will be promoting their specials right up until the end of the weekend – you can expect a stampede as the masses of forgetful but well-meaning individuals do their last minute gift shopping.

To avoid this crowd-related awfulness, my family and I have always celebrated Fathers’ Day earlier. We’re good like that.

Realistically though, shouldn’t we be showing appreciation to the ones we love all the time and not just one day? Fathers’ Day is great for making us stop and appreciate what our fathers have done for us, but it’s slowly been turned into more of a marketing stunt by companies looking to promote their gift selection (comparable to Valentine’s Day, but with less devastating heartbreak). As for the gifts, your Dad probably doesn’t need any more ties or socks. He probably just wants to spend time with you.

Great... more socksSo even if Fathers’ Day in your own country was months ago (it is celebrated on different dates all around the world), drop that pair of socks you were planning to buy and just pick up the phone for a chat to your dad. Give him a hug, take him out to dinner or cook him a nice meal, laugh at his jokes and tell him that shirt does look good on him.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers everywhere!

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Overcoming loss…of a mobile

In this day and age, losing ones mobile phone has become equivalent to that of a grievous personal injury or loss. For those of you who haven’t experienced this devastation first hand, here’s what you can expect.

Following the initial shock comes a mourning period, where the victim slowly comes to terms with the losses (which go far beyond a list of contacts).  New sorrows will continually surface in these early days. Realisations such as “Oh god my bank details were in there!” or, “I’ll never take another photo where I look that good!” are typical.

 

RIP mobile...

This stage is followed by a quiet depression (literally quiet, as you have to make all your social contact via FaceBook).  That’s when you’ll really notice your dependence on your device.  No more “call me when you get there” – a casual coffee date with a friend now has to be as carefully thought out and coordinated as a business meeting.

It is toward the end of this period where you might get a little philosophical. Do you even need a new mobile? There is a sense of freedom in being unreachable… until you realise you’ve saved enough money for a new phone and decide that in reality, you miss your high-tech companion more than most of your own family members overseas.

 

You will likely spend the next 4-5 days as a hermit, putting in contacts and downloading apps. Your honeymoon phase with the new phone will be a time of serious infatuation and you will wonder how you ever lived without its messaging/browsing/gaming capabilities.

Heaven forbid you might have to actually speak to a real person again anytime soon.

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Student groups – Why should I join one?

It's scary being the new kidThere are many big transitions that you’ll go through once you start classes on the big university campus.

One of the scariest changes is going from knowing everybody in your class (including the teacher) to knowing absolutely nobody on campus. Even if you have several friends attending the same university, there’s no guarantee that your timetables will match… and wandering the campus alone can make you feel like a bit of a tool.

As uncertain and anxiety-inducing as this may be, you’ll only feel like that at the very beginning. (I promise.) You will meet heaps of new and interesting characters, many of whom will become your new best friends (and others who you will learn to strategically avoid). That’s because university is as much a social experience as it is an academic one.

During Orientation week, I noticed all the booths set up in the Central Courtyard to advertise Macquarie’s 120+ student groups. These range from the formal and proper to the seriously insane. There’s something for everyone, from pyromaniacs to Doctor Who fans (seriously – those really do exist).

Get involved!Joining a student group is an excellent way to make new friends, extend your social and career networks and make the very best of your campus experience…

here is a list of my favourites:

  • VGen Macquarie – For people who are passionate about inspiring, educating and empowering others in the fight against global poverty and injustice. I’m starting to get an idea for a movie script here.
  • I Heart Macquarie – Do you love Macquarie so much that you dream about it every night? Would you tattoo the logo on your bicep or wear the MQ banner to a toga party? This is the group for you! (But you should think about seeking help…)
  • Dark Ages Society – Great for ‘Games of Thrones’ and ‘King Arthur’ fans – bring your plastic medieval weaponry.
  • Quidditch Association – You have seen the game in Harry Potter and now it’s here at Macquarie University.  I don’t think they can fly though, which makes this basically lacrosse for potter-fans.
  • AnimeMQ – For fans of tall, skinny large-eyed characters with outrageous hairstyles.
  • Chocolate Society – Whoever created this one is an absolute genius.

For the full list of student groups open to you at Macquarie, click here.

 

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The Modern Student vs. the Old

It is undeniable that technology has made gigantic strides in the last century, and that the “student experience” of today is drastically different from just 50 years ago. So are we bettering ourselves and the learning experience with these technologies? Or is it possible that our dependence on them is only making us more useless as a generation…

Lectures

The modern university student uses a laptop, not just for assignments, but for taking notes in class as well. Certain teachers may ban laptop use; these are the ones wise enough to know that the “Chimpanzee on a Segway” video on YouTube will get more attention than their lecture will. Past generations almost definitely paid more attention to lectures than we did; I mean, sure, they would have doodled on their notebooks and passed rude notes to each other, but that’s only because they didn’t have 8 different forms of “messenger” to communicate with across several devices.

Modern lecture hallWhile certain aspects of technology in the classroom distract us (like almost anything on the internet), one can argue that the learning experience itself is broadened by interactive programs and visual aids. No more boring slideshows; our potential for creative learning and presentation is limitless. Our computers also keep us efficient and organised – until they get a virus and go on a deleting spree (but that’s a different blog).

Study resources

Modern stuPay attention!dents benefit from instant access to information where old students had to actually look through a library and then multiple books to find what they were searching for (the horror!) The negative side is the volume of fictional information that floats around the web – you don’t want to finish an assignment only to realise that your source of “facts” is a middle-aged man named Barry who recently upgraded his MySpace page to a more professional-looking website.

Retaining information (actually learning)

50 years ago, students had to memorise and regurgitate back information. Today, we just pick up our phones and consult Google for an answer. (I don’t particularly agree with either of these methods.)  Modern students may have shorter attention spans, but our methods of studying have evolved to match the times. Students of past generations were truly limited in their scope of learning, strictly following chapters in a textbook. Sure, a hyperlink in a website may direct us somewhere completely irrelevant, but we pick up some great (and random) knowledge along the way.

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Campus fashion

One of the best parts about starting university is saying goodbye to high school uniforms!

Gone are the uncomfortable, starchy shirts, the striped ties and the shapeless shorts and skirts. And definitely gone (preferably thrown into a fire and destroyed completely) are those super trendy hats with the wide brims. For those of you who went to private school, you no longer need to suffer in thick blazers and knee high socks in temperatures above 30 degrees.

Trendyyy

Each day at university is a new day where you can wear whatever you want (but please for the sake of all us, cover least 40% of your body). You can finally put on that beautiful jacket or dress you bought on the weekend or be as hipster as you like with a checked shirt, very tight jeans and glasses without lenses (seriously, why?). But try not to overdo it early – this freedom of choice can quickly become a frustration.

It’s wonderful at first, but as the days pass you start running out of clothes to wear and you realise that you are (*GASP) recycling the same outfits. (Madonna would be appalled.)

As you get inundated with assignments and start to lose sleep, you’ll no longer care about being the trend-setter you were at the beginning of the semester and will reach out for those sweatpants. Welcome to my world!

That being said, I do see many students on campus who have great fashion sense, as well as a handful of ‘what were you thinking?’ outfits. Orange from head to toe is certainly a fashion statement.Those high heels aren’t very accommodating for all of that walking around campus, so I suggest you join me in my fashion repertoire of old jeans, sneakers, T-shirts and hoodies. I have noticed that most new students were quite fashionably dressed up to Week 5 and then the trackies came out. Like me, you have chosen comfort over style. Respect.

Mac Warrior!

 

It doesn’t matter if you go for comfort or style, as long as it makes you happy. I have to say, in my view the most stylish person is still our Mac Warrior. What a babe.

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Revealed – the pros and cons of the marketplace

Goodies galoreSydney’s famous “Paddy’s Market” has been a marketplace since the 1830’s and is a popular tourist venture and Australian icon. Hundreds of stalls offer everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to cheap clothes, jewellery and electronics, and they are open Wednesday through Sunday every week from 9am to 5pm.  It’s unlikely you’ll see everything in just one visit, as the stalls go on for ever in a maze of consumer goods, but you will want to take your time and shop wisely…here’s why:

 

PROS

yum

The pros may seem obvious. The market is a hub of one-stop-shopping where you could buy a pineapple, some DVDs and some new pyjamas all within 3 square metres (if you ever felt the need for such a bizarre shopping trip). In the fresh food section, from 4pm onwards on weekends “dollar boxes” are offered to offload the overstock of fruit and veg that won’t last until the next business day. The bottom line? You are bound to find a fantastic deal.

 

CONS

The down side to the marketplace is the sheer volume of crap you will need to sift through to find those hidden gems. The phrase “you get what you pay for” will spring to mind after a $2 ring turns your finger green or a cheap garment disintegrates under the pressure of its first wash. Some of the items that are good quality, such as electronics, are the same price than you would find them at the apple store, only the buzz of the market atmosphere makes you believe you are getting a deal. It’s easy to get addicted to the bargain-hunting that occurs here, so try not to go overboard – you will regret those tacky and unnecessary impulse purchases.

 

If you shop wisely, the marketplace is a shopaholic’s dream. Examine items thoroughly for quality and you’ll be able to tell if they will stand the test of time, like my fabulous $10 sunglasses have done. You’ve just got to just dive in head-first and commit to the hunt – an overabundance of goodies awaits you.

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When a holiday doesn’t feel like a holiday

Who does not love a holiday? It’s a time where you don’t need to think about deadlines for assignments or worry about exams. A time to just lay back and relax, discover new worlds, meet new people and have adventures.

But have you ever heard people say   ‘I need a holiday from my holiday?’ or ‘I’m so glad to be back home?’

As much as we envision everything going smoothly and coming back refreshed, it’s not always the case. Why is that?

 

  • Anxiety of making it for your flight. You’ve seen it in movies; a family is yelling at the driver to go faster, winding through millions of cars and when they arrive at the airport there are just minutes before their gate closes. Other travellers are thrown out of the way as they desperately try to get checked in.
  • Jet lag. Napping is usually unavoidable and prevents you from adjusting to the new time zone. Sitting wide awake at the hotel window at 5am trying to spot attractions in the dark is not an ideal way to see a new city.
  • Not speaking the language. Trying to explain a difficult situation or embarrassing ailment is much harder in sign language (and the frantic signing will likely lead to people thinking your problem is psychological).
  • Food that is not worth the price. Did you know it costs $7.61 for a Big Mac in Iceland?
  • Being ripped off: at the markets, by taxi drivers, by the currency exchange etc.
  • Doing too much in one day. Okay, so you’re in a new country and there are a million things to see and do. Trying to pack everything in is close to impossible and can lead to frustration. Prioritise – your holiday should be fun and relaxing so plan time to laze by the pool.
  • Long queues at tourist traps. We do not live in isolation. Chances are if you think the attraction is worth visiting, others do too.
  • Getting lost. Many people get so frightened when they get lost in a strange place, but I think this is half the fun. I’ve come across great treasures while wandering around confused.
  • Being held up by your photographer friend. We all have them – that one special friend who needs to take a photo every minute or who takes at least 5 photos of one thing from different angles.
  • Different traffic conditions. Just because the pedestrian light turns green, does not mean the cars will stop for you. Run!
  • Paying to go to public toilets. I can’t believe I have to pay for that.

Embrace the differences and always allow time to just sit down and relax. You can always have another holiday, but you cannot wind back time.

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Examining social awkwardness

oh..er..hello!

Have you ever waved enthusiastically back at somebody, only to realise that: a) you’ve never seen them before in your life, and b) they are clearly waving at the person behind you?

 

Have you ever been caught off guard by an acquaintance and hastily swallowed the last bit of your lunch only to choke on it, cough some unintelligible nonsense, and then spit crumbs at them?

Have you ever been distracted by a friend’s conversation and walked face first into a metal pole on the street?

If any or all of these apply to you, do not fret. You are not alone.

I’m not generally an awkward person in my daily life, but when it comes to greetings, stop-n-chats, and fancy-meeting-you-heres, I am a complete embarrassment.

hello

It is certainly a lot harder to “play it cool” in unplanned scenarios. Think about it. You are heading to a party. You’re dressed to impress and already in a social mood. You are bound to be more chatty and charming because you are excited and prepared for it (and maybe you’ve had a glass of wine already).

 

Picture a second scene. One in which you are on your way home from the gym in a grubby pair of sweatpants (the ones with the problematic rips in the backside) and are caught off guard by several acquaintances. While they are chatting away, all you can think is, “why the hell didn’t I throw these pants out months ago,” and plan your exit strategy (as fast as anybody can walk backwards).

Uh oh

The solution to the problem is simple. You’ll need to adopt a ninja-like invisibility approach on these sorts of outings (i.e. late night trips to Macca’s in your pyjamas). This may seem antisocial, but it’s a fact: some of us just can’t handle a surprise greeting without making an ass of ourselves.

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Creeping at the grocery store

Grocery stores are beautiful and dangerous places for students who are just learning what living without parents is like. Those first shopping trips alone are magical – you won’t believe the amount of meals that can be cooked in under 3 minutes with a microwave. You are almost certainly going to end up replacing an item on your shopping list such as broccoli with a bag of potato chips. (Hey, potatoes are vegetables right?)

Yum

Eventually you’ll learn to get some balance in your diet, and you might even feel a little self-conscious of the unhealthy choices in your shopping basket (especially if it’s a 2-for-1 deal on chocolate bars and you’ve got 6 of them). I certainly do, but then I’m quite a harsh critic of other peoples’ shopping trolleys.

 

The great thing about stores like Woolworths and Coles is that they sell almost everything, from gardening tools to underwear and socks, so you are bound to see some entertaining combinations. I’d like to share my top 5 with you (saving the most disturbing for last).

?

5.  The token fruit. On more than one occasion I’ve seen baskets that are full of snacks, chocolate, frozen meals, ice cream – and a single apple. It’s a nice effort, but we know you probably won’t eat that.

4.  The lonely soul. A single microwave meal and “The Notebook” on DVD. (As if the poor guy wasn’t depressed enough already, he has to sit through 90 minutes of Ryan Gosling’s acting as well.)

3.  Bad parenting. A bottle of premium vodka, earplugs and diapers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the baby was at home cooking its own dinner.

2.  Date night. A lovely roast chicken, vegetables, nice bottle of red wine, candles… all barely visible under a pile of condoms. Hey, at least you are optimistic.

Anything but more lima beans...

1.  Lima beans and a chain. I kid you not. This was at a department store in the United States, and might not have been quite so strange if these weren’t the only two items he was buying. The strong likelihood of this man keeping a prisoner in his basement prompted me to keep my distance.

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