Katerina’s blog – 28 October 2013

Deadlines and Meeting Them

What a week it has been! Since my last post I submitted my first piece of coursework, went to an assessment centre for a part time job (which I really, really hope to get – I’ll tell you more as soon as I get a reply back), and went to an amazing night out… as I said – exciting times!

First things first, coursework.  I am the type of person who does not like to do coursework – I’d rather have all my modules assessed by exams and midterms.  I guess part of the issue is that I have a lot of experience with written examinations. In my home country we have a very rigorous high school system, which includes regional and national academic competitions between schools so we were trained to do exams like athletes. By the time I started University I had completely overcome my anxiety and nerves when it came to doing work in an exam setting.  Writing assessed essays, on the other hand, is something I only encountered at University and immediately disliked.

Having so much time to work on one piece of work terrifies me as I always feel utterly lost in the beginning, having no clue where to start from or what to do.  English is not my native language and I feel quite unsure about how to express myself when writing an academic piece of work. I always start by burying myself in research and articles only to realise later that for the first 2 or 3 weeks I haven’t actually written a word as I feel nothing I write is good enough. I do realise that if I sit down and just keep writing, eventually something worthy of at least a pass mark will come out of it but no matter how many times I tell myself this, I still struggle with a horrible writer’s block when it comes to academic writing (funnily enough, I have no such issue with recreational writing/blogging).

When I was assigned the first essay for the year, I decided I would try different new techniques to overcome my issues.  Firstly, I tried going to the library in order to get some inspiration but this method failed miserably.  If you feel you aren’t able to write anything good, surrounding yourself with people who look smart, type fast and generally seem like the kind of people who know what they are doing is a bad idea.  So, back in the comfort of my own room, I tried eating lots of nuts and drinking water (I remember I read somewhere they help with concentration and brain activity).  Unsurprisingly, that didn’t work either.

After three days and seemingly no progress, I decided to stop trying and just get out of my house and get some dinner with my friends.  After the many hours spent sitting in front of a laptop, I decided to walk to our restaurant of choice and, to my surprise, by the time I got there I had cleared my head and figured out a way of fitting all my research into the essay without breaking the flow.  Three hours and one delicious meal later, I was back at my desk and this time it seemed like the essay was almost writing itself.  I am still unsure whether it was the distraction that helped or all the information just needed a little bit more time to ‘click’ but it definitely helped and I plan on testing my theory as soon as I have my next piece of coursework!
Enough talking about academia, let’s just focus on Reading Week and the many fun and exciting things that can be done! I find the Visit Manchester website very useful for ideas of what to do in Manchester. The website has a very comprehensive list of things going on in the city so go take a look if you haven’t got your plans for the week sorted yet.
P.S. For all other non-native speakers struggling with academic writing out there – this is single-handedly the most useful website I have come across in the past four years  🙂

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