Monday, 17 September 2018

Juicy tips to get you started as a student!

Deciding to apply to university always has a story behind it.

Doesn’t matter who you are. 
“My parents wanted me to go.”
“I really want to be the best Photographer I can.”
“Without university, I cannot be the registered health professional I want to be.”
Yet if you ask a mature student, the answer will often be from a totally different place.

For me, after a painful break up and subsequently realizing I wasn’t now likely to have enough children to start my own Vontrapp family, something needed to distract me.  Couple this up with a lifelong dream to help others into health through nutrition, I decided to study to be a dietitian. 

Wow.  What a ride!



As a recent graduate I feel I would like to share what I have learnt about life on the way.  The science of nutrition was just a small part of what I have taken away from my university experience.

Who would have thought a 40 something single parent to twins would be saying, “I’ve learnt so much about myself.”?  Let’s face it, at 18 years old, I would have laughed at my 40 year old me for not having it already figured out. 

My advice and tips:

If you are a parent or juggling some other challenge such as being a carer or indeed having health struggles, dealing with mental health and anxiety, dyslexia or simply finding you sometimes get in your own way no matter how hard you try not to, you will be finding different coping mechanisms.

Learn to listen to yourself and your gut.   The gut feeling has never been wrong in my life this far. If something feels off, it generally is.  Sometimes it might be the student who takes too much but never gives, or the lecturer who fills you with fear.  Learn to tap into what works for you.  This might sound selfish but remember that old analogy of fitting your own oxygen mask before you can help others?  There are times to give, yet there are times to be totally selfish. 
Find others who are more on your wavelength.  They will be there and their support will help you through. 


Study at  a time that is best for all of you.
Family needs are important. Yet so are your studies.  Shortly after learning about chemistry, I knew I needed to be in total silence when I was trying to learn about all of this.  I was often unable to sleep much past 4.30am as I was always worried about missing my train! So I decided to get up at this time of the morning and start watching Youtube videos on my subject.  It really helped me to understand what I was supposed to be doing.  The darkness of those winter months saw me make a fluffy coffee and lighting myself some candles and I began to really enjoy my early morning study. 

Ask for help
There will be extended family members who might help walk the dog, pick the children up from school etc.  If your children are old enough to run a cloth around the bathroom, offer some of your student loan to them for helping! They will love the odd £2 here and there.  Don’t offer a weekly amount as you might find this costing you money with no return. Instead give them some money for each chore.

Within the university there will be wellbeing advisors, counselling and needs assessors to help you with any overwhelm, special assistance, extra time in exams or even software which might help you.  This list goes on.  Try typing into the University search bar “Wellbeing” and see what is on offer.

Some universities use Peer Mentoring services.  Use this! To ask a student how they log into a portal or who to go to in the library for your specific subject is more valuable than you can imagine!

Find a way that works for you

Studying is going to be so different for each individual.  We mentioned earlier you need to find a time to study when you will be at your most productive.  This is ideal for those times you need to focus hard.  Yet the actual studying is something that will vary from person to person.  If I tell you what worked for me, it might give you some ideas on different things to try.

As a science student, we were warned not to rely on Wikipedia.  I agree.  This isn’t to be used for referencing into science papers and likely any other subject papers too! That said, I struggled when I tried to dive straight into scientific journals on a subject I had yet to understand.
Instead, I would search in Wiki for the basics.  Read that.
Then I would also try to read about whatever it was on websites such as NHS or World Heath Organisation (very dependant on the topic).
Typing into Youtube was incredible.  I am a very visual learner and love being able to listen and see at the same time.  You’ll be amazed what you find on this platform.
After getting a basic understanding under my belt I would start to delve deeper and eventually end up using a software programme which was life changing called Mendeley where I could search for academic research papers on my topic. 

If only I had known all this at the start!

One other footnote.  I expected to goto class and come out crystal clear on what I had just learnt.  However, I am not the only one who expected that and ended up disappointed and frustrated.

Going to university is a journey of learning and self directed study.  They do tell you this.  Yet most new students will hear their timetabled hours and plan life around that.  Don’t! Unless you are happy to just pass.   Put in the work.  Expect to come out of class with some material to base your learning on.  Teach yourself as much as you can.  Relying totally on the lecture will see you struggle unless you are nothing short of genius. 

All the tough love out of the way, I’ll now say this: enjoy yourself!

Embrace the journey. The good and the bad.  You will likely come out of university a different person to the one you started as.  Even if you really like yourself at the beginning, I can promise you will be chuffed to bits with yourself the day you hear them call out your name at graduation and receive that handshake!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

End of year 1

March already.  Where is the first year going at university? 
 
My good intentions were to add to this blog each week.  Recording my life lessons as well as my science lessons.  Likely the biggest lesson I learnt was that life gets in the way, even with the best intentions.
 
When you first begin to fill out that UCAS form, the type of questions you ask yourself as the applicant are likely to be, "Am I good enough?" "Can I pass?" and the like.  Now, however, it is more like, "Where do I find elastic time to magic some space to write that essay?"
 
Being a firm believer in testing yourself and taking life to the limits in order to learn, I have found a wonderful sense of accomplishment this year.  Simple things have shown me how I learn better as an auditory learner. Which is a shock as a partially deaf student.  Also, being a lover of technology, I thought I would fall in love with my new iPad we were supplied with.  However, it seems this is only one way I find ease in which to record my notes. I still prefer note pads and pieces of paper.
 
Chemistry is now making sense!
 
After learning more and more about nutrition I realise how thankful I am for the extended year zero at London Met last year. Without that insight into chemistry I may have found things tricky this year.  As always with life, there are highs and lows and lots to catch up on on my desk, laying around in organised piles.  
This first year at university I have found an affection for the beautiful red brick buildings around campus, for coffee in Starbucks each sleepy morning and the smiling faces who serve my vanilla latte. 
 
I now know I want to do well, be the best I can be.  I have had to learn the lesson of this by lowering my work hours. I wish to continue my studies upon successful completion of this Honours degree.
 
Here's to the exam period and the second year.

Monday, 25 September 2017

First day excitement

5am and I'm awake.

Not nerves or excitement but that's just me, being awake early.
Having been on Amitriptyline for nerve pain due to my slipped discs (the tablets didn't work by the way) I found I was having trouble waking in the mornings. Yet since I stopped I wake and I'm like BOOM! Wide awake.  So I'm here, writing a blog to you guys when I can still see the moon in the sky.



Like most of us, I kind of always struggle to prioritise.  Like, I love writing here and on my other blogs yet I also need to edit some videos, get a look at what the day has in store, maybe eat something and possibly do a little house work/walk the dog?

This is definitely something I need to get over.  I do achieve a lot yet for me, I always want more and must work harder on living in the NOW.  It's important, I know that as well as anyone.  However, just for today I will focus on getting myself to university and looking as good as I think I can look, sort everything I need to take and generally go with the flow.

Staying after class, I will be taking my laptop in to get some work done.  When I appear at home I do house work and get called Mum.  I love my home life but if I want to achieve more, there is no question but to crack on and do it.

I'm excited.

The course content looks amazing for this year.
Epidemeology
Immunology
Cells and systems
Research skills

I have yet to find a love within research but if I want to be Dr Usher I will need to.  Damn that looks good in text.  Dr Usher.


So for research we have an amazing tutor who is funny, energetic and passionate about his work. I have a good feeling things could not be better.

In a blog post very soon I will be writing about my possible studies in the future, looking at PhD and Masters degrees.

Meanwhile, I will post back here later for you guys and let you know how things went!

Wish me luck!

Friday, 22 September 2017

Year 2 begins - freshers week

Where did the summer go?


We sure had some fun as a family.  We needed it.  I certainly needed it.

Camping, Majorca, days out at theme parks, attempted days at the beach (traffic stopped us in our tracks).

Not only did I shockingly go and get myself engaged over the holidays but I also managed to sort some health issues out too.

More about that over on my other blog



Worrying about going back to Uni started a few weeks ago yet now, I'm super excited and charged up!
You see, the timetables came in. Lots of Epidemeology, (can't spell that yet!) Immunology, physiology, human nutrition etc.  Right up my street!
I'm fairly sure where I would like my career path to go now.  Dealing with allergies I'm thinking.

Sadly, I'm not feeling physically very well but emotionally I'm on top of things. Definitely turned a corner and long may it continue. The palpitations are rare these last few days.


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Yesterday I collected my daughter from college early and we went into Uni to get lunch and walk around the freshers fair. This is where I discovered I have been upgraded to a Senior student ambassador! Pay rise n all :)

I'm excited to get back in the saddle. I think i'm going to nail it this year! All while being mum of the year and uber organised in work and home life.  

Speaking to Jill today, we will wait for each other and sit together tomorrow which is lovely.  Jack isn't in tomorrow as he is away on holiday somewhere very exotic.  He also got engaged over the summer! Must be something in the water.

7 weeks today I will be landing in Jamaica with a wedding dress in my luggage.  That's exciting!!!


Goodbye curly hair, hello straight.  Hello make up.  And nice smart clothes.  Goodbye flip flops and hello heels....

Summer, you were wonderful.

Brain cells, wake up please.

Day 1, year 2, kisses and hugs

Everyone seemed pleased to see each other today.  The first day back.

There was no anxiety inside me (thank you, 8 week blood sugar diet) and not a sign of a palpitation.  Although I used a few breathing exercises.

Still, I was fine.


So as a new day dawns, I shook out my hair, wore my crazy flower print trousers (dressed it up a bit with a black jacket though) and popped on my high heels.
Up early with the twins in tow, I took them to college.  So proud of them.

Proceeding to work myself for an hour before uni, I decided to head into Asda to buy flowers for my client who is poorly just now and also for Dad to pop on the grave.  I'd have a strong word with Dad about bringing me luck!


Sun shining, I was feeling ready.



To drink coffee or not drink coffee?  I headed to the university starbucks.  Everyone was in there.  Yet I felt ok. Two of my favourite people who aren't the closest two buddies walked in right behind me with beaming smiles and hugs and kisses, that was lovely!  I felt at home.

Jill was waiting outside the lecture theatre when I rocked up.  Looking stylish in her own crazy was as she always does.   Definitely a personality in there!  Bless her.  Happy to see her. Deafness was terrible for me today (feeling all blocked somewhere) and we agreed to sit at the front (we always do).  As the lecturers arrived, I realised this was a treat to get them all in the same room at the same time - what I loved about those guys is they are really funny together!  Watching them filled me with absolute smiles inside and outside.  Brilliant.  These guys are geniuses.

I've loved my summer but I feel ready to be back.  Not much has changed.  Although realising that all of us now know what lies ahead and we still chose to come back is amazing.

Warnings were given that this year is going to be massively harder.  Yet I'm sure that the subjects are going to be super interesting and that will kind of make things easier.

Erasamus was spoken about lots which is  a European exchange programme where you spend the summer or a year studying abroad.  As nutrition students we goto Spain.  The idea makes my eyes light up but in reality, the food, crohns etc won't make things easy.  Besides, I'm away on holiday with Mum and the twins next summer.  Exciting to hear about though.  Then comes the work placement ideas.

Again, interesting we were told to consider what Masters or PhD programmes we may be interested in.  Well, there's a thought.  I'm guessing the time is likely to fly by.....

Monday, 21 August 2017

Timetables are in!

Seems I was the first to notice that the timetables had been published.

Deciding everyone else must have seen this I didn't mention to anyone except the two people who have become most important to me.  I'll change their names to Jack and Jill haha to protect their privacy.

Feeling that we would have all been in touch far more than we were, there was some disappointment but the type where you are sure your friends are there for you if you need them, yet you just feel busy and kind of forget to text.

Knowing this, I am still safe in the knowledge that we will all prop each other up during the coming terms.  For sure.  We all have different skills to bring to our group.  Not sure I would be so excited to return without those two.

So the timetable is all over the place again, changing from week to week.

Filling in my paper diary with timings,  I began to dread the year ahead, knowing it was going to get technical, scientific and tricky.  Yet as I read the words 'immunology' and 'research skills' I couldn't help but feel a little excited.  There was something about illness (getting well, more specifically) that excites me.


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In my own news, for whatever long winded reason, I tested my fasting blood sugars.

They were 5.5mmol/l - if you look this up on the type of websites I respect, it seems this is cause for slight concern.  Bordering on pre-diabetes.

A myriad of feelings overwhelmed me like a surfer under a wave.  

So began the research.  Taking me back to those days when I was diagnosed with crohns disease.  

In the past 2 weeks i have learnt so so much and I'm excited to face this head on and get to grips with what I need to do to lower that blood sugar.  Also, loosing weight which will be wonderful as it's just in time for my trip of a lifetime to Jamaica! More on that in another post, I think.

The next post will have details of my meeting last night with my PA(!)  Super helpful!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Chronic disease epidemiology

What is chronic disease epidemiology?

It is a way of investigating a link between dietary behaviour and chronic diseases.

Epidemiological studies used:

* 24 hours recall
* Diet history
* Food frequency questionnaire

Types of chronic disease:

* type 2 diabetes
* Heart disease
* Stroke

Ways to investigate the link between dietary behaviour and chronic diseases

* Anthropometric
 Using body weight, height, skin folds, waist and hip circumference

* Biochemical tests

Blood, urine, faeces, tissues are rested to deter subclinical deficiencies

* Clinical observation

Observation of pallor,  hair, nails, skin, eyes, lips, mouth , muscles, joints

* Dietary assessment

Obtain report of food items consumed, portion sizes, frequency, calculation of nutritional intake