6 April 2014

Val’s list of priorities as of 6th April:

1. Revise.
2. Exercise.
3. Socialise.
4. Write.

It’s my last week in Bangkok before I jet off to London, where my final undergraduate exams will begin in less than a month. *shivers* Given this imminent departure, I’ve tried to schedule in seeing all my good friends this past and coming week. And since I can’t do two things at once, I’ve had to revise my priorities list from 25th March.

To be completely honest, though, in my head, the priorities seem to be: revise, revise, revise. At some point this week, I suddenly realised that I’ve officially entered the final stretch of revision.

It’s funny. The middle stretch never arrived. One day I was in my early stretch (25th March would be one of those days), then suddenly I was in the final stretch. There doesn’t seem to be a middle stage where you’re just revising merrily along. You’re either super cool and collected, thinking ‘I’m way ahead. I started so early’, or a wreck of nerves, with ‘OMG I’M NEVER GOING TO FINISH REVISING IN TIME. THERE’S LESS THAN A MONTH LEFT‘ on repeat in your puny, overworked, and overstressed brain (which pretty much describes the me of the past week).

My solution for this surge in anxiety has been to exercise like mad. I’ve gone to the gym more often this week than any other week. Having my imminent departure as an excuse to spend more time with friends also helps. The exercise and the company distract me from the stress of revision, but the latter is never far from my mind.

I wonder what it’ll be like once I arrive in London. I can already foresee my stress levels shoot right up. It’s a good thing I’ve got that Lake District trip planned. God knows I could use some away time to clear my head.

On the other hand, though, it’s four whole days where I won’t be able to revise. And there’s a lot you can revise in four days.

This is really not a productive train of thought, so I’m going to stop myself there.

Objectively, I’ve done a lot this week: substantial revision progress was made, visa was acquired, friends were met, body was subject to rigorous exercise. I just don’t feel like it.

And that’s the problem.

It’s all in your mind. It’s all in my mind.

If only the mind were easier to tame.

Maybe I should start meditating.

But now I should get started on that French exercise, so I have time to wash my car before it gets dark (and the mosquitoes come out to play).

Thanks for reading,

Val

p.s. I meant to write a post about how flexibility and duty are inherently incompatible concepts. I’m not sure what happened. I started writing and this came out.

p.p.s. This is quite therapeutic. I should really write about more substantial things though, more concrete topics, with analysis and insight. And there goes the over-exigent mind again.

 

 

Advertisements

4 March [I meant April] 2014

I’m back.

Where did two days go?

This is my catch-up post. It serves the ostentatious purpose of explaining my absence, but really it’s to help me make peace with myself over my manifest lack of organisational skills.

I mean, how difficult can it be to set aside 30, 40 minutes each day to write a daily blog? Not to mention a blog about myself.

Overwhelmed with guilt and disappointment with said lacking organisational skills, I had originally planned to write two posts today. I had even titled the post ‘4 March 2014 (1)’, thereby implying a (2) to follow over the course of the day. Then I changed my mind.

Better not count the eggs before they hatch. Events may yet unfold in such a way as to deprive me of my quality laptop time this evening. Was that a correct application of that saying? Somehow I don’t think so.

To return to the ostentatious objective of this post, let me attempt to explain my two-day absence without it sounding like an excuse. It’s a narrow rope to walk, but a girl can try.

It has been a whirlwind two days. Actually, this whole week has been a flurry of events. Monday was crazy revision day, as some of you might remember (ah, good old times). You don’t know much about my Tuesday, though you may actually know more than you think (despite the disclaimer, the post did reflect some of the events that transpired on that April Fools’ Day).

In fact, two things that happened on Tuesday account almost entirely for my undue absence:

  1. UCL published my exam timetable which at first solicited a huge sigh of relief, but then launched me into a fit of panic anyways. (More on that in a bit)
  2. The British Embassy announced in great fanfare that they have “made a decision” on my visa. And I was to wait two working days before collecting my passport and other returned documents at the visa application centre.

Both announcements caught me by surprise. As the old adage would have it, a watched kettle never boils. For differing reasons (too mundane and detailed to recount to you in full), I was not expecting either the timetable or the visa decision on that particular Tuesday. And yet, there they both were, in black and white, staring at me from my laptop screen.

This was always going to be a busy week. Extraordinarily, I had two social engagements planned for the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday. This was to take away at least 6 hours of revision time, the realisation of which had already put me on a bit of an edge going into Tuesday. Then came the timetable plus ensuing panic and visa business which always stresses me out (I really don’t like the possibility that someone may decide not to allow me into the country, just because they can).

First the timetable. I don’t want to bore you with details, but I’m going to do it anyways. So I have 5 exams: 2 French, 3 Econ (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in a previous post). My worst fears were that the 3 Econ exams would fall in the same week. In which case I am utterly [insert rude word of choice].

As it turns out, they don’t. UCL was kind enough to give me a space of two weeks between my fourth and fifth exams. And two weeks to revise for that particular Econ module will do just fine. Hence the relief.

As I noted down my various exam dates, I began to calculate how much time I had left to revise for each module. My first exam is on May 1st. The second on 6th. Both are French. Then I have two Econ exams the following week. I’m flying to London next Saturday. Going off to Lake District for four days over Easter weekend. Subtract some days for jet-lag recovery, settling into flat, seeing friends, seeing boyfriend. I suddenly realised: I don’t really have that much time left.

Especially for my French exams which require skills you need to build up gradually (translation, redaction, synthesis – if you were wondering). One does not, cannot, cram for French. And considering I haven’t touched my French folder in almost a week, which – trust me – is a really long time in revision universe, this realisation was somewhat disconcerting.

That’s when I panicked. And imposed a golden rule: every day between now and 1st of May, I will do French. And doing French does not include reading my French fiction which, albeit altogether enjoyable and useful in terms of vocabulary acquisition, doesn’t really help with the skills requisite for the exam. Not if I’m honest with myself. And at this late stage in exam preparation, dishonesty comes at a high cost. So it was resolved: at least one French exercise, translation, or oral preparation per day. Every day.

Jeez that was long. Are you still with me?

Now for the visa business. The Embassy said my visa would be ready to collect at the application centre after two working days. The centre itself offers an online tracking service which would supposedly notify me when my documents have been delivered back at the centre.

And here’s the situation as it stood on Tuesday. Last time I applied for a UK visa, they managed to spell my name wrong and I had to send my passport back to the Embassy for them to correct it, which took a few days. This time, I was applying for a visa category I had never applied for before. And I was applying under rather extraordinary circumstances: in short, I had interrupted my studies the previous year and was flying back just for the exams. My flight was on the following Saturday, which gave me a margin of exactly 8 working days for whatever it was that might go horribly wrong.

And I could think of plenty of things that could go wrong. The application centre had moved while my visa was being processed (I almost went to the wrong place to collect it yesterday). Maybe they’d lose my passport, deliver it to the old office, lose it in the old office, lose it in the new office, spell my name wrong – I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time. Plenty of things.

Also, the centre had a new website which wasn’t completely glitch-free. So at times I couldn’t access the tracking page. How else am I supposed to know if I can go collect my documents if I can’t access the only place that gives me that information? Oh, did I mention they don’t have a phone number for the new office? And when I called the old ‘call centre’ number, I was greeted with a recorded message in English and Thai that they no longer offered this service.

I mean, one would think a phone line is a pretty basic service to offer for the amount of money they’re charging for their ‘services’.

Needless to mention, passport-collection-related anxieties made me rather nervy the whole of Wednesday. I couldn’t focus very well on revision, so I decided to channel my anxiety into more gym time (which turned out, as always, to be a good decision). It’s a good thing I had social engagements planned. I wouldn’t have been capable of much otherwise.

Finally, after checking the tracking website a gazillion times, a different message popped up on Thursday, late in the morning, informing me that my documents were ready for collection. And by the time I got myself to the new centre, waited (45 minutes) for my queue and for the extremely bored-looking staff to dig up my documents from the back room, checked that everything was in order, and squeezed myself into the packed sky train (it just had to be rush hour); I only had two hours left before my dinner engagement.

Two hours I could have spent blogging. But the disciplined (read: panicked) student that I am, I spent the time on a French translation and some practice phrases.

A small aside, in the two days post-golden rule, I have spent more time on French than in the whole of the preceding week. It’s always a question of time allocation, isn’t it? You’re never too busy for something; you’re just choosing not to make time for it. All those days where I thought ‘I could do some French now’ but didn’t actually open the folder. Well, better late than never, as they say.

To sum up, the French golden rule and the visa, plus the social engagements which fell into my prime time blogging slot, are why you didn’t hear from me for two days.

Sounded a bit like an essay there.

It’s 9.30am right now and I am extremely tired (a combination of too little sleep last night and the 10% Belgian beer – why did I not take my Tylenol before I went to bed? WHY!?!). This really does not bode well for today’s revision. Maybe I’ll go to the gym now to wake myself up. I probably should.

I’ll try revising for a bit, see if it works. If not, I’ll get myself over to the elliptical. Listen to French radio while I ellipticalise my way through yesterday’s fries, and the beer. Oh God the beer. And then there was the spaghetti… and the…

I’d better stop myself there.

Have a good day everyone.

Until tomorrow,

Val

p.s. There’s not going to be a second post after all. Given how long this post was, I don’t think you’d mind too much. I can probably just cut it in half and publish it in two posts. But that’s overcomplicating things.

p.p.s. Having gone through the post once to make final adjustments, I’ve decided to go to the gym after publishing this. The amount and silliness level of typos and other mistakes were horrendous. I don’t think my current brain state lends itself to productive revision. See how I’m rocking time management? (Excuses, excuses)

p.p.p.s. I just realised I thought today was 4 March. Out of wishful thinking for my revision time possibly, but more likely because I’m really tired/hungover. I can feel my head throb. Why do I do this to my revision? NO MORE BEER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 March 2014

I must admit that I find the British accent very sexy.

Or at the very least extremely alluring.

So I’m sitting by myself in the café at my sports club – yes, I go to a sports club. Please don’t judge me – having a full-on revision panic attack (more on which later), when this group of ladies comes in and sits down at the next table.

A wave of curiosity washes over me. Which is entirely ordinary – I am fascinated by people: how they interact among themselves and with their external environment. And this group is quite a striking bunch. Clad in bright colours, each sporting a different style of clothing, all exuding confidence. Genuine confidence of a kind you only acquire in later life (I’m thinking mid-thirties).

Then one of them starts talking, and boom! Not only does she speak perfect English (bilingual-style), but she also has the most wonderful British accent. Not quite the Queen’s English, but thick and proper enough to make misplacing her accent a crime. Either she has spent a considerable part of her (likely early) life in England, or she has a true knack for adopting accents.

For minutes I sit. Eyes fixed at my laptop screen. Hands poised over the keyboard. Still. Mesmerised by the smooth flow of the British accent from the next table. The apparently indifferent next-table neighbour actually straining to catch every word, every syllable.

And, once I’ve had my fill of her British accent (thank you, female stranger), I return to my revision.

Now, about that revision panic attack.

First of all, apologies for exaggerating. It wasn’t a panic attack. Merely a flash of panic intense enough to focus and stimulate. I’ve had panic attacks before (twice, to be exact), and today’s revision-induced panic is not of the same magnitude. Nowhere near.

What brought on this mini panic thing is a close friend of mine who – earlier today – asked me if I was “on course” with revision. Two words: on course.

I moved to answer her (on the messaging app). And while my brain went over the past two weeks’ progress and the number of days left until Day One of examination period, the question hit home: Am I on course?

I typed in some irresponsibly vague answer citing lack of exam schedule (to be released this Friday) bla bla and pressed ‘send’. But the panic had set. Am I on course?

How does one know if one is on course with revision? The economist that I am, I imagine this piece of knowledge (whether one is on course) to depend on three factors: 1) the amount of revision time left, 2) the rate of revision, and 3) the amount of material left to be revised before time is up.

I know 1). I can have a guess at 2). I have no idea about 3).

Hence the panic.

I came back to my laptop and proceeded to pull up all the information I have on all the three Economics modules I am revising for. (In case you’re wondering, I have 5 exams: 3 econ – in student lingo – and 2 French.) I went over all the course programmes, revision guidance, lecturers’ tips, and recent past papers to suss out how much more I need to know in order to be able to do the exams.

And turns out it’s quite a lot.

I know it’s only 25th March, and exams won’t begin until 1st May. But what if I have all my exams in the first week? The exam schedule is released this Friday, but between now and Friday are 3 full days. If I’d learnt anything at university over the past 4 years, it’s that complacency is the most dangerous enemy.

So I started devising a revision programme for each of the three modules. They’re in no way comprehensive. But they’re indicative – and that’s good enough for now. I know what I have to do next. I know how to prioritise. I know how much more time I need to allocate to revision (than I already do) on a daily basis. Another thing I learnt at university: if you don’t have enough time to do something, allocate more time. Don’t speed it up. Doing things in a hurry is no better than not doing them at all.

Armed with the above information, I feel the panic slowly subside. Expectation is important, all the more so that it’s about something so subjective as revision (subjective in the sense of being completely dependent on the standard you set yourself – a student aiming for a First will revise significantly more than one hoping for a Pass). And I’ve revised my expectations to more realistic levels.

Do I still want a First? Yes. Do I aim to provide perfect answers to every question? No. Do I aim to know all the material inside out? No. Aren’t my responses inconsistent? No.

You don’t need to know everything to do well in an exam. You just need to know enough. And if you don’t have time to revise everything? Well, that’s OK. Time is limited. As with any limited resource, it must be allocated. Priorities must be assigned, and expectations adjusted to reflect your priorities.

I’ve spent the past 4 hours this afternoon revising, and 3 hours this morning. Can I revise more? Yes. It’s only 5pm. Will I? No. I need to revise. I want to. But not all the time.

Val’s list of priorities as of 25th March:

  1. Revise.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Write.
  4. Socialise.

I have my Battle Beat class at 5.30pm. Then my dance class at 6.30pm. And I’ve been writing this post since 4.45pm. Today’s activities reflecting priorities so far. One golden star for me.

After dance class is another matter. I might go see a friend. Or, if that falls through, revise some more. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

If only I’d learnt all this 4 years ago when I was revising for my first university exams, then my second, then my third… All the anxieties, all the frustrations, all the fears that could have been avoided.

Well, as they say, better late than never!

Gotta rush to go kick some air now,

Until tomorrow,

Val

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 March 2014

According to CardioTrainer, I burned over 1,000 calories today. Which is a lot, by my standards.

So, apart from the 5.7k outdoor run this morning (see how proud I am? I’m still boasting about it), I did a one-hour Battle Beat class, which is basically a boxing style super intense class where you kick, jump, and punch a lot, and continuously. (It’s really tiring. Oh trust me it is.)

Then another hour of Danxercise which, after Battle Beat, was like a walk in the park. A very fun walk though. One hour where I get to do all the silly moves, shake my head, shake my [insert body part of choice], and just laugh and not worry about how ridiculous I look. Because everyone is doing the same. It’s a great stress relief.

Well, actually, both classes are great for relieving stress. Battle Beat has you concentrating so hard on your body movements you invariably end up not thinking about whatever it is that’s stressing you out in the first place. And Danxercise just makes you feel silly and happy, sometimes enough to make your stress and worries disappear.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. I actually use my Danxercise class as my stress gauge. If I feel better during (and after) the class, my stress level is in the green zone. If I feel better at various points during (but not after) the class, my stress level has gone into yellow zone. And when I do not enjoy the class at all is when alarm bells start ringing in my head: code red, code red.

That’s what happened last week actually. I was so stressed I couldn’t enjoy the dance. And realising how stressed I was in this particular instance just made me even more stressed: the vicious cycle of self-fulfilling stress! Ha.

As you can see through my cheery tone, though, this week I had the most amazing fun in my dance class. Stress level back to normal.

Now are you curious to know why I was so stressed and why I no longer am? No? OK.

Oh I’m being ridiculous aren’t I. I’m obviously still in my silly, happy mode.

Which is good. Very good.

Maybe I tell you more about why this is later.

I’m sure you feel sufficiently bombarded by unwanted information about my day by now.

Until tomorrow,

Val

p.s. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Did I tell you a pigeon pooed on me during my run this morning? Yes. That totally happened. I just shook the excrement off my arm and kept running. Such a dedicate (and totally gross) runner.

p.p.s. Yes, I scrubbed my arm really, really clean afterwards. You can feel less disgusted now.

16 March 2014

I made a discovery yesterday: my hair is changing colours.

I’m serious. My hair is changing colours.

I’ve seen this happen before to someone else. They have light brown hair that turns a dark shade of blond in the Summer, literally bleached by the sun. But this is the first time I’m noticing the change on myself. My hair is turning a lighter shade of black.

Wait, I’m not sure that’s possible. Are there different shades of black? Black just fades into different shades of dark grey, brown, purple, blue, etc., doesn’t it? Hmm. OK. Let’s assume there is only one shade of black. So then my hair is turning from a shade of brown so dark that it appears black into a lighter shade of brown that makes it look reddish brown in artificial light. Does that make sense to you? It does to me.

I was in the dressing room at the gym when I noticed it. And I was well and truly excited. I’ve always wanted to have brown hair. So much so that I might have considered dying my hair brown at one point, though that thought would never have been seriously entertained, given how frizzy my hair already is naturally.

It is a pain having frizzy hair. I can never let it down in a humid place if I don’t have it blown dry professionally. So I end up with a perpetual ponytail, or a deformed bunny tail at the back of my head. Note to self: learn how to make my hair into grown-up buns. I look young enough without the ponytail as it is.

So yes, I was in the dressing room, combing my hair, when I realised that it was gleaming red in the light. And that made my day. It’s not that I was having a really bad or an uneventful day, I’m just really weird. Noticing my hair change colour makes me very happy. I wonder if it’s the tropical sun. It must be. I’ve never seen a comparable change happen to me in London.

Somehow I’ve ended up writing an entire post about my changing hair colour. Ah well, maybe this daily blog won’t be so difficult as I thought it would be after all.

Until next time,

… well, tomorrow,

Val