Getting yourself organized at uni

I somehow miraculously managed to pull through my entire first year by solely keeping events of the day and week in my head, and setting the occasional reminder or alarm.

Now that I’ve started my second year, it would be joking if I told you I could survive using the same tactic.

Enter the ultimate tool *drumroll*: Google Calendar. Seriously, this is a gem of an app. Don’t wait until your second year to use this – star using it as early as you can to get yourself organised smoothly.

Basically, Google Calendars is a daily/weekly/monthly planner. All you need is a google account and a smartphone. You can set up events and reminders for your entire year as you please. Seeing it on an interactive interface will easily let you know when you’re free and will prevent you from being double-booked.

The best part is you can export your class timetable to Google Calendars, and BAM! You have your whole day on your phone, literally. It will show you your class name, time and location from the information on your QUT virtual Calendar. How awesome is that?!

You can export your class schedule as an iCal file and import it online (on a laptop or desktop, not a mobile phone) and then you’re all set to go. It will alert you on your mobile app before you’re due at an event.

You can think of it as a central scheduler for your day – your work shifts, meetings, classes and other commitments all in one spot that you can see on the go. You can set up customised alerts to remind you of your events.

This is handy tip which I would have benefitted from knowing sooner. So there you go!

My trip to Gold Coast

After a year of hearing about the infamous Gold Coast and its beaches and absolutely dying to go there, I finally made it!

What nobody told me about Gold Coast was that, in fact, it is not one long stretch of … a coast. TheGC has many beaches and you have to choose which beach you want to visit. So yeah… there’s a little fun fact for you – that Gold Coast is not in fact one long beach.

By far, the most famous of GC’s beaches would be Surfer’s Paradise. So I went there first.

Undoubtedly, it was rather crowded on a Sunday. So I hopped on the G Link tram service and moved South to Broadbeach. It was only slightly less crowded than Surfer’s paradise but there was more shade to camp under, so I decided to stay there.

Broadbeach is lined with a market on Sunday afternoon so you easily get cheap food, fresh juice and little trinkets there.

Getting to GC via train and bus took me a total of just over $10 only for a round trip, which is really cheap. Alternatively, if you’re not comfortable going there via public transport yet, there are guided tours hosted by QUT ISS (International Student Services) for around $50 for a round trip. It’s a really good place to start looking if you want to start seeing more of Queensland’s beaches and wildlife spots. ISS will give you a detailed itinerary of your trip so you’ll be able to judge if the price you pay is worth it. A definite plus side is you won’t have to go alone as it will be a big group.

My advice is you pack and bring your own food and drinks if you’re short on money, rather than rely on the shops around the beach and they can get quite pricey.

Don’t forget to take a towel, sunglasses, your bathing suit, a large beach mat or blanket to spread and sit on, and HEAPS OF SUNSCREEN. I applied sunscreen religiously and yet suffered from a vicious sunburn. Use SPF 50+ always and stay hydrated. If your phone drains battery make sure you bring along a portable charger. Bring a nice book to read on the beach as you chill with your coke and chips.

 

 

Research Internships for Science Undergraduates

It’s almost a rite of passage for the current day for undergraduate students to do a summer internship for at least their last two years of study.

As international students we may have the slight disadvantage of not having any connections in the industry for us to land an internship – we often require more effort and time compared to that required by a domestic student.

However, QUT has in place a Vacation Research Scheme (VRES) for which all QUT students can apply! You will usually get an email in your second semester giving you more details about the VRES projects available and the supervisors in charge of each project.

The projects are categorised by school so it is easier to find a project that suits your interests and academic field. I come under the School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences, so I skipped over all the other projects to look at the projects listed under this school because they would be more relevant to me.

You are required to choose and nominate three projects that interest you, in order of preference. You must email the supervisors of each of the three projects and meet up with them beforehand. This allows you to show interest in the respective project and to also get to know about the nitty-gritty of the projects. After your chats with them, your order of preference may change. So this needs to be done before you submit the application.

As per usual you need to state why you want to take part in VRES. As places are limited, the entry to this is very competitive. The supervisors have high expectations of the students who do get into VRES, and you get paid for each week of research you do.

In general, it is rather uncommon for a first year to get in, although you’re more than welcome to apply. Most supervisors prefer students from the second year and upwards due to the simple fact that by the end of the second year, you would have more knowledge and experience in the field, so the project would be more beneficial to you. However, a few first year students do get into VRES each year, so don’t let that discourage you from applying.

Read the details early on so that you can organise a time to meet up with the supervisor easily, because they tend to be very busy and often don’t have time to see you on short notice.

Keep in mind, this is just one of many opportunities that will come your way. Check in other places such as Engineers without Borders and CSIRO for other internships that maybe available to you. VRES is really good place to start looking, because it is from QUT itself.

A Book lover’s paradise: Lifeline Bookfest!!

I did not know about the existence of bookfest until it had already started and gone halfway through its scheduled dates for January 2017. I have to thank my lovely friend Ashlee for enlightening me about this. Being the massive bookworm I am, I love nothing more than cheap books. If you happen to share the same endearing quality, then Lifeline Bookfest is your slice of paradise!

Lifeline is an Australian charity that provides crisis support and suicide prevention services to Australians. It plays a pivotal role in supporting the mental wellbeing of people throughout Australia. Thus keep in mind that every purchase you make at bookfest is going towards a worthy cause.

How it works: people from everywhere donate their books (from all kinds of genres, even textbooks), stationery (that is in good condition) and even CDs and DVDs to Lifeline; a bunch of volunteers and lifeline staff congregate and categorise them and sell it at bookfest. All funds generated go towards supporting Lifeline.

That is all the background info in a nutshell. Feel free to do some of your own research. Now to the fun bits and pics.

All the six books above, I got for a total of $9. HOW COOL IS THAT??? I would imagine each of those books to cost a minimum of $15 bucks at a bookstore. You’ve got to admit that it’s a real steal.

My only problem at bookfest was that I wanted to buy half of the books displayed there, which would mean I have to sell my soul. So naturally, I had to limit my spending.

As you can possibly gauge from the above pictures, there’s an almost impossible number of books to navigate through, so if you’re as into books as I am, then be prepared to come in multiple days. Do not fret, as bookfest runs for over a week, so can come in every now and again.

Pro tip: bring a sturdy grocery bag with you. You’ll love yourself a little more if you don’t have to balance 20 books in your hands on a 40-minute bus ride.

Look at that BARGAIN!!!!! *insert heart eye emoji*

The books are divided off into 3 sections: $1 section, $2.50 section and the ‘High-quality books’ section. The ‘High-quality books’ are priced anywhere at and above $4  and this is usually where you would find some useful reference books. Inside each section the books are arranged into tables labelled fiction, hardback, paperback, biographies, rare & collectables, etc. There’s a lot more sections than I can remember, I’m afraid.

After you’re done in each section you have to pay for your books at the checkouts pictured above, where they will put your books in a plastic bag and seal it. Do not break this seal until you’re done with bookfest for the day. This seal helps prevent books from different sections from getting mixed up.

You can always google up Lifeline bookfest for more information. Don’t forget to like their facebook page as this will give you updates on their events.

Bookfest happens twice a year and couldn’t happen without the lovely volunteers or patrons, so feel free to volunteer at the next bookfest.

 

Who is a Deans’ Scholar? How do you become one?

At QUT, Deans’ Scholars is a program that you can get into with outstanding academic achievements and consistent engagement with the university community.

To be considered for entry into this program you must be a first-year student, studying a degree that comes under the Science and Engineering faculty, and be holding one of the following scholarships already:

You must also have a GPA of 6.0 or higher in your first semester, be a member of the College of Excellence and have completed at least 2 LDI units (one core workshop and one non-core workshop). If you meet the above requirements, you will be invited to apply for the program and you will be selected on a competitive entry basis.

To maintain your membership in the program, you will have to continue to have a GPA of 6.0 or highers each semester and be actively involved in the university community.

If you are considering applying to the Deans’ Scholar program, you do need to build a good relationship with at least one of your lecturers or tutors, as you will need a letter of recommendation from one academic staff to complete your application.

There are some advantages to being a Deans Scholar: You get exclusive networking opportunities with university students and staff and industry employers. You have the added benefit of meeting like-minded peers, and you maybe assigned a mentor – a senior Deans’ Scholar from the same degree and major or with similar interests to you.

So work hard in that first semester and try and get into the program. It’s definitely worth it, as it’s a smaller community of like-minded people within our big university and you get an opportunity to meet lots of new people.

Choosing accommodation Part II

As promised in my previous blog post on choosing accommodation, here I am with a follow-up post.

Regardless of how much time and thought we put into choosing our respective abodes, we always end up compromising on something. The trick is to identify your deal-breakers and your perks – feel free to compromise on your perks.

For example, if you would like to be near a supermarket or shopping centre for convenient shopping, but being near public transport is crucial to you, then it’s alright if you settle for a place that has a bus-stop right outside your house, and the bus takes you to a supermarket in 15 minutes.

Consider the size of the room you would like – space is not major factor for me, but I have friends who cannot stand to be in a small room.

Consider natural light – I have visited many student share houses and other accommodation where the rooms are sold at a cheaper price because there is very little sunlight in the room or no sunlight at all! This is a deal breaker for me as I need natural light to function. My previous room had no windows in it and I suffered a lot because of that.

Think about your surroundings if you can afford to – would you like living in an apartment-style accommodation or a house surrounded by a small garden?

Last, but definitely not least, consider the lease terms before you sign the lease. If possible, send it over to an attorney-at-law and get it checked, especially if the jargon is hard to navigate.

Student accommodation agencies vary in flexibility and this is evident in their different lease terms. Carefully read the house rules and any other specifications put in your lease. Some accommodation agencies can be very strict; some do not permit any alcoholic drinks on the premises at any time, have strict rules on visitors and sometimes even on internet usage.

I have had to let go of many places that I liked because their rule on internet usage was that it could only be used for study purposes and not entertainment – everyone loves an occasional movie, right?

I hope you find satisfactory accommodation through your house-hunting ventures! Don’t forget to get in touch with QUT accommodation service for help and advice on accommodation and housing!

Choosing accomodation

Having never been to Australia before, I was not pleased to know QUT did not have on-campus accommodation because it seemed every other university within my knowledge had on-campus housing for students.

However, QUT does have an Accommodation Service that helps you with settling down, and it’s free! So make use of it, because they provide you with reliable information regarding which realty agents to use and help you find a property within your budget. They may also assist you with going on inspection rounds to visit different property until you find something satisfactory.

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On choosing accommodation here’s a few points for consideration:

  • Firstly, set a budget. A reasonable budget for weekly rent would be between $150-$250. A room for less than $150 is rather difficult to find and if you do find one, it’s often not worth the price. Work out your weekly pay, or if your parents are sponsoring you talk to them, and set out an appropriate budget. I’d advise you to have some degree of flexibility over this as it is rare to find a room we like for the exact price we want
  • See as MANY houses as possible before settling on one. There is no rush! Please see lots of property before settling down
  • Consider things other than just your room: what amenities does the weekly rent cover? How long does it take to get to uni? How far is the nearest public transport and how frequently do buses/trains arrive? Where is the nearest supermarket or grocery shop? Is the house in a remote/isolated area?
  • The housemates – who are they and where are they from? Do they speak English? Is it a single-sex or mixed house? How many housemates do you have? Does anyone smoke/drink and are you OK with this?
  • Carefully consider if you need a single/shared room. If your budget is super tight and you need a room for less than $150 a week, you may have better luck finding a shared room. If your budget is not constrained, I would HIGHLY recommend a single room. From personal experience, I implore you to meet your roommate BEFORE you sign the lease and talk to them. Set some ground rules – ask if they have any conditions that you must comply with, set your own conditions. DO NOT MOVE IN BEFORE MEETING YOUR ROOMMATE if it’s a shared room
  • Try and get a 6-month lease, because personalities clash sometimes and breaking the lease is expensive. Your loss will be less if your lease term is shorter.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or talk to someone. If you would like to talk to another international student and chat with them about their accommodation experiences, contact QUT and ask them if they can put you through.

I promise to follow up on another post with more accommodation advice for you guys. Happy house-hunting!

NO FRILLS 2016 Student Leadership Conference

I went along to my first ever No Frills conference this year, which was held on the 27th of August. Much to my dismay this turned out to be a Saturday, but I found myself walking over an empty Goodwill Bridge at 8.30 on a Saturday morning, enjoying my adrenaline rush from 2 cups of black coffee at 7 in the morning.

On my way to the first workshop for the day I happened to bump into the LDI coordinator himself, Jimi Bursaw and exchanged hellos. He promised it would be worth waking up that early on a Saturday morning for this conference, and he wasn’t wrong.

This was smaller than the LDI conference held in the first semester, DRIVE, but it was even better in my humble opinion.

The day started out with an exercise in cultural assimilation, emphasizing why this is a particularly important skill in a multi-cultural country like Australia.

Then we went on to do a couple of workshops on grassroots movements and leadership initiatives, and how to run a student club.

After the general workshops we split into smaller workshops of our choice. I chose one on conflict resolution and getting to know your team better. The beauty of having workshops you can choose from like this is that you can attend one to suit your areas of weakness. I know I run away from confrontation and conflict as fast as a deer being chased by a leopard, and how hard I cringe every time my lecturer mentions group assessments; I instantly knew which two workshops I had to attend.

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The last slide in our first workshop on cultural assimilation/awareness.

The wall of sticky notes from our conflict resolution workshop with Julian. The sticky notes were contributions on how to resolves conflict from everyone in the workshop.

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The final talk for the conference.

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In case you didn’t notice in the pics above, the applications for DRIVE conference next year are open now!! If you LURRVE LDI and want to get involved more, do send in an application!

The thing about LDI is it’s great because it’s practical. We deal with everyday situations which thwart us, and more than anything, it helps all of us recognize the leader in ourselves. This is extremely important for us, as a generation that is just emerging from the norm that traditionally recognized “leaders” as people in positions of power. We still need a lot of work to recognize the less popular, but definite forms of leadership.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? THEN GO TO AN LDI WORKSHOP ASAP!!!!!

Studying Science at QUT

I’m a first year science student at QUT Gardens Point and am planning on majoring in Biology at the moment.

All my friends know me as a sassy, loud mouthed, confident person, but in truth I suffer from anxiety. I’ve been battling anxiety for a couple of years now and sometimes it gets crippling. This usually makes it hard for me to bring myself to attend social events where I know no one or to go to my lecturers or tutors with questions. Naturally I rehearse what I need to say multiple times in my head before I voice it out.

I must happily admit that I have some really amazing lecturers and tutors who try their best to make it easy for s students to talk to them. At every lecture I’ve been to the lecturer does not fail to ask us to please raise our hands if we have questions or to stay after class and ask them questions individually.

For those of us who cannot muster enough courage to do either of those, they also give out their email addresses at our very first lecture and ask us to not hesitate to hit them up with questions. I plead guilty to having used this option more than once to conveniently hide behind my email for the fear of looking silly with my questions. All my lecturers have been very punctual and I get detailed and understanding replies from my lecturers within 24 hours, and I cannot express enough how helpful they are.

Same goes for my tutors. Most of my tutors have been super helpful, funny and patient. They try to help us find our groove in the subject and try to get us to be enthusiastic about it by making little jokes and giving out as much help as they can. Most of my tutors also put their emails up and plead with us to contact them with any questions or suggestions.

Albeit, I can only vouch for only so much of the staff at the uni as a mere first year student but so far my lecturers and tutors have been nothing short of helpful, kind and inspiring.

They are very passionate about what they teach and often go on to teach us something outside the scope of things that need to be covered when they see we have extra time on our hands during lectures or tutes.

If you’re really lucky you’ll get a lecturer with a great sense of humour which will make going to lectures even more fun. 😉 I can personally vouch for this, as I enjoy a good science joke.

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One of our biggest lecture halls

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Main Drive

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My lecturer has a great sense of humour! <3

My Sunshine Coast adventure!

Having left to my home country right as semester 1 ended, I returned to Oz just three days before classes started. Inevitably I had to move into a new house (which I’m still adjusting to, by the way) and unpacking (and packing, frankly) was a nightmare, which I kept pushing away due to my persistent laziness.

Exactly a day after I arrived my new housemates decided to pull me in tow to an impromptu trip up to the Sunshine Coast, nevermind I had barely just arrived two minutes ago. So I reluctantly tagged along.

Funny thing is I’ve been in Australia and Brisbane for a little over 6 months now and had never visited a single one of the wonderful beaches in Queensland, which, when said to an Australian, I deduce is an absolutely atrocious thing to do. So make sure you visit the beautiful, famous beaches in Queensland within weeks, because I assure you, you wont be disappointed!

Sunshine Coast was a real stunner, and to top it off, the temperature was 28 degrees Celsius and there were not many people on the beach. Gold Coast and Noosa are next on my list and I can’t wait to share them with you!

 

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