When I started in my first year as an undergraduate History student we were frequently told by lecturers to make use of the Academic Skills Centre. To be honest many of us were not too keen initially to seek help there. Of course we didn't think we knew everything - far from it, but you kind of think you know enough to be able to write an essay. It's only after you've had one or two assignments returned that you recognise that perhaps you do need some additional guidance. One of the main reasons why I never initially rushed to visit this centre was because it was located on the 7th Floor of the Tower Block Penrhyn Road (for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and I have never liked using lifts since I got stuck in one once, an experience I have little desire to repeat. However, it soon dawned on me that I had no idea how to put an essay together; at work I had written reports, but this was totally different, and essays written at school were such a long time ago. I had totally lost the plot as to how to compose one, so really had little choice but to go and seek some help.
Despite the climb to the 7th floor (exercise that certainly helped reduce my weight!) it was a truly worthwhile experience. It wasn't just a morale boost to a mature student, one who was already feeling overwhelmed by being at University and seriously contemplating during the first semester of giving it all up (I was full-time), thinking that perhaps I wasn't clever enough to be here. Our timetables were full on and being a mother meant that school pick-up couldn't be put on hold for my youngest child. The help with understanding how to do an academic essay was constructive and allowed me to approach my assignments in the correct way. This laid the foundation for future assignments, some of which turned out better than others, though one or two were absolute rubbish! I still can't tell a good piece of work from something that is below par, and am always amazed when I get a better grade for an assignment that I have really struggled with compared with one where I have a firmer grasp of the topic!
I was given help in the Academic Skills Centre by students of higher years who not only knew what was required academically but also appreciated the physical and emotional stresses I was going through. They showed me how to brainstorm a topic, how to structure and draft arguments and essays, how to evidence work and where to find further information within the LRC and elsewhere. They directed me to available PCs when I couldn't find one (though after a while I found it easier to take my netbook in and hook it up to the network). Most importantly, they gave me the confidence that I would be able to complete my essays and my assignments and obtain a hard-earned degree at the end of it.
Being lucky enough to have a couple of friends on Erasmus programmes this year, I got to have another great weekend away in Madrid! Although the trip was really short (I had to be back for my 9am lecture on the Monday) we were able to cram in as much sight-seeing and partying as possible. The fact that I probably only got 8 hours sleep the whole weekend didn't really seem to matter that much when we had such a fun time in a beautiful city.
My highlights of the trip were getting to finally see some winter sun, the visit to the Royal Palace and wondering around the Plaza Mayor (the main square of Madrid). There were also some amazing markets where I got such good jewellery bargains and of course I had to get that Real Madrid football shirt! The chance to use some of the Spanish I had learnt last year at uni was also good (although I was relieved to have my fluent Spanish speaking friend there to help me out).
One thing I would definitely recommend is trying the famous Spanish pastry Churros...so delicious! If you're brave enough and a good cook, try the recipe below. I'm going to be trying it sometime soon too. Hope you enjoy it!
For the churros
• 90 gram(s) caster sugar
• 1 tablespoon(s) Ground cinnamon
• 125 gram(s) Plain flour
• 125 gram(s) Self raising flour
• 1 pinch of sea salt
• 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
• 1 litre(s) sunflower oil (for frying)
For the chocolate sauce
• 200 gram(s) dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
• 50 gram(s) Milk chocolate (roughly chopped)
• 2 tablespoon(s) golden syrup
• 300 ml double cream
1. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.
2. Make the chocolate sauce. Put all the chocolate in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the golden syrup and cream and heat over a low heat, stirring continuously, to melt the chocolate, being careful not to let it burn. Alternatively, heat with short bursts in the microwave, stirring between each burst.
3. Sift the flours with a good pinch of salt into a metal or heatproof bowl and make a well in the centre.
4. In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil and 450ml boiling water together, and pour into the well, beating it well with a fork to get rid of any lumps. The dough should be slightly soft and sticky to touch. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
5. Fill a large, heavy bottomed saucepan with the sunflower oil - it should be about one-third full. Heat the oil to 170C or until a small piece of bread browns in less than 30 seconds.
6. Add the dough to a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle and squeeze out churros directly into the hot oil, cutting them with a pair of scissors into the length you want. Be careful not to cook more than three at any one time, or they will all stick together. Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes until crispy and golden. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Reheat the chocolate sauce and pour into little cups for dipping with the churros.
Posted 21 Mar 2013 by Jane
I am very proud to be a member of the Compact scheme here at Kingston. The Compact scheme works with Care Leavers, mature students, students with a household income of less than £45,000 and students who are the first generation in their family to attend University.
I am a mature student (I am 26) and I felt completely overwhelmed when I started the foundation year in 2011. I didn't actually know about the Compact scheme until I became a Student Ambassador and now I'm very glad it exists as the support I have had has been amazing.
I have had the pleasure of working on the Compact Scheme as well - I was involved with Head Start and Fast Forward (two pre-University events for new starters) in 2012 and I also helped to write this year's Compact Guide for new students. Being involved in both sides of the Compact Scheme has made me realise how wonderful the scheme truly is and how much support it can offer to the students who are a part of it. I wish I'd researched it earlier as the support I would have received before starting in 2011 would have really helped banish some of my nerves about returning to study, and I hope that I, in turn, have helped ease other mature students' nerves!
This week I have also supported a friend through a dyslexia test with the University. It's taken her some time to sort herself out but I'm so glad that she's now finally getting the help and support she needs. I supported another friend last year and she received weekly mentoring to help her prioritise her studying. It really sounds like a fantastic service, and one I wouldn't have known about if my friend hadn't needed it. My advice however, is to use the service as soon as you know you need it. Don't wait, as my friend didn't receive any extra support for her first group of exams and has consequently had problems. She is (thankfully) doing a lot better now and her grades have gotten a lot better.
More information about the Compact Scheme is available at: http://www.kingston.ac.uk/schools-and-colleges/compact-scheme/ and more information about Kingston's Dyslexia Service is available at: http://www.kingston.ac.uk/undergraduate/why-choose-kingston-university/student-support/disability-and-dyslexia/