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We all have heroes when we're younger, and I'm no exception. But there was a subtle difference with my hero - she couldn't fly, she couldn't melt things with laser vision. Her superpower was kept in her head, and later in a notebook from Wilkinson's.

Her name was Jaqueline Wilson.

Meeting one's hero is a slightly dodgy moment - so many times they could be a total letdown, grumpier than you thought they'd be, or just not as charismatic. Thankfully, last Wednesday when I actually MET JAQUELINE WILSON!!! It wasn't a let down at all. It was pretty brilliant actually.

She came to Kingston to talk to us on behalf of the Kingston Writing School, about what it's like being a children's author. Not just any children's author I hasten to add, but THE children's author. She's currently editing her 100th book, and spent several years as Britain's Children's Laureate. Her books defined my generation in the same way as Harry Potter did - and characters like Tracy Beaker, Andie, Ellie, the Twins from 'Double Act' and Elsa, The Bed & Breakfast Star, were my constant companions through a decidedly awkward childhood that I'm not quite sure I've grown out of...

It was an honour to meet her in the flesh, and as well as telling us all about how to become the next big thing in Children's Literature, she also shared some wonderful anecdotes from her own life that translates into excellent advice for anyone, especially someone who is about to make a big decision like whether or not to go to university; advice which I'm going to share with you lot now, because I'm nice like that.

 1. She took up writing because of an influential English teacher, much the same reason I chose to pursue a degree in English Lit and Drama.

So advice the first: study something you love. Don't listen to anyone who tries to convince you to study something that will get you into a high paying job that you loathe. If you like photography, study photography. You'll regret paying uni fees a lot less if you're loving every minute of what you're studying.

2. Whilst in her late teens she was offered the chance to move to Scotland to work as a journalist, something she described as 'utterly terrifying' because she was moving to the other end of the country, to a city where she knew no one. Her mother made her stay in a catholic girls' hostel, so she knew her daughter wouldnt be getting into any mischief.

This brings me to advice the second: take risks. Don't be scared of leaving your comfort zone on a quest for something better - it may be the best decision you ever make! When I moved down to London three years ago I was nineteen years old, I'd lived in the same house all my life and I went to the same school and sixth form with the same group of friends. I made a massive leap of faith leaving County Durham but I've never looked back, and even now I'm getting ready to graduate I have no plans to leave. 

3. Finally, she got paid three pounds for the first piece of work she ever had published. It may not sound like much, but she maintains to this day that no money she's earned  has ever meant so much to her as that first three pounds.

So lastly, advice the third: Learn to appreciate the little things.

As a student you're going to be very poor - there is no escaping it. But having no money does not equal having no fun. London is possibly the most expensive place to live in England but there's still a ridiculous amount of free things to do - museums, parks, concerts. Even drinking cheap wine on the riverside with some good friends and a disposable camera. 

It was an utterly amazing experience hearing Jaqueline talk and it's moments like last Wednesday that make me ridiculously grateful for all of the things being at Kingston has given me.

So if you're on the cusp of deciding which university you pledge your soul to for the next three years -or even if you want to pledge your soul to anyone at all - don't just think of the course, think of everything else that goes along with it. The location, the clubs, the nightlife and the people are all factors worth considering because you want to choose somewhere you'll be happy.

I did, and I truly truly am. 

(Follow @SkintLondon on twitter to keep up to date on the best free and cheap outings about town.)

 

Monday - 28 April

Our free University bus came back today after the Easter break. At Kingston we have a free bus that takes you from campus to campus. I got this bus nearly every day to uni. It's also a real help when I'm going up to Kingston Hill or when I need to nip into town. One tip though; pick up a timetable or get the university app on your phone so that you know when the next bus is due.

The University bus timetable

Tuesday - 29 April

One of my best friends is from the USA, he came back yesterday but today I finally got to see him! He also brought back treats from himself and his girlfriend. I'm hoping to book a flight and head to the US next summer to experience more of America.

Goodies from America

Wednesday - 30 April

Skyping with my dog! As you do on a normal evening. I'm getting quite excited about heading back home for a month and spending time with my dog. Skype is great if you're feeling homesick and want more than just a phone call.

Skyping my dog!

Thursday - 1 May

Back to band practice, where I belong! After not being around the guys all I wanted to do was sing, write and practice. We have a lot to get done within a month and spent hours practicing today. My lyrics book was as handy as ever and there's a possibility that some new ideas came out of it...watch this space!

Friday - 2 May

I didn't feel too well today so I spent this evening cuddled up with Lenny Lobster (a present from my boyfriend) and a good book.

Songwriting bookLenny the Lobster

Saturday - 3 May

Taking a walk along Surbiton, formally Victoria Road, but it is basically the 'High Street' in the sunshine. Seething Wells and Clayhill Halls of Residence are located close to Surbiton 'High Street', it's where most of us do our weekly shop. Personally, I prefer popping into all the charity shops and finding some amazing deals!

Surbiton, Victoria Road

Sunday - 4 May

I chose to walk along the river to get into Kingston today instead of taking the bus. The riverside looked absolutely stunning and it was busy this evening as well.

The stunning riverside walk from Surbiton to Kingston

Binding & Unwinding

Posted 4 May 2014 by Gemma

 

It's getting to the end of term now, which means that deadlines are soon approaching! As you'll know if you've read any of my previous blogs I have been in the process of writing my dissertation for the past few months, and collecting my data to prepare for the hand in date! I've been working hard on the project, which has meant putting in a lot of hours, meetings with tutors and library sessions, and the deadline has now approached and the project is due in on Wednesday! Thankfully, I have finished and bound my project so I'm ready to hand it in on the morning and wave goodbye to my work - which will be weird as it's become like a friend to me as I've spent so much time on it!Gemma's Dissertation

Regardless of what you're studying, I'm sure that you'll write, or will be writing essays and conducting projects for your course! Here are a few of my tips to make sure that you get the most out of uni, your essays and your course as a whole!

Firstly, always choose an essay that interests you - most of the time your lecturers will give you a choice of questions, and I have in the past chosen the essay that I thought would be the easiest to write, and have then got half way through and realised that I hated the topic and was bored to death by it, so don't learn the hard way like I did and always choose the question that you think you will like to read around the most.

Speaking of reading, that's my second essay tip - read around your topics widely. I find that tutors always encourage you to read whole articles or pieces of work, but I find that reading the abstract really helps first, as you can determine whether you think the article is going to be interesting and whether you are going to get anything out of it.

Another tip is to try to get to know your tutors, some people might say it's sucking up - but at the end of the day they're the ones marking your essays, and they're the ones who have a mass of knowledge about your degree, and you can learn a lot from them! Depending on what subject you study, you might even be able to do some work with them on their projects - I do psychology and in my first year I got to work on a project with one of my tutors and help her collect data for a research paper that she was writing!

I wish you guys all the best of luck with your essays and exams, and if any of you lovely lot have any exam tips for me then please drop me a line!

Take care guys!

Gemma

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