Productivity

Too Busy? How to De-stress and Achieve More

via GIPHY

 

Exams can be stressful – in fact, we need a bit of stress to help us perform to the best of our abilities.

 

But, attempts to be the best at everything we do, can lead to more stress than is good for us.

We think we are bound to achieve more if we can only do more – cram more and more into our schedules, juggle work and study, learn a new language – and the list goes on…

While this can work a some of the time, and we proudly boast to our friends that we are ‘just so busy’; in actual fact we are overdoing it and forgetting to find time for those things that we need to help us de-stress and achieve more.

 

Here are a couple of things to remember to help you find that balance:

 

You can’t do everything all at once

Trying to achieve a lot with the time you have is good. But if you think about it, multitasking means you can’t give your whole focus to one thing, so everything ends up below the high standard you’re aiming for.

Just focusing on one thing at a time however, can make best use of your time and allow you to do that one thing really well.

We can’t all spin plates like this guy, you know.

 

 

 

Give yourself time to unwind

Your body and brain need to recharge so they can work at their best. It is a simple thing, but we can all forget it and find ourselves slumped over our keyboard/books in the small hours of the morning. It’s better to get decent rest.

That doesn’t mean that every second of the day should be non-stop action either. Just as our bodies couldn’t run from morning til night without a break, our brains need moments throughout the day to wonder off and daydream.

Doing this means when we want to (like exams), we can sharper our focus and attention.

 

How to Get a Part-time Job as an International Student (Part 2)

choices

Image courtesy of Caleb Roenigk/Flickr

 

In the previous part, we spoke of four key skills (communication, customer service, time management, and numeracy) that could increase your chances of finding a part-time job in an English-speaking country.

 

Here are four more such skills that make you productive at work:

 

  1. Cultural awareness

In today’s business environment, it is common for an individual to work alongside people from different cultures. And where there are differences, people need to adapt. After all, a person’s culture influences their communication style and behaviour, so not being culturally sensitive can lead to problems. What is considered appropriate in one culture – for instance, regular eye contact during a conversation – may be thought of as rude in another.

 

  1. Working under pressure

Work and pressure go hand in hand; clearly, the way you handle pressure may decide just how well you perform a particular role. Do you, for example, panic if a long queue builds up in front of you? Or do you just remain calm, smile at customers, and continue working? The ability to perform effectively under pressure is priceless in certain jobs, especially customer-facing roles.

 

  1. IT skills

Given that most workplaces are computerised these days, the ability to use IT systems a prerequisite for most jobs, full- or part-time. If you are good at using computer software and internet-based tools, make sure it features prominently on your CV.

 

  1. Commercial awareness

This means an interest in the wider environment (customers, competitors, suppliers, etc.) in which a company operates. If you have commercial awareness, then you are in a way exhibiting your knowledge of a particular industry and the issues it’s facing.

 

Remember, companies nowadays weigh up applicants by looking for examples of these skills, so the more skills you have, the better your chances are of getting hired!

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

alongside
Form : preposition
Meaning : together with someone, in the same place
Example : During the war, some brave women fought alongside soldiers.

 

adapt
Form : verb
Meaning : to change your behaviour so that it suits a new situation or environment
Example : People sometimes have to adapt a lot after marriage.

 

hand in hand
Form : phrase
Meaning : if two things go hand in hand, they are closely connected
Example : Alcoholism and poor health go hand in hand.

 

panic
Form : verb
Meaning : to be unable to think clearly because you are frightened
Example : Molly panicked when she saw smoke coming out of the washing machine.

 

prerequisite
Form : noun
Meaning : something that must happen or exist before something else
Example : Practice is a prerequisite to successful learning of any language.

 

 

 

 

weight someone up
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to form an opinion of someone, especially by watching or speaking to them
Example : The security guard weighed me up as I walked into the lobby.

 

Back to School: 5 Tips to Kick-Start Your University Life

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Before you start university, especially if you’re in a foreign country, things can be quite daunting.

Here are five ways to make sure you start off on the right foot…

 

  1. Get organised

This is an obvious one, but it can be easy to overlook. From making sure you know when and where your lectures are, to what time the library is open, it is rule number one to be organised. Student life is so much easier when you have it together.

 

2. Read ahead

Falling behind on the required reading for your studies is a no-no. You won’t be able to engage in the topics properly, and your grades will suffer as a result. The great thing about reading ahead is that you can have longer to think. Mastering complex problems or concepts early on can give you time to be creative and come up with something original!

 

3. Get to know your classmates

Of course, you should get to know as many people as possible during your time at university! If English is not your first language, then this can especially beneficial to you and how valuable your time there will be. Classmates can also be good allies when it comes to exam time as you can help each other in study groups or simply discussing the course itself.

 

4. Budget

Running out of money can throw everything else off-track. The added stress of worrying about bills or where your lunch is coming from will affect your health and your work. Budgeting everything from your travels costs and books, to that occasional(!) night out will make sure you’re happier and can concentrate on what you’re there for – learning!

 

5. Get everything you can from your University

Beyond the classroom there are a host of other societies, clubs, events and academic support that universities offer to students, that can give a challenge or take some of the stress off. Take these opportunities – they’re there for you! And try your hand at something new, you could discover you have a hidden talent or passion…

 

3 Top Tips to Survive Exam Stress

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‘the strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown’

Have you ever been so stressed about an exam, that it stopped you from giving your best?

It’s a common trap and one that is easily fallen into. Often, the more you want something, the more weight you put on your own shoulders to accomplish it. You then risk burning out: losing sleep, skipping meals, and running yourself into the ground. And whilst a little bit of stress is good to keep you focussed and alert, what steps can you take to keep it under control? Here are three…

 

  1. Sleep well.

“Sleep is not a luxury,” says Dr. James O’Brien, medical director of the Boston SleepCare Center in Massachusetts, USA. “It’s a necessity for optimal functioning.”

It’s maybe tempting to burn the candle at both ends to fit in extra studying, but that could be eating into your chances of performing well.

Sleeping allows the brain to recharge and reset for the day ahead. Without it, your memory, mood and ability to concentrate will be severely hampered. So get plenty of rest.

Tip: 7-9 hours a night is just right.

 

  1. Keep it real.

For some exams, there is a real need to revise certain facts, dates, equations etc, so you need to learn these by heart. For IELTS, your knowledge is not being tested, only your ability to speak, write, listen and read in English. It’s a test of your English for the real world.

So, your study should be about widening that ability as best as possible. Yes, it’s important to know how to form past and future tenses etc., but this is best learnt through using real language. Knowing that you’ve studied in an effective way will give you more confidence and reduce your stress.

Tip: Read the newspaper every day and practice writing summarising the articles you read or start a conversation with a friend on that topic.

 

  1. Practice, practice, practice

The gothic horror novelist H.P Lovecraft wrote that ‘the strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown’ – and he should know!

This definitely comes into play when we’re faced with a test or exam. ‘Not knowing’ what the test will be like or how the exam is structured can leave us stressed out.

So, the simplest way to overcome this is to get hold of practice test papers and familiarise yourself with the test itself.

If you’re thinking about taking the IELTS test you can find lots of free resources and practice papers here.

 

Tip: Try recreating test conditions by timing yourself as you sit a practice test.

 

GLOSSARY

 

Running oneself into the ground
Form : phrase
Meaning : to make yourself very tired by working too much

 

optimal
Form : adjective
Meaning : Best or most favourable

 

burn the candle at both ends
Form : phrase
Meaning : The go to bed late and get up early.

 

Eating into something
Form : phrase
Meaning : To use or take away a large part of something valuable (eg, money or time).
Example : The high cost of living in London is eating into my savings

 

 

hamper
Form : verb
Meaning : to stop something happening easily
Example : Ankle injuries severely hampered Usain’s sprinting career.

 

 

 

Come into play
Form : phrase
Meaning : Becoming active or effective
Example : Conditions for workers will change once the new labour law comes into play

 

 

 

Clever Reading Skills to Improve your English (Part 1)

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Nowadays information can be taken in through an ever-increasing variety of media: newspapers, magazines, hoardings, flyers, blogs, phone messages, web chat, online posts, dictionaries, brochures, and so on. And the end result? Most of us are forced to deal with an endless stream of content in our daily lives, in both electronic and print form. However, the way we read these texts differs.

 

For starters, why we read is not always the same. Sometimes we read to gain information, at other times we do so for sheer pleasure. Understandably, WHY we read something influences HOW we read it. Another factor worth considering is writing style: the tone of a novel is quite different to that of a research paper, which means we change our reading style depending on what we are reading.

 

In an exam situation – for example, the IELTS Reading test – it is important that candidates use various sub-skills to read different texts efficiently.

 

Skimming

When we skim, we read a text very quickly to form an overall idea of the content. In other words, we move our eyes rapidly over the text to get an overview of it. While skimming, the reader:

  • reads just content words ‒ nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs, which generally give us the most important information in a passage.
  • takes a quick look at the heading and subheadings to understand how they are connected.
  • does not stop to ponder over the meaning of individual words or phrases.

 

So how easy or difficult is this technique? It may not seem all that simple at the beginning, but learners get better at using this skill with practice. Of course, once you master skimming, you may be able to go through about 700 to 1000 words per minute and obtain an overview of it all.

 

And that’s exactly the kind of ability that will help you perform better in a reading test.

Look out for Part 2 for more tips and skills to help improve your reading.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

for starters
Form : phrase
Meaning : to highlight the first in a list of reasons
Example : We are facing many problems – for starters, we don’t have enough staff.

 

sheer
Form : adjective
Meaning : complete or total
Example : Watching their daughter take her first few steps was sheer joy for Mathew and Lisa.

 

rapidly
Form : adverb
Meaning : very quickly
Example : Crime figures in some parts of the world are increasing rapidly.

 

overview
Form : noun
Meaning : an outline of something
Example : Our research provides an overview of the challenges faced by today’s youth.

 

 

ponder (over something)
Form : verb
Meaning : to carefully think about something
Example : Minnie spent hours pondering over her father’s comments about her career.

 

master
Form : verb
Meaning : to learn how to do something extremely well
Example : He still hasn’t mastered the skill of passing the ball to his teammates accurately.

 

 

 

The View From Campus: Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

 

In the third edition of our View From Campus series, we look at five tips international students should follow when preparing for their studies in the U.S.

We spoke to Adina Lav, Assistant Provost for International Enrollment at George Washington University, about her college and the advice she gives new arrivals…

 

  • Describe your institution in five words? Innovative; diverse; ambitious; socially responsible.
  • What is your institution best known for overseas? We are a university with students and faculty members from every state and more than 130 countries. A GW education integrates intellectual discovery, interactive learning and unparalleled access to opportunities in every sector of society. In a city shaping the future, George Washington is a university where faculty and students not only study the world but also work to change it.
  • What are your top academic programs? GW is well known for its majors and research in political science and international affairs. We also have excellent programs in business, engineering, arts and the sciences.
  • What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution? GW has 26,000 students, with nearly 2,400 students from 130 countries, 300 visiting international scholars, and a footprint in more than 80 percent of the countries in the world.  In Fall 2015, China, India, S. Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada were the top five countries represented in our student body. 
  • How does your institution use an IELTS result in the admissions process? IELTS is used as an assessment of English language ability: writing, reading, speaking, and listening – in the admissions process. We use it as part of a larger, holistic review to understand a candidate’s chances of success and best fit for GW. 

 

Five Things to do Before Your Arrival in the U.S.

  1. Once students have got their visas to enter the U.S., what is the most important thing you recommend students do next? Students should focus on their arrival timeline. Most universities have a ‘report date’, which is the date by which the student must be on campus. This date may or may not align with the student’s orientation program. If housing is available, I recommend that students plan to arrive no later than two days prior to their orientation program. This gives them time to get into the country, settle in, and fight any impending jet lag before orientation starts.
  2. How soon can students enter the U.S. once they have their visas? Students entering the United States on F1 or J1 visas can typically do so up to 30 days prior to their report date. Students entering early should confirm housing availability or have a temporary, alternative option set up.
  3. Would you recommend any resources in the students’ home countries to help them prepare for their journey to the U.S.? One of the best resources is the US. Department of State’s EducationUSA advising centres in the student’s country. These centres often have in-person or online pre-departure orientations, which offer a wealth of information to students before the leave for the U.S.
  4. How do U.S. colleges assist international students to prepare for their arrival on campus? In addition to assistance throughout the visa process, colleges typically offer their own pre-departure orientations, checklists, and resource guides. Social media is also a wonderful tool to not only get to know the school and community you’re moving to, but to meet other in-coming students as well. Many schools also offer summer send-off celebrations for students and parents through local alumni chapters.
  5. What advice would you give students who are about to get on a plane to the U.S. to begin a degree program? Come into the country with an open mind and a sense of humour. Americans are naturally curious and straight-forward. Be a good ambassador for your community and remember that the U.S. is a very diverse country, with lots of ideas about the outside world, but generally little exposure. Students have the opportunity to represent themselves, their home communities, and eventually their new universities well.

Top Tips to Improve Your IELTS Speaking Score (Part 2)

In the previous part, we spoke of how it is best to avoid memorised answers in the IELTS Speaking test. Here’s another way to be yourself during the interview.

State YOUR opinion, not the examiner’s

 

Bad example

Examiner: Let’s now talk about the role of advertising. Do you think advertising influences what people buy?
Candidate: Hmm… No, I don’t think so!
Examiner: Well, how do we then explain companies spending billions on advertisements?
Candidate: Oh, OK; I guess advertisements do influence people in some ways. Sorry!

 

The Speaking module has three parts:

  1. Introduction and interview (4 – 5 minutes)
  2. Individual long turn (3 – 4 minutes)
  3. Two-way discussion (4 – 5 minutes)

 

The third part gives candidates an opportunity to state their views on abstract topics and justify them. Sadly, some candidates don’t express how they really feel about a topic; instead they agree with whatever the examiner says the whole time!

 

As a candidate, you are assessed on your language, not your ideas or views. All the examiner wants to know is how wide your range of language is, so focus on exhibiting that. If your opinions are different to those of the examiner, feel free to disagree with him/her. Be confident and speak your mind.

 

Good example

Examiner: Let’s now talk about the role of advertising. Do you think advertising influences what people buy?
Candidate: No, I don’t think so!
Examiner: Well, how do we explain companies spending so much money on advertisements?
Candidate: In a highly competitive market, it becomes necessary for companies to promote their products and services. Advertising helps them reach out to billions of people. How else would people notice a particular product or come to know of its existence? But the question here is whether it influences consumer behaviour. Now, I strongly believe that there isn’t enough evidence to ….

 

Remember, always be frank and express your thoughts; do not change your opinion to mirror that of the examiner – just be yourself!

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

be yourself
Form : phrase
Meaning : behave or act naturally
Example : Why do you put on an accent, Tom? Have the confidence to be yourself!

 

abstract
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something based on general ideas, not anything in particular
Example : They spoke about love in abstract terms – for example, is it valued in today’s world?

 

justify
Form : verb
Meaning : to show that something is right, especially when others think it is wrong
Example : It’s difficult to justify paying huge salaries when the company is making a loss.

 

 

 

 

 

exhibit
Form : verb
Meaning : to show something such as a quality or skill
Example : He exhibited his skills during the football match.

 

speak your mind
Form : phrase
Meaning : to honestly say what you think, usually in a direct way
Example : Clara always speaks her mind, which sometimes gets her into trouble. 

 

frank
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes someone who is honest about their opinions
Example : Dan was completely frank about the problems he was facing in his marriage.

 

mirror
Form : verb
Meaning : to match the feelings of someone
Example : He always makes sure his views on office matters mirror those of his boss.

 

 

10 Tips for Applying for a Student Visa in the US

Good news! Over the last five years, the global average of students being approved for a U.S. student visa (F-1) has been over 80%, reaching 86% in the most recent statistics for 2013. So, with the right preparation, honest answers, and appropriate documentation you can give yourself an excellent chance of being granted a student visa.

 

Here’s our top ten countdown on how to do it…

 

10. Get your I-20

Make sure you have received the I-20 & admission letter from the college/university you plan to attend. You may have been accepted and received I-20s from more than one school. We recommend that you make a decision as to which institution you will attend before starting the visa process.

 

9. Check your passport

  • Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after your initial planned entry into the U.S.
  • Is your name spelled the same (and in the same order) as is listed on your passport? It has to be!

 

8. Pay your SEVIS fee

Students can pay this fee online. You will need an e-receipt for next steps in the process.

 

7. Complete the Visa Application Form online DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application).

You will need most of the following items to complete this form:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS ID (from your I-20 form)
  • Address of the college you will attend (usually on the I-20)
  • Travel itinerary to the U.S. if you have made arrangements already
  • Admission letter from the college you will attend
  • Proof of funding – bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.
  • Dates of your last 5 visits to the United States (if any)

After completion the online DS-160 application, print off the DS-160 Bar Code page. You will not need to print the entire application.

 

6. Plan ahead 

You can schedule your visa appointment up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on your I-20 (when your new school requires you to be on campus). In some countries there may be a substantial wait time to get an appointment, and, more importantly, to process your application. The good news is that student visa applicants are given priority.

 

5. Schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy/consulate nearest you.

Using this site you’ll learn whether you can make your appointment online or by telephone. You will also need to pay the visa application fee (approximately $160, price varies slightly per country).

 

4. Attend a Visa Session at an EducationUSA Advising Center in your country.

EducationUSA works closely with the U.S. consular officers that conduct the visa interviews. At these sessions they will make it clear what they are expecting from successful student visa applicants, and the kind of questions they will ask.

 

3. Enjoy the experience

A couple years ago our friends at the U.S. Embassy in London put together a great video to help ease your fears, Mission: Possible – Get Your U.S. Student Visa.

 

2. Talk to your friends

Are any of your former classmates studying in the U.S. now? Ask their advice about their interview experiences and ask for their recommendations. You can also check out how successful students help demystify the student visa process.

 

1. Breathe, relax, and be honest

You have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to get to this visa interview. Try not to be too nervous. You are almost there. Answer the visa officer’s questions honestly. Why did you pick the particular college you want to attend? How are you funding your studies? What are your plans after you finish your studies? It’s always a good idea to know how you might respond to these questions beforehand. 

 

Finally, good luck as you take this important next step!

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