Too Busy? How to De-stress and Achieve More

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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)

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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.

 

Student Life in London Made Affordable (Part 2)

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In the first part, we looked at ways to spend less while travelling or shopping for food in London. Read on for some further money-saving tips.

 

  1. Take full advantage of your student status

Being an international student in the United Kingdom can be expensive, but it has its own privileges too. Discounts and great deals are to be had just about everywhere. Restaurants, museums, art galleries, cinemas, retailers, banks often have something exclusively for students. So, take advantage of your student status by flashing your identity card as frequently as possible.

 

You may also want to join student discount schemes or clubs such as ISIC or NUS. An ISIC cardholder, for example, could get benefits in over 125,000 locations worldwide currently. Although there’s usually a fee to join these schemes, it’s worth spending the money because you’ll be entitled to innumerable discounts while your card remains active. Of course, how much you save would depend on how frequently you choose to take advantage of the offers you receive.

 

  1. Use the internet to help you spot discounts and offers

London undoubtedly provides an uninterrupted choice of free events and discounts all year round  but how do you get to hear about them before it’s too late? After all, if you can’t be in the right place at the right time, none of those benefits can be enjoyed.

The internet can be a great help in this regard: there are several websites that tell you where to find the best student discounts in the UK. A couple of popular ones are StudentBeans and UniDays, both of which are also available as mobile phone applications. Most university students download these apps on their phone so that they don’t miss out on great deals, even on the essentials like laptops.

 

So if you follow these useful tips, enjoying student life in London shouldn’t cost you a fortune!

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

privilege
Form : noun
Meaning : a special benefit that a group of people has
Example : If you become a full member of this club, you can enjoy many privileges.

 

exclusively
Form : adverb
Meaning : for only one particular person or group
Example : This café is exclusively for staff; visitors have to go out of the building to get food.

 

flash
Form : verb
Meaning : to show something, such as an ID card, to someone very quickly
Example : The police officer flashed his ID card at the security as he entered the private building.

 

take advantage of (something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : to make full use of something
Example : Josie’s kids took advantage of her absence to play in the rain.

 

 

in the right place at the right time
Form : phrase
Meaning : be in the best position to make full use of an opportunity
Example : Miguel isn’t very skilled, but he got the job because he was in the right place at the right time.

 

miss out on (something)
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to fail to benefit from an opportunity 
Example : It’s sad that you won’t be attending the party – you’ll miss out on all the fun.

 

fortune
Form : noun
Meaning : a large sum of money
Example : Siobhan’s new motorbike cost a small fortune.

 

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…

 

Student Life in London Made Affordable (Part 1)

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London is one of the most exciting cities in the world, and attracts people from all corners of the globe each year. It has a rich history to discover and caters for every taste.

Unfortunately, London’s popularity means it can be an expensive city to live in, so for most students, getting by on a limited budget is essential.

It can be hard to avoid tourist traps as an international student, so getting to know the place can save you a lot.

 

Here are a few London transport tips to avoiding throwing money down the drain as a student.

 

Two Wheels Good

Cycling is perhaps the cheapest way to get around a major city. In fact, over a million Londoners own a bicycle and use it regularly. A word of warning though: only cycle if you are competent cyclist – London traffic can be difficult to handle. But there are many parks, group lessons, and a growing cycle highway system which can help you gain the confidence and practice you need.

You can also hire one of London’s 11,000 ‘Boris Bikes’ (named after the previous Mayor, Boris Johnson) from one of the 750 docking stations across the capital. It costs £2 to rent the bike for 24 hours and the first 30 minutes of your journey is free.

 

Mind the gap

The city’s public transport network is extensive and well-developed, but some may find ticket prices a bit high. No need to panic though if you’re a student: just get a Student Oyster photocard to enjoy a 30% discount on travel cards as well as tube, bus and rail fares.

 

Don’t stick to the map

Another way is to just walk! Walking is the best way to discover any city’s secrets. You’ll soon realise that most things are nearer than you thought and you’ll get the added exercise and save lots of money! For instance, most Tube stations in the centre are within walking distance (around 0.5 to 1 mile) of each other.

 

Happy travels!

 

GLOSSARY

 

get by
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to manage, especially when facing difficulties
Example : Tom and Sally are able to get by with little money, as their needs are limited.

 

Cater for
Form : verb
Meaning : To provide what is needed
Example : The cabin crew catered for all passengers’ needs.

 

handle
Form : verb
Meaning : to deal with a situation
Example : Miguel doesn’t handle angry customers well.

 

throwing money down the drain
Form : phrase
Meaning : To waste money (especially by spending it on something useless)
Example :  ‘Why are you spending your wages on gambling? You’re just throwing money down the drain!’

 

 

competent
Form : Adjective
Meaning : Having the necessary skill or ability to do something
Example : Mathew was a competent swimmer and knew to stop when he felt tired.

 

 

 

 

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 2)

books stack

 

If you are poor at reading, then perhaps it’s because you use only one style ‒ intensive reading.

 

In part 1, we looked at how skimming can help you understand the gist, i.e. the general meaning, of a text. Here are two more sub-skills that are widely used in reading.

 

Scanning

This method is useful in identifying factual information in no time, e.g. names, dates, numbers, address, etc. Scanning involves moving your eyes quickly down a page in order to find a specific fact or piece of information without reading the entire text. While scanning, the reader:

  • understands the way the text is structured before beginning to ‘read.’ For instance, is information arranged from A to Z (e.g. a dictionary, where items appear in alphabetical order) or by category (e.g. a catalogue)?
  • sometimes uses their finger or hand to focus on what they are reading.
  • does not make an attempt to understand the whole text; instead they read relevant parts around keyword

 

Many of us use this skill in our daily lives without realising it. For example, when we look for someone’s number in a telephone book, or football scores in the newspaper, we are, in fact, scanning.

 

 

Intensive reading

As the name suggests, this sub-skill is used to get a thorough understanding of a text by reading it closely and carefully. Here, the reader:

  • focuses more on the language (grammar and unfamiliar vocabulary) than the text.
  • sometimes deals with grammar and vocabulary that is beyond their existing language ability.
  • reads the same piece of text again and again to ensure that they have understood words correctly.

 

If you are poor at reading, then it is perhaps because you use only one style ‒ intensive reading. Obviously, this will slow you down, apart from making you too dependent on every single word you read to increase your understanding. Instead, train yourself to use sub-skills effectively so that you are able to read fast and understand better.

 

Remember, a good reader always uses different styles to read effectively!

 

GLOSSARY

 

factual
Form : adjective
Meaning : relating to facts
Example : The newspaper article about the incident had a lot of factual errors.

 

in no time
Form : phrase
Meaning : very quickly
Example : Since there was no traffic, so we reached the restaurant in no time at all.

 

catalogue
Form : noun
Meaning : a list of items, usually with details, that people can look at or buy
Example : The library catalogue lists many rare books amongst its collection.

 

keyword
Form : noun
Meaning : an important word
Example : When giving a speech, Bob keeps a list of keywords to remind him of what to talk about.

 

 

thorough
Form : adjective
Meaning : defines something done completely, with great attention given to every detail
Example : Detective Stinson has a thorough understanding of how crimes are committed.

 

 

Clever Reading Skills to Improve your English (Part 1)

newspaper stack

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.

 

 

 

IELTS Reading: Dealing with Difficult Question Types (Part 1)

group reading

The IELTS Reading test, in both Academic and General Training, has 40 questions. A wide range of reading skills are tested using a variety of question types, some of which are much more challenging than others.

 

In this part, we’ll take a closer look at a particular question type that most candidates feel is the hardest – identifying information (True/False/Not Given).

 

Here’s a simplified version of this question type to help us understand how best to deal with it.

 

Reading text

Mr Farrell, a revered professor at the university, walked into the room in a huff that day. Dressed in a pair of dark trousers, light-coloured shirt and red tie, his dapper appearance seemed to be in stark contrast with the foul mood he was in.   

 

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading text?

Write:

 

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information given in the text
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information given in the text
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

 

  1. The Professor was wearing a black shirt.
  2. The Professor was wearing a blue shirt.
  3. The Professor was wearing a pastel shirt.

 

So what do you think are the answers?

 

Tips to answer

 

Choose TRUE when you find information in the text that agrees with the statement in the question.
Example: 3. The Professor was wearing a pastel shirt.
Explanation: Since pastel shades are pale or light-coloured, it’s safe to conclude that the statement agrees with the text.

 

 

Choose FALSE when you find information in the text that contradicts the statement in the question.
Example: 1. The Professor was wearing a black shirt.
Explanation: Black isn’t a light colour so this statement contradicts the information in the reading text.

 

Choose NOT GIVEN when you don’t have sufficient information to choose either TRUE or FALSE.
Example: 2. The Professor was wearing a blue shirt.
Explanation: The colour blue is available in different hues, both light and dark. There simply isn’t sufficient information in the statement to choose either True or False so the answer is Not Given.

 

 

Remember, statements that are TRUE are the easiest to find; perhaps start with them and then move on to the others.

Discover further reading preparation and tips for the IELTS test here.

 

Happy reading!

 

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.

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