Back to blogging!

It’s been a long time since I wrote something here – my last post dates back to June 3rd, and so much has passed since then ! I got a new job, quit my old one, got back into Zoom university for a brand new semester, picked up old hobbies I’d stopped doing months ago, got really into cycling and biked every day to work… it’s been a long few months.

I’d love to make a series of posts on what I’ve been up to recently, but I honestly don’t have enough time right now (more on that later, by the way – it’s good news!), so I’ll just give you a relatively short overview here!

1 . I quit my job, and got a new one

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that up until my last post, I was working in a supermarket as a cashier / customer service agent. I really enjoyed this job, and the colleagues were all super nice, but during the month of July, my hours were cut – by a lot. Long story short, the salary I ended up making over July wasn’t enough for what I needed it for anymore (namely : food, phone bill, a new laptop and my university tuition fees due in September).

Fortunately, a local restaurant near my house was recruiting at that time, so I sent them a resume and a short email just in case my profile interested them – and it did! I got an interview a week or so later, and ended up quitting my supermarket job at the beginning of August to work at the restaurant full-time for the remainder of the summer.

As of now, I’ve been changed into a part-time worker at the restaurant, and I’m hoping my city stays safe enough that we don’t have to close, so I can keep working as much as possible during the school year. Even with parental support (and I’m lucky and privileged enough to have some, so if the worst happens and I lose my job, I can still pay my rent and eat), living in a big city is expensive, and being a university student comes with a lot of extra costs, which means I really want to hold on to this job as long as I can!

2 . University started again

Photo by Fallon Michael on Pexels.com

I took two summer classes during the lockdown, and those were really useful to familiarize myself with Zoom. For the current semester, I have five classes, all online, one of which is actually an internship in a psychology lab at the university.

I’m super excited for the lab! I got into my first choice of internship, and the project we’re going to be working on is on the very topic I’d like to do my doctorate thesis on – there’s honestly no better option I could have had.

It is, however, going to ask a lot of time and effort from me. I’ve got classes on 3 days a week, and one full day for the internship, with the remaining three days for work shifts at the restaurant – with the way things are working out now, I won’t really have a full day of rest anytime soon, so I’ll take it wherever I can.

3 . Reading

I spent a lot of my reading time getting through personal finance books, university mandatory readings, etc. and ended up reading mostly non-fiction for the past 3 months.

As a good part of it was in French, I probably won’t be reviewing these on the blog, but I might add them to my Goodreads account just to keep track of them. The library in my city has reopened, and I’ve been making the most of my library card since we can’t go there to sit, browse books a long tine, read with a snack or study quietly anymore.

4 . New hobbies

Last week, I took out my camera to take some pictures outside, when – to my utmost horror – it didn’t turn on. Cue one full day of me panicking over it, thinking I’ll need to mail it back to the manufacturer to get it repaired and pay hundreds of dollars since the warranty has expired… and then my cool-headed better half came and said “Maude, have you tried bringing it to the closest photography shop? They might know what’s going on, and be able to repair it for less than that!”.

Well. Turns out the better half was right – the battery was dead, and even if batteries aren’t cheap, it still cost me way less than what I has scared myself into believing it would.

Photography is a hobby I used to love a few years ago, and I gradually stopped doing it when this whole pandemic business happened. But my university has started a new psychology project, the Resilience project, to help students find good ways to cope during the months to come, and this week’s task was to re-discover old hobbies or things we used to love, and try them out again. So, with my now-functional camera in hand, I got back into photography!

5 . New laptop

A lot of my saved money from this summer has gone to my student tuition, but I also needed to save some of it for a new laptop : my old one had broken down at the hinges to the point that the screen was falling off one side, and whenever it slightly moved, it would go completely dark until I found an angle that made the bad connection work again for a short while. Long story short – it wasn’t going to work for and entire semester of Zoom university™. No way.

So since I had to get a new laptop, I tried and saved enough money for one that would let me study, blog, edit photos and play good videogames, and got myself an Acer Nitro 5 on sale! I got it for waaay cheaper than the current retail price is, because it was a) on sale and b) a box that someone else had bought and returned to the store, so it had an even bigger discount while still having a 1-year warranty. This model is light, fast, has a backlit keyboard and a full HD display with a 120Hz screen, and my comfort while working with it is incredible.

… and I’ve fallen into the No Man’s Sky hole and have been spending hours of my “rest” time for the past week playing this game and having lots of fun with it. 10/10, worth it, would definitely recommend.

I’ve also been watching a lot of studytube videos, and recently tried my hand at Notion (I might make a post about this later, or link to some interesting resources posts on it that I’ve read this week!) to plan my days and keep track of all my current projects.

I’m slowly easing back into blogging, and will try to post a little more before the end of the month and the beginning of October – we’ll see how that goes!

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5 things I want to do in June + my June TBR

June is my birthday month – I’ll be 22 on June 10th! – so I’m planning a lot for the next few weeks : I’ve got exams coming up, final projects for classes, blogging, reading… hopefully, I’ll have a nice start of the summer with all those plans!

The unrealistic June TBR

My TBR might be a little too long for me to manage this June – but I’ll try nonetheless !

So far, I’ve got these two fantasy novels to read first :

  • Words of radiance, by Brandon Sanderson – I’m at 52% in this one and hopefully will be done by Wednesday (mostly because it’s so good that I can’t put it down, even to go to sleep!)
  • Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson – right after I finish the previous one, because I need to know what happens to Kaladin, Shallan and the others, and I can’t possibly wait until I finish something else first.

I got into Brandon Sanderson’s books after watching one of Emily @ BookswithEmilyFox’s videos – you can find her (super fun) booktube channel here!

I’ve also downloaded much more library eBooks that I can possibly read, but I’ll do my best to get through at least those before July :

  • Don’t overthink it, by Anne Bogel
  • Furyborn, by Claire Legrand
  • The buy nothing, get everything plan, by Liesl Clark
  • What the most successful people do before breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam
  • How to hold a grudge, by Sophie Hannah
  • Rest, refocus, recharge, by Greg Wells
  • I wanted fries with that, by Amy Fish

I also have a few books from NetGalley I’m hoping to read during these coming weeks :

  • Every other weekend, by Abigail Johnson
  • Don’t read the comments, by Eric Smith
  • Martian blood, by John Pahl
  • Act like a lady, by Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin and Jac Vanek

5 goals for June

Write something (again)

One of my personal goals for may was to try to write something – and I did! It’s a small Star Trek : Alternate Original Series fanfiction that I posted on AO3, and it’s super short, but it made me happy to write it. Getting kudos and comments made me feel much more confident in my abilities to write more, so I’ll try to post something new this month too!

Related posts : check out my May wrap-up to see how well (or not) I did on last month’s goals!

Keep trying to post regularly

I’m doing my best to follow my schedule – for work, for studying, and for posting reviews and discussions here. My blog schedule for June is almost ready (it only has a few posts without full titles, so it should be good to go in a few days), and I’ll try to follow it by using my free time to plan posts in advance, save my drafts whenever I can.

This should help me avoid unexpected blogging breaks like the one I unfortunately had to take in the first weeks of May.

Pass all my exams

My intensive summer semester ends on June 23rd, with two exams on June 22nd and two final projects to turn in by that date too. I passed the midterms this week, and am hoping for good results – all that studying I’ve been doing should at least help me maintain my current GPA!

Try to cut down on takeout and restaurant food

One of my most important expenses, in May, has been takeout food.

A medium iced capp from Tim Hortons when I go to work, two bubble teas to bring home on my off days, some groceries when I leave the store I work at, a burgers and fries order at A&W… It all added up to an amount I’m really not comfortable with, and I didn’t appreciate that when I had to pay off my credit card in full at the end of the month.

Fortunately, I made enough money in May to cover those unexpected expenses (I know that having a job during the pandemic is extremely lucky and I’m doing everything I can to do it well and keep it) – but I should have been able to save that money for other things, and not waste it when we had food at home.

So yeah. In June, we’re doing better. I won’t completely ditch the iced capps or the bubble teas, but when it comes to full meals, I’d love to take some more time to prepare them at home, so I don’t have to panic next time I have to pay my bills.

Have a great birthday

I actually have two three-hours classes on my birthday, so I probably won’t spend a lot of time having fun, but I’ve bought myself a brand new book at my local library today to celebrate, and I’ve got good stuff planned! A nice meal, maybe bubble tea, and a nice evening of watching bullet journaling videos on YouTube and reading on the couch should be great as a birthday not party, and will help me relax – which is exactly what I need right now.

Hopefully, my preordered copy of Aurora Burning will arrive eventually – I’d love for it to get here for my birthday!

That’s is for this month’s goals and TBR – stay around to see if I can take on these new challenges when I post my June wrap-up post at the end of the month!

5 things I want to do in May + my May TBR

May is almost here, and as much as March and April have been terrible, hectic months, I’m sincerely hoping for a much better may 2020 – and as such, I’m making plans !

I’ve just recently started a new job in a grocery store, packing online orders for customers who are self-isolating at home, so I don’t have as much free time as I had over the past few weeks of quarantine – but I’m really excited over what I have planned, so hopefully I’ll be able to tackle at least some of these monthly goals !

The goals part

Blogging goals

Maintain a regular posting schedule

This month, I’d like to post twice a week. This is honestly a goal that I’m probably just going to repeat every month for the whole of 2020 – keeping a regular schedule is sincerely difficult for me, and I want to improve on that while still keeping all the fun of blogging ! I’ve read a lot of books I haven’t reviewed yet, and I want to try writing one or two discussion posts, so we’ll see how that goes.

Personal goals

Keeping up with university work

I’ve signed up for two summer classes at my university for this summer ! It’s the intensive summer schedule – instead of 3 hours of class a week, it’s 6 hours per class, which means two full days of class every week – which will split my summer weeks into 5 days of work (if all goes well at my new job) and 2 days of class. Hopefully I can stay on top of all of this, get good grades, and not overwork myself too much !

Playing video games

My boyfriend got me a copy of Harvest Moon : A new beginning this week, and I’ve been playing it every evening since then on my 2DSxl – and enjoying it a lot ! Playing video games helps me relax in stressful times, and Harvest Moon is such a sweet and wholesome game that I really want to make time for myself and play it while curled up on my bed in my comfy heating blanket !

Watching TV shows

I’ve been slowly making my way through the latest seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles, and I’m now halfway through season 9. Watching this show is such a fun time for me, I’d love to be able to take some time to watch one or two episodes per week on the days I don’t have too much work to do !

Writing something

I feel like it might be a silly thing to post about, but I really want to try my hand at writing fanfiction in English – I’m just having a hard time taking that first step and actually daring to write the stories I’d love to share. I’ve been feeling like no matter how much I try, what I’ll end up writing will never be as good as what a native English speaker would be able to write, and so I shouldn’t even try – and even if I know that’s not a very rational thought, it’s been preventing me from doing something I’ve been wanting to do for years now.

If you’ve got any advice on how to get past imposter syndrome when English isn’t your first language, please feel free to share it with me !

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

The TBR part

I’ve got a pretty ambitious TBR (for me !) this month, mostly because I might have bitten off more than I could chew while putting books on hold at my local library and requesting ARCs. Since I’m not planning on backing down from that challenge, I’ve got a total of 10 books I absolutely want to read this month : 5 from the library, 3 overdue ARCs, and 2 books I have in my bookshelf that I really should have read a long time ago.

Library books

Men explain things to me, by Rebecca Solnit

I had this one in my last library eBook haul, and managed to get halfway through it… and then my library hold expired and I had to request it again because I forgot to renew it. So this month, when my hold comes in again, I’m finishing this book !

Crown of feathers, by Nicki Pau Preto

This one is a case of “judging a book by its cover” – and by that, I mean that I saw it on my library’s website, the cover looked amazing, so I placed a hold on it and it came through this week ! I’m pretty excited to see if the contents are as good as the cover promises they are !

Furyborn, by Claire Legrand

Ooooh this one also has an amazing cover ! I actually saw this book at my local bookstore a while ago, and didn’t have the cash to buy it at that time even though it really made me want to read it – so when I saw that it was available on the library’s website, I didn’t hesitate one second !

The 30-day money cleanse, by Ashley Feinstein Gerstley

My love of personal finance books strikes again. I have no excuse for this one. I just love reading personal finance books and comparing different authors’s advice. Sue me.

Better than before, by Gretchen Rubin

This is also a book I had in my library eBook haul ! I didn’t have the time to read it these past few weeks, but I’m hoping I’ll get to it sooner than later this month.

Late ARCs

Buy yourself the f*cking lilies, by Tara Schuster

I’m a little more than halfway though this one, and so far it’s… meh. I usually love self-help books, but this feels like more of a memoir than self-improvement advice, and as far as memoirs go, it’s not the most relatable one. But I’ll keep my judgement until I’ve completely finished reading it.

Followers, by Megan Angelo

I’m super super late in reading and reviewing this book ! I got it through NetGalley, and it was published in January this year… I’m putting this one on the high priority list and hoping I can be done with it and review it before the middle of the month.

Surrender your sons, by Adam Sass

Finally, an ARC I’m not late for ! This one will be published in September 2020, so I’ve still got quite a bit of time to read and review it – still, it looks really good so I’m adding it to this month’s list just in case I’ve got some spare time lying around at the end of May to read it.

On my bookshelf

The rise and fall of the dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte

In December (or was it November ?) 2019, I borrowed this book from the library, and got through around half of it before my hold expired and I had to give it back for the next person to read it. Since then, it’s been bothering me so much that I finally caved and made an exception to my one book a month book-buying ban, and ordered it on the online store of my local bookstore ! From what I read so far, it’s an absolutely excellent book about dinosaurs, and honestly, that’s all you need to know to borrow it / buy it for yourself / buy it for your sister with a never-ending love for dinosaurs.

Caliban’s war, by James S. A. Corey

My parents actually gifted this one to me for Christmas, and I started reading it in January, but stopped a hundred pages in ( why ? I don’t know ! My reading habits defy logic) even though it was a perfectly enjoyable read. I’d love to get back to it this month !

Did you set any reading or blogging goals this month ? Feel free to link your posts in the comments so I can check them out !

Me and my boyfriend will be moving out of our basement apartment into a much nicer one downtown on May 1st, and a lot of changes are on the way during the next week, so I might have some trouble keeping up with those objectives, but I’ll do my best !

Stay tuned for June’s TBR, where we’ll see if my unrealistic reading goals were somehow miraculously met this month !

5 tips to study for your online exams

Unlike usual, this post isn’t about books – or rather, not about novels or recreational books. It does include textbooks, though.

Since we’re in self-quarantine here, all non-essential services are closed, which includes universities and schools all over the country. Many schools are now turning to the internet to maintain their classes online as much as possible, either having their classes live on platforms like zoom, or using panopto and other video conference software to record videos and power point presentations and make them available to their students whenever possible.

If you’re a full-time university student, like me, you’ve probably had to rethink your entire study methods over the past few weeks : online learning is, after all, very different from in-person classes. And with online classes, come… online finals !

So I thought I’d share some of the tips I found useful while preparing for my exams after switching all my classes to online learning.

1. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the exam

Many professors will assume that, since you’re doing the exam online, it makes it an open book exam – meaning, they’ll prepare their exam keeping in mind that you’ll have access to all of the course material when you take the test, and will be able to look for the answer to their questions relatively quickly.

Underestimating the difficulty of the exam is one of the most dangerous mistakes you could make : if you rely too much on having the material at hand when you take the test, and don’t put enough effort into understanding it and making sure you have a good enough comprehension of the class, you’re setting yourself up for failure. However, having the ability to look through your notes and textbooks while you’re writing your answers is an advantage that you should take advantage of !

2. Study guides are, in fact, useful

Making a study guide to keep track of all the course material you need to know to achieve the grade you’re aiming for is a lifesaver. You can use the syllabus your professor gives you at the beginning of the semester (sometimes put online so you can access it at any point during the semester) to give you an idea of the amount of work you’ll have to put in, and when you’ll need to start studying.

If you have textbooks or required reading, printing the documents and putting tabs on the side to note where the important concepts or chapters are will save you a lot of time !

3. Take advantage of your professor’s student hours

A lot of university professors still have their student hours, even while the university campuses are closed. They might answer your questions via email, or a video conference with other students, but this is an important resource you would do well not to neglect : studying on your own, at home, is difficult enough in itself.

Photo by @nickmorrison on Unsplash

If you have any questions about the material that your teacher could clarify for you, using the means at your disposition to contact them and ask for explanation could help you save your grade, and make sure you don’t lose precious knowledge that will be useful during the actual exam.

4. Pay attention to the parameters of the test !

Online exams may be available for up to 24 hours, depending on your teacher’s wishes, but that doesn’t mean you have all this time to think about your answers ! Those hours are here so that all the students can start the test at a time that fits their schedule the most. Once you start the exam, the real countdown begins : that’s the amount of time you’re allotted to actually answer the questions.

If you’re in quarantine in an apartment with one or more other people, you might want to make sure to let them know that they are not to disturb you for the entirety of the time it will take you to pass the test – concerns for plagiarism aside, there is nothing more disheartening than realizing you won’t be able to finish in tie because someone interrupted you with something that could definitely have waited one more half-hour for your attention.

You also want to make sure there’s no ambiguity over how, exactly, you’re going to be evaluated. Is it a multiple choice questions type of test, or will you have to make developed, long thought-out answers ? Does it cover all of the material, or only half the semester ?

5. Make sure your material is working properly

This one may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it’s so frustrating to hit the “send” button, only to discover you didn’t have a properly working internet connection and all your answers have disappeared when you tried to transmit them…

Side-note : this isn’t a made-up scenario : it happened to me last semester, in a multiple choice question online exam with more than a hundred questions. Luckily, I had backed up my answers by writing my choices on a paper while I went through the exam the first time, so I didn’t lose everything. Still, it took me an additional 15 minutes to re-fill the entire form, and that prevented me from being able to double-check my answers before the time limit was up. So, essentially : don’t be like me. Make sure everything works before you start the exam.

Some universities here in Canada are putting everything in place to ensure the success of their students, as best as possible. Mine, for example, offers the option to only have the mention “Success” or “Failure” in your academic file for classes in which you don’t get the grade you hoped for. My brother’s university goes one step further, making the “Failed” mention an automatic “Abandon” mention, thus making sure the results of this crisis don’t alter your GPA in any way.

What measures are other universities putting in place to best help their students ? How do you prepare for your online exams ?