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I Finished My Degree!

Hi guys!

I’ve gotten the urge to write a bit on my blog again and first thing’s first – I FINALLY finished my degree!

I know there’s only like 100 odd people who follow my little blog, and most of yous haven’t been here since my first posts, but I began this blog back in the winter of 2014, while on a foundation year for a degree in Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex. In total, I’ve been in further and higher education for the past 7 years – yes, SEVEN! At 19 years old, I jumped back on the education bandwagon after dropping out of school when I was 14, and am now 26 years old and have finally completed my degree. If you think about it, it actually ended up taking the expected amount of time – 2 years for GCSE’s, 2 for A levels and then 3 for a degree is the norm – and it took me 7 years too. I went a bit of a different route though – starting with a year doing intensive GCSE’s in Mathematics and English alongside an Access course to Higher Education in Biological Sciences, followed by a year spent on the foundation year of the Physics & Astronomy degree at the University of Sussex, followed by a year spent studying A level Physics & Mathematics from home, followed by a year spent on the foundation year of a degree in Physical Sciences at North Hertfordshire College, and then finally 3 years on a degree in Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire.

It’s been a very long journey, and I didn’t expect it to be such a long-winded, twisty path, but I think every step was necessary to allow me to be in the position I am now.

I’m hoping for a 2:1 – my possible degree classification grade range is from 56.5% – 74.9% based on my degree classification safety net and based on the 6 pieces of work I have left to receive a mark for. I was so dead-set on getting 70% (a 1:1, highest possible grade classification for a degree) for the entire time I’ve been back in education, but I’ve done my very best and I’d genuinely be happy with a 2:1 (60-70%). I think I’d feel pretty upset if I got a 2:2, not going to lie about that, and feel insanely happy if I somehow managed a 1:1 (EXTREMELY unlikely given the amount of questions I couldn’t answer in the 3 exams and that I’d need something like 90% or more in them to get a 1:1 overall at this point), but I feel comfortable with a 2:1, knowing that it was the best I could reasonably do without losing my mind in the process!

I can honestly say that I’m really, really flipping proud of myself aswell. For many different reasons.

1. I may be lucky to not have any extreme disabilities or any incredibly disruptive situations at home that would greatly impact my degree, but I have had a lot of mental health problems for this duration that have definitely affected my learning. I’ve also not had any friends or family nearby (actually, I don’t have any super close friends altogether) so my support system hasn’t always been the most in place. I’ve also experienced a lot of hurt in my last relationship for these past 7 years, including several break-ups, and a year ago our engagement was broken off. It wasn’t the path I wanted for the relationship, which has meant it has been EXTREMELY difficult to focus on my degree for this final year. Coronavirus has also impacted my exams and the majority of my second semester pieces of coursework.

2. I could have worked harder than I did during my degree, but I still worked harder than I thought a human would be capable of in the same circumstances I have been in honestly, and looking back, how good some of my grades are is actually shocking considering how extensively my mental health and personal life was impacting my life at the time, and I think it would have been entirely normal to have deferred the second half of this past year of my degree altogether.

3. Some of the grades I have received this past academic year include 100% in all 3 of my particle physics assignments (2 problem sets and a presentation), 96% in my condensed states of matter assignment ( a problem set), 95% in my space dynamics interim workbook submission, 92% in my computational physics star formation report, 92% in my quantum mechanics coursework problems, 90% in my quantum mechanics presentation and 90% in my cosmology practical.

4. My grade average for second year was 53% (I really struggled mentally last year and had to defer a lot of work – this also means this grade average doesn’t include the module Quantum Mechanics that I deferred to do that this year instead). My grade average this year (including the Quantum Mechanics module and its weighting, and not including any marks I haven’t gotten back yet) is 69%. I have raised my grade average in final year, the most challenging year of a degree and whilst struggling with mental health problems and a failed 6 year relationship, by 16%. I am so incredibly proud of that!

It’s been an insane journey – astronomy never ceases to fascinate me, and I’ve learnt about so many different interesting topics.

I’ve learnt what topics in astrophysics I really, really do not want to pursue unless it’s in my free time and is entirely non-obligatory, and the topics that really amaze me, and that I yearn to delve deeper in and explore further than I have done. It’s given me a bit of sense of direction, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way.

I’ve learnt that I sort of really do not enjoy being obliged to study pure physics topics, and would much prefer to learn and read about those topics in my free time. I’ve also learnt that I really enjoy (and am quite good at) data sciences, and aswell as still enjoying astronomy in general and astrobiology, I also really find cosmology fascinating.

I’ve learnt how important ecology is to me and the need for me to somehow integrate that into my life in order for me to feel fulfilled.

I’ve learnt that I am absolutely rubbish at exams and exam based,  face-to-face, taught, conventional education – and that that’s absolutely okay!

I’ve learnt I’m really, really good at coursework and research, and that I learn better with having just a few face-to-face taught interactions, and most of the time learn better and produce better work when I work fairly independently – at least for astronomy.

I’ve learnt that although I am capable, I’m not mentally well, and so I am less capable than a healthy person is and will therefore struggle more with the same work, and am likely to do worse in some pieces of work due to this despite working harder, and that that is also okay.

I’ve learnt that full time education is a bit of a pressure cooker situation for me due to my mental health, and leaves me with absolutely no time whatsoever to focus on any hobbies at all. I haven’t read a non-university related book in around 6 years. I haven’t played a computer game in maybe 4 years. I haven’t watched Star Trek – my favourite TV series of all time, in maybe 3 years. I’ve learnt only 10 seconds or so of a song on my guitar that I’ve had for 4 years, etc, etc, etc.

I’ve learnt the impact of my mental health on every aspect of my life, and that it absolutely must come first if I’d like to soon be capable of having enjoyable, fulfilling days.

I’ve learnt that I absolutely WILL stick to and complete anything I really want to, but that it will take a lot of time and work.

I’ve learnt that just because I am fully capable of commitment, not everybody else wants the same things as I do, and that I shouldn’t base my decisions on a life with somebody who thinks it’s wrong to prioritise love.

I’ve learnt that I am beautiful, inside and out, and that I only require myself to believe in that for me to feel it.

I’ve grown, and my life has changed a lot, but in other ways, it and me are exactly the same. Before I started my education journey, I was single, and am single again. I started it out without friends around, and again, don’t have any friends around me. I started my journey out homeless and again, I’m without a home. I started my journey off independent, determined and strong, and again, I am independent, and hopefully the determination and strength will come with a bit more time.

So, that’s first thing first!

TLDR; I finished my degree, it took me FOREVER, it was difficult because I have bad mental health and my relationship failed, but I’m hoping to get a 2:1 and am proud of myself.

– Storm

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The Start Of Revision

Hey guys!

This post is just one big ramble/rant about what my first step for revising for my final exams is going to be. Consider yourself warned!


 

As some of you may or may not know, I’m a student studying in her second year of a degree in Astrophysics.

I thought I’d come on here and write about how I plan to begin my revision for my end of year exams. I think sometimes taking the first step is the most difficult, so I want to make sure I have everything in order for when the time comes. Unfortunately, I won’t have much time to revise because the entirety of second year for me has been riddled with bad mental health spells and tons of coursework .

As an example, between the start of last Tuesday and the end of this Thursday we will have had 1 class test to revise for and 5 coursework deadlines (a class test in Optics along with four weeks of lecture summaries to hand in, a Differential Equations assignment to hand in, 10 hours of CV enhancement to complete along with an updated CV to hand in, a Nuclear Physics assignment along with a Quantum Mechanics assignment along with like 4 pieces of Python code to hand in and an observatory log book along with an observatory report to hand in).

So, as you can see, even within those pieces of coursework there are usually multiple components, so in that space of 9 days I will have completed 10 different components of coursework.

Which is difficult for most courses but let me tell you, Astrophysics is no joke.

Anyway, so I won’t have had any time to revise for the finals until I’ve handed in my last piece of coursework which likely won’t be until the deadline (Thursday).

I think the first step I’m going to take once I’m in my exam revision period is, before anything else, to give myself some self-care. I can hear some of you being all like “NO, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON THAT WHEN YOU HAVE SO LITTLE TIME AS IT IS!”

Well I’m about to change your mind!

You see, with my crappy mental health and insane amounts of coursework, I haven’t even actually left the house since that class test last Tuesday – not even to go to my local supermarket (which is a 2 minute walk from my flat!) I haven’t been taking care of myself at all, and with my partner being in the same situation as me (not the best mental health and extremely busy with work) even the everyday things have really been swept to the side.

I will still be super busy with revision once I’ve finished with the coursework (as in, now I’m completing around 1.5ish percent of my overall grade in coursework per day, and it will be around the same  during the revision period in terms of what the final exams are worth vs the days I have to revise for them). However, I still really think this is the most important first step.

I just need to really quickly take a bath, y’know? I need to do the laundry. I need to tidy up. I need to take bags of clothes to the charity shop. I need to load the dishwasher. I need to leash train my kitten. I need to entertain my kitten. I need to create a revision plan. I need to take that VARK test and work out HOW I’m going to revise. I need to get my weight back down to what’s healthy for me. I need to stock the fridge with healthy food. I need to do a BIT of cleaning.

I don’t want to go nuts, but honestly, it really needs at least a bit of work because it’s like a mad house in here, and I have no idea how I could reasonably begin to revise without taking care of myself, my partner, my flat and my kitten in these ways first. I would just feel far too anxious and wouldn’t be able to leave the flat to go to the library to study anyway because I’d feel gross and wouldn’t want to leave the flat messy or leave my kitten needing attention, ugh.

It’s very stressful and really does need to be done, and I won’t be able to do it before then because I have 2 pieces of coursework to begin and complete within the next 2 days so I can’t really be thinking about revision before the 11th April, and only at that time onwards can I really revise…

So, hopefully you all agree with me now that this is the first thing I need to do once the revision period begins. I know logically it seems like the best thing to do would be to just fit in as much revision as possible considering how little time I have to study for these exams (one of my single semester modules contains 2 subjects (Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear Physics), and I only have 3 days to revise for each of those subjects), and I do see how this would ordinarily be the right thing to do. I just know that realistically, if I were to do that, I’d actually get less work done overall because I’d be super unfocussed.

I guess I could see that preparation as revision in itself? I mean, it isn’t REALLY, but then it sort of is because revision is technically anything that will bring your grade up in the exam right? All of this preparation will definitely ease my mind and make me far more comfortable which I think will definitely cause me to have a better grade in the exams!

I’ll just spend from whenever I give in my final piece of coursework until Friday for this preparation, so less than a day, which is enough time to make a real difference in creating a good, calm, happy and healthy brain environment for me to revise and not so much time that it actually does more bad than good. A good sweet spot.

So I have the first day of revision planned – I don’t really know what I’m going to be doing the day after but I guess that’s what the planning day is for.

Storm

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I Got Onto My Degree! Results + Treats.

Hey guys!

As some of you may know, a couple of years ago I dropped out of my foundation year for Physics and Astronomy, for various reasons. The next year, I applied for University again – and successfully got onto a foundation year for Astrophysics.

I have just completed that foundation year and, finally, I have actually managed to obtain a place on a bachelor degree in Astrophysics!

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I was pretty worried that I wouldn’t be able to, as I needed to achieve 65% in my Advanced Mathematics module – whereas I only achieved 62%. They’ve given me a chance, and I’m so grateful for that!

Here are my overall results:

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Here is a breakdown of my results:

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As you can see, I did pretty terribly in my final Advanced Mathematics exam (43%) – but I did SO WELL in my Statistics exam (90%)!

And here is the interpretation of my results (although this was just a foundation year, so my results this year don’t actual count toward my final grade):

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When I found out, the first thing I did was to call my partner – he was having some drinks with a colleague after work. That evening when he came home, he had brought me back a GORGEOUS bouquet of flowers, an AMAZING bottle of Rose champagne, and an absolutely DELICIOUS bag of Indian takeaway! What a treat! I just love how much it means to him when I achieve something!


As a treat to myself, from myself, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a Primark haul tomorrow. I’ll be heading down to the all famous Primark on East Oxford Street. My style has really changed over the past few years, and I have a lot of clothes that either don’t fit me right at all, that look bad on me, have become damaged or that I just plain don’t like anymore. I really don’t buy myself clothes very often, so I decided on Primark because if I shop there first, I’ll be able to get a lot of pieces at a low price – pieces that could very well be a lot more expensive elsewhere! I’ll also be able to actually try the clothing items on, and I much prefer high street shopping to online shopping in general!

So, I’ll be heading to the most popular Primark store that I have nearby, and I’m going to get there super early – like for 8:00 AM, so that I can pretty much have the store to myself. I’m so excited! I’m going to really make an effort to choose items that actually make me feel confident, and to not just chuck things in my basket without thinking. I don’t really have a specific spending limit, both because I trust in my ability to only buy the gems I find in the store, and because I genuinely need a LOT of new clothes! I don’t have anything specific in mind that I’m going to look for – Primark could have amazing shoes but rubbish dresses one month, but then have awful shoes and incredible dresses the next.

This is probably going to be the first planned haul I’ve ever done! I’ll of course be writing a Primark haul blog post tomorrow, hopefully with try-on photos, so look forward to that!

– Storm

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More of my Christmas break…

Hello. 🙂

So, I’m still on my Christmas break and I still haven’t begun studying.

Wow, that was a rubbish opening line. Okay, this blog post is going to be a little bit more serious than my other blog posts that I’ve written so far. Today I’m really not feeling in a very positive mood. I’ve still got a bunch of studying to get done over a short amount of time and I feel like I’ve just been wasting too much time during my break so far. I’ve loved starting my blog so it isn’t that – I’ve just spent far too much time watching random Youtube videos…

I do get anxiety quite badly so studying is actually quite a task for me, but it’s something I’m just going to have to get over because studying is the only way that I can progress in my mission to become an Astronomer.

Me and my boyfriend went to the cinema to watch the movie ‘Interstellar’ yesterday. It really was motivational for me to watch an exciting, interesting movie about space! Space is so incredible… It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even think that I could be happy unless I am studying something space related.

But yeah, to get to the point where I eventually want to be in life, my first tiny step is to go ahead and make sure I’ve learned what I’ve covered so far in my degree, so that’t exactly what I’m gunna go and do. I’ll write a post soon with updates on how my studying is going (y).

-Storm

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My quest to a career in Astrobiology!

So some time ago I decided it was about time to sit down and make a decision on what it is that I want to do as a career. Me being somewhat of a perfectionist meant that I couldn’t bring myself to find a job/find employment in a field without having done this first. After a lot of thinking and searching, I came to a decision – Astrobiology.

This field is ideal for me. You see, unlike a lot of people, I never found an intense interest/hobby/passion when I was younger and instead found most subjects somewhat interesting. Astrobiology is a subject that involves all my academic interests – geology, ecology, biology, astronomy… For a career in Astrobiology, experts in the fields involved are preferred to individuals who are experts in Astrobiology itself, so I’ve chosen Astronomy to be my focus.

It’s taken me two years since I made that decision to get to where I am today. It hasn’t been easy – it meant having to toughen up and mature quite suddenly and I know that it’s only going to get more difficult, but… Making a life choice and following that choice independently is so freeing. 🙂

I’m currently on a foundation year of a degree in Physics & Astronomy at the University of Sussex.

I guess this post was a little introduction to my educational pursuits. 🙂

– Storm