The uni rollercoaster is approaching that final, screaming, downhill flail before the end of the year. While many of us are simply looking forward to a break, there are an awful lot of you white-knuckling it through your last semester, and weighing up your post-graduation options.

If you’re addicted to the uni lifestyle, avoiding the reality of workforce participation, or maybe fancy a couple more letters after your name, you may have entertained adding a Masters degree or Honours program to your to-do-list.

But what exactly does this entail?

UON offers over 80 postgrad degrees, from Masters programs where you can hone and focus your skills, to Honours degrees where you will create your own research project, and with the help of an academic supervisor or two, research and write a thesis.

“Typically, a Masters tends to be coursework based, while Honours is more about the research,” explains Master of Marketing student, Rowena Grant. “I was at a point where I wanted to take my career further, and a Masters was the right move for me. Masters really expands your knowledge base and employability.”

“A Masters degree is perfect for anyone who knows what their chosen field is going to be. It’s really focussed on a particular area of study,” adds Associate Professor, Jenny Cameron, “While Honours is less about the actual content and more about the process.”

UTS and UNSW academic, Dr. Stephen Owen, who completed his undergraduate, Honours and PhD at UON, was fascinated with the Honours concept from his first year. “I thought that the opportunity to do my own research project, with a deep dive into whatever I would eventually decide to focus on, was appealing to me. Developing a good rapport with some great lecturers and tutors helped me to continue to think about doing Honours as time went by.”

Jenny reiterates this rapport as the key to the Honours pathway. “While you’re doing Honours, you develop a one-on-one academic relationship with your supervisor. It’s a really different relationship to the linear undergraduate model, which is ‘research, write, submit and receive feedback. During Honours, you are constantly refining a single project, while your supervisor provides feedback and support.”

“Honours students build very strong friendships and support networks with their fellow students and academics. It’s hard work, but it’s actually a lot of fun.”

This is echoed by Stephen, “It was a great experience studying with a very small group of students who were also quite focused on their studies. I made some great friendships, and am still good friends with most of the people in my Honours cohort. It was also great to get to spend time participating in the life of the faculty, which was quite eye-opening at times, as we were able to see what research faculty members were pursuing and just generally getting to know them as people.”

So, in a world where everyone hassles you about the employability prospects of your degree, and it seems like everyone you meet wants you to justify your education, what are the advantages of a postgraduate degree?

Postgraduate work is a massive financial, temporal and mental undertaking. How do you justify it to all those people who constantly bug you about your employability and future prospects (I may be projecting here)?

“Your university qualifications are substantially strengthened,” explains Jenny.

“Honours is good for your employment and further education prospects, it’s an incredibly flexible and transferable credential. You will prove that you can take on and manage a substantial project on your own, that you can provide results within a short time frame, that you can work with others, think critically, analyse documents and field notes and you can communicate all these findings.  It makes a great educational passport.”

“The Honours year really helped with my confidence in terms of the value of the work I was doing and my own independent ideas,” continues Stephen. “The ability to discuss and present my own research ideas, plans, projects and such in front of peers and members of faculty, and to then get very thoughtful feedback on it all, ultimately helped me to feel confident in being part of academic life more broadly”

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a postgrad degree is a cool way just to hang around and avoid getting a job for a little bit longer, however.

“You really need a sincere motivation,” says Rowena, “I started my Masters with the wrong mind-set, and had to take a year off to recalibrate. I came back with good motivation and goals and that’s made all the difference. It’s a completely different uni experience. I started my undergrad straight out of high school, moving from full-time study to another form of full-time study. With Masters I’m more aware of what I’m putting in and what I’m getting out, the responsibility, the sacrifice and the rewards.”

“The reality was great. It was of course quite hard at times, as it should be,” affirms Stephen. “In many ways, Honours is the hardest year of study. There’s a real transition from being an undergraduate to being inculcated into the norms of the academic discipline and the general culture of the faculty. Spending a lot of time on my own research project was really rewarding as it allowed me to investigate some things in depth which later became the foundations of my PhD research.”

Associate Professor Kathy Mee describes postgrad as, “more work than you’ve ever done before as a student.” However, “your skills will develop in different ways to your undergraduate experience and there’s nothing like that buzz you get from piloting your own project. It’s the perfect way to see if you have that taste for research.”

Honours programs can be ‘embedded’, and be part of your undergraduate degree, or ‘end-on’, a separate year of additional study following the completion of your undergrad.

To qualify for postgrad you need a decent GPA, usually a credit average, or above. Some programs require you to submit a portfolio. Make sure you check the appropriate guide.

You also need the right motivation. You might feel like you just want to hang around campus, or postpone the inevitable job search for a year, but, as Rowena advises, “You really need to be doing it for the right reasons. There’s a lot of work, energy and sacrifice involved.”

If you’re interested in postgrad work, weigh up your options, pay a visit to a Program Advisor, or contact your favourite academic for some advice and get prepared to commit to a hefty workload.

And if you see someone stumbling around campus with sunken eyes, hollow cheeks and a possible vitamin deficiency, that’s a postgrad. Buy them a coffee.

Every student at UON has a story.

The paths we travel to arrive here are as diverse as we are. For every high school high achiever, for whom university study was an expected next step, an accepted reality, there is a student who greets university life as something of an anomaly. UON has an inordinate number of students who are the first in their family to attend university. People from working class, marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds mingle happily with the more traditional student body, largely due to UON’s hugely successful foundation studies programs: Open Foundation, Newstep and Yapug.

I am a graduate of Open Foundation, considered one of the more successful foundation studies program in the country. Applying for Open Foundation was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, and I’ve been asked to share my story. Open Foundation’s intensive program is a lesson in swimming in the deep-end; a hard slog that helped me recognise my potential and is intrinsic to my success as an undergraduate.

In my experience, every foundation studies student has been punched in the face by life and is desperate to prove themselves. The classrooms are populated with single parents, people who struggled with the high school experience, wash-outs, wastoids, empty nesters, abuse survivors, frustrated intellects and folks who fell, or were left behind.

People who always had a niggling sense about the existence of their own intelligence, yet had never found an appropriate arena to explore it. Beautifully complex people with massive reserves of determination, grit and potential.

My kind of people.

Personally, I bummed out of high school. I was a reasonable, if easily distracted, student who through procrastination and apathy became a wholly unremarkable one. I zoned out one day and never logged back in. I’d never really developed any study skills, had no real ambitions and simply let myself get passively washed around like a piece of driftwood.

I sat the HSC, failed miserably, and didn’t really care. My mark was so low that presenting my results to the bartender at The Brewery earned me a free beer.

By luck or by fate I washed, like a piece of flotsam, into the kitchen of a local bistro. There I encountered a singularly inspiring individual who saw some kernel or potential in me and set about sloughing away my disinterested and defeated skin, turning me into something of a decent chef.

I developed ambition. I embraced a ridiculous work ethic. I learnt pride. I developed, maintained and fiercely defended standards. I had learned how to set a goal, survey a problem, break it down into manageable chucks, prioritise, execute and achieve.

What does this have to do with uni, you ask?

Well, with this new-found sense of self and ambition came the crushing realisation that I was not only my own worst enemy, but had wasted a whole slew of opportunities and potential and, y’know, just maybe, I was bit of a flake.

Failure at school had made me feel somewhat like a Neanderthal, yet, I had a suspicion that I wasn’t an idiot. At one point, I had worked myself to the bone and decided I needed to have a break from the restaurant industry, so I quit my job and applied for Open Foundation the next day. I signed up for the intensive, six-month program, took a casual job scrubbing dishes, and proceeded to soil myself every day until I walked into the university, with absolutely zero idea what was about to happen.

It was terrifying. Exhilarating. I’d never felt so daunted.

Open Foundation is an exhausting, inspiring and a singularly life-changing program offered by this university. Sitting in a room with brilliant and nurturing teachers and students, with remarkably diverse experiences, skills, abilities and stories, all working towards an individual, yet strikingly common goal is easily one of the more rewarding experiences of my life.

All of us were nurturing a tiny spark of self-belief and ambition outside the world we had experienced. Open Foundation threw tinder on that spark.

Open Foundation taught us students how to utilise the resources of the university. How to research in the library, use NewCat, Blackboard, Turnitin, and how to navigate the turbid waters of the enrolment system. As most of us had minimal experience in any form of educational institution, we were painstakingly taught how to write a sentence, a paragraph and an essay. Piece by piece, slowly but surely, we learned how to construct – and poke holes in – an argument and how to reference. This was academic boot-camp and by the end we were hardened and ready for undergraduate life.

Perhaps the most important discovery for me was that the skills and values the cruel U-Boat of the hospitality industry had instilled in me were easily transferable to academia. Open Foundation helped us identify skills and strengths we already possessed and how to adapt these to a personalised study style. I learnt to approach every reading, every lecture, every assignment as a chef would.

I believe this is why the ‘mature-aged’ (cough) student, with their Hermione hand firmly in the air, regaling the class with anecdotes and generally bemusing and annoying the others, has become something of a cliché. We have something to prove, nothing to fear, no time to waste, we’ve already lived most of our tempestuous days out and we’ve been hot-wired to survive in the university’s self-directed environment.

So be kind to the older kids in your class. They’ve probably been through some weird shit and they’re now walking a path they previously may have felt was closed to them. And best of luck to the newest crop of foundation studies students set to arrive on campus. I’m a massive screw-up and I made it. You can too.

We all have an unflattering photo we hope doesn’t see the light of day.

Before the days of Facebook and Snapchat, it wasn’t too difficult to bury these photos away, only having to deal with them resurfacing at birthdays and other family occasions.

Now it’s a hell of a lot easier for these photos and other social media posts to not only be made public, but also catch the eye of our future employers.

93% of Australian and New Zealand employers are screening prospective employees’ social media accounts. So just what does your social media footprint say about you? We spoke with Careers Consultant Renee Smith about how your online presence may be affecting your job opportunities.

Avoid major social media faux pas

A picture is worth a thousand words – so make sure your photos are telling the right story.

“Employers are using social media more and more often,” said Renee. “Not only are they using it to advertise their own organisations, but they use it to recruit, so why not put your best foot forward on all of your social media platforms to attract (rather than repel) an employer.”

Once a photo has been posted online, it tends to hang around the digital world forever. So if you never properly deleted the photos from your MySpace account, get onto it ASAP.

Your photos and videos can still show you having a good time, but remember to use common sense. You don’t need a photo from a wild night out in 2014 getting in the way of your dream job. When online, work of the assumption that anything uploaded will remain in the public domain long-term and act accordingly.

Social media expert and Manager of Student Communication and Information at UON, Susannah Lynch, recommends you follow one simple rule: The Grandma Test.

“Before you post something online, think to yourself ‘would I be happy having my Grandma see this?’ If not, you probably should steer clear of uploading it.”

It’s not just images of yourself you need to be worried about. If you upload a photo of someone in a compromising position or with the intention to ridicule them – think about how this reflects on your social conscience.

Some basic things to avoid include:

  • Offensive pictures that include drunken behaviour, nudity, self-harm, violence, drug use and overly suggestive images of yourself and others.
  • Illegal behaviour.
  • Fake images or anything that suggests you’re not who you say you are.

Thinking of trolling? Think again.

Most employers will have some kind of code of conduct they expect all employees to abide by. For example, here at UON all students and staff are bound by the Code of Conduct which is in place to prevent bullying, harassment and prejudicial treatment. As part of this Code of Conduct values such as honesty, fairness, accountability and respect are enforced. You are also bound by other policies such as the social media policy and the Diversity and Inclusiveness Policy.

Each time you comment on a post or news article you are projecting your opinions to the world. So before you press ‘enter’, think about whether your comment could be considered harmful or breach ethical standards.

If you are found to be in breach of the UON Code of Conduct or their other policies there are significant consequences. Student misconduct may result in a warning, fine, requirement to issue an apology, counselling or training, suspension, expulsion or legal action.

According to Renee, it goes without saying to always avoid “messages of hate whether it is of an individual, yourself, minority groups” and “threatening messages or images…including those that suggest attacks on any level (don’t even try to be funny about this sort of thing).”

Another thing which is an absolute no-no is badmouthing your current employer. Aside from getting your boss offside, it also makes you appear unprofessional and can jeopardise future job opportunities.

Be wary of those around you (and their phones)

Remember to be mindful of is who is taking photos of you. For young people it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where a phone is pointed at you.

While the person with the phone may be your friend, they might not always have your best interests at heart. You have to ask yourself – where might that photo or video end up? No one should have to feel like their privacy is being invaded.

In order to stop these photos from ending up on your social media, Renee recommends “blocking some friends from adding to your timeline so you can review the posts you are tagged in before they appear on your profile”. Also, if you ever feel uncomfortable with someone recording you – tell them. This isn’t behaviour you should tolerate.

Check your privacy settings

Facebook often changes its privacy policies, meaning it is incredibly important to regularly check your settings.

“How much of your Facebook activity an employer sees is up to you,” Renee said.

“It’s important to get your settings right because employers and recruiters do actually look at social media for prospective and new employees.”

As a general rule, it’s best to have your Facebook so only friends can see your posts. If you’re unsure of how your profile appears to the public, click on the ‘view as’ option when on your page.

Don’t forget to check all your other social media platforms as well such as Instagram, Twitter and personal blogs. If you see anything inappropriate – remove it.

Create your own brand

Many of us have joked from time to time that our Facebook stalking skills rival that of a private investigator. Well time to put those skills to good use and do a Google search of yourself.

Imagine you are an employer viewing this content. Would you hire the person you’re looking at?

Add social media to your employment arsenal and create a brand you can be proud of.

You can do this by separating your professional and personal profiles online. Renee recommends setting up a LinkedIn account, professional blog or a website highlighting your work.

“You need to make sure you are using the right platforms and presenting the right image for your particular industry,” she said. “If you have unprofessional material that you don’t really want employers to see coming up within your first three pages of a Google search, create more positive posts that push this old material further down the search results list.”

 

Remember – always be clear about what you post online, as ultimately this can be the difference between you landing the job and it being given to the next candidate.

 

Looking to boost your employability? Have a chat with one of UON’s Careers Consultants. 

Feature image by William Iven on Unsplash

We’ve all set sail on that one semester with the best of intentions before realising around major assignment time that something’s gone a bit awry. But it’s not too late to steer your ship to the waters of success; all that’s needed is a bit of planning. Indeed, with the sheer amount of responsibilities you juggle as a uni student, time can be a fleeting resource you can’t afford to squander. To this end we spoke to Alison Hillier, Student Transition Officer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, to help us chart a course towards time management and prioritisation.

Lock It In

In essence, time management is about blocking out time in your day to get certain work items done. In practise, it’s a trainable skill of estimating the time needed to complete a task, setting a time to do the task, and adapting the schedule to fit changes. This means that rather than keeping the vague thought, “I really need to do those readings at some point”, you’ve created a concrete time to start or continue work. In those parts of the day where you might just tune out or check social media there could be opportunities for productivity. “Look at the gaps in your day,” Alison said, “If I’ve got 45 minutes and I happen to have my readings with me, can I have a quick look through?”

Turning a vague collection of items into a clear schedule can really help to cement the path forward. In this matter, calendars, to-do lists, as well as organisational programs and apps are your best friend. “It’s really important to have something in front of you” Alison said. Physical lists, boards and other aids can help you visualise the tasks at hand. Additionally, the use of apps or email reminders can play a role in re-igniting your motivation to work, even if it’s just to make the notifications go away.

Scheduling Specificity

The sensation of spending a whole day at the campus library, engaging with a thousand little things, and somehow making no progress is one I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. Often, the size of an assessment can leave us wondering where to even begin. Thankfully, time management principles can get you on track to feel like you’re making progress in your work. “Effective planning helps you know how to progress to the next step of your assignment,” Alison said. “With major assessments, it can be helpful to work backwards from the due date… starting off where you want to be, and breaking down what’s needed, helps you know the time you need to set aside to do those things.”

Another stumbling block when it comes to making concrete progress is that we leave our study goals too vague. “You can put a lot of effort into something, but if you don’t have a plan on how to get there you’re just treading water,” Alison said. Indeed, energy isn’t much without technique. By breaking big concepts into their smaller parts, you can attack specific problems and it’s much easier to track your progress. ‘Write intro paragraph for assignment 1’ is far more useful than a big block saying ‘study’. The act of creating multiple smaller deadlines also creates a bit of time pressure which you can use to keep you motivated.

Time Triage

Some of us are morning larks, some are night owls, but all of us have spaces in the day where work just feels like spinning the wheels. To this, the goal is identifying the work that takes the most of our mental faculties, and prioritising them in the times we’re most alert. To Alison, this means “if you’re fresh in the morning, doing that hard cognitive work … and leaving the drudge work for the afternoon when your brain’s feeling a bit fried.”

Block Out Breaks

Becoming your new productive self doesn’t mean you must give up on downtime. In fact, you might find you end up enjoying it more. Wired as we are for short-term gratification, it’s easy to procrastinate with low-density fun like browsing social media as it’s easier than work. But by doing the hard yards, we create blocks of time that can be spent seeing a film, hanging out with friends, or doing something we strongly engage with. Ultimately, time management and prioritisation will help you have a smoother life in more senses than just the academic.

There’s something about second semester that just doesn’t feel right. Regardless of how organised, prepared and motivated I am at the beginning, how much I cajole and lecture myself, I just can’t seem to get my shit together. I usually begin the semester full of lofty ideals and ready for war. I leave cute little notes around reminding me to keep my chin up, and reminding myself to get some work done. Within a few days those notes turn a slight shade of sarcastic and, before long they’ve moved through a stage of dark, passive aggression before turning into screeds of abusive self-loathing. By week three or four I feel mired in a mental and physical quicksand; the sheer thought of extricating myself from bed seems like far too much work. So, there I lie, a ball of anxiety, crushed by the sheer amount of work I still have on my plate and mentally unable to do any of it.

I’ve never been able to pin down exactly why those first few weeks of second semester seem so tar-thick and mentally viscous, so I reached out to UON Counsellor and Health and Welfare Advisor, Helen Scobie, to try and understand exactly why, at this point every year, I always feel like such a monolithic pile of human garbage.

Helen instantly brings up ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ or SAD. “Feeling unmotivated at the start of Semester Two can be due to the colder temperature, shorter days and longer dark periods,” confirms Helen. While SAD is a clinical condition and different to a generalised downturn in mood, the winter months can lead us all into lethargy, a biological want for more sleep and a distinct lack of motivation.

Helen also suggested that you could “interpret these mid-semester blues as feeling low, or demotivated, if you have not performed as well as you wanted to in Semester One, or perhaps you are not enjoying your courses or program.”

Helen advises that hours, days, even weeks of struggling to get through the day are normal; what is important is knowing how to take care of yourself.

Self-care is essential, and can be as simple as soaking up some Vitamin D when the sun does show itself, going for a walk “in the weather, whatever the weather”, suggests Helen. “If it is wet, don’t be scared, you won’t melt! Just pop on some boots and a raincoat. Find a puddle!”

Helen also advises not to fall into the trap of using the mid-semester break as a be-all and end-all catch up. Planning to use the break as a chance to catch up on all those things you’ve missed “can lead you to feel disheartened, and demotivated, when they do not achieve this goal.”

By all means, do a bit of uni work in the holidays, but don’t bite off such a big mouthful you choke on it. “Use the upcoming break to practice some self-care and get ready, psychologically, for the rest of the semester,” suggests, Helen.

“It is important to set realistic goals for what can be achieved as well as making time to relax, check in with family/friends and spend time out and about connecting to the world. Sometimes it is possible to connect to the world as well as doing the study/relaxation/catch up—for example have a coffee in the sunshine rather than sitting inside, go for a walk on the beach rather than using a treadmill, head to a yoga class with a friend rather than watching Netflix at home.”

Helen suggests some little slices of self-care, tailored to your own needs, implemented regularly. Do something that gives you comfort; take a bath, read a book that has nothing to do with academia, put new sheets on your bed, use your hands to do some knitting, or baking, drawing or gardening – any kind of tinkering is good.

It’s also important to remember that the literal light at the end of the tunnel is getting stronger every day.

By the time we get back it will be week 9. Spring shall have sprung, the campus will be warmer, the vitamin D plentiful (sunscreen and a hat, please) and the longer, brighter, warmer days should help stimulate a brighter, warmer mood – which you will have a few weeks to enjoy before the mozzies mobilise and start their bloodthirsty sorties.

If your mood doesn’t pick up with the increasing presence of the sun, reach out for help. All depressive episodes should be treated with care, and if you can’t pull yourself out of the quicksand throw your hand out to someone who can.

If you don’t know where to begin, book a meeting with a Student Support Advisor, and have a confidential chat. Student Support Advisors are an incredible resource: they author a blog and provide Skype and other online sessions. Use them to get you back on your feet and back to where you want to be.

If you’ve struggling with your program, perhaps you feel you’ve chosen the wrong path, or your degree isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, Helen advises having a chat with a Program Advisor or the Careers team.

Helen advises to contact someone for help if you’ve been feeling constantly depressed for more than two weeks.

If you’re reading this and you’re not just feeling lowly and unmotivated but truly in crisis please call:

Lifeline 131114

NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

Or 000 in case of emergency

 

Enjoy your holiday. When we get back you might see me lying on the lawn, trying to soak up some motivation like a weird, pasty lizard. Say hi.

It’s pretty safe to say that the average uni student is at a time in their life where travel seems particularly attractive. Whether it’s from the birth of new horizons, the sensation of coming of age, or just a really strong desire to depart from lecture life for a while, you might be considering taking some time to go overseas.

However as the aforementioned uni student you might find it hard to just drop everything and rocket off, especially if you’ve got a placement or internship coming up in your degree. But what if I told you there were ways to feed that travel bug without a finance famine or starving your studies? To this end, here are a few reasons why an overseas placement or internship can help you get jet-set without putting uni in jeopardy.

Get Credit for Doing Something Awesome

So what is an overseas internship or placement? Well, as the name might suggest, it’s an internship or placement that you can do overseas. But to put it another way, an international internship or placement can be a way to fulfil your study requirements while checking off some worldliness goals. According to Adam Elhindi, Mobility Officer at UON Global, the University of Newcastle is at work creating programs that provide students with unique experiences in methods that link to their coursework. “Say you’re a Development Studies student and you want to volunteer at something like a game park, they’ve now created a degree called SCIT3600 which allows you to do that while still having it count towards your degree.”

In December 2016, Bachelor of Laws student Sam Cooper completed an eye-opening internship in Cambodia as part of his degree. “For this internship I received full course credit and an extremely valuable learning experience coupled with wonderful company. Overall, it was a deeply emotive experience (that I am still processing in a way) which highlighted the detriment of many Australian and other foreign contributions to Cambodia’s development.”

Be Financially Supported

One of the major benefits of doing an internship or placement overseas is that there are a myriad of grants, scholarships and other support methods to help you fund it, and this is especially true if internship or placement is a necessary part of your degree.

The level of support available to you depends on the length of the trip and how it relates to your degree, which you can explore in more detail here, but the two main methods can be broken up into Global Traveller Grants For Short Term Experiences and the OS-HELP Program. A Global Traveller Grant is a lump sum that may be available to any student undertaking a short-term experience overseas which earns credit towards their degree, whereas an OS-Help loan is for students for whom an internship or placement is a compulsory element of their studies.

The key difference is that OS-HELP comes in the form of a loan which goes directly into your bank account and right onto your HECS, so you won’t need to worry about the funds for such a venture until you’re well on your way to earning. As Adam explains, “The OS-HELP loan is given to you as cash to help you travel, the majority of students take this out and it just means that they don’t have to have the money right now in their bank account to still undertake these overseas experiences.”

Build Employability

There’s notable research to suggest that students who undertake overseas study experiences have a higher employability than their domestically-bound counterparts. The results of the Erasmus Impact Study account that roughly 64% of employers consider international experience to be an important factor in their selection process. And this makes sense: having done a placement or internship overseas can be a standout factor to differentiate you from other applicants, and the unique opportunities the program affords you could in turn offer unique skills. Couple this with now holding an international network of professional contacts, and you’re in pretty good stead. According to Adam, the big item on showcase is adaptability. “The main thing is real world experience, “ Adam explains. “Employers are looking for applicants who are work ready, and by going overseas you’re getting out in the workforce and developing the skills and experience that get you ready for when you graduate.”

 

So you’ve decided to do an internship or placement overseas through one of UON’s programs, but how do you get started? The first thing on your checklist should be to head over to the UON website and check your eligibility. Next up you can look through popularly offered programs through organisations like CISAustralia, Aim Overseas or Projects Abroad, or find a program through your School or Faculty directly. Following that, complete UON’s handy Pre-Departure Tutorial, after which you should contact your Faculty to finalise your credit agreement.

From there it’s off to the races, or airport as the case may be. Overseas travel can be a great way to figuratively as well as literally broaden your horizons, so it does well to be aware of the opportunities around you.

 

This is really one of those topics where there are no grey areas. No real ifs or buts (excuse the pun) about such things, and honestly, it’s really not that hard to wrap your mind around. But there are some myths circulating about consent that might need some navigational assistance. Consent is always, always a two-way (or three whichever floats your boat) street and here are some common misconceptions on the topic.

Claire Swan is a Health Promotion Coordinator at UON and has worked in youth sexual health for 13 years, providing sexuality education in a range of settings including schools, alternate learning centres, juvenile detention centres and in the community. She has developed and facilitated professional development workshops to build the capacity of teachers and youth workers to support youth sexual health education. She has also coordinated numerous sexual health promotion projects to support the sexual health and wellbeing of Hunter young people. She currently coordinates the Healthy UON Sexual Health Program at UON.

On the subject of sexual consent Claire says, “As a sexual health educator, I have heard and dispelled numerous myths around consent. Consent is always a topic that raises debate as people want to explore common urban myths and statements that they hear from peers. Consent is a very important factor in a respectful sexual relationship, whether it is a brief ‘hook up’ or a longer-term relationship. Consent is simple: all parties must agree for the sexual activity to occur. Sex should be pleasurable and free from coercion, fear and shame.”

Myth 1: The ‘grey area’ debate

Picture this. You’ve been out all night, slightly on the tipsy side, and your mates are mad because you ditched them to make out with the person of your dreams all night. Ok, you might not actually know anything about that person, except for the way looking at them makes you feel, and you’re feeling pretty damn happy with yourself. You both decide to call it a night, together, you both got a little tipsy together, you both decided to do the awkward walk past the housemates together, to the bedroom together. Then things heat up a little. The spooning, the makeouts, etc. and things go the way they go until one of you starts having second thoughts. Whoever that person is, their logical brain has just kicked in, reuniting with inhibitions. As soon as one person says no, as soon as one person is not “up for it,” as soon as one person changes their mind no matter what stage you’re at, you respect that person, look after that person, and do with that person what you hope someone would do with you.

Myth 2: You can give consent by what you’re wearing

If you were to, for whatever reason, walk down the street wearing nothing but a crown of last Christmas’ tinsel, that doesn’t give anyone the right to treat you as though you are their property, (although the Police will definitely raise some red hot legal eyebrows). Regardless, what someone is wearing does not give you or anyone else the right to sexually assault that person, to put it bluntly. And if walking down the street in such a way is the activity you choose to engage in (again, not legally advisable please do not do this thing), you aren’t actively and openly giving consent to the world. So if someone is wearing a skirt, tight pants, no shirt, 10 shirts, trackpants, a spandex clogs and socks combo, whatever… that is not consent.

Myth 3: Consent crushes the mood

If the thoughts you’re having in the throes of passion are so flippant, that they disappear when the person you’re with thinks to ask if you’re feeling ok, are comfortable and above everything else feeling safe, then I think maybe you’ve made the wrong decision, for the wrong reason. I get how modern relationships work ok, and I’m not about to sit here and debate catching feelings or what emotions may or may not matter in that moment but, consent is non-negotiable. In all honesty, if you’re in any way someone who resembles a compassionate human, it should actually make for a much better experience.

Myth 4: The whole “oh but we’ve already slept together once so…”

There’s this strange misguided misconception, that once you’ve slept with someone once, it’s like a golden ticket type scenario and you’ve got yourself a free pass. No. Most definitely, not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve slept with someone “once, twice, or three times a lady,” consent still matters. So sometimes people can overlook the importance of consent with a long-term partner. It’s most definitely as equally important as if you were sleeping with someone for the first time. Being intimate with your partner is about cultivating a long term emotional connection with that person, and consent is most definitely a part of that.

Myth 5: Consent is just for women

This last point is actually really important. There are so many gender misconceptions attached to consent that things often get swept under the rug. PSA: men as well as people who don’t identify as male or female can most definitely be victims of sexual assault, and in no way, shape or form is it any less traumatic, or life-changingly horrific as it is for women. Consent is imperative for everyone, whether you be male, female, non-binary, gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex, queer or any non-cisgender identifying human at all, it’s non-negotiable.

 

If you need more information on sexual health or are seeking support, head on over to http://www.newcastle.edu.au/current-students/support/solving-issues/consent-matters.

You might have had a change of heart career-wise, or you might not have known what you wanted to do with your life and just jumped the gun. When six assignments are all due at once and you’ve got family and work commitments (and probably a million other tasks), it’s natural for the negative thoughts to start creeping in. You’re not the only one who contemplates a change. We talked to Laura Hudson, a UON Senior Student Advisor on what steps you should take if you’re thinking of changing degrees.

Stick to your passions

It can be easy to forget why you are doing your degree, especially in difficult times. Laura recommends “students…consider if they are going to enjoy the degree and make a note of what they want to study for, whether it’s a career pathway or for interest in a particular area.” If you choose something you really enjoy it makes it a lot easier to stay motivated during the hard study slogs.

Handbook alert!!!

It’s easy to jump straight into a degree without taking into consideration the subjects you are undertaking. When choosing your degree, it’s important to not just take into consideration the course content of the subjects but the course outcomes. It can be easy to skim through the handbook, but you’ll probably do so at your peril. For example, a Bachelor of Psychology has a lot more statistics courses than you might have expected. As a result, when looking through the handbook it’s important to consider your strengths and passions.

Discover career pathways

The Careers Team at UON has some cool advice for those who are contemplating a degree change. If you want to get a more accurate picture of the different career pathways your degree could take, make sure to book an appointment.

Laura says it is important to determine, “what careers you might be interested in and find out what qualifications you might need,” as well as learning “about the employment prospects, salaries and working hours to make sure the career you choose will suit the lifestyle you want.”

Job Outlook is a nifty tool by the Australian government to help you out with determining such prospects and average salaries. Finally, Laura recommends that you “seek out people who work in the occupations and industries you are interested in and talk to friends, your careers adviser or our staff at careers markets and events.”

Consult with someone

Before you make the degree change, it’s important to talk to someone about it. There are numerous people you can talk to about your degree, whether you are struggling with the program or need some advice on the best route to complete your future degree. If you are struggling with your course, you can talk to your program convenor before making any future decisions. The program convenor consults on academic matters, including career advice and course recommendations that will reflect your interests. Also, if you are changing your degree, it is best to talk to the relevant program advisor as to inform you of how to complete the new degree in the allotted timeframe. The relevant program advisor and convenor for you can be found here.

How to transfer

You’ve decided to take the plunge and transfer to another degree. Whilst not always the case, if you have room for electives or you’ve already completed some courses, you can apply for a credit transfer here. In doing so, it’s super important to look at the program handbook and change your enrolment.  Laura notes that “students should be aware of key dates of each term, like Census Date,” when changing enrolments or degree. To officially change your degree, visit here. You’ll have to wait till towards the end of the semester before transfers can be made and will usually require a credit average with some exceptions.

Dropping out isn’t the solution

On a final note, if for some reason you are struggling with university, and considering dropping out, Laura recommends talking to the Student Advice team or having a chat to someone. She notes that sometimes dropping out can feel like your “only option when there may be assistance” for your needs. Student Advice can help you with your issues by breaking “each item down to find a way to continue on, or, we can go through options and implications for taking leave from studies.” Such options to help support you with your studies include:

  • Counselling, financial assistance and addressing learning challenges for those suffering from mental health or other related issues.
  • Academic skills which you may develop by contacting your course coordinators, the Learning Development Team, PASS and even the Library.
  • Social participation including UON clubs & societies, volunteers, first year mentors, NUSA or NUPSA.

For more information, visit:

Why you should give PASS a go

Changing UoN Enrolment Details

How to start a club or society

Ooh friend: Our back to basics guide on making friends at uni

If you don’t have a driver’s license, live far away from campus or just want a cheaper (and cleaner) alternative to driving, public transport is a great service to take advantage of to get you to and from university safely.

But late class times mean sometimes you need to catch public transport in the dark. Whilst public transport options generally have safety measures in place, for many this can still be a daunting prospect. In order to put your mind at ease and make commuting safer, UON Security Services are here to help. We spoke with Jamie Daniluck, Manager of Safety and Security Services at UON on how you can stay safe.

Plan Your Trip and Have A Backup 

According to Jamie, security starts with you. “Security starts with the individual. It’s important to put in place safety strategies, making sure you plan appropriately your travels to and from campus, and…that applies to anything else you do outside, including catching public transport.”

Be organised and know the running times for the public transport you’re choosing to catch. Have a backup option if these services run late or break down and let someone know your travel schedule. By contacting a family member or friend when you get on and off, they’ll know when you’re safe and when to start looking if they don’t hear from you. Preparing in advance and knowing you can rely on someone if you’re in any trouble will give you confidence that your trip will be a safe one.

Jamie also recommends implementing simple strategies to limit how far you need to walk at night. “If you’ve got a vehicle during the day…you’ve parked quite a distance away from campus, as cars move on after business hours, try to move your vehicle closer to campus.”

Follow The Light

When walking around campus at night, Jamie advises against walking alone, recommending “walk in well-lit areas in well populated areas, no dark laneways or alleyways”.

While walking with a friend would be ideal, often this is not an option. For this reason, UON has security escort services on campus.

“It’s sort of an after-dark service we offer whereby if people feel unsafe for whatever reason, we will attend to them and escort them to their motor vehicle.”

Where possible, minimise the amount of time you are waiting for transport services in the dark, and when you get off at the other end organise for someone to pick you up or walk with you to where you live.

Use The Transport Services On Campus

The University of Newcastle has a number of free services that can help you safely get to and from transport stops. These include the shuttle bus and UON’s ‘Park and Ride’ service. For Callaghan, the shuttle bus operates between 8am and 12 midnight Monday to Friday during semester, and can take passengers to locations on campus and nearby suburbs including Jesmond, Shortland, Birmingham Gardens, Waratah West. For pickups after 6.30pm, you can call 0407 951 470.

For our City campus-goers, you can also catch the shuttle bus into town at 30 minute intervals, with pick-up points at the Design Bus Stop and Car Park 14 at Callaghan campus. The service operates between 7.15am to 10.15pm weekdays, is wheelchair accessible and even has free Wi-Fi!

For Ourimbah, Port Macquarie and Sydney students, there are a number of well-lit bus stops and parking facilities around campus, and security services operating 24 hours a day.

DoubleMap, a free app, shows you in real time the location of the security shuttle, allowing students to better plan their travels on and around campus.

Stay Aware Of Your Surroundings and Keep an Eye on Personal Possessions

When choosing where to sit whilst travelling on transport, trust your instincts and stay alert. For people commuting early in the morning or late at night, it’s generally best to surround yourself with lots of people, sit at the front of the vehicle near the driver and choose well-lit sections over dark ones. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to keep chat about your personal details between you and other passengers to a minimum.

The same goes for travelling on campus at night. “The incidents – which are a rarity – involve individuals at nighttime travelling by themselves, carrying valuables, not paying attention, [and with] headphones in so they’re not aware of their surrounds,” Jamie said.

Make sure you keep close control of any bags, electronics or valuable items on you and keep them at your feet or on your person wherever possible. By knowing where your possessions are and discretely carrying anything expensive or valuable, you minimise the risk of theft and can feel comfortable that both you and your stuff are safe.

Know Who To Call*

So you’ve planned your trip, used the free transport services on campus, told someone you trust you’re safe and have taken all the right precautions. But what happens if something goes wrong?

If you feel you are in a compromised situation or see something threatening or suspicious, there a number of Help Point Emergency Phones located across all UON campuses.

“At Callaghan you will see there is a variety. There’s some which are on a pole in the ground, others which are a blue box on the wall. At NeW Space, they’re different again, adjacent to each of the lifts on each of the floors. So we have security help phones on each of those floors as well,” Jamie said.

If you’re on public transport, notify the driver/operator as soon as possible, take note of the physical appearance of anyone involved, get off at the nearest stop and call the police. Make sure to follow up any incidents occurred when possible by contacting the company or transport service you were on.

For matters on campus, there are a number of security guards and security services operating 24 hours a day at all campuses:

4921 5888 (Callaghan), 4921 7962 (Newcastle City), 4348 4222 (Ourimbah), 0412 595 054 (Port Macquarie) and 8262 6488 (Sydney Campus).

 

*If you are in immediate danger, call 000 when it is safe to do so.

We’ve all read ‘Group Work’ in the course guide and made this sound.

When the group work bogeyperson rears its revolting head, try not to collapse into a heap of twitching protoplasm. Group work may be difficult, engendering horror stories terrifying enough to be told around a campfire, but it’s not just prescribed because the university hates you. As our own Barrie Shannon, PhD candidate, lecturer and tutor, explains, “it is vitally important that students build their collaborative skills – there aren’t many careers that consist solely of autonomous, solitary work. Students need to be able to collaborate, negotiate and build rapport with others.”

So, how do you tame this group work behemoth with minimal physical and mental scarring?

  1. DO play to your strengths

While Sociology and Anthropology lecturer, Stephen Smith, is keen to reinforce the ‘group’ aspect of group work, “people need to be very conscious of the fact that a group assignment is just that—a group assignment—not an assignment that is made up of ‘bits’ done by individuals”, he also encourages groups to work to the individual strengths of the team. I happen to love referencing, bibliographies and painstakingly carving out that perfect paragraph; on the flip-side, the mere whiff of statistics, math or any kind of design work will cause me to break out in hives. Have a discussion with your group and farm out the roles and responsibilities wisely. Stephen suggests that “members should very early in the piece, establish what they are best suited for and make that very well known to the others in the group. That doesn’t mean, of course, that a single person should be solely responsible for that task or role. Again, it’s a team effort.”

  1. DO set goals and expectations

Make sure each member knows exactly what is expected of them and that you’re all on the same page. Dissect the assignment and set small, reasonable goals for each group member. Give each goal a deadline. By spreading the tasks evenly and chipping away at them you’ll be moving forward as a team, no one will feel they are doing the bulk of the work and the last few weeks won’t be an awful scramble – there’s also less likelihood you’ll want to strangle each other, or be shooting filthy looks across lecture theatres for the next few years.

  1. DO communicate

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be clear. Be informative. As Stephen reminds us, it’s very easy to assume “that everyone understands what you’re saying or doing or writing—or that everyone is on the same ‘page’ as you about an aspect of the assignment.” If you find something cool, share it; you may help get another member more involved. If something you research contradicts your hypothesis, share it; you may have a wider vein of research to tap. If you’re confused, lost or uncomfortable, “voice your concerns,” advises Stephen, “otherwise, how will others in your group know that you aren’t comfortable, or that you don’t fully understand something?”

  1. DON’T ignore the possibility of friction

The student spectrum encompasses everyone from bloody-minded HD fiends, to students following the ‘Ps mean Degrees’ mantra. Any combination of students is going to need “a lot of discussion, ‘encouragement’ and extra effort on the part of all members of the group to decide upon a ‘benchmark’ to be attained” suggests Stephen. Not every student has the same performance expectations, and that’s fine. Managing differing expectations and compromising is a key skill we’re all going to need forever and ever, amen. If friction occurs don’t sit silently and hope it will go away. It won’t. It will fester and boil and explode in an outpouring of anger, frustration and passive aggressive Facebook posts.  Admitting there is friction, and negotiating it, will let the pressure out. Trust me, if you’re having a personality clash the rest of the group will feel it, and they are suffering from the tension too. Barrie advises to “keep your cool and deal with conflict professionally and calmly. Ask for help from your tutor before you go into crisis mode.”

  1. DON’T be a control freak

No one likes a despot. You might have the research proposal nesting in your noggin, but taking over a group and treating them like staff, or lesser beings, is bad news. “Let everybody contribute, and listen to other people’s ideas,” advises Barrie. Group assignments are not about individual visions, but collaboration. Don’t micromanage, don’t dictate and, above all, don’t be a martyr; as Barrie explains, “the only thing as bad as somebody who does nothing and takes the credit is somebody who deliberately does everything and then moans about having no help.” It’s wise not to build your pedestal too high, just in case you trip. Development Studies student, Penny*, describes a group member who acted as the “fount of all knowledge” only to submit the group assignment while it was still in edit tracking mode.

The other side of the coin is the slacker. Uni can suck, the pressure can be immense and there never seems to be enough time to complete everything. Guess what? That applies to us all. Do what you say you are going to do. Don’t let your team down. Don’t be that person who doesn’t turn up to the presentation or coasts on the back of others. If you’re struggling, ask for help. Communicate rather than hide.

  1. DON’T be a jerk

Be nice. Stay positive and be understanding. Stephen again stresses the importance of the ‘group’ mentality: “Be helpful, guide and be guided when needed.” Don’t dominate or form ‘factions’ and don’t victimise people. We all have different degrees of ability and face a wide spectrum of challenges. Many students struggle with reading, writing and communicating, juggle their study with family or work commitments, experience life through different cultural lenses, different physical capabilities, or struggle with mental health problems and various other neurological differences. Barrie highlights the importance of accommodation and understanding, “try not to marginalise or alienate group members who are struggling. Everyone’s contribution is valuable.”

If you work as a unit, rather than a collection of individual parts, group work doesn’t have to be the kind of thing you might flesh out with an anxious and skeletal John Carpenter score – it can be enjoyable and rewarding. “It was actually great” exclaims Jo, a Community Welfare and Human Services major, when asked about her last group assignment. “I made some really cool friends. My advice would be to have fun with it and don’t stress too much.” As Stephen points out, it’s also an opportunity to “learn a lot about yourself and gain interesting insights about others—the different ways people think and do and go about achieving the same things as you do, but in their own ways.”

For all its potential pitfalls, group work is a great way to meet your fellow classmates, make friends and, by working with minds other than your own, learn and experience things you might not have otherwise encountered. Stephen reminds us that group work isn’t about “a group of individual egos fighting for the position of ‘top dog’—it’s people working together as harmoniously and respectfully as possible to achieve the aims and outcomes of the task at hand.”

 

*Name changed for privacy.

“Um hi, sorry to interrupt I know everyone is keen to leave as it is a Wednesday evening and all, student night woohoo you should have seen me party in my prime… although I’m far too old for that now, anyway, but I just wanted to clarify one specific point you made in the lecture three weeks ago about the assignment that’s due in a month from now, because according to my personal experience as both a parent and…”

I know this is exactly what you were all thinking when you saw the title of this article. I can practically feel the eye roll from here. But since you’ve gotten this far, hear me out.

According to a super official survey of uni students that was completed at the start of semester, the average age for students commencing at UON is 26. See numbers (just like hips) don’t lie, which means the majority of students who started their degree this year were, you guessed it, mature age. Not that numbers have anything to do with maturity, I mean just this morning I put sprinkles on my porridge and I’m nearly 30. But what does it really mean to be a mature age student in the 21st century? #letstalk.

Although you might be quick to judge the person who sits up the back of the lecture, engages in every single discussion and may or may not choose to throw in whatever life experience they may or may not have, there is actually more to being a mature age student then these (sometimes delightfully annoying) quirks. The mature age student is usually coming at their degree with an entirely different attitude than their younger counterparts. Instead of having say, the time and space to ‘find themselves’ they may have a family, or a mortgage, or a lot more to gamble than the average punter. Me personally? It’s really just about proving my parents wrong that I actually can finish something I started. This is yet to be decided. Anyway, mature age students are usually all in or all out with their studies. They approach their degree with an unbridled tenacity that can come across as though they are the most annoying people on the planet super focused and not really willing to waver on that fact.

But… think about this scenario. Imagine if, throughout your whole adult life, you’ve felt as though you’re lost, wavering about in the big wide world, working for the man and hating on the system. But you need to do things like eat, and afford a roof over your head etc. so you work until something better comes along. But then one day you wake up, kick your cubicle over and give your boss the finger because you’ve finally found the one thing you really, really want to do. It’s an enlightening, and wonderful feeling to have finally found your passion, so it’s understandable you’re going to dive in head first and never look back.

The typical characteristics of a mature age student, like the ones mentioned above can be seen as one of two things. The first being, a coping mechanism. We all like to fit in, actually it’s pretty much at the core of what it means to be human, the desire to belong can be so strong that it forces us to do ridiculous things sometimes. So whenever we walk into a room full of say, people who are perhaps half our age, we might tend to freak out a little. I’ve definitely been guilty of reenacting the whole “how do you do fellow kids” meme one too many times (I also tried to use ‘lit’ in a sentence yesterday and it made a teeny tiny part of me die inside). So we overcompensate. And instead of trying to fit in, we try to stand out, in the most socially awkward kind of way. The other flip side is, we just don’t care. There’s the hard truth. Mature age students have usually worked ridiculously hard to get to where they are. They are (typically) more likely to study harder and commit to group work a lot easier, which means they can also be your best asset.

So yes, some mature age students can and will most definitely get on your nerves, but so does the 19 year old who started their presentation with “yeah so I’m pretty hungover and I didn’t do any of this group assignment but it’s worth 50% so here’s our slideshow, thingy. #getlit *dab*.