In Bouncing Back From a Bad Mark: Part A, we looked at the steps you should take to move on from feelings of failure and how to rebuild your confidence.

But the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone.

The services at UON aren’t just there for show; there are people behind these services who want to see you achieve your goals.

Understanding Content

If you’re struggling with the content don’t sit there in silence, ask for clarification and help.

I guarantee there are quite a few other students in class struggling as well and you’ll be helping everyone.

If the idea of raising your hand fills you with social dread then attend a PASS session, or find a text that explains the subject in less academic terms. Academic language can be difficult to decipher and absorb, thankfully there is a huge industry devoted to translating what at first can appear as gobbledygook into simpler language.

You can also post or lurk in the discussion groups on Blackboard, form small study groups with some other students or join a related university club or society.

Study Skills

If you’re having trouble maximising your study, achieving a study/work/life balance or developing a routine that works for you, Leaning Development can help you in every area you can imagine. You can also access online versions of these resources through Blackboard, or sign up for a workshop.

Writing Skills

Mastering academic writing doesn’t come easily. Again, help is available to you with through Learning Development. Sign up for a workshop, they’re available for almost anything you can imagine from referencing through to course specific guides. Soon you’ll constructing an essay plan, structuring a paragraph and referencing live a maven. You can even have them look over your next assignment and give you feedback before you submit.

If you’re having trouble with reading skills, referencing, finding resources for study or writing, our librarians are an amazing group. You can even book a session with one for some in-depth help.

Peer Writing Mentors are also a great service where you can learn how to enhance your academic writing. These mentors are students who excelled in their courses, and are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to nailing the marking rubric.

Maths and Stat

If you’re struggling with mathematics or statistics, firstly, my deepest sympathies, secondly, make an appointment with a Learning Advisor who specialises in this area or sign up for a workshop.

Career goals

Having an end-goal at university is a great motivator. It gives you a reason to slog on, helps focus your research and assignment choice and inspire you to achieve. If your goals have changed since you were a wide-eyed idealist when you enrolled, or have gone up in smoke after a brutal reality check, why not have a chat with a Program Advisor, Student Advisor, or our Career Hub? They can help you rediscover your path or find a new one for you.

Health

Health is a huge factor in your success as a student and as a human. It is really important that you find a balance. Be it mental, physical, social, sexual or financial, poor health in any area of your life will eventually seeps in to every other facet. The university has an abundance of resources here. Your first step is to contact a Student Support Advisor, they’re an amazing team of people who can help you with all sorts of issues. Being a student at UON gives you access to mental health servicesdisability supporta GPindigenous and foreign student support, an LGTBI networkclubs and societies, a gym with links to sporting clubs, dieticiansfinancial aidfree legal advice, you name it. If you’re having an issue with the university itself, perhaps you feel you are being treated inequitably, victimised or harassed by a member of staff you can find an advocate to help you.

 

Remember, failure is verb not a noun, and you are now part of an enormous network of professionals and volunteers who want you to succeed and thrive.

Chin up, and good luck.

We all know the feeling of waiting anxiously on our major assessment results – you know, that horrendous thing you handed in, scorched and bruised, right at the last minute before collapsing into bed with exhaustion?

For some of you, it may have been your first major university assignment and you have no way to judge how it went or what marks may be emblazoned on the thing.

Today we’re going to talk about what happens when those marks don’t represent what you expect, wish for, or are capable of. What happens when you fail?

Failure may mean different things to different people – many of you may be happy to scrape through with a pass, quite a few of you reading this may descend into an abyss of self-flagellating woe at the mere sniff of a credit. Either way the bite of failure can be savage and make you question why you bother inflicting university upon yourself when the local KFC has a vacancy listed in the window.

What if I told you failure could be good for you? I don’t mean as a life goal or long-term strategy, but a little bit of a shock every now and then can be a good motivator and teacher.

Here’s a few tips for navigating failure.

Step One: Release the angst

It’s OK to be emotional.

Have a sulk, curl in a ball, have a weapons grade tantrum; do what you must do to give yourself some time to grieve. Hide under a blanket, binge your favourite comfort television and crush food into your maw. Enjoy the misery for a day or two. Make sure you don’t extend your stay too long, a sweet little indulgent morsel of anguish is enough; you have work to do.

Step Two: Straighten up

Now you’ve enjoyed a day of mourning, it’s time to get to work.

Don’t dwell on the failure; procrastination is not your friend. You’ve got that out of the way watching cat videos in YouTube and snorting Maltesers, use it to extract some lessons.

Yes, there’s a reason you failed, but it’s important to keep in mind is that it’s not because you’re stupid or you don’t belong here. These are common, dark thoughts that like to creep into the student brain and set up camp. It may be hard to ignore the curdling screams of the Imposter Syndrome lodged deep in your subconscious, but let’s assume that the fact you are an enrolled student at a university is proof enough that you are intelligent and deserving enough to be here.

Step Three: Reframe the failure

People who never try something new never fail.

Experiencing a failure means you are stretching yourself and branching out, you’re experiencing life and progress. Anything worth doing has a potential for failure, so take this as a sign you’re forging ahead in life. I know it sounds trite, but people who experience things easily or who excel with little effort, either aren’t pushing themselves or aren’t really learning a lot of deep life skills.

University is hard. It’s meant to be a challenge. Making mistakes is instructional and an important aspect of the learning process, experience of failure becomes a very strong, very concrete foundation on which to build your knowledge – not just about a subject but knowledge of yourself.

Without failure to ground you once in a while, you can feel like you’re riding an unstable wave of good luck.

Step Four: Identify why you failed

First, look at the feedback provided by the marker and let it sink in.

Was the assignment rushed (hot tip: markers can always tell when you grind something out in a hurry)? Did you do enough research? Perhaps you are having trouble with the conventions of academic writing, such as referencing, essay, paragraph or sentence structure.

Possibly, between beginning and finishing the assignment, you lost the thread somewhere, and wandered off on a tangent, forgetting to actually answer the question. It’s also common to struggle grasping some of the more advanced concepts university throws at you and to wander blindly through an essay too scared to ask for help.

It could be that you’re a few years deep into a degree that has vaporised your will to get up in the morning, your motivation now buried somewhere along with your career goals (I’ve been there).

It may also be helpful to be honest with yourself about your mental, physical or social health. University can be stressful – but it is also just one aspect of your life. If you are suffering outside of university this will affect your time here. Family, relationship, medical or personal issues can take an enormous toll on your ability to perform academically, and even the most brilliant or dedicated student can collapse under the weight of poor mental or physical health.

The good news is that there is nothing that can’t be fixed, you just need to know where to go.

Step Five: Get help

Sometimes university can feel a bit lonely. Surrounded by crowds of harried students, desperate postgrads and overworked lecturers feeding Mylanta to their marking-related ulcers, you may feel that no one has time to help you.

This is wrong.

The reality is that not a single person in this vast institution wants you to fail or to leave.

There are armies of people here who genuinely care about your success and well-being. This blog is run by a whole bunch of them.

For academic advice, your first point of contact should be your tutor or course-coordinator; ask for a meeting and soak up any advice and guidance.

You can also take your assignment to a Learning Advisor and have them go through it with you. Another tip is to find the marking rubric on Blackboard, this will show you exactly what was expected for the assignment. Compare it to what you handed in, and piece together where it went wrong. It’s a good idea to use these rubrics when planning future assignments as they signpost the effort required of you and the expectations of the marker.

If you are still feeling disheartened, consider talking to one of UON’s counsellors. 

 

READ MORE Bouncing Back From a Bad Mark: Part B

Checking all your social media accounts a thousand times a minute is not going to get you anywhere when it comes to cracking down on those uni assignments. If you’re struggling to push through that report, essay or presentation, no doubt the pressure is mounting.

But here’s the good news.

There’s in-person support on campus to help keep you on track and check your written work, so you’ll be reeling in those HDs in no time.

Yes, we’re talking about none other than Peer Writing Mentors! As a previous Peer Writing Mentor, I can say with absolute certainty that this service is one you should be using and taking advantage of.

One of the best things about the Peer Writing Mentor service on campus is that you are being helped by those in the same boat as you. The Writing Mentors are actual UON students that are there to provide you with advice on developing and improving your study skills, writing ability and referencing.

Because they’re students, just like yourself, there’s the added bonus of Writing Mentors understanding exactly what you’re going through. So while you’re bonding over telling the difference between Harvard, Chicago, MLA and APA, you know that you’re learning by their experience, which can be the best thing. The Writing Mentors are often second, third or fourth year students who have not only passed their courses, but excelled in them.

It’s important that when you visit a Writing Mentor in either the Auchmuty or Huxley library, that you bring along a hard copy of your writing, the assignment question and the marking criteria. This way, the Peer Writing Mentor can always understand the context of the assignment and what is required of you to complete it.

Writing Mentors are then able to provide advice on which areas of your writing needs improvement and can show different strategies on how to interpret marking criteria, address key points of the question and how to structure the assignment (whether it be an essay, report or presentation).

However, there are some things to keep in mind before going to visit one of the Writing Mentors. While they can give you advice about study skills, writing and referencing, Peer Writing Mentors can only offer general feedback about your writing or discuss ideas and concerns with you about your work.

In my experience, there are some students who don’t know that the Writing Mentors are not there to edit your work for you, but rather to show you strategies for how to do something. For example, how to use a referencing style, analyse a question and interpret marking criteria, structure an essay, and use writing or note taking planners.

While they can’t correct your work for you, they’re still a great service for providing advice on areas that you may need a little help in.

The whole idea behind the Peer Writing Mentor service is to teach you how to hone your own study and writing skills, so you don’t need to rely on others to do the work for you later. This not only improves your confidence when it comes to writing assignments, but teaches you to self-learn and self-motivate to get cracking on that 2,000-word essay or 20-minute presentation.

Ultimately, you become aware of the areas in which you need to improve and Writing Mentors are there to guide you along the way. They’re also there to provide you with referral to other services on campus, if they find you need help in a specific area.

Another great thing is that the Writing Mentors are there to help EVERYONE. Whether you’re an Arts student, Law student, Engineering student or Science student, the Peer Writing Mentor service doesn’t discriminate.

All work is important, so even if you’re not completing a written assignment, they’re still there to help with study tips and providing advice and documents to get you headed in the right direction.

 

Peer Writing Mentors are available to help you 11am-2pm, Monday to Friday during weeks 3-13 at both the Huxley Library and Auchmuty Library. 

If you have any questions about this service, please contact pass@newcastle.edu.au.

For more information visit https://www.newcastle.edu.au/current-students/learning/study-skills/peer-writing-mentors.

Students who regularly drive to Callaghan know the pain of finding a good parking spot on campus, or any spot for that matter. This especially rings true during those first few weeks of semester when it is busiest.

Now, as students get into the groove of their studies and seem to know when the perfect time is to rock up in their automobile, there are still a few secrets you might want to know when looking for that easy park.

To alleviate some of that parking angst, you might consider the following advice. You never know when these tips might come in handy (but, they will).

Get in early, or at the RIGHT time.

If you drive regularly to Callaghan, you might have noticed by now that once the clock hits 9am, you can say goodbye to the sweet feeling of finding a park within a five to 10-minute time frame. Arrive any later, and those precious 10 minutes can quickly turn into a 30-minute wait or more.

So, save yourself the trouble (and petrol!), and set your alarm to an earlier time in the morning. Better yet, if you only have afternoon classes, your chances of finding a park on campus increase significantly. Lucky you.

“But getting up early is easier said than done,” you say.

Well, if you have an aversion for early mornings, here is something you’ll want to know. Often people are leaving between 10 minutes before the hour and 15 minutes after e.g. 11:50 am – 12:15 pm. This 25 minute period is your window of opportunity to find a park; don’t waste it.

To park on campus, make sure you purchase a valid permit from Student Central, or buy a daily parking permit (Monday to Friday, 8am to 5:30pm). Outside of these times, parking is FREE!

And remember, always drive carefully and park legally on campus grounds. For example, don’t be rolling in on those nice-looking grass areas, or park in designated staff parking. It’s never worth the hefty fine, and it compromises the safety of you and other drivers.

Park off-campus.

Parking off-campus seems to be a divisive option for students. Some swear by it, others loathe it.

But the thing is, the amount of time you’d spend looking for a park is often longer than the walk from off-campus.

By parking in one of the many side streets surrounding Callaghan campus, not only do you save yourself some time, you also get a workout AND a free park. What’s not to love?

If you’re not too keen on the walking part, try parking near Stockland Jesmond and getting the bus in. Buses come fairly regularly so you’ll never have too long a wait either!

Switch to overflow mode.

Here’s another trade secret: to ease parking congestion on campus, Oval 5 (behind the Forum) usually operates as a overflow car park for the first few weeks of each semester.

Parking here is free and it means you can worry less about finding a park and more about studying! That’s a win-win, right?

Active-ate your travel.

There are alternatives to driving around in never-ending circles. Why not walk, cycle or catch a bus to uni instead? To reduce your carbon footprint, think about leaving the car at home altogether and explore active travel arrangements. Not only does it provide great health and financial benefits, but helps out the environment too. This is green thumb approved.

We’ve also got you covered if you’re catching the train or cycling to the University. There’s a free Shuttle Bus service on campus that operates regularly to and from Warabrook station, and there are two Bike Hubs (Shortland and Hunter) that offer storage racks, lockers and showers.

And, if you live close by, walking has many great benefits. It’s been proven that students who walk rather than drive to uni achieve a higher cognitive performance. If you’re not a ‘walker’ yet this could also be the way to kick start your fitness.

Get a lift-to-go.

Even better, go a step further (pun intended) and carpool!

It’s way easier than you think. Just get a group of friends together, put on your best playlist and suddenly the painful experience of finding a park is almost enjoyable.

If you don’t know anyone who would be interested in carpooling, the rideshare app for UON students, Liftango, connects passengers and drivers across a secure UON network and offers premium parking spots to those who use it.

Simply download the app and you could soon be doing your bit for the environment and saving yourself from the hassle of finding a convenient park.

No matter how you choose to travel – ride, drive or walk – the road is there for everyone to share. By following some simple rules, you can make travelling on the road and finding a good park less stressful.

For more information about parking at the University, including where to obtain a permit and costs, head here.

 

Just like a pizza, everything is better when it’s delivered to you.

That’s what an expo like the UON Careers and Employment Expo is. A metaphorical pizza shop. (Bear with me here…)

Rather than having to go seek out your potential careers and graduate programs, for one day an expo delivers them straight to you. #convenience

Career expos are your chance to make a great impression on your future employer. So don’t waste the opportunity.

You don’t have to be in your last year of study to come to a career expo. There are plenty of opportunities on offer such as internships, Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placements, part-time jobs, project specific work as well as graduate positions and graduate development programs.

Follow our advice on how to get the most out of your day.

Dress to impress

Thousands of students visit expos each year, so make sure you stand out.

But remember to be memorable for the RIGHT reasons. Everybody remembers the guy that showed up in the orange neon suit, but do they want him representing their business?

Research the organisations

Employers want to see that you’re actually interested in working for their organisation.

Show them you know your stuff by researching the aims of the business.

Ask questions

Put all that research you did to good use by asking the employers relevant and specific questions.

Don’t just ask about something that could easily be found by a quick google search.

Some example questions are, “what is the work culture like at your business?” or “is there much potential for career progression in a graduate role?”

Take a look at the Careers Expo Student Guide for some other great advice on how to prepare for the expo.

Network

‘Networking’ often seems like one of those university buzzwords that sounds really complicated and generally unpleasant.

If you’re naturally shy like me, it also seems like an intimidating process. Nothing about ‘schmoozing’ is appealing.

You’re going to have to bite the bullet and start creating those networks though. Around 70% of jobs aren’t advertised, so it seems the saying “it’s who you know, not what you know” rings true to a certain extent.

Career expos are the perfect opportunity to start building your professional network.

And honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Prepare your own personal pitch. Don’t be afraid of selling yourself. After all, they want to know why they should hire you over the next person.

An expo is a low-pressure environment where you can just chat to employers and highlight your strengths. Show them why you would be a great fit for their business.

Remember to be conscious of body language and make an effort to look engaged. Take notes. And don’t forget to ask for a business card so you can follow up later.

Update your LinkedIn Account

If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, get on it!

LinkedIn is a great way to cement those professional networks you make at the Expo.

Write down the name of the employers you speak to and add them as connections after the event. This demonstrates you’re serious about wanting to work for this organisation.

UON Career Expos often feature a LinkedIn booth on the day where you can get your headshot taken by a professional, so keep an eye out for them.

 

After investigating some of the misconceptions mature age students have about returning to study, the UON Navigator team debunk these myths and take a look at support services available.

Studying at university can be a daunting prospect. We get that.

What if I don’t make friends? Am I smart enough? What if I’m the oldest in my class? – sound familiar?

You’re not alone. Chances are someone else is experiencing the exact same doubts you are.

No one gets the hang of tertiary study straight away. Often it’s a trial and error process – it’s about figuring out what works best for YOU.

Mature age students – Navigator has your back. We made it our mission to bust the myths surrounding returning to study, and help you tackle those study anxieties and settle in at UON.

We talked to Student Transition Officer, Alison Hillier, who shed some light on the facts of returning to study.

Myth 1I will be the oldest in my class.

Fact: There is a chance you might be the oldest in your class. BUT, more than 40% of students studying at UON are over the age of 25. So you definitely won’t be on your own.

“You’re never too old! I know a woman who did Open Foundation in her 50s, undergraduate in her early 60s and her PHD before 70,” said Ms Hillier. So if a 70 year old can do it – anyone can!

Myth 2: I will be surrounded by school-leavers who already have all the academic and social skills to be successful in their studies.

Fact: Part of Ms Hillier’s role at Learning Development is providing classes to help mature age students learn and study effectively.

“A lot of the time mature age students feel that they have to apologise for not being confident with writing, reading and particularly technology, and it can take a while for them to develop confidence in their capacity to work to the high standards they set for themselves,” said Ms Hillier.

Guess what: mature age students actually tend to outperform their younger classmates.

“Often the social, organisational and resilience skills are exactly what is needed to be a good student, and translating these into academic situations means mature age students are not just as good but sometimes even more successful than school‑leavers!”

Myth 3Balancing study with other commitments will be too hard.

Fact: There’s no denying balancing study with work, family and sleep can be difficult. But there are a number of things you can do to make it manageable.

Treat studying like a job.

“If you’re studying full time, uni is a full time job. It’s 40 hours a week. That means your face-to-face time, your study time, your revision, preparing for assignments, library research, meeting up with study group people,” recommended Ms Hillier.

Don’t forget to make the effort to come study on campus. It’s proven that students who are more engaged with the university and take advantage of the services on offer perform better.

UON cares.

Really, it does.

Plenty of support services are provided to make studying as enjoyable and smooth as possible. But, UON can’t do it all for you.

Sometimes, the onus is squarely on you to make the most of these services. What’s that cliché expression again? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it?

To all you UON seahorses, here are a few of the things you need to bring to the table.

Take advantage of writing services

As shocking as it sounds, UON won’t write your essay for you. We know, crazy! Thinking about doing an assessment is easy; actually writing it is hard. Once you make a start on it, no matter how sloppy you might think that first 100 words is, it suddenly seems a lot more doable.

If you’re feeling insecure about your writing ability, UON provides heaps of workshops with the explicit purpose of improving your writing skills. Make the most of PASS sessions, academic writing sessions and links to online guides. You’ll be finding 1000 word essays a breeze in no time!

Do the reading

There isn’t something a student dreads more than doing the weekly readings. Sometimes it seems like the theorist you’re reading up on isn’t even speaking English. Opening a course reader and being exasperated at the very first sentence is going to happen. Put your head down and battle through it. Just like exercise, there will be a wall that you simply CANNOT push through, until you can. Even a glimmer of comprehension can be used as a springboard to enlightenment. PASS sessions or group study sessions are the perfect place to tackle a tricky reading. 

Lifestyle Choices

UON is fond of days, weeks, and even MONTHS dedicated to the benefits of healthy living. Physically, mentally and financially, there simply cannot be a valid counter-argument against it. We realise the temptations of the dark side are many and constant, and here at UON we work hard at showing students the light. Think: veggie boxes, cheap bikes and counsellors at your disposal. 

Resilience

During semester there is rarely a time without a looming deadline. The strenuous framework of due dates and word counts needs only the tiniest bit of pressure in the wrong place to come crashing down. We know it can be heavy on the shoulders. Thankfully, you don’t have to bear the weight yourself. At UON there are a whole heap of people willing to let you lean on them for a while. Make sure you talk to someone if you feel yourself being crushed. 

Perseverance

University study is marinated in self-reflection. Late night essay writing, journal trawling, financial sacrifice, burgeoning debt. A bad mark on an assignment  you worked really hard on. An important family occasion you missed because of a midnight deadline. Success of your non-student peers. University isn’t for everyone, but the regret of not doing something always burns the longest.

Your first day at uni is not all that different from your first day in Kindergarten.

Often you don’t know anyone, are a little hesitant about the whole thing, and are paralysed by the exact same fear.

What if I don’t make friends?

But there’s no need to stress! Have a gander at this guide on some sure ways to make friends at UON.

Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you in the lecture

Uni is a giant playground, filled with people just like you looking to make friends.

Your new best friend could be hidden in plain sight; sitting right next to you in your tutorial or lecture.

But you won’t know unless you start chatting to them!

As daunting and uncomfortable small talk can be at times, what have you got to lose?

And if you get stuck for talking points, EVERYBODY at UON can relate to being attacked by mosquitoes. Or not finding a park.

Hey look, you’ve got things in common already!

Join a club or society

N.U.D.E.S

Yes, there is a club called N.U.D.E.S. No – it’s not what you think.

The Newcastle University Diving and Exploration Society is just one of the many, many clubs and societies you can join at UON.

By joining a club you’re basically throwing yourself into a giant pool of a potential friends.

Amnesty International, hip hop, vegetarian, yoga, exchange student network, cheerleading, the Labor club, and mountaineering are just a few of the clubs you’re able to join. Not to mention the expansive number of sporting and religious groups too.

Most degrees also have their own society. Make sure to sign up as this is a great way to meet people studying the same degree as you and form lasting friendships.

“Before I studied I did a few years abroad. I spent a ski season in Canada. So when I came to UON and heard about the snow sport club I couldn’t believe it. [I] decided to get involved and it was a great decision,” said Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical)/Science student Rowan.

“You’ve just instantly got a million best friends. It’s so easy to make friends in a club, it’s such a family environment. Especially in the rugby and snow club. I instantly have a lot of friends,” he said.

Check out our full list of clubs and societies.

Volunteer

UON are always after more volunteers.

Volunteering is not only a great way to meet people but you will also feel all warm and fuzzy for helping out your UON community. Not to mention it’s a great way to enhance your skill base and discover a new hobby.

Share your artistic talents by being the official photographer at uni events, or helping out at Watt Space.

You can also help out at charity events like the Biggest Morning Tea, get your hands dirty in the UON Community Garden, lend a hand at university activities and gigs, mentor new students or contribute to the student media on campus.

Bonus: volunteering looks great on your resume!

Bachelor of Communication student Nadene joined Yak Media as a way to make meet new people and gain some experience in media.

“In my first year I picked up Yak Magazine all the time and loved the idea of being able to write and gain experience in media not just while I was at uni, but even on the same campus I go to uni – two birds with one stone right there. Everything about it just seemed so cool and I wanted to get in on the coolness,” Nadene said.

“I love the exposure to the different responsibilities and roles I get from volunteering with Yak. The whole team is super nice so… I’m genuinely friends with all these people from different backgrounds. We all get to sit at a table together and discuss ideas and create this wonderful thing that gets shared with the rest of the university,” she elaborated.

Sign up to be a volunteer.

Step outside your comfort zone

Now I’m not saying go skydiving or something (that’s just crazy – who in their right mind jumps out of a plane with just the *hope* their parachute will deploy), but you should put yourself out there!

University is the time to try something new.

My motto: say yes to EVERYTHING. Even if you’re dreadful at said thing. Who knows where it might take you.

In 2016 I sang a parody of I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan in front of 200+ people as part of a revue. Was it embarrassing? A little. Was it potentially the worst singing some people have heard in their lives? Probably. But did I have fun and make a tonne of new friends? Absolutely.

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One day you too could be doing karate dance moves on stage. This is the dream.

Be yourself

The University is home to over 40 000 students.

Chances are you will meet someone who will find your quirks endearing and share your passions.

So just keep on doing you. Everything else will fall into place.

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“We live where you holiday!” chant Central Coast Mariners fans, especially against rivals like Newcastle, and it’s undeniable that the Central Coast is a beautiful part of the world. Whether it is a searing summer’s day or a wet wintery week, there is always plenty to do with my family or friends, or blissfully on my own.

Just imagine it’s a clear Sunday, perfect beach weather … the hardest decision is which beach! Terrigal is touristy but flanked by boutiques and cafes; Copacabana can be rough but has a picturesque rock pool; and you can snorkel in Toowoon Bay if the tide is right. On a fair midweek day when I’m by myself, nothing beats a takeaway coffee from Avoca Surf Club then climbing a nook in the cliffs with a book or sketchpad. I am not one for the gym, so I enjoy swimming laps at Gosford Olympic Pool. It might not be as new or chic as the Sydney pools, but even on a dull day the water is warm and the cafe makes a passable coffee. Sitting up in the grandstand reading the news while my cossies dry is a guaranteed stress dissolver.

When it’s neither a cold winter’s morning nor a great day for the beach, there is plenty to keep me busy. In the 18 years since I moved to the Coast, I have seen an impressive improvement in the number of cafés and the quality of coffee. There are places that specialise in single origin and cold drip and I could spend a month or two visiting them all (and not sleeping). Favourites are Three Trees, Ooomph and Glee Coffee Roasters. For old-school European, Caesar’s Coffee and Fine Food is the Little Italy of the Central Coast, selling roasted beans, fresh pasta and kitchen gear, long before MasterChef hit our TVs. Did I mention microbreweries and distilleries? There is Six String Brewing Company and the newer Block’n’Tackle Brewery, as well as Distillery Botanica and Firescreek Fruit Winery (which I drive past on the way to university).

But it’s not all froth and hops! The Coast is loaded with quality second hand and vintage shops, from books and clothes, jewellery and furniture. Long Jetty is my pick of the suburbs. I can enjoy quirky healthy food and crazy good coffee at Glass Onion Society café, before strolling around Dapper Darlings Vintage or The Sound Exchange, possibly the best actual record shop north of Sydney. Try the Green Tangerine for bread and Octopus’ Garden for creative bouquets.

And books! Ruby’s Cafe & Books is a feast and Book Bazaar, one of the few remaining independent booksellers is always worth a visit. When it’s movie time I avoid big cinema chains and pop into Cinema Paradiso, Majestic Cinema or gorgeous Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, which often shows independent releases.

I wouldn’t be a fledgling artist if I didn’t mention the galleries, starting with Gosford Regional Gallery, which combines regional exhibitions with local art shows and a beautiful Japanese garden and koi pond. Two Birds Gallery Café is lovely for lunch and creative gifts. The recently-formed Art Studios Cooperative is a gallery, studio and school that is creating an enormous buzz in the region and beyond.

It’s a little ironic I’m writing this all whilst on holidays in Adelaide with my family, but hey … even those of us who “live where you holiday” need our own holiday from time to time!