Using A Degree?

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Sometimes when I mention what subjects I study, I hear that I will never use them. How will I ever get a job in Gender Studies? Nobody advertises for a philosopher.

That hurts.

Firstly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with studying for pure interest, without the intention of earning money from the qualification. I have colleagues and friends who already have multiple degrees and established careers, but re-enrolled as part-time learners of subjects they love, or who are taking degrees to exercise their minds after having to retire from physical work for health reasons. These are some of the cleverest people I know, and I hate to see their progress dismissed as non-economical.

Secondly, all degrees are used. Yes, I did meet some students, especially during my first degree at 20-21, who went to university solely to find a spouse, or because they were not sure what their life aims were, and that sounds on paper like a waste or abuse of the system. I will freely admit that I also took advantage – when self-employed but not yet earning much, I went to university because a student loan made it possible to escape abuse. I feel bad about that, but would it really be better to sit at home, unemployed or in an unfortunate situation, whilst waiting for life to turn around? Why not take that time to learn more about a fascinating subject, and gain transferable skills along the way? Knowing how to research, think critically, skim-read and close-read, manage one’s time, write coherently, and reference correctly are skills that can help is several jobs as well as in volunteering positions.

But returning to my specific subjects – as a working student, I am already being asked to use animal ethics to consider the language used on a vegan website, and just today I was asked to design a workshop on feminist pedagogy in online education. Useless degrees? I think not!

Study what YOU want, and something will definitely come of it 🙂

Surviving Winter

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It is -5°C today in Linköping. In other words, just how I like it! I love cold weather and barely ever feel cold; I have gotten heat exhaustion as far north as Berlin! However, I will never forget my former neignbour from Israel, who upon seeing snow for the very first time in Sweden, ran outside to play, yet then spent a week inside, shocked by the low temperatures.

As Linköping is not on the coast, it is fairly shielded from cold winds, but those not used to the snow, or the darkness, might still find Winter rather challenging. This is what I would recommend to not let the weather get you down:

  • If you cycle – make sure you get Winter tyres, as well as lights, (it is actually illegal not to use the latter), and go slow! Do not make the mistake I once did and glide down an icy hill before falling off and twisting your thumb…
  • Get a good pair of Winter boots, with lots of grip, and allow extra time to walk places if it is very slippery or if the snow is very deep.
  • Wear something reflective or light coloured, so that you are visible to drivers, and layered clothes. We are not quite in thermal underwear territory, but thick tights, big jumpers, and headscarves all come in useful.
  • Try to go outside around 12-3pm, even if only for 10 minutes, to get a good dose of vitamin D. It really dose help with feeling healthy and fit all-round.
  • If that is not possible, consider investing in a full-spectrum lamp – if you move away, it will not be hard to sell on to newer students.
  • Take a Thermos with hot coffee to lectures, and bring a lunch that can be warmed up in a microwave on campus.
  • Work-out. It might sound strange, but spending that energy leads to feelings of more energy, which helps crush those feelings of, “It is dark – time for bed.”
  • Use the opportunity to try a new activity, such as sledging or ice-skating.
  • Embrace the dark – go and look at the stars, or take some beautiful night-time photos, to make your peace with the lack of light.
  • And lastly but perhaps most importantly – don’t be afraid to plan social activities after dark. A night in a warm and well-lit room, surrounded by friends, will soon take your mind off being cold 🙂

More Money-Saving Tricks

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I have posted on this topic a few times, so I do hope that I am not boring you, but as I am always on the look out for ways to keep expenses down, I thought it is worth sharing some new ideas. As a new student, if you are not working or eligible for loans or grants, you might be worrying about finances, but do not panic! Whilst Sweden has a reputation for being expensive, it is not that bad (try living in Switzerland!), it is just that the prices might seem a bit out of proportion compared to what you are used to. For example, rent outside of the city centres is a lot cheaper than I experienced in Germany, but groceries are more expensive. Alcohol seems extortionate compared to in the Czech Republic, yet hygeine items are suprisingly cheaper, especially when purchased in bulk. And some things can really vary in price, such as full vs advance or last minute train fares, and whether you want to rent or buy equipment. So whilst you might find yourself recoiling in horror at some prices – coffee! – you might find yourself saving in others, and after a few weeks of an accordingly-adjusted budget, things will start to feel a bit more normal.

Still, it is always good to save a bit along the way, whether for life after studies, to travel around Linköping, or just as a safety net. Here are a few tricks which can help along the way:

  • Go grocery shopping in the evening, when fresh items are more likely to be reduced.
  • Plan meals ahead and buy in bulk, but check if deals are really worth it – a 3 for 2 offer might not save you anything if you will not use up the items before they expire. Freezing leftovers is a good way to save on waste too, as well as costs.
  • If your travel plans are flexible, check out the “last minute” deals for train tickets, available for journeys within 24 hours. Otherwise, book far in advance for discounted fares. If your train is over 60 minutes late, you can also claim compensation directly from SJ.
  • Open a bank account with extra advantages. I recommend ICA, as the debit card is free for students, there are rewards for shopping at ICA supermarkets, and a savings account takes only a single click to open.
  • Leave your debit card (and cash, but that is barely accepted now), at home when your are not planning on shopping – impulse purchases can definitely add-up!
  • Work out at home, or buy going for a run, rather than joining sports clubs – but n the other hand, clubs can be fun, so this one is very individual.
  • Join a library instead of buying books, and if you live in Ryd, check out FR Ryd‘s library of household items.
  • Get loyalty cards and earn points and rewards – I have enjoyed free coffee at Ikea, money off at Hemköp, free train trips to Stockholm and Malmö, and a 10kr mini-cruise out of such cards.
  • Use online systems, or if you have a Smartphone, app-based tickets, to save a lot on priting, envelopes and stamps. Oh, and it helps the environment too!
  • Attend free events – all over campus you will see posters for free concerts, picnics, debates and sports competitions. This is also a good way to meet new people.
  • Use free software, such as Libre Office rather than Microsoft Word, and take advantage of free trials, such as for Netflix.
  • Buy second hand, from charity shops, or use social media or the LiU noticeboard to trade items with locals. My 1980s microwave cost 50kr and is still going strong, whilst my lamps were completely free.
  • Take a reusable coffee cup for a discount at the university cafés.
  • Cut down on utility bills. Studentbostäder contracts include all utilities, but if you are with an association that charges for exact usage, save on water bills by putting a brick in the toilet tank and taking shorter showers. When it is cold, put on an extra jumper and use draft stoppers instead of turning up the heating. And make sure everything is off before going away.
  • Go homemade! Cleaning products can be expensive, but most can be substitued for various combinations of vinegar, lemon juice, and sodium bicarbionate.

Five Tips for your Motivation Letter

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The next application round for courses starting in Oct 2019 closes on 15th January. To apply, you will need to register and upload all relevant documents here. Most modules will need proof of previous studies in addition to ID, but programmes often need a motivation letter too – your chance to show the admissions officers why you deserve a place. Staring at a blank piece of paper, or laptop screen, is not always easy, so I wanted to share some tips that I have picked up over my twisty-turny journey to LiU:

  1. Make sure the letter is tailored to the programme. I know it can be tempting to copy and paste letters to send to different universities, but a Master in European Relations and a Master in European Studies will have different components and I am sure that admissions advisors will want to see candidates that have properly read the descriptions! Make sure too to take note of different formatting requirements.
  2. Explain why you have chosen the programme and why you are passionate about the subject(s).
  3. Show why you are suited to the courses. If your academic background does not line up with your desired course – for example, you took a Bachelor in History and want do to a Master in Childhood Studies – then this is the place to elaborate on transferable study skills and relevant voluntary work and employment. Of course, even if you are continuing with the same subject, it is still a very good idea to describe these skills!
  4. Be concise – these letters often have short word or page limits in which to explain all relevant information.
  5. Take your time, check your spelling and grammar, and proof-read the text. Sometimes it is worth getting a friend to have a read through as well, especially if you are like me and tend to get blind to errors when tired.

Good luck with your letters and applications, and hopefully your future studies.