Essay Trax

02:04 Unknown 2 Comments

It's nearly 2 am and most people are out celebrating St Patrick's Day in a club somewhere. I'm not doing that, but I'm not doing anything productive either (this is a judgement free zone). I decided instead I would gather together a few songs that help me work and share them with you. Maybe we can all take something from this.
So here are my song choices for you (complete with artwork and album name because I'm useful like that). Obviously we've all got very different tastes in music but I've tried to get a bit of everything I like at the moment in. We've got soundtracks from films, electric, retro jams, and of course some Beyonce. My housemates Nathan and Millie have helped me out a little here - their recommendations are Helicopter from Bloc Party, Smooth by Santana, and HandClap by Fitz and the Tantrums which has now been in our heads collectively for a good three days.

In case you can't see the graphic, or want it clearer, here are my picks:

  1. Hearts on Fire - FMYLBND
  2. Montage - Andy Hull and Robert McDowell
  3. Get Back Up Again - Anna Kendrick
  4. HandClap - Fitz and the Tantrums
  5. End of Time - Beyonce
  6. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
  7. Smooth - Santana
  8. Blow Your Mind (Mwah) - Dua Lipa
  9. Da Funk - Daft Punk
  10. Pay No Mind - Madeon

As a heads up, Montage is a bit odd, and so is the track from the Trolls soundtrack, but they just get me really pumped and I usually play each a few times in a row. Born to Run is also a top track at the moment for getting work done.

It's pretty much all upbeat and you can see the rest of my playlist here (don't judge me) for more eighties/chart rubbish/soundtrack/electro music:

Alternatively, Spotify have some really good instrumental playlists to keep your brain happy while you read or edit. What do you like to listen to? Or do you prefer the silence? Let me know!


Architecture - Undergraduate vs. Postgraduate

22:52 Unknown 0 Comments

Having studied both undergraduate (Part 1) and postgraduate (Part 2) architecture courses at Oxford Brookes University, here are some of my observations and experiences.

Number of modules  
Part 1 :  
Part 2 : More freedom to choose in year 1 specialization units. In Year 2, only technology-integrated design and management-practice-law modules.

My favourite module
Part 1 : Dissertation about self-healing construction material. I love researching unconventional, interdisciplinary fields of architecture. And graphic design.
Part 2 : Building Physics in sustainable building unit - I love applied physics and calculations.
Technology-integrated design - Through model-making and drawings, I make my design feasible without losing its conceptual, artistic essence.

Scope of work and field trips
Part 1 : Many theoretical/historical studies. Design units vary in fields of architecture (eg: biophilic, parametric, vernacular). Field trips mostly in Europe.
Part 2 : More stress on advanced technology and professional practice. More international field trips (eg: Brazil, Cuba, US, South Korea, Japan, Singapore)

Teaching style
Part 1 : Go cray cray. Test, fail, repeat. Students are exposed to a huge variety of architectural conventions.  Often, students are guided closely on how to move forward in their design project.
Part 2 : Last chance to go cray. Maximum self-control given to students to manage their project. You are the designer, take charge, use your tutors as advisors. More practicality in the design.

Student community
Part 1 : Closer-knit and lively student environment in the studios. More direct interaction among students. Strong sense of camaraderie.
Part 2 : More independent and self-supporting working style. Many part-time students. Most people work at home.

Free time
Part 1 : Non-existent concept of time.
Part 2 : Wow, this much?

Approaching the end of the semester,
Part 1 : Can I get a life now?
Part 2 : Can I get a job with this?

Approaching the end of part 1 feels like getting lost in a maze and breaking down, questioning your choices in life. The moment you hand in the final assignment, Eureka! The fog dramatically lifts and all is clear, architecture is momentarily wiped from your cerebral cortex. You feel like Julie Andrews in the 'Sound of Music' - now you can roll down the summery grass in South Park as much as you want.

Days after, the feeling of being 'useless' kicks in and you are sucked into the insanity of job application. But there is so much more to do in life!

After years of toil and sweat, give yourself a break but never stop learning. Enjoy time with all the people that have supported you. Travel to expand your horizons beyond your definition of architecture. Take up new hobbies to make yourself a better person. Do a work placement to define your ambition in your further studies or career.

Nostalgia is starting to kick in in these final 2 months of my masters degree. I wish there is a restart button to be an architecture student all over again at Oxford Brookes University. It is a privilege to be a student - to fail and not be judged.



09:00 Unknown 0 Comments

Success is one of the most desired outcomes of life and is something we all strive to achieve. Our perceptions of success, however, all vary. I personally believe success is when a self-designed goal which enhances your skills has been achieved through hard efforts - for example, delivering a presentation at a conference will improve your confidence, public speaking skills and even strengthen your network. Although I do not claim to have achieved total success, I would still like to share a prime strategy to accomplish so.

There are plenty of ways to do this - this is where your creativity is exercised. Sitting in a boring lecture? Network! You can connect with acquaintances on LinkedIn to build the likelihood of potential opportunities you may be presented with. Additionally, doing something you know will expand your skills such as blogging will benefit your career. Employers often take interest in my position as a Brookes Blogger as it demonstrates my communication skills. Alternatively, participate in Drama Society which shows an equal strength,

This is where my marketing degree plays to my advantage. Imagine a perceptual map, almost exploding with students reading the same degree all with similar results and previous work experience. You see, we are all more or less the same on paper. This is why we must fill that niche gap in the market by showing our zest. Zest is personality and by marketing this unique aspect about ourselves, we stand out and become superior to our competitors. 

The hardest step to achieve success is motivation. Extensive determination is required to form a strategy and accomplish it. It is certainly becoming increasingly difficult to do so, considering the human obstacles we encounter on our journeys, but this key element truly separates those who have a genuine passion for success and those who do not.

Success is a universally shared desire but achieving it is the challenge. Staying motivated to making it part of your daily routine (even if it is just through a connection on LinkedIn) and marketing your zest will certainly return satisfactory results.


Welcome to Dissertation Central

18:23 Unknown 1 Comments

It's 6 pm on a Saturday. The library is busy. It's full of students looking tense, drinking coffee and trying their best not to play games or go on Facebook - most are failing. Why you ask? Our dissertations are due in two weeks.
If you have no idea why that's stressful (which I fail to believe) or you're in the same boat, I thought I'd share a little bit of a journey with you and some truths I feel we can probably all relate to.

1. I seem to get cravings for doughnuts. You know how pregnant women crave weird food? I just want doughnuts all the time. It's my dissertation craving. They're only 65p in Tesco but I obviously can't eat them all the time because I'll die of a sugar overdose or something (probably just get a headache).

2. Coffee is my friend.

3. I can't seem to work at home. The desks they provided in our house are weird and short and I hunch over so much, I might as well sit on the floor. As a result, the library is my friend.

4. I seem to work better at night. It's also quieter in the Forum and there are more free PCs.

5. Take time out now and then. Watch a film, or go for lunch with a friend. Otherwise, it will just be terrible all the time.

6. Take your own teabags and get hot water from the vending machine on the platform for 5p! I'm scared to share this in case they take it away, but it's so good! You can have cup-a-soup, or instant coffees (but nicer ones), or fruit tea.

7. Drink water. Lots of it.

8. It can help to print out journals or readings and to look at them on paper rather than on screen. You can also use highlighters and sticky notes this way, and it's nicer for your eyes to not always be looking at a screen.

9. Be comfy on your library session. I know it's nice to look nice, but if you're going to be there for eight hours and walk home at 2 am then you ought to be comfy all day, and ideally warm enough for the night.

10. Take snacks and save money. Invest in plastic tubs you can put leftover dinner in or sandwiches.

11. Try to look after yourself with a few healthy meals here and there, or at least take fruit with you. Your poor body is enjoying the dissertation process about as much as you are.

12. Most people are in the same boat as you. It's okay.

13. Set yourself daily goals, or weekly goals (write 250 words today/find 3 new sources today etc), and don't forget that you will need to edit everything.

14. Sometimes I work really well with friends because you push each other to write, but sometimes it's better to work alone so I can't get distracted.

15. Back up everything. (I use Dropbox, some of my friends use Google Drive, memory sticks, or just emailing everything to themselves) It is not worth losing everything!

16. Use the library! The librarians are very helpful - they can find things for you, show you past dissertations from your course, or help you access the Bodleian if you need a book they don't have.

17. Read around the subject. The point of your research is that no-one has covered it, so of course there won't be books about it. I'm doing mine on gender subversion, female comedy roles, and four specific films. So look at books on feminism, femininity, comedy in film, stereotypes etc. Think big!

18. Take notes, and write down the reference of the book there and then. Trust me, I've had to frantically search Google so many times because I forgot to write down page numbers or the publisher name.

19. Do not compare your work to anyone else's.

20. Seriously don't. No-one else is doing the same as you so no-one's will work the way yours does. Your research might be more intense, so obviously it might be slower to write out. Yours might have changed, or gone a different direction. You might have a lot of films to watch, your friends might have a lot of participants to find. Comparing yourself will just upset you unnecessarily.

21. Don't forget to help each other out, though, a lot of people use surveys and questionnaires, and what takes you five minutes to fill out will mean a lot to the person who made it. It's so hard together samples, so procrastinate a little and fill out some questionnaires!

22. Celebrate little victories. Here's a picture of me celebrating doing absolutely nothing useful that day (bad example), but some things take longer than you think.

23. The sooner you understand that reading is just as vital as writing, the sooner you can be proud of a day's work. Finding five new references, or just a couple of perfect quotes or theories is just as important as having written 500 words.

24. Some second years recently asked me how many references you need. To any second years wondering the same: your teachers will not tell you. It is entirely up to you. Basically, support any point you make. I'm currently in the seventies and have friends in the thirties, and some up to, and over 100.

25. Another tip for you youngsters who haven't started yet. Pick something you like. I'm so glad I still like my topic, honestly.

Well, there you have it, some truths, some advice, and some generally uninteresting points about my own dissertation so far. I'm up to 9600 words and have yet to write my conclusion or fix four chapters of my analysis(!), so wish me luck. And if you are writing yours, good luck. And if you haven't started yet seriously good luck.



22:39 Unknown 0 Comments

The Dance Society is one of the most inspiring communities Brookes has to offer. I have previously written about how fantastic they are and welcoming even to those who lack the ability to dance (basically me, bants), so check it out here:

The amount of effort the committee members and teachers allocate to this energetic society is incredibly admirable, especially considering that they must all still balance their work. Hard efforts go into their lessons which are taught several times a week for a vast amount of members and their organisation of events which often contributes to collecting significant charitable donations.

I believe that Brookes Dance Soc. is one of the most organised and considerate societies. Not only does it embrace and appreciate every member (#DanceLove, am I right?) but the Committee wholeheartedly put reasoning behind every action the Society, which is rather endearing.

This is why I strongly believe and encourage you to vote for Brookes Dance for Best Society here: by 4pm on Wednesday 8th March!

But wait, there's more!

The Dance Show is shortly upon us! On the evening of the 30th and 31st of March the Brookes Dancers and Committee will display their hard efforts from this year and present it in the Show at merely £5 per ticket (available for purchase from all members) in the Union Hall. Of course the Committee have decided to donate half the proceedings to Sobell House Charity, a very noble cause with excellent reason to give.

So remember, #VOTE4DANCE and hope to see you at the very much anticipated for Dance Show at the end of March!

Until next time,



GUEST BLOG: 5 things I wish I knew before starting university, by Poppy Houston

08:24 Unknown 0 Comments

Hi guys! I’m Poppy, a second-year history student here at Brookes and I’ll be doing a couple of guest blogs until the end of the semester as part of my placement module. I thought it might be useful to give you a list of five things I wish I knew before I started university.


When choosing university, looking at the modules that are on offer is possibly the most important thing you could do. Every university is different, so don’t be fooled into thinking that a course at Brookes will be the same as a course elsewhere. Making sure you enjoy your course is key to your academic happiness for the next three years.

Having said that, it’s also important to keep an open mind. All 8 of my first-year modules were compulsory and I was dreading sitting through two hours of ‘the rise of the modern world’. But it ended up being my favourite first year module. Compulsory courses are a great way to make friends, especially in your first year. All your timetables end up looking the same and you bond over those hellish 9am starts and caffeine fueled lecturers.


You don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on books anymore. With at least one compulsory text per module, if you opt for buying all these books the cost could spiral out of control. With other things to pay for, such as a dangerously expensive tea addiction, I could do without the extra cost. Cue the Brookes Library: six floors of free books, online renewals, and articles you can access from your bed!

Bonus fun!: Many of the books in the library have been underlined by previous students, meaning that that all important key quotation has already been found for you – half blood prince style.

Social Life

After a very hardcore ‘maybe I’ll go out once every other week’ approach to clubbing in first year, I’ve decided to retire. I’m a grandmother living in a 20 year old's body and I wasn’t kidding anyone by um-ing and ar-ing about going out. The truth is that I’m happier in my bed, watching Netflix, and eating ice-cream.

If you ‘#lovethesesh’ then Oxford is a surprisingly great city to go out in. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be just fine too. Don’t feel peer pressured into drinking. If you don’t want to go out, don’t. It’s as simple as that. You won’t be missing out on much, and for a £5-10 club entry + the cost of drinks you could find a lot of other ways to be social with your mates, like…

- A seat to watch Oxford United: £12 (with a student ID)
- Going to the cinema: £5.60-£7.00 (with a student ID at Odeon)
- A chicken katsu-curry at Wagamamas: £10


Here’s my attempt at saving my loose change for a special occasion.

SAVE BEFORE YOU GO! So many people told me this before uni and I wish I’d listened. Having a pot of money you can fall back on after blowing out too much during freshers week will be a life-saver.

Get an accounting book or spreadsheet before you go; plan out your finances, rent and monthly food bills etc, get it all written down. This way it’ll be easier for you to see that you’re spending way too much in the on-campus Starbucks and help you plan accordingly, like bringing your own tea bags and buying a hot water instead! Oh, and get two bank accounts (or at least a savings account added onto your account) - having your rent and social money in separate accounts prevents you accidentally spending away your rent money.

Don’t stress too much. No matter how bad it gets you will be able to get support at university.


There are so many online resources at uni that you can find answers to even the rarest of questions. Even how to work the washer.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help! If you don’t ask, you won’t get; whether it’s academic help or student finance issues, there’s always a lecturer, a member of the union staff, or someone else who can help you. The Student Union’s finance team are absolute lifesavers with all student finance queries and helping to avoid phone calls. Let’s be honest, nobody likes making phone calls.


I hope these prove useful to you all. Leave a comment below if there's anything you wish you’d known before you started university. Or, if you haven’t started university yet, is there anything you’d like to know?


Full time job + part time MA = no social life

21:34 Unknown 1 Comments

On Saturday, two of my best and oldest friends got engaged in UNISON on the top of a MOUNTAIN, surrounding by all of our closest friends. Their lovely boyfriends got down on one knee, on the snow covered mountain top, side by side and presented sparkling engagement rings to my two friends who cried with shock and happiness at the total surprise proposal. It was a beautiful, romantic, once-in-a-lifetime, story book moment. Or so I heard, I wasn’t actually there.

I was at home, as usual, doing university work.  

When I tell people I’m doing an MA on top of my full time job they often say things like “Oh my God I could never do that” “How do you manage that?” “I can’t imagine doing anything on top of this job” and the answer to all of that is, I don’t manage it, I don’t do anything on top of my job, I am effectively a 27-year-old hermit.

It’s Saturday night, I’ve just completed my first week at my brand new job, I’ve driven to three different offices, written six different articles, attended one university class, read two books, written 1,5000 words of my book, read 10 million poems, food shopped, cooked, cleaned, fed the cat and everything else that goes with a normal week. What I haven’t done is taken that special trip to Wales to climb Snowdon with my best friends for the weekend. I said I couldn’t go, for the main reason being I literally can’t spend the whole weekend doing anything except working during my course[1] or I will never manage to pass.

I always have to say no now, to dinners, drinks, parties, weekends away. And I console myself that I have to, because even when I have no weekend plans I’m still in a constant struggle to juggle a super demanding job with an even more demanding course. I spend my evenings reading, my weekends writing yet I’m still always behind, I always turn up to class flustered having often finished the week’s reading sat in my car in the minutes leading up to the lecture, I still don’t get enough writing done, I still haven’t started my assignment for this term.

After my initial excitement over the double engagement announcement, came the crushing disappointment that I had missed it. I’ve spent most of the evening questioning myself as to whether the MA is worth it. What if the course amounts to nothing? What if I never make it as a writer anyway? I could waste two years of my live saying no to events, experiences, people - potentially for nothing.

And the truth is, I have no idea if it will be worth it. I have no idea if I’ll ever do anything with this MA, whether all the words I spend my evenings writing, whether all the books I spend my weekends reading, will amount to anything at all. But I have to try. Even if this means missing out on some of the best things, the parties, the drinks, even the engagements, I have to believe it will be worth it in the end. Maybe missing out will force me to make sure it’s worth it, and maybe when I think about all of my friends, gathered together, celebrating a double engagement and me sitting at home reading fucking Cloud Atlas – maybe then I’ll say to myself DON’T WASTE IT – WRITE SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING, BE SOMETHING.

Or maybe I’ll just pour another glass of wine and feel sorry for myself. We’ll see.

[1] The other reasons being 1) I hate hiking 2) My boyfriend has a slipped disc and can’t walk around Tesco, let alone a mountain 3) I don’t have a slipped disc but couldn’t walk up a mountain because I hate hiking


The Study Sesh #SS

09:00 Unknown 0 Comments

So you want a chill sesh with the core mandem but the woes and stress of work are deterring you from doing so? Never fear, fellow students, for the #SS (#StudySesh) trend is here - and becoming increasingly popular! What is this fantastic trend I hear you ask? A SS entails melodious music in a studious environment accompanied by comrades. A standard SS generally lasts for 4-5 hours in the company of 3-5 acquaintances - a group size which is not too large to be easily distracted yet not too small to get bored, really. 

A general SS playlist should consist of mellow music to set the working environment. Here are my top study tracks:
  1. Stuck on the Puzzle - Alex Turner, Submarine Soundtrack
  2. A Space in Air - Nujabes, Impression Reissue 
  3. Pusher - Alt-J, This Is All Yours
  4. Supersymmetry - Arcade Fire, Reflektor
  5. Walla Walla - Glass Animals - Zaba
All these tracks satisfy both the ear and the mind. Plus, all the songs are generally quite good tunes. Alternatively, follow my study playlist workin hard on Spotify (my handle is sahra-sk) where you can hear all these motivational bangers and others. 

To maintain studious vibes you need the two essential items:
  1. Exceptional table space
  2. A healthy number of chargers and sockets
These two features are the core requirements of a productive SS. Extra additions which could be beneficial include a generous supply of water and biscuits to keep you going. 

No one actually likes working so set a realistic goal and give yourselves rewards and breaks. In my experience SS are more productive in the evening because the time pressure is far more substantial. Perhaps a good reward after an evening sesh could be a trip to the pub or even a film featuring a comforting Deliveroo order.

Essentially, just stay productive and motivated but don't exhaust yourself. I know you've probably heard all this before but  take advice from this relatively experienced Second Year and organise a #StudySesh, you might find it particularly useful!