Top Five Things New University Students Need To Know

GUEST POST: Louise Baker is a freelance blogger who usually writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. Her most recent article ranked the best online schools.

If you’re headed off to your first semester of university, you’re probably worried about all of the new experiences. Living away from home for the first time, compounded on top of all your new classes, can be quite daunting. However, here you’ll find the top five things new university students need to know. These tips are sure to make your first year at your college or university much more bearable so that you don’t have to feel so much trepidation is getting in the way of your enjoyment of the academic program.

Go To Class
For the first time in your life, you’re going to be given free rein as to what you spend your time doing. Though some introductory seminars will still take attendance, as time goes on you’ll realise that there’s less and less accountability concerning whether or not you show up for lectures. As such, it’s important to remember that the main reason you’re in that place is to go to class. Sure, it’s fun to miss one or two classes to get lunch or play Mario Kart with your friends, but after a while you’ll find that you know more about the menus at the local restaurants than you do about your Introductory Psychology class. All in all, don’t skip class unless it’s a dire emergency.

Take Care of Yourself
Many people talk about the fact that some people, away from home for the first time, gain a lot of weight within their first semester. If you don’t want this to happen to you, be sure to watch what you’re eating and take some time to hit the gym every once in a while. You don’t need to have a highly-regulated workout regime, but be sure to make an effort to keep yourself healthy. You’ll find that all of your clothes will still fit you by the end of your first term and you’ll be in a much better mental state come time for finals.

Use Your Campus Resources
Your roommate has a girl over and you have an assignment due the next day, but your laptop is in the room? Don’t worry, you can easily hike over to your school’s library and finish it in one of their computer labs. When adjusting to a new environment, many freshers forget that their campus has a wide array of resources just waiting to be used by students like them. Whether it’s a quota of paper that they can use for printing, to free software allocated by the school’s technical services department, there are literally hundreds of amenities that come with being a student in a modern university. The only real work that you have to do is look for these resources.

Keep a Close Network of Friends
Especially near the end of the semester, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed with final projects and examinations that all have similar due dates. This is why it’s important to have a group of people that you trust and feel comfortable confiding in or just generally being around. Even if you don’t feel like you all have the time to hang out and watch a movie, remember that everyone has to eat. Getting together with your friends for a meal is one of the easiest ways to lower your stress during the rush of the end of the term.

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Lecturers
Lastly, you should never think that your lecturers don’t want to help you. It’s their job to make certain that you understand everything that they’re saying in their lectures and emails. So, if you have a question, just ask! From their viewpoint, they’d rather that you ask them up front than have you fail your exams because you misunderstood something. Show some initiative and let them know if you’re having problems.

Louise Baker is a freelance blogger who usually writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. Her most recent article ranked the best online schools.

Microsoft Gives Away Free Software to Students

As the release date for Windows Phone 7 (WP7) approaches so does Microsoft’s eagerness to gain support from the programming community to provide applications for their device. We all know from the past that Microsoft has been very keen for finding student programming talent. From the launch of XNA to the recent Design Expo 2010.

If you are a student then there are many benefits for building apps for WP7. For a start you will be able to earn extra cash from the sales of your app (although you can also choose for your app to be free), a successful app on WP7 could give you industry recognition and developing apps for WP7 is quicker than building for Android.

To get your free software simply visit the Microsoft DreamSpark programme. You can sign up in a variety of ways (I just used my University email address) and then download away. Currently you can download 20 different pieces of software. You can also deploy your WP7 apps for free through DreamSpark.

You may already know but you can follow Microsoft Students on Facebook and feel free to visit Twitter and follow Academic Developer Evangelist, Ben Nunney.

Hope you all find this information useful!

The Hype of Education

The British have an obsession which casts a shadow over most other nations in the world. This obsession strikes roughly twice a year. On these days most of the nation stops… a pause in the wind of time, caused usually by worry. On these same mornings newspaper Journalists spend their time phoning up their agreed contacts to see “how they are doing”. The cynical part of you may suspect they hope for a shaky response fearing for the future. When really this begrudged Journalists is simply waiting for that positive response to write his article – infamously titled ‘Why A Levels are Getting Easier’ or ‘Government Selling Degrees to Hopeless Students’. Yes, America is quite keen about exam results as well but their patriotism casts the obsessive baton of academia to Britain.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no trouble with education, no trolling of any particular type but I do believe this country has fallen subject to hype. There is no doubt in my mind that education is the foundation for every society. If education isn’t then it should be but inevitably education still is. People must know how to operate within society in order for society to be financially, socially and ethically feasible.

Do you remember fellow students from your secondary school? Particularly the ones who couldn’t help but voice ‘What is the point?’, ‘When will I need to know DT?’ or ‘French is so pointless’. Even with the ways that some rejected the idea of wearing a suit in the sixth form as ‘people in the working world don’t need to wear a suit’. Of course this statement is partly correct – suits in the modern world are only worn by those going to an interview or visiting a client. What these teenagers at secondary school failed to realise is the pattern. All those who couldn’t see the point of certain subjects, wearing a suit, usually end up stuck when tackling the career ladder. Some subjects may appear pointless at the time but you never know what will happen. In my opinion, the problem isn’t their academic success but usually one’s ability to focus on a task. Once you have learnt the art of concentration you have won the game of life because you have determination to see tasks through.

If I had to think of a subject I despise. A subject which has haunted all my years in education. A subject which still makes my eye quiver uncontrollably, then it would be maths. I’m no longer so brash to say that ‘maths is pointless’. If anything maths is probably one of the most useful subjects to know other than the study of your mother tongue. Over the years I have had so much support with maths and I would not have achieved a C for GCSE maths without the help from family and teachers.

By rights my mathematical journey should be over. It is fair to say that I should never be entered into a role laden with equations. Yet I have found myself working for Microsoft dealing with multimillion Euro campaigns. If I make a mistake then I could technically ruin yearly financial forecasts, risk jobs, client relationships, etc… I won’t continue with that list because it frankly scares me!

What I am trying to conclude with is a word of advice. GCSEs, As Levels and A levels are stepping stones. Important ones. Although in reality a bad grade doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your life and potentially a good grade may eventually cause a career far less exciting. The world is not logical, it is actually fairly random and due to this – exciting. So fear not about the future “to be” freshers or confused students who wish to enter straight into the “real world”. You have everything ahead of you. Aren’t I good at optimism?

In education the meaning of success usually means a good job and salary. In reality everybody has a different idea of what success is. Some are at University wanting that high salary, that dream job but equally some would rather have a settled life with a family of their own. Don’t purely rate education has the means of all success because it isn’t true. Worry more about how you are spending your time – not what your next grade will be.

Commuting Comrades: Why Commuting is Tedious

If I had to pick out one aspect of working in London which causes shivers to roll down my spine then it would be commuting. What is even worse is when in casual conversation about work somebody replies, ‘Ah, so you are a commuter now’. Commuting is tedious and this response implies a monotonous way of life.

Each morning I arrive at the train station at exactly the same time, to catch the same scheduled train and spot the same people standing at the platform. Just like Japanese water torture the same rail announcements will echo across the station 5 minutes before the train arrives. If there is a delay a noticeable sigh will stretch across the platform followed by almost everybody reaching into their pockets to call work to report a late arrival to the office. Dare I say use the delay to find an excuse off from work?

Beyond this sea of blue collars, spread out newspaper faced workaholics – I am left wondering if people enjoy this way of life. Even once I step onto the train I have a good 40 minutes before I actually arrive in London. This involves the usual awkward gaze as you avoid eye contact with fellow humans. When not sitting next to the window your eyes have very limited options – usually only to dwell upon the ceiling, floor or some human-less part of the train.

The only other aspect of life which I can compare the tedium of commuting would be when I was at secondary school. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed many aspects of being in secondary and sixth form education but it was a fishbowl existence. Just like being in prison, when at school you can be fairly certain what the next day will hold for you. You have your set classes and in my case ambition to actually enter into the “real world”. Despite what the hopeless say, the “real world” is far more exciting than school.

Mainly due to uncertainty. Once out of education you are metaphorically “let off the leash”. Anything could happen (including being hit by a car). The world is open to what you want to do, no teachers to act as superiors and you can mould your life depending what you want out of your existence. Make no mistake, this world is full of chance, luck and opportunity.

Commuting can be a blindfold to this free existence. It suggests that the momentum of life is logical, repetitious and perhaps a step back into the past to those school days. I won’t bother writing about the commute home. To let you gain some perspective into my life it occasionally involves a quick visit to my local pub.

There is a moral to this heartfelt blog post. Despite commuting I always hold onto the belief that commuting is and will always be one of the downers of life. The focus isn’t on the commuting but instead what you are commuting to work for. We will all spend the majority of our lives in work. Just make sure that you enjoy your work – this might just be one of the tricks to being happy in life.

Microsoft: Broadcasting with Guidelines

For any students reading this blog who are into their social media platforms you will soon discover that many companies have blogging, tweeting or ‘digg-it’-esque guidelines. As the world’s largest software company, Microsoft is not exempt from such guidelines. When you sign that dotted line on the contract you are not only promised work for that period, maybe a salary but also personal discretion of what you are allowed to broadcast.

Recently I completed Microsoft’s Standards of Business Conduct 2010 which included a section tackling information leaks. I must make it clear that ‘information leaks’ doesn’t mean revealing unjust practices (if there were any) within the company but instead personally outing news before the agenda has been set. If Microsoft were to inform me of a new social network they are building and I revealed any details, even suggestions about it, before the PR department does then I would be in risk of losing my job. Better described as ‘contract termination’ when spoken with an American accent.

Anything I type on this blog must be classified as my own views and not the company’s. I must make a concerted effort to always keep mindful of any confidential information or indeed information which just wouldn’t be suitable for public ears. The official Microsoft guidelines highlight that these boundaries are too be dealt with on a personal level. That if I deem it suitable to reveal a piece of information then I may do so but I must have a process of reason behind it.

In a blog post I wrote a little while ago I highlighted one of the problems I had with traditional media as an employee of Microsoft. BBC Radio 2 phoned asking for my views to do with a particular website (which happened to be a competitor of Microsoft’s) and invited me to the studio to speak with Jeremy Vine.

Such an opportunity, especially at my age, was too resistible to turn down. Yet, after much advice and deliberation, I had to decline the offer. Working for my dream company has its sacrifices. I cannot speak over the radio and give the impression that all Microsoft employees have the same view or appear to be speaking on behalf of the company. Thus why I am taking an extended break from radio and instead writing upon this page.

I will never stop loving radio or abandon it as a possible future career but sometimes circumstance is more important than desire. If anything my love isn’t with radio but instead Journalism as a whole which is pushed forward by my love for writing.

Surprisingly social media guidelines stretch to popular (or perhaps un-popular due to recent news) websites like Digg. Microsoft regularly gets into the news and employees are told to never artificially create a sense of popularity on websites by ‘digging’ posts. Public popularity must be genuine.

The reason these guidelines exist isn’t because the company is full of corrupt people but instead to keep communication within Microsoft ethical. It is very easy for Microsoft, as a large company, to bully others with their market dominance but to do so is unethical, against guidelines and will cause the dreaded contract termination.

Social media guidelines are now always at the forefront of my mind. Not because I want to seem special because I may have privileged information but because I would rather not lose my job this year. The extent to which these guidelines may affect me are clear – I constantly blog and tweet about everything I do.

Today I attended a Q&A session with Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, in a virtual town hall session broadcast from MSN in London. To be one of 50 guests at the event does give you a sense of importance – I will not deny that. Although due to this I decided against taking a picture to upload to Twitter. I knew the journalists wouldn’t be uploading their pictures until ½ way through the session and so for me to jump the gun, as an employee and post to Twitter instantly just seemed a little cheeky and wrong. Everyone in the room was actually asked to put their mobiles away.

If I were to be a guest from outside the corporate world then this action would have been okay but reasonable indiscretion told me to leave the camera alone. Perhaps I have taken these guidelines to the extreme? Even if I have I hope you understand my position.

Having said that I will be attending a large Microsoft conference in London early September and I am positive that tweeting from this venue will be kosher.

Xbox Kinect, New Software and Winning

I must provide you all my deepest apologies. A temporary spell of disillusionment has earned me the title as traitor to and promiscuous lover of Tumblr. Blogging will once again be coming from this website though. Let me also take the time to welcome people visiting my website from the University of Gloucestershire’s Placement website. I have already briefly blogged about the subject of Microsoft here but will be using for all future posts.

As suspected my job title is now quite official within the team as ‘Trade Marketer’ and my workload is beginning to imitate this. As some of you may know there is an Xbox Kinect Experience happening at Covent Garden until the end of August. My first individual task was to assist with arranging a few aspects of this event. Xbox Kinect will revolutionise gaming and will be Microsoft’s biggest launch of the year. So it was my honour to become involved with the product, even for a brief spell.

I have officially been a Microsoft employee for almost 2 months and my life is starting to suggest this. The desktop (of which I am writing this post) is now running a version of Windows 7 Ultimate, a copy of Windows Office 2010 Professional Plus and an array of Windows Live Beta software.

Part of my identity is being shaped by my luck to win competitions. The several Microsoft notepads, pens and other stationary on my desk were not stolen from work but instead were awarded to me as a quiz team winner. This week I constructed a fairly humorous email to win a free invitation to use Spotify. As an iTunes user I decided to forward this invitation onto my father.

From winning competitions to winning a place in one of the world’s largest organisations. It is already becoming clear that the working world is occasionally as brutal as some hard-nosed business people like to boast. A few weeks ago I heard of a lady at work who got told she had a week left. I do not know the reason or wish to know it but it is important to never get too settled. For the next 9 months I will enjoy my time at Microsoft, continue to work hard and always make a good impression.