Category Archives: The Insiter

Electoral Difficulties of a Different Kind

 

“Imagine living in a country where elections are held every few months because elected representatives keep resigning en masse. Imagine an electorate which purposely elects imbeciles to government. Imagine a country which cannot be effectively governed because of an obstructive deadlock in the legislature. Would you believe that these were regular occurrences in Malta around 110 years ago?”

This is the introduction of an article I wrote for insiteronline.com. It goes into the political situation in Malta of around a century ago – and why we might perhaps should be grateful for the situation nowadays, even if we’re lying in a pile of leaflets, SMSes and emails from PN and PL, and our heads ache after countless weeks of political debates and campaigns.

I’m trying to put my Master’s into good use! I hope you enjoy it. Read it here.

New beginnings, festival songs, and the awesomeness of Grenouille.

Would you believe that this was my fifth time writing a beginning-of-the-academic-year article for The Insiter? Madness, I know. I have become a bit of a nanna in the Insiteworld and, along with this long Insite career, I have also accumulated quite a few years as a university student, whether that’s in Malta, Iceland, or the United Kingdom (as I’m sure you’ve realised if you’ve been a reader for a few months or so). This might indicate that I am slightly wiser than many University of Malta students, but do not be fooled: I still struggle with speaking in front of a large group of students during lectures and seminars, and my tenuous relationship with deadlines continues. However, my long years as a student have certainly endowed me with an enhanced understanding of what really matters while receiving a tertiary education, and this is summarised quite succinctly in the Thought of the Month below. Firstly though, I share my top books and songs of the summer.

Books of the Month

I spent most of the last few weeks diligently thrashing out 20,000 words for my Master’s dissertation, so most of the books I was obsessed with had painfully boring titles such as In Defence of Naval Supremacy and The British Seaborne Empire. However, I discovered a couple of true gems earlier this summer, which I believe are Must Reads.

Firstly, there’s The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which won this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction. It is a beautifully-written novel set in Ancient Greece, echoing Homer’s Iliad. Don’t let this put you off: the story is steeped in emotion and excitement, and you will not be able to put it down. The main focus of the book is on the budding relationship between Patroclus and Achilles; it is probably the most genuine love story I have ever read.

The second book which really caught my attention was Perfume by Patrick Süskind. This novel blew me away with its captivating exploration of the sense of smell. It is described as ‘the story of a murderer’, but the bulk of the book does not deal with murder at all. The story traces the life of Grenouille, a curious man with an unmatched sense of smell, who discovers a scent purer than anything he had ever come across before. From start to finish, this book is a masterpiece, and I cannot imagine how much richer it must be in German (the original language of publication).

Music of the Month

Having lived in England for the entire “summer” (it’s not really summer: it rained a lot and I wore scarves on most days), I really felt the fun vibes of the Olympics, Paralympics, and some pretty wonderful festivals, even if I did not attend any this year. Therefore, my stand-out songs for this month are: I Will Wait (Mumford & Sons), Times Like These (Foo Fighters), and To Kingdom Come (Passion Pit).

Thought of the Month

The beginning of a new academic year (especially if you are a fresher) is always the perfect time for new habits and activities. Organise all you need for every study-unit and their respective assessments (with red marks on your calendar for assignment deadlines or exam dates), and start reading up on every subject by the end of October.

Equally as important: get involved in extra-curricular university life, whether that means campaigning for the LGBT Society, writing a couple of articles for insiteronline.com, or whipping your hair back and forth at an SDM party. So make sure to get out there, and make your life interesting!

(This article originally appeared in the first edition of The Insiter, Vol. 13.)

5 Exam-time Survival Tips

The joy of doing a Master’s degree like mine is that exams (that is, traditional, written ones) are pretty much non-existent. Instead, my days are filled with worrying about assignments, presentations, and (I shudder at the mere thought) my final dissertation.

However, luckily for you, dear reader, is that this is the only year since I was three in which I haven’t had to sit for regular written examinations. All those exams add up, and that makes me quite well-versed in the art of scary exams, particularly those at university level. In addition, after year upon year of taking exams every few months, I have compiled a respectable list of ways in which to bear each unsettling season of stress and cramming.

The following are a few of my very best tips for surviving revision and exam time.

YOUR IDEAL ENVIRONMENT

Create a designated study space, and treat it as such. So when you’re working, you’re sitting in your spot, dutifully studying and absorbing knowledge. When you’re not studying, make sure to get away from your study space, even at mealtimes. This clear distinction will help you associate that space with proper focus and productive studying. It also means that you can eat your lunch in prettier locations, such as by the sea or on a park bench.

Alternatively, ignore what I just said about staying in your study spot exclusively while you’re working, and change location regularly. You probably will not have time for relaxed days out when you’re in study-mode, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot incorporate your studying with being outdoors or in a favourite place. I did some of my most productive studying last year while at the Għanafest, and while that can be very distracting for some people, I revelled in the different environment (as well as nibbling on a fresh maqrut every now and then).

FUEL YOURSELF

Study snacks! These are imperative. Try to stick to healthier options, but feel free to indulge in a little of your favourite guilty pleasure. I made sure to stock up on lots of a certain hazelnut spread during last year’s June exams…

PLAN POST-EXAM FUN

Use your breaks to plan what you’re going to do once exams are over. Maybe it’s a trip to a music festival abroad, a weekend of camping, or even just the obligatory celebratory swim right after your last exam. Ice-cold alcoholic beverages: optional.

ALL NIGHTERS ARE A BAD IDEA!

There should be absolutely no all-nighters when it comes to exams. Please. Don’t do it. They will mess up your whole week, and you will just kick yourself afterwards. I have tried and tested this a few times, and even if I managed to squeeze some more information into my brain thanks to those extra few hours, I always find myself napping on the paper halfway through the exam and getting an atrocious mark.

EFFECTIVE STUDY METHODS

Try out as many study methods as you can, and find the right one for you. My favourites are condensing my notes as much as possible (and then reading and re-reading these short summaries), and explaining the topics to another person (ideally a classmate, because then you would also be helping out the other person! Win-win).

Also, search online for ‘focus guaranteed’ playlists. You’ll find a selection of never-ending soundtracks which will seamlessly accompany your studying and help you to concentrate on the task at hand.

Most importantly: remember that as a student, it’s your job to learn, as well as an opportunity, so approach studying and revising with as happy a mind-set as you can. There may be a few exams here and there that will feel like complete time-wasters, but on the whole, there is always something new that you will find worth extracting from each subject. It can get very tough and stressful, but get organised ASAP, and try and have fun absorbing all that delicious new knowledge. Best of luck!

(This article originally appeared on www.insiteronline.com on 26 April 2012.)

Gift ideas (and Christmas glee)

It’s that time of year again. Shops are bursting with red and green goodies, food seems to have that extra spice (usually cinnamon), and the air starts to get noticeably colder. Christmastime isn’t only about holidays, food and presents though, it also marks the nearing to the end of the year, and that certainly causes everyone to dwell upon the previous twelve months that have just flown by. A little self-reflection always comes highly recommended, and this year it’s an even more exciting time for me since I’m spending most of Christmastime in the United Kingdom.

Since arriving in September, all the stationery shops here have had massive Christmas card sections, so for me it seems like Christmastime has long been kicked off. What’s more, it’s undoubtedly colder here in Durham than it is in Malta, and that’s put me in an even cosier Christmas mood. Even as I’m writing this article, I’m getting even more delighted that Christmas is so near. Here lights have been lit in all the streets, a little Santa house has been erected on one of the shopping streets, and restaurants all have ‘Christmas bookings being taken’ signs. Supermarkets are completely heaving with Christmas goodies: mince pies, Christmas cake, decorations, and all the baubles and twinkly lights I could have ever dreamed of. I recently went on a road trip down south, and when I popped into Oxford I couldn’t resist purchasing a pack of absolutely beautiful Christmas cards adorned with luscious cloth-bound Christmas books on their fronts.

Even though it’s ever so atmospheric here, I cannot wait to get home to Malta for Christmas, and be with my friends and family (and cat!). I also cannot wait to see the look on everyone’s face as I hand over their presents, because for me, a big part of this season is picking out the perfect gifts for all the special people in my life. Here are a few ideas that might help with your Christmas lists.

  • Stationery – yes, I’m a bit of a stationery junkie, but this sort of gift can be practical, pretty, and very thoughtful. A leather-bound diary for your father, a flowery pencil box for your younger sister, or a set of adorable notebooks for your best friend. Useful and beautiful at the same time.
  • Food – this is always a winner. Some nice wine, a huge box of delicious chocolates, cute jars full of candy… who doesn’t like receiving some yummy treats that they probably wouldn’t have bought for themselves? Do discretely check if they have any allergies or dietary preferences before you buy certain things though.
  • Subscriptions – I bought my best friend a monthly subscription for her favourite film-related glossy magazine last Christmas, and it proved to be quite a successful gift (that kept on giving!). Find out what the person’s hobbies and interests are and you’re bound to find something that suits them (such as National Geographic, Intelligent Life, Vogue, or The Economist).
  • Homemade goodies – gingerbread men, a patchwork blanket (if you’re really committed and patient), or handmade beauty products like bath salts or a lemon-and-sugar scrub. There are countless things you can make with just a little effort and a Google search.
  • And don’t forget: presentation is key! Don’t just plonk your gift in an old plastic bag. Put some thought in it. You don’t even have to spend any extra money. Recycle some old wrapping paper, or use newspapers and magazines. Tie it all up in some shiny ribbon, and stick a card along with the gift (with a meaningful message of goodwill and cheer).

Enjoy present shopping (or making), good luck with all the deadlines that have a habit of creeping up around this time, and have a very merry Christmas.

(This article originally appeared in the third edition of The Insiter, Vol. 12.)

How to thrive and survive while studying abroad (and a bit about underwater hockey and other weird/wonderful student societies)

A few days ago I popped over to the Durham University Freshers’ Fair (sort of like Freshers’ Week stands at UoM). The amount of flyers and freebies I received were more or less on par with those I have gotten in Malta, but the array of societies and associations that were on display completely blew my mind. It’s not just regular societies like ELSA or the student newspaper, but dynamic (and thriving) clubs for snowboarding, folk, lacrosse, freefalling, dodgeball, playing Assassins… I could go on for quite a while. There were also some really obscure ones like ethnographic film, croquet, hill walking, and a chocolate society.

Since there’s so much on offer, I’m looking forward to attend some yoga, pilates, and meditation sessions, as well as possibly dabbling in some theatre and writing in some student publications. This will all be apart from the giant challenge and commitment that is my Master’s, obviously. Ashamedly, I did join the Eurovision society, but being Maltese, I intuitively felt that it would be expected of me. Or maybe I just wanted to be a part of the madness.

My favourite society has to be the Durham University Happiness society, which sends daily emails bursting with positivity and, well, happiness! There are also college-specific societies here which add to a friendly community feeling, and ensure that there’s always something going on to get involved in.

My first few weeks in the UK have been very pleasant, and I’ve settled in rather well. Many Maltese students are venturing abroad for their studies or travels, and are bound to be faced with the need to immerse themselves in a new culture, even if it’s another European country where they drive on the “right” side of the road. Therefore the following are a few tips which I found particularly valuable over the last few weeks.

  • Attend all the “introductory” stuff – induction meetings, the first lecture of each module, freshers’/international students’ meetings… It’s where all the vital information will be laid out for you (and where you can ask any niggling questions).
  • Get your bearings ASAP – not just with regard to university buildings, but also check out where the cheapest, closest grocery store is located, find out if there are any shortcuts to make your commute shorter, and pinpoint your nearest bus stops (as well as their names). Take note of a couple of taxi numbers too.
  • Introduce yourself to as many people as possible. I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks, but it’s already the case that I can’t walk through the centre without meeting at least two people whom I’ve previously met and spoken to here. You’ll meet the most fascinating people, I promise. (For example, at an international students’ party I met a German guy who actively participates in underwater hockey.)
  • Check out the facilities that are available to you. Large, foreign universities may be able to offer more facilities than you’re used to at UoM. For example, I’m lucky enough to have a few glorious libraries with lots of study rooms and computer labs, and I’m currently writing this article in a dedicated postgraduate student study hall (with a secret access code, a kitchenette and everything!).
  • Embrace the differences between Malta and your new home. I’m currently coming to terms with the ridiculous weather (cold! rainy! cold-and-rainy!), the joys of grocery shopping, and the large amount of intelligent, international students I’m getting to meet.

Generally, just stay safe and take advantage of all the activities and facilities in your beautiful, new environment. Your life is about to change, forever, and it’s going to be (for the most part) utterly fantastic.

(This article originally appeared in the second edition of The Insiter, Vol. 12.)

New beginnings (and how to be a good ship)

What a whirlwind of a year. Whether you’ve just started university, or whether you’ve been at the University of Malta for quite some time, it’s bound to be true that the past year has been full of challenges, testing situations, and the odd moments of euphoric glee. That’s certainly accurate in my case.

After four years in the law course, I decided to take a gap year to follow my heart. This involved upping and leaving the country to move to Durham, in the United Kingdom, where I’m currently reading for an MA in Modern History. Quite a turnaround, I know.

Upon taking this huge decision, I felt a certain reinvigoration which had been lacking in the previous four years. I finally stopped feeling tied down and uninspired, and instead could truly enjoy my studies and projects. I felt my priorities shifting, and as the months passed, I could feel my future opening up before me, with all its uncertainty, newness and scariness. It sounds cliché, but I felt alive.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this quotation by a fascinating lady called Grace Murray Hopper: “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.”

Forcing ourselves to get out of our comfort zones is what shapes us as human beings and it’s what living is really all about. You don’t necessarily have to be drastic, but you can implement little changes to your lifestyle and mindset which will create a cacophony of colour and change the way you look at things forever. Simply strive to push the boundaries of your everyday routine and mix things up; whether it’s in the way you dress, where you go, or how you deal with things.

It’s going to be an exhilarating year, and I can’t wait to share the best bits with you, the lovely readers of The Insiter. Hold on tightly, it’s going to be a bit of a bumpy ride. But for now, a few tips for the uninitiated at the UoM, which might even prove to be useful for the more seasoned student:

  • Get enough of sleep and remember to eat breakfast so you can start your UoM career on the right foot. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you’re rested and have some fuel in your belly.

  • Lists and plans are your friend. From your very first lecture, you’re going to be bombarded with information, so get yourself a little notebook or prepare a text file on your laptop to be able to take it all down as soon as possible. Also, if you’ve barely ever been on campus before, I highly recommend you carry a little campus map to make life easier.

  • Get involved. There is a pleasant abundance of student organisations at university, so you’re bound to find the perfect one for you, and if you don’t, set up your own.

  • Ask for help. Yes, it might be scary and nerve-wracking, but when you’re feeling lost or confused, ask for guidance from fellow classmates, lecturers, older students, the library staff, or even the lovely people at the Counselling Unit.

  • Tackle student stress from Day 1. Being a full-time student is not always a walk in the park. Work hard and play hard. Make sure you eat healthily, get yourself organised, find time for exercise and at least one extra-curricular activity, and jot down a few goals and aims to give you perspective throughout the year.

With the right frame of mind, it’s easy to have a great year. I’m sure there will be quite a few difficult moments along the way, but they’ll pass, making way for happier times. I’m definitely excited. Let’s do this!

(This article originally appeared in the first edition of The Insiter, Vol. 12.)

Tips for surviving the woeful activity of assignment-ing

It’s that time of the semester again, when you receive a barrage of emails from your faculty with big, bright assignment titles for you to diligently attend to. I am not a fan of writing assignments at university, especially ones for my law course, and I am particularly not fond of group assignments.

Luckily, the one I was working on a couple of weeks ago was solely with my best friend, so that made the process much more bearable. Plus, the topic we dealt with was somewhat within my own academic interests. It was a Wednesday, and at what felt like the break of dawn, I was off to meet my friend and assignment-partner at the library. We ended up ditching the (way too busy) library, and settled in a cafeteria. The research we had done separately paid off, because we soon had a semi-structured plan of our assignment. We split the work, thanked God for the blessing that is Google Docs, and will soon be combining our efforts and finalising the actual finished product.

A few days ago I had another essay to write, by myself this time, and the deadline was pretty tight. Attempts at completing this 2000-word essay in one go failed miserably, and it took me 6 whole days to painfully cough up the words. The (minimal) research I had done wasn’t very helpful or inspiring, and merely quoting legal provisions was making me second-guess every point I was making. I managed to sort out my shoddy piece of work on the final day by rehashing the entire thing and following a few of these tips:

  1. Start early. This doesn’t mean you need to have your essay done a month in advance. Simply do a bit of research, go over relevant lecture notes, and maybe thumb through a book or two. Ideally, this is to be done within a day or two after receiving the assignment title.
  1. Formulate a plan. There are many approaches you can take when writing assignments, but one obligatory step is having some sort of structured outline. Type or write out a list of points and fiddle with the order they’ll be in and approximately how many words you’ll devote to each one. With a list addict like myself, this is no problem at all, and I can whip up a plan for anything in no time. However, even if you’re not very accustomed to making lists, simply put down a few rough ideas and start from there.
  1. Have a strong introduction and conclusion, with clearly defined points in between. The introductory and concluding paragraphs of your work are incredibly important. The introduction should clearly convey the focus of the essay as well as explain key concepts, and the conclusion is there to confidently put forward all that you’ve evaluated and to tie up the main arguments. Naturally, the substantial part of the assignment has to be top-notch too. Stick to a structure, give examples, and make use of linking sentences.
  1. Have a thesis which you’re confident about. Be able to sum up your main argument in a sentence or two. Ensure that this can be backed up with as many sources as you can gather.
  1. The final touches can “make or break” an assignment. Proofread your work thoroughly; maybe by asking someone else to look over it. Look for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and that all footnotes and references are as they should be. Make sure the format of your assignment allows for a well-presented, legible piece of work. Maybe slip your assignment in a sleek folder. Double check any forms your faculty might require you to place at the front of your assignment, and create a cover page clearly indicating your name, ID, course, assignment title and study-unit code.

With a touch of motivation and a good mindset, assignments can be finished relatively painlessly and efficiently. Just don’t let their deadlines creep up on you or you’ll inevitably end up with low grades and ridiculous amounts of stress. Otherwise, you’re geared up to present a stellar assignment. Also, never forget a fundamental part of the assignment-writing process: rewarding yourself with a cookie (or its equivalent) when it’s finally done. You deserve it. Good luck.

(This article originally appeared (in a slightly shortened version) in the sixth edition of The Insiter, Vol. 11.)

Making the most of your travels

As soon as my January exams were over, I took advantage of cheap flights and hospitable foreign friends, and dashed over to Iceland for two weeks of fun, frolicking, and adventure.

Iceland is a truly fascinating place, and offers a completely different environment (in all senses) when compared to Malta. Similarly, most places outside of Malta can provide totally new surroundings, so I strongly urge you to go abroad. As students, this can easily be achieved by nabbing a cheap flight ticket and staying in hostels, or with friends or family, or by exploiting some of the fantastic international opportunities most student organisations offer.

On my trip, after recovering from my initial awe at the vast amount of snow everywhere, I unleashed my adventurous side and travelled all over the island in search of the beautiful sights Iceland has to offer. One of my main reasons for visiting this country in winter was to see the Aurora Borealis, which turned out to be an utter no-show, until the last day that is, when I had the honour of seeing gorgeous streaks of green moving across the night sky. Just, wow.

Because we chose to visit Iceland during the low peak season, we often had entire guesthouses, landmarks, and natural phenomena all to ourselves. This is a good thing to keep in mind when choosing a place to visit. Then again, some places were closed due to it being February, and that was a disadvantage in itself. However, I cannot overexpress my enthralment with this superb country, with a population of 319,000, the highest literacy rate in the world, and a whopping seven universities and colleges.

Without a shadow of a doubt, travelling opens the mind, and allows you to perceive everything around you in a new way. Therefore, I proudly present my top five tips as to how to make the most of a trip to a foreign land:

  1. Mingle with the locals. Immersing yourself in the locals’ way of life gives a fascinating peek at how others live their normal lives. My host in Iceland seemed to know everything and everyone, and so we could take full advantage of what’s really worth doing. Skip the tourist traps and head to where the natives hang out.
  2. Try out the wacky cuisine. In Iceland, this includes puffin (the tastiest meat I’ve ever tasted), svið (sheep’s head) (seriously, pop ‘svið’ into a Google Image search; it’s certainly a sight to behold), eel, meatballs with blueberry jam, and all the wonderful seafood I could ever want.
  3. Revel in what makes this foreign place different from your home country. Maybe it’s the food, the hundreds of kilometres waiting to be explored, or even just a brand of soft drinks which you can’t normally purchase at home. Change is good.
  4. Do things that make your heart beat a little faster. For me, it was renting a car, driving on the right-hand side of the road, at night, in a terrible blizzard, on a narrow road with snow-covered mountains and lakes all around, and no clue about whether I was on the right track. I also got the chance to go snorkelling in Þingvallavatn, one of the clearest and most beautiful lakes in the world, and back in Reykjavík I took a (very) quick dip in 3°C sea, and then very rapidly dunked my numb body into a deliciously warm hot tub.
  5. Read up on the place before departing from home. My inner nerd shone through during my intense research months before I had to leave. The anticipation and excitement then naturally built up, and my stay abroad was much more fruitful because of my previously acquired knowledge. I knew that I wanted to pet Icelandic horses, view gigantic blue glaciers, and visit black sandy beaches, and that I could expect to enjoy the great Reykjavík nightlife as well as countless mountains, waterfalls, and super-friendly people.

I hope my enthusiasm is infectious enough for you all to seek to broaden your horizons with a voyage to some wonderful distant lands very, very soon.

(This article originally appeared in the fifth edition of The Insiter, Vol. 11.)

A Culinary Adventure (and doing new things)

A couple of weeks ago I was recovering from a lingering infection and had to spend days upon days at home, alone and uninspired. As soon as I felt better, I was itching to do something out-of-the-ordinary, however, I was still confined to staying at home and not exerting myself too much.

So I decided to give cooking a try.

Yes, I am one of those people who never really graduated beyond the Toast, Pot Noodle and Things-from-a-Packet category of cooking. Now, I am not completely useless in the kitchen: I can make a killer batch of frosted brownies, vanilla cupcakes, rainbow cakes and other assorted desserts, but that’s about it. Until now.

That first attempt at cooking was quite an ordeal though. I (nonsensically) refused to start small, and sourced a very complicated and intricately described recipe online for Ginger Chicken Curry. This cooking session took me from novice to executive chef in a few hours. I discovered that washing pieces of chicken is rather disgusting, that cucumbers are surprisingly juicy, and that chopping onions really does make your eyes sting. Unbearably so. (I later on discovered that if you chop them under running water, your eyes won’t sting. I tried it out, and it works!)

Throughout the process, I was constantly scared of injuring myself, but thankfully I emerged largely unscathed. My hands hurt an awful lot while “finely” dicing garlic cloves and pieces of ginger, and it did take me five whole minutes to figure out how to screw the lid onto the blender, but let’s just say that it was worth it in the end. I even made poppadoms, and I escaped (what I thought was) a near-death situation by putting on my sunglasses while handling hot oil because I was sure that the oil was going to leap up into my eyes and blind or scar me for eternity.

The end result was even more rewarding than I imagined. The guinea pigs who tested my meal gave very encouraging feedback, and even asked for second helpings.

So now I invite you to embrace this time of year and explore the endless list of exciting new things to do. Reflect on what you’ve always put off and grab this very moment in time to go for it! Getting out of your comfort-zone is the first step. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Find a creative outlet. We’ve all got an artistic, imaginative spark within us, and inspiration is everywhere. Write a short piece of prose about a couple sitting on a bench, make up a song about being stuck in a frustrating traffic jam, or redecorate your room/car/desk. Keep this up and life will never be dull.

For a real test-of-self, why not give Nanowrimo a try? Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, where people around the world spend their Novembers writing a 50,000-word novel. This is a project about quantity, not quality, and anyone can participate. I’ve given it a try before, and it is definitely tough but fascinating to do.

Make the most of your weekends. It’s fine to stay in with a Chinese takeaway and a DVD, but weekends can, and should, be about spontaneity and adventure! Snap up a very cheap flight ticket to some far-off land, go to the theatre, take a long walk in the countryside with your camera, or take an old friend out for brunch by the sea. This way, you’ll always have something to look forward to.

Start being the model student you’ve always promised yourself you’ll be. Go over your lecture notes, and try to remember the main concepts of each class. If you’re feeling particularly industrious, get a head start on some of those extra readings, and begin mulling over ideas for that 3,000 word assignment, the deadline of which seems light years away.

Explore a new lifestyle you’ve always been curious about. Maybe you’d like to learn more about veganism or eating raw, or you could listen to different styles of music. Doing things which are out-of-the-ordinary for you can be as simple as wearing more colour, or as commendable as donating blood. Just go for it and enjoy the new you that will start shining through.

(This article originally appeared in the second edition of The Insiter, Vol. 11)

 

SUB-HEADING: Passionate, silly and a bit of a nerd; every month, this law student and lover-of-life writes about productivity, positivity and pretty stuff, among other things.

This month she ventures into the kitchen for a culinary adventure and speaks about the wonders of doing new things that might scare you.

A couple of weeks ago I was recovering from a lingering infection and had to spend days upon days at home, alone and uninspired. As soon as I was feelingfelt better, I was itching to do something out-of-the-ordinary,; however, I was still confined to staying at home and not exerting myself too much.

So I decided to give cooking a try.

Yes, I am one of those people who has never really graduated above beyond the Toast, Pot Noodle and Things-from-a-Packet category of cooking. Now, I am not completely useless in the kitchen: I can make a killer batch of frosted brownies, vanilla cupcakes, rainbow cakes and other assorted desserts, but that’s really about it. Until now.

That first attempt at cooking was quite an ordeal though. I (nonsensically) refused to start small, and instead sourced a very complicated and intricately described recipe online to make afor Ginger Chicken Curry. This cooking session took me from novice to executive chef in a few hours. I discovered that washing pieces of chicken is rather disgusting, that cucumbers are surprisingly juicy, and that chopping onions really does make your eyes sting. Unbearably so. (I later on discovered that if you chop them under running water, your eyes won’t sting. I tried it out, and it works!)

Throughout the process, I was constantly scared of injuring myself, but thankfully I emerged largely unscathed. My hands hurt an awful lot while “finely” dicing garlic cloves and pieces of ginger, and it did take me five whole minutes to figure out how to screw on the lid of onto the blender, but let’s just say that it was worth it in the end. I even made poppadoms, and I escaped (what I thought was) a near-death situation by putting on my sunglasses while handling hot oil because I was sure that the oil was going to leap up into my eyes and blind or scar me for eternity.

The end result was surprisingly even more rewarding than I imagined. The guinea pigs that had to trywho tested my meal gave very encouraging feedback, and even asked for second helpings.

So now I invite you to embrace this time of year and explore an the endless list of exciting new things to do. Reflect on what you’ve always put off and grab this very moment in time to go for it! Getting out of your comfort-zone is the first step. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Find a creative outlet. We’ve all got that an artistic, imaginative spark within us, and inspiration is anywhere and everywhere. Write a short piece of prose about a couple sitting on a bench, make up a song about being stuck in a frustrating traffic jam, or redecorate your room/car/desk. Keep this up and life will never be dull.

For a real test-of-self, why not give Nanowrimo a try? Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, where people around the world spend their Novembers writing a 50,000-word novel. This is a project about quantity, not quality, and anyone can participate. I’ve given it a try before, and it is definitely tough but fascinating to do.

Make the most of your weekends. It’s fine to stay in with a Chinese takeaway and a DVD, but weekends can, and should, be about spontaneity and adventure! Snap up a very cheap flight ticket to some far-off land, go to the theatre, take a long walk in the countryside with your camera, or take an old friend out for brunch by the sea. This way, you’ll always have something to look forward to.

Start being the model student you’ve always promised yourself you’ll be. Go over your lecture notes, even if it’s just to skim through them, and try to remember the main concepts of each class. If you’re feeling particularly industrious, get a head start on some of those extra readings you’re supposed to be doing, and begin mulling over what you’re going to writeideas for that 3,000 word assignment, the deadline of which seems light years away.

Explore a new lifestyle you’ve always been curious about. Maybe you’d like to learn more about veganism or eating raw, or you could listen to different styles of music. Doing things which are out-of-the-ordinary for you can be as simple as wearing more colour, or as commendable as donating blood. Just go for it and enjoy the new you that will start shining through.

The Magic of Summer

The magic of summer had previously escaped me before this year’s wonderful season of sun, fun and barbecues. I was never a girl who liked to go for a dip at the beach; I don’t really like ice-cream; I apply sun block religiously (which leaves me with a lovely, pasty complexion all year round) and hate the sweltering Maltese heat. My usual plan for summer is to leave the Maltese Islands as soon and as much as possible for cooler, greener pastures. In short, I am generally not the biggest fan of summer.

However, this year, by the end of May, the Law of Obligations had crushed me into a shadow of my former self, and I became a pitiful, whimpering student, yearning for the long stretches of freedom that summer had to offer. On top of that, I was ready to thoroughly squeeze the life out of this year’s summer.

And that is exactly what I did. I made sure that my summer would be chock-full of exciting trips and fulfilling projects. I took part in Evenings on Campus, I had a couple of part-time jobs, I caught up with a bunch of old friends, and visited lots of weird and wonderful countries.

To the surprise of my nearest and dearest, I was also a frequent visitor to the beach, and managed to build up a slight tan – what I like to call ‘golden brown’ (but everyone disagrees with me). I embraced stripy bikinis, salty beach hair and sticky ice-cream. Summer also offered a countless amount of festivals to attend, and I even stayed up extra late to lie on a blanket at Dingli Cliffs to watch a meteor shower.

Now it’s the end of September, and I am exceptionally proud of my success of a summer and raring to start another year at the University of Malta. This article here is what will hopefully be your feel-good page on The Insiter, full of my quirky little ramblings, and a few enlightening tips sprinkled in for good measure.

This month, it’s a new academic year at UoM. Whether you’re a fresher or an already seasoned student, the new year always brings new exciting possibilities and new fears and worries. Freshers might be full of nerves about the vast amount of new people they’re meeting every day, and the strange, new system they need to fit into. Clashing timetables, out-of-print textbooks and seemingly non-existent lecture rooms are all part of a university student’s life. I’m in my fourth year at UoM, and I still look at the venues of my lectures sometimes and think, “Am I even on the right side of Malta?”

Lecturers will almost immediately plunge you into piles of work, but as long as you keep your head above water academically, you will have lots of time to explore the other aspects of campus life.

–         First of all: Fresher’s Week. Embrace the fliers and the freebies, don’t be afraid to talk to as many people as possible, and sign up to any organisation that strikes your fancy; you’re sure to find something that interests you enough and to which you will be willing to devote your precious free time.

–         The start of a new academic year is a very exciting time for stationery lovers (like yours truly). Keep a notebook with you at all times. It’s great to jot down important dates, scribble a pretty girl’s mobile phone number, or sketch a caricature of that eccentric lecturer.

–         Stop saying “if only” and start saying “I will”. Take a Degree Plus unit (there are scores to choose from), change your student lifestyle into a healthier one, and make the lives of those around you brighter and better. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (Plato)

–         Read a novel. Make the most of a sunny day and the green areas at university by settling down on a bench and losing yourself in another world. And you might also want to get into those must-read books that your lecturers are always on about…

(This article originally appeared in the first edition of The Insiter, Vol. 11)