before you die

Taking on the "100 Books Everyone Should Read" Challenge

12:00 AM

Recently, I have found reading for pleasure quite difficult. Although I manage to do it most nights and on the majority of my commutes into university, I don't read much in one go and I find my attention waivers incredibly easily; I used to be able to read a whole book in a day! I fear I may have lost a bit of my love for reading due to all the reading I am doing for my PhD and for my obsession with looking on the internet instead - this must change!

This is something I have wanted to do for a while but had never pushed myself into doing it. I have seen several lists and I'm not sure if there is an "official" list that should be followed, but you can look at the one I am doing here. I wanted to share my journey on this blog and to do updates, reviews in the hope that people will come along with me and to motivate me. Without further ado, I am about to take on the 100 Books Everyone Should Read Challenge.

Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.

To my delight, the first book on this list is 1984 by George Orwell. Luckily for me this is actually one of my all time favourite books and I haven't read it in quite a while. I am sure most of you reading are familiar with 1984 or if not then you have most definitely heard of ideas from within the book which have been made into popular TV shows such as "Big Brother" and "Room 101". I would have expected this to have been on the list due to its sheer popularity and the influence it has had both during its publication and straight into the modern day. I'm excited to get into this one - Lets hope for a good start!

a level

I don't know what to do with my life!; Stamping out those worries.

9:45 PM

If you're not from the UK you probably won't be aware of how our education system works, so I will explain it in the simplest way I can:

  • Primary School (age 4 to 11): SATS is the exams in the final year
  • High School/Secondary School (age 11 to 16): GCSE's is the qualification you receive in the final year, you have to chose some of the subjects that you do but a lot are mandatory such as maths, english, science.
  • College (age 16 to 18): A-level (short for Advanced level) is the qualification you receive at this stage. The first year is called an AS level and if you take the subject into a second year then you gain the full A-Level. You generally chose four subjects at this point.
  • University Undergraduate (Generally age 18 to 21 but there are lots of mature students and people who take a year ot two out before doing their degree): This is where you gain a degree. Depending on what subject, most people either get BA (Bachelor of arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) after their name. 
  • Following from these you can go onto a postgraduate degree which is a masters and then a PhD or a doctorate. A PhD/Doctorate is the highest level of education.

I have a younger cousin who is 16 and about to venture into college. When she had to pick what GCSE subjects she had to do, she was worried about her future because she didn't want to pick the wrong ones. And now she is also worried about what A-level subjects to do because she "has no idea what she wants to do" career wise.

I think this mistake is made so early on, schools make out like you HAVE to know what you want to do, you have to have a clear path when that just isn't reality. For some people, they may have easily decided what they want to do. They may have always wanted to be a doctor or always wanted to do game design, so then it's easy... You pick the subjects aimed towards this goal. But what if you have no idea what you want to do? I wanted to write this blog post to help people feel at ease; whether you are doing GCSEs, A-Levels or are on your undergraduate degree.

Don't worry. It's okay not to know.
One of the biggest things that younger people worry about is not knowing what they effectively "want to do with their lives". It is put into our heads from a young age that we MUST know what we want to do as a career from as young as 14, which is a difficult ask! It also doesn't give someone much time to find out what subjects they are interested in. I didn't have a chance to try Psychology until I was at college level and even then, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do I just knew the area I wanted to go into. It is okay not to know what you want to do, you may never know and just try a lot of different things until you find what you love. But it is okay and don't let anyone scare you into thinking otherwise.

A lot of Universities only ask for certain grades/points, not specific subjects.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you want to go into something like medicine then they will ask for specific subjects and grades. But a lot of the time universities will either ask for grades e.g. you must get 3 A's in your subjects. Or they will ask for what is known as UCAS points. Each grade is worth a certain amount of points, grades of a full A level is worth more than an AS level, but it does mean that you can put the grades of your AS levels towards this. And if you don't get the grades you need there is also what is called "clearing" where universities will have some spaces left on some courses that you may be able to get onto. So don't worry too much about the specific subjects, just try to pick subjects you enjoy or are good at. My A Levels were; AS Maths, AS Extended Project and A levels in History, Graphics and Psychology. A completely random mix, but still got me to where I needed to be.

There is never just "one way" to get to where you want to be.
For some reason, schools tend to make out like there is only one certain path to go down to get to where you want to be and if you don't go down that path then you can't do the career you want. This is not always the case. There are plenty of people who don't realise what they want to do until later in life. There are options called "conversion" courses which can help you get to where you want to be. Yes, it may be easier to go down a straight path but don't worry if you end up changing your mind or having to go a different route.

You can always change subjects if it's not for you. "Taster days" are also a good way to find out.
Sometimes, its hard to tell if you are even going to enjoy a subject, especially if it's something you are going to do for the first time. Often, colleges will give you a certain amount of time that you can change by. I sort of did this in my final year of university when we had to pick specific modules in Psychology. I had originally picked "Positive Psychology" and quickly realised it just wasn't for me so I changed to "Substance Use" and I enjoyed that a hell of a lot more. A lot of colleges and universities tend to give "taster" days or sessions and if you are offered this opportunity I would definitely go for it to save any messing around in the future.


To all you young people out there, I hope this post has helped you to feel at ease about not knowing what it is that you want to do. Good luck in your future endeavours! 


A Day in the Life of a PhD Student

12:00 AM

I have been told by a couple of people that they have really enjoyed reading things on my blog related to my PhD and what life is like as a PhD Student. One thing that shocked me when becoming a PhD student was how little other people know about it, especially those who have not looked into a PhD at all. I know when I was thinking about doing a PhD I thought that it would be like my dissertation module in my final year of my undergraduate degree but stretched over a longer period of time. In some aspects, I guess you could say that it is, but to make it easier for you to get a taste of what PhD life is like, I thought I would share with you a day in my life.

8am - 9am - Get up.
If I have to go into the university for whatever reason, then I get up at 8am. However, if I am just at home all day I'll sleep in until nearer 9am and start work straight away. But on this particular day I had to travel into my university.

9am - 10am - Get the Bus; Catch up on E-mails and do some Reading.
My journey into university is a 50-60 minute bus ride and I take that time to read through any e-mails and to do some more reading of journal articles. I use my IPad for any reading with an app called Endnote, you can download the articles to it using an account so you can work offline and it links to every device that you have it on so that you can easily edit your articles.

10am- 11am - More Reading, Taking Notes and Teaching Prep.
On this particular day I was teaching, so I like to go over what it is that I need to cover one last time before going into the lesson and then I do some more reading, maybe take a few notes.

11am - 12.30pm - Workshop Teaching.
I had to teach a small class of final year undergraduate students about a programme called SPSS. This is essentially a programme that is used within research to do all the statistics calculations for you so that you don't have to sit working out incredibly complex equations. A lot of people hate SPSS and statistics; but it is probably my favourite type of research to do.

12.30pm - 1.30pm - Lunch and Travelling home.
I will normally get myself some lunch such as a sandwich to eat on the bus journey home and I allowed myself to have a bit of a break here. I always decide to do my work from home when possible because I find it so much quieter and I get a lot more done in the comfort of my own home.

1.30pm - 5.30pm - Work, Work and more Work.
I'll spend the rest of the day doing work, on this particular day, here are some of the tasks that I tackled;

  • Preparation for my presentation at a conference. 
  • Preparation for my teaching the following week which is a workshop on a different programme called NVivo.
  • Some reading for my own Research; particularly in the area of Critical Thinking Assessments.
  • Reading for one of my Side Projects; Risks in Domestic Homicide
  • Dabbled a little into my assignments for a qualification I am undertaking which is due in April.
Evening - Food, TV, Blog and Pleasure Reading.
For the evenings I like to shut off when I can. This is not always possible and I may have to do some extra work, but I do try my best to just allow myself to have some food and relax. It is important to give yourself that time or you may go entirely mad!


I hope that I have given you some insight into what a day is like as a PhD student. Every day is entirely different and this is one of my busier days due to having to travel into Liverpool. Any questions, feel free to leave down below!