Saturday, September 10, 2011

Life as a University Student: Public Transit

Hey everyone, sorry for not updating this blog more often. I’ve been crazy busy with my move so I've been relying on posts that I scheduled months ago. Now that those have run out, I’m going to have to make a better effort to keep this blog alive.

My new blog schedule is probably going to go something like this:

Tuesday: Writing Tip
Thursday: Book Review
Saturday: My Life

Since it’s Saturday, that means it’s going to be a My Life post. Basically, these are going to be quick posts about stuff that’s been happening to me with the move and university.

So far, I think my biggest learning curve has been using public transit. Back on PEI we’ve only had busses for about five years and they get so little use that having five people on a bus at a time is busy. I never rode the bus back home, so getting everywhere by bus is a huge change for me.

Busses are really practical for university students for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s already paid for as part of my student fees. If I had a car I’d have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, parking (which is $700 at king’s) and stuff like that. Taking the bus is saving me a ton of money, not to mention the whole ‘save the environment’ thing.

The biggest downside is simply how long it takes to get anywhere. This afternoon I’m heading to the mall to hang out with my cousins. It’s just 10 km away and according to google maps it should take me about 25 minutes to get there. Even if I biked it should take me just under an hour, but with a bus transfer and stopping everywhere it’s going to take me about an hour and a half to get there.

Now, since today’s Saturday and I have nothing to do, I don’t really care that I’m going to be spending nearly three hours on busses just to get to the mall. But in a couple weeks when I’m snowed under with homework I just won’t have that kind of time. Even getting to campus (25 minutes by bus) is going to be annoying. The slowness of city buses will limit me to the area right around my apartment. Since I’m used to having a car, this feels just a little claustrophobic.

Oh, well. I’ll get used to it. So far living away from home has been better than I thought it was going to be, and it’s my own fault that I’m heading to the mall tomorrow, so I shouldn’t complain. I just felt like griping a bit, since I actually don’t have anything to complain about.

What about all of you? How’s school so far? If you’re starting University, was it what you expected? Have any of you had any interesting experiences with public transit? 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

School Suggestions: Some Final Tips

Here are a couple quick ideas to help you get the most out of your university experience.

1- Learn to use the library. Often the prof with leave a copy of the textbook on reserve at the library. This means that instead of dishing out $70 for a textbook that you’ll never use again, you can get it for free at the library. This may be inconvenient, but it’s a real money saver.

2- Use the online resources. Your university probably has online access to all sorts of online resources, such as the Oxford English Dictionary and databases of articles and journals. You can search through these quickly, and they’re great if you have to write a paper in a hurry and don’t have time to search through books at the library. I wrote several research papers citing approximately 30 sources, all of which I found in the online databases.

3- Use the help centers. UPEI had both a writing center and a math help center; I assume most other universities will have similar things. If you’re just having a little trouble something and you don’t want to bother the prof, these institutions can give you the help you need.

4- Make friends. This one may sound a little basic, but University is so much more fun when you have friends in your classes. I had good friends in Math and Science, but I had to try and make friends in all of my Arts courses. I ended up meeting some awesome people who I really enjoyed talking to and discussing essay ideas with. It’s nice to have at least one acquaintance in every class, someone you can talk to about assignments and study with whenever a test is coming up.

5- Work hard. This one is self-explanatory. University isn’t easy. Just remember that anything worth doing is worth working at.

And this wraps up my School Suggestions Saturday Series (don’t you love my alliteration?). I hope I’ve helped some upcoming university students and some of you highschool students who are still considering if University is for you. Over the next couple months I’ll be blogging about my university experiences in a little bit of a more personal way. Good luck to all you students out there!

Friday, September 2, 2011

First-Impression Friday: Hereafter

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Title: The title screams paranormal. Hereafter is a great title for this story, since it gives a good idea of what this book’s about: a dead girl.

Cover: I must say I absolutely love this cover. The blues and greens are so pretty, and even though you can’t really see it, I love the dress Amelia is wearing. Also, it’s just a little shiny, so it’s even prettier in real life.

Pitch:  For people who like paranormal romance, this pitch is sure to be intriguing. For someone like me, it’s a big turnoff. First of all, I don’t like paranormal romance, and having a dead protagonist just seems really weird. It seems like a well crafted story, but I’m not looking forward to it.

First Sentence: It was the same as always, but different from the first time.
A great first line. It makes me need to read on. What is this mysterious ‘it’? And how in the world can it be the same, and yet different? While this is a little vague, it is attention grabbing.

First Chapter: This chapter has some great points and some really bad parts. The writing is fairly good. It opens with the MC dreaming that she’s drowning, and it’s described so vividly I felt myself squirming. However, as soon as the dream ends, she starts thinking about what’s happened over the past years, telling us all sorts of backstory. One big writing rule is to not give any backstory in the first fifty pages unless absolutely necessary. Here’s it’s really not necessary. This scene would have been more powerful, especially the cliffhanger at the end, had it been written in straight narrative, not backstory.

Overall: For a fan of paranormal romance, this story has great packaging. There’s a perfect title combined with a gorgeous cover and an intriguing pitch. However, all of this convinces me that it’s really not the sort of story I’ll enjoy.