5 Things Iโ€™ve Learnt Since Graduating

It’s been 6 months now since I graduated from my Masters and nearly a year since I finished my last uni exams! I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! In 3 months it’ll be a year since I finished my Masters!

Anyway, since I feel that I’m now a good way in to “graduate” life, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learnt since finishing uni and graduating. ๐Ÿ™‚

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1. You Haven’t Actually Experienced Real Life

When you’re at uni you very much live in your own little bubble. The world isn’t “real”. You don’t have to deal with bills, tax, job applications, or just real life in general. Suddenly you have to leave uni and deal with loads from National Insurance and to bills! You have to be a “real” adult!

2. Finding a Job is Demoralising

It took me 6 months from finishing uni to land a job. OK, I probably could have got any old job sooner, but I wanted a job relevant to what I’d spent 4 years of my life doing. You constantly get rejections and turned down and it is hard to keep going sometimes.

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3. It is OK to Have Time Off

Some of my friends wanted to spend 9-5 Monday to Friday looking for and applying for jobs. You do need to put the effort in to looking for and applying for jobs, but you do also need a break. As I said, job hunting is demoralising and this is one of your only chances to have some “you time” before you start working. I ended up having the occasional week and day off from job hunting because it was really demoralising otherwise.

4. Job Hunting WILL Get Easier

Don’t let the job hunt get you down. At first you’re writing new applications for every single job you apply for, but over time as you apply to more and more similar jobs the process gets easier. You start having ready made cover letters that you can just adapt for that particular job so applying gets so much quicker and easier.

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5. Knowing your Work is Finished is the Best Feeling Ever.

The best thing for me has been having Christmas holidays and actually being able to enjoy Christmas without exams looming over you. But also, you come home from work and you can relax knowing that you’ve finished work for the day.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post, and I’ll see you again soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Homesickness at University

If you’ve never spent a considerable amount of time away from home before homesickness can hit you badly. I went to university 300 miles away from home, and it wasn’t an option for me to go home whenever I felt like it (well, it would have cost me around ยฃ200). But I don’t regret moving so far away from home, and actually I still believe that going to uni that far away from home was the making of me.

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Homesickness isn’t fun, it can be horrible. I remember when it hit me the first time in my first year at uni. It wasn’t within the first few weeks of being in Newcastle, in fact it only really hit me about 2 weeks before I was due to go home for Christmas. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with lots of deadlines, having not been home for 2 months, the anxiety of getting myself home, worrying about my first university exams, as well as trying to think about finding somewhere (and someone) to live in second year.

So the point of this post? Not to share all of my homesickness stories, but to give you some tips about how to deal with homesickness ๐Ÿ™‚

1. Make your room homely

Don’t worry what people say, but if you can bring things from home then do. Your favourite duvet cover, favourite cushion, photos from home, favourite pyjamas, even your teddy! Bringing things from home will help your room feel more familiar and more like yours.

2. Distract yourself

Call/FaceTime your friends/family. Arrange a pizza/film night with your flatmates, get on with some work, go shopping. Do anything but sit around thinking about it. I know it’s easier said than done but sitting around by yourself and doing nothing is the worst thing to do.

3. Tell someoneย 

Tell your friends/family home you’re feeling. You can almost guarantee someone else is feeling the same. Even if you’re not the most social of people, having a few friends/coursemates at uni will help.

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4. Try not to go home

If you live down the road from home try not to go home unless you really have to. Knowing how to get yourself through these hard times without the option of going home will really help you in the long run.

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5. It will get better

Remind yourself it will get better. I promise it will get better and you’ll wonder what on earth you were so upset about. During my MSc there was one day I properly broke down on the phone to my mum. My room was so hot, I wasn’t sleeping, I was tired, I was annoyed at the guy in the room next door to me… It was all so much. But later that evening when I’d gathered myself I couldn’t help but laugh at myself wondering what I’d got so upset about. It will get better.

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I hope that some people may find this post helpful ๐Ÿ™‚ Let me know if it helps you or if you’ve gone through homesickness yourself.

How do you go about combatting homesickness?

Graduation!

OK, so when you read this I’m going to be on holiday ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, setting off anyway! I hope everyone’s new year is treating them well so far?! ๐Ÿ™‚

On Monday I graduated from Swansea University with my Masters in Environmental Biology: Conservation and Resource Management, so now I’m officially a Master of Science (and officially a boff according to my family, but I’ll get to that in a minute)!

We spent the weekend in Swansea and on Sunday I had a nice little walk around the waterfront area with my dad. Amazingly I never visited the Waterfront/Marina while I was at university there, I suppose it was quite far from where I was staying and I never really felt the need to, but it was a nice little walk we did. We thought it was little but it ended up being 9km!ย IMG_3456

Then on Monday it was graduation day! I don’t think I felt as excited about this graduation as I did my first one, but it was a day where I could feel proud of myself and enjoy being surrounded by my friends and family as well as the university staff who helped me on my way.

There is generally a lot of hanging around at graduation, waiting for photos, waiting to go in to the hall, waiting to get your gown, waiting for your turn to cross the stage, and I don’t think I’d ever felt so cold standing there in my dress (and thermal tights)! Winter graduations aren’t as nice as summer graduations in that sense! I was thankful for deciding to splash out on the thermal tights!

 

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We quickly took the opportunity to go and take some photos on the beach while it was sunny outside (and still light as my graduation was at 4:15pm)! I must admit it was lovely to go on the beach and have some photos! And my brother was pretty impressed by the beach basically on campus!

Then it was time for our ceremony and I “officially” graduated. One thing I really liked about this graduation was that the chancellor actually took time to talk to all of us and ask us a couple of questions, so it felt more personal than just a quick “well done” like I had for my undergraduate!

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After the ceremony we headed to our reception for drinks and snacks where I met up again with my university friends (and our lecturer Cindy) and had a nice little group photo.

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Remember back in September I got the award for achieving the highest mark in the taught component of the degree? Well I was totally shocked when at the prize giving I won another award. This time the award for the best overall mark, so basically I’m a boff according to my family! But it was totally unexpected and it felt like such a special moment to go up on stage again in front of my family and friends and collect a second award.

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So that concludes graduation day! Is it wrong to feel proud of yourself? I felt so proud of myself in my little bubble that no one could burst. I wish my A Level teachers could see me now, where I went from getting BCC at A Level and thinking it was the end of the world, to getting in to Newcastle University, graduating with a 2:1 and then now, completing my Masters not only with distinction, but with the highest mark of everyone else in my year. When I started my masters I never dreamed I could get a distinction, let alone gain the two awards I have, but through many tears, hard work, sleepless nights, determination and dreaming it has all paid off and I feel like I really have followed my dreams. I know I did the hard work, but I know I’m so thankful to my family. For picking up the phone to me really late at night, letting me break down to them on FaceTime, spending hours proof-reading my work, paying for me to come home when I really needed it and helping to fund my time at university. I also couldn’t have done it without some of the amazing friends I met along the way as well as the university staff who put their time in to helping me achieve the very best I could.

Don’t ever let anyone stop you chasing your dreams, it may not be an easy road, but with hard work and determination you really can get there. Never get demoralised because know that somewhere someone is cheering you on and be the best that you can be.

P.S. Thank you to my brother, aunt, and dad for taking loads of photos of me. I know I moan about it and get fed up with all the photos, but I appreciate it really!

Dissertation writing

One of the highlights or perhaps scariest things about your final year at uni (or even your final piece of work for your masters) is the dissertation. But fear not! Dissertations are actually your friend, you will love it and cherish it and actually be so flipping proud of yourself when you see it all bound and printed and ready for hand in! In fact, when you read this I’ll have just handed my masters dissertation in!

There are definitely some phases you’ll go through when writing it. It’ll probably go something like this.

Oh cool, my own piece of research for the year!

Erm, what the **** am I doing…

I can’t do this….

I’d rather do anything but this right now…

I can’t do it!

Oh wait, I have no choice, I *have* to do it.

I don’t know what I was so worried about I can do it!

Oh, what will my supervisor say? I don’t think it’s any good, what if I have to write it all over again?

Oh… You mean it’s actually OK!

I CAN DO THIS

Oh wow, look at this piece of work. I did it all myself. Look how pretty it looks, all 50 pages of it beautifully bound.

Ok, so maybe it won’t go like that for everyone, but it has definitely been a bit like that for me! You will definitely feel love and hate towards it! Now for some of my tips for dissertation writing ๐Ÿ™‚

1. Plan, plan, plan and plan some more!

Yes, planning is so important! It’ll really help you write clearly and concisely if you have a good idea of what you’re going to put in and where. It’ll also stop you repeating yourself.Photo 08-08-2017, 19 43 53

2. Keep a separate dissertation notebook/file

A separate notebook dedicated to your dissertation will allow you to keep everything in one place. It’ll also mean you know where everything is! Plus some universities actually require you to hand in your dissertation notebook for marking.photo-13-09-2017-15-21-23.jpg

3. Set achievable targets

Don’t set yourself too much to do in one go. You’ll only get annoyed if you can’t achieve it. Sometimes baby steps are better for dissertations. You’re less likely to make a mistake if you take it a little at a time.

4. Make use of family, friends and your supervisor

They’ll help you make it the best it can be. OK maybe not your family and friends, but if they’re willing to read it give it to them. They may pick up small typos/errors that you keep overlooking.

5. Print a copy to proofread

I know a lot of places these days don’t require you to hand in a physical copy of your work, but I still am! You’re more likely to spot mistakes and errors if you print a copy off to read.

Photo 13-09-2017, 15 24 586. Check your references

Don’t get accused of plagiarism! Some people like to use EndNote or other softwares. I just do it all manually! I don’t trust the softwares. Then go through your work checking every reference in the reference list has been cited and that every citation in text has one in the reference list.

7. Take a break from it

Sometimes it is important to put it away for a few days and come back to it another time. You will get sick of it! In fact you’ll get so used to it you’ll know exactly where everything sits on the page that when you make a change you wonder what you’ve done wrong to make a sentence shift down the page!

8. Keep readingย 

Make an early start on your reading, that way you’ll have all the literature there for you when you actually start to write. It’ll make your life so much easier! Also keep reading until you can’t find any more papers. Don’t just stop because the paper isn’t accessible. Get inter-library loans if you think the paper is relevant.Photo 13-09-2017, 15 21 30

9. Stay in contact with your supervisorย 

Your supervisor is there to help you. Ask them questions, no matter how stupid you think the question is. Find out if/when they’re away and when they want a draft of your work by. Contacting them is important!

10. Don’t panicย 

Your dissertation isn’t worth getting upset over. It is supposed to be fun, not stressful!

So there are just a few of my tips for writing a dissertation! Does this bring back memories? Are you starting your dissertation soon? I hope everyone starting theirs this year has fun!

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University Checklist: What Should I Pack for Uni?

It’s that time of year again! A Level results day has come and you can now start thinking about moving away from home for the first time and what you want to take with you to university! I remember how excited I was. I’d found a list on the internet of all the stuff I thought I needed to take with me to university… Fact is, I didn’t need everything on the list! I’ve now “moved” to university 3 times (we don’t count the fourth as I just just moved my stuff from one house to another between 2nd and 3rd year) so I think I’ve now got a good idea of what the essentials are to pack ๐Ÿ™‚

So here is my little checklist of what I would recommend packing for university ๐Ÿ™‚ Bear in mind that some of this you can pick up when you actually get to uni if space is tight ๐Ÿ™‚

Bedroom

  • Mattress topper and/or protector – your bed will probably be a bit uncomfortable and probably had a few people sleeping on it before you’ve got there so something to go on top isn’t a bad idea!
  • Duvet + Pillows
  • 2 sets of bedding
  • Blanket
  • Cushions – your bed will double up as a sofa so cushions make it a more comfortable ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Fairy Lights to make your room a little more homely
  • Photos/posters – BUT in 2 of my 3 uni rooms even using white tac marked the walls so maybe try the tac in a hidden place to see if it marks before putting photos up.
  • Little things to make your room homely – like photos of friends/family
  • Clothes hangers – you won’t have any when you move in so it’s an idea to bring some ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Bedside light
  • Books – I don’t mean textbooks, but some books to relax ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Coaster – you don’t want to get coffee/tea stains on the desk or bedside table!
  • Dressing Gown

Study Things

  • Pens/Pencils/Highlighters/Coloured pens
  • Hole punch and stapler
  • Staple remover! So useful!
  • Scissors and sellotape
  • Pins
  • Bulldog clips
  • Post-it notes
  • Diary/wall planner
  • Folders
  • Refill pads/notepads/printer paper
  • Pencil case
  • Calculator (if you’re doing maths or science)

Electrical things

  • Laptop + charger + a decent case for carrying it around in your bag
  • Wireless mouse
  • Memory stick/external hard drive
  • Printer – yes it can be a bit expensive but it is so much more convenient! BUT if your uni offers you free printer credits make sure you make use of them too.
  • Chargers
  • Desk lamp – because the lighting in university halls in generally a bit rubbish!
  • iPod/iPad/Headpones
  • TV (+DVDs/DVD Player/HDMI cable) – Remember you need a TV licence to watch iPlayer now though! Don’t worry about the DVD player if you’re happy with Netflix.

Bathroom

  • Shampoo/Conditioner/Hairbrush/Hairbands/Comb/Dry Shampoo
  • Shower Gel
  • Towels – 2 hand towels and 2 bath towels
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Mouthwash etc.
  • Emergency toilet roll – especially if you have a shared bathroom!
  • Some kind of caddy for taking things to the bathroom if you have a shared bathroom

Kitchen

  • Saucepans and frying pan (maybe 2 saucepans and 1 frying pan)
  • Baking tray or one of those pyrex dishes/trays
  • Colander
  • Plate and bowl
  • Cutlery
  • Chopping board
  • Sharp knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Tin opener
  • Grater
  • Mugs
  • Glasses
  • Wooden spoon and spatula
  • Measuring jug
  • Weighing scales (These are honestly soooooo useful to have – especially if you’re rubbish at working out how much pasta/rice is one serving)
  • Plastic storage containers – for when you have leftovers or as a lunchbox
  • Tea towels
  • Oven gloves
  • Cling film and tin foil
  • Herbs/spices
  • Water bottle

You may find people use your stuff, if you don’t want this then keep it in your room. Try to force yourself to wash up, I only had 1 plate and 1 bowl so I had to wash up once I’d eaten!

Other bits

  • Painkillers and a basic first aid kit (I mean plasters and antiseptic cream)
  • Airer for drying your washing – it’ll save you so much money!
  • Some kind of laundry basket, whether it is a proper one or one of those big Ikea bags.
  • Slippers! Kitchen floors can be gross so slippers are a must!
  • Hot water bottle/microwave wheat bag for when its cold or you have a stomach ache.
  • Documents – like your passport, driving licence, certificates, etc.
  • Water jug – I have this Brita one ๐Ÿ™‚
  • A suitcase! Don’t do what I did and it gets to near the Christmas holidays in first year and find out you sent your suitcase home with your parents!
  • Extension leads
  • Shopping bags – I don’t mean the cheap plastic ones. Invest in some of the better quality ones from the supermarket they’ll last forever.

Obviously this isn’t a complete list of everything you need to take with you to uni it is just an idea of the main things you might want/need to take. Bear in mind though that you can get some of this stuff when you arrive at uni you don’t have to get it all before you go. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope this list helps with uni preparation! ๐Ÿ™‚ Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything! ๐Ÿ™‚

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What University Has Taught Me

It’s weird to think that I’m less than 6 weeks away from finishing my masters now. It feels like I’ve got so much left to do still though! :O Since my time at university is coming to an end and I don’t plan on taking my university education further I think now is a good time to share some of the things that university has taught me ๐Ÿ™‚

How to save money and budget 

At some point as a student you’ll be poor, it’s a well known fact that students are poor. Plus you’ll have some ridiculous amount of student debt to your name. But you’ll quickly learn how to save money and what value/own brand food is actually OK.thumb_IMG_1585_1024

Be yourself

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you don’t want to do the whole freshers thing, don’t! There will be other people like you who also don’t want to do the whole drinking/partying thing!IMG_3296_1024

Don’t be afraid to try new things 

I don’t mean pushing yourself totally outside of your comfort zone, but occasionally it may be good for you.IMG_0407_1024

You’ll probably change 

You’ll probably become a different person in some ways having been to university. I know I’ve definitely changed since going to uni!IMG_1137_1024

It is OK to get homesick

You’ll probably miss your parents/friends/dog at some point and that is OK. There will be others feeling the same way too. Homesickness didn’t really hit me properly until December of first year, but it hit me alright!

You’ll probably feel like you’re dying at some point 

You’ll probably get really ill at some point during your time at university and it will feel like you’re dying. You have to hope it’s in your second or third year when you can text your housemate and ask them to bring you hot chocolate or a hot water bottle! Or if its not dying because you’re ill, you’ll probably feel like you’re dying with the amount of work you have to do at some point. But it happens to everyone!

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When Laura bought me this! โค

You’ll learn how you work

It wasn’t until I came to university that I began to learn and appreciate how I learn best. I’d be surprised if you came out of uni still not knowing how you work and learn.Photo 25-04-2017, 20 09 59

You’ll learn how to do your washing 

You’ll probably have at least one disaster working out how to do your washing during your time at university, but if you’ve never done your washing before, you’ll definitely learn!IMG_2179_1024

You’ll learn how to clean something or the other

I never knew how to clean a toilet with bleach until 2nd year of uni! :O You’ll probably learn how you clean something else random like how to get those blu-tac marks off the wall or how to clean food/drink stains off the carpet.Photo 04-05-2017, 11 32 29

You’ll probably hate the people you live with at times 

So you can’t really do much about the gross kitchen, hearing every word of your neighbour’s conversation, your neighbour singing or you neighbour and their boyfriend/girlfriend’s late night shenanigans in first year. But in second and third year when you’re living with your friends you’ll still probably find something to hate someone for, be it their sloppyness in the kitchen, not taking the bins out on their turn, hogging the washing machine, or not taking their turn on the cleaning rota. You will hate them at least once …. But you still love them dearly! Photo 07-03-2017, 15 26 19

You’ll make some of the best friends 

You’re all thrown together in this new situation. Everyone wants to make friends, and I know I have made some of the best friends through my time at uni. I may not talk to them every day now, but I know I can text them whenever and still pick up any conversation with them! Miss you Penny, Becky, Laura, Reg and Sara! โคIMG_9126

 

 

My A-Level Story

I’ve never really spoken about this and it is only really my closest friends and family who know my little story about how I got in to uni. So I decided that with A level results day today I would share my story in this one off post.

I’d done great at GCSE, I had 11 GCSEs, 4 A*s and 7 As. I picked my AS Levels, biology, chemistry, physics, German and maths (although I dropped maths about a month in to year 12). I was so excited to finally be studying what I wanted to and be on my way to becoming a marine biologist (although I think at the start of year 12 I wanted to be a doctor but I soon changed my mind back to a marine biologist).

thumb_IMG_1792_1024I really enjoyed my AS levels… Up until March of year 12 that is when I found out my first set of grades. I can’t remember my chemistry grade but I got a D in my first biology exam of my AS levels. It wasn’t great! Especially as I had my mind set on biology in some form!

So I retook that biology exam in the summer of 2011 along with all my other exams. I’d started looking at universities. I was still predicted As and Bs so I was still looking at the “better” universities. Then AS results day came… I’d got a D in biology, and Cs in physics (I was so flipping proud of that C in AS physics), German and chemistry. I was so disheartened by the D and suddenly my hopes of getting in to the unis I’d already looked at all but disappeared.Photo 01-07-2017, 12 55 03

So I had to start looking at other universities, those who would take me with lower grades and my predicted grades for A2 suddenly dropped to Cs. I sought help from teachers, one of my chemistry teachers patronised me, but the other one (who was only part time) went out of her way to help me. I’ll forever thank her for that! And biology… We went through the process of entering me for again another re-sit (so I would be taking 3 biology exams in January of year 13) and getting my papers back. I remember sitting through them with my biology teacher and we were so frustrated. My teacher could see I knew what I was talking about I’d just keep missing one key word in my answers which meant I wasn’t getting the marks that I should! So frustrating!

Anyway… My marks for my January exams and resits of year 13 were mixed. I remember getting a U in one of my chemistry exams and a C in the other, an A in my German resit, and bad grades again in biology!

Anyway, by now I’d selected my university offers and was still holding out any chance of getting in to one of my universities. Especially after my A in my German resit! Anyway, I took my A levels and I was done… Then came the nervous wait for exam results.DSCF1968

Let’s just say this, A levels and me didn’t go well. It wasn’t that I didn’t work hard for them, I just struggled more than anyone should at A-level!

So at 6am on 16th August 2012 I had an email with my A level results and I was so shocked, I’d managed to get a B in biology and a C in German and chemistry. I had a B in biology!!!! Anyway, UCAS went live early and my UCAS didn’t say anything. When you log in that morning it tells you straight away where you’ve been accepted, your first choice or your insurance choice. I fully expected to log in to see it saying Portsmouth (my insurance). But it didn’t! Uh oh!

Soon after 8am when UCAS was supposed to go live I had a phone call from Newcastle University (my first choice) saying that although they couldn’t give me a place on Marine Biology they could offer me a place on their zoology course instead. They kindly gave me some time to think and investigate their course and after finding out I wasn’t going to be able to get accommodation at Portsmouth I decided to take up the offer to study Zoology at Newcastle.DSCF1988

I was happy, I was going to a good university. I remember going in to school to collect my paper copy of my results to be met by teachers who assumed I was going to Portsmouth. But no! I had great delight in telling them I’d got in to Newcastle!

Anyway, when I accepted that place on Zoology I was told I wouldn’t be able to transfer to marine biology but I was going to study somewhere I knew I liked, and study something I was interested in.

So basically I was lucky, A-levels didn’t go my way but somehow Newcastle liked me and took me on. I also think that applications were lower than normal as I was going to be the first year group to pay ยฃ9000, which probably helped get me in.IMG_3539_1024

I expected to struggle at uni after struggling in A-levels as much as I did. But weirdly I was doing well. I was getting pretty decent marks. Anyway, fast forward to Easter 2013 I decided to approach the school of marine science at Newcastle and asked them if there was any chance at all of me transferring. I was shocked when they said I could transfer on to their marine zoology course in second year if I passed first year with a first.

And guess what I did? I passed first year with a first and I became a marine zoology student. It was so crazy the journey I’d been on to get there… But I got there.

Moral of the story? A levels aren’t the end of the world! You can still do it and you can still get there. Yes maybe I was lucky, but I really wouldn’t change that journey I’ve been on for a thing. I’ve met some of my best friends on both of the two courses I was on and looking back now I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved. Every A level results day I am so thankful that Newcastle took me on, and I think to myself I wouldn’t change anything. What I’ve achieved at uni I’ve worked hard for, and I know I wouldn’t have achieved it without that hard work. I always wish I could go back and show my school teachers where I am now too, show them what I’ve achieved and that my “failure” at A level (they made me believe that Bs and Cs were fails because they were expecting us to get As and A*s) has really been the making of me and since then I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I could academically.

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