My Blog

Hi and welcome to my blog on the University of Sheffield website. I will try to keep you updated with my experiences in Sheffield. Hope you enjoy reading!

29 January 2010

Jennifer with friend

This is probably my final blog entry. I am no longer a student of the University of Sheffield; now I am one of thousands of alumni!

Graduation was January 14 and despite the adverse weather condition (SNOW SNOW SNOW!) my brother and I were able to spend an enjoyable week in England. It was strange being back in Sheffield again especially with all of the construction and renovations (and SNOW!) everywhere. However it was great to meet up with friends again and to say a proper good-bye to everyone in my department and my professors.

I truly believe that having the chance to do my postgraduate education in the UK was a great experience for me. Not only was I able to learn so much about a topic I have long been interested in, I was also able to grow and learn as I explored a new country (several countries in fact) and a new culture. If you are have decided to study at Sheffield I hope you will be able to take advantage of all that the experience has to offer as well.

One last bit of news, right after I got back from my graduation trip I was able to interview for a job related to my degree in Japanese Studies here in the US. I just found out that I've been offered the job and will be starting work from next month. I feel extremely lucky that I will now be able to do work that is directly related to the degree that I've just received!

It's been great having the chance to write this web diary for other prospective students of the University of Sheffield. I hope it´s been of help to you in some way!

Jennifer :-)

1st December 2009

Jennifer by the Eiffel Tower

It's official! I'm graduating (^_^).
Our dissertations have to be marked and marked again and marked by an external examiner as well. All that reading and marking takes time so we don´t find out until November the results. My results were very good so I'm pleased beyond words. It feels good to know that all the hard work paid off and I'll definitely be graduating in January.

I guess a brief recap of my last few days in Sheffield is in order. Let's see…
The day my dissertation was due I started my training to be a Meet and Greet Assistant. Did you guys take advantage of that service? If so, maybe I had the chance to meet you at Manchester Airport?! We had many early mornings and long bus trips to and from the airport but it was really good fun. If I were still a student I´d certainly apply again. It was hard work but so important I feel to help other international students get started on the right foot at Sheffield.

A few days after I finished my work on Meet & Greet, I went with a classmate to Paris. It was a most awesome way to end a great year in England. If you have a chance try to hop across the Channel and check out France. I'm sure you´ll enjoy the experience (and the food!!).

So with a whole year's worth of memories of Sheffield I'm back home in the USA now. And, I guess I just can't get enough of Sheffield, because my brother and I are coming back next month for my graduation ceremony. I'm quite excited to be able to share the city and University with my family. And it will be nice to actually walk across the stage at the Octagon Center and receive that diploma. I´m already looking forward to seeing England again. I just hope the weather will cooperate! Until then :-)

13 September 2009

Handing in dissertation

I can't believe it's all done. For our department the deadline for submission of dissertations was 3 p.m. September 11. I worked literally until the last hours and got it in by 2 p.m. I haven´t been this exhausted in a long time…

I'm still trying to process this whole dissertation experience. Looking back over it, my feelings went something like this: Beginning – excited to be researching a topic that I'm really interested in and want to learn more about. Midway – frustrated that it's turning out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. End – panicked and exhausted after realizing that I'm running out of time! Now – kinda pleased that I was able to do it and realizing that I really did learn so much after all.

I'd like to say that I apparently was quite lucky in that I had a great dissertation supervisor. At the end of the term, after checking both of our summer schedules, my supervisor and I set deadlines throughout the summer for chapter reviews of my work in progress and that was so very helpful. I know some people might prefer to do all the research at one time and then sit down and write but for me, it was much better to have deadlines every few weeks. It helped my thought process and helped me to focus. Plus the reviews from my supervisor were always constructive and helpful – I always felt supported and that I could freely ask for help and advice when I got stuck. I know some of my friends did not feel the same about their supervisors… So my advice, if you have any say-so when it comes time for allocation of dissertation supervisors, choose carefully! It can make all the difference.

Oh yeah! Some more crucial advice – carefully plan your living situation for the summer. An unfortunate side effect of being on a one-year Masters course is that accommodations is geared more towards the undergrads who are usually on term-time contracts. So towards the end of the summer several international postgrad friends and I had quite a hard time. When all we want to do is focus on finishing our dissertation and doing a good job at that, we also had to worry about finding a place to live. Here is the difficulty, for those of us in university accommodation or university-managed accommodations, though we are told we will have accommodations for the whole year, it doesn't necessarily mean you can stay in the SAME accommodations. A lot of us were required to move-out in early September so that our flats could be prepared for the incoming students. Unfortunately most dissertations are due in mid- to late- September! And depending on the benevolence of the managers of the non-university accommodations, you might have a hard time getting them to understand. For instance, my dissertation was due on September 11. I requested to extend my contract until that time and though I was verbally told that would be fine, when I went to get it in writing I was not allowed to do so but instead told I had to move out on September 6. Luckily one of my flatmates had a place and I crashed with her for those last few days! But even then it was quite stressful having to stop and take a few days to pack up and move out when I literally needed every minute for the writing. :-( (Don´t even get me started on the stress of possibly losing internet ability!)

Bottom line, if possible, I'd highly recommend sorting out your accommodations situation (in writing!) as early as possible at the beginning of the summer. In the end, you might find that it's a better idea to leave university accommodations for the summer and temporarily move into a private student house with some classmates or something for those last few months just to reduce the stress level!

But it's all over now and I've learned a lot. I hope when it comes time for you to start working on your dissertation, you will gain a lot from the experience as well. I'm certain my researching, analytical and time management skills have substantially improved. And my ability to function on two hours of sleep has improved as well! Bye for now!

13 July 2009

The summer period is in full-swing and I'm diligently working away at my dissertation. As postgrads we have the whole summer to focus on dissertation research and writing. And while I am grateful to not have to squeeze dissertation work in between class time like the 4th year undergrads, it's still a lot of work. And just maybe it would be better to have classes to go to just so there are little dissertation-distractions… I'm already getting tired and I'm still just at the beginning!

Anyway, enough complaining  Let me tell you about my summer so far. Right at the end of June, my classmate and I went on a holiday to Tunisia! One of the best things about living in the UK is how easy (and relatively affordable) it is to travel to so many different countries. We stayed for a week just relaxing after a year´s worth of classes ~~~ good times!

pic of Jennifer in Tunisia

Sheffield is unbelievably quiet right now. You can really tell this is a college town when the students leave. It's not completely dead though because things are still going on around campus sporadically. For instance, now is the time when there are a lot of Open Days for prospective students. They are able to come see the school and go to the different departments for talks and presentations and such. It must be so exciting for them. If you are able, I'd recommend a campus visit. The international office is great about working with schedules of visitors from overseas coming in to check out Sheffield. I was just able to give a tour for a nice international family the other day; it's great to be able to answer their questions one-on-one. Of course, I didn´t have a chance to come visit Sheffield before I arrived to do my degree and things were still fine. The websites are amazingly accurate and I don't know how many times I watched the Welcome to Sheffield DVD so I felt well prepared.

But, if I can make a recommendation, if you are getting ready to come to Sheffield for this fall and you want one less thing to worry about, I'd recommend signing up for the Meet and Greet service and the International Student Orientation. Meet and Greet is where student assistants from Sheffield will meet you upon arrival at Manchester Airport and bring you back to Sheffield by coach (bus). I did it last year and believe me, after that looooong flight from the US and a transfer in Amsterdam, I was just ready to stop worrying about everything once I arrived to the UK. It was quite a relief to see them there waiting for us at the airport. (Plus I'm going to be a Meet and Greet assistant this year! Maybe I'll be the one greeting you when you arrive ) Check out the details about the service here:

My other recommendation is the International Student Orientation. I did this one as well last year and think it was well worth it for helping me to settle in and get used to Sheffield and the Uni. Plus, though it may sound terribly cliché, some of my friends now are other students I met that first week at Orientation! Here at Sheffield, the semester doesn't start until almost October. So if you decide to do the Orientation, you have a week easing into life here during Orientation, then another week on your own to run around getting your room setup and taking care of other business, etc. So, then by the time classes start, you will be all set to focus on what you came here to do. Honestly, I think the program is well-worth it for any international student. Here's a link:

Alrighty, I guess I'll get back to work on that dissertation now. Hope this helps anybody who's getting ready to come to Sheffield!!! Bye for now.

11 June 2009

Hi there! So things are getting very quiet here on campus. Tomorrow (Friday, June 12) is the last day of the exam period and all of my classmates are leaving Sheffield one-by-one. We finished our classes and exams and I am exhausted. How about a quick recap:

Week 12 and Exam Period
Last week of classes. It was strange to realize that my classmates would all be graduating soon and leaving. On the last day of Spoken Japanese class we performed our dramas. Each group got to try out acting in Japanese as a culmination of a year´s hard work. My group's theme: "Intercultural Tolerance". Story: "Crew of the starship Enterprise meets a new alien species. How will they react to these strange new beings?" Yay Star Trek for helping us to spread the message of tolerance and peace - in Japanese! (Yep, I'm a huge Star Trek fan.) Really, though, working with my classmates this year will truly be a treasured memory of my time here in Sheffield!!

After classes ended we got right to work on final translations and studying for exams. I had two translations due, one due for my Contemporary Japanese Literature class and for my Classical Japanese class, ON THE SAME DAY! Yikes... It is truly difficult trying to switch my mind back and forth between contemporary and classical Japanese. As soon as that was turned in, revising for exams began. I will most definitely not miss the exam experience let me tell you!

Anyway, the trauma has ended and I can get ready for a summer of writing my dissertation. I'm excited about my topic and a little apprehensive of the task ahead. With no classes and everyone leaving, I'm sure to have plenty of time to work on my research and writing but therein lies the problem. Too much time! It's so hard to get myself motivated when I'd like to just go outside and enjoy pretty summer days (when the sun comes out) or stay inside nice and warm in my room when the rain starts. Oh well! Wish me luck!

picture of Jennifer's class mates

17 May 2009

Hello there! Well, we only have one more week before this semester is finished and then exams will start. So I only have a few more classes to try to get through, two translations to finish and my Japanese exam to study for. Sure, no problem!:-)

But also around this time of the year, a lot of students who are getting ready to come to study in Sheffield are having to make decisions about accommodation and such for their time here. I normally get a few questions about what my accommodation is like so I thought I´d share a bit with you.

picture of Jennifer's bedroom

I live in a flat (= apartment) with five other postgrad students. We each have our own bedrooms and our own bathrooms (sink, toilet, & shower - called `en-suite´) which I was especially pleased to find. No more dorm shower for me!! We share the living room and kitchen and often meet up there when it's time to cook dinner. My flatmates are wonderful - I really lucked out I think. There are two other international students (from Greece and China) and three girls from the UK. We live in a place called Opal Two which is one of the newer accommodations here - officially opened in early 2008 and quite nice. Opal Two is not a university dorm but it is approved by the University for students to live here and is known as a "Managed Partnership Property". Our rent includes all utilities which is especially nice in the winter when the heating bills can really add up for those who are in private houses.

picture of Jennifer's flat

Opal Two is considered to be a City and Central Campus accommodation and it is quite convenient for getting to the City Centre, or West Street, or the Information Commons. I have to say I think the location is ideal in most ways and if my program was longer than just a year I´d probably choose to stay here again.

I've included a few pics of my room and the flat in general to give you an idea of what it's like. The Uni's accommodation website is helpful to explore as well. If you do and have any questions about what stuff means or something, feel free to email me and I'll do my best to `translate´!

See you later!

4 May 2009

Hello there! Well, Easter Break has come and gone and it seems way too fast for three weeks but oh well. Easter Break is rather deceptive - you think you will have plenty of time to rest and/or relax however that´s not entirely so...

The first half of the first week of Easter Break was spent tutoring a fellow international student in English, giving campus tours to two prospective students from the US (surprisingly one student was from where I used to live!) and meeting my prof for my tutorial for my Japanese portfolio. Later that week, I was off to Liverpool to visit my classmate and spend a magical `scouse´ day out. You will quickly find out that even though the UK is (relatively speaking) a small country, the regional divides (and pride) is very, very strong. And each area has an interesting name for the folks who are from there. Let´s see... Liverpool area = `Scouse´ (as mentioned above); Newcastle area = `Geordie´; Birmingham area = `Brummie´. It´s fun learning all this stuff. And trying to decipher the different accents! :-) Anyway, after a nice overnight in the birthplace of the Beatles I was back to Sheffield. I had a wonderful traditional English roast dinner at my friend´s parent´s house on Easter Sunday and continued work on the translation I had due for my Contemporary Japanese Literature class the following week.

So Week Two of Easter started like Week One; tutoring and translation, translation, translation before getting ready to head north to Newcastle for another friend´s birthday. Translation was handed in on Tuesday and on Wednesday off I and three classmates went... It's funny seeing the divide here in England between North and South; there´s this great, friendly (most of the time) rivalry between those in the North and South. Some people say Sheffield is in North England but ask a Geordie and I´m sure they will set you straight! Newcastle truly is north (not all that far from Scotland actually) and by the time we arrived it was noticeably colder! I had to borrow a coat from my friends mom! We had a good time though and two great rounds of birthday Dinosaur Golf!

Jennifer at the dinogolf

Week Three again started out the same; Translation feedback, tutoring and work-training. On Wednesday, I headed to my other friend's hometown of Southport which is a nice seaside town just outside of Liverpool. It's nice being able to go to see different parts of England. Sheffield is good for that location-wise. In Southport, there were wonderful sand dunes we got to explore! There really is amazing variety here in England. I've been pleasantly surprised...

Anyway, back we came to Sheffield and back to the grind. First week back (Week 9) was busy with more prep for classes and my dissertation proposal which was due to my supervisor on Friday...

Busy? Well, let's just say that already Easter Break feels like a distant memory. Exams start in a few weeks though. *Yippee!* (that was sarcastic btw!)

See you later!

6 April 2009

*SCHOOLS OUT FOR EASTER!!* Yay! The three weeks of Easter break have started. Weeks 7 & 8 were so busy leading up to it that I'm more than ready for a break from the stress for just a bit. I´ll recap those weeks for you (if I can remember what happened... seems a bit of a blur now...)

Week 7:
Work Work Work. Busy Busy Busy. I spent most of the days working on the assignment for Classical Japanese. Of course just because I had that due didn't mean there was nothing to do in my other classes. Just a reminder: time management is a worthy skill to learn!

There were some enjoyable times as well. Several classmates and I went to the ballet on Tuesday. We got excellent seats for the Northern Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake at the Lyceum Theatre which is in the city centre. Price? A very reasonable £8.50! It was arranged through the Union´s Give-It-A-Go program. Give-It-A-Go is a brilliant idea where a lot of the Universities clubs and societies provide little "taster" samplings for anybody who is interested. For instance, on Friday of Week 7, my flatmate and a classmate and I tried Fencing! (see pic- I'm on the right!) It was just for that one time because I don't think I'd have the time (or skill!) to join the Fencing Club but it was great to have a chance to try it once - which of course it what Give-It-A-Go is all about!

picture of Jennifer fencing

Week 8:
Whew! I finally turned in my assignment for Classical Japanese. It was a horrible, scary-looking assignment at first but turns out the story was rather interesting - it was a ghost story :-) Hope I did okay on it - it's worth 40% of the grade for that class...
In celebration there was the Japan Society Easter Party to look forward to. The theme was "Hats!" which meant everybody had to wear some kind of hat :-) Added bonus: visit from the Easter Bunny! (pics)

April began with good news - I was assigned a supervisor for my dissertation. Looks like I'll have to spend some of Easter Break working on the next part that's due though. It's nice to have a break from classes but that doesn't necessarily mean there isn´t work to do...

I wrapped up my week with a Give-It-A-Go day trip to Windsor Castle and Eton on Saturday with my flatmate. Sheffield is, I think, in an excellent location when it comes to day trips. Nothing is horribly far away and I've been able to go to some great places. So far: Windsor/Eton, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Warwick Castle, Chatsworth House, and Nottingham. Lucky me! (pic)

That's it for now I think. I need to get a bit of work done so I can go visit some friends over the break. Until next time!

picture of Jennifer with guardsman

23 March 2009

Hi everyone! Just a brief entry this week I'm afraid. I have a big assignment due next week for my Evolution of the Japanese Language class (b.k.a. Fun with Classical Japanese).

Week 6 recap:
Monday was rather quiet but I guess that was just getting us ready for Tuesday!

Tuesday was my first St. Patrick's Day near the place it all began. :-) After the weekly Japan Society Committee meeting we all headed out for a pint of Guinness at Bar One. Bar One is student bar in the Student Union. For Americans like me it still seems strange to find bars for students connected with the university. However, the drinking age here in the UK is 18 so most of the students don't have to go far for a pint or two. Luckily the place wasn't quite so packed as in previous years so my friends and I actually found space to sit and chat while enjoying our Guinness.

picture of Jennifer

Wednesday started early with a birthday breakfast for one of my classmates and more preparation for this week´s Spoken Japanese campaign. Topic: Mental Well-being for University Students. It seemed like a pretty straightforward topic to me and my partner but it turns out this presentation gave us the most trouble. We had a final meeting with our teacher about it which proved to be invaluable.

Thursday was the presentation and I'm quite pleased to say that we are now finished with presenting until after Easter break. (see pic) That's when we will be doing a debate. Topic this time: euthanasia. Should prove to be interesting...

The week finished out with an actually funny piece for Translation class. Good to have a change from the heavy stuff sometimes.

Alrighty. That´s all from me for this week. See ya!!

15 March 2009

Week 5 flew by!
Sometimes I was hoping it would slow down just a bit because Wednesday was the due date for my dissertation title and brief outline. I've been struggling over what to write about for awhile; trying to make sure I pick a topic that I'm interested in and that will be approved by whoever I get assigned to as a supervisor.

Since I'm a taught postgraduate student we have two semesters where we take classes and then we work on our dissertation during the summer. Due date for SEAS (School of East Asian Studies) is September 11, 2009. It seems like a long time away but I have a feeling I'm really going to need all this time to work on it...

Monday and Tuesday was class as usual. The first two days of the week are always busy with translations for my Readings in Contemporary Japanese Literature and Classical Japanese classes plus any assignments for Spoken Japanese and Writing class. Then comes Wednesday with a bit of a break (no classes) and prep for Thursday and Friday classes - Classical Japanese (again), Newspaper, Spoken Japanese (again) and Precise Translation...

This week my relaxation day was on Friday after class. I went over to a friends' place and we had a movie musical marathon and yummy home-made burgers with chips (b.k.a. fries!!). Good times!

Anyway, Week 6 will be the half-way point of the semester (not counting spring break). This semester is going by so quickly; I can hardly believe it!

That's all for now. See ya next week!

7 March 2009

I thought I'd give a recap of Week 4 of the Spring Semester. (*Each week of the semester is numbered and most things are referred to by the Week they occur in rather than the individual date!) There are 12 Weeks total (plus 3 weeks of Spring Vacation!).

On my course, Japanese Studies, there are three levels which, for the undergraduates, corresponds to the year the student is in. Level 1 students are first-years (freshmen), Level 2 students are second-years (sophomores), third-years (juniors) are away in Japan on their year-abroad, and Level 3 students are fourth-years (seniors).

We postgraduates are placed in one of these levels depending on how much previous Japanese we have when we enter the program. I'm in the Level 3 classes so I have almost all of my classes with the Level 3 Seniors. It's exciting watching them in their final year, getting ready to graduate – I remember how excited and anxious I was my senior year in college...

Anyway, let me recap my week...

I only have one class on Fridays – Precise Translation at 1 p.m. My classmates and I usually meet for breakfast at the Interval (great little restaurant in the Union) beforehand; it's become something of a ritual. This is where I had my first English breakfast and I must admit I have now become a huge fan of baked beans with breakfast! (^_^)

Thursday in my Spoken Japanese class we had a presentation. My presentation partner and I have been trying to catch a spare hour here and there all week in order to prepare for it. The topic this week was about organ donation; not the easiest topic to try to present on but I think we did okay overall. Later that day, I met with the Japanese module organizer for my postgraduate tutorial. As a postgrad my Japanese module is worth a few more credits that the undergrads. Therefore, I regularly meet with one of the professors for a Portfolio Tutorial. This is when we can go over in detail extra work that has been assigned one-on-one. I can't express how beneficial I find this sort of personal attention.

On Wednesdays I don't have any classes but as a result Wednesdays become quite busy with other things. I am a postgraduate course rep for SEAS (School of East Asian Studies) so I attended a Teaching Committee meeting as a student representative. I have to point out that I find it extremely interesting how involved the students can become in what goes on in their own department and, in fact, the University as a whole if they choose to do so. The student representation here at Sheffield is taken seriously. Before the meeting I met with my presentation partner for prep and after the meeting we met with our Sensei (teacher) one last time. The rest of the day/night was spent putting on the finishing touches of the presentation and doing other translation homework for the rest of my classes.

Tuesday (March 3) was my official Fun Day. In Japan, March 3 is Hinamatsuri, also called 'Girl's Day'. In honor of that the Japan Society (of which I am a member of) had a bar-crawl and everybody had to wear as much pink as possible. It was definitely easy to spot all of the members in our vivid shades of pink – a bit of pink overload actually! (Don't think I'll be wearing anything pink for a while...)

The week started off on Monday with more presentation prep and homework. There's an awful lot of preparation required for classes and it seems a bit overwhelming at times but it all gets done in the end – with a little bit of fun and relaxation thrown in!

I'm gonna leave it at that for now. I have to turn in my preliminary dissertation outline next week and I think I'll try to work on that some now. Wish me luck!!