Tag Archives: university

Lectures: One Size Fits All?

I do apologise for the lack of blog posts on my page lately, but I have been busy with my exams, and then taking a break and sorting things out like getting a much needed haircut and fixing out this ingrown toenail that got deliciously infected (not really actually that delicious).

In that time, I reflected back  on the time which I had spent in my classes, and got into a discussion with one of my friends, which ended up having us talk about university lectures and how useful they really are. The ideas from this discussion and the subsequent ideas which have formed in my head is the issue which I want to discuss in my blog post today.

Are university lectures really an effectively universal form of learning across all departments/faculties?

Drawing back on my previous experiences of classes, I have to say that having lectures for a lot of departments is not an effective mode to have students properly learn the content of a subject. Although I am a student studying a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Linguistics and Asian Studies, I did spend my first year taking Psychology and Biology units, so I have a few different disciplines to draw my experiences from.

Firstly though, I am going to talk about the Japanese units I took at university. I am taking a break from Japanese for a semester to teach myself the language without the obligations of having assessments for it, but that point aside, the Japanese units have lectures. A. Language. Had. Lectures. And to make it even worse, the lectures were marked as attendance (probably because they knew everyone was asleep during the lectures or on the internet on their laptops not even paying attention, or just dying inside).

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Now I can imagine these lectures are important for presenting house-keeping messages about the department to students. BUT. This is the digital age where a lot of things are done online (including most of my university learning). If something is THAT important to be presented to students, then a post will be made on the university’s online learning area. And if people aren’t directed towards their student enough to check the online learning area to receive a message, then that’s their own fault.

I remember in first year in biology I would sit in my lectures taking notes, but in a scientific setting it was more appropriate for me to attend the practicals and spend a couple of hours hands on, using all of my senses to learn about how this part of the body worked, and the chemical reactions involved.  In the lectures I would just end up staring blankly at a wall for 20 minutes (or playing temple run 2), trying to absorb all these facts that barely even strung together properly. THEN when it came to genetics and the lecturer was trying to explain how to solve genetics question problems by having a projected screen up, and not writing things down whilst going through that example, I just cringed. Lectures are certainly not a good way to learn if you have to solve problems (I can only imagine what it is like for those taking engineering who are learning advanced calculus from a lecture….). Furthermore, if you are remembering a list of facts or a process like the Krebs cycle, it is also not an effective way.

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One of my highly intelligent (and pretty awesomely fabulous) friends who I caught up and spent time with this semester ( Her blog – http://eternalwayfarer.blogspot.com.au/) who is studying medical subjects (e.g. biochemistry, pathology, immunology, anatomy) has mentioned to me that lectures have not been the most effective way for her to learn the content in her subjects. In her anatomy subject she was just bombarded with a lot of information that could not be easily connected and were not ready connected. She purchased a colour-in anatomy book, and that was a much more effective way for her to remember places of structures inside the body. Furthermore, she also stated that in subjects on biochemistry, pathology and immunology, there are a LOT of processes to understand. To best understand these processes and how they work interconnectedly, mind-maps and self learning are a much more effective method than dot-points being presented a lecture.

She also agreed on lectures being useless for languages. She had taken Japanese in first year, and took German this semester (from what I’ve seen she’s pretty well spoken at German), so has had some experience to draw from. As aforementioned, Japanese had lectures, and they were an atrocious way to “learn” a language. Taking German though, it did not have lectures; only tutorials. And in those tutorials the learning was much more interactive with movies and discussions (we never do that in Japanese!!! *hmph*), and she commented, and I’m sure all of us agree, that it was a much more effective way of learning. Lectures have no places in learning a language. (Languages are a skill, you learn a language through constant USE of it, not just sitting there absorbing a bunch of slides in a second language like a sponge)

HOWEVER, a different story can be made from the Arts subjects I have taken this semester (Phonetics, Language and Power in Asian Societies, Chinese Studies: Culture and Empire). In these subjects which are humanities and social science subjects (except for probably Phonetics, which is a linguistics subject), the lectures can be told like a story and stringed together much more effectively. And in subjects like these, the assessment is based on the expression and cohesion of original ideas rather than the memorization of facts. So therefore, in a lecture in these subjects, you have a larger body of students’ ideas to consider and bounce off of and it is much easier to form a debate with someone else if necessary (which I’ve heard happen a lot in philosophy lectures). Plus, the way these lectures are formatted can keep you engaged and interested.

An alternative to this problem for science subjects could be replacing lectures with a 1-2 hour concept building class with 15-25 students. In these classes all that dry factual information can be presented in a way that is free from the constraints of a large theatre and powerpoint slides. A group of people can collaborate together and give to others their way of how they have connected a bunch of facts together, and are forced to engage to remember these ideas, instead of latently sitting in a theatre. Either that, or place more focus on the practicals, or provide appropriate resources for people to self-learn these facts outside of class.

In the case of language subjects; just get rid of the lecture.
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It is not necessary. If the time in tutorials is used effectively where students practice their language and are engaged, then that’s good enough.

People are going to be asking me now, but what about my other obligations in life if I now have to attend another class?
Well, when you think about it, it is not really that much of a difference. At the worst, having an extra tutorial running a few times will give you some more flexibility with your timetable of being able to choose when to have that one to two hours. Furthermore, most science and biomedicine students who are studying full time have classes that make them have to go into university atleast few days a week anyway. And those running the class could find ways to make the content easier and interactive to memorise.

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I know I haven’t yet considered in this blog post how it is cheaper for the university to just have all the students forced together into one lecture theatre with only one staff educating all the students. But, I can’t imagine the alternatives provided would cost too much more. Especially if it is just a group of postgraduate students taking a few Concept-Building classes each.

I know this blog post is a bit shorter than my other ones, but thank you for reading.
Effective learning is based on how we accommodate our available time just as much as how much time we accommodate.

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So You Want to Start Learning a Language?

Hello, I am sorry for not being online lately to post on my blog. I have been busy with my exams, a couple of them being essays, so I’ve had a lot of reading to do (and have had a lot of procrastinating to do, too). ‘

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Whilst studying for my Japanese exam, I have come to think, what kind of learning methods are involved in learning a language?

I started to get the language learning bug when I graduated from high school at 17 and moved to Melbourne, and consequently, I have been learning Japanese at university for a little over a year now, and I have been learning Mandarin outside of university for around a month.

Starting to learn a language independently, and having not learned a language before that, it has taken a while for me to actually get used to knowing what is involved to learn a language effectively. It’s not to say that I am an A grade student at learning languages, I just know and have myself experienced a lot of mistakes that can be made whilst learning a language. So therefore, I hope this guide will be able to help you learn measures to take when learning to speak and write in a different language.

Starting Out:

If you are learning a language to some degree of independence then I strongly recommend that you get a textbook. There are a lot of textbooks out there, some better than others, so I recommend you look at some forum boards or websites online to find out which textbooks are good, and which textbook will be good for you kind of language learning. For learning Japanese, I am currently using these books.

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I am currently up to the green Genki II textbook, but if you are starting from scratch, get the orange Genki I. At university you go through one of those textbooks in a year. I’ve found the Grammar Dictionary quite handy, as it gives more depth to the grammar explanations found in the textbook, and also has more grammar definitions. It is definitely convenient if you want to extend you learning. Also, the vocabulary is book is convenient as it explains when to and when not to use certain words, has common words, and you will start finding these words and phrases all the time in anime.
For Mandarin, I have these books:

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The New Practical Chinese Reader textbook and workbook are quite handy for an overall learning of the language, and people on forumboards have said that it is probably one of the best Mandarin learning textbooks on the market at the moment, BUT my complaints, and other people’s, have been the grammar explanations and the vocabulary is not that appropriate. So I ended up getting another textbook, the blue one, which has good vocabulary lists and puts the grammar into nice rules.

But at the end of the day, the books you get should be oriented towards the way that you learn. So if you find any books that you think will also be quite convenient and beneficial, then get them.

Phonetics, then Morphology/Syntax, and then Semantics/Pragmatics:

As a linguistics student, these words make sense, but you may have not studied Linguistics before, so I will explain the heading for you. Often, you will find when you are learning a language and the concepts within a language, you first learn how to pronounce and say something, such as a consonant sound. This is called phonetics. When you first learn a language, even though this may sound redundant, and it will become tedious for a while, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the phonetics down. Because, how are you going to be able to read grammar and sentences in the language if you don’t know how to say it, and if you don’t know what it sounds like in your head?

So for the first month or so, I just recommend spending half an hour of time out of your day just to practice the new unfamiliar sounds of a language. It may be the ‘retroflex’ sounds of Mandarin, where the tip of the tongue is curled slightly backwards, which in pinyin are zh, ch, sh and r. Also, languages may also contrast sounds that you may not be able to pick up on without practicing.

Then, once you have got that down good, and whilst you are learning those sounds, it is important to start learning the grammar of the language; the morphology and syntax. The morphology of the language is the modification that happens in words which serves a grammatical purpose, like in English, happen becomes happened, establish to disestablishment. This includes what you’ve probably heard as inflection (inflectional morphology). English doesn’t have much of this compared to some languages, and in languages like Japanese, morphology plays a heavy grammatical role. Then, there are also grammatical functions which involve the syntax of the language, such as how words are ordered in a sentence. (For example in English, it is a subject-verb-object language – I-eat-McDonalds).

Lastly, you then learn the semantics or pragmatics in the use of language. Semantics being the meaning of a sentence not concerning context, and pragmatics, the meaning of the sentence relating to the context. So, you’ve probably learned how to say a grammatical function, where it goes in a sentence, and then you will usually learn what it means in a sentence (semantics), and then in which situations it is appropriate to use it (pragmatics).

You will find a lot of language textbooks use this method anyway. So you don’t really have to focus on this too much, but it is nice to be aware of this.

Language is a Skill, not an Academic Discipline:

Even if you learn a language in an educational institution, using a language is a skill. Therefore, your best chance of learning a language is to view it as one, and not to see it as a subject that you read a book on and suddenly you can bullshit an essay and get a high score (Most of my university course has been that, woopsies). So therefore, to improve a skill, you practice a skill, right? Yes. You are not going to master a language by spending an hour on it every month or so. You have to study for a language, bit by bit, every, damn, freaking, DAY.

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You’re going to have to spend that half hour in the morning learning vocabulary, and an hour at night answering questions and trying to use the language, as a skill.

Exposure is Important:

Sorry sluts, I don’t mean summer skin exposure to put on Instagram. What I am actually referring to is situations where your senses are having to react to the language, and then your brain is having to process it and try and make sense of it.

In the sense of Japanese, I usually watch anime (Yaoi specifically *licks lips*),

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I also read manga in Japanese from time and time, and I also read websites that are in Japanese. In Mandarin, I listen to music (EXO-M anybody) in the language (I also listen to K-Pop too, so I should start learning Korean x.x). This is a good methods in the respect that it makes your senses used to what the language sounds like, and if you are wanting to remember things like vocabulary, it gives those words meaning. They aren’t just a bunch of sounds that you are trying to remember; they have context. It is easier to remember things when there is a context given to them. I cannot stress this enough when you start to learn a language; make it a part of your life.


Think in the Culture and Language:

As language is a way for someone to express their thoughts and ideas, it is important to know the way that the language functions and how it affects the way people think. For example, a society more focused on hierarchy may have levels of politeness which you have to take note of when speaking to someone.

Don’t Neglect Vocabulary:

Possibly the biggest hurdle for those who are learning a language is the vocabulary. Especially for those who can’t properly put the context into the words to remember it. And the annoying thing is, vocabulary is key in speaking a language. You may know how to say the grammar and the morphological changes that take place to a verb or adjective, but it means nothing and the sentence you are constructing in your head falls to pieces if you don’t know how to say all the words.

So don’t neglect your vocabulary. What I do is I make palm cards with the Japanese/Mandarin reading on one side, and the English reading on the other side, making a story based on what the word sounds like. So for the word ‘train’ in Japanese, which is pronounced ‘Densha’, I just imagine an old lady on a train having her dentures fall out (Yes, I’m quite diabolical indeed).

I also have a cute Anki (memory sentences) books with cats on the cover, which helps me to remember words! ❤

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 And also placing post-it notes on household objects with their different names in the language you are learning is a good way to learn new words, too.

Find a Native Speaker! Use Your Skills!!!

If you can find a native speaker for the language that you are learning, then that is amazing. It is very helpful to have someone who is a native speaker of the language to practice with, as they can intuitively know when you are making an error, and then correct you on it, and you are using your skills in an interactive environment. Plus, it also allows you to connect to someone on a deeper level if you are speaking to them in their own language.

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It may be hard for people who don’t live in a diverse setting to actually find a native speaker of the language that they are learning. That’s why there are websites like SharedTalk. Just sign up there, and there are always people willing to add you to skype or to have conversations with you whilst you both learn each other’s language. And it’s definitely a rewarding experience.

Mistakes I Have Made:
Not studying a language for a couple of weeks.

Thinking “OH, I will just remember this vocabulary if I do nothing.”

Thinking that I could cram for a language.

Not putting myself in a situation where I am using my skills

Not being interactive with my language learning

In Conclusion:

Everyone learns differently, but I hope what I have outlined helps to give you a better standing in the first part of learning a language. I will probably make another advice post on how to learn Kanji and Chinese Characters, and what happens when you hit a more intermediate level. But for now, if you just use your language learning every day and practice a bit more every day and are not afraid to challenge yourself, then you should be fine! Good luck!

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Go to university, they said. It’s the best time of your life, they said.

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Whilst I sit here, in the midst of studying for my exams (and also learning words and sentence structures in Mandarin, which I study outside of university – 我要喝什么?), I just cannot help but think of the past year and a half which has comprised my experience at university. I remember my first day of classes, spend half an hour trying to find the rooms where each of my lectures were held. Everything seemed so fresh, and new, and invigorating, and I was too shy to talk to anyone in any of my classes, but yet dying to say hello to the person next to me in any of my lectures to make new friends (I had shit friends in year 12 who forgot I even breathed as soon as I graduated – and my friends from my other high school in years 7-11 go to different universities or are in high school still).

*sigh* I wish now that I could still have that optimism. In the past 15 months of having a university education, my hope for humanity, my look on the world, and my enjoyment of tertiary education has slowly been spiraling downhill.
No, it is not what I am studying. I LOVE what I am studying. Linguistics is amazing. I love learning Japanese at university and Mandarin outside of university, and my subjects in my Asian Studies major are amazing too. So it is not that at all, as I am always in fascination and inspiration about what I learn. But, so then, what it is?

Part of the reason is the people. At this point I will proceed to outline some of the problems I have faced with the community and culture at university and how it has not made me feel very welcome or happy when I go onto campus and begin to think about people.


University: High School 2.0?

At university, the students are quite adamant on making people think that they have moved on from the bitch dramas and immaturity of high school. But I don’t know if it’s the fact that a lot of university students are still a bunch of entitled overgrown teenagers still living with their parents; but anyway. I’ve noticed that this “passed high school” mentality results in an inflated ego and a sense of elitism that spreads across a lot of students who go to university. But alongside that, I’ve noticed from the way a lot of students at university behave,

They still behave like teenagers, not young adults. 

You still get the students in university who are like “Oh my god, _____ is such a bitch. Did you know what she did at that party over the weekend? [Insert overstressed voiceless velar fricative here]”
Half of my god-damn psychology lectures, I was surrounded by this banter.

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But I dropped out of Psychology after first year for Asian Studies and Linguistics, so it’s all good :3

Then you have the university students who are gym-obsessed and who only stay around other people like that. You also get the university students who judge others for how skinny they are, and then you get the university students who judge others on their grades, their IQ (which isn’t even a measure of intelligence that’s as great as everyone thinks), their socio-economic status (I will get into this soon), or even their ethnicity.

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I’ve even had people judge me for the way I’ve conducted myself in some of my tutorials. If you’ve read in my previous blog post, I have not exactly had the best mental health this semester. In one tutorial, I was asked a question, I couldn’t answer it, and I didn’t want the attention on me because I felt genuinely shit that day. Then an hour after that class, I was walking around campus when I overheard two girls murmuring to each other “Ahaha, it’s that weird idiot in class who was asked that question.”
I’m not sure about you, but to me that sounds like the way a bunch of ‘popular’ fifteen year old girls behave. Get the fuck over yourself.

Subtle Discrimination

I’ve also noticed that I’ve been avoided on the basis on my social class or my ethnicity. I’m going to sound like an elitist by saying this happens when I’m a Caucasian. But it DOES. I go out of my effort to make friends with the internationals and make them feel welcome. I love learning about new cultures, coming across new people, and making friends with them. But half of the time, I’m received with weird looks, and then slowly pushed out of the conversation, and then ignored. Also, in my tutorials, when it comes to group projects (especially in Japanese), or group exercises in class, the international students avoid having me in their groups. I don’t know if it’s because as a white Australian, I’m just going to be innately bad at learning an Asian language. I don’t know. But it makes me feel like shit. I’m sick of it. I even had one international from southern China in one of my tutorials speak to me loudly and slowly because he thought I had a mental condition. Thanks.
Oh, and the time last year in Japanese I was laughed at when I suggested to the class that I was going to start a study group. That was amazing. Thanks for that, too.

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Then you get it on the other side too, sometimes. And it makes internationals feel like they don’t belong.

It even happens in one of my subjects from the faculty, I suspect, but I’m not going to go into that.


Elitism

I’m sure it isn’t that common in other universities, but I go to a university that continually boasts itself to be the best university in the country from ranking surveys and the like. Therefore, you get a lot of people who want to validate their egos by pointing out of the fact that they go to a university of this calibre. On facebook pages about the university, like confession pages and meme pages, that are operated by students (most likely), you often find confessions, memes or comments that are insulting other universities, or degrading the traits and intelligence of those who go to other universities. It makes me really angry. It’s made me quite bitter towards a lot of the people who go to the university I do and like to make a scene of it.
Get the fuck over yourselves.


Tutorials

It’s not the tutorials as a whole that I hate. But there’s three things I hate about the tutorials I attend. The first is the fact all the students remain silent and are not interactive. The second is that in every tutorial there is that one entitled annoying person who never shuts up, and thinks that everything he/she says is honours material and liquid gold oozing out into the air around them.

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Thirdly is the fact that all the students are latently judging everything you say. If you say something wrong or not up to their mental standards, then chances are you will be avoided and deemed as the ‘class idiot’. Even if you ask questions. Which leads back to the first point of everyone remaining quiet in a tutorial. This could be solved if we all grew up.


University is FUN if you’re poor!!!!!! Ahahaha NOT

University students have the stereotype of being poor. But then, there are balls that come up that cost money, there’s events that cost money, then a good half of the events on campus that are social basically cost money. So it means that if you are to have a social life on campus, you have to have money. If you don’t; well then you’re like me sitting at home writing angry spiteful envious blog posts about university.

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I would like to attend some of the events, but it simply can’t happen because I’m not in the financial situation, and I haven’t been for a while, to be able to afford to go to events like that. Even if it’s club events that are $20. For that, my social life has probably suffered and I’m seen as some pathetic person who cannot get his life together.

And a lot of the people I go to university with are people who are in stable upper-middle class families, or people who are from rich families overseas. So they can easily afford to go to dinners and watch movies, and travel to places with their friends. When it comes to me, I’m never invited for the reason I’m too poor. So I’m never really invited to things. And a lot of them lack the understanding to know what it’s like for a university student from a lower class/working class family who got kicked out of home and is trying to make it on his own.

Sometimes it does seriously feel like I’m being discriminated by some omnipotent educational force for being the person of the social class that I am.

“Sorry, I’m busy with studying.”
I am aware that lot of people are usually busy with studying. But more than actually studying, people have been saying it as a reason to not have me speak to them. To all those people. FUCK YOU!  (yes I am swearing a lot in this article, delicious). When you say that, and then TWO HOURS LATER YOU POST UP PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK OF A WHOLE GROUP OF PEOPLE I TALK TO WITHOUT ME THERE.

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Then, you have the fucking nerve to say “hello” to me as you pass me on campus. The only thing stopping me from spitting on your face are the mints inside my mouth, which I paid for, falling out and I’d have wasted some of my few dollars on you. You’re not worth that.

You have no idea how bad and excluded that has actually made me feel. I’m not sure if it happens to many people at university. But it happens to me so many fucking times. It’s gone to the point I’m not going to continue visiting one of the clubs I’ve been visiting for two semesters because I’ve just made to feel excluded and as if I’m not going to make any friends there.

Also, the excuse of timetables clashing and between classes and outside of classes not being able to see each other is bullshit. It basically translates to “I can’t be fucked being your friend but I’ll pull you along anyway.”

It’s for these reasons that part of me has just given up on making connections with other people.

IN CONCLUSION
So, in essence. I am fed up with the culture at university. I’m sick of trying to put effort into friendships with people who aren’t interested or who aren’t even going to try. I’m sick of walking around campus and going to classes and feeling judged and disadvantaged because I haven’t had an as fortunate life as most students up until then. The only friends I have on campus a lot of the time are my textbooks. I’m sick of people telling me that “University are the best years of your life.”

Well, no, sometimes it seriously feels like they aren’t.

tl;dr – The people and culture at uni can be a manwhores.

End of Semester Madness

Hello, こんばんは, 你好, welcome to the first post of my new blog! In this blog I will discuss interesting things that have come up in my life (inside and outside of university), submit art and writing, and also post my opinions to articles or pieces that catch my interest.

So, in short, I’m a 19 year old second year university student living on his own in Melbourne.

It may seem silly and counter-productive to start a blog before my university examinations (oh, my god, halp!), but my life has been a bit of a wreck lately and I need something besides university to work on. Something that will motivate my ass into gear.

So, basically, being a university student, this is the very definition of my life at the moment (it could also be defined in pasta and toast, and fumbling through my dalek money bank to find coins to do my laundry).
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Oh, and I’m fairly certain in a weeks time, this will be me (if I actually put my head down and studied NOW – then it won’t be as bad as me one time leaving that 2,000 word essay on Chinese and Japanese politeness to the last 6 hours)

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But anyway, lately I’ve been starting to teach myself Mandarin outside of my university subjects. I thought I would start learning the language because I have friends at university who speak it, and also, I want to teach English in China some time in the future. So I’ve purchased the textbooks.

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(Pictures make my blog posts look bigger – yaayeeee #hack)
If anyone has used these textbooks before, I’d like to know their opinion on them. But either way, I have friends who can help me through any errors anyway, and the fact that I accidentally sneezed over one of the pages (imeanwot) when I was studying last week certainly won’t make these refundable.
But so far, I’ve found the red books (New Practical Chinese Reader) good for questions, but bad for explaining grammar and vocabulary, but the blue book makes up for that, and has a cute handy phonetics section at the start (if you know your IPA).

Buying classics at my university campus bookstore is also a good thing – because they’re always so cheap! I mean, I go to the bookstore at my university lots to browse the interesting stuff, such as a card game where you can become some Marijuana drug lord.
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But anyway, I ended up getting this book:

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I have heard that this book is a good read for political theory, and I have heard the name of the book pop up from people at random intervals for the past couple of years. So I’m going to read it alongside the revision I have to do for my exams.

But thank you for reading through my first post. The braindead tone of this blog post may be explained by the fact that it’s midnight. Recipes for my Green Tea Frappuccinos and my Pesto Sauce are coming soon though! #unistudentbudget

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