A day in the life: 4 college students share their typical day

The other week I talked about the Italian school system. Today I’ve decided to share the typical day of an Italian college student. I also wanted to show how different and how similar being a student in different countries or majors can be. One thing is sure, we all love our coffees and hitting snooze in the morning.

a day in the life: 4 college students share their typical day

For this post, I’ve got some help from 3 awesome ladies, who are sharing their typical day as a student. Lauren studies musical theater and blogs at Glitter & Grandeur. Blondie just graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree and a physics minor and blogs at Blonde Roast by the Coast. Alyssa is a religious studies and political science student and blogs at The Wise Willow.

A day in the life of a Psychology student

I’ve recently (well, it’s been 4 months already) graduated from the University of Milan-Bicocca with a degree in Developmental Psychology. Of course, every semester and even every day within the same semester was a bit different. I’ve decided to talk about a typical day during my last semester of college here in Italy.

My course load was pretty light, still it felt like it was the hardest semester ever. I had to take just an 8-credits course, psychology of gender differences and inequalities, which I loved. And a 4-credits lab, which I didn’t like that much and skipped as much as I could. But then, I had to take care of the research study for my dissertation and I had to actually write my dissertation, which wasn’t easy and pretty time consuming, but it was my favorite part of all these years.

Morning

6.30 am // Rise and shine! I don’t mind waking up early (most of the times I’m up by 8 even if I’m home with nothing to do all day). But I hate the moment I actually wake up and have to get out of bed. So, after hitting snooze a couple of times, I get my coffee and my cereals, and then life gets a bit better.

7:36 am – 7:50 am // Based on how much time I wasted checking my emails and social media and getting ready to get out of the house, I used to catch either the 7.36 or the 7.50 train. If the train was on time, I usually enjoyed a slow walk from the station to the school where I was conducting the study for my dissertation. If the train was late, I got to enjoy a little power walk, but they all recommend to workout in the morning so it was okay.

8:30 am // I set up the classroom and all the material I needed and then started the activities and the tests with the kids. Some of these activities were fun, others were kind of boring for me (especially one where you had to listen to the same two sounds over and over again). But all the kids seemed to enjoy every “game” and some of them even asked me to do something twice – of course, they usually asked to repeat the most boring ones.

12:00-ish pm // I used to take the metro (aka subway or tube, we call it metro here) to go to university, as I always had a class (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, from 12.30 to 2.30) or the laboratory (Monday and Friday, from 12.30 to 4.30) in the afternoon. I used to have lunch while taking yet another power walk to class.

Afternoon

2:36 pm // Most of the times, I made it to the station and I went home right after my class with the 2:36 train. But if the class ran late, or if I had to stay to talk with a professor, or if I had to go get a book, I stayed there and studied at the library all afternoon.

3:30-ish pm // Study time! I used to go over all the notes I’ve taken during the day, then the assigned readings and sometimes, when I was feeling super productive, I even started preparing my notes for the next days.

5:15 pm // Tea time, except I don’t like tea, so it’s coffee or juice or a yoghurt for me. Usually, at this time both my sister and my mother were home so we had a snack all together and relax a bit.

5:30 pm // Some more study time. I usually tried to read some new material and papers for my dissertation or do some of the data analysis. But a lot of times it was just me wasting time on the computer.

Night

7:00 pm // Relax and/or workout.

8:00-ish pm // Dinner time.

9:00 pm // Time to catch up on social media and binge-watch tv-shows.

12:00 am // Finally bed time!

A day in the life of a Musical Theatre student

gHello loves! My name is Lauren Norton and I blog over at Glitter & Grandeur. I am a lifestyle blogger & actress spreading sparkle to inspire others in living a happy, positive life – with some theatre tips and tricks thrown in for good measure. 🙂

A day in my life is a little different than most college students, so bear with me. I am in my final semester for my Masters of Music degree in Musical Theatre. This means I take 9 graduate credit hours a semester (most of them involving performing so I don’t have a ton of written homework or tests – instead I perform in class for a grade) – in other words less classes but more work. I also work three jobs, in addition to blogging, but two of them are only on weekends so I won’t mention them here. Anyway, here is a typical day in my life!

6:30am // My first alarm goes off. I hit snooze… even though I shouldn’t. I should get up and workout but, let’s be real, that never happens.

7:00am // I actually wake up. Then, I proceed to lay in bed for 5-10 minutes while I contemplate what to wear and check social media on my phone. I’m not a morning person. I rush to get ready, make a massive cup of coffee, and run out the door.

8:00am-11:00am // Work at the on-campus library. Gotta pay the bills!

11:00am-1:00pm // Class time! On Mondays & Wednesdays, I have Ballet from 12-12:50. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have On-Camera Acting from 11-12:15.

1:00pm-2:30pm // Depending on the day, this time is used to grab a quick lunch and practice my music. I will have a 30 minute voice lesson or vocal coaching each day during this time as well. Lots of singing! These are my favorite classes.

2:30pm-3:00pm // During this time, I do little tasks or grab coffee. Tasks could include: catching up on blog social media, copying music, meeting with professors, or chatting with friends.

3:00pm-4:00pm // On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have Musical Theatre Dance class. It is a ton of fun! We learn choreography for various Broadway shows. Other days of the week, this time is used for writing/editing my thesis or applying for future jobs.

4:00pm-6:00pm // My school day is over! I use this time to crank out some focused productivity whether it be writing a blog post, working on my thesis, doing homework, practicing my music, etc. I do this either at my desk in my apartment or in the on-campus library. I prefer the library because I tend to nap if I go home.

6:00pm // Cook and eat dinner! I usually watch Netflix while I do this.

7:00pm // If I am in a show, I usually go to rehearsals from 7:00-10:30pm. If I’m not in a show, I use this time to catch up on blog promotion through social media or relax until bedtime.

10:30pm // It is time to get ready for bed! This doesn’t always happen, but it is my ideal scenario.

10:45pm // Crawl into bed and read a book or watch Netflix until I fall asleep — which usually occurs around midnight.

And that is my day! It gets pretty hectic at times but I love what I do.

A day in the life of a Mechanical Engineering and Physics student

bHey there, everyone! I’m Blondie from Blonde Roast by the Coast – a lifestyle blog for the coffee, cleaning, cooking, and cat-obsessed.

I’m not actually a college student anymore, but Sarah was nice enough to include me on this post. I just graduated from college in May with a Mechanical Engineering Degree and Physics Minor. Although my college career was focussed mostly on my schoolwork, I also held executive positions in my social sorority and the academic engineering fraternity on my campus. Now, without further ado, a day in the life of Blondie!

6:30am // My first alarm goes off. That’s a funny joke. I turn it off.

6:40am-7:50am // My alarms go off every 10 minutes until my roommate (and best friend) Steph bangs on my door and tells me it’s time to get up.

7:50am-8:00am // Start brewing coffee, brush teeth, get dressed, throw hair up, grab a granola bar and my coffee, and power-walk to class on the opposite side of campus (I went to a REALLY small school)

8:00am-9:15am // Class. My 8am classes were usually upper-level math or physics classes so they were pretty hard for so early in the morning.

9:30am-10:45am // Actually get ready for my day – grab a shower, hair, make-up, the whole nine. Then Steph and I would usually head to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and some food. Once we got back we would get our planners out and get organized for the day.

11:00am-12:15pm // Another class – usually upper level engineering, so still difficult, but more hands-on and interesting.

12:30pm-1:00pm // Academic club meetings – such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, Math Association of America, and things like that.

1:00pm-2:00pm // Senior Physics Class. My school was so small that it was just me and one other student, George in this class. So it was actually really fun to just hang out with George and Dr. Clarke for lab.

2:00pm-6:00pm // Senior Engineering Lab/Senior Project. I won’t bore you with what these classes actually consisted of, but they were exhausting.

6:00pm-7:00pm // Dinner – the food in the caf was horrendous, so I would usually run to the Bar and Grill on campus to have a quick dinner and “assess the damage” (see how much homework I had for the night).

7:00pm-8:30pm // Meetings – Monday was for the Executive council for the Engineering Fraternity, Tuesday was for Executive Council for the Sorority, and Thursday was for Chapter Meeting of the Engineering Fraternity.

8:30pm-2:00am // Homework. SO. MUCH. HOMEWORK. My friend Cathy and I would usually head to a cute lounge in her dorm, listen to Maroon 5 or Ed Sheeren and do homework.

2:00am // Cathy made a promise to herself to call it quits around 2am most nights. So that’s when I would head back to my apartment. My roommates usually left it a mess so I would usually clean up and set up my homework at the kitchen island.

2:15am-4:00am // Keep working. I was taking more classes than the rest of my classmates because I wanted that Physics Minor so badly. I would usually stay up until 4. If I had a lab report and test the next day I would be up all night. But that only happened a couple of times.

4:15am // Hopefully, I’m in bed emotionally preparing for the next day and dreading the moment when I hear Steph bang on my door.

So there you have it! The day in the life of an engineering student.

Honestly, I can’t say that I miss it. The working world suits me a lot better, but there are days that I miss having a break between classes to grab food with Steph or listening to Maroon 5 with Cathy as we panicked about our grades. Looking back now, I think it was all worth it, but at the time it sure didn’t feel that way!

If you’re interested in reading more about coffee, cleaning, cooking, and cats, please check me out over at my site, instagram, pinterest, facebook, or twitter!

A day in the life of a Religious Studies and Political Science student

aHi everyone! I’m Alyssa, a second-year college student and lifestyle blogger at The Wise Willow! I am a Religious Studies and Political Science double major, and I’m excited to tell you about a day in my college life!

Mornings

Monday/Friday: On Mondays and Fridays my first class (African Politics) starts at 10am, so I have some time to wake up, send emails, and get caught up on other tasks that got pushed back the day before. I’m not really a morning person, but I do like to have time to wake up before my classes. My alarm usually goes off at 7:30am, but I definitely press snooze a few times before getting out of bed. I like to wake up by making some coffee and my breakfast in my dorm room, and getting on my computer to check emails and social media! For breakfast I usually have oatmeal, a few peanut butter and banana rice cakes, or a vegan protein smoothie!

Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday: I work at my campus Office of Admission in the morning on these days of the week, so I wake up around 7am (I get out of bed at about 7:15 once I stop pressing snooze!). I make coffee and eat breakfast before walking to work for my 2.5 hour shift. I love working there, and it’s a great way to start my day!

Afternoons

Monday-Wednesday, Friday: Lunch at 11:15am, and study time to catch up on assignments and projects. I have class (Statistics) from 1-1:50pm, and I have another class from 2:30-3:50pm (either Religion or Education, depending on the day). Once I’m done with these classes, I like to go back to my dorm room and drop off my extra class stuff and pick up materials for my evening classes and activities (and to make more coffee!).

Evenings

The evenings are when most of my activities (besides classes and work) start! On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays I have an Italian class (4:30 to 5:30 on Monday and 5:30 to 6:30 on Tuesday/Thursday). I love this class! It is a self-directed course for two credits, and I eventually am hoping to study in Italy for my Masters!

I have dinner in the dining hall at 6:30, and then walk to the library to start working on homework and projects for the evening. Sometimes there will be events that I will go to at 8 or 9pm depending on the time of semester.

Throughout this evening time I will write blog posts and watch YouTube videos as study breaks, and I usually end up leaving the library by midnight or 12:30am. I get back to my dorm room, shower, and go to bed!

Next semester I am also taking 18 credits (4 four credit classes and the 2 credit Italian class), so my daily schedule will be quite similar! It can be a busy schedule at times, but I have loved all of my endeavors! I hope that this gave you a glimpse into my college experience, and I wrote a post about my daily college life last year if you are interested in seeing how it has changed over the course of a year! 

How is/was your typical day as a college student? Is/was it similar to ours?

Sarah
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Study abroad in Italy? A complete guide to the Italian school system

When I started this blog I’ve never imagined myself writing a post about the Italian school system. I thought I would just write about my experience in a Canadian college and my life as an international student. But the other day I got my first email from a reader, yay!

This email, from a girl who was interested in studying abroad in Italy for a semester, made me realize that, since I still have exactly 63 days before I start my classes in Canada, I could share a bit more about Italy. Hopefully, some of you will be inspired to come study here. Because yes, I would definitely recommend coming here as an international student. Either in high school or university.

Study abroad in Italy: a complete guide to the Italian school system

Italy has both public and private schools. Compared to other countries, the quality of the public education here is quite high.

Scuola dell’infanzia / scuola materna

This is kindergarten. It lasts 3 years. It is not mandatory. But I’ve never met anyone who didn’t start kindergarten when they were 3 years old.

Scuola primaria / scuola elementare

This is primary school. It lasts five years. There’s usually one primary school in every town (even small towns, like the one I live in). If you go to public school, you go to the closest one to your house. Usually, children stay in school from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm.

Common subjects include Italian grammar, mathematics, science, geography, history, English, and religion (which is optional in public schools). Back in the days, at the end of the 5 years, you had to pass an exam to go on to secondary education. The year after I left primary school, the government decided the exam at the end of it was unnecessary and kids nowadays don’t have to go through it anymore.

Scuola media

This is middle school and it lasts 3 years. Again, if you go to public school you usually go to the nearest one to your house. Back in the days, most public schools offered the option to have a 8 am to 4 pm school day or a 8 am to 1 or 2 pm school day. My school offered just a full-time curriculum. I used to leave the house at 7 in the morning and I wasn’t back until 5 pm.

The most common subjects are: Italian grammar and literature, math and algebra, science, geography, history, English grammar and (not so much) literature, and physical education. In my school we also had Spanish, IT, and there was also a pre-Latin elective course (which I took since I knew I was going to a liceo – keep reading to find out what it is).

After these 3 years, you get your licenza media, but just after taking yet another written + oral exam, which covers all the subjects studied during the last year.

Scuola superiore / liceo

Explaining Italian high school is not easy. First of all, we have 5 years of high school. Yes, you’ve heard right: 5 very long years!

Second, even if you go to public school, you don’t just go to the closest one to your house. In addition, Italian high schools are not tailored to a student’s interest. So, at 14 years old, you have to make a choice. You need to decide if you want to go to a liceo or to a technical/vocational school. That’s not all. There are so many different types of technical/vocational schools and there are four main types of liceo, based on how many hours of specific subjects you get: liceo classico (classics school), liceo linguistico (language school), liceo scientifico (scientific school), and liceo artistico (art school). These schools have a fixed curriculum and everyone in the same year attend the same classes. There are no electives or extracurricular activities. If you’re an Italian high school student, especially if you go to a liceo, chances are you don’t have time for anything else besides studying.

Third, during these amazing (it’s sarcastic) 5 years you get the same 25/30 classmates. The teachers are the ones who move from class to class, while the students sit in their assigned desk in the same room for the whole school year (sometimes for 3 years in a row).

Finally, there are classes from Monday to Saturday. They start at about 8 am and they can go on until 2 pm. There’s no lunch at school, but there is a somewhat long break when you can have a snack late in the morning.

book

I’ve attended a liceo that was a mix of liceo classico and liceo scientifico. In my liceo I’ve studied not only Latin and ancient Greek from year 1, but I’ve also studied chemistry + biology + natural sciences (which I liked very much) and physics (which I did not like at all) from the beginning (while in traditional liceo classico you get these scientific subjects just in the last 3 years). Others subjects were: Italian language and literature, mathematics, history, geography (for the first 2 years), civics (just on year 2), English language and literature, P.E., philosophy and history of art (both just for 3 years).

To get your secondary school diploma, you have to sit through a very exhausting exam at the end of the five years.

Università

If you got through 5 years of high school, whichever high school, you’re eligible to get into any university. Here again, you do not just get into the university you like and then chose your major, and eventually a minor. You have to decide what you want to study before you apply and, then, most of the times, you have to take a test and get a good score on it to get into it.

Every university, and even every course in the same university, can have a somewhat different calendar. I always started the school year the first day of October and I had classes until the Christmas break. Then, during January and February, I had just exams. The second semester started in March and then exams were in June and July. August is the only month you get off. But there are exams in September too, so if you’re behind or if you want to have a head start on the next year, you spend it on books anyways.

Both at the end of your BA (3 years) and at the end of your MA (2 years), you are required to write a dissertation.

Study abroad in Italy

If you’re coming to Italy to study in high school, I’m not sure you can get the true Italian high school experience. Still, it will be an awesome adventure and this is not meant to discourage you. The exchange students we had in our high school didn’t get assigned to a single classroom, but they attended different subjects in different classes with different classmates. They also had extra hours of Italian language. So, if you’re coming to Italy to study in high school, you won’t be on your own.

If you’re coming to Italy as an international student in university, that’s a completely different story. Italian universities, compared to Italian high schools, are huge. Most of your classes will be lectures and you can share a classroom with like 300 people, or even more. Group projects are not that common. You won’t get grades throughout the semester, but your grade for a class will be the one you get in the final exam. Especially during the first few years, professors do not make an effort to get to know you. Most of the times, you don’t get reminders when you have to pay your fees or when you have to register for classes. You are completely on your own.

Fun facts:

  • Our high schools don’t have sport teams. Some universities have teams (mine did), but none really pays attention to them. There’s no such thing as school spirit.
  • We don’t have lockers in high school, but we leave our books under our assigned desk.
  • Up until university, we get almost three full months of summer holidays (June, July, and August).
  • Standardized tests are pure evil, neither the teachers/professor nor the students like them. The only standardized test I’ve ever taken in my life as an Italian student is the one I took to get into university.

Did you noticed many differences between schools in your country and schools in Italy? Have you ever studied in Italy? Or do you think you would enjoy school here?

Sarah
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Ace the IELTS academic: get a good score in just 10 days

In July, just 2 days after my graduation, I had to sit through yet another English exam. This time I had to take the IELTS, specifically the academic module. If you’re planning to study abroad, chances are you’ll have to take an exam to get your language skills assessed too.

All the school I had selected to apply to required the same scores: 6 overall, at least 5.5 in each skill band. In the Common European Frame of Reference that would be a B2. I literally had just 10 days tote prepare, but in the end I got what I consider to be a decent score.

I’m sharing what I’ve learned during those intense 10 days so you can be as successful as possible with a limited time frame and without spending any money. Yes, I did not spend any money on books or classes and you don’t need them either.

Ace the IELTS academic in just 10 days

A quick note on my results

I was hoping for at least an 8 overall, because years ago I took the CAE exam and I got an A. But I got a 7.5 overall and my strongest skill was reading (I got the highest grade on the scale!). I thought my weakest skill was writing, followed by speaking and listening. But I got the same exact score (7) on these three skills, which is still a mystery to me.

If you really want to get the highest grade possible, I wouldn’t recommend getting ready in just 10 days. The exam itself is not too hard, but you need to get a bit familiar with the format. Also, if your proficiency level doesn’t already match the grade you need you’ll have to practice a bit more and take your time. But if you’re in a hurry and you need to make the best you can in a short time, I hope my tips will be useful.

The basics

If you’re reading this post, I assume you’re about to take the IELTS, so you know what it is, but maybe you don’t know what it means. IELTS is an acronym that stands for International English Language Testing System. The IELTS exam will give a measure of your English proficiency. There are several reasons people take this exam. Mostly it is because they want to go study abroad or they want to migrate to some English-speaking Country. But I know people who had to take the IELTS just to apply to a Master’s degree here in Italy, even if that is taught in Italian (for some reasons some of these Italian courses even require an overall score higher than the one required by Canadian schools, go figure).

There are two different test formats: the Academic or the General Training. The first is mostly for people who plan to attend school abroad, while the latter is for people who are about to move abroad. There a 4 different parts in this exams. Every part assesses a different language skill: listening, reading, writing and speaking (I was particularly delighted when I found out there wasn’t the use of english part). Listening and speaking are the same for Academic and General Training, while reading and writing are different. I took the Academic module so I will talk about that one.

The test scores are calculated based on a band system, which ranges from 0 to 9. Usually you have to get at least a 6.0 overall (which correspond to a B2 level) and you’re classified as a competent user of the English language. However, there are some institutions that require higher scores (I was talking with a girl before getting into the exam room and she was doing the exam for the third time because she needed a 7.5 overall and she couldn’t go past 7.0).

What to do

What inspired me to write this post was that I managed to get nice grades in every part even if I spent literally just 10 days practicing, so I thought I could share what I’ve done. Because I took a very last minute decision, I had to spend hours and hours practicing every single day, no matter what else I had to do. After a couple of days I already wanted to give up because I was too stressed out and I was feeling like I couldn’t make it. Don’t let those thoughts stop you. I made it and you can make it too!

The first thing you need to do is a reality check. You need to figure out what’s your English proficiency level and you need to check if it matches the band score you need. The university I wanted to apply to required just a 6.0 overall and a minimum of 5.5 in each band. My level of english was supposedly higher than that and so that’s why I was able to get a somewhat good score with just a 10 days preparation.

Since you don’t have time to read everything you can find about every task, what I suggest to start with is to try and do a complete practice under exam conditions (you can find a complete exam practice on The Road to IELTS website). By doing this, not only you will get familiarized with the test format and the contents, but you will also understand where you’ll have to work more and what you’re already pretty good at.

The next step is to go over one skill a day. I didn’t buy any specific book, neither I’ve attended any course, I just relied on online material (one of the most useful blog I’ve stumbled upon is ieltsliz.com). Youtube is full of free lessons. I suggest you watch some videos about listening and then practice a bit every type of question, the next day you can do the same with reading and so on. My weakest skill was writing, so at the end of each and every day I practiced describing a graph or writing an essay too. Unluckily I didn’t have anyone who could grade my work, but what I’ve found very useful was to compare my written productions to some models you can find online.

At the end, you should do some more practice under exam conditions, using a timer and the answer sheets (this is particularly important for the writing part because you need to write at least 150 words for task 1 and 250 for task 2, but you don’t really have time to keep counting your words during the exam, so you can just estimate the amount of words you’ve written).

In addition to this, you should also:

  • review some grammar;
  • write down a list of linkers for the writing task;
  • read and watch the news to get more ideas for the writing task;
  • make vocabulary lists about different topics for the speaking part;
  • use vocabulary builder websites (I recommend memrise) to learn a whole lot of synonyms;
  • watch English, Australian and even American tv shows to get used to the different accents.

BUT because I’m that awesome, I’ve just made your life easier. I’ve gathered all my notes in one place and I’m giving it to you for free. So, instead of having to do all these things, you’ll just have to click here and you’ll get my awesome collection of IELTS vocabulary and answer templates.

Listening

The first part you’ll do on the day of the exam is usually the listening. This is a bit tricky, especially because you hear the audio just once. But don’t panic just yet! Before the audio is played, you have enough time to go over the questions for the section. Read through them and underline keywords. Then, listen carefully to the conversation and quickly write down your answers on your booklet (you get 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet). If you don’t catch something, don’t worry, go on or you’ll miss even more answers.

Reading

In my opinion, this is the easiest part of the whole exam, along with speaking. Personally, I didn’t have any problem with the time, but I talked to some people after the exam and most of them conveyed one hour isn’t enough to read it all and find the correct answers.

If you’re not a fast reader, you could use the following method: you read just the first line of every paragraph of your text, maybe underline some words you think might be important; then go over the questions, read them and underline keywords; once you’ve done that you get an idea of where you can find your answer, so go back and read the correct paragraph.

I personally find all these methods they suggest very time-consuming. Even during the exam I read the whole passage, I underlined names, dates, things I thought I could be questioned on and then I read the questions and, because I already read the whole text, I knew the answers to some of them even without going over the text again. If I was not sure about something, I just had to go back to the paragraph, but, because I read it all, I always knew where to find the correct answer.

The last tip I have for reading is to write you answer directly on the answer sheet, not in your booklet (you don’t get extra time to transfer your answers like in the listening part). You must use a pencil to write on the answer sheet, so if you want to change something, you could just use an eraser.

Writing

This was the hardest part for me, so I don’t really have many tips to survive the writing. First of all, always remember to leave a line in between paragraphs and you’ve already done ¼ of the work (apparently they really give you extra points if you do this). Especially in your essay, be sure to have 3 main parts: introduction, body, conclusion. Use a lot of different words to say the same things over and over again in the introduction and in the conclusion, use a lot of synonyms in the body paragraphs and don’t forget to fill them up with linkers. If your text sounds a bit redundant, that’s perfect.

One thing I found really useful was to read through all the essay models I could find online, so you can get not only some ideas you could reuse, but also an idea on how to structure your work.

Speaking

Back in the days, when I took my CAE exams I got the lowest grade in the speaking part. All my other skills were marked as exceptional (even the use of English), but my speaking skills were between good and borderline. I was so mad at myself when I walked out of the exam room because I knew I could do so much more than that, but anxiety got the best of me. I think speaking is still my lowest skill (along with writing). Not only I have a strong accent, but also because you have to say things quickly and you don’t have time to go over and correct mistakes. I tend to make many syntactical mistakes.

Even if I am not able to avoid mistakes while speaking, I don’t have any problems making conversations and I have a good ability to use periphrasis when I don’t remember a specific word. So this time I was determined to have a good conversation with the examiner and I have to say I succeeded, I was able to reply to all the questions and in the second part of the speaking, I was able to speak for two whole minutes.

When you sit down at the table, remember to just talk and tell lies. For example, if they ask you what’s the latest sport competition you have attended, don’t say you don’t like sports and you never watch them, make something up. Tell them you don’t like sports (so if you’re saying something very incorrect about that sport, that’s your excuse), but also tell them your best friend is a soccer/hockey/lacrosse/whatever fan and she drags you with her to see the games and then talk about the food they usually eat at the stadium. They’re not interested in knowing you or what you do with your life, they just want you to talk so they can give you a grade.

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Final tips and reminders

Arrive early. None likes to wait for more than an hour in a corridor, but you have to register before getting into the exam room and you won’t be allowed to take the test if you arrive too late.

Remember your ID! You won’t be allowed in if you don’t bring the ID you used when you booked the test. The day I took the exam there was this guy who just got robbed on the train and he wasn’t allowed to take the test because he didn’t have his document.

Don’t bring a watch. You can’t bring one in the exam room.

Bring extra pencils and an eraser. You must write with pencil on your listening and reading answer sheet, you can also write your essay in pencil (and that’s what I’ve done because it’s so much easier to correct mistakes). I suggest you use a mechanical pencil and then also bring a couple of extra regular pencils just in case.

Bring water. But remove the label. And don’t drink unless you really need it because you really don’t want to take a bathroom break.

Dress warm. I knew there was ac where I took the exam, so I wore a sweater and I got cold halfway through the exam anyway.

Good luck with your exam and let me know how it goes and if my tips were useful!

Sarah
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How to blog in English when it’s not your native language

I started studying English in elementary school when I was about 8 years old. That makes almost 10 years of formal education in English. Wow, that’s a lot! Yet, I feel like I started speaking English for real just about a couple of years ago.

English is a mandatory subject here in Italy. But I did not learn anything useful until I was in high school. And even then I could not speak properly and I could not understand a full conversation between two people.

Then something happened. During my fourth year of high school, I was introduced to the wonderful world of tv shows in their original language. I started slowly, watching series with Italian subtitles. Then I switched to English subtitles. Now, most of the times I just watch the show.

I also started studying the language independently and practicing it. I discovered a lot of things that they didn’t teach me in school, I started speaking without worrying too much and I’m at a point where I can understand basically everything I read (yes even hard scientific papers) and almost everything I hear (it actually depends on the accent of the person, which makes me feel so bad).

how to blog in english when it's not your native language

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Writing in a foreign language is the hardest for me. I had such a hard time during the IELTS exam because you can’t use any aids like a laptop or even a dictionary. When I write on paper, sometimes I stare at the word I just wrote and think “That looks wrong, let me try to move the letters around”. So, how am I writing a whole blog in English?

I don’t worry too much

When I was in middle school I went to Spain and even thought I was learning Spanish and I wasn’t half bad at it, I refused to speak there. Then I grew up and I realized I threw away a great opportunity. So now I don’t care too much anymore. I just talk, or write.

I just start writing a post and I don’t care if something gets underlined in red by the spell-checker. I just type away all my thoughts. When I feel like I’m done, I start editing. Sometimes editing takes a lot of time, I like to double check everything. But I can take all the time I need. My concepts are all there already and I don’t have to worry I’ll forget important points.

I have Grammarly installed

I have no idea how I survived before discovering this tool. I genuinely think Grammarly is the world’s best grammar checker and it’s also a great automated proofreader. It also includes a plagiarism checker, but I never used it before because I never needed it.

After you sign up, you can either copy and paste any text written in English into the online text editor or you could install the free browser extension. I thought I didn’t need yet another extension on my browser, but I was wrong. I got this post proofread by Grammarly. But now I also get all my emails proofread, the comments I leave on my other blogs, and even my Facebook status.

A lot of amazing features are free, but there’s also the option of going pro. I tried the upgrade because I suggested Grammarly to some of my friends and after they signed up I got some weeks for free and it was a life-changing experience.

I leave it for a day or two and the re-read it

If you don’t need to publish your post as soon as you finish writing it, leave it for a day or two. Then re-read it, you will probably find some minor mistakes you didn’t get the first time because you already knew the content of your post by heart.

I do not use Google translator

Sure, Google translator is good for a rough translation of a sentence in a language you really can’t understand. But if you need to find the right word, or if you want to double check a meaning, please avoid it. Sure, nowadays it’s a little better than it used to be. But, please, don’t just copy and paste the translation you’ll get from it.

When I want to check the meaning of a word, my go-to online translator is WordReference. It offers a lot of language combinations, you can hear the pronunciation of the most common words, and you can also conjugate a verb. For synonyms I use thesaurus.

Do you blog in your first or second language? Do you have any tips on writing in English when it’s not your native language?

Sarah
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5 college essentials

On the third day of the 5 days of 5 things challenge we talk about school essentials. In particular, I will make a list of things I always have in my bag. And no, I’m not talking just about stationery. As much as I love pretty pens and colored highlighter, I don’t think they’re vital.

Instead, I always find myself lending the items on this list to my friends and even people that I don’t know that well. Having these items in your backpack will not just get you through the school day without any major disaster. It’s also a fun way to be social and help your friends out.

5 college essentials

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1. Some water

Staying hydrated during the day is very important. How can you do it if you don’t always have something to drink with yourself? But please, don’t drink soda during your school day. If you really need some flavor and you can’t live on plain water for the whole day, you could make your own infused water.

I always bring my water from home, because I need it even during my commute (especially if I have to run up three set of escalators to catch a train that’s about to leave). Also, it is way more convenient to buy bottled water in bulk than buying a single one every day at a vending machine on campus.

If you live out of a big city and you have good tap water, you could also invest in a cute reusable water bottle so you’ll also be environmentally friendly.

2. A scarf

Scarves are my favorite pieces of clothing. I have several different scarves in my closet and I wished I could use more than one at a time. The best thing about scarves is that they’re so versatile.

I use scarves during the winter, obviously. I always have a scarf around my neck if I’m outside. But I also use one kind of like a blanket when I’m studying at the library and I get too cold (even if I’m already wearing 5 layers of clothes).

I use scarves even during the summer months. I hate ac and most of the times it’s set way too high. So in the summers I use my scarf as a shawl around my shoulders.

3. A homemade emergency bag

Put in a small and cute makeup bag:

  • some tissues
  • headache and stomachache medicine
  • lip balm
  • a small brush, a mirror, hair ties and bobby pins
  • I also keep my contact lens solution in it.

4. An umbrella

I can’t stress enough how important it is to always have an umbrella in your backpack. Yes, even if the sun is shining high in a blue sky when you get out of your house in the morning.

Believe me, you definitely don’t want to walk out of the building after long hours of classes and find out it has started pouring outside so you can’t walk to the train station until it stops (yes, that happened to me and it was awful because I just wanted to go home and rest a bit but I had to spend two extra hours in the library).

5. A good book to read and good music to listen to

I bet you already have these two things in your bag if you commute. I usually take the train to school and I always spend that time reading and listening to music. The only reason why I don’t mind taking the train every single day that much is because of my Kindle.

But it’s essential to have a good book or music to listen to also because there’s always some free time in between classes. You should use that time wisely and maybe start studying or reviewing your notes, but if you’re too tired, you could read a book or just relax listening to your favorite album.

Do you have all these essentials in your school bag? What are some other things you always have in your backpack?

Sarah
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I’m starting a blog about living and studying abroad

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this post. I was thinking about starting a new blog for the longest time and now it finally feels like it’s the right time to do it. I’m starting this blog about living and studying abroad because by the end of the year I will be living and studying in Toronto and I have a lot of things I want to share about this.

why you should start a blog while living and studying abroad

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Over the years I’ve read a lot of expat blogs and tons of study abroad blogs. I loved reading about other people’s adventures away from their home, I liked that they were always sharing tips and giving others amazing suggestions and ideas. I always thought having a blog was a cool thing, so now that it’s my turn to go study and live abroad I’ve decided to start Sarah in the Six.

Why I want to start a live/study abroad blog

To always have a place to come to

Right now I’m still just overly excited about the big move. I keep saying that the only thing that scares me about my future is the -10°C, but I’ve been reading a lot of expat blogs and I know I’m bound to have some sort of homesickness at some point or to feel discouraged when something doesn’t go the way I want it to.

So this will be the place that will remind me why I’m doing it and also the place where I can turn to, where I can write and vent, ask for advice and connect with other people that have been there before.

To keep a record of my life

Then why not just post your pictures on facebook or write your private journal, you may ask. Well, I hate sharing too much on Facebook and I don’t want to have my whole life on there. Sarah in the Six is my own place and I can do everything I want with it. Others can come here and visit my little corner of the web and they can choose to close this window anytime they want to.

The reason I’m not just keeping a private journal is that I get bored after a couple of days of writing everything down by hand. Also, I want to write for other people, I want to inspire others, give them tips and tricks and even concretely help them, if possible.

To reflect on the past

I like to think that a blog about travelling, living, or studying abroad is like a collection of souvenirs from all the different (literal and symbolical) places you’ve been to. I will write everything down, the good and the bad, so I can preserve every little detail of my adventures. A year or two or five from now, I could come back and see how much (or how little) changed in my life.

To connect with others

Blogging will be a fun way to keep my friends and family updated, to share my stories and adventures with them. It will also give me a chance to get in touch with locals and other people temporarily living or just visiting Toronto.

To improve my written english

I’ve decided I will write this whole blog in English. I already write a lot in English, but writing more than a caption for an Instagram picture is definitely still a bit challenging. Since I will attend a course where I’ll probably have to write essays (and I am already dreading it), I need some extra practice and writing about things I’m passionate about seems like a fun and easy way to do it.

Do you have a blog? Or are you thinking about starting a blog? What are your reasons?

If your looking for more about college abroad, be sure to check my college abroad group board on Pinterest and let me know if you’d like to join it.

Sarah
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