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Carleton University Women in Science and Engineering (CU-WISE)Gail Carmichaelnoreply@blogger.comBlogger368125
Updated: 1 hour 5 min ago

Changing Degrees

Wed, 2014-12-17 00:08
Most students applying to university don’t really know what they want to do later in life. Students sometimes take gap years to learn more about themselves, or take a general first year at university to see what different fields exist. All of this is normal, and you should not feel ashamed if this happens to you. My journey to where I am now was long and I wished I talked to more people about it so that I could make an informed decision.

I have always been good at math and science, so I was told that I should be in engineering or a related field. I didn't really bother researching what engineering was, and decided to apply for the most difficult sounding engineering there was, Aerospace Engineering (do not do this, always do research).

During my first semester of engineering, I hated it. It wasn't what I expected, so I decided that I would switch my major. At first I thought I would go into a different type of engineering and Sustainable Renewable Energy Engineering sounded intriguing, as I always had a passion for helping the environment. As the year went on, I decided  to leave engineering altogether. So, again without researching or consulting any of my friends or professors I switched into business for my second year.

During my year in business, I felt many different emotions. It was quite a change from engineering, and I didn't know how I felt about that. The classes, for the most part seemed easier, which was not as challenging as I had wanted. The one reason I chose engineering is I didn't like group projects or presentations. Guess what business is full of? Group projects and presentations. I couldn't stand it. I also had a hard time making friends; most of my friends were in engineering, so we had differing workloads. I knew business was not right for me.

At this point I had a difficult decision to make. I knew I would be really behind if I switched again not to mention the additional financial strain. I decided to go to the Student Academic Success Center, which has career counselors, and they really helped me. If you are thinking of changing your  major, I would highly recommend talking to as many people as possible before you do so. You could just be having a rough time and you don’t want to make any rash decisions... like I did.

After lots of contemplating and weighing benefits, I decided to switch back into engineering but in a different stream. I am now in Software Engineering and am loving it! It isn't the same as other types as engineering, which fits me perfectly. Software Engineering has a wide range of opportunities, which I am really attracted to. I find it fascinating that you can make your own tic-tac-toe game with the computer playing the opponent! I find the main differences (so far) between aerospace and software engineering, is the lack of Mechanics and related courses. I remember taking that in my first year of engineering, and I realized that being in aerospace, I would typically be doing work related to that. I enjoy that I can still be in engineering, and that my lack of interest in mechanics doesn't change that.

It took a lot of time to find where I belong and I still have lots of decisions to make such as, what parts of software engineering I am most interested in, but what's important is that I am now sure of my choice of major.


If you aren't happy in your current major or are looking to make the right choice the first time around my advice to you is this: talk to as many people as you can, go see a guidance counselor, talk to professors and students that are in the fields that you are interested in, do research and gather as much information as you can. You may have misconceptions about certain fields but you won't know until you investigate. If you want to do something but are worried that it will be a set back, go for it anyways! You decide what you want to do and no one else. It may take some time to find out where you belong but time doesn't matter, do whatever makes you happy! Most importantly, don’t let people tell you what you would be good in, make the decision that is best for you.

Bronwyn is a second year Software Engineering student. When she isn't studying, she is either reading books or playing video games. She loves Star Wars.


Categories: LinuxChix bloggers

Useful Study Tips for Exams

Mon, 2014-12-15 17:51
It's that time of the year again ….. caffeine filled nights getting ready for exams. I know that this subject may be overdone, but I've decided to summarize a few tips to make this month a bit easier for you.

The first piece of advice that anyone will tell you is to pay attention in class, take great notes and start studying really early in the semester, and not at the last minute. If you are anything like me, that is never going to happen... so, I'll move onto some more useful ideas (If my mother is reading this, I am clearly lying and do all of the above).

I'll start off with my six general steps and then a few specifics tricks that may prove to be helpful. Overall, stress is the worst thing for exams so positive thinking, lots of sunlight and chocolate are a great way to start.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/dr-mike-hart/
8-reasons-to-sleep-more_b_3641933.html
 1. SLEEPFirst thing first, sleep! I know, I know, everyone tells you this but I bet you ignore this every year. Two hours of studying when you're exhausted will do more harm than good! This is  because  you'll be even more tired the next day, and will remember very little of what you studied. Studies show that students should get 8-10 hours of sleep every night. But, if that's not possible, I'd recommend at least 6 hours of sleep. On that note, don't take this as an excuse to sleep the day away (I have been guilty of this).


http://wejungo.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/organize.gif
2. CLEAN AND ORGANIZE
I'm well aware that this can be both a foreign notion to some of you and a way to procrastinate for others, but it is important! Before you start the never-ending studying session, clean your work area. Declutter, hide the distractions (including your phone), remove any dirty dishes, and give it a quick wipe down and vacuum. This won't take long but it can make all the difference. Please, do not turn this into a three hour cleaning session (or a three hour session of thinking about cleaning). Something else that I find useful, is making lists (I might be addicted) and plans. Make a quick outline of a study plan for the 2-3 weeks of you have left (or more if you're lucky) before exams. Separate the days into hours for specific course subjects, rest, work, etc. You should also make a quick plan for each day of study right before you start that day (ex. get through ch.3-5 of mechanics for today). This will give you a goal to achieve and make it easier to stay on track. Note: DO NOT be like me and spend hours doing this while achieving nothing on the lists.


3. STUDY GROUPAs an antisocial and extremely awkward person, this is a hard concept for me to grasp but it really is worth it ; join a STUDY GROUP. Study groups will give you a bit more structure, motivation and focus while you study. It's also great because you can ask your peers for help when you need it and you can help them when they need it. Teaching other people is a great way to cement the knowledge in your brain and ensure that you understand the material. Try to ask some friends or people in your tutorial classes to form a group. In the case that you cannot find a group, remember you always have your TAs and professors that you can go to ask any questions. Also, give yourself or a group of invisible people (I know it sounds silly) a presentation on a topic that you just finished studying. Go full out; diagrams, talking out loud, writing down notes, etc. This will honestly help in the long run.
http://www.pak101.com/c/funnypictures/view/12410/Funny/Group_Studies 


4. BREAKSBreaks are very important to take or you'll burn out and you will not retain as much information. Taking breaks will improve performance, relieve stress and increase your overall well-being. The research differs in terms of the agreed length, frequency, and number of intervals a person should take a break for that will be most beneficial. I personally like to study for long periods of time (roughly two hours) and then take a 30 minute break. In reality a thirty minute break every two hours may be too long of a break, but it’s what has worked best for me. Another great idea which has been instrumental in my studies has been to create a study music playlist. Create the playlist for the length of time you intend to study for and turn it on shuffle. When the playlist ends, you know that it's time for a break without ever having to look at the clock (try not to spend time watching the time on the clock). Also, try not to pick music that will distract you. Ideally, choose music that is instrumental or calming, but make sure to pick something you like. I personally love classical music, orchestra music and soundtracks (they're not necessarily calm but at least you don't get distracted by the music too much).

5. DANCE PARTYThis brings me onto my next subject; what to do during those breaks. Have a dance party! Put on some fun music and just start dancing (don't worry if you can't dance, this is why you do this in private). You may think I'm joking but I'm very serious and expect to see a lot of dancing students once this trend catches. It's a great stress reliever; a quick way to loosen up your stiff joints and a great way to have your endorphins released. Doing some exercise and going outdoors are another way to achieve the same benefits. Unfortunately, in the real world (in Canada), there's already snow on the ground, and no one in their right mind wants to go freeze their behinds off for fun. If you do, good for you; but for the other lazy and winter hating people like me, just dance! It's the best workout to quickly get your heartbeat going (I may be lying) but don't worry about technique since you're not getting in shape or showing off your dance moves, you are just shaking some stress off.
Napolean Dynamite(2004) 

  6. CAFFEINEDepending who you ask, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. On a realistic note, it's impossible to get through this without caffeine (if you can, I hate you) and it really should just be accepted. My only note of advice is to try and avoid it at night since sleep is more important and cut down on the caffeine when you start getting the shakes. Honestly, what you eat and drink is purely up to you and I know it is hard but eating healthy can go a long way for your energy levels and retention abilities. So remember moderation and even though caffeine may be one of my food groups, I don't have a drastic increase in my intake. Plus, remember to drink plenty of water.


 Ok, now that you've actually read through the six steps (or scrolled pass), you deserve to know the true secret of my success during exam period (not really a secret).

PRACTICE 
All subjects are different and need to be studied in a different way but in general, science and engineering courses are all about practice. Reading through your notes isn't very helpful once you get to the exams. The only way to prepare is to actually solve or work through the questions (over and over again) until you truly understand how to get to the answer and what to do in all possible scenarios.
HINT#1: My solids II professor gave me this particular word of advice: once you've done a question, do it backwards. Professors like to be sneaky; they won't give you a question in the same format that they've shown you in class. If they always give you A and B to get to C, make sure you can get to A with B and C. It adds more work but is probably the best advice I've ever received; you'll get more comfortable (and therefore confident) about the theories and equations. 

VISUAL, AUDITORY, PHYSICAL
We all learn in different ways and you should concentrate on which way is best for you. So you can rewrite your notes, or read your notes out loud, or do some sort of 'short experiment' to demonstrate a concept. Anything that helps is great; rereading your notes at a high speed in your head is only useful to a small percentage of people. Try to make studying an interactive activity. Note: Even if you learn primarily through one method, I'd advise you to use a combination of all three methods.
HINT#2: You will get annoyed, tired and sore after all the studying. Documentaries are a great way to change it up a bit while still learning the material. The documentary won't cover everything you need to know but it is still covering the same topic from a different point of view. Even better, it allows you to take a break from writing and sit on a comfy couch. Remember that it doesn't need to be a documentary (Aircraft Investigations for engineer students, A Beautiful Mind for neuroscience students, etc.). 

CHANGE IT UP
Do not get stuck on the same material for too long. Your mind will start blurring all the information together and you'll end up making mistakes and forgetting the material. Do a few hours on one subject and then take a big break (work, school, eating, etc.), when you get back start a different subject or at least study a different section of that subject that is completely different. It will do wonders for you in the end. If you find this hard (I do), switch it up between theory and practical (or books and films, etc.) and you will achieve the same results.
HINT#3: This may not occur to most people but changing where you study is important as well. Do not study everything all at the same desk; move to the kitchen for a bit, go to the library, sit on the floor. Avoid your bed if possible though studying right before bed and after you wake up has been proven to be helpful at retaining more information * only successful when you're not exhausted*. 

UNIVERSITIES WANT YOU TO PASS
Remember that you're not the only person who wants you to pass the exam. The professors will be available for extra help, and will often provide you a good idea of what to expect on the exam. The university will also help by giving you access to old exams, PASS sessions, workshops, tutors, etc. Utilize the resources available to you because there's a lot more than you may realize. If you don't know where to look on your school's website, don't be afraid to ask.
Hint #4: Humans, including professors, are creatures of habit. Complete all the old exams (not just one) you can find (especially those by the same professor) because I can almost guarantee that your exam will be similar. The old exams should be used as a tool, and you should not purely rely on them. Do keep in mind that certain subjects haven't changed in a very long time (ex. calculus) but some subjects change relatively often (ex. computers). 


TECHNOLOGY
 My final note of advice is a few ways to use technology to your advantage during study periods. We live in a world where technology proves to be one of our greatest distractions but can also be our biggest help.

Google
First and foremost, GOOGLE. Never underestimate the power of Google search when you need help. You can find almost everything you'll need but remember to take it with a grain of salt depending on which sites you use. For engineer and science students, you'll find hundreds of videos online with example of questions and demonstrations.

Self Control
It's hard not to procrastinate and get distracted but there are apps out there that will help. There are a few versions of this idea but one of them is called 'SelfControl', it will block certain sites completely for a set period of time and you will never be able to access them (even if you turn off your computer). Check it out:

Sleep If U Can
Try some of these alarms clocks if you have trouble getting out of bed. The first one forces you to do a math problem to turn it off and the second one forces you to take a photo of a specified object (ideally not in your bedroom). There's many more like it; find one that works for you. 

Exam Time 
My personal discovery of the year that I'm excited for is “ExamTime”! “ExamTime” is an app that will help you study using mind maps, flashcards, notes and quizzes. The reason why it's so great is that it's shared online which means you can look at other people's quizzes and notes as well. As a study group, you can all make quizzes separately (which really does help with your memory) and you can test yourself with their quizzes. Depending on the subject, you can find hundreds (I might be exaggerating) of quizzes/flashcards/etc., that are already completed.

My point is that there's help if you need it, I just listed a few free apps that I know of but there are many others out there that may suit you. Of course, don't let the app be a distraction and don't spend hours looking for the perfect app/site either.


I hope you can utilize my six steps and tricks when studying for exams, but keep in mind that there are different ways of studying for different formats of exam. So remember to study using different techniques depending on the exam format (ie. Multiple choice versus essay exams).

Good luck to everyone and enjoy your well-deserved holiday vacation after exams!
-Gabrielle
http://florawhite.deviantart.com/art/Exams-Here-I-come-348346856

Categories: LinuxChix bloggers