Lifestyle: Studying Whilst Working

I’ve moaned enough about it lately – the early-morning studying, the late-night revision, the spoiled Bank Holidays. I’ve had a lot of questions both on here and on social media about what I’m actually studying for (and even one memorable accusation of me lying about studying as I graduated last year – the dark-side of blogging cliques right there!). And I’ve had even more questions about how I’m balancing working, studying, blogging and (kind of) having a social life…

 photo Working Whilst Studying_zpshvfkalig.jpgWell my personal feeling is that I’m not balancing it. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed. I’ll sit down to study and think about all those unread emails in my blog inbox. I’ll be blogging and think about all the studying I need to do. I’ll feel guilty having some free time. I love my job, yet I’ll want to leave on time so I can do something in the evenings – either study or blog. I struggle to make time to exercise, there’s always something else that needs to be done.

The exams I’m doing are tough. I’m studying to qualify as an actuary – eventually I’ll be a Fellow of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries with some shiny new letters after my name. The exams intensive in terms of both time and content – and only around 45% of candidates tend to pass each exam. The exam I took in April has a recommended study time of 400 hours, with my notes filling 5 level-arch folders. Squeezing in 400 hours to a 6 month period, whilst working full-time, has actually turned out to be quite tough. I am lucky enough to get around a day off a week from work to study, though the response of many of my non-work friends is that I use them for lie-ins and lazy days – I wish! Most of them I’m at the kitchen table by 8am, and generally spend longer working than an average day. Though I guess doing all that in my PJs is rather nice…

Finding The Time

Whilst it is depressing, I find looking at my average day and seeing where I could fit in some study is the easiest way – doing a little bit as often as possible means (1) I’m in the habit of it and (2) I feel more productive and thus feel a lot more prepared and confident. My commute is generally spent reading material – or revising using a study card app nearer to exams. Lunch breaks I like using to do a couple of questions – I’ve found picking a particularly difficult topic and spending 20 minutes working through it is a great way to power through it (plus I’d put off the difficult bits otherwise!). I also like to spend an hour or two in the office after work. I’ll book a meeting room and put my head down – though obviously I tend to only do these for a couple of months before an exam. All year round would probably exhaust me!

If all else fails, I find physically slotting some study time, some blog time, even exercise will make me do it. If it’s in the diary, I’m committed.
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Little Hints to Keep Motivated

  • Focus on the end goal. Thinking about when I’m fully qualified, with those extra letters after my name, just helps keep me focused
  • Ignore the pass rates and stats – as they’re quite low for my exam, I find them quite demotivating.
  • Set days for certain things. I like to have Wednesdays as my study leave from work, I like to study Tuesday and Thursday evenings, on Mondays and Wednesday evenings I blog and exercise. And Friday night is fun night – until the fortnight before exams of course!
  • Make sure you have some down time. Treating myself to a magazine and face-mask, or a nice bar of chocolate will always boost my spirits.

And if all else fails, productive procrastination helps!

How do you balance everything in your life?

Lifestyle: Quotes for Keeping You Motivated

Today is the day I sit my first proper professional exam. Well, the first half of it anyway. Two three hour papers over two days – so the torture isn’t over until tomorrow evening! Then it’s a break for a few weeks before a practical one in May, then straight back into studying ready for September’s exam – all before the results of this one are released! They weren’t joking when they said the first few years of my career would be intense…

 photo Motivational Quotes 4_zpsucybvoxz.jpgWhen I finish my first exam later, I know I’ll have to come back home and hit my notes again ready for tomorrow. I know that it won’t be very long before I need to start prepping for my practical exam. I know that studying will start all over again very quickly. And for that I’m going to need some serious motivation. It’s not easy studying on top of full-time work (I’ve got a post coming soon – once exams are over and I’ve had time to write it!) so I keep a list of quotes on hand for when I need a good kick up the arse.

I’ve got these typed up on my phone, handwritten in my diary and there’s a few on post-it notes doted around my flat, work desk and study notes. They’re surprisingly uplifting when you randomly happen across one!

The first few quotes have been taken from Becca Rose (there’s loads of great motivational quotes on her post here).

“Inhale confidence. Exhale doubt.”

“Set some goals. Stay quiet about them. Smash the shit out of them. Clap for your own damn self.”

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”

“Small progress is still progress.”

“Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.”

“Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.”

“If you get tired; learn to rest, not to quit.”

“We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.”

 photo Motivational Quotes 7_zpsjzsxpxbr.jpgThe rest of the quotes I’ve picked up from Pinterest and Instagram over the last few months. Where I found them with a source, I’ve added it in – as well as adding in any I could easily find. If you know where the rest of them are from, feel free to share!

“The Way Get Started Is To Quit Talking And Begin Doing.” -Walt Disney

“Don’t Let Yesterday Take Up Too Much Of Today.” -Will Rogers

“You Learn More From Failure Than From Success. Don’t Let It Stop You. Failure Builds Character.”

“Whether You Think You Can Or Think You Can’t, You’re Right.”- Henry Ford

“You Are Never Too Old To Set Another Goal Or To Dream A New Dream.”- C.S. Lewis

“Don’t stop when you’re tired. STOP when you are DONE.”

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them.”

“If life was not meant to be a puzzle it would have come with an instruction manual.”

 photo Motivational Quotes 1_zpsbfoa71h9.jpgI also picked up a Motivational Desk calendar for W last year, just as a little stocking filler from Santa, but I’ve kind-of adopted it. It’s been so nice to have something motivating displayed in the flat – it’s one of the first things I see when I come home and I find it spurs me on to do just that little bit more after a long day.

How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you have any quotes to share?

University Guest Post: Staying Focused in Lectures

I do confess to having a mind that likes to go on a bit of a wander, so for me staying focused in lectures can be really difficult. Add in unlimited university wifi, Bloglovin, Pinterest and Twitter – and some lecturers have little to no hope in keeping me engaged. When Jennifer (who write one of my favourite blogs, Ginevrella) offered her guest post on Staying Focused in Lectures I knew I had to share – and with my first day of lectures in nearly 18 months today I’m hoping to pick up some tips!

 photo Staying focused in lectures title picture_zps38kg45wa.jpgAhh, lectures. Having made it through four years of university, I’ve sat through my fair share of lectures (granted, clinical years of med school do have significantly fewer lectures than pre-clinical). And sitting in a warm, windowless room with two hundred and fifty other people while someone stands at the front talking at you is not exactly the most exhilarating of learning experiences.

But, it’s kind of what you pay for. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not snooze my way through £9,000 of lectures. (Admittedly I’m one of those museum relic students who actually still only pay just over £3,000 a year. We do still exist, just about). Or even if you do kind of fancy treating lectures as one big, daytime sleepover, it doesn’t generally do much for your exam results…

So having sat through literally hundreds of lectures, I thought I’d share a few pointers on how to at least remain conscious in lectures… and maybe even to make them worth getting out of bed for.
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Take Notes

Lectures can be very passive, and this is one of the reasons I sometimes find myself zoning out a bit. I notice that I concentrate far better if I’m writing down the key points delivered by the lecturer. I like to annotate our handouts with things to help me understand the slides and concepts, other people like to write straight into a notebook, iPad or create flashcards as they go.
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Stay Hydrated

Taking a bottle of water into lectures seems to help (especially if you drink it). Sipping on water or juice makes me feel like I’m ‘doing something’ so I don’t get quite so bored, and there’s probably something scientific about water and concentration too.

Take Advantages of Breaks

If you’re lucky enough to have entire days of lectures, you’d better hope that they’ve scheduled in a bit of break time too! It can be tempting to spend the breaks remaining in your seat, but it’s far better to move about, get some fresh air if you can, and refill your water bottle. During an intense block of lectures at the start of last year, we made a habit of going to a local coffee shop for a pick-me-up in the middle of the morning – a little treat to keep us going!
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Put your Phone Away

During first year, my phone didn’t connect to the internet properly anyway, and most of my uni friends were sat in the same room as me, so it was never a huge distraction. But since getting a smart phone, it’s been very tempting to spend entire lectures scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, or texting friends now that our year is split into four. Nowadays I try to leave my phone out of sight for at least most of a day’s lectures (nobody’s perfect, ok?).

Position Yourself Wisely

I’m not suggesting sitting middle of the front row necessarily, but somewhere in the middle usually works well for me. Sitting in the back corner just feels like an invitation to daydream, while sitting right at the front makes me feel pressurised to be focusing intensely. Also any lecture theatre I’ve ever sat in seems to have about three climates of its own – it’s usually tropical somewhere near the top.

 photo lecture notes 2_zpsloo6ccjh.jpgSo there you go, my top tips for maintaining concentrating through lectures. I’m now rather conscious of the fact that I’ve made my lectures sound like they’re all mind-numbingly dull, but I’d like to point out that this isn’t actually the case! I love my course and the things we learn are fascinating – it’s just that by the fourth hour straight of lectures, even those with the best of intentions start to drift off… Hopefully with a few of these tips you can make the most out of your lecture time!

What are your top tips for staying focused?

University: What to Buy (+ Downloadable Quick Guide)

I’ve been writing and rewriting this post for weeks, but as is inherently obvious on this site, I ramble. On and on and on. So any guide I do write is going to get lost under the meaningless jumble I write. Instead I’v created a downloadable infographic that will give you all the information you need, and a long, long blog post which you can read if you want. You can also view a PDF version of the graphic which I’ve made a little easier to print out. Possibly a little late as I think a lot of Fresher’s weeks are starting, but better late than never!

 photo What To Take_zpsuulu7e5u.png photo What To Take To University_zpsqvfroyyd.jpgI’ve separated each bit into two sections, things that I think are optional and necessities. Obviously everyone is different and there’s also a few bits that you might want to wait before getting – for instance it’s only this year I’ve bought a wardrobe shelving unit as it’s the right time I’ve had such a lack of storage space.
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Necessities – bedding (quilt, pillows, sheets, duvet cover, pillow cases), clothes airer, laundry basket, pictures, towels (1 large, 1 small).

Optional – blanket, cushions, lamp, dressing gown, hangers, hanging rack (shelves that go in wardrobe).

Bedding is such an important part of making your university accomodation feel like home. A lot of people I know bring their covers straight from home, but I’ve used each university each to update my tastes. My first three years were all quite bright and floral, but this year I’ve gone for a more muted colourscheme – white, grey and pink. Though there will be a bit of floral in there too! Make sure you get a good quality duvet, and that your pillows are comfortable – I really rate Wilkinsons pillows.

I reckon an airer is really important even if your laundrette has a dryer – you can’t dry everything in one (I’ve lost a couple of cardigans that way). I’d pick up a relatively small one that folds up well so you can store it out of the way.

As for towels, try and get a bath sheet – this is the biggest body-sized one. Then get a hand towel or two- ladies may want a medium one too for hair. 

On the optional bits, I’ve used all of these items and think they have really helped. In halls (and second year) I had really big rooms so cushions helped it feel more cosy. I also found that provided lights are really harsh, so buying my own lamp meant I could have a softer light if I wanted. Oh, and the dressing gown is vital for middle-of-the-night fire alarms!
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Necessities – 3 knives (1 small, 1 large, 1 serrated), cutlery, plenty of teaspoons, plates, bowls, mugs, glasses, 2 pans (1 large, 1 small), frying pan or small wok, baking tray (1 flat, one roaster style), baking dish (the size of an individual lasagne), chopping board, various sizes of plastic boxes, washing up sponge, tea towels, potato masher, large serving spoon, tin opener, cheese grater, veg peeler, fish slice, jug.

Optional – casserole dish, slow cooker, mini chopper, blender (I use a cheap handheld one), rolling pin, mixing bowl, weighing scales, measuring cups, cupcake tray, loaf tin, handheld whisk.

Oh, and its quite handy to know that shot glasses can double up as egg cups…

The kitchen section was really difficult for me to write, as I love cooking so probably have a longer list of necessities than most people! I would say 2 pans plus frying pan is definitely enough, I also have a casserole dish which doubles up as an extra large saucepan. The utensils can all be picked up rather cheaply in Aldi, though I’d spend a little more on a potato masher and tin opener! 

My ‘essential’ optional item has got to be a food chopper – I have used a mini one since starting university and wouldn’t be without one. I can chop onions in 30 seconds, make curry pastes, blend a single portion smoothie and even whizz up my own peanut butter. I would say stick with essentials for a start, then grab extra bits if you start cooking more.
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Study Stuff

Necessities – paper, pens, organisation system (I use a folder for each module), calculator, pencils, plastic wallets, diary.

Optional – printer, portable hard-drive.

This one is really subjective, and does depends on you. I personally like to use ruled refill pads for lecture notes then file them away using dividers, in specific module folders. 

I would also recommend getting hold of a cheap printer if possible, even if you have to club together with friends. Many lecturers don’t print out their slides and it’s always useful to have a hard copy!

Shopping Bits

Bits to Pick up ASAP – washing powder, washing up liquid, generic disinfectant spray, big packet of pasta, tinned food (potatoes, sweetcorn, rice pudding, beans), teabags, rice, shower stuff.

I’d always, always recommend that you try and persuade your parents to do a bit shop for you when you move in. Buy giant bags of pasta and rice, stock up on tinned bits, and I always make sure they get me plenty of teabags! Also don’t forget (like I did one year!) to pick up shower stuff; shampoo, conditioner, soap etc…

Now, click here to download the PDF list! I hope this updated guide comes in useful, even if just to one person! I know I really needed it three years ago, I overpacked dramatically to the point the car wouldn’t fit us all in!

What are your university necessities? Are you off to university this year – if so, good luck and tell me what type of posts you’d love to read? To those who have already been, what was your favourite bit?

Student Summer: Introduction

It’s been nearly two years since I started university, and now I feel pretty much ready to be able to offer a whole lot of advice to others just about to start. With that in mind I’ve decided to create a little series over the summer aimed at students; both those starting university this year and returners. I’m aiming for posts to mainly go live over the weekend, with weekday posts being more usual content so keep your eyes peeled!

I’m going to be covering virtually everything; what you’ll need to take, study skills, basic cooking skills, housemate troubles, how to find a rented house in second year – basically helping you to (hopefully!) survive university.

One thing I will say – if there’s anything you really want me to cover, please do let me know either by email or in the comments below. More than anything I want to be able to help you! And if there are any other bloggers who would like to contribute by offering either a guest post, or just a quote then please do get in touch!

University: Revision Tips

 photo 2014-05-09174242_zps78c4f233.jpgProbably a little bit late in the year for this, as I’m guessing most students will be coming up to their exams (and some lucky people will have finished theirs!) but I thought I’d tell you all how I study best…I’m currently revising like a mad woman for my second year exams, so this post is rather apt!

 photo 2014-05-09174306_zpsdfc56335.jpgI will spread out my work around me, either on the floor, or on a large table (I used to have an L-shaped desk at home which was perfect, but sadly that went when my room was redecorated). I’ll work on a module at a time (usually spending a whole day on it) so I’ll have any related text-books or university material (for my Actuarial exams we are given notes from the Profession’s study support – they are amazingly useful, so make the most of any resources you have provided) out, along with my notes, print outs of questions, and enough stationery to stock WHSmiths…

 photo 2014-05-09174211_zpsc2453d48.jpgA little note on textbooks – my thrifty self likes to try and avoid buying books (or stick to related ones for 1p on Amazon) but I bought a recommended book for the first time this year and its definitely helped. If you’re struggling with a module I’d recommend it! My top top is to make notes on post-it notes rather than in the book, then you can sell it on for more at the end of the year (I got £75 Amazon credit for my A-level and first year books a few months ago!).

Revision photo 2014-05-09174200_zpse9b3f7a5.jpgI try to keep complete neat notes throughout the year, then can spend my revision time doing exercise sheets and past exams – for maths students there is nothing better that practice! When doing questions I try to stick to a left-hand ‘column’ on the page so I can write notes down the side, including a model answer when I get things wrong. If the question involves a theorem or definition I’ll also write it in a different colour to try and reinforce the point. I’ll always try to write out questions too, as then I have a clearer idea of why I’m doing what I’m doing…

 photo 2014-05-09174218_zpsa5e264ed.jpgOne of my biggest problems is staying organised, so I use my Filofax to help me with that. I also find that I quite often head out to the library without a pencil case (sooo annoying…I had to pay £4 for a pen on campus once…), so I’d been on the lookout for a thin one to keep in the tiny pen loop in my Filofax. I was kindly sent this stunning Pink Gold Parker Pen* (£59.00, Pen Heaven) a few weeks ago, and I adore it. Its the perfect colour, and nicely weighted (not heavy, but not light like your basic biro either!), and writes amazingly smoothly. There’s no chance of this being left behind, I love it! I don’t use it for everyday notes as I love erasable ink far too much, but for just about everything else I’m using it. I’m really looking forward to using it at work next year – its so professional looking, but still feminine. Can’t you tell I’m in love with this pen?! Revision is sending me mad…

So, my top tips for revision?

  • Stay organised throughout the year, so its not a mad rush at the end to work out what you should have learnt!
  • Have a clear plan of what you want to do each day, but make sure it is achievable. Nothing worse than feeling bad because you couldn’t do the 20 past papers you wanted too…
  • Take regular breaks, and eat healthily, snacking as you go (remember to keep an eye out for the Healthy Snack post as part of my Blogger Link Up!)
  • Turn off distractions. I turn my wifi/data off on my phone (it also means I don’t need to remember to charge it every night), and have deleted social media apps from my tablet as I still use it for solutions.
  • Don’t feel bad about saying no. You need to revise, and going out shopping/partying/etc won’t help that – be proud that you are trying to do your best, and don’t be pressured into giving up your time.
  • Don’t do all-nighters. It’ll muck up your sleeping pattern, and your exams aren’t at night!

But my absolute top tip…?

 photo 2014-05-14162350_zps075d47b7.jpgDon’t give yourself repetitive strain injury (in the wrist of your writing hand) the week before your seven exams start! I’ve managed to either over-do writing (not sure how, as I definitely used to write more when I did essay-subjects for A-Levels) or damage my wrist some other way, and am now struggling to write comfortable for more than 20 minutes at a time. Lets just say I’m a little worried about a three-hour stretch… However, stock up on painkillers and tea (hey, a girl needs restoration fluid!) and invest in a wrist support. Take vitamins regularly before the exam period to keep your immune system running, and generally just take care of yourself – I’ll be sure to the next time I have exams!

Good luck to all readers who have exams, and (if you have time) – how do you revise?

Fun (Fortnightly) Finds #3

Maybe this shouldn’t be called ‘fortnightly’ because I clearly haven’t managed to keep that up! However now I’m back in a new university term I should have more structure, and so should be able to do this a little more regularly. Here goes! 

Introduction to a New Term & Finishing Coursework

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I love the start of term – new modules to get your teeth stuck into! I’ve started some (so far) really interesting modules, and virtually everything I do within university is showing my degree was right for me. Having said that, I know very well that university isn’t for everyone, and deciding to go is a big thing, so make doubly sure it’s what you want before you go!

On a related note, today was the deadline for possibly one of the hardest bits of work I’ve ever had to do. It’s so nice to be able to sit down and relax without that hanging over me!

Spicy Vegetarian Food

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I’ve really enjoyed cooking spicy food lately, and introducing a lot more vegetables into my meals. My spicy pea fried sandwich (a recipe scheduled to come live in the next few days) has become a lunchtime favourite, and I made a Thai Green curry the other night with added mushrooms, carrots and spinach in addition to the usual pepper and onion – it was so good it definitely didn’t need the half chicken breast I threw in there!


No picture of this (the cakes are still cooling as we type) but me and Libby decided to make cake pops today. We kinda forget it would be a long process, so instead just made the cakes tonight. We’re going for a chocolate and orange type, and they smell amazing!

And now to the blogs! 

I’ve really struggled recently in cutting down to posts that I REALLY like to post on here – I don’t want to be giving you a hugely long list! After much deliberation, these are what I’ve come up with!

Miss Budget Beauty wrote a great post on the Return of the Filofax. This was something I could really identify with me, as I know mine is a huge part of my life and I would be lost without mine. If you find yourself struggling with anything, be it studying, work schedules, or even blog schedules, I highly recommend trying a Filofax as they are just so customisable. I’ll be sharing my set-up soon!

I’ve fallen in love with Revlon’s Colourburst Matte Balms – I’ve already bought one shade, and I’m trying desperately not to be tempted by another. Let me know if you want a review by the way! I think the best post to show off their true colours is on Katie’s Beauty Blog.

This White Pizza with Spinach and Bacon had me drooling at the thought of it. As someone with a bad allergy to tomatoes, I’m really loving the craze for white pizzas which seems to be taking the blogging world by storm lately! Thank you How Sweet It Is for this post!

How was your week? 

Review: Stationery Haul from Elba & Oxford Campus Notebooks

Over my summer break I was contacted by two lovely ladies who offered me a range of stationery items from Elba and Oxford. I obviously squealed with excitement, and waited patiently for the postman to arrive…which he duly did with a very large box. Here’s what was inside…

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As you can see, I have a lovely big haul there! I’m a stationery lover, but what really appeals to me about these brands is the functionality of their goods. Much as I do enjoy looking at it, I’m not one for really pretty stationary. For one I’d be too scared to use it, and quite often it is out of budget. If that is your thing though, I recommend you try out Wilkinson’s, as they always seem to have a great range.

Here’s what the lovely ladies sent me:


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A Campus Notebook from Oxford. As a lot of stationery-lovers will know, this is a brand well known for its thick and good quality paper. I personally have never used it – I HAVE to use narrow ruled and so I will be gifting this to my lovely housemate and blogger Libby (check out her blog here, and the amazing amount of make-up I get to borrow!). I also have an issue with spiral bound notebooks being left handed – it’s refill pads all the way for me!

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There was a couple of these in the box (one in a lovely sunny yellow, the other a vibrant red). They are nice and sturdy document holders, secure but still extremely lightweight.

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As all sides of anything inside is protected, these are slightly better than the cheap ones you can buy on the highstreet, and so I would definitely recommend these.

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Next up is one of my favourite products, or at least the one I needed immediately. This is again a pretty generic product, but with an Elba twist. Here is is the usual plastic folder with plastic pocket inserts, but the addition of an elastic closure just keeps it looking neat and professional. This will be used to hold my CV, exam certificates, and all other things I may need for an interview.

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Very similar to a previous product, this blue folder actually takes the form of a box, closed by elastic. I would definitely not recommend this for carrying around stationery, but for storing things in the home I find it useful – it currently housing my spare plastic wallets perfectly!

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Then there was a couple of again pretty generic items with a twist. First up is the black ringbinder (above, the blue one on top is from WHSmiths). As you can see, it is a good deal wider than regular ring-binders, and so it easily accommodates the extra wide dividers I love so much. A word of warning; if you wish to use dividers with plastic pockets you will need extra wide ones, or to make your own as I did last year. Comment if you want a tutorial in this!

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Next up is a lever-arch folder. Again pretty generic (not extra-wide this time!) but with a twist; the side is curved, making it easier to grab off your shelves. An interesting innovation, perhaps not something I would pay extra for (unlike the extra width), but it does seem to make things easier. Again, I will be donating this to one of my housemates for their use, as it upsets my folder colour scheme…more about that in another post!

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Next up is a prettier folder; this has become my everyday to-uni folder. I’m a little disappointed it isn’t extra wide, but it is still a little wider than regular binders. This is nice and strong, very sturdy rings (beats WHSmiths by a mile!), and the two sets of rings close independently of each other, which does take some getting used to.


Now, a little word about the promotions these companies are currently running (exciting stuff hey);

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First up there is the free cinema ticket, with two qualifying purchases. All you do is peel back the sticker to reveal the code, plug into a website and off you go (after a bit of waiting obviously). As the cost of two products will be less than a cinema ticket, it really will save you money!

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Finally there is the Oxford Big Project. Unfortunately entries have now closed, but you can still view and then vote (from the 15.10.13) here.


And that is my little review of my lovely stationery haul. Thank you so much to Elba and Oxford for sending me your items – I highly recommend these companies as the products really are of a fantastic quality, and with little twists are actually a lot more functional than items which are readily available. Check them out on Amazon!


If you liked this post, check out my post previously on student organisation. Any stationery loving readers out there? What brands do you recommend?