The Weekly Index: 22nd May 2015

22nd May 2015

In what has been a frankly devestating week for world archaeology let’s see if we can find any wonder and magic in the rest of the internet…

♦ The fascinating belongings of a teenage Egtved girl reveal much about her life.

9 women talk about life in the munitions factories of the First World War.

♦ I do so love evidence of burial rituals, (which is handy because it’s what my research is focussed on). Here we find evidence of flowers being laid on a grave by mourners 18,000 years ago.

♦ The biggest question on all our minds – what is Lady Gaga’s wedding dress going to look like? Some top designers have a stab at it.

♦ The oldest stone tools have been discovered, by accident.

♦ I love this article on how to bring minimalism in to your workplace.

♦ So beautiful and haunting. This is how ancient Babylonian songs may have sounded.


Have a fabulous and very long weekend!




Image: Queen Zenobia’s Last Look Upon Palmyra, Herbert Schmalz.



10 Tips for Juggling Studying and Working

title 4


I remember the very moment that I decided to go back to Uni. Of course, I wasn’t really aware that that was what I was committing to do, but I knew I wanted to go somewhere and study something again.

I was sitting in work one day making small talk with the temp across from me.

‘So, what are you up to this evening? I asked.
‘I’m going to college, I’m studying aromatherapy and massage’.


I had really enjoyed Uni the first time I had been to study Drama and Theatre Arts. However I loved it more for the friends I made and the experience of total freedom than I did for the opportunity to learn. To be honest I didn’t really try very hard during my first degree and I still walked away with a pretty awesome grade. Now, a year or so out of graduation and in a full-time job, I felt that I had missed out on being really challenged academically. I had never had the American college experience that I had seen in countless films, with endless assignments, clubs, activities and late night study sessions. My experience had been to just turn up, do a bit of acting and waltz away with a cluster of new friends and some great stories. Since starting work, I had begun to pass the majority of my rather dull days by listening to documentaries on the BBC iPlayer or burning through Audiobooks. I was half way through Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly everything and I was captivated by the wonderful, eccentric characters that fill it. Each had in their own unique way added to the collective knowledge of humankind and I yearned for a renewed environment of learning and discovery.

Sitting now chatting to this woman it suddenly struck me. ‘I could study something again!’. There was literally nothing stopping me. It is terrible but I can’t even remember the name of the lady who so inspired me but I am eternally grateful to her for, without ever realising, utterly changing my life for the better. If it hadn’t been for her, I might still be sitting at that same desk listening to Bill Bryson and wishing for more.

I initially started looking for short A-level courses in Egyptology or Archaeology. I had considered botany or geology but remembered that I had never really been much cop with science and concluded that archaeology still had that similar intrepid explorer vibe to it. As I have mentioned a trillion times, I also read a lot of Agatha Christie stories, where archaeologist or archaeological sites are forever cropping up, due not solely to her being married to the archaeologist Max Mallowan.

The whole thing soon snowballed and before I knew it I was signed up to a degree in History and Archaeology at Birkbeck College. Birkbeck is a college of the University of London but designed specifically for part-time studies so classes only start at 6pm enabling you to work during the day. It was a standard three-year degree but spread over four years. I actually took a year out between my third and fourth years so was enrolled for five years in total.

Gaining my second degree is undoubtedly the hardest and best thing I have ever done. I found my voice, my confidence and myself through studying. It wasn’t all a bed of roses. It was tough both emotionally and financially but those challenges are outweighed ten-fold by now having the life I want and not the one I merely stumbled into without much direction. And best of all I finally feel like I have really worked for this degree.

Blog Bettina Holst Søstrene Grene

So how do you juggle a full time job and studying for a degree? Apart from a sound knowledge of the Peloponnesian wars, here is what I have learned:

1. Pick a subject you like. I know this sounds obvious but degrees can be daunting with lots of ups and downs. There will be times (many) when you don’t feel like studying and would rather play Xbox/ look on Etsy or basically do anything else. You need to find a subject that fulfils and interests you or you may quickly run out of steam.

2. Tell your friends and family. Explain to them that over the coming months or years your life, and by extension theirs, will change. In all likelihood your free time will be swallowed up by studying. You won’t be able to make every social engagement, holiday or other cool activity. Once you have explained how you expect your life will change it will be easier for those around you to support you and not have unrealistic expectations of what you can juggle. Studying doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit but it does mean you have to optimise your time – offer to meet friends for a quick coffee instead of a day of shopping. Better yet, get friends and family involved with your studies by inviting them to exhibitions, talks or other events relevant to your subject.

3. If you think you may have any special needs requirements, seek help! I have dyslexia and despite being assessed when I was about eight, I did not seek proper help throughout either of my two degrees. Big stupid mistake. When starting my Masters degree I finally got myself properly registered and was amazed by how easy and all round awesome it was. I had an assessment, which confirmed my learning difficulty. I then had a separate meeting to order the materials that would aid my studies. I received a fully-loaded laptop, a book grant, Dictaphone, training sessions at my home and best of all lots of specialist software including Claro Read, which reads documents to you. My dyslexia means that I get incredibly tired when reading because my brain is working overtime to process the words. Throughout my undergrad degree, I would get so frustrated that it would literally take me days to read a 20-page book chapter and I would invariably fall asleep sitting upright during this. Claro Read completely changed how I was able to function. My dissertation bibliography cited nearly 100 texts; there would have been no way that I could have read that much without the software. AND IT WAS ALL FREE. It’s a minor amount of faff for a ridiculous amount of support and advice. If you are registered with an academic institution visit your learning support office and they will arrange everything for you. Do it!


4. Apply for all the money! Studying is damn expensive. I was fortunate enough to enrol on my degree before the student fees hike of a few years ago but it still cost me a heckofalot. Grants, bursaries and awards are there to help. Most academic institutions will have some relevant to your subject area, as will various independent trusts and bodies. It is annoying to fill out applications but it is so very worth it. Set aside a weekend, make a list of all the awards you can find that you are eligible for, download the forms and just apply. I applied to one during my Masters last year and was staggered to be awarded a substantial amount within a few days. Amazingly, I was contacted about a month later to be told that I was entitled to a further sum because it was getting towards the end of the term and not enough people had claimed. The money is there to be used, if it isn’t the pot will be reduced for next year’s students because it will seem that the award isn’t necessary. It’s in everyone’s interests to apply.

5. Do the Maths. While we are on the subject of money, one thing I made sure to do at the beginning of every year was to divide my fees by the number of classes I had. When you see how much you are paying for every class, you are much less likely to skip one!

6. Work backwards. Studying and working is all about the planning. In the first class of every course I have ever attended, I have been given a breakdown of each week along with assignment deadlines and topics. I always immediately put these dates in my diary. I then work backwards from that date. If I have an essay due on 30th March I know that on the 29th I will be doing my final checks, on the 28th I need to be writing my bibliography, a week before I should have the bulk of the text written, four weeks before then I need to start reading. Once you track it back in this way you will be able get really bloody organised. You can see when you need to visit the library to get the books you will be reading or if the day you intend to write your final draft clashes with your Mum’s birthday so will need to be shunted forward. By planning this out months ahead, you give yourself the room to manoeuvre and break the work down into manageable chunks. You won’t find yourself a week from deadline with a friend visiting from out of town, 20 books to read, chapters to write and a works away-day to attend. It also means that you don’t even have to think about the assignment until a day in your diary appears that says ‘start prepping essay’.

7. Don’t squeeze in reading. Contrary to common ‘hard-work-movie-montage-scenes’ I found that reading on the train between work and class or on my break left me with very little of substance. It’s fine to read a great novel on your lunch break but it’s more difficult to make meaningful notes on meaty theoretical textbooks in the middle of your working day. Set yourself allocated reading hours every night (say between 7-10pm) and then longer at the weekends. Don’t try to cram your reading into other parts of your day; it just becomes blurry and stressful.


8. Two birds, one stone. As I mentioned above, every class I have ever been in will give you a breakdown of each week at the start of the course. Depending on your subject area, these may be broken down into thematic areas, i.e. in a course covering the history of the Roman Empire one week may cover, religion, women’s roles, or the army. Many lecturers favour students taking it in turns to lead the discussion each week with a presentation. If you are planning to write your essay on a particular subject, it makes sense to offer to lead the class on the week that relates to your area of interest. You will get a head start on your research and also an opportunity to bounce your arguments off of your peers. This works for group projects and other smaller class assignments too. If there is ever the chance to kill two birds with one stone- take it! Heck, you have work in the morning!

9. Optimise the dead space. The time you spend at work doesn’t have to be dead air to your studies. If your work allows you to wear headphones, optimise your time by listening to audiobooks/lectures/documentaries or podcasts on your chosen area. These might not be sources that you can reel off in an exam but you would be amazed at how this sort of media can really contextualise your learning. Honestly, the number of times some nugget of information from a BBC documentary dramatisation links into what I’m reading is uncanny and it really helps to bring things to life. It is also important to keep up with current trends in your field. Arguments and theories change remarkably quickly and popular debate shows, TV and radio programmes can be quicker at disseminating these developments than traditional published sources.

10. Don’t moan! I am a firm believer that the more you moan about a situation the harder it becomes to see any good in it. I made a pact with myself when I started studying that I would be thankful for every opportunity to learn that the course afforded me. I wouldn’t moan to classmates about being tired, the late finishes, or the workloads. I wouldn’t write status updates on social media about how stressed I was or how much I hated writing essays. It was my decision to embark on this journey, so I would embrace it and not complain. My closest friends and family did of course see the bad times. T in particular had to be my cheerleader on many occasions, especially when getting up at 6am on a Sunday to hunker down with some big weighty tome for the next 14 hours. It was impossible in five years not to have moments of self-doubt both about my own abilities and my reasons for starting the whole thing. However, you can’t let those moments become the norm, and moaning about the bad bits of the journey normalises those thoughts. Feel them, have a nap, and then crack on. After all you’re in the middle of doing something completely amazing.


Now go forth and learn!



Image: Bettina Holst.


The Weekly Index: 15th May 2015

15th May 2015

Well what’s been occuring in the first week of post-election Britain? Stuff like this…

♦  Women only armies you say?

♦ What is really inside the animal mummies of Ancient Egypt? Not a lot….

The living goddesses of Nepal.

5 ways to improve your morning routine. Can’t see ‘eat Nutella from the jar while watching Clueless’ but interesting none the less.

Wes Anderson designs a bar and the internet quite rightly explodes.

♦ An interesting feature about female funeral directors.

♦ Stanley Kubrick’s fabulous photos of 1940s New York.

♦ A fun little piece looking at canibalism in Mexico’s La Quemada civilisation.

♦ 4 tips on using social media to find a job.

Red blood cells found in Otzi the Iceman!

How to smell like death and decay. I actually went and tried this scent on after watching this video. That was six days ago and my jacket still reeks of this fragrance. Heads up, Death and Decay is pretty potent.

♦ I could watch this forever! Who knew oil, water and soap could be so pretty?

♦ Did someone say Jetson’s house? In LOVE with Pierre Cardins Bubble Palace.

♦ And as always, something silly to end on. Women having a terrible time at parties in Western art history.


Have a wonderful rest of Friday and a relaxing weekend.