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Tips for a successful move to college

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

Moving on to college is exciting, the first taste of real independence and a chance to really spread your wings.

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This year sees not only first years, but the majority of second years heading to campus for the first time. After 18 months of rolling lockdowns and extensive restrictions, freedom has never felt so good. Just as the move brings the excitement, it can also bring a certain level of worry about the unknown and even a sense overwhelm at adjusting to a very different system. All of that is completely normal, you are among thousands of others in the same boat. The first couple of weeks are really important as you become familiar with a new place and system, without the watchful eye of parents and teachers. Take time to find out as much as you can about your new surroundings and the many supports available to you, as you navigate this change.

Orientation

At this stage some of you will have attended your registration and orientation day. The biggest challenge at the beginning is finding your way around the campus and outside of it and reading a more complex timetable. It is worth spending a few days before lectures to start familiarising yourself with the various buildings that you will need to frequent. If the college have an App, download it as many have an interactive map. If not, ask directions at the main reception desk or from college security staff as they will know the place inside out. It’s not all about getting to lectures, you will also need to locate the closest shops and bus stops. Shops on campus can be expensive so make sure to find the nearest large supermarket to keep those shopping bills as low as possible. The student service office and Student’s Union is a great port of call if you have questions about anything, whatever the issue they will point you in the right direction.

Making friends

While you may have some school friends in the same course and college, making new friends is a vital part of settling in to college life. You will meet plenty of new people on your course and in student accommodation. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to meet new people. Joining some of the clubs and societies on offer in the college is a fantastic way to widen your circle of friends early in the college year - and of course take part in Freshers Week activities safely.

Budgeting

Surviving college involves having to live on a budget. While lots of college students work part-time, you want to make sure you strike the right balance and that means watching what you spend. Look at the cheaper tickets for public transport, organise to do a large shop as a college household once a fortnight, explore the options to get the books you need in the library as opposed to buying them, and cut out the expensive takeaway coffees!

Assessment & Grading

One of the biggest shocks that students get in college is realising that unlike school, assessment starts really early in the college term. Look at the detail of all your modules including when and how you will be assessed. You also need to learn about the grading system as it is very different to secondary school. All courses have a co-ordinator and many have tutors so ask them the specific questions, it will save disappointment later in the year. Referencing is a huge issue for first year students as it must be done correctly, follow the guidelines carefully from early on. Plagiarism is also something to be mindful of. Many colleges use a software package such as Turnitin to scan your work to ensure that it is authentic - so don’t risk it!

COVID-19 still casts a shadow on how we interact socially and even with high levels of vaccinations it is prevalent. Learning to take care of your physical, mental and sexual health as well as your personal safety is all part of becoming independent. Do everything you can to look after yourself and enjoy the very best that college life has to offer. And if you are struggling academically, personally, socially or financially, don’t bury your head in the sand, reach out to the various support services available in college and outside of it.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Careers Advisor - For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Jobs to keep gardeners busy

The weather is glorious at the moment, so I thought I would put together some jobs to keep every gardener busy! Winter bedding is now available – so plant up containers and pots to keep everything cheerful this winter! Conifers such as Goldcrest and Elwoodiis are an excellent choice for a centrepiece, as are Cordylines, […]

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The weather is glorious at the moment, so I thought I would put together some jobs to keep every gardener busy!

Winter bedding is now available – so plant up containers and pots to keep everything cheerful this winter! Conifers such as Goldcrest and Elwoodiis are an excellent choice for a centrepiece, as are Cordylines, Phormiums and topiary plants such as Buxus and Bay laurels. Heathers give colour all winter, as do ornamental cabbages. Winter pansies, violas and Batchelor’s buttons are all in stock now, and will provide colour for months, Cyclamen are beautiful – but beware! They do not like getting too wet, so ideally use them in pots and window boxes which do not get too much rain.

Bulbs provide a welcome splash of colour in the early spring, at a time when things are looking grey and grim. Choose from an extensive range – tulips, daffs, crocus, snowdrops – to name but a few. Planting mixtures of different varieties can lead to stunning displays in a pot, for example, plant in layers: tulips at the bottom, then daffs, hyacinth, crocus and anenomes for a long lasting pot of colour. In the garden plant bulbs in informal clusters of uneven numbers to give a natural looking display. Alliums are particularly trendy at the moment, these ornamental onions are available in pinks, white and yellow.

PRUNING

Pruning is one of those jobs which can give immense satisfaction. All old flower heads, the straggly growth of herbaceous plants and branches of unkempt shrubs can go into the compost heap. Pruning equipment can be confusing for the new gardener, so here are a few guidelines: there are two types of secateurs, bypass and anvil. The anvil secateurs is used for dead wood, but the bypass secateurs can be used for live as well as dead wood. The hedge shears are used to prune large shrubs or hedges, but is best for soft or thin growth. Loppers are used to prune trees and thicker branches and have long handles. These also come as anvil or bypass. Some of these are geared, these take the strain and strength needed out of the job, an excellent invention!

As the days get shorter and wetter, moss will start to grow again. Treat paths before they get slippy, with a product such as MossOff. Try to keep fallen leaves off lawns as they contribute to poor growth of grass and strong moss growth. A leafblower makes the job easy – especially a cordless one!

Lawns benefit from a final treatment in the autumn with a product such as an Autumn Lawn Feed and Weed or Viano Recovery from the producers of MO Bacter. These products both treat the roots of the grass, making the plant itself stronger for the winter. They do not cause excessive growth.

Finally, if there are empty beds in your vegetable garden, consider sowing a green manure such as winter rye or red clover. These will prevent weeds from taking over as well as enriching the soil with nitrogen. In the spring they can be cut down and dug into the soil, providing essential organic matter.

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Take the stress out of a career change

By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors People change career for a variety of reasons. For some people the desire to change comes from feeling unfulfilled or stressed in a current role or the need for more flexibility and autonomy as circumstances in your personal life evolve. Other people are prompted […]

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

People change career for a variety of reasons. For some people the desire to change comes from feeling unfulfilled or stressed in a current role or the need for more flexibility and autonomy as circumstances in your personal life evolve.

Other people are prompted to change because of ambition to develop professionally, the desire for more meaning or purpose, job security or to earn more money.

Whether career change is forced upon you through organisational restructuring or is an active choice you are making, it can bring a mix of emotions. Among them is the fear and a lack of confidence on how to navigate the change effectively and the feeling of overwhelm associated with not knowing where to start. Conversely, it can be a time of great excitement about the possibility of taking on a new (and maybe very different) role or opportunity. Either way, drawing up a career action plan that breaks down the process into manageable tasks will help to ease any stress associated with career change and save you time and energy in the long run.

UNLOCKING YOUR POTENTIAL

Start by thinking about where you are now and where you would like to be – what are your priorities and non-negotiables and what are the practicalities you need to consider? To dig deeper do a self-assessment audit of your transferable skills and competencies, your career values and character strengths. Journal your career change journey by recording anything interesting you find out about yourself or career areas you are interested in. Some people like the idea of drawing up a career vision board as part of the process. Set clear goals and a specific timeline for yourself. As you gain more clarity, write out what your ideal job specification might look like, this will guide your job search. Explore options to up-skill or retrain if you feel this is helpful or necessary. Do a spring clean of your CV so that it reflects you accurately and favourably. Reach out to people in your network who may be able to assist you as you navigate this transition. Think about possible side projects you could work on to explore different areas before taking a big leap. Set up or update your LinkedIn profile, it is an important part of career development. Practice interview skills, you want to be able to perform confidently when they come around. Think about this process as unlocking the potential of your ‘career brand’ so that you and prospective employers have a strong sense of who you are professionally, what you value and what you bring to the workplace. Doing this work will enable you to approach your job search and career change with renewed confidence. It will take some time but it will be worth it!

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Careers Advisor – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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