Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ten Things I Learned in Lent Term

Yesterday was the last day of the Lent Term - and yes, I too think it's archaic and inappropriate for an international university to identify academic terms by Christian religious seasons. I have completed two thirds of my masters degree program - and yes, I've achieved this without really doing much work. But the past 10 weeks have certainly been a learning experience.

I feel that it's important to deconstruct and share this experience with anyone who is either considering graduate school (to convince you to do otherwise) or anyone who is currently a graduate student (to let you know that you're not alone in "the struggle").

Ten Things I Learned in Lent Term

1. Stressing over an essay that is worth anything less than 100% of the course grade is a waste of time, full-stop.

2. Treat yourself!. For example, when I finish a paper, I get a pedicure and if I finish all of my readings for the week, I'm allowed to have brunch on a Sunday. Even for small things, like going to a boring lecture, I found that reserving a small reward, like a long, hot shower or an extra hour in bed, was quite motivating.

3. Make realistic to-do lists. It is not reasonable to say that you will do 10 readings in one day. By number five or six you'll be asleep at your desk. Oh and don't forget to reward yourself (see above) after you have successfully checked everything off your list.

4. Take "big picture" things like your dissertation or your job search one at a time. Focusing on the task at hand is the only option that I have - right now, that task is my dissertation. After all, I am a full-time student. I know that my job search will be a full-time job come September, and I'm going to wait until then to worry about it. During the term I found myself stressed about my career prospects, and luckily, I realized that even though it is important, it isn't healthy to stress about it now because it doesn't have an impending due date (like that essay I should be writing).

5. Advisors knows best. My advisor is my go-to, for all things academic and some things personal. He is full of wisdom and he likes Sam Hunt and Starbucks, so I trust him most when I have questions and issues. Just the other day, I was at a crossroads in my research. After talking with him for less than two minutes, I had my "AH HA!" moment. I'm incredibly grateful for him.

6. Don't talk about yourself so much. By the middle of the term, I was just plain tired of listening to my course mates talk about themselves and their past experiences in seminars. Personally, I was tired of talking about the Affordable Care Act before classes even began in the fall, and it was disappointing that my course mates couldn't leave their pasts behind. And while I suppose it's easy and comfortable to relate discussion topics to past experiences (whether academic or professional), it just doesn't seem fair to yourself or your course mates to dwell on that experience. Especially in social policy, new ideas need to be brought to the table to keep the conversation moving forward, perhaps toward innovative policy solutions!

7. A cold is a productivity killer. Take your vitamin C, kids! Graduate students don't have time to get sick.

8. Speaking of productivity killers... Netflix is the enemy.

9. Find a go-to study spot. Luckily, my favorite seat in the LSE Library was waiting for me when I returned for my MSc program. When I know that I need to focus and, for lack of a better term, "get shit done," I head there. And actually, as soon as I finish this post, I'll be posted up there for the remainder of the afternoon.

10. Eat brain food. When schoolwork piles up, students tend to do two things: replace meals with coffee or binge on comfort food. I'm not a nutritionist, but I know that neither my brain not my body function at 100% when I don't eat well. It's certainly easy to skip meals under stress and to binge on Pret because it's easy. But, it's also quite easy to pack a healthy snack for a day on campus. My go-to is a Tupperware full of healthy snacks - I usually bring edamame, strawberries or grapes, a handful of walnuts and some Babybell cheeses. It takes me two minutes to put this snack pack together and it keeps me going during the day.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dublin in a Day

I returned yesterday from Prague. On the tube ride back to my flat, I was thinking about how excited I am to write about Prague... and then I realized that I still haven't written about my last two trips - to Dublin and Chicago, respectively. To be fair to my Irish friends (and my American friends that live in Ireland, Lauren and Alex), I figured that I ought to write about the quick little trip I took to Dublin in the fall.

I never had much of a desire to go to Dublin. My boyfriend visited this summer and returned to our beach house after 48 hours with a bottle of Jameson. I prefer big, nearly manic cities full of people from every continent - like London and New York and Johannesburg. Dublin, as far as I could tell, seemed too quaint for my liking. But when I visited, quaint was exactly what I needed. I flew in early on Thanksgiving Day and was greeted by my friend Lauren and our host, Lauren's friend, Declan. As soon as we left the airport, I saw a sea of green. Green, green, beautiful grass (and to my utter joy, some sheep!) AND blue sky! I was in a state of near hysteria seeing a natural landscape after having not left the cloudy concrete and cobblestone mess that is London for nearly six months.

Day 1:

We took the bus into the city center of Dublin and I was happy to see that there was still a lot more green than in London. We hopped off the bus at St. Stephen's Green and walked up Grafton Street, the main shopping thoroughfare. We had no agenda, except to have a few drinks and eat dinner. We briefly walked through the Trinity College campus and stopped at a nearby pub, O'Donoghue's, on Suffolk Street, for a pint of cider. I couldn't have been happier to be just hanging out with my college friend, forgetting about essay writing and being late for lecture because of delayed Tube lines for a few days.

Then, since it was Thanksgiving, we headed to dinner with Lauren's mom and her significant other and had a very non-traditional Thanksgiving meal - I had Guinness and beef stew - and lots of laughs.  At dinner, we also met another Flagler College alum - talk about a small world! We were talking about our favorite St. Auggie spots over drinks when the man at the table next to us leaned over and said "Are you talking about Flagler College?" And just like that, I found myself feeling not so far away from home for the holiday! After dinner we set off for another pub (it's what you do in Ireland!) to meet up with yet another friend of mine from Flagler, Alex. I was really glad to introduce Lauren and Alex. Lauren was set to move to Dublin to begin graduate school in January  and I thought it would be a great resource for her to have a fellow Flagler alum to help her transition (and to no surprise at all, they are now inseparable in Ireland!). We had a few drinks at a JW Sweetman's pub by the river and headed back to Declan's flat, as we didn't want to miss our next day's appointment at the Jameson distillery.

Flagler College reunion in Dublin!

Day 2: 

The next day we headed off to the old Jameson distillery bright and early. I'm not much of a beer drinker, so the Guinness tour didn't appeal to me. But I did spend five years studying in the American South and since I consider myself a whiskey gal, I was really excited about visiting Jameson's. Before the tour started, we indulged in Irish coffees. We didn't realize that the tour included a copious amount of samples, but needless to say, we learned a lot about whiskey and drank a lot of whiskey. The best part of the tour was the whiskey tasting - to compare the once distilled American Jack Daniels, the twice distilled Scotch Johnny Walker's (my least favorite), and the thrice distilled Jameson. The consensus? Jameson is the best!

With a solid buzz, we left for the Book of Kells. I'll be honest here, I had no idea what the Book of Kells was before we entered the gallery at Trinity College. It was interesting to learn a bit about Irish history and the artwork that comprises the manuscripts is beautiful (in a very medieval way). My favorite part about Trinity was the old library. I'm sure that people make this reference constantly, but I really felt like I was at Hogwarts! We then decided that we'd had enough tourist-ing for one day and settled in at a cozy pub with two of Declan's friends. After a light meal and some good conversation, we decided to head back home, despite the fact that it was only about 7:00 pm. We asked ourselves, "Are we getting old?" But we decided, "We're not old, we just started our day by drinking at noon!"

So... no, I didn't see much of Dublin, but this wasn't a tourist-y trip. And no offense to my Irish ancestors, but I wasn't terribly interested in seeing castles or old jails - we have those in England too. But as far as I'm concerned, the trip was a success because I was able to relax outside of the big, crazy city with some good friends. I can't wait for them to visit me in London next week! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brunchin' on a Budget in East London

Being a full-time graduate student forces me to live on a pretty tight budget. This isn't easy, considering that I live in one of the world's most expensive cities. So, unfortunately, brunch isn't always in my budget. But this doesn't mean that I've given up indulging in my favorite Sunday pastime - I've just started to explore my options more intensively, and with my wallet in mind, before indulging. And because London is the greatest city in the world, I haven't been disappointed.

Luckily, there exists a large blogosphere in this city. I follow Time Out London and Londonist on Twitter, and I monitor a handful of London-y blogs via Feedly. The first two alone provide seemingly endless possibilities for "places to eat" and "things to do." There also exists in my adopted home city, a large population of post-graduates looking to dine out on the cheap, and the interests of this cohort are over-represented in the blogosphere. Thus, I've discovered, and have decided to review, two East London brunch spots where you can indulge in brunch on a Sunday without having to skip meals because you're broke on Monday.

Mr Buckley's: 

Take the 55 bus from Central London
...just beware that it's awfully slow on Sundays.

I discovered Mr. Buckley's after just a Google search of "brunch in Hackney." A group of friends and I finally went for brunch the day after my birthday. I made reservations about a week in advance for six people, and they happily accommodated us. When I walked in, late to my own party, I knew it was the right place - they have a large, vintage map of the British Empire framed on the wall near the front door. I'm still looking for one for my flat. 

The cocktail menu was pretty crafty. I had a "Copper Candy," made with vodka, Aperol, apricot liquor, lemon and plum bitters (it was my birthday, so it was acceptable to drink vodka before noon!). Anything with Aperol is A-okay with me. For my main brunch course I had the smoked salmon, avocado, and poached eggs on sourdough toast. Eggs here in the U.K. are much tastier than eggs in the U.S.A, because they don't abuse their chickens as badly, so my eggy brunch dish was guilt-free, fresh, and perfectly poached. I was sort of sad when it was over. But alas... it was my birthday, so I had dessert too. I was surprised to see pumpkin anything on the menu - pumpkin food is quite American! My inner "basic girl who loves autumn things" couldn't pass up the pumpkin cheesecake. It was all delicious.

We spent about £17 each with a cocktail, which is a solid deal for anywhere in the London area. The service was great as well, which is a treat in the U.K. They didn't mind that we were sitting around for so long or heatedly debating social policy issues in the developing 
world. So with great food and great conversation, it was a fabulous birthday brunch! 

We walked home along Hackney Rd... it was "all good" after brunch at Mr. Buckley's!


7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE
It's in the middle of Shoreditch
...if you don't know where it is, you suck.

I went to Dishoom on a rare sunny Sunday with my girl friend in search of a decent cup of chai and some nice flowers from Columbia Road. We arrived early for breakfast because we wanted to beat the crowd to the flower market, and we were rewarded with being exempt from the brunch crowd queue. She had heard about Dishoom, a colonial Bombay-themed cafe, via the blogosphere. We went straight for the chai and I was ecstatic because it was real chai... in comparison to the watered down, vaguely cinnamon-y milk drink from Starbucks. It was so good that I sucked it down before my eggs came. I had the Kejriwal - two fried eggs on chili cheese toast. There's nothing spicy eggs to wake you up in the morning! We had second cup of chai and then...

I begged my boyfriend to go back with me the next weekend (and of course, he obliged!). We each had bacon naan rolls and they were gone within three minutes of being served. The naan is freshly baked in-house, stuffed with fried British bacon rashers, and dressed with cream cheese and chili tomato jam. I wanted to order a second but ultimately decided not to because it was Valentine's Day and we were planning on having a decadent French dinner date later in the day. Next time, I'll eat as many naan rolls as I please. The chai washes them down nicely!

Dishoom Shoreditch is great, and as far as "value for money" goes, it can't be beat! I live closer to the Covent Garden location and I'm want to try that one next time. Shoreditch is full of brunchers - it's like the Brooklyn of London, after all. However, the queue is always long, and the service is just alright. For the same menu, I think that it's worth trying one of their other locations. But as far as brunch in London goes, it's worth a visit - the food is delicious, the atmosphere is unique, and well, there are no Bombay cafes in Jacksonville, Florida... 

Good to know, Dishoom!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Writer's Woes and Post-grad Probs

I find it terribly ironic (and defeating) that my last post, written in October, was about "Getting Things Done." Clearly, I've failed at that initiative because I've had neither the time nor the energy to write on my personal blog.

Matcha latte from Timberyard cafe
in the Seven Dials. They're the best.
Here's a brief run down of how that happened: During term time, I spend an average of:

    • 8 hours on campus per week day, 
    • 1.5 hours at the gym in the evenings, 
    • 6 hours per week at work, 
    • 20-24 hours total reading per week, and,
    • 4 hours Skyping per week.
I somehow find time in between all of that to sleep. I've also spent a few hours in between in my bathtub, pondering my dissertation topic and binge watching the News Room, as well a few hours at various London coffee shops fueling my reading sessions with matcha lattes and flat whites.

In the world that I live in, we call these "Post-grad Problems," known in less eloquent social media circles as: #postgradprobs. A post-grad problem is anything that disallows one from carrying out the functions of normal human life. For example, I had to carry an extra duffel bag, full of books, home with me for the holidays... not normal and not good for my back. Needless to say, my colleagues and I (it's good to know that you aren't alone!) have a
lot of post-grad probs these days...

BUT! This doesn't mean that I haven't been writing. I've been writing essays, rambling Facebook statuses about how much I hate said essays, and I've been contributing to a student blog in which I talk about my happenings at LSE. And so, until I can sort the rest of my post-grad problems out, check out the blog posts that I've written for the Students @ LSE blog here: Author- Hannah Ferris - Students @LSE blog

Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting Things Done

Until I began my professional life, I was a denier of productivity advice. As an undergrad, productivity to me was asking my roommate for an Adderall and hitting Club Proctor (aka: the Flagler College library) hard. That changed when I was handed the 21-day positive focus project on my first day at the Bailey Group. 

Now, I'm a productivity freak. A few weeks ago, I was exposed to the world of Getting Things Done during training for my new job with Team Up. In the past three weeks, I've seen my productivity level skyrocket. And it's all because of this dude, David Allen:

Photo source:
Now, I'll be honest, I haven't read the book. But James Harwood, a consultant at Next Action Associates, presented to us "the jist" of the book. He outlined the five steps of mastering workflow, or for those of us not presently in a professional environment, managing to do more with less stress. I'm not going to outline them here, but I am going to share the five things that have boosted my productivity after receiving the advice of Mr. Allen and Mr. Harwood.

Hannah Ferris's "five":

  1. Invest in an "in" box: Put all of the physical things you need to do in a special place. You'll know where they are, which for some people, myself sometimes included, is a necessary first step. The second goal is to clear it out from time to time - I try to clear mine out weekly. Right now, I've got two articles to read and an empty box of tea bags in my in box, and I have until Thursday (when the reading is due) to clear it out.
  2. Save social media: This one has easily been the biggest boost to my productivity. For the past two weeks, I have only allowed myself to check social media twice a day; once in the morning, over coffee, and once in the evening, while I'm laying in bed. Of course, it's tempting to look at Instagrams during long lectures, but resisting temptation has done wonders for my ability to focus in class. Plus, I know what a pumpkin spice latte looks like... I already have one on my desk. I highly recommend limiting social media usage. Social media itself can be a source of stress, so simply cutting back can help.
  3. Recognize an "enhancer": An enhancer is something that currently aids your productivity. Mine is yoga. Don't ask me why or how, but a yoga session for me is like a restart button. When ever I get home from a yoga class, I feel energized and ready to take on the world, even if the world is a long reading on African political economy. So find your enhancer, I just don't recommend Adderall...
  4. Collect for five minutes: For three Sundays in a row, I've collected my thoughts, literally, on a piece of paper. This is a lot easier than it sounds. Turn off the computer, iPhone, TV, and write down all the thoughts you have and things you need to do on a piece of paper. This is more than a traditional to-do list. My latest collection of thoughts had things like "E-mail Betty", "I hope the kitchen is clean", "I'm lucky to have such a great boyfriend", and "Apply to exchange program." All thoughts deserve a spot
  5. Classify collections: When you're finished "collecting," you can then classify. Some things will be immediately actionable (I emailed Betty as soon as I'd finished this part of the exercise), some will be "for later" (I can't apply to the exchange program I'm interested in until December, but I marked the date of the application opening in my planner), and some will be "non-actionable"(For example, I just need to be happy about my recognition that I have such a great boyfriend). You can liken this to cleaning up your email inbox (another immensely productive thing to do) - where you put some emails in folders and some in the trash.
I really can't thank these productivity guys enough. I think that my writing tonight is evidence that my productivity has increased. I haven't had "time" to write since September (!!) but now, here I am with a few free hours, on a Monday! If you're really into this, read the book. If not, try at least one of the five things above... I guarantee it will help you if it could help me! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Emma Watson Is My Hero

Emma Watson gave a powerful speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Miss Watson, AKA: Hermione Granger, is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She spoke to the General Assembly to promote the launch of a new UN Women campaign, the "HeForShe" campaign, which entails the efforts of both men and women to achieve gender equality goals.

I can't outline or summarize the important points of Miss Watson's speech because they are all important. As far as I can tell, there has never been a clearer articulation of the concept of feminism. It's not just about women - it's about men and women - because you can't have equality with only the efforts of one side. Here it is:

If Miss Watson's message struck a chord with you, check these out too:

  • Amy Poehler's "Smart Girls at the Party"
  • Ambassador Samantha Power's White House blog
  • Lego's female scientists
  • Kiva's "ladies' only" micro-lending scheme
    • I've made two $25 loans in the past year. They were both repaid in full and I was immensely proud of the women who I was able to lend to. This an excellent way for anyone to contribute to the effort to empower women in developing countries.
  • Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In
    • Read the book, talk about the book, and get on board with the "Ban Bossy" campaign. When I started my internship with the Bailey Group, my first task was to read Lean In and I will be forever grateful for that task!

P.S. Does anyone else think that Hermione Granger's strong female character influenced Watson's current position? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seriously? Social Policy?

This is what social policy really entails.
I've been back in London for a week. A week is enough time away from the US of A to share a story related to my upcoming studies. That's why I'm in London, after all, to study... And eat Indian food... and do yoga with Chris Martin (though not simultaneously). Those are the only really remarkable things I've done thus far.

I digress - This story for me is a justification - if you know me and my moral compass well enough, you'll understand why quite quickly. I also think that sharing this story is timely for many reasons, including, but not limited to: serious international terror threats, the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, the ending of the NATO summit, just to name a few.

On a terribly stormy Friday evening at the Hyppo, a small, soaking wet family, came in seeking refuge from the ferocious Florida rain. The father commented on the book I'd left lying on the counter to serve them - "The Global Politics of HIV/AIDS." He said "Sad subject," and asked, "Why are you reading that?" I told him that it was summer reading for my master's program. His wife asked what I'd be studying...

Me: "I will be studying for my Masters in Social Policy at the London School of Economics." (And my lovely co-worker, and friend, Tia, proudly smiled in support!)
Her: "Seriously? What even is social policy?"
Me, swallowing throat lump full of rage: "Ever heard of the Affordable Care Act?"

She said yes and I gave a small sigh in relief, but I still didn't think that she fully understood so I continued to decimate her intelligence. And now I'm aiming to do the same for the rest of the world, or at least for those who can't form a general idea from the name "social policy." I told her that a country's social policy is a reflection of its development goals. In the US, the best and most current example is the Affordable Care Act - it's a law that has the end goal of benefiting American society by improving access to health care. 

Health is just one area of social policy - and health just so happens to be the area that I'm most interested in. Social policies may be crafted to deal with urbanization, education, gender equality, poverty, population control, and even the environment. Social policy may be written by international organizations, like the World Bank or the UN, national governments, or local governments. And then, it may be implemented by some, or all of those same actors. The success of a piece of social policy is determined by the impact that it has on the people. Of course, it's difficult to measure this impact without being in the field (which is one of my goals - that I'll get to travel to see what works and what doesn't). But so long as a piece of legislation has in mind the best interests of the people who are the worst off, then it's considered social policy.

I've said this before - there is a lot of ignorance in America, especially when it comes to understanding how other human beings live in places like Cambodia or Lesotho. (Speaking of ignorance, place those two countries on a map, ya'll!) The people who live in such places aren't just statistics or pictures on subway posters. They're people too. And at the very least, everyone should have an interest in social policy, since the goal of social policy is to make the world better for members of your species who are less fortunate than you.