Hello and welcome to my April blog! It’s the Easter holidays right now; I’m writing this blog with a beer in my hand and a sea breeze in my hair, somewhere on the Balkan coastline (it’s a hard life), having spent the last two weeks travelling in the sun (read: avoiding my coursework…)
I believe it’s super important to take breaks from study/work, and before talking about rockets (again), I want to touch on the importance of doing nothing. Now, taking a break can mean saving up for months to go abroad, or it can mean simply taking a day off each week to do the household chores and catch up on that really addictive Netflix series. Time to actively not do work, to have a life beyond your studies. You-time.
Now, this may seem obvious, no? Well, I mention this because a year and a half ago, 21-year-old me didn’t think so. I thought I could squeeze work into every waking moment and get more done. I wanted to squeeze every drop of productivity out of my day and to do that, I thought, I had to keep myself busy. So, as if Part C Mechanical Engineering wasn’t enough, I started the Space society, signed up to the TEDx society, and joined the AU Lacrosse club. …And the AU Scuba Diving club. …And took up two part-time jobs.
The result? I was busy. Really busy. I ended up working from 8 am until midnight, every day, for three months. It was the most productive I had ever been, I was keeping on top of everything, and I was doing loads of awesome stuff. But I was miserable. And I had no idea why. And sure enough, that started to affect my productivity, and my work started slipping.
Take a break
Basically, after having chatted to my personal tutor, I realised I didn’t have any “me” time in my schedule, and I didn’t have a ‘life’ outside my course, my sports, or my societies. He gave me some valuable advice that I’ve tried to stick with ever since;
“Make sure you do nothing for at least one day a week. Make sure you can put down your work for a day, and not feel guilty about not doing it”
And while it didn’t fix my problems overnight, adding a break into my routine did work, and my mood slowly improved. I didn’t get quite as much work done, but I was in a happier place, and I started to do stuff for me that I enjoyed. A year on, and I’m still by no means perfect at it yet, but I feel very strongly that doing nothing (in measure, of course) has improved my long-term productivity, morale and mood. Give it a try!
Now, I do believe the title mentioned something about rockets…
Before term ended, I managed to support the first-ever deployment of Loughborough University’s “Rocket In A Box” – something the School & College Liaison team and the Space Society have been working on for several months together. All the hard work from both teams culminated in a complete, self-contained box that can be mailed out to schools, for secondary school students all over the country to learn about rocketry and projectile motion. To test out the box, myself and a few members of the rocketry team travelled to a nearby school to deliver the lesson.
Notwithstanding my perpetual derp-face in professional photos (see above), the outing went great. One of the student teams managed to launch a rocket over 40 metres! It was thoroughly enjoyable to see our work translate into excitement and happy faces in the classroom. Making engineering exciting, engaging and fun for the next generation is crucial to the industry, and I am thrilled we managed to make a contribution that will, hopefully, have an impact on thousands of kids over the years (not literally, I do not condone firing rockets at kids…)
All too soon, however, the Easter holiday arrived, which meant time for travelling! I had managed to find super cheap flights (including a £27 seat from Montenegro to the UK – thank you Skyscanner), so planned my trip around that; ticking off countries 28, 29 and 30! Starting in Italy (Trieste), I bussed it through Slovenia (Ljubljana, Bled), to Croatia (Zadar, Dubrovnik), through Bosnia and finally to Montenegro (Kotor) over a week, with my camera in hand.
The Balkans are both beautiful and affordable; I had an amazing week and would thoroughly recommend travelling to that part of the world if you’re looking for an adventure. If you fancy a 90-minute hike to the top, the views from the mountains overlooking Dubrovnik are pretty special, too…
That’s all for this month, comment below if you’d like to see some more of my travel snaps, or more of my ramblings on how to balance your time, or on more of my escapades as an engineer! But for now, Živjeli!