Saturday, October 4, 2014

Study Tips: Where To Study

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While there are times when I study propped up in bed or curled up with a blanket on the couch, I do know (after fighting through the denial) that those are not the ideal places to study. They might, however, be all right places to make study notes. Because I see making study notes and actually learning the material as separate stages of studying, I'll categorize my study locations by those two things.

Places That Are Okay For Making Study Notes (But Not For Studying!)

I see making study notes as a mechanical process, meaning that I don't have to concentrate all that hard to make summary notes from lecture notes. Because I don't like isolating myself completely, I save that for when I actually need to learn the material, and in the meantime enjoy some white noise and public company while making my study notes.

1) a coffee shop
Personally I don't study in coffee shops as I'd rather not spend money on coffee and food, but I know that lots of people find them great places to get work done. They're nice environments for note-making and being in a public place where other people can see your computer screen can prompt you to get work done, rather than peruse blogs or Facebook :)
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Block 1912 European Cafe (reminds me of Central Perk in Friends!)

2) the "noisy" floor of the library
I really love studying in the university or public library. Being around other people who are studying is motivation to get work done myself. The main floor of the library can be a pretty distracting place to study, but is less lonely and soul-draining than an isolated study carrel on the "silent floor" and just fine for making notes.
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Rutherford Library's Reading Room (a.k.a. Harry Potter Room)

3) common areas in university buildings
I have my favourite study carrels and tables in various buildings around campus. One major benefit is that unlike in the library, you're free to eat :)
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one of many study places in the hallways of the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy

4) common areas in my home (kitchen, living room)
At home when I'm tired of studying in my bedroom, I switch to making notes at the kitchen table or on the living room couch.
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kitchen table studying

5) in bed
Yes, I make lots of notes in bed. I even bought a "lap desk" at Walmart to facilitate my laziness.
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my lap desk -- $9 well spent!

Where I Study

When I set out to learn the material in my study notes, I know that I really need to concentrate. That means isolating myself from any distractions -- including other people. Group studying does not work for me! I find that I am less focused, spend time on things that I may already know and skip over things that I may need to learn, and get intimated by how much other people appear to already know.

1) a silent floor in the library
During exam time I'll spend whole days holed up in a study carrel on the silent floor of the library. I know that I'm there to study and all around me people are doing the same, so it's not hard to stay motivated. I keep my laptop in my bag or leave it at home. I think it helps to be able to associate studying with the library, so that when I get home I know that my studying is done and I'm free to relax.
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Rutherford Library -- outside is inside
The problem with studying in the library during exams is that it gets really busy. I pick an area of isolated study carrels where I have some company but don't feel claustrophobic. Good study carrels are coveted, so I make sure I don't leave for long. Eating can be a problem...I've mastered the art of snacking sneakily (holding off on the crunchy nuts, cutting my PB sandwich into bite-sized pieces), but going outside for a quick bite is also important to staying sane. It's nice to study with a friend nearby, but not too close (i.e. separate study carrels; don't share a table -- too distracting!).
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study carrels...but note the lack of electrical outlets -- these ones won't fill up too quickly!

2) my bedroom desk
My room is not large, but I've made a "study corner" where I can focus on schoolwork. It's important to have a desk. I bought a simple table from Ikea for only $26 (you can pick any colour combination for the table top and legs). To complete my little office corner I also bought a bookcase ($20 from Walmart) and filing cabinet ($30 from London Drugs). I've brightened it up with a little floor rug ($3 from Ikea). I put my desk by the window to capitalize on natural light and fresh air. If I get distracted by people out on the street, I angle the blinds so that they allow sunlight in but block my view of the sidewalk.
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my bedroom "office" -- photo taken from this angle to feature the rug (it really ties the room together)

3) empty classrooms with whiteboards

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