Katerina’s Blog – 25 March 2014

Group work

With most deadlines for semester two approaching, going from one group meeting to the next is the way most of us spend our time. Booking a library room is a rare luxury (as they all seem to be reserved for weeks on end), which results in many groups fighting for precious space in MBS West – if my group and I weren’t part of the room-hunting craze I would probably find it very amusing watching people race for empty tables in the cafe and seminar rooms.

Interestingly, I am not stressed about any of our presentation and I’m really enjoying most of the work – having picked modules that I am interested in, doing research is not a chore but something I am actually into.  In one of the projects, my group and I had to conduct interviews and analyse the findings. It was fascinating to look into the choices of clothing brands people make and developed my new found appreciation for qualitative research methods.

One of our presentations looks into Powerade (the sports drink), investigating the way the company markets its product and the comments customers post on different online channels. Funnily enough, no one from our group had ever tried the drink so our research started with a trip to the supermarket.  Now I can knowingly say that, like most other sports and energy drinks, I do not like Powerade.

At another meeting, while researching the possible sporting events for the brand to sponsor, we impulsively decided to sign up for a 5K marathon in the summer so that we had some motivation to exercise, even though we’ll have a lot of work on due to our dissertations. We even went as far as to try and order personalised matching sports bottles but, unfortunately, the promotion we found was over :/ However, we have three more group meetings before the presentation so we have plenty of time to come up with another brilliant idea … regarding our coursework of course! :))))

As you can probably guess, my course mates and I have become very good friends by now, which really helps dealing with all the stress and the work as there is always someone supporting you (and someone to go out with after a particularly hard submission). I feel extremely lucky to have met so many wonderful, intelligent and nice people from all over the world and to share this rollercoaster experience with them – both academically and personally.

I blame the first revision lecture of the semester for getting me so emotional as I realised that soon lectures will be over and we will start working on our dissertations more and meeting each other less. However, I am confident that a group of resourceful young people like us will find plenty of ways to have fun and entertain each other over the summer where both dissertations and ‘real’ life will be looming over our heads.

Lots of love,

Kat

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Philippa’s Blog – 25 March 2014

On Wilful Blindness

Well the hard work continues here. I’ve now revised Chapters 1 to 7 of my thesis and integrated them into the final **SINGLE THESIS DOCUMENT**. There might be some further changes to these chapters, but I’m creeping forwards towards submission. Chapters 8 and 9 still need revising and integrating into the single document, but today I’m having a rare day off!

Tasks are usually time limited by an external source. When you take exams, you know that the exam happens on the scheduled date and that’s the end of it. When I did my MSc dissertation, I had to give something in for the deadline or my mark would be reduced by at least 20%. But PhDs just aren’t like that – I’ve written before that it can genuinely feel never-ending.

Since May I’ve been working harder than ever before. A PhD certainly is a marathon task. I’ve found it incredibly hard, when working flat out for months at a time, not to become completely overwhelmed by the scale of the task and everything that is left to do. As such, I try to implement the technique of wilfully blinding myself to everything beyond the task in hand. So for a few days, I’ve only been focussing on Chapter 7 when at my desk; and I’ve been trying really hard not to become swamped by the thought that I still have to tackle Chapters 8 and 9, and then I have to go through the whole thing again! Doing this helps me to focus on just the task in hand, trying to forget the outcome and thoughts of what happens next. That way I tend to get somewhere, which is better than wasting hours researching alternative careers and pondering how to fill the PhD-shaped gap in my CV…..

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Katerina’s Blog – 13 March 2014

The last few weeks have been extremely busy and extremely exciting at the same time – exam results came out (I passed all my exams!) and I went with my family to Athens for a weekend.

So, we got our exam results last week and I am very proud to say I passed everything, which has got me a step closer to graduating.  Timing wise, results could not have come out at a better time as I was flying to Athens to meet my family for a weekend that Friday.  Spending a weekend together in a foreign country has become somewhat of a tradition for my family for the past couple of years because we discovered it is a great way to spend some quality time together, while at the same time experiencing a new place.  We went to Paris last year and decided on Athens, Greece for this year’s trip as it is very easy for all of us to get there.

When I was looking for Universities I wasn’t paying much attention to things like airports but now I realise what a blessing it has been to have a big international airport close by.  Thanks to the many flights to and from Manchester airport I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries at a very low cost in the past couple of years. If you haven’t yet done so I highly recommend going on Easyjet/Ryanair’s web pages and having a look at the amazing offers they have.

So, I boarded the plane early Friday morning with little over two days to explore Greece before I had to return Monday morning for lectures.

Kat Greece 1

With my family in front of the Parthenon

Although it was a relatively short amount of time we managed to not only visit the Parthenon and Piraeus in Athens but also go to Mykinas (the city believed to have fought Troy over Helen of Troy) and see some of the countryside.  I really enjoyed Athens but fell in love with Mykinas – as I stepped on top of the hill and watched the mist fall  down on the city I really felt as if I was standing there thousands of years ago during its Golden age.

Kat Greece

With some family friends in front of Mykinas’s Lion Gate

One thing you can probably make out from the picture is that the weather was not what one would expect from Greece in March – instead of the sun and warmth I was dreaming of, I was greeted with pouring rain, which did not stop until I got on the plane to leave.   Ironically, that weekend Manchester was uncharacteristically sunny and warm (hopefully we are not going to return to the rain now that I am back in the country).  Having said that, Greece was very beautiful, even in the rain – we saw fields of orange trees in the countryside and even managed to buy some fruit, just picked from the tree (and, surprisingly, it tasted nothing like the oranges we buy from Lidl/Tesco). 

Unfortunately, everything has to come to an end so I back in the library reminiscing about Greece and planning my next adventure.  Any suggestions? :)

Lots of love,

Kat

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Philippa’s Blog – 25 February 2014

Productivity

Unfortunately I’m still having a very stressful time in my personal life. As mad as it might sound and despite all the chaos, I think it’s important that I carry on working whenever possible. Yes, you can’t block out problems by throwing yourself into work, but I feel like not having my PhD submitted just makes everything else worse. Of course this isn’t always possible. But for me at this point, submitting my thesis just has to happen ASAP. As such, I thought I’d share some of the things that help me be productive, even throughout difficult times in life.

First is staying off the internet as much as possible. I literally turn the router off at the plug. When I need a break from work, I find that getting away from my laptop and looking at something else is far more refreshing than staring at Facebook. If the internet is on, I find myself checking emails far too much and buying too many clothes online. Getting up and making a cup of tea is much more refreshing. And apparently we shouldn’t all be sitting down for hours either, so moving is good physically as well as mentally.

Second is just doing a bit. I’ve written about the Pomodoro technique before: basically you just have to do twenty minutes of work and then you can have a break. Obviously, its better to do more than that in a whole day, but chipping away at things really slowly is definitely better than putting them off. I find that if I delay things until I’ve got more time or energy, everything just mounts up.

Third is planning. It sounds simple, but if I write a list of the jobs I have to do the night before things seem to happen much more easily the next day. It’s really important to keep this plan realistic and achievable, and getting my head around what I have to do speeds things up for me the morning after.

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Katerina’s Blog – 25 February 2014

If you are a sports fan we probably spent the last two weeks doing exactly the same thing – watching the Olympics or doing something else (in my case, sitting in lectures) wishing you were watching the Olympics. Whatever part of the world (and time zone) they take place in, I always seem to wish they were somewhere else. For example, when the events were taking place during the night (as was the case in 2010 when Vancouver was hosting the Games), I stayed up to watch them and then struggled to do anything productive the next day, dreaming about an Olympics next year that won’t require me to get up at 3 am every night.

“Be careful what you wish for” perfectly describes my feelings this time around. Even though the Games were held in Sochi and all events took place during the day (as Sochi is 4 hours ahead of the UK time wise) I still couldn’t see the majority because of lectures and various other obligations.

Rationally, I know there is no ideal time for anything and making the most out of  the opportunities I am presented with is an important skill.  However, when I’m in a situation where I really really want to do something (say watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony) and something less exciting but more important pops up preventing me from enjoying the eagerly anticipated event, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Kat

I could’t help but put in a picture of one of my favourite ice skating teams – Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov :)

Having said that, even on the days when I only had the BBC’s “Highlights of the Day” to survive, the Olympics still managed to give me that peculiar mixture of joy and heartbreak as I watched some of my favourite athletes rise to the occasion, whilst watching others succumb to pressure, missing the podium. Regardless, I am in awe of their dedication, passion and drive, to get to where they are in sport and in their personal lives.  Watching them striving to better themselves, defying all obstacles in their path, inspired me to exercise more, study more and generally be a better person all round.

So far so good – I spent the weekend at dance classes and Monday in the library.  There is only one question that still needs an answer – is that drive going to last longer than my New Year’s resolutions? :)

Lots of love,

Kat

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Philippa’s blog – 17 February 2014

Priorities

 As I’ve written previously, I’m hopefully fairly close to submitting my PhD thesis. It would be lovely if everything else in my life took notice of this fact and didn’t cause me any problems. Unfortunately, things aren’t working out that way for me and so I feel like I’m being pulled in far too many directions. Work, family, friends, exercise and teaching are things all competing for my attention and I’m not even thinking about getting a job. Trying to do everything means that the work doesn’t get finished, and if the work doesn’t get finished then this stressful period, where I talk about my PhD ad nauseum to anybody who will listen, gets prolonged.

I’m fully signed up to the idea that the only way out is through, but quite how to get through is another question. This week I’ve been trying out the idea of setting my top three priorities. I actually wrote them down at the start of the week – the PhD is number two at present. Unfortunately, my friends aren’t in those top three at the moment. I think these priorities aren’t particularly healthy or sustainable in the long term, but equally I’m really keen to submit my thesis ASAP so this seems like a sacrifice worth making for a few weeks.

When you’re really stressed, small decisions can become really difficult. I’ve found that actually setting my priorities in writing is one useful way to manage these decisions – of course we should still remain flexible and responsive, but creating a framework to guide us can be helpful.

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Katerina’s blog – 12 February 2014

What an exciting week it’s been! Three of my best friends came to visit me and I had my dissertation topic revealed!

The topic I will spend my summer researching is

*drum roll*

“The meaning of luxury and brands – A cross-cultural study of consumers’  perceptions of luxury brands”.

I am very excited about it – this was the topic I wanted as I am really interested in the way brands position themselves in different countries (did you know that when KFC first entered the Chinese market people would queue to get inside and would tell family and friends about the experience for weeks?) and the various attributes people from different cultures perceive to be important in a brand.  Hopefully being interested in the topic will help me stay focused as I have never had to concentrate on something as specific for such a long period of time (it is due in September) but I am optimistic about it and plan on not only working very hard but also enjoy the process of creating something from scratch as well.

The only thing left before I start working on it is meeting my supervisor, which is scheduled to happen in the next few weeks. I think I will be as nervous for that meeting as I would be for a first date, because making a good impression is very important given my supervisor will be the person guiding me through the whole dissertation process.  First will be the research and literature review, followed by primary data collection and then analysis and writing the whole thing down, and since I have never before produced anything as detailed or as big as a dissertation yet I think I will need that guidance.  The primary data collection bit is the one I am most worried about. If you stay in Manchester over the summer, it is highly likely that you will meet me somewhere on Oxford road handing out surveys for it come July (just kidding…hopefully).

Katerina

The other massively exciting thing that happened lately was a few of my friends visited this week – two flew from Bulgaria and one travelled from London. We shared a lot of jokes, laughter and ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s is a must at girls’ reunions).  The four of us were housemates last year and it was nice to be together again. We all chose different paths after graduation – two went on to find jobs elsewhere and the rest of us continued our studies by doing a Masters, and one of my biggest worries was that once we leave University my friends and I would drift apart.  But it seems we might be able to hold on to our friendship, which I am really happy about. Not only did I have these three friends over for the week, but another one, who went back home to Singapore after we finished our undergraduate degree, is planning to visit Bulgaria soon as well (we just need to figure out a time when I could fly there as well and give her a tour).  To sum it up – as much as I value my undergraduate degree, I am also extremely thankful for the wonderful friendships I have established – thanks everyone! :)

Lots of love,

Katerina

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