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The best apps to improve your vocabulary

zcbepma10 January 2019

Today student writer Priya tells us about apps that you can use to expand your vocabulary. 

Whether you are a native English speaker or not, broadening your English language skills is something you will undoubtedly develop over the course of your lifetime.

Native speakers can always make an effort to improve their vocabulary by learning new words because what you say to others will affect them just like how they communicate will affect how you interpret something.

The English language is used everywhere and especially when doing a degree at university. Writing papers and essays along with doing presentations and speeches are all closely connected to language skills.

So, you’re probably wondering “How do I improve without it being boring?” – Well, I have the perfect answer; Apps.

Apps can help you improve your vocabulary skills and range from being just for fun to helping you during your GCSEs and/or A levels.

Vocabulary Builder

This app is super helpful if you need help with improving your vocabulary.

It is very user-friendly and quite easy to use. The app focuses on expanding your current vocabulary whilst helping you use it in everyday situations. You do this through lots of games and quizzes!

You can do a quiz every day and learn the English dictionaries most important words…can you guess how many there are?

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Words with Friends

As the name of the app suggests, this one is good if you want to learn along with friends! This app looks like a crossword puzzle and lets people test their vocabulary and skills a little bit like the way Scrabble does.

You have to get the highest score by competing against other people. You’ll have to stretch yourself with this one because it’s a brain puzzling game!

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Word of the Day

This app is great for people who love to learn new words. As the name of the app suggests – you learn a new word every single day! This app is great for those of you doing your GCSEs as it is designed by qualified English teachers.

You can explore some of the English languages most interesting, rare and unusual words. You can save the words into your own book and return to look back at them whenever you want. You can also share them with friends who are using the app!

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Exam Vocabulary Builder

This one is designed using a common tool that people use to revise: Flashcards! It is designed to act as a crash course in building your vocabulary.

This one is a little bit more challenging because it is designed for students taking graduate school exams, university entrance exams and professional advancement, however, if you’re finding that the other ones are too easy then who’s to say you can’t use this one!

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Improve English: Word Game

Using a bunch of really complicated algorithms the app helps you learn English skills whilst learning your exact speech pattern. When it figures this out it will give you a range of scores, ranging from how clear you are to how many unique words you use.

It will then benchmark you against other students around your age! This is a great one if you want to improve something specific or if you like to log your progress using numbers!

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A word from the writer: 

Hi my name is Priya! I study Biochemical Engineering and my area of expertise is in Bioprocessing of New Medicine with Business and Management. I am currently a 2nd Dan Black Belt ITF Tae-kwon-do instructor. I like to regularly train at UCL but also love to teach at my local club.

Top tips for overcoming those dreaded presentation nerves

zcbepma13 December 2018

Today student writer Priya gives her tips on preparing to give presentations at university, and how to calm those nerves! 

It doesn’t matter whether your presenting when you’re 5 years old or in your late seventies – everyone suffers from those dreaded nerves at some point or another. You might be hit with them the day before you’re due to speak in front of your class, going to an interview, a meeting or even going onto to stage. But it is imperative that you don’t allow them to hinder your performance and hold you back from achieving great things!

When you get to university, presentations are essential and they are pretty much thrown at you from the day you set foot through the door. You might be asked to present by yourself or in a group – either way, there are things that are expected; like being able to project your voice, speaking clearly and with confidence and being able to adapt. If what I’ve just said is making you quiver then don’t worry! I’ve devised a bunch of top tips to help you calm and prepare those pesky nerves!

1. Practice, Practice, Practice!!!

Yes, the first tip is the most obvious and the one that you probably didn’t want to hear, but, it is true! The more you practice the more you will start to feel comfortable with the information that you are required to present. This means that when the time comes you will be an expert in talking about it and answering any questions. If you have to present with some of your friends then make sure you practice together and do this more than once. Make sure you don’t stress out too much though! 10 minutes before you are due to present take a break – you need to keep a clear head!

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2. Watch other speeches

Have you heard of TED Talks? No? Ok – go online and have a listen to some of these amazing speakers. You’ll find more than one inspiring individual and you can pick up a lot about what makes a good presentation. Note how they engage the audience and how they use their hands to communicate their message.

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3. Meditate

This is an optional tip to help with anxiety and the jitters. Studies show that meditation can reduce anxiety and depression by increasing calmness.  It helps to deal with a loss of control and feelings of hopelessness. You don’t know how to meditate and want to try it? No problem – apps like Headspace can guide and give you some super handy tips on how to handle, manage and deal with stress.

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4. Stay hydrated

So the tips mentioned so far are all things you should do way before the presentation, however, drinking water is one that you can use during the presentation. Drinking water stops your throat from getting scratchy – which happens when you are super nervous! Bring a bottle and keep it near so that you can reach for it before and during the presentation. (Just make sure you don’t overdo it otherwise you’ll have to run to the little boys/girls room)

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5. Breathe

Breathing is super important! When you get nervous or anxious you tend to breathe much shallower than usual meaning that your brain isn’t getting the normal amount of oxygen. Sometimes this can lead to hyperventilations or panic attacks. Make sure you take a long deep breath – in through your nose and out through your mouth. This can really calm you down and slow down your current heart rate meaning that you stay calm. Trust me – if you do this you will feel instantly better

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6. Smile

Yes, this is no joke. Smiling makes you and the audience feel comfortable. You look confident. You look like you know what you’re doing. There is a reason, a scientific one at that, to smile. Smiling releases those endorphins and little hormones called Serotonin. This hormone is the happy chemical released in your brain and it relaxes your muscles and body – it slows your heart rate and decreases your blood pressure. All good stuff right? Even if you’re not feeling a Cheshire cat smile – do it and it will help the whole experience!

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A word from the writer:

Hi my name is Priya! I study Biochemical Engineering – my area of expertise is in Bioprocessing of New Medicine with Business and Management. I am currently a 2nd Dan Black Belt ITF Tae-kwon-do instructor. I like to regularly train at UCL but also love to teach at my local club.

Dealing with an ‘Invisible Illness’ at University

Michael Wyatt18 May 2018

For any student, university comes with its struggles. Alongside the workload, moving away from home and trying to plan the next 40 years of your life, there are particular challenges thrown at particular types of students. In this post, I would like to talk about those students with an ‘invisible illness‘. For those already confused by the term, consider this: have you ever wondered why someone who seems to be able to move well is using a disabled parking space or toilet? Sometimes, it can be because they have an invisible illness.

What exactly is an invisible illness?

Much like you would expect, an invisible illness in its simplest form is a medical condition (physical, mental or neurological) that has  impacts on the person affected which are invisible to the outside world. When I say ‘invisible to the outside world’, I mean that onlookers would not be able to look at someone with an invisible illness and know that they are ill. Examples of such illnesses are inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain and mental illness. The majority of invisible illnesses are chronic, meaning that they last for at least one year, and result in symptoms that can be extremely debilitating to a sufferer.

Isn’t it better that others can’t tell that you’re ill?

Whilst you may think having symptoms that others can’t see would make your situation better, as you may be less likely to be stigmatised or judged based on your appearance, having an invisible illness comes with a whole other type of judgement. Sometimes it is hard for people to understand that you don’t want to go out because you’re not feeling well as you have no visible signs that you are unwell.

People can often find it hard to believe that someone may look fine, but in fact be really struggling underneath. Because of this, sufferers of invisible illnesses can feel alone and attacked by society, who question the nature of their condition(s) and can make insensitive comments suggesting that they their complaints are not valid.

What is it like to have an invisible illness at university?

It is hard, but not impossible. As a student with an invisible illness, I do have a good idea of what I’m talking about. I have highlighted some of the difficulties I have come across coupled with coping strategies for how to ensure you have a fulfilling university experience despite living with an invisible illness.

  1. Whether or not to tell your friends.The big question as your start university is always whether or not to tell these new friends about your condition or not. My advice is three fold. First, wait until you know you can trust someone before letting them in to your invisible secret. ‘Fresher friends’ may seem like your life-long friends in those first few weeks, but give them a bit more time to prove their loyalty. Second, consider only telling those you’d benefit from telling. I personally didn’t go around shouting it from the rooftops, and as a second year I have only told a handful of my university friends so that they can help me when I need them. Lastly, feel no obligation to tell anyone if you don’t want to. You know how to deal with this best, and so if you don’t want or feel the need to tell friends because you don’t need that extra hand, don’t!
  2. Dealing with workload and exams. 

    First things first, contact the Disabilities Team before you start university to tell them about your condition. You could be given special exam adjustments and additional aids where appropriate to help you with the workload and deadlines. You may not need these, as many invisible illnesses go into remission for periods of time, but you never know when you might might need extra help. We all want to perform our best at university, and making the most of the support that is available is a great way to help you do that. Other than that, be honest with lecturers if you’re struggling and do your best to keep up whilst putting yourself and your health first.

  3. Being so tired all the time. 

    Most invisible illnesses come with the symptom of tiredness or fatigue. I won’t lie to you, university can be exhausting. Long days coupled with late nights can be tricky for everybody. The key is to learn when to say no to certain social events, managing your workload and getting enough sleep. Don’t be afraid to say you’re too tired to go out one night and get into bed with a movie and just rest. We all need it, especially those with additional health needs.

I hope this has given you an insight into how to deal with an invisible illness at university. It isn’t all that hard, it just requires forward thinking and being honest with yourself and your needs. Whether or not you want to do something, let people know about your condition or go somewhere is your choice, so embrace that inner power and go through each day however you decide is best for you.

If you’d like to find out more about the support available to students with a disability at UCL, head to the UCL disability services website.