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Words of Wisdom from our Castle Alumni

2020 has been a strange year to say the least. Our current Castle cohort must surely be studying at the strangest time in the BISC’s history! For the most part they have been obliged to work remotely from their homes, with no idea whatsoever if and when they will have the opportunity to experience normal university life as we all know it.

This Winter, we asked Castle alumni to spare a few moments to send messages of inspiration, support or encouragement to our BISC students. Our thanks to everyone that contributed. Here's our top ten - just click on the Queen's flags below.

Wishing all BISC students the very best for the exam season and happy holidays.You've got this!

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"If there are moments where you feel isolated just remember, you're not alone."

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Hey BISCer!

So I usually find these so easy to write, and I end up saying something like hey, no need to stress about exams, you've gotten into the program and the hardest part is already over, so just enjoy the time you've got at the Castle, cause it's an experience you'll never get in your life again! ... But it's different this year, and I sure hope this is an experience you'll never have to go through in your life again.

2020 is the worst, and I can't imagine what it'd be like having something trample all over what should be the most exciting time of your life. I'm so sorry this is happening right now, and I'm sorry you're being made to study remotely.

If there are moments where you feel isolated just remember, you're not alone - literally every university student around the world is going through some version of what you're going through right now. Keep your spirits up, and if nothing else, you'll never struggle to come up with an example of 'resilience' in future job interviews!

So my first piece of advice still stands - don't stress about your exams, and I'm going to add another - reach out if you do find yourself struggling - everyone at BISC is behind you and wants you to succeed :) All the best! Xx

"Even though you're learning online, enjoy the small groups and get to know everyone, profs included!"

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Even though circumstances aren't what you expected, try to enjoy the BISC community as much as you can. Having such a small cohort is really a great advantage, especially for first year classes which at main campus can have hundreds of students.

One of my favourite things about the BISC was the small classes because you could have discussions with your peers and direct contact with the professor. I didn't see that type of environment again until fourth year. So even though you're learning online, enjoy the small groups and get to know everyone, profs included!

"You've got this and you’ll go on to do great things!"

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Wait… what month is it? You’ve made it. It’s December. "I have so much to do? This isn’t possible. I can’t do it.” You belong where you are and you are capable. This is possible. You can do it!

First year is rough. Many of the readings make no sense. And you’re probably wondering what will be on the exam. Only to realize you haven’t started studying yet. Breathe. You got into Queen’s.

Yes, university is challenging. Yes, December exams take a toll. Yes, you can do this. One day at a time, one page at a time, one practice question at a time. Keep moving, and accept that you can’t master everything. Drink water. Go outside, even for 5 mins. Drink more water. Walk around the block. Eat vegetables. Call a friend or family member. Stand up and stretch. Drink more water. Shower. Take care of yourself.

There are just a few weeks left. You can do this. We know it’s hard; we did it too. Keep pushing. You've got this and you’ll go on to do great things! Keep. Going.

"Everything's much better after a cup of tea..."

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You're doing great!

Remember to spend some time moving outside to help keep you grounded. A cup of tea never hurts either... :)

"Please remember that your grade this assignment and exam season doesn't define you as a person."

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Hello!

I'm actually writing this to you from somewhere above the Atlantic! I'm currently doing a PhD in England (about an hour from London) and escaping the British lockdown while I can still get a flight out. I know it's hard to hear because you were so excited to be at the Castle, but please trust me and believe me when I say that (because of that dreaded virus) you don't want to be anywhere near the south-east of England these days!! I do hope you're keeping safe, but most importantly that you're keeping healthy - both physically and mentally.

I know that this time of year can be really stressful. I was one of those students who really wanted to do really well on all of my assignments and exams. While it's important to study, please do remember to take care of yourself. Getting an A+ on an exam isn't worth it if you're not okay mentally. You might think 'oh what does she know, she was in undergrad AGES ago' and I totally understand that, but I've also more recently been on the other end of student stress as a TA. Your profs and your TAs want you to succeed and they are there to support you however they can. If you're struggling, talk to them - I promise that we're not as scary as we seem. Often, we're just as nervous being in front of you! And please remember that your grade this assignment and exam season doesn't define you as a person. It's an indication of who you were at that precise moment in that precise area in that precise question. It's not at all a comment on who you have been or who you will be.

I know that this year will look very different than previous ones, but I do hope that you're able to celebrate the end of term with friends and family - whether in-person or online - and that you're able to take a break from the student life even just for a few days to spend time with your loved ones. You have so many other things to do than read this message from a stranger, so I'll keep it short, but I do hope that this little note has given you a bit of a break and hopefully has brought you a little bit of joy. Wishing you all the best this holiday season!

"I can only imagine what great things your Castle experience will lead you to."

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Dear current BISC student,

I'm writing from nearby West Sussex, wishing you all the best as you head into the end of term and exams. I remember my first term of exams at the Castle - I had 6 in 5 days (or something crazy like that!) and almost missed my flight home for Christmas because I hadn't worked out the Tube. I know you've had a very different term than I did (not least of which because we didn't even have smartphones in those days, let alone Zoom or Instragram or anything else!), but I hope you can be reassured that the Castle experience will still provide you will the skills, support and friendships that will see you through your university career and beyond.

I ended up moving to London five years after I started at the Castle (though some parts of the Tube remained a mystery) and have since made Sussex my home. I can only imagine what great things your Castle experience will lead you to. It all starts here, and I hope these first exams pass without too much stress, and you have a joyful holiday season. Everyone at the Castle wishes you the best, as well as a whole host of alums. We're with you!

"Remember to cherish the opportunity of your university experience (even the virtual experience)."

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First off - congratulations on studying at an amazing university with a cohort of fantastic, internationally minded peers. As you conclude the term and head into virtual exams, remember to cherish the opportunity of your university experience (even the virtual experience) and remember that you are in a unique moment of time. That time will pass and better and brighter days will lay ahead.

Best wishes for your BISC experience!!

"BISC faculty, staff, students, and alumni are and always will be incredible people ready to step up to a good challenge."

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I'm currently a high school teacher trying to teach online, so I can imagine some of the pitfalls of attending BISC virtually.

One thing that I can say, is that the BISC faculty, staff, students, and alumni are and always will be incredible people ready to step up to a good challenge. You're all having a unique castle experience, one that no other BISC students or Queens students are having.

While it might not be what you originally imagined, try to get everything you can out of your experience and the amazing people you are meeting. Good luck with exams!

"Camaraderie is one of the most important things that comes out of the BISC"

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Good luck with the end of your first semester! I know things are stressful right now, but I hope you're taking time to connect (and commiserate and hopefully even relax) with your classmates — they're probably the only people who get what all of this is like. And camaraderie is one of the most important things that comes out of the BISC, even in normal times.

It's such a big part of why being part of the smaller BISC cohort is a special experience, so I hope that translates to the digital BISC!

"EXPLORE. Learn something new - from classes, about yourself, about the world."

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Dear BISC Student,

You, like many others, are faced with an unpredictable journey in an unprecedented time. I am here to tell you that it can and will get better.

The pandemic has been trying at the best of times, and many feel a sense of displacement, ennuie, fear, and other heightened emotions right now. The best thing I can suggest is to go explore. Not travel, not go shopping in malls, not go to friends' homes, but EXPLORE. Learn something new - from classes, about yourself, about the world. Take a walk in nature - if a question about something comes to mind, find the answer.

Take a study break and watch a new show or movie with a question in mind, learn about the meaning of something or other. Take the time to focus on something so deeply that you become enthralled. Focus your energy on something positive (which is definitely hard right now). Think about your classes, what you've learned, how to apply your knowledge in life, and on your upcoming finals. Put in the work to move yourself closer to completion - you can do it! Work hard, but also make sure you take care of yourself - physically, mentally, spiritually.

University in normal circumstances is stressful enough, these days that must be heightened. Don't let it overpower you. You are strong enough to handle it. You are strong enough to seek help if you need it. You are strong enough to help a friend when they need it. You are strong. You are enough. Never forget that... ever! Oh - and please don't forget to laugh every once in a while. Laughter is seriously the best - an emotional relief, an ab "workout," and a good way to lighten the moods of those around you. If you need help with this, here's a (cheesey) joke:

Joke: What do you call a fake noodle? Answer: An Impasta

Okay... that's all I've got. Take care. Be well. Study hard - it will pay off!

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