Murdoch student James Norton sitting on campus with a dog

Time out with your new study mate

James Norton shares his new study space with two dogs, one cat, and his girlfriend Cassie.

A little bit about me

Before coming to Murdoch, I worked in hospitality. I started out as a chef, then moved into bar work for a while. I loved it, but I decided hospitality wasn’t for me in the long run, so I took on the challenge of university.

My mum completed a masters in Depth Psychology in her 40s, so she introduced me to the wonderful world of studying the mind. She was the one who first recommended I consider uni which, up until that point, I was convinced I would never do.

As someone who had read a total of three books cover to cover before uni, taking on a major that is 80 per cent reading was a really steep learning curve. That being said, I love the challenge of studying psychology. I’m fascinated by the human body and the brain, and how all of its components work together to produce what we call consciousness. I’d love to continue growing my understanding of the human condition after I’ve finished my course.

How I stay connected to others

I try to keep in touch with my friends over Snapchat. I record silly little videos to brighten up their days a bit. It’s nice to see friendly faces and have a laugh while you’re isolating.

I stay connected with academic and work contacts with video chat. My lab meets twice a week on Zoom and I’ve had a few staff meetings over Microsoft Teams. It’s good to see everyone – and kind of fun to see my colleagues in their ‘native’ environment!

My study mate

It’s so important to have someone keeping you on track. My girlfriend Cassie is my faithful study mate. She’s studying Screen and Theatre at Murdoch, so it’s nice to have someone around who’s getting used to online learning too.

We have two dogs, a cat, and a growing army of plant babies that are gradually populating our workspace. They help keep morale up!

My tips for studying at home

I’ve found these to be helpful for me:

  • Stay connected. Social distancing doesn’t mean no socialising, so connect with friends and family over Zoom or Skype. Talk about the challenges you’re going through or play board games together online.
  • Cut back on social media. Sometimes social media can create even more feelings of isolation and disconnection. For a lot of us, isolation isn’t great and seeing other people or influencers having an easy time can be quite damaging. I try to keep my time on there to a minimum.
  • Set clear boundaries. If you have a coffee table that you relax and read at, don’t study there because it’s a sacred reading space. If you have a study desk, only use it for study. These boundaries are important for allowing us to switch off.
  • Explore new opportunities. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book you’ve wanted to read for ages, an exercise you’ve always said you’ll do, or a hobby you’ve considered taking up, now is the perfect time to give it a go. After three years of talking about it, I’ve started teaching myself how to play guitar.
  • Develop a routine. A regular wake up time (before 7!) and getting out and exercising goes a long way. Take regular breaks to re-energise and get some fresh air.
I had heard of Murdoch University’s reputation for being a university for free thinkers. As someone who’s always questioning the status quo, that really appealed to me.

How Murdoch has supported me

My supervisor Dr David Lewis and the Evolved Social Cognition Lab have been really supportive. The lab has been good at adapting to the changing situation, and we’ve been trying to schedule weekly online meetups to touch base. They’ve been a real lifesaver.

Murdoch has been doing a lot to facilitate online learning, such as using Collaborate for online classes. I get notifications and e-mails from the uni every week with links to different services and support payments. All of this helps minimise the detrimental effects of isolation for students.

My greatest achievement

I’ve never been an overly academic person and I’ve struggled with reading and staying focused all my life. My greatest achievement has been sticking seriously to my studies and being able to maintain above a 3.0 GPA. This is a minimum of a distinction or B average, which was enough to get me accepted into Honours. For someone who didn’t think they’d ever go to uni, I’m really happy with that.