Monday, 23 December 2013

My Bloomberg Aptitude Test (BAT) Experience

A few weeks back, I took the Bloomberg Aptitude Test (BAT), and then waited for the results. After a fairly long wait, my results are back: My official score is 600 (out of 800), which makes me in the 94th percentile. I'm actually really happy with the result, since I didn't study for the test - I just went on what two years of IB (with a one year break in between) taught me.

The Test-Taking Experience
I took the test in my apartment. Since this test is administered by a proctor, it's really impossible to cheat. I was asked to show the working paper I was going to use, had to hand over remote control of my computer and even get the camera to go around the room once to make sure I was alone.

The proctor is there to make sure you don't cheat and to help. In one question, I had data, but I didn't know what the question was asking. I did raise it with the proctor, although I had to repeat it twice before she understood I wasn't asking for help - I was asking where the question was. Overall though, I was quite happy with the experience. If you're nervous, it's possible to delay the test (I was given the option when I mentioned I was nervous).

The BAT has 100 questions which have to be answered in two hours. Two hours may sound like a long time, but it's not. I did about half the test, and then realised that at my current rate, I wouldn't finished in time. So I kind of rushed through half the test.

My Thoughts
I took this test mainly because I wanted to apply for the Bloomberg Campus Ambassador.

Personally, I think this test would be fantastic for Japanese university students in their third/fourth year of study. I've asked my friends, and most of them are interested in taking the test - the only thing holding them back is their fear that the English would be too much. After taking the test, I agree; there are some questions that use the terminology that a TOEFL test won't teach you. I think the best thing would be if there was a short course on Business English, with the BAT at the end of it.

How to take the BAT
You can find information and register for the BAT here. In fact, you can find sample questions here (the link leads to the pdf, but the pdf is provided by the Bloomberg Institute).

Click the green part that says "Register for the BAT"

Pick a date where you have more than two hours to spare (and will be undisturbed). On the day itself, make sure you're using a computer with a webcam so that the proctor can see you.

The BAT is free to take, and you can take it once every calender month. For more information, you can see the Student FAQ at this link.

Monday, 2 December 2013

On Blogging Vacuums and Chatting with Readers

Recently, I saw a question in the Google+ Bloggers Community that said "I am finding it hard to find things to blog about"

My response was "Blog about what you like." But now that I've been thinking it over, I should have added "And try to give people something unique. And talk with them too." (Fun Fact: Kotler defines marketing as 'the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires.' That means that every successful blogger is a successful marketer.)

So today, I want to reflect on blogging. In particular, blogging on something unique and getting comments from your readers. Because like +Nathan Weaver once re-shared, I think it's much better to have readers frequently emailing me and/or making comments than to have many followers but no comments.

Writing Something Unique
First off, I'd like you to take a look at this post:

Now, I didn't share this post to brag (honestly), but because it got to me realise something - the blogosphere really does abhor a vacuum.

Why would I say this?

Well, I have two blogs (three if you include this site), and while one of my blogs (the one on book blogging) was established much earlier, the other (the one on life in Japan), was started just before I left to study last year. Yet it gets much more page views and comments per post.

In fact, my first post is still getting comments and page views.

I've always wondered why this was the case, but then it hit me: the number of blogs about studying in Japan is very small, and blogs about my particular scholarship (the undergraduate) are even rarer.

Before I came to Japan, I too tried to search for information about my scholarship. But apart from one rather negative post, there wasn't much information. (Although now that I search, I actually see quite a few blogs - perhaps something was off with my Google search back then).

Well, there was quite some information about the graduate scholarship, but I'm doing undergraduate studies. There were also plenty of blogs about living in Japan, but not much about studying in Japan under that scholarship. So, while my primary reason was to use my blog as a way of updating my friends and family about what was going on in my life, the secondary reason for blogging was to provide information about the scholarship and life with the scholarship.

So while I've had to work hard at my book blog to differentiate myself (there are a lot of great book blogs out there!), I suppose the fact that there are less blogs like mine out there made it easier to me to be found. And I'm not sure if the Google+ integration helped, but I'm now the number one search result if you search for "monukagakusho scholarship blog".

Increasing Engagement

I suppose having unique why I frequently get emails from readers asking for help or just sharing their experience. In fact, I got an email today from a reader informing that he got the 2014 MEXT scholarship - this is the kind of stuff that makes my day.

But apart from that, I also make it a point to respond to questions within a day, if possible, and I installed an "email me" widget so that people could email me their questions - I've found out that some people don't feel comfortable posting their questions, but they won't hesitate to ask me in an email. Most of the time, I enjoy answering questions and hearing from my kouhai's how their applications are going, so reading and responding to comments was something that came naturally to With Love From Japan, Eustacia.

I suppose writing something unique and making it engaging is a obvious truth that most bloggers have realised already, but to me, it's something new. I realise that I love blogging, so the most natural thing is to continue doing my best with all my blogs. I'm still trying to figure out how to make my book blog more engaging, so if you have suggestions, do let me know!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

How I Re-Designed My Blogs (A Sort-Of Tutorial)

When I decided I wanted to have a personal website, I was simultaneously struck by the urge to upgrade my existing two blogs. But because both blogs are being updated pretty regularly, I didn't want to take them down and install a whole new blogskin. Instead, I changed my blogs bit by bit.

So if you're looking to read about how to upgrade your blogger blog, this post is for you! Now, this is more of a resource page than a tutorial. I'll be introducing the tutorials that I used and the level of difficulty/time taken. I'll also be adding a list of sites that I find very helpful at the bottom.

So, here are the before and after pictures of my two blogs.

Inside the mind of a Bibliophile:
After Part 1
After Part 2
Main Changes: New Header, New Background, Change in Post Title Font, Centred Page Tabs and Changed Page Tabs background colour.

With Love from Japan, Eustacia:
After Part 1

After Part 2
Changes: Pretty much the same as Inside the mind of a Bibliophile, but I also switched the commenting system to Google+ comments.

How To's:

How to make a New Header: This was quite possibly the easiest part of your blog to change. It took me less than five minutes to do each header. The tutorial can be found here.

How to install a New Background: This was a lot of trouble. I realised that many backgrounds require the Minima template, which Blogger no longer provides. But after much searching, I found this awesome tutorial on how to customise the Picture Window template so you can install your Blog Background without problems. It was the longest of all tutorials to do, but it's worth it. Once your Picture Template is ready, this post will teach you how to install a background you like. That tutorial is really easy and quick to do.

If your page isn't open to the maximum size, you might not be able to see the borders of your background. Make sure your window is at full screen if you're looking to see if your background was successfully installed.

How to change the Post Title Font: This was a little bit complicated, especially when it came to finding the code, but the tutorial is clear and easy. You can find the directions here.

How to centre Page Tabs: All my blog have page tabs that are two lines long, and I thought that it would look way better if they were centred. I like this tutorial because it's clear and you can copy and paste the needed CCS code.

How to change Page Tabs background colour: For some reason, my page tabs had a grey background colour and I had no idea how to get rid of it. But, if you apply the CCS shown in this tutorial, you can customise the colour (background and font colour) easily.

Now, for this website, I wanted to make a static home page like this:

This is the home page. Note that it's at the "Welcome" tab
This is where my blog posts appear. It's at the "Learning, Doing,
Reflecting" tab. 
This was, in the end, the reason why I didn't use a blog template. Instead, I followed this tutorial from Southern Speakers to create a static homepage. I did get stuck on the redirect step because  when I tried to do the page redirect, I got a comment that said "The source and destination values cannot be empty or more than 256 characters and must start with /". It turns out that typing "" in the From field and "" in the To field is wrong. Instead, I should have inserted a forward slash / in the From field and inserted "/p/welcome.html" in the To field.

Next, I wanted to hide all the gadgets on my welcome page. This tutorial from Souther Speakers did the trick.

If you're looking to change your blogs, I hope that this post was helpful in that it showed you which tutorials to follow. I've never actually thought much about how blogger worked before I tried all this, so this is really a whole new world to me.

Am I satisfied with my blogs? For now I am. But I'll probably have the urge to tweak it around, so if I do, I'll post an update and show you where I found the tutorials to do so.

Recommended Sites: 

Plumrose Lane: This site is the one that taught me about setting up Picture Template, for which I am ever grateful. There are also lots of tutorials and really cute blog backgrounds! (And post dividers, which I'm considering adding)

Southern Speakers: For anything to do with customising your blog, this is the place to go. There are tons of tutorials and if you have a question, just comment! Yoga (the blogger behind the site) is really helpful and he'll answer your questions.

The Cutest Blog On The Block. There are tutorials and backgrounds here! They also have free templates if you're looking for something more than just a background.

Monday, 11 November 2013

My Four Basic Goals

This is me at the entrance ceremony to Tokyo
University of Foreign Studies last year. It marked the
completion of my goal to study in Japan.
Up until I came to Japan, my goal was generally something like "Find a way to study in Japan." Now that that has been done, I've been goal-less for the past year or so (apart from the goal 'get good grades', which may be hardwired into my DNA, so it doesn't count).

But then, I read this post from CollegeInfoGeek called How To Learn More Outside Of Class Than You Ever Could Inside It. One of the things mentioned in the post was the Pick Four Method, which I thought was a really good idea. So, I've made a few Huge Goals. They are:

  • Make sure university isn't a waste of time
  • Read and Write
  • Do something random and learn something new
  • Help Out
  • Travel
  • Discover what I want in my dream job
But since these are very huge, very random goals, I've also made smaller goals. Using the Pick Four method, here are my four smaller goals:
  • Do not neglect school for NaNoWriMo
  • Win NaNoWriMo 2013
  • Improve all my blogs
  • Help Amberbrook with their social media plan
If you have me on Google+, you'd have noticed that before, I had this random goal to learn to knit a Kitty Hat. It's off the list because I've accomplished it!

I actually have this pretty insane goal of graduating with a GPA above 3.5. It's insane because all my lessons are done in Japanese, which is not one of my native languages. For November though, I'm just focusing on making sure my homework gets done and tests are prepared for. 

As for NaNoWriMo, I won it last year and I'd like to win it again. You can follow my progress over here

The 'improve all my blogs' goal is actually inspired by this site. Because I cannot afford to buy a domain name and host, I decided to go with Blogger, something that I thought I was familiar with and that I love (for the Google+ integration). But as I researched how to make a static homepage, I learnt that there's a lot that I don't know. This is probably going to lead to another goal which is:
  • Learn basic coding
I don't expect to be an expert, but I would at least like to be able to read the html of my blog and customise it. To that end, I've signed up with Codecademy. 

Last, but definitely not least, Amberbrook is the Non-Profit Organisation that my friends have set up. It's here to shake up the volunteer scene in Singapore and cultivate leadership skills in young people. Since I'm in Japan, the help I can offer is limited, but as a social media addict, I'm currently helping out with making a social media plan.

For now, these are my goals. They're not set in stone, so as time goes by, I'd be adjusting my main goals, finishing a goal and setting new smaller goals. Every time I reach a new milestone, I'll be recording it here, so that as time goes by, this will become an archive documenting how I've learnt and grown.