New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy New Year and Happy New Term at Essex to everybody!
On this occasion I decided to join the cliché club and share with you some of my New Year’s Resolutions. Of course it doesn’t need to be the 1st of January to try to become a better person, but somehow one chapter closes and another one begins, what can be just another good reason to stop for a moment and reflect about what we do and how. I find it good to do a little self-evaluation sometimes and I really think it helps to keep on the right track. Apparently, decisions made public are more likely to be put into practice, so… Here are my resolutions for this year:

  1. First, be kind.

Always. Regardless of stressful situations, bad days, headaches, hustle and various opinions. None of these are a reason to be impatient or unpleasant. Other people are not guilty of my struggles and they should not be affected by them, no matter how hard my day has been. Also, spreading kindness will help me to recharge with good energy and bring the peace of mind, especially needed in the difficult days.

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  1. Keep the balance.

Getting a good degree and paying rent on time are important goals, but they should not mean a constant sacrifice and neglecting other vital needs. There will always be these few extra hours I could spend to improve something, but maybe my work doesn’t need to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t; maybe it’s OK when it’s just good enough. While studying, working, and striving to do things well, I developed an unhealthy feeling of guilt if my day was not as productive as it could have been. By productive I mean spent studying or doing other work. It didn’t really make me feel good in the end. This year, I will include things such as drumming, dancing, painting, spending time with friends and writing letters to precious people far away, to my productive time and will not feel guilty about being a human.

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  1. Think positively.

Do you remember the famous quote by Captain Jack Sparrow?
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem”. 

This is so important to remember. Every day we choose how we handle situations and where we direct out thoughts. We can focus on good or bad aspects; it is totally up to us. Some struggles are needed and we should just appreciate them as they come. We can hate rainy days, but what would happen if there was no rain at all?

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  1. Meditate.

This last resolution is a tool to keep the other three in my mind not only until the end of January, but also later on. I have tried different types of meditation and I found it quite challenging, but this little 2 minute practice is suitable for everyone and I think it’s really worth doing. Every morning, first thing after waking up, I sit up and think about how grateful I am to be who I am, where I am, to have such precious people in my life and to be able to shape my life in so many different forms. And then I make a decision that this day will be a good one, and that I will not let anything change it, because everything is in my head and it is me who controls it.

I think that’s the most important things for me to keep in mind at this stage and I believe that just reminding myself about it every morning will make me a happier and healthier person. I hope it inspired some of you to make your own reflections, and maybe even share them with your friends. Writing it down and letting it out definitely helped me, so thank you for that! I wish you all an amazing year!

How To Start 2018 Off Right

In 2017 I turned 21, lived in a different country, travelled to different countries and even a different continent. I met my boyfriend, made new friends and reconnected with old ones. On a sadder note, I have loved and lost people and pets in 2017, but importantly, I have grown from my experiences, become more accepting of myself, and opened my eyes to different cultures and customs. There is a reason why I am writing this and it isn’t just to brag about how amazing my 2017 was, but to look ahead and think about how I can make 2018 even better.

Me in Brooklyn, New York

2017 was a very odd year when you think about the bizarre political and current events that happened, and for many people, including myself, 2018 is a fresh start. To borrow a phrase from magazines and adverts: ‘New Year, New Me!’ Many people will use 2018 to begin new habits, or break them; to work harder, or quit their jobs or start a new hobby. Obviously, we could do all of this at any point in the year, but somehow choosing to do it on January 1st feels somehow more special, like it will help you to stick to your new resolutions.

I don’t really want to call them New Year’s Resolutions because whenever I’ve called them that, I never keep them. Instead this year I’m calling them: ‘New Habits of 2018’, because it suggests – to me, anyway – that these are things I’m going to keep doing throughout the year. They say that on average it takes 21 days to form a new habit, which means that hopefully, by January 21st, you’ve got your resolution down! When I was celebrating New Year’s Eve in 2016, I decided that my new habit for 2017 was to try being vegetarian, and on January 7th I did just that, and so far, I’m still a vegetarian, so some habits do stick.

Resolutions

These are the top ten most common New Year’s Resolutions and my new habits also fall into the list. This year my new habit, although it’s more of a goal really, would be to visit 3 new countries. When I was in Ireland, I realised that with a bit of planning around lectures and making different arrangements, you can travel over a weekend without a lot of disturbance in your real life. And the best thing about the university is that we’re so close to Stansted airport (only 40 minutes by bus) that it isn’t even that much of a hassle to get there! When I was travelling I realised how great it is to see the world, and how cheap it can be now. If you’re willing to sleep in hostels and get early flights then it’s so easy to travel! In 2017 I went to Northern Ireland, various counties in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and New York. This year I’m aiming to travel round more of Europe and to see more of Eastern Europe.

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Me visiting the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

In terms of habits for 2018, I am going to try and worry less. I am the world’s worst worrier, if there is something to be worried about, I’ve already thought about it and had about three sleepless nights. This year is going to be very hard for me because this is my last year of university before I graduate so I have my dissertation and very important exams to worry about it. But, I’m going to try my best to stop worrying as much, or at least worrying about stupid things. I’m not too sure how I’m going to do this yet, as it’s easier to become vegetarian than it is to change how your brain thinks but I’m going to try my best!

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Source: fayeosaurus: https://www.flickr.com/photos/68082654@N08/6232698920/in/photolist-auLdfd-aebyuy-CVAuZN-kwose-q1WyLs-7gT12J-pya1dX-VHGwu2-cGBtMS-7vTRkU-bDK2jn-2sZQs-ayWbpc-5XrKqR-7ANmxP-6eiGcN-8BWrUN-UvFNwo-47o5a1-68ZemK-8NPYbb-4HU6kj-padA6-21pfoY1-MV9o7K-7Gxqwz-a1hs3-87uroV-a4Pzrw-8ZG3au-4kQSjW-VwXTqx-ZjGujS-zgFTj-pjdWDR-FznKz9-87xBZ7-pKkiCK-a4PzAs-8hpgWv-4PCy8p-bcjmE-8XSDmT-XU2Abr-bbfo3R-QGVMa2-EfmZ9J-AMf9ax-NWD2N3-8HFgEg

 

Obviously, if you don’t want to change anything in 2018, you don’t have to. I actually don’t like to make a fuss on New Year’s Eve, but I like thinking about things I want to change in 2018 so I have something to look back to see what I’ve achieved. So when New Year’s Eve of 2018 rolls around, hopefully I will have a few more stamps on my passport, and I will be a happier, less stressed person.

Happy 2018 everyone!

5 ingenious ways to survive travelling while being on a student budget

Right now I’m in Prague.  This winter I decided to visit some of the most amazing places to be in the lovely Christmas period:

  • London (as it is 45 minutes away from Essex). I had fun, as seen from the pictures below ( especially at the Winter Wonderland)
    • Prague (where I am today)
    • Vienna (where I’ll be in 2 days’ time)
  • Budapest (where I’ll be in 4 days’ time)

If you think that I’m coming straight back to England, you’re wrong! I have another 3 destinations on my mind:

  • Timisoara (my hometown)
  • Bucharest
  • Belgrade

So, now to tell you how I’m actually affording this!

  1. FLIGHTS! Flying around the world always seemed like a marvellous idea, until you actually see the prices. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem.

Usually tickets are the cheapest in the low season and especially just before holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, etc… If you plan your trips around those times and you can score awesome flights! Always go online to check if any of the flying companies have discounts or offers! I got an offer during Black Friday, 10£ return to my home city in Romania. Cheaper than a train to London!

  1. WHEN SHOULD YOU GO?

As I said above, in the low season! In Europe (as it is the only continent I’ve visited) it’s really painful to go in the summer time. Everything is expensive in that period of time, and it’s understandable; the weather is nice, there is plenty of free time and everyone is having a blast, why not make a profit out of it? Spring and winter are the two seasons  key to your finances.

  1. WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY?

The obvious answer would be Hostels! I’m not a big fan, in fact, I have never stayed in one. Why? I’ve always booked an apartment. Wow! That sounds expensive! It’s not.  I’m always using the Booking.com website to get the best deals. I’m always looking around, searching for the places which have at least 70% off.

Last spring I booked an apartment in Budapest and it was massive! The bathroom had so many buttons and options that I spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the water. The original price for that apartment was 270£. I only paid 50£.

ALWAYS BRING A FRIEND! The price for the place you are booking is always going to be divided by the number of people you’re sharing it with. If you’re going with 4 friends, for example, it is cheaper to rent out an apartment.

  1. CHECK THE TRANSPORTATION

This is by far the easiest and most common mistake that everybody makes (and I’m not an exception). DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON TAXIS! They are all rip-offs.

Start learning the underground, bus, trams, or whatever public means of transportation they have in your chosen destination. It indeed, takes a while, but it will definitely save you lots and lots of money. My strategy is to always choose an accommodation which is closer to a station that takes you directly to the town centre, because after all, in almost any location, you’re going to spend a lot of time there.

  1. AVOID EATING YOUR BREAKFAST/DINNER OUT!

This is the main reason I choose to get an apartment: the kitchen. Almost any apartment that you rent comes with a kitchen, which is almost always equipped with things you need to cook. Another trick which I have been using for a while is checking for supermarkets in the vicinity of the accommodation.  On the plus side, you’re going to taste a bit of the culture of that place you’re visiting, as supermarkets do really tell a lot about the consumer culture of that specific country.

In my last journey, I’ve been to Oslo. I have asked a lot of Norwegian people (due to the multicultural University we have) about decent priced places to eat. They all laughed. When I arrived there I understood why. A cheap lunch was over 20£. One meal. I chose to get my breakfast and dinner from a local bakery and the supermarket. I had a kitchen in my accommodation, so I could actually have fried eggs for the breakfast! Lucky me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips! I can’t wait to hear about all your experiences!

 

 

3 ingredient dinners

Do you ever find yourself staring in horror at your bank account and wonder if someone else has access to your money? And then go through all of your expenses and realise that it was in fact, YOU, who has spent all of your student loan. The biggest chunk of your student loan probably goes towards food. I often wonder how my parents stick to a budget to feed four people every week when I can’t even stick to a budget to feed me.

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This is me in second year playing poker with a housemate, using biscuits as poker chips, because biscuits were of higher value than money in our house.

Living away from home for the first time means having to cook for yourself every single day. And sometimes that can get really boring. Often the recipes your mum gives you (in the hopes that you aren’t living off pizza and pot noodles for the whole term), or the ones you find on the internet, require you to have at least seven spices and ingredients that will just never be in a student’s kitchen cupboards. I’ve lost count of the number of recipes that I’ve found that have asked me to use oregano and cumin (pro tip: you don’t need them).

When I was on my year abroad, I lived in catered accommodation, so I knew coming back to Essex I would struggle to get used to cooking for myself 24/7. But I found a solution that would mean I would get the necessary nutrition without breaking the bank (why do all internet recipes require you to spend £20 on one meal?!), or putting in that much effort.

That solution is: 3 Ingredient Dinners

I found that most of the meals I make can be simplified into three basic ingredients, with the option to add extras if I wanted to, so here are some recipes that I use to get by at university, and save myself (and you) some money:

RECIPES:

1. Pesto Chicken Pasta:
What kind of student blog would this be if I didn’t include pasta?! This recipe takes less than 20 minutes so it’s handy if you’re in a rush.

Ingredients:
Pasta (any kind)
Pesto
Chicken (although this is optional)

Method:
1. Boil the pasta
2. Cook chicken (however you prefer it cooked)
3. Add pesto and chicken to the drained pasta. Mix.
4. Serve

Pesto Pasta

Photo credit to Lesley Chao: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vespere/5789992330/in/photolist-9PDdZY-G3GNu 8dgfhh-66ZrU2-6DtSad-4WMHha-aDdfbB-6CTfKq-25qbg-9vfq1B-59tes7-hwJdiP-UqHhX7-dvD7Za-8dHaGU-bsvSzb-aepaMq-cMSUJW-5ZGd7L-oUW5Mi-aFCRV8-YhYvrG-hVDauC-eCz62P-6oCmRP-bHv16r-gVkbPT-7PdTbE-8fspdk-mys6X1-nS6qtZ-dnkep3-Sv3deb-a53cpN-8AmyvY-8DARs3-XBfmPb-9jgaQi-axiZGR-6PmKKU-7WhXru-86x59H-5ta1TZ-9sKouR-6rrEkA-9zpzR6-aepaPS-pGSU4T-7C4UY8-6oCn7P

2. Easy Chilli Recipe:
I actually found this recipe on the internet, and they weren’t kidding, it was the easiest chilli recipe I had ever found. I like to add optional extras such as mushrooms, celery and sour cream, but the basic recipe is only three ingredients.

Ingredients:
Ground beef
Tin of kidney beans
Tin of tomatoes

Method:
1. Cook mince (I use quorn mince so timings may vary with beef)
2. Add kidney beans and tomatoes to the mince and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes
3. Serve with rice, a baked potatoe, nachos, or by itself

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Photo credit to William Jones: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fritish/4327085531/in/photolist-7AnrLX-7bRaHa-8GHQmH-9A1r72-7Cbhgh-99955F-ajv96q-5pago8-637R78-Yi5F-22TBw-8R5vAu-8KHCU4-cXSduh-zTXLn-7LsnTs-9u5V5C-72pJWi-Au6XS-g5CSy-6B5rpj-ocdyRE-5p8T8Z-UgvcWL-bDSNXp-8zK8C2-8Q2gtN-7KvmkY-vQ6yA-5p8CqP-4WB9qo-63c6N7-92S83Z-8zNgxL-4G5fyq-2TDYqU-4gsLJ-5oM1ju-8zNgbC-4Aj3g2-g88aHV-9jzc9n-7ArbJU-8nMs8a-bzj7vF-dLqGah-qFJCz-8NbruP-3af71k-cyRrXL

3.Scalloped potatoes with spinach
This sounds really fancy but it’s really simple.

Ingredients:
Potatoe(s)
Spinach
Sauce of your choosing  (I like to use a pasta bake sauce)

Method:
1. Peel potatoes and slice into small circles. Cook the spinach as you’re doing so to save time.
2. Use a baking dish and place spinach first on the bottom, layer with potato and repeat
3. Add cheese if you want to. Cook for 15 minutes covered with foil at 180 degrees and then 15 minutes uncovered.

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Photo credit to Julia: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliasalbum/24884462708/in/photolist-DUXnNu-rbQwvA-21fjA1c-ZXxa1G-WYogsm-4fRysw-etEi6z-8tRRdj-7q9ze6-ZH3Be6-8jQNEj-DYhDNQ-bDBsJv-515ULr-fsrQQy-7qdu4J-UxeHZ8-8RCuvs-6i1m64-T8yMu-WNwnW3-CpitJe-9i6HPz-4bYnBt-4ZytwN-7kkEVq-21jpHfP-dZgpzE-5V4SGH-7mQ1Uv-4kDKAW-7kkEWb-eaTau3-7B8iiA-dVyp7s-VAQZvn-6c1zPy-THwe6X-7jcbuj-7vNKDY-SM6FG7-aq1L8a-7igbtj-VwDjK2-Tppzop-fe7DPm-mKUNMt-7Lu3HK-c3qGL1-CpitxH

4. Noodles
This meal is very basic, but you can add loads of optional extras to add more flavour to it.

Ingredients:
Noodles
Hoisin and garlic sauce
Meat of your choice

Method:
1. Cook noodles
2. Cook the meat at the same time ( I like to use spinach)
3. Add meat and sauce to your drained noodles. Mix
4. Serve

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Photo credit to Yanli: https://www.flickr.com/photos/31542811@N00/1361598697/in/photolist-35jxRB-aBD2ph-4D64RE-eKKcoM-p4v4RY-9mUwKn-9cRhXx-7LWL3s-au1UH1-idEs7S-4d5XgT-2CsKug-8BjR4n-4DsnZM-61zwsB-4rnX6T-8C1abs-cUsmNJ-81Y7VH-SjrKbx-pPEoD8-MucXL-23Gyn-9nRRrw-gj8gU-8KXTeB-6ga3vx-8hoh2q-4dVK83-3Zpuw-a3YfG8-FgaDp-74qke7-nNNDM1-ChSwGh-cvBS6J-aV9bjD-FgaFp-5bybNP-8QCxTx-9MAACv-99xkB8-gfREvw-8WGryp-9hrqjV-dMEG1Z-bD3xH-8D87bJ-8Sr8sd-rvb7d

5. Triple decker brownies

Ingredients:
Cookie dough
Oreos
Brownie batter

Method:
1. Use a baking dish and start with the cookie dough making sure it’s spread out evenly in the dish
2. Layer with Oreos
3. Spoon the brownie batter on top, and spread it evenly.
4. Bake for 45 minutes
5. Cut into pieces

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Photo credit to Princess: https://www.flickr.com/photos/47337633@N07/5275440950/in/photolist-93b1Ns-4PadCa-7Es6AL-bSmdAr-6rRHDD-8Jfw9p-nwrruV-eetAuT-9jqHff-8W3z1V-5kCCZH-42L98A-eezkdu-eezkcG-3jCEkB-6twz7R-34Gjp-9vmHxt-KSw95-9vmHAp-uFBNu-9TdUfY-2kYZWD-art2sx-aE1SuW-6S2ZnY-gQg4uk-7eTHj9-dm7iuB-9yb22w-eezkau-amCf2w-bj1Pre-9ZFhwx-rLtXKT-4JSVnX-nydgKr-6er8uT-7k2KNf-7aeVt-d5u1uo-5rkJtb-ycB5Z-4x33Rq-47xqRH-5UeDdg-4cwv5x-9yb1Cb-7uxKPC-2be1z9

So there’s five meals and a dessert for one week and together this only cost £13.77!

Bon Appetit!

 

Top 5 Underappreciated Spots on Campus

If you’re applying to Essex, you may have already heard about about the campus social spaces. Sub-Zero, Top Bar and the SU Bar are all great, but what about the places you haven’t heard of? Essex has a multitude of cultural hot-spots just waiting to be taken advantage of, where you can open your mind and create freely. That, to me, is what university is about.

#1: Gigs in Base

Here is the place to go if you want to see live music for cheap right on your doorstep. From lively cover bands, university alumni, all the way to touring bands who have played Reading and Leeds. If you love live music in any capacity, Base has you covered. Also, if you form a band on campus, chances are you’ll get to play in Base pretty frequently…just ask Sonic Hangover! The gigs in Base are organised by the Alternative Music Society (Altsoc), a great group of people united by a love of all kinds of music.

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Photography credit: University of Essex Alternative Music Society, sourced via Facebook  (https://www.facebook.com/AltSocEssex/)

If you want more info on upcoming live bands in Base, join “University Of Essex Alternative Music Society Forum” on Facebook.

#2: Lakeside Theatre

My fellow blogger Perry has no doubt covered this extensively during his time as a student blogger, but it bears repeating. The Lakeside theatre is an absolute gem. It boasts everything from a yearly panto, to physical theatre, to powerful discussions and spoken word performances. In my first year, I saw some brilliant stand up comedy from Nathan Caton and I’m a sucker for a panto, so I saw that in my first and second years. No matter what your taste, if you’re into theatre, Lakeside is the place for you. 

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Photography credit: University of Essex sourced via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/universityofessex/12221362263/

You can find upcoming Lakeside performances at http://lakesidetheatre.org.uk/whats-on/listings/.

#3: Music Room B

In my first year at Essex, if you wanted to play in a band, you had to practice in a lecture theatre between 7 and 10pm. In my second year, I helped the music society clear out the old drama room, which happened to contain not one but two Steinway pianos, and convert it into a practice room for musicians. Two years down the line and it’s a fully functioning music room complete with a set of amps, a drum kit, a keyboard, PA, and a multitude of other equipment. All you have to do is join the music society and you’re free to book it whenever you like. A musician’s dream. I love it!

 

Photography credits: Matthew Thurlow-Fox via Facebook (top) (https://www.facebook.com/matthew.thurlowfox?ref=br_rs) , UoE Music Society via Facebook (bottom left) (https://www.facebook.com/uoemusicsociety/), Octavian Albu (bottom right)

If you’re a practising musician, or just fancy giving it a try, check out “UoE Music Society” on Facebook.

#4: Cine10

Cine10 is something that still blows my mind every time I think about it. A cinema on campus, with full Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound and a 2K projector, and tickets are half the price of the Odeon in town. Cine10 shows movies that are still in cinemas, as well as classics, such as Mean Girls on October 3rd (of course) and the obligatory showing of Love Actually at Christmas. I saw Gone Girl there in my second year, and I have screenings for my film class there once a week. This is how much I love Cine10: my screenings are voluntary and at 9am (9AM!) and I still make the effort to go every week. It’s the full cinema experience, for no money at all.

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Photography credit: Cine10 via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Cine10-986183034789708/)

See all upcoming films at https://www.essexstudent.com/cine10/.

#5: Art Exchange

The Art Exchange is an incredible, cutting edge art gallery which is always free and always home to some amazing art. The first time I went to the gallery I saw Faiza Butt’s Paracosm and was so deeply impressed I made my mind up to see as many exhibitions as I could. The gallery has been home to such exhibitions as 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen’s Queen and Country exhibit and Regina José Galindo’s incredible Tierra. If you’re looking for radical contemporary art, or exhibitions of seminal work, Art Exchange has you covered. 

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Photography credit: Art Exchange via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ArtExchangeUoE/)

To see what exhibitions are coming up at the Art Exchange, check out their website at http://www.artexchange.org.uk/.

Going home for Christmas: the good bits, the bad bits, and the downright ugly bits

First term of uni is finally over! We can all finally get into the Christmas spirit without pretending we don’t have deadlines to work on and tests to study for. It’s time for some guilt free relaxation where you can go home and be treated like royalty by your parents, fight with your siblings and eat food that isn’t cooked in the microwave. Whether you’re a fresher or a final year there are both good and bad things about going home for the holidays that we probably all experience so here they are!

Good

nintchdbpict000285818935 Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/nintchdbpict000285818935.jpg?w=960

Okay, so of course it’s great to see your family at Christmas, especially if you haven’t been home during term time, but you know what else is also pretty great: food. After weeks and months of different variations of pasta dishes, Christmas brings a welcome break from student cuisine. I know that when I go home for the holidays, I’m always asked how well I’ve been eating and whatever the answer my family feed up! Now, I’m not complaining, in fact, I love it. There’s the pigs in blankets, the fancy desserts, roast potatoes and copious amounts of gravy. After the big day itself, you’ve even got the boxing day leftovers; turkey sandwich anyone?

Bad

Of course, going home for Christmas isn’t all fun and games. You find yourself having just settled into uni life, having to go home again. It feels a little bit weird leaving your uni bubble and going back into the “real world”. You miss your flatmates and your friends, even the routine of going to lectures. It’s not all bad though, you get to have a long awaited catch up with your friends from home. Sometimes it can be just as fun to reminisce about those sixth form memories as it is to have a night out in Sub Zero with your uni friends.

Ugly

giphy7 Source: https://media.giphy.com/media/AFZNNVHpQRico/giphy.gif

We’ve had the good and the bad, so it’s time to get to the ugly. The questions. What are you going to do when you graduate? Have you found a boyfriend/girlfriend yet? I get these pretty much every time I go home and I know my family mean well and they’re just taking an interest in my life. The only problem is that it really does get quite annoying when you have to answer the same questions over and over again with the same answers. Sometimes I long for the day when my answers to those questions sound almost as if I have I know what I’m doing with my life! But you know what, whatever I end up doing, my family will always be there to support me.

Even with the bad and the ugly, all the good of Christmas really outweighs those things. It’s been a long first term and I can’t wait to just have a break and enjoy making the most of being home. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Christmas gifts on a budget

It’s actually snowed already, the gingerbread latte is back in the fashion and Mariah Carey plays on the radio approximately ten times a day.

Christmas is clearly approaching.

I got really excited about going back home, seeing my family and friends, and I started making a list of gifts ideas. It looked great, I had it all sorted. Then I opened my bank account…

If you are broke, like me, you might appreciate these Christmas gift ideas which will make your nearest and dearest feel special and won’t make you cry over your overdraft.

Perfect!

cal

PERSONAL CALENDAR

I made it a few times and it was always a total success! You can choose a template of a calendar and personalize it, or just do it all yourself, on the computer or just by hand. Choose the nicest pictures, mark important dates to remember, maybe add a nice quote for each month. It’s fun and easy to make and it will make your loved ones smile all year round!

PHOTO ALBUM

Not a fun of calendars? How about a photo album with funny anecdotes, memories, the most beautiful moments from the past year, or years. It’s always nice to go down memory lane!

MUSIC

Another idea on a similar note is a personal sound journey. Once I gave my dad a CD with tracks from his childhood, young years, and important moments from his life, it triggered so many beautiful memories! He loves coming back to it a lot, it’s like a little time vehicle.

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KNITTING

This is a classic. Imagine giving your precious person something you have knitted yourself? You might think it’s for knitting-PROs only, but this doesn’t have to be a masterpiece jumper with funky patterns, there are much easier things to do and with a little youtube tutorial I’m sure you can do it too!

If knitting is not for you, how about a personalized bag, shawl or decorative cloth to put on a table? You can get a plain linen bag or a piece of fabric from a charity shop or e-bay, and just embroider a name, a life motto, or a colourful pattern on it!

HANDMADE COSMETICS

You can pamper your loved ones with a mini spa in a jar! There are loads of easy-peasy and cheap recipes for homemade make-up, make-up removers, creams, face-masks, lip balms, etc.!

How about Vanilla Coconut Sugar Scrub? All you need is 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or a different aroma, but this is optional). That’s it! You just mix it well, put a scrub in a jar and voalá!

Another easy and cheap to make present is a handmade deodorant which is also much healthier than the industrial ones. The ingredients are: coconut oil, corn starch and baking soda. You can add an aroma if you like, but to me it’s perfect just as it is. You need 6 spoons of coconut oil, 4 spoons of baking soda and 4 spoons of corn starch. Mix soda with starch and then add the oil. The oil should be liquid to mix well, if it isn’t, you can just heat it up a little bit.

You can decorate the jar with nail polish, tie up a nice ribbon, or just keep it simple.

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WINE CORK BOARD

This is a great idea for wine lovers. Now you can make a use of all these wines you drunk during the term 😊 It can become a notice board, rustic bathroom mat, kitchen board to put a hot pan on, or just a lovely decoration. You can also pin pictures or good thoughts on it. All you need is cork and glue!

I hope these ideas inspired some of you to make a gift! You really don’t need a fortune to make your very special people happy. Just get creative and enjoy this lovely season! An empty wallet cannot ruin it!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Top 6 Xmas Comedy Specials of all time

It’s Christmas, and you know what that means: it’s time to forget about everything that doesn’t begin with the word “Christmas” and sit on the sofa in your pyjamas with a Christmas jumper on for a month straight. But what are you going to do in between shoving as many Celebrations (except Bounty) into your mouth and attempting to play Charades with your nan, who’s had a few sherries and can’t remember how to sign “Chicken Run”? You’re going to stick on the telly, switch to Gold and bask in the warm glow. Here are the best comedy Christmas specials you could ever hope to see.

 

#1 The Office (UK)

The Office is rightly held up as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and this pair of Christmas specials – which tie up the loose ends the series finale neglected to – are the icing on the cake. If you haven’t seen the rest, you ought to before beginning this. It won’t take long: there are only 12 episodes and you’ll breeze right through them. By the time you reach the specials, you’ll be gagging to know what’ll happen with Tim and Dawn, and whether David’s career as an entertainer ever took off. The specials are so jam-packed with satisfying endings you’ll be hooting and hollering at the screen by the end.

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#2 The Office (US)

If you’re a UK Office purist, please do yourself a favour and forget that the two are remotely connected. The US Office is a marvel, and entirely different from our version after about six episodes. There are a few Christmas specials from Michael Scott and co., but if I had to choose one to watch forever it’d be season 6’s “Secret Santa”. This is classic Dunder Mifflin when the show had really hit its stride and showcases Michael at his most excited, and his most childish. Which, really, is what Christmas is all about.

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#3 The Royle Family

It’s hard to think of a more accurate or hilarious representation of British culture than in the Royle Family, and never is this more true than in their Christmas specials. “The Queen of Sheba” is the creme-de-la-creme of the many Royle Family Christmasses in part for its emotional storyline (have the hankies ready for the ending) but also for its laugh out loud jokes that you’ll be ashamed to relate to.

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#4 Gavin and Stacey

Oh! What’s occurring? I know you’ve seen the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special about 500 times by now, but come on. You’ll watch it again, and you’ll love it. Plus, now that James Corden is somehow the biggest name in America right now, you can watch it and shake your head in disbelief that Smithy, of all people, is an A-lister. This episode shows him performing his very first Carpool Karaoke, no less!

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#5 The Simpsons

The Simpsons has been running for almost thirty years and as you can imagine, it has its fair share of Christmas episodes. In fact, the very first episode was a Christmas special! However, this list is not about “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”, but rather about the seminal seventh season fable “Marge Be Not Proud”. This episode is chock-full of classic Simpsons moments (Thrillho anybody?) but also an emotional tale of crime and reconciliation. Essential watching.

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#6 Peep Show

An absolute classic. As if Peep Show wasn’t already the most quotable show ever made, nearly every single line in this Christmas episode is legendary in and of itself. Just say the words “No turkey?” or “Cauliflower is not traditional” or “Hello, Christmas smoothie” to basically any student at Essex and within seconds you’ll both be cracking up at your fond memories of one of the most awkward Christmasses ever captured on camera.

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There you have it! Have a very merry Christmas, or just a wonderful break from school/uni/anything!!

Turning your passion into a paid profession

Photography has been always one of my biggest passions. Why? I just can’t imagine my world without the viewfinder and the constant struggle of ‘the right lens’.

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Since the first time I picked up a cheap point and shoot film camera, a camera which my parents gave me when I was 7 to play around with when I was on a school trip in the countryside of Romania, I knew that it would become a really important factor in my life. After learning that I could take some pretty interesting pictures as a child (being encouraged by both my parents and teachers), my interest in photography grew.

My main interests when I was a child were to get the most out of a situation. Starting from the cheesy sunsets to the smile of my mum; I wanted to capture everything I saw. I was truly fascinated. But I didn’t know that my passion for photography could turn into actually being paid to photograph events.

How did I managed to do that? Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I just looked online at the Students Union job opportunities. I’d seen photographers on campus wearing their SU badges, but I have never thought that they were actually students like myself! I eventually gathered all the courage I had to walk up to a perfect stranger and ask one of the photographers:

Are you a student here?

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Obviously (or not so obviously to me at the time) she answered yes! She was in her third year and I blame my enthusiasm for forgetting her degree (or maybe my loss of memory as I get older and older).

I started filling out my application the moment they were posted on the website, but I now had another crisis – there were 2 different photographer positions:

  • Venues
  • Marketing

The Venues photographer means in a nutshell, shooting all the events that happen in the clubs (SubZero or Base) and even in SU Bar.giphy (3).gif

The Marketing photographer is all about promoting what our amazing Students Union has to offer, starting from the Freshers Fair, Colour Run, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Guy Fawkes Day, all the way to sports! They cover everything that happens in the campus in the day-time.

In the end of I went for the Marketing Photographer role. As I’m studying Media, shooting events which are strongly related to a much more consumer and customer focus atmosphere is both beneficial for my academic knowledge and also for my future career plans too. I’m pleased to say I got the job! I’d done it – I’d turned my passion into a paid profession!

Whatever you’re passionate about, or even if you haven’t found your passion, do not hesitate to become a mighty explorer and discover what’s out there for you! The University of Essex has so much to offer, it has even given me this job as a blogger. Who would not love to blog about their own experiences and earn money from doing so?!

It all depends on you. Don’t stop dreaming. You can actually turn any kind of hobby in something profitable. And the University of Essex will definitely help you in doing so!

And now, let me share some of my favourite pictures I have taken while working for the Students Union, here at the most amazing university! The University of Essex!

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All this discussion about photography made me really enthusiastic! I can’t wait to grab my camera and explore the world!

Until next time,

Mimi.

Does my love count as a Christmas present?

My most recent google searches include:

‘Gifts under £10’
‘I have no money, how do I buy Christmas presents?’
‘What organs are worth the most money and the least necessary’

I’m kidding about the last one, but Christmas for students can be very stressful. For most people, Christmas is wonderful; you get to open presents, spend time with your family, and relax after a long year. But for students, the idea of buying Christmas presents fills them with dread. Now that you’ve reached eighteen, you’re expected to buy your own presents, rather than ask your mum to get something for you to scribble your name on. Personally, I know that by the time Christmas rolls around, I’ve barely got enough money to even buy myself a present, let alone presents for my whole family (see google searches above).

However, there’s no excuses in my family. It is the one holiday of the year that my family go all out. My parents especially love Christmas. My mum starts putting the tree up and decorating the house at the end of November, and starts wrapping presents in the beginning of December. And they still write Christmas lists. What this means is that I’ve learnt some things from living with people who are hyped about Christmas as soon as Bonfire night ends.

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^My family on November 6th

 

So for those who still haven’t started Christmas shopping, here are some things to think about before the big day:

The big question you have to ask yourself is: who are you buying for?

If you’re strapped for cash this year, it sounds mean but limit the number of people you’re buying presents for. Some people are really generous over the holidays and buy gifts for lots of people, but as a student you probably can’t do this. If you only want to buy presents for your parents and siblings, you can. A lot of people end up buying gifts for people because they know that they are buying one for them, but often it’s because that person feels the exact same pressure!

The dreaded word: Budget

Some people will have a bigger budget than you this Christmas, and there’s nothing worse than finding out that your friend has spent like £100 on your gift, when you can only spend £10 on them. The best way to avoid this is to set a budget. It saves you money, and there’s less pressure to buy lots of gifts. It also stops me from spending all of my money because like my family, I also get very excited about Christmas.

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Being Crafty

If, like me, you grew up watching Art Attack, you’ll know that you can make anything as long as you have some PVA glue to hand. That being said, people often really love homemade gifts because they know that you’ve spent time and effort on making something rather than buying it. For Christmas one year, I made a collage of family photos for my parents, and they loved it more than any of the other presents that we got them. The internet is full of websites with suggestions of homemade gifts

Some ideas I found (and also have used in the past):

Personalised photo frames – parents always like photos, when you’re at university, weirdly, your parents actually miss you
Personalised mugs
Handmade soaps/body scrubs

I want this, but I don’t actually need it (Something I have to remind myself every day)

In my family, we have a rule about Christmas presents: buy people what they want, not what they necessarily need. This rule has actually served me well so far. I know my sister doesn’t need another pair of pyjamas, but I know that she would want them, because she always feels the cold. Usually, people put off buying things that they actually want, because of the things that they actually need. I do this all the time – I want to buy more clothes, but I can’t because I need to be able to eat for the rest of term. People will be delighted if you get them something that they really want that they couldn’t justify buying for themselves.

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Finally…

Christmas should be fun! Presents are only part of the fun of the whole holiday. There’s also the Christmas dinner, the bad jokes, and if you’re like my family, the new board games to play. Don’t feel like you have to bankrupt yourself to buy people gifts. In the end, people will like whatever you buy them because presents are a way of showing someone that you were thinking about them.

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Happy holidays!

 

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