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!

 

New Year’s Resolutions never work! So why bother?

New-years-Resolutions

 

It’s funny to think we’re coming to the end of 2017! For me this year has been an eventful and rewarding one for a lot of different reasons. My time abroad has been a massive part of that, but a lot of it is down to the goals that I set down at the start of this year…

If you’re ever in the very specific situation of being in Brisbane as a student, be aware that there are hardly any part time jobs! I spent months looking for a way to get some extra cash for my travels with limited success. Strangely enough I ended up working on several what I like to call “Rockstar jobs” whilst I was away. These were one-off jobs where companies just needed people to work for a day or so and that’s it. From supervising a cheese board in a penthouse hotel room, to giving away free frozen desserts, I found myself working at a lot of eventful (and random) places.

Proud & Punch

One of the most memorable jobs I had was working for a sales company. The company specialised in face to face sales and I was allocated to work in the car wax department, selling products on petrol garage forecourts. I only ended up being in the job for a few days but I learnt a lot during that time. One of the main things I noticed was how positive and driven everybody was. People would arrive at work early and leave way after they were supposed to. They were all desperate to succeed by learning about how they could improve the following day.

An example of this was when I was in a session of theirs about making goals for next year. I was there around mid-November time 2016 and they were already planning for 2017!

This got me thinking.

Like most other people I made New Year’s resolutions. Something we all do every year as a withering self-promise that we can pick up our act over the next year and make some changes. For me at least, these never seemed to last and most of the time they went back to being idealistic, unresolved ideas within a few weeks.

Failed-resolutions-resized-600

I was encouraged by one of my colleagues to not set up any resolutions for next year but make some realistic goals that I could achieve.

Whilst I didn’t achieve many goals involving selling car wax (sorry!), I really latched onto the rest of them. As a result I achieved the majority of the other goals I set. Here are a few highlights…

To act in a theatre production

Dream A House

When I was studying abroad, my course didn’t involve much practical theatre work. So, I made sure that in 2017 I went for every show that I could.

I ended up acting in a show called “Dream a House”, which took an audience member on a journey through a dreamlike world. As a company, we made the show from scratch and it was an amazing experience.

I got to meet lots of local theatre makers and make some contacts who I’m still in contact with now! There’s constant talk of them reviving the show, but I’m not sure if I can let them seeing as I’m no longer in Australia…

To earn back the money I spent travelling

Lakeside

Okay so it turns out that living and travelling around the world does cost a lot of money (who knew?!). So much so that at some point I knew that I had to face the music and get some money in. I got a bit of work in Australia, but my big break came when I got home. I got a Frontrunners Plus placement working at the Lakeside Theatre over the summer holidays. Not only was this brilliant to get some experience, but I also worked hard and earned a big chunk of my money back.

To be more fit

run

This has always been one of those resolutions that I used to make and never tackle. It’s just always too cold in January to suddenly get up and go for a run…

So, with no running experience before, I impulsively signed up to a 5km fun run. This meant that I actually had to up my game.

I dedicated myself to 9 weeks training which was tough. I would often stalk my fan for 10 minutes when I got home to recover!

It all worked out in the end though as I ended up running the race in a respectable 26 minutes, which for a first timer I’m quite happy with! I would like to say that I’m now a keen runner but I’ve let myself go since I got back to chilly England. Perhaps this should be one of my 2018 goals?!

So on the 31st December this year I encourage you to do the following…

Forget the resolutions that you know you’ll never stick to and pick some things that you actually want to achieve in 2018. Then set them as your goals. It doesn’t matter if you don’t achieve all of them, just have something to work towards. You’ll thank yourself this time next year for it when you see what you’ve achieved!

 

A tour of the food outlets on campus

So it’s your first term at university and you still haven’t eaten a proper meal. You told yourself that you were going to eat healthily and to cook for yourself, except you forgot one thing: you can’t cook and now Dominoes is on speed dial. But really, why go through the trouble of buying and making expensive food when you can find tastier food on campus?! Lets take the scenic route through the food outlets on campus.

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Starting at Square 5, we’ve got the Lakeside Theatre Cafe and the No. 64 Bus. By day, the Lakeside Cafe provides a variety of both hot and cold beverages, sandwiches, pastries and snacks. But by night, when plays are being performed, it is transformed into a bar, serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The Bus is a life-size model of a traditional English double-decker bus that delivers common British breakfast and lunch items, such as pies, hashbrownss, sausages, and (most importantly) cheesey chips from 9am-4pm Mondays to Fridays.

Image result for no 64 bus essex

Photography credit: Print Essex sourced via http://www.printessex.org.uk/case-studies/

In Square 4, there’s Buffalo Joe’s, Fusion Grill and Blues Cafe. Buffalo Joe’s is a fast food restaurant that has chicken, beef and veggie burgers and wraps available from early in the morning till late at night all week (not to mention their AMAZING curly fries). There is indoor and outdoor seating, making it ideal to either eat in or take-away. Fusion Grill excels at creating gourmet burgers, skewers and steaks incorporating Mexican, Brazilian, American, Moroccan, Chinese and Greek cuisine, with similar opening times as Buffalo Joe’s. If you’re ever feeling like you haven’t had enough to eat during the day, Fusion will definitely fill you up. Like Lakeside Theatre Cafe, Blues also serves hot and cold drinks, and snacks. However, it is the proud owner of the largest salad bar on campus, which also includes soups and stews, and fresh carvery sandwiches.

Image result for happy days essex

Photography credit: Pinterest sourced via https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/300544975102601007/

Consequently, we arrive at Square 3, home to the Canteen, SU Bar, Frangos, Zest fresh and the Kitchen. What a mouthful! The Canteen is well-known for offering a wide assortment of English and international dishes from all around the world, each day serving something different. At a good price, you can get a main dish and two sides, as well as a full English breakfast in the morning. Moreover, there is a Curry Club and Fusion Wok in the evenings and a Sunday carvery. The Canteen has got you sorted out for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The Student Union Bar has a Starbucks branch open in the day, serving tea, coffee and cakes. Until 10pm, the bar also sells your typical pub food, like pizzas, burgers and pasta – all at pretty reasonable prices. At night, the bar has alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages suitable for the events that occur there.

Frangos is a replica of Nandos, except it caters more to students of this university by providing more vegan and halal options. It is popular for its marinated chicken, offered plain or in burgers and wraps. One unique feature that the menu has is the refillable drinks for less than £2.

Zest fresh is a dynamic and creative cafe that, like other cafes, serves hot and cold drinks. It provides a multitude of warm sandwiches and paninis, flatbreads and bagels, and salads. There is a useful set-up in Zest known as the Orangery, that has study pods for student groups who wish to complete their assignments as they grab lunch…or if you want to grab a cake to ease the pain of revision!

For those of you who are always in a rush to get to class or work, the Kitchen provides quick service of hot drinks, warm pastries, and sandwiches. There is also a Mug Wall if you wish to decorate your own mug and leave there for others to be amazed by your artistic abilities..!

frangos

Photography credit: Hamza Kazmi sourced via https://twitter.com/essexsufrangos

Finally, Bonds is a cafe located in the Essex Business School (EBS) and serves to provide bagels and smoothies for breakfast, and hot lunchboxes and salad boxes for lunch. Personally I’d recommend their toasted pitta bread with humous, it’s delicious! Bonds is perfect for those studying in this beautifully designed building as it is quite far from central campus food outlets.

All in all, the university has quite a lot on its plate, serving well-priced and nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner items. I understand this information may take a while to digest but I hope this review was helpful – happy eating!

 

Is it Possible to Study and Still Have a Social Life?

The answer is of course, yes.

We’re in the last three weeks of uni, there’s officially less than a month until Christmas and deadlines are looming…It’s now that part of university where you have to actually attend lectures and start writing essays instead of hitting the snooze button and hanging out with your friends. The first term of university always feels really odd, when term starts December seems far, far away. You want to get to know your new flatmates rather than sit down and work. Now, you might have had a few late nights this term and you’re thinking about how to avoid panicking next term when your next deadline comes. So, here’s a few tips on how to have both a social life and get good results.

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To Do List

Invest in post it notes! Honestly, these saved my life in third year. I have so many deadlines for all my different modules, and for my RA job that it can be a bit overwhelming until I write it down. Once I have a list written down rather than just an idea in my head then it feels manageable. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at university when you have something due every week. And even if I only manage to cross off only half of my list, I still feel really accomplished.

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Find Your Space

Everyone has a spot on campus where they can be super productive. Some need the total silence of the library, while others need some background noise to focus. Personally, I need some background noise so I always like going to the student centre. Some people I know can work in the SU bar and like being able to get food and drinks while they’re working, and others like to stay in their room. Everybody has a certain space on campus that works for them, you just have to find it.

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Learn To Say No

Sometimes you just have to say no to your friends who are begging you to come out one last time before a deadline. You know and they know that you’re going to end up sleeping in the next day and not doing any work because you have a hangover (at least that’s what happens to me when I go out…) If you can work through your hangover, that’s great (also please let me know your secret?!), but some of us can’t and sometimes you need to say no to your friends and do the annoying thing of staying in and doing work. You’ll have serious FOMO but once you’ve finished it, you can go out as much as you like

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Alarms Are Your Friend (No, Really They Are)

Do you ever look back and wonder how you used to get at 7am for school when now it’s almost impossible to get up for your 9am lecture? I know I do. But if you find a time that feels like enough of a lie in, but still early during the day (personally, I like 9:30), then you’ll find your day is so much easier. If you find yourself waking up at noon everyday you’re going to find it much harder to fit in enough time for your uni life and your social life. Even if the idea of waking up at 9am is too much, set your alarm an hour earlier than normal and see how much work you get done and still get to hang out with your friends

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Speak Up

If you’re really struggling to balance your work and your social life and find yourself getting really overwhelmed at university, speak to someone. Even if it’s just a friend, they may be struggling in the same way. Your personal tutor is also there to give you advice and help you if you’re struggling, and Student Services are also on hand. You are not the first student to need help, and you won’t be the last. It’s very common for first years to end up at university and get really involved with things on campus and then forget that they actually have to study!

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Good luck!

 

Long distance friendships and relationships

Coming to university, moving away from your loved ones, and starting this whole scary ‘long distance’ thing might be the worst nightmare for many students. It was scary for me too, but now I actually think it’s a blessing.

I left my home country a while ago, leaving all my friends behind. For the past seven years I lived in quite a few countries and, as a fairly sociable human being, I found a lovely bunch of friends in each of them and fell in love a few times. And just at the moment I would start to call that place ‘home’, it was time to make a move again… even though it was always painful (actually I don’t think I ever managed to leave without crying a river!) I learned to appreciate every different place for their own special reasons.

When I was moving around, for the first few times I was convinced I would keep in touch with all my friends and only a thought of a different scenario would make my eyes water. The truth is that it’s not always like that. You will have your life here and they will have their life there. You can drop a message sometimes, but it’s difficult to be present in everybody’s life constantly, unless you want to spend your life on Skype. The good thing about it is that it will let you identify people who really care about how you’re doing and who always will be there for you, in spite of the distance and the time passing by.

Even if it sounds harsh, I believe the same goes for amorous relationships. Sometimes being around one another constantly doesn’t give you any space to reflect upon your relationship. After moving away for a while, you will be able to look at everything from a distance and decide if it’s really right for you.

A while ago I moved to another country (again), and my boyfriend-at-the-time stayed in the country I left. We were both so in love, so of course we tried to keep it going. After I moved away, I realised that I was actually happier by myself, doing what was making ME happy and that this relationship was keeping me in stagnation, without me even realising it. I didn’t just give up, I tried to find a solution, but after a while I came to the conclusion that this was an ultimatum: my personal growth or that relationship. It sounds like the worst scenario, and I don’t wish it to happen to any of you, but I think for me I made the best decision. I looked at my relationship from a different perspective and I noticed that it just wasn’t what I wanted.

I don’t mean to scare you. It doesn’t mean that after coming to uni your relationships will fall apart. Actually, I’ve been in (another) long distance relationship for a while now and seriously, I couldn’t be happier. Ironically, the distance makes us feel even closer because now we make time for good conversations. I don’t want to sound like a relationship pro either, of course everyone is different, but just know that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing to be away from one another and if it doesn’t work, it’s for a reason.

It’s a win-win situation!

Long distance friendships and relationships at uni might be the first ‘trial’ for you and I think it will benefit you either way. If things don’t go so well and you happen to break up or stop being friends – that’s ok, honestly! It might be difficult to accept at the time, but maybe there’s some truth in the saying that everything happens for a reason. My very wise friend used to say: ”It’s always good when it’s good”. It’s so true. It’s only when obstacles such as being long distance appear that you find out if you really are meant to bein each other’s lives. And  if it does work out, that’s amazing! You guys will have a solid base to build something very valuable.

Good luck to all those who are about to embark on a new adventure, moving cities or even countries, I hope you to keep your precious friendships and establish new ones! For those who come in a ‘relationship status’, stay positive! There are so many ways to pamper your Very Special Person from far away, but that’s a topic for another post. 🙂

Your first instalment of student loan: what to do and what not to do

There are numerous exciting moments when starting university: moving in day, first classes, and meeting new people. But perhaps receiving that first instalment of your student loan (and arguably every subsequent instalment) is THE most exciting moment there is.

However with the great first instalment comes great responsibilities, so here are the essential do’s and don’ts that you should know:

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(c) thebackbencher.co.uk

DO budget: as boring as it sounds you need to make your money last for the entire term and if you don’t have a part-time job then this is probably the source of funds to pay for those important things. Remember this money is going towards your accommodation, food, books, stationery and socialising- so take that into account.

DON’T spend it all in the first week: Rule number one! Never, ever, ever spend the entire instalment in the first week, not matter how tempting it may be.

DO consider part-time work if you think you need more money: Sometimes the student loan just isn’t going to reach the entire term, so consider supplementing it with part-time work- you’ll find tons of opportunities both on campus and in nearby Colchester.

DON’T worry about tuition fees: The whole tuition fee thing can seem daunting, but don’t worry your first instalment of your student loan does not go towards it- this is handled separately between the university and the student loans company.

DO learn about food: Gone are the days of eating nothing but baked beans and pot noodle as a student. You can now buy good food quick cheaply, so you can eat and live well on a budget. Try shopping around and don’t rely too must on takeaways.

DON’T give into temptation: With the prospect of thousands of pounds at your disposal it is easy to get tempted by pricey clothes, jewellery, technology and the rest- but don’t do it at the risk of leaving yourself short at the end of term.

 

Good luck and happy spending (or saving!)

Last Minute Shoppers Guide To Make University Feel Like Home

polaroids_550x822When I turned up at university that sunny Sunday morning in late September I’d came prepared. I had new bed sheets, all the cooking utensils anyone could want and a Tesco food shop to last me a good 2 weeks. But there was one major thing I had missed of my shopping list.. things to make my university room feel like home.

The accommodation rooms are pretty plain. But that’s a good thing because you’d never suit everyone’s taste. This gives you the perfect opportunity to make your room yours. Consider all them finishing touches that make your university feel homely.

Photos 

Photos are the most important thing to make your room feel homely. Surrounded by your friends and family from back home that lonely room can suddenly feel a lot more like home. There are several ways you can put pictures around your room.

  • Photo frames– Choose some nice photo frames and pick your favourite photos of your loved ones. I think using a photo frame for a picture makes it really personal.
  • Photo wall– I quickly learnt that a photo wall was the thing for uni rooms! This is a great way to make them white walls seem less bland. It means you can put a lot more photos up and you’re not having to choose which photos miss out on the frames.
  • Photo lines– I think these are a great DIY way to decorate your room! Easy to make. All you’ll need is string, pegs, blue tac and some photos! Cheap but effective!

Posters & calendars

A way to take up some wall space is by getting posters! But don’t worry the university has a poster fair where you can get your posters from! A calendar is also a nice touch. It is also practical, you can write upcoming events and deadline so you never miss out! I have a pug calendar and it really comes in handy!

Cushions

 I think I have a cushion obsession. I have 7. And they all end up on the floor half way through the night. But I just love the way they make my bed look homely and also add the extra comfort.

cushion

Bed throw/blanket

Adding a blanket or bed throw is another way to make your bed a bit more homely. It has a practical use for when its cold or you’ve got fresher’s flu to wrap up in and feel sorry for yourself.

Rug 

The carpet in the university reminds me of carpet you had in primary school. There is not a lot you can do about the carpet.. but you can add a rug!

Extras- Blackboard, whiteboard, dream catcher 

Have you thought about the little extra bits you could buy to make your university room look quirky? Try visiting shops such as B&M, Wilkinson’s and the range to find these little gems. For example, I had a moustache blackboard which also came in handy to write notes on, a white board and a sign with a quote of some sort.

sign

Storage boxes

Firstly, storage boxes are really handy to store paperwork and stationary in. Let’s not pretend that you haven’t already brought enough stationary to give WHSmiths a run for their money! They make your room look a lot tidier and they can also give that plain shelf a bit of life. I got mine from B&M and Argos.

Make cute jars 

There are many things you could do with a jar. From the picture below you can see this glitter jars. You could make these by getting glitter glue or adding glitter to PVA glue and painting the jar. It would take quite a few layers to get the effects of the picture below, but if you’re in to arts and crafts and have a bit of time on your hands, then these jars are a great idea!

jars.jpg

Jars could also be used for storage. Write labels on the side of the jars and keep loose bits and pieces in them!

jars2

Extra seating such as beanbags

While there is only so much you can fit in your university room; an idea is adding some extra seating such as a beanbag. I know that squeezing a group of people in your room for a movie night or gossip can be hard, but having extra seating like a beanbag prevents at least one person from sitting on the floor!

beanbag

There’s a few ideas about how you can decorate your room. Do your room to suit your tastes because everyone is different and when you’re away from home, you need to feel like you have a little piece of it at uni.

 

Thrifty Studenting AKA Improvising Plates Out of Cardboard Because You’re a Terrible Person

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Let’s set the scene, you’re a month deep into your student loan, and after buying a fresh pair of creps, an entire new wardrobe and all of the pretentious coffees ever, you’re broke. Student life can be pricey, especially when the nights out get heavier and the desire to order takeaway in place of real food gets stronger. Here’s some ways to save that dollar.

All the discounts.

There’s a huge amount of shops that offer student discount, and you don’t necessarily have to have an NUS extra card, a lot of places will take your university card, or for online, Unidays is a life saver. Everywhere I go, whenever I am spending money, I always ask if there’s student discount, even if it feels silly, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised and get a little bit off.

Shared Netflix/ whatever you watch on. 

This could be hard now Netflix are limiting the amount of people that can watch at one time, but if you live in a house with your mates, and you all watch TV together, maybe consider all going in on a collective streaming account, save paying for an individual one each.

Do you actually need that Starbucks though?

I’m totally guilty of this, you get into your routine, lecture then Starbucks, day in day out. Granted, few can resist the pull of a  pumpkin spice latte, topped with whipped cream, but yikes, how much is that costing you?! Coffee isn’t cheap when you buy it everyday, if you need your fix, go for a flask, which holds more coffee, which is a total bonus.  It may seem like a tiny amount of money to grab a cappuccino at a coffee shop, but add that up, it soon starts to mount.  

Supermarket Sweep

Those little yellow stickers are like a glowing beacon of cheap brilliance as you walk down the aisle, the supermarket reduced counter is a great source for food, the reductions are great especially for things like meat and fish, I tend to stock up on seafood and freeze it.

For food in your fridge, I’ll leave this to your judgement, but for me, sell by dates are for the weak, nose test it and you’re good to go. (I am partially joking about this!) However, if you’ve got a bag of spinach which is still perfectly crisp and fresh that went out yesterday, you’re not gonna die if you use it in your dinner.

What are you doing buying name brand anything you lunatic!?! Supermarket own brand isn’t as bad as you think (maybe not the vodka.) Seriously, name brand food is for Oxbridge students and when you go home to your parent’s house for the weekend. I’m like an own brand bloodhound, that’s how you get when you’re a thrifty student, the packaging may not be as pretty but I promise, the majority of stuff tastes the exact same! In the case of instant noodles, Tesco’s ones are actually better, I swear!

Make gifts, don’t buy them

Christmas and birthdays are so damn pricey, my personal method of avoiding this cost is by hating everyone which makes my birthday list substantially lower, but for those of you that insist on being decent human beings and upkeeping friendships, while you’re at uni, making gifts in the form of food is always a winner. This is a great way to charm elderly relatives, especially my very old-fashioned nan, who up until this point was probably losing hope in her unhomely, terrible at cookery, no desire to get married and have children granddaughter, I made her fudge, and a little piece of her faith in me as a ‘proper woman’ was restored (let’s ignore how ridiculously 1950’s and outdated that sounds.) Plus you can totally eat some as you make it. Fudge is great and really really easy, I used old coffee jars, ribbon and pieces off of Christmas cards to package and managed to make it look like it was from some fancy artisanal farm shop. For friends, who should appreciate you for your ‘quirky’ flair, wrap their gifts up in tin foil, who buys wrapping paper? I’m not in my 40’s yet, that’s far too responsible.

Being Super Tight/ I’m The Worst 

Save water and washing up time and energy

Ok get ready, because this blew my tiny mind, when you buy crisps, push the bottom of the bag up inside itself, it makes a freakin’ bowl… wuuuut?! My housemate changed my life with that, not even exaggerating.

Also, if you’re making food for yourself, why use a plate when you can just eat from the saucepan, it tastes like decadence, just put a mat down and eat that pasta straight out of the pan, like a maverick. Same applies for baking trays, chips and chicken nuggets for a naughty tea? Go on, eat it off the tray, you’re a student, you have no shame.

Re-purposed cardboard is life 

Why would you do that? How many pizzas have you had? I use a lot of cardboard because I paint a lot, rip up that pizza box, boom! You’ve got yourself a palette.

Old cereal boxes double up as plates when washing up just feels a little bit beyond your skill set (for flat, dry food like toast, nothing rolly or runny like peas or ice cream obviously, but if you can’t work that out, you probably shouldn’t be at uni.)

If you’re even more of a money scavenger and you ebay like me, buying packaging for your sells can be expensive, I once sent an order off to a buyer in a re-purposed quavers box which had blown into my garden, that’s thrift right there, I’m not paying money for cardboard!

These are just a few things that you can consider doing, if you’re willing to stoop as low as me to save a penny.

 

 

Books, reading lists and everything in-between

Books shelf

I “ummed” and “ahhed” for ages whilst deciding what I should write about this week, then a friend sent me a Snapchat picture (yeah thats right, I have Snapchat- I don’t really know how to use it but I have it!)

My friend had just been to Wivenhoe and discovered not one but two bookshops. To be fair, it is our own ignorance that we never ventured far into Wivenhoe to have a good look around- which is highly recommended by the way. As a result, for the past three years knowledge of these bookshops had completely escaped me and looking back I wish I had know about them. It would have saved me a considerable amount of time and money in getting books for my course.

And these are the questions that I have been asked on numerous occasions: What books do I need? Where can I find them?

Whilst I only really know about this from a literature student perspective, most of the information I provide about reading lists and book hunting is still relevant to most subjects.

Reading Lists

Every module will have a reading list of some sort. These will be the books that you require for that particular module and are often split into primary reading lists (texts you must read) and secondary reading lists (texts which you might find helpful).

Reading lists can normally be found on the module directory pages: https://www.essex.ac.uk/modules/ or on Moodle. If you can’t find any sort of reading list contact the module director or your departmental office.

New Books

Nothing beats a new book and these are often very easy to find. Of course you have suppliers such as Waterstones (our on campus bookshop, who stock most of the stuff that can be found on the primary lists- though books can also be ordered in); Wivenhoe Bookshop is an independent shop a short distance from campus which provides a friendly service. Of course you also have other options such as online retailers like Amazon.

NOTE: Some modules for departments such as law will recommend particular editions of texts and it is important to get these editions so that your book corresponds with everyone else. So it is in your best interest to buy the edition they ask for.

Second Hand Books

This is the best way to get books on a budget and there are plenty of options available to you. As part of the weekly Thursday Market in square 3 there is a second hand book stall which often has relevant books for different courses.

In addition you have the Colne Bookshop on the High Street in Wivenhoe and numerous charity shops in Colchester- perhaps the ones of note are the row of shops opposite Wilko (the number 61 and 62 bus will take you there from campus). In these cases you’ll find it quite common that past students on different modules will off-load their old books at these second hand stores. If you are lucky you may be able to pick up the entire terms books in one shop!

Online sites such as AbeBooks are also really useful.

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Library Books

An even more thrifty way to get books is to get them from the library. The on campus Albert Sloman Library will stock the majority of books on reading lists as well as extra and supplementary reading.

HOWEVER be careful as the number of texts available can vary greatly and if demand is high you’ll find it difficult to get hold of certain texts. People can also recall books which means that you will have one week in which to return it, so it is best to avoid getting out popular books if you can. This is not a good option if you like to write in your books!

Additionally there are also the libraries in Wivenhoe, Greenstead and Colchester Town which are run by Essex County Council and are a free to sign up to.

Online and e-books

Depending on your department/ module you may be able to access what is known as a “reader”- which is an online document that has been created by module director and often contains all the reading you need.

Otherwise there is also the option to use the library catalogue to find out if there are any e-books or online journals available- and at least with an ebook you won’t have other students desperate to recall it!