Getting a Part Time Job at Uni

Whether you’re after a bit of work experience or a little boost in your bank balance, a part time job can be a pretty valuable thing to have. Not only does it look great on your CV, but a part time job gives you a bit of a break from studying with the added bonus of a bit of extra money every month!

Whilst sometimes the struggle to get a part time job can be relentless, if you know what to do and where to look it doesn’t have to be that bad!

From job hunting in the past, here are some of my top tips in securing that perfect part time job…

Tidy up your CV!


Before you look for any jobs, you need to make sure that your CV is up to scratch. Although it may seem like an insignificant piece of paper, it is really valuable for an employer to see what kind of a person you are.

If you haven’t updated your CV for a while or if you’ve never written one before, then check out the Essex CV pack. This is a brilliant resource with everything you need to ace your CV. If you’re still struggling then go and visit the wonderful people at the Employability and Careers centre and they look through your CV with you!


Keep an eye out for things


Some jobs like Student Ambassador and ones offered by the SU are only recruited for at certain times of the year. Therefore, you only have a small window of opportunity where you can apply for them. If you don’t necessarily need a job straight away then the best thing is to keep your wits about for when opportunities open.


Look at your options


Ask yourself what you want to get out of a job. Is it just a few hours to make a few quid to go out with, or do you need something a bit more to help with living costs? There are a lot of jobs out there and they are all looking for something completely different. Have a think at what this might be as this will probably influence what you apply for. Also remember that it’s as much as finding a perfect job for you as an employer finding an ideal employee for their business!


Ask your mates about how they got their jobs


One of the hardest things about getting a part time job is getting yourself in the door, but if you know someone that already works there, it can make your job a whole lot easier. Whilst they probably won’t be able to give their mates a job on the spot, they will probably have some useful advice about what the employer is looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky then they might even be able to put a good word in for you to their employers!


Check online (Careers Hub/SU website)

all new careerhub

Another great resource offered by the Employability and Careers centre is Careers Hub. This is an online resource which has loads of part time jobs on there in the local area. This is where all the Frontrunner and UROP placements are advertised too! If you’re on the lookout for a job then this is a great place to start looking; jobs appear all the time on there.

Finally, above all don’t be disheartened if you don’t find something straight away! It might not happen straight away, but you’ll get there in the end with the right mindset! Things like always asking for feedback if you don’t get a job and getting careers advice from someone will help you in the long run.

Happy job hunting 😊

Things to consider before studying in the UK: an EU student’s perspective

There are certain moments in your life where you’re quite clueless when it comes to making big decisions. You don’t really know what the outcome will turn out to be. When you’re a teenager, even though you’re not allowed to go to the toilet without asking the teacher, you are put in a position where you need to decide the path of your entire life; you have to ask yourself, should I go to university or not? Then, more difficult questions start coming; what kind of university should I choose? Should I base my decision on university rankings, or will that confuse me more? What kind of degree should I study? And, in my case, I had to answer another difficult question: do I stay in Romania, or apply to the UK? Ultimately I chose to study in the UK, but there were a lot of things I needed to think about before I made my choice.


I’d heard stories about the cost of studying in the UK being expensive, or it not being within reach for me, but I’m here in my final year and I could afford it! The tuition fees when I enrolled were £ 9,000 per year, and the average cost of accommodation here is between £3,000- £7,000 per year. Ideally, after that you’d be able to live on around £4,000 for things like food, going out, clothes etc. I know that’s a lot of numbers and you might be thinking, how could I possibly afford that? Don’t worry! I  went through that as well, but it is possible.

The most expensive thing to pay for are the tuition fees, which could be either paid in 3 instalments, or, the choice I opted for, the UK government tuition fee loan, which I will need to give back after I graduate and once I’m earning over a certain amount. If you haven’t been able to earn more than that per year within 30 years, your loan will be erased. If you decide that you don’t want to continue to live in the UK after you graduate, the loan will vary  based on the salary in the country in which you are planning to live.

Luckily for me, my rent was  covered by my parents in my first year and they contributed to my spending habits, as well. I would certainly advise you to take in account every penny you spend and before arriving here. You can’t presume that you’ll get a part time job right away and get enough money to sustain your living. Take every aspect into account and that way there’ll be no nasty surprises. I got my first proper job in my second year and therefore had a little extra spending money for food and going out. It is quite tricky combining working with studying, but it has offered me a new outlook and opportunities to look forward to.


I have battled feeling homesick just like everyone else I know. Regardless of being an EU, UK or International student, everyone has it at some point. It’s normal. But it will pass, trust me. In fact, you’ll get to a stage where you’ll wish you could stay at uni forever!

Extra-Curricular opportunities

In UK universities, there is a lot of independent study, rather than being spoon-fed by your teachers. This means that you get to spend more time doing extra curricular things, as well as just studying! But, if you do need or want a bit more time with your academics, they have on-to-one office hours available to book.

The one extra-curricular activity that everyone should get involved in are the SOCIETIES! Yes! How else could you spend your free time if not being part of a society or being a volunteer?! Here at Essex, I have found that there seems to be a society for everything! Imagine the most obscure, unknown thing on the planet and there probably is a society for it here, but even if there isn’t you can set your own up. Just think about all the possibilities! They are unlimited!

Plus there are Sports clubs and teams, exercise classes, on-campus jobs and volunteering opportunities to get involved in.

Life after graduation

Wouldn’t it be great if your uni could offer you life time support when it comes to finding a career, or perfecting your cv and job applications? Well guess what…it exists! Essex has a Careers Centre to help you find a job, tailor your CV and help you with mock interviews! And it truly helps you feel prepared and prepare yourself for any kind of challenge. On top of that, you’ll receive emails with job opportunities, as well as a portal through which you can check job offers, which can be aimed specifically at students at a certain University.

All in all, there is one thing that you should be certain about: here, in the UK everything, and I mean everything, has been thought through to help students evolve and learn in a setting which tries to go beyond comfortable, something that will enhance your experiences and aims to get you that career that you always wanted!

Until the next time,



Working and Studying at the same time – is it possible?

A lot of students now worry about their employability after university, because they want to make sure that their university experience was worth it. Having a job on campus while you’re studying is great because you don’t have to worry about money, and it looks impressive to future employers that you were able to balance your work life with your studies and still get a great degree. For those that are a bit confused about how to get a part time job while studying, here are some ideas!


  1. Careers and Employability Office

Your first stop should be here! It’s on Square two, and full of very friendly people who are very happy to help. Here they will help you with your CV, and give you loads of helpful advice about how to really stand out to future employers. They have seminar talks year round about making successful CVs, to guest talks from people in a particular industry. They also have a Facebook page full of useful tips and invitations to their events that they host. They also have an Essex Interns Facebook page for undergraduates and graduates if people don’t want a full time job just yet. The office is really useful in terms of the resources that have for you as a student, which leads me on to my next tip…

Image result for university of essex employability and careers office


  1. Careerhub

A website run by the Employability and Careers office which is helpful for undergraduates and graduates alike. They have particular categories to search for on the website, including ‘on campus employment’ and ‘vacation work’ amongst other things. If you check it regularly during the year, you can find small on campus opportunities (which are all paid above minimum wage!) that can be really useful for you. Careerhub was how I found this job as an Online Brand Ambassador! Most on-campus employment opportunities are ones that you can fit around your studies so you don’t have to worry about clashing deadlines and your work responsibilities.

Image result for university of essex careerhub


  1. The SU

The SU website not only advertises what nights out it has, but from time to time advertise vacancies in their venues, including SubZero, the SU Store and the SU bar. These are really popular because the SU is dedicated to making sure you work around your studies, so you have to make sure that your CV really stands out. Working for the SU also means that you get staff discounts!

Image result for university of essex su bar


  1. Frontrunners

I did a Frontrunners placement in my second year working for SU Home as an office assistant. Frontrunners are really helpful for those who have had no employability experience, but even if you have previously, don’t be deterred from applying! They can be in particular venues or they can be in your own department so you can work alongside your lecturers and help the students on your course. They run for an average of 16 weeks so for a term and a half for around 10 hours a week, so again you can really balance your work life and your studies

Image result for university of essex frontrunners


  1. Summer jobs

Just because you go home for the summer doesn’t mean that the university shuts down. The campus keeps going all year round and so there are often summer jobs available if you’re still near Colchester or Southend in the summer. If you’re willing to give up some of your free time in the summer then there are loads of jobs available on campus. If you live too far away from campus, then sometimes jobs become available at home, but often it’s a little bit harder. Keep your eye out on careerhub or the SU website as they often have some great opportunities near the end of term!


Good luck everyone!

How To Adult Successfully

So it’s 2018, you think you’re going to make big changes this year because ‘new year, new me!’ You vow to wake up on time for your lectures, not spend all your loan the day it comes in and work hard. Except…it’s now February, and you’ve fallen back into your old habits: you’re back to snoozing your alarm, your bank account is already worryingly low and somehow you’re behind on lectures even though it’s only been a month.

It’s okay if that happens, it’s really hard to actually change behaviours. I’ve been trying to get up earlier this term rather than my normal 11am because I’m so busy, but it’s really hard because I have to self-motivate myself. However, if you find that you’re stressing about things as I always do, there are ways to actually look like you’re a successful adult, even if you probably don’t feel like one yet.


  1. Buy a planner/calendar

This is so useful to have on you! A small little diary that you can pick up from a stationary shop or a supermarket for less than £5 and you can write down all the things you need to do and attend. I’m not a forgetful person, but having a visual reminder of something that I need to do is really helpful for me just to remind myself to do something. A calendar is also a really nice visual thing to hang in your room where you can write everything down for the month if you don’t want to carry round a planner.


  1. Sticky notes

As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme going here; I really like organisation! It gives off the appearance that I actually have my life together. I’ve written about sticky notes before, but they’ve helped me so much just because it’s just another visual way to remind me that I need to do stuff. I try to write a to-do list in the morning and then I aim to tick it all by the end of the day. It’s really satisfying to see all of your jobs ticked off for the day.

Image result for fun post it notes

  1. Budget

The dreaded word right? Your parents are always telling you to be sensible with your money but how can you do that when you need to buy food, alcohol and books? It all adds up, and a lot of people can get a bit overwhelmed. You just need to sit down by yourself or with a friend and go through your recent bank statements to see what the majority of your money is going on. Invest in an app that tracks your spending so you can see where your money is going – they have loads now and they’re really helpful –  and allocate a certain amount of money each week to particular things like shopping, alcohol and emergency things etc. You might find by the end of the month you have spare money which is always a bonus.



  1. You need three things to be successful: a water bottle, a plastic container and a travel mug

If you followed the last tip and looked at your expenses, you might see that you’re spending nearly £10 a week on coffees and lunches on campus (I know I was at one point) just because it’s so convenient. You can save money on water by using the water fountains on campus; if you use your plastic Tupperware you can save money on lunch by making your own, and with your travel mug you can bring tea or coffee from home. That just saved you around £5 which if you did every day, would save you £25 a week! And if you really can’t beat the coffee habit on campus, then you can still use your travel mug and get 10p off all your hot drinks orders at SU venues



  1. Make time for yourself

I know this sounds odd, all of the above are about making yourself more organised, saving money and doing ‘adult’ things. But it’s actually really important that you also don’t burn out. University is a really stressful environment, no matter what your parents think, and if you’re constantly stressed and running about doing things it’s going to affect your health. It’s important that after a long week that you take a day to relax, try and not do any work, or at least only a minimal amount and recharge. You’ll find yourself more optimistic about the following week and be ready to give it 100%

Image result for me relaxing after doing the bare minimum dog

These are only a small number of little habits that you can do to save yourself some time and money, but also be a bit more organised and less stressed which I’ve heard is all the things adults aim for! If you’re really struggling to change some habits, there’s loads of websites out there giving helpful advice about things you can do that make your life just that little bit easier.


Best deals you can get as a student!

deal 1

One of the best things about being a student, is the world of discounts that you can get a hold of. You may have heard that you can get free McFlurry’s and Cheeseburgers in McDonalds, but that is only where the discounts start my friend! Often all it takes is one quick show of your student card to get a reasonable discount to your bill. Result!

Here’s my guide to finding the very best of deals on the market…

Theatre tickets

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Theatre’s often have a reputation for being expensive, but a lot of the time they offer a sizeable discount for students. One of the biggest theatre discounts I’ve seen is through being a member of the National Theatre’s Entry Pass scheme. If you’re aged between 16 and 25 then you can get yourself £5 tickets that usually cost more than 8 times as much!

Music Streaming

deal 3

I really don’t know what I’d do without my music streaming! I don’t know how I survived before! Just because you’re a student doesn’t mean that you need to scrimp back on your music! Spotify and Apple Music both offer half price subscriptions for students at £4.99 per month.

Prime Student

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This is probably one of the most convenient things ever. By signing up to Amazon’s paid membership scheme you get access to several different features, most of which to be honest I don’t even use! But for last minute shopping and for getting things in a hurry, its one-day delivery service is a godsend! The video streaming service is also quite good too! After a generous 6 month free trail, Student membership is £49 a year. This may seem like a lot of money to pay, but if you shop online a lot then it’s well worth the investment.

Bank Accounts

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Banks love to rope students in when they go to Uni as people rarely switch bank accounts when they have graduated. This means that they pull out all the stops to lure you in to a potential lifetime of banking with them. Whether it’s overdrafts than can stretch to £3,000 or a 4 year railcard, it’s well worth checking out your options.


deal 6

Whilst this might not look like a discount, it’s still an awesome way to use your student status to save a bit of money. Box of broadcasts (or BOB for short) is an online portal of on demand TV and radio from the past 10/15 years. Okay, so here’s where the discount comes in… because it’s a learning resource you don’t even need a TV licence to use it!


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The National Union of Students (NUS), famously sell student discount cards that can be used at various retailers up and down the country including the Co-Op. It’s £12 a year to have a card and it’s well worth it if you shop regularly at the places where they accept the card.


deal 8

Unidays is NUS’ main rival in offering a one stop shop for student discounts. You can set up an account on the app for free and then you have access to loads of offers including ASOS and Missguided. A lot of NUS’ discounts are also available on Unidays but the main difference is that you Unidays doesn’t offer an option to get a physical membership card. Instead you have to enter a unique code every time you want to use a discount. A brilliant option for those who don’t shop too often.

Many more to discover

These suggestions are only the start of the discounts you could make! Normally shops publicise if they offer a discount or not, but there is no harm in just asking at the checkout if they offer one. You never know how much you could get off! Even if it’s just a few quid, it all adds up! So next time you’re out shopping, it’s worth having your student card in your wallet just in case!


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!


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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:


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.

Pasta (any kind)
Chicken (although this is optional)

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: 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.

Ground beef
Tin of kidney beans
Tin of tomatoes

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


Photo credit to William Jones:

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

Sauce of your choosing  (I like to use a pasta bake sauce)

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.


Photo credit to Julia:

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

Hoisin and garlic sauce
Meat of your choice

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


Photo credit to Yanli:

5. Triple decker brownies

Cookie dough
Brownie batter

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


Photo credit to Princess:

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

Bon Appetit!


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’.


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!




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

Until next time,


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.


^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.


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.



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.



Happy holidays!



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:



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!)