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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Feeling overwhelmed?

Do you know the feeling of being stressed by essays, tests, presentations, work and volunteering commitments…You’re trying to pass everything well and still want to be involved in activities that matter to you, but it’s getting a bit too much. You just want to stop the time to get good sleep, watch all episodes of Friends, and then make the world spin round again. Sounds any familiar? If so, then you’re not alone in this. But there are a few ways to deal with it.

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Define the problem.

Do you have too many responsibilities? Is there any particular lecture that is difficult or any academic skill you need to improve? Do you struggle with managing your time or planning your work? Whatever it is, it has a solution, as long as you can define the problem. Just ask yourself a question what makes you feel like this and what can be done about it. If you think you can’t solve it yourself, maybe if would be easier after talking to your friend, lecturer, course director, Student Support or Talent Development Center. There are plenty of people willing to help you, but you need to let them know that you struggle.

 

See the good side.

Sometimes, it’s the attitude that’s the problem. Maybe it’s not meant to be easy – maybe that’s the whole point. When you work out to strengthen your muscles, run faster, climb higher… It requires effort and commitment, and your body is likely to be sore. This is how you know that it’s actually working and that you are improving.

It’s important to remember why you’re here. Most likely, you want to learn about something that interests you. You probably have a goal to achieve. To achieve this goal, you have to come out of your comfort zone. It might be hard sometimes, but that’s good, because this is how we learn.

It’s only up to you what you will make out of it. You can appreciate the amazing opportunity you have to learn and improve, or you can complain about it being difficult. The choice is yours.

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Look after your body.

Sometimes we think we’re some kind of super-humans who can survive on Red Bull, frozen pizzas and 4 hours of sleep. It’s strange that we understand that cars need the right petrol and certain maintenance to run properly, but we tend to forget that it applies to our bodies too. Drinking plenty of water, eating well, and getting enough sleep is so important, especially when you need to work at full speed. If you have heard it from your mom before, it’s because it’s true! 🙂

 

Prioritize ‘’ME TIME’’.

This is so crucial for everyone’s well-being. You are busy and you have the whole list of important things to do, but these things are not more important than YOU. Do something that makes you happy every day, even if it’s only a few minutes. Dance, sing, play an instrument, draw, go for a walk, meditate… Do whatever charges you with good energy.

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Don’t be harsh on yourself.

If something didn’t go as you planned, don’t punish yourself with negative thoughts. It’s OK. It’s just a part of the learning process. Just acknowledge it and move on. How many times did you fall off your bike before you’ve mastered riding it?

I hope you don’t get overwhelmed and that you stay faaaar away from the negative bubble! Life at Uni might become hard if you take up too much work and try to make everything perfect. I think the most important is to be kind to yourself and accept that you really don’t need to be perfect. Just love yourself, think positively and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if it’s needed! I’m sending you all a virtual hug and wish you a healthy end-of-term revision!

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

 

Choosing Modules Wisely

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The beauty of uni is the amount of choice and flexibility you have with your degree, ability to pick and choose what you want to focus on is one of the best things about the transition from sixth form to uni. However, being wise about your choice of modules will also help you structure your time and not end up with a mountain of work all at once.

Check when in the year the module is

On the Essex Module Directory you can see whether a course is full year, autumn term or spring term, it’s indicated in the module code by FY-Full Year, AU Autumn, SP Spring. In my first year I made the mistake of choosing two Autumn term modules alongside the core modules I took, meaning I had loads of coursework all at the same time, and more lectures and classes too. It was definitely still doable, but when I was new to the university and time management deal, it did become a bit much on the run up to christmas when all of the coursework started to rack up. On the other side of that though, taking my optionals in the autumn meant that my spring term was the nice and relaxed, I only had three modules in comparison to the five that I had in first term, meaning I could give more time to coursework and start revision early.

Check what the assessment style is

Some people simply suck at exams, it just isn’t their forte, alternatively, some are terrible at organising their time around coursework, taking a good amount of time to check how modules are assessed means you can potentially avoid doing too much of whatever you struggle with (this obviously depends on department.)

Don’t be afraid to go outside your department

A lot of degrees will allow you to study modules outside of your department, this can seem intimidating as it isn’t in your area, but they offer you these modules for a reason. Having interdisciplinary knowledge can be so useful in the rest of your studies. I took a psychoanalysis module in first year, despite being a lit and film student and it was so useful, I was shoving Freud in any essay I could after taking it. You can apply knowledge from those modules to coursework and your independent research project. Everyone’s degree is different, shape it around what you find interesting.

Most importantly, go for your passion

You took this degree for a reason, take a good amount of time reading over the module outline, have a look at the bibliography, if necessary contact the module leader or your department for some more info. A lot of departments have their own facebook pages, you could even post on there to see if any other students could advise you on their thoughts about the module. Think about what really peaks your interest, a boring module is the worst.