The Future Is Now – Well… After The Placement Year

The future?

Independent of the degree you choose to study at university, we all have a reason for committing to the three year struggle of deadlines and exams – even if we may not know it straight away! A major part of university is the social life, meeting new people and the overall experience, but you do have to get a job at the end (unfortunately!!). Whilst ‘The Future’ might seem a distant thought, it is vital that you plan for after you graduate. Jobs are becoming more competitive, so it’s becoming increasingly important to stand out from the crowd – especially in sport and exercise science (just my luck). Therefore, the opportunity of working in our desired industry should be considered as second nature to us and fortunately enough it is something that the University of Essex offers!

 

So… what exactly is a placement year?

The simplest explanation is that it is a year of working within a professional company or organisation. This might not sound as exciting as the thrills of university, but it gives you a chance to apply academic knowledge into a practical environment – whilst getting paid (hopefully)… I know the prospect of applying for these positions is daunting, however the careers team are able to support you, so it really isn’t that bad! Also, the many benefits of completing a placement year mean it would be ridiculous not to try.

 

Placement years – they aren’t an overnight process…

Applying for a placement year is something you do in your second year, but realistically you need to be preparing for longer. Gaining work experience is vital and fortunately for me, Essex offer work at the Human Performance Unit (HPU). During my second year, I was given the opportunity to assist with the hydration status testing and fatigue monitoring sessions, for the performance sport teams at the university. Specifically, I was responsible for analysing the osmolarity of urine samples, in order to work out personalised hydration strategies, as well as performing neuromuscular testing to ensure training load was correct. These were two weekly positions, completed alongside my studies, with the results of large implications for the sport science support provided to these athletes.

 

Identifying the area of work you want to go into early on is important, as it allows you time to gain the skills needed to achieve your goals. Once again, the university offers lots of support when it comes to gaining this experience, such as CareerHub and the Frontrunners scheme – the careers team are also only an email away!

 

Surrey Human Performance Institute – the perfect placement?

For my placement year, I work at Surrey Human Performance Institute, or SHPI for short. This is a very similar organisation to the HPU at Essex, so it was the perfect match! SHPI is an exercise physiology laboratory based at the University of Surrey, acting on the forefront of scientific research, as well as providing sport and exercise science support to external clients and delivering educational services to the local area and university students The placement wasn’t actually advertised via Career Hub, instead I proactively emailed them to find out if they were recruiting – something I would seriously recommend! When it comes to placement years, you have to ensure the position is 100% right for you, because there is no point doing it if this isn’t the case.

 

So… what did I get to do as a Sport Science Intern?

The job description listed above obviously sounded great on paper, but one of my concerns was “how much would I actually be allowed to do as an intern?” The unfortunate truth is that as we are still students, some placements will be limited – mine definitely is not though! Working alongside two other placement students, I have been responsible for leading many of the services provided. I’ve been able to gain experience of applying sport and exercise science in a practical environment, by carrying out various physiological tests, such as body composition assessments, as well as lactate threshold and VO2MAX tests. I have been involved in all the research projects conducted in the laboratory, with many of these working with pre-operative cancer patients – an extremely rewarding experience! To further this, I had the opportunity to work in a hospital setting, performing pre-operative exercise screening sessions for patients of all ages, as well as assisting with the delivery of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Surrey. Finally, but by no means lastly, I was given the chance to design and conduct my own research study, which was probably the best part of the whole placement (and was fairly good practice for my dissertation…). Overall, I’ve loved every moment at SHPI; it truly is an experience I never want to end – still, I am excited for the future!

 

Placement years – my recommendations

I think I have made my stance on placement years pretty clear – they are the best thing you can do as a student! Therefore, my top tips are: 1) start looking early – don’t leave it until the end of second year, 2) gain relevant work experience, to increase your likelihood of getting that placement you want, 3) make sure you work alongside the careers team – their resources really are second to none and 4) be proactive – don’t settle for a placement you aren’t completely happy with, there is always a position out there to suit you!

All the best finding the perfect position and remember – your future starts now!

Written by Will Gurton, 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science Student

Will is a 3rd year Sport and Exercise Science student, currently on his placement year in Surrey. He is a keen sportsman, with Tennis being his main sport. Throughout his two previous years at Essex, he has represented us at BUCS level for Tennis, as well as being strongly involved with other sport clubs, during his position as the Sports Development Frontrunner for the SU. Away from Essex, Will enjoys travelling, most of the time within Europe, as well as comedy TV shows and of course, watching sport!

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A Day in My Life

There’s often a kind of misconception of students that we tend to sleep all day and go out partying all night. And yeah, we might do those things sometimes, but we don’t only do those things. There is so much more to student life! My friends are always telling me I’m the busiest person they know because I get up to so much. To show you just how many opportunities there are to take advantage of at Essex, I’m going to run you through a day in my life. I’m going to give you a sneak peek into my Tuesdays. Tuesday sounds like a pretty random day, but it’s probably one of my favourites!

7:30 a.m. Wake Up

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On Tuesdays I wake up quite early because I usually have to go to work in the morning. I’ll grab myself a bit of breakfast and make lunch (if I haven’t made it the night before) to save some money because I’m out all day.

9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Go to Work

I work part time in the admissions office at the University. I did my Frontrunner’s placement in the office before I went on my year abroad and I’m now back there doing some admin work. If you’re wondering what Frontrunners is, it’s the university’s on campus internship scheme. There are placements in loads of departments in the uni and in the students’ union. They’re a great way to earn a little pocket money and get some experience. The team I work with are great and are really flexible when it comes to needing to do my uni work.

12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Lecture

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Let’s not forget about the degree here! I have a British Politics lecture which I really enjoy. I’ve found that as I’ve progressed through uni I’ve become more confident in talking in class discussions and I get so much more out of them when I take part. Usually the first hour is a lecture and then the second is getting together in small groups to discuss what we’ve learnt.

3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Volunteering

For the past few weeks I’ve been volunteering in a school helping kids learn about politics. This is something I’m really passionate about (especially because I’m a politics student)! We get given a topic each week to teach along with some activities for the kids. It’s up to us how we organise those activities though. I’ve come to realise that teaching  can definitely be a pretty tough job, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. If you want to get involved in volunteering the Essex vTeam has plenty of activities, from recurring opportunities to one off events.

7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sports

27356022_10216010587040937_796284244679394280_oThe rest of my evening is taken up by training. I am a member of both the hockey and ultimate frisbee clubs at Essex. After a busy day I love having a chance to get competitive and have a run around outside. Before uni, I was never really a sporty person which sounds a bit weird seeing as now I play two sports! I decided in my second year I’d give something new a go, so I started hockey and this year I’ve started playing frisbee too. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned pro, there’s definitely room for you in any of the sports clubs at Essex.

So, there you have it, a day in my life! I’ve managed to take advantage of so many of the opportunities at Essex which is one of the reasons I’m a pretty busy person. It’s up to you how much you get involved with all the activities outside of your degree but I definitely recommended trying stuff and getting stuck in!

The Choccie Connoisseur

I don’t know about you, but during the chilly winter I find that a nice Hot Chocolate can make things seem that little bit better. But with so many food outlets around the Colchester campus, it’s often difficult choosing where to go.

So, without further or do let me, The Choccie Connoisseur, show you the best hot chocolates that the University of Essex has to offer!

I’ll be comparing each Hot Chocolate on its cost and its taste to find out whether these hot chocolates are a hot delight or a hot mess.

To make it fair, I’ll be reviewing a standard small sized Hot Chocolate to take away from each outlet. In my testing, I’ll be looking for perfection; a rich chocolatey taste, a milky texture and some good froth on top.

Let the best beverage win!

 

No.64/ Canteen/ Buffalo Joe’s/Refresh

The reason that these outlets are grouped together is that they all use the same automated machine. Therefore, they’re all pretty much the same!

Cost: £1.50 (Refresh)

Taste: Looking at the cup, it seems simple. There’s a little froth and a very sweet taste that definitely stays in my mouth afterwards. It does the job in warming me up in my 9am class but it wasn’t quite what I was after!

Rating: 2/5

Good for: If you’re running a bit late for class but you still need a little pick me up!

 

SU bar (Starbucks)

This outlet often has a busy queue in the middle of the day but you know what they say… don’t judge a Hot Chocolate by its queue!

Cost: £2.15

Taste: Interestingly, this was the only hot chocolate on my test to use a syrup instead of powder. Controversial… Thankfully, the syrup worked and it had a lovely milky, smooth texture. Really felt like a hug in a cardboard cup. Just what I needed, although I did feel a bit sleepy afterwards. Not what I needed just before a study session…

It was a bit pricy but I felt like I was getting my money’s worth!

Rating: 4/5

Good for: If you need something to calm you down if you’re having a stressful day!

 

Blues Bar (Lavazza)

I had to go a bit out of my way to get this one as I don’t really go to Blues Bar that often. The fact that they use Lavazza products was promising.

Cost: £1.85

Taste: Beyond the foam on top, there was quite a subtle chocolatey taste to the drink which was nice. Overall a decent option, especially considering it was machine made. However, I do feel duped that the cup that I was given was significantly smaller than all of the others that I’ve tried?

Rating: 3/5

Good for: If you need a little pick me up, ready to go again!

 

Union

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never actually stepped foot in this funny compact coffee shop before. But what does this new kid on the block have to offer?

Cost: £1.85

Taste: Frothy milk, chocolatey taste barista made. Whisk and all behind the desk. Cup was as small as the offering from Blues Bar but in this case, good things come in small packages. There was an option to get a larger size and I kind of wished I got that one now!

Rating: 5/5

Good for: If you want a scientifically precise hot chocolate that tastes amazing!

 

Zest/Bonds (Costa)

These outlets are paired together because they use identical Costa Coffee products using a barista machine. Both of them are cool cafés with a wide food selection.

Cost: £2.25

Taste: There’s a lot of foam on this one, it’s as if it’s trying to hide something… If you don’t have too much of a sweet tooth then this one is for you! There is a chocolatey taste there but it’s not as strong as some of the other ones! This was the most expensive hot chocolate on the test.

Rating: 2.5/5

Good for: Those who prefer a slightly subtler hot chocolate.

 

Lakeside Café

I’m in this building a lot for classes and to see shows, so I am already well accustomed to their Hot Chocolate. But how does their offering compare in light of the competition?

Cost: £1.40

Taste: A great cup of hot chocolate there. A good foamy top and a good substantial chocolatey taste with some sweet after tones. The barista really looked like they knew what they were doing as well. All the things you expect from a hot chocolate really!

Rating: 4.5/5

Good for: Getting a reliable hot chocolate that ticks all the boxes!

 

The Kitchen

Tucked away next to the SU bar on Square 3, The Kitchen is a hideaway designed so that you can grab a hot drink quickly in between lectures. All of the hot beverages are made by a machine, so that the service is super quick!

Cost: £1.35

Taste: Nice bit of foam on the top which eases you into the dulcet tones of the chocolate. I found this one very easy to drink for some reason; one sip just made me want another!

Rating: 4/5

Good for: A quick hot chocolate that will keep you satisfied

 

OVERALL WINNER – Union

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Although all of the hot chocolates impressed, the best hot chocolate has to go to Union! Whilst the others were all different in their own way, the offering from Union was faultless. The Lakeside Theatre Café’s option was close but Union just pipped it to the post! This little hideaway on Square 3 is nothing to laugh about, it’s full of top quality hot beverages.

So next time you’re on campus feeling indecisive about your hot chocolate options, give another outlet a try. You may be pleasantly surprised like I was 😊

 

Disclaimer: Although I am employed by the University and the Student’s Union, this is my own independent, non-biased taste test. This has been undertaken in a personal capacity and does not reflect my view of either organisation.

 

RIUF – an experience

I remember the first time I went to RIUF. I wasn’t too clear on my future plans, as I was in my penultimate year of high school.  I remember walking with my classmates in order to get to the venue which was nearby to our high school. There were so many students queuing up to enter the fair and I remember being really excited to see what different countries had to offer.

There were over 10 different countries represented and, as well as all having a different culture, every country has a different educational system. I was extremely curious to see how different students my age were going through the same feelings I was going through; excited and provoked by the thought of choosing a new path -a choice which definitely changes your whole life.

Why I went:

RIUF is a fair where students can get a crystal clear idea about the educational opportunities offered by different universities. A lot of my high school classmates and friends found the courses they were looking for. The courses were seemed like they were tailored for us, they suited us so much!

This university fair gave me the chance to create an image of what my future would look like and of all the opportunities, both educational and personal, that I could benefit from.

RIUF was definitely the most amazing opportunity to get hold of all the information I needed. I could get hold of booklets, offers, and I got to meet the staff from each University who were out promoting their different establishments. It is a great way to find out about a university from a direct source, from someone who is either studying or working at the university. You can easily see if that person is really excited to be studying or working at that university through their expression and body language, which is something you wouldn’t get on the university’s website, or even their social media platforms.

I was  amazed by the number of stands and universities who came from all across Europe to exhibit their university. I didn’t waste any time in going  to  every stand, gathering information and balancing the offers. It was a fantastic opportunity to find out about so much; from the cost of living, tuition fees, expenses, the people and culture, and what made that specific university the best place for me!

Why you should go:

As well as being able to get your questions answered, having the chance to meet different university representatives, and get tips for your application, you could be lucky enough to get to know other students who are also planning to study at the same university as you. It’s always a comfort to know that there is someone going through the same experience as you and that you have someone to share it with, not to mention having the opportunity to actually know somebody before going to university! I was lucky enough to have a classmate who decided to study at Essex as well and it was amazing to have someone who shared the same insecurities and excitement before actually arriving at the university as me. Sharing the same flight and cab to get to campus is a plus as well!

The fair gives you the opportunity not just to ask your questions, but also to find out about things you may never have even considered. When I went, there were so many booklets you could just pick up. Even looking at their prospectus design was a useful indicator of whether or not I would be interested in them.  As I am really passionate about design, I was taking everything into account,  from the fonts to the pictures and colours used to catch attention. I was looking for something different, something that stood out, not through powerful colours, or striking images, but through the words used and the message they wanted to deliver.

For me, there was a certain University booklet which caught my attention: The University of Essex. Why? It was bold, yet intriguing. It didn’t have pictures of students laying on the grass like you normally see, instead, it had tinted silver words, as seen below.

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I have felt like a ‘Rebel with a cause’ since the moment I saw this and if I were to go back in time and make a choice, I would absolutely choose Essex again.

As I have said before, do not hesitate to attend RIUF as it can definitely change your whole perspective and put at ease any kind of questions and issues you might have. If it weren’t for RIUF, I wouldn’t know about Essex – the place that now I call home.

 

 

 

 

 

Long-distance routine breakers

Coming to uni, leaving uni, going for a year abroad, coming back from a year abroad… Being a student, it’s probable that at some point you will find yourself in a long distance relationship. It is a big challenge to maintain it, especially if you are apart for a long while. I’m sure every couple in this situation has their own ways to deal with the distance, but here are just a few ideas which can possibly make you two feel a bit closer while being far away in geographic terms. 🙂

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Voice and video messages

It’s a nice practice to send each other a short voice or video message every day and share your thoughts. It gets hard, especially if your days are busy and you can’t coordinate to do Skype calls frequently, and even harder if the time difference keeps you in completely different routines, but this little detail every now and then will make you feel more connected even if you are thousands of miles away from each other.

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Skype dates

Sometimes it can get difficult to keep up a long distance relationship if talking is not your strongest point. Some people are just not very good at it, which doesn’t mean they care less. The “how was your day” talk might get monotonous after a while, but if that’s the case, maybe you can come up with some Skype dates ideas – just do anything different that you both would like. You could Skype from the kitchen, try to cook the same dish, and have dinner with a glass of wine. Or how about trying to do an origami challenge, working it out together, or a games night or a movie night together? I know it doesn’t replace being in one room and throwing popcorn at each other, but maybe it can feel like a little date and get you out of the routine.

 

Letters

However old fashioned it might sound, I think it’s really special. When you write a letter, you need to take time, gather your thoughts and choose the words you would like your partner to read and keep as a memory. This is much more personal and meaningful than a WhatsApp chat, which will probably be forgotten. Why not give it a try?

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Home delivery

Being far away might feel a bit helpless sometimes, especially, if your loved one is having a hard time, feeling ill or overwhelmed with work. Of course, the best thing would be to just turn up at their door, but how about getting their favourite food delivered to them with a special message? Or, if you know that they need something – like winter gloves, a bike light or a vitamin C – and won’t get it themselves, maybe you can just make them a little surprise for no special occasion.

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These are just some ideas if you feel that you would like to try something different, but it’s worth to remember that excessive communication might get a bit overwhelming. You know yourself and your partner and what works for you two, so you don’t have to listen to me! 🙂 And don’t listen to people who say that relationships don’t work long-distance. I think it’s good to see it as an opportunity, rather than a threat. There is even a saying that if you want to live together, you first need to learn to live apart. You can get to know each other from a different side and have a chance to realize how important you are to each other. Some things are worth waiting for, and after passing this stage your relation can grow stronger than ever before.

Put Your Wellies On!

One of the things that I haven’t done in my almost four years (eek!) as an Essex student was volunteer with vTeam. The great people over at vTeam organise loads of volunteering opportunities for students to get involved with. There are regular projects and one off events. The other week myself and some of my pals from the hockey club went to go and volunteer on a farm. We were mainly excited to see some little baby goats but also to give something back to the community.

The day began pretty early with us heading to Wellies On. Wellies On is a care farm around a 15 minute drive from the uni. We were welcomed to the farm by Warren, the operations manager who told us what Wellies On was all about. It is a farm that combines the care of animals with the care of people. They work with people from various backgrounds, of different needs and abilities. Warren told us our first job for the day was to plant some sticks that would later grow into some beautiful hedges. It sounds like a pretty simple job right? Wrong! Well, at least for me because I forgot to actually plant my stick in the hole I’d just dug and filled in. I managed to fix it though and was told I had excellent stick planting skills. Not bad for a city girl!

27787407_1633701220040268_939230374_oVery proud of my planting skills

After planting our sticks we got to see some of the animals. Wellies On has goats, pigs, sheep, ponies and more. The cutest moment had to be watching the little pygmy goats bounce around after they had been fed. We were then able to have a look at all the others animals and were introduced to the farms oldest sheep at 17 years old! When I’m at uni I really miss my dogs at home so this was a great chance to fill the animal shaped hole in my life. We then had some lovely homemade soup for lunch and were told about our next job, and it was a smelly one!

27846314_1633701140040276_295095941_oSo cute!

The afternoon involved mucking out the barn. Not the best job but definitely more fun than you’d imagine! It was great working as a team because between us we got it done pretty quickly.

27836035_1633701256706931_1489079225_oGoat Selfie!

After some more time with the animals and taking lots of pictures it was time for us to head back to uni. We had such a fun time at Wellies On. Also it’s nice, as a student, to give back to the community. All of us make Colchester our home for the few years that we are here and vTeam is a great way to go out into the community that we are apart of and get stuck in. If you’re thinking of volunteering, or even if you’ve never thought about it, I’d definitely recommended giving it ago!

27946872_1853683351317501_1480602187_o They were friendlier than they look!

Spending Christmas away from family: what it’s really like and what to do

Whether you don’t have the money, time, or energy, spending the holidays without your family can be rough. Christmas is supposed to be about families getting together to celebrate by going out, giving and receiving gifts and eating (A LOT). As an international student who lives far away from home, it was always hard for me to travel back to my family due to exams, coursework and the steep prices of plane tickets. I was envious of everyone who just had to drive for a few hours to see their families. However, it doesn’t have to be as lonely and depressing as you’d think it would be. You’re definitely not the only person stranded at university over the holidays and the Student Union had many things planned out to bring these people together.

For those of you who are enthusiastic about travelling around the country, many of these events involved visiting different towns in and around Essex during the Christmas period for a small fee of £10. The first trip was at Bury St Edmunds which had a massive Christmas Fayre and market, with over 300 stalls, serving all kinds of Christmas food and beverages. Flatford and Dedham in Suffolk was next on the list and students got to see their Christmas market too, which despite being smaller, had many activities ranging from Santa’s Grotto to tree decoration. The Lavenham market is quite similar in the sense that it provides much entertainment to last more than a day’s trip. I’d recommend visiting these small towns as they each have their own cultures and charms which are often underappreciated. A few friends and a few hours are all that’s needed to make lots of memories.

During Christmas Eve, the SU set up a trip to London and you can’t go there at that time of the year without seeing the Winter Wonderland! For a limited period, Hyde Park becomes an Amusement Park, hosting hundreds of rides, shows and a Christmas market larger than any other. There’s so much entertainment, you’ll be sure to find something you enjoy. #notsponsored

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Here in Colchester, High St and Culver Square had a Christmas Fayre of their own, with local stores selling their merchandise at discounted prices. Also, Colchester Castle is known for having a 35m long slide made entirely of ice.

But, iy you don’t feel comfortable spending time surrounded by bright lights, kids screaming and cheesy Christmas music, the International Students Association (ISA) held a party in the Hex for students who were alone for Christmas. There were assortment of Christmassy things to do such as eat Christmas pudding, minced pies, open Christmas crackers and of course, cheesy Christmas music that you thought you could escape!

My favourite event that I went to this year was the Christmas party hosted by the Vice Chancellor of the university. This semi-formal event started off with an inspiring and interesting speech from the VC, followed by a range of good-quality free food (I may have eaten an entire tray of chicken wraps by myself) and finished off nicely with free gifts from Santa himself (see below).

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If, by some Christmas miracle, you remembered that you’ve got coursework to complete and exams to revise for, the main library is closed for the majority of the duration of the holiday, but the reading room is open 24/7. In addition to this, some computer labs and the Silberrad Student Centre are also open.

From personal experience, I advise that you go to these events at least once during your degree because its healthy to spend time outside your room and fun to hang out with and meet new people, as you may regret missing out on these opportunities. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Christmas gifts on a budget

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

Christmas is clearly approaching.

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

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

Perfect!

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PERSONAL CALENDAR

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

PHOTO ALBUM

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

MUSIC

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

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KNITTING

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

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

HANDMADE COSMETICS

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

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

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

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

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WINE CORK BOARD

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

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

Happy Christmas everyone!

University and Long Distance Relationships

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This isn’t an original student blog subject, I know when I was just about to come to uni, I read copious blogs and articles of tips about how to deal with going to uni and having a long distance relationship and a lot of them were absolutely useless. This one probably is too in truth because you can’t make life choices based on what strangers from the internet say, trust me. 

Long Distance

I was very hesitant to come to uni, and although I’d have never admitted it at the time, a large feature was how little I would be able to see my then boyfriend. Of course now that ship has sailed, it is easy, as it is with other singles and people that are less experienced in relationships, to say how ridiculous that is. A lot of the blogs I was reading and the thoughts in my head, along with friends and family were telling me how stupid I was to let a boyfriend stop me from achieving my goals. Perhaps rationally, yes it is, but guess what? We aren’t robots, we’re emotional beings and sometimes being rational isn’t always what feels right.

I have read many blogs that have just flat out told people to break up with their significant other before they go to uni, just because they personally found it hard to be apart and had a bad experience. I’m not going to do that, because if you really care about someone that much, your relationship will prevail over distance, and why not try it rather than just binning them off before you go. Of course this differs, perhaps if you’ve known them a fortnight, the reality is the commitment isn’t there for long distance, because that is the essential part, commitment. The second thing is trust, you have to trust each other, especially if one partner is remaining at home, remember they’re not at uni, and during freshers week, all that partying and meeting new people can be very difficult for them to deal with when they’re sat at home worrying about you. The long and short of it is you must trust each other, and appreciate what is going on in each other’s lives.

Try as hard as you can to talk and see each other as regularly as possible. Depending on how far you have roamed for university, seeing each other may be more of a challenge, but try to skype each other as much as possible, it’s also really nice to have that point of contact to remind you of home and the support they can provide you.

Friends

‘Remember your friends’ says everyone ever when you get a new partner, and it’s so boring to hear, it is true, keeping the balance of your partner and friends social schedule is tough, what is great, is if you can encourage your mates to get on with your partner, then you can all do stuff together and you don’t have to feel guilty! Saying that though, you need to make sure that each party feel appreciated enough, like the other isn’t a priority over them. As long as you don’t cancel plans with your friends to blatantly just hang out with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you should be ok.

You may have found this before going off to uni, but it seems like everyone’s got an opinion about your relationship! Your friends obviously want to see you happy, but they aren’t in the relationship, so don’t feel too anxious if their advice and opinions on your relationship don’t seem to be helpful to you. This is really hard, because you don’t want to fall out with your buddies over your relationship, and it can be frustrating to them if they have strong opinions and you aren’t following their advice. It’s all about letting them know you respect and appreciate the fact that they have your best interests at heart, but also politely telling them that it’s your life and they have to respect your life choices. I still haven’t mastered this, so good luck with that one!

Ignore Me Completely

I mean it! Ignore this blog! So why read it? Because a large part of what I am trying to say is follow what FEELS right not what friends or family or bloggers are telling you to do! Following your heart is never anything to be ashamed of, even if things go wrong, and university is all about making your own choices, so you do you! Do what you feel is right with your relationship. Most importantly, when you do see each other don’t PDA all over the SU bar, no one wants to see that.

 

Ways TV and Movies Lied To You About University

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You’ve seen them, the crazy frat parties, the library romances, the hippies playing guitars under trees. Here’s a list of things you see in tv and movie universities, that are pretty rare in real life. 

Frat parties

Fraternities and Sororities are definitely more of an American thing, coming to uni in the UK, don’t expect crazy hazing or Animal House activities, I’ve never seen a keg in my life! If you’re lucky, the closest you might get is a red plastic cup! Of course there are parties, and they’re great, but they definitely don’t occur in houses like this:

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Meeting The Love of Your Life in the Library

I personally don’t want disturbing whatsoever while I’ve got my study on, let alone meeting my soulmate in the poetry section. You know how it goes, she goes to pull out a book, he goes for the same one, they both giggle from either side of the bookshelf and then you throw up because it’s so soppy and gross. If that happened in real life the most you’d get is an awkward apology.

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Or another old favourite is the running into the geeky girl, causing her to drop all of her books, they then touch hands and smile over their mutual admiration for The Catcher in The Rye and the rest is history. I mean come on really?
Halls Rooms Like Harry Potter

Uni rooms are purposefully basic, and when you watch a movie or show where the characters go back to their enormous flat with a big beautiful fireplace and whatever other ridiculous furnishings ( there’s probably a massive wing chair somewhere) it just seems completely untruthful. In reality, University rooms are a nice and average size and plain for you to decorate.

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Spring Break

Here in the UK, we’ve of course got beaches, but you’re not going to go party it up in Clacton for a week as if it were Miami. In the UK, spring break is most usually spent at home revising. Of course just like movie spring break, there will be regrettable decisions made, but they’re more likely to be eating too many snacks and wondering why you didn’t do the reading when you were supposed to.

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These are just a few things, and don’t get me wrong you will still see some wild things go on during your time at uni, but don’t believe everything you see on TV kids!