Friday, 27 January 2017

Work Life | How to Keep Fit in an Office Job

I've worked in an office for over a year and a half now and in terms of health and lifestyle, I don't feel it's particularly different to being a student.

At university, I spent a large majority of my time sat down at a desk either on campus or off, so I wasn't exactly getting a lot of exercise. During first year I had an optional 15-20 minute trek to get on to campus, which I mostly did and for second and third year I had a similar walk to get to the bus station. But aside from those strolls, before I got into going to the gym, the most exercise I got was slut dropping on a night out...

After working in an office for just a few weeks I started to feel so lethargic and it quickly reminded me of my student days. The only difference: instead of having to be in a 1 hour lecture with my brain engaged, I'm sat at a desk for 37.5 hours of the week, where my brain really does need to be engaged 100% of the time.

So, if I'm still managing to keep myself toned and relatively healthy whilst sitting in an office on my arse all day, what advice would I give to others to get or keep fit whilst working in an office job?

A note before I say one more word: I am not a healthcare professional and this advice comes only from my own experience and personal research over years and years of feeling tired, eating unhealthily and various other things. Consult a GP before starting any exercise programme or venturing into healthy living, as is often advised! 

Avoid eating out of boredom/just because the food is there.
I've been pretty guilty of this in the past and I also see no end of people snacking whilst waiting for something to happen and it's what I'm trying to avoid doing - not always that successfully I might add. However, I feel it's extremely important, as your diet always is, to being healthy. You'll easily forget what snacks you had at work whilst you munch on more at home, and more than likely you'll munch on these snacks when you're not even hungry.
  • Find something to keep your hands busy - I play with a slinky at work
  • Bring in healthy snacks, like fruit & nuts, even chopped up veg
  • Don't bring loose change to work with you 
You'll be surprised how easy it is to over eat on snacks when you're at uni too. You're only working for yourself and you're not going to be chatting to a customer or colleague on the phone, so your mouth is literally free for all the food - so take on this advice too!

Eat filling and satisfying meals 
As I said it's more likely for you to snack on things because they're there, not because you're hungry. If you're completely stuffed after a good solid lunch you won't be as tempted to dip into the biscuit tin or ask for a cupcake!
  • Cook meals the night before from scratch that are packed with good nutrients. Google some good lunch recipes or dust off your old cookbooks!
  • Make meals you'll know you'll enjoy - if you throw together a salad for lunch knowing you aren't a fan of salad, how're you going to be satisfied? Don't follow some fad diet that recommends you eat things that you don't like! Certain foods, yes, you can grow to like. But make sure you're getting the nutrients as well as the satisfaction from eating it!
  • Keep hydrated too - often, your body just wants hydration not food! 
Say no and yes in moderation
If you limit everything your body is craving you'll only want it more. But don't eat snacks all day long and claim you're doing so only in moderation. No one's going to judge you for it, but when it comes to feeling good you've got to decide what's best for you. 
  • Learn how to politely decline offers of food without having to explain to someone 'you're dieting' or 'watching your weight' - in my opinion these terms demonstrate how you're limiting yourself, when in reality, you're saying no to things that you don't need to make an excuse for
  • Pay attention to what you eat - that way you'll be aware of how many 'treats' you've eaten in the week
  • Don't feel like you have to eat something to be polite - if someone's baked cakes it's okay to not try one, don't feel obliged
  • Don't deny yourself of every little thing - leave one meal or one day for some treats, but don't go over board!   
Move around
When you're in an office job or a student as lazy as I once was, it's pretty easy to remain in your desk chair for the entire day. You begin to feel tired so you top up the coffee, you're in that 'I can't be bothered to move' mood and yeah, we all have those days, but why make a habit of it? One thing that needs to be shouted from the rooftops is that you can change the way you feel. There are of course cases where it can't be helped, in illnesses for example, but if the only reason you feel so tired is because you sit in an office chair staring at a screen all day, you can honestly change that.
  • Stand up from your chair and just stroll around the office or your room
  • Take a walk outside as often as possible - fresh air will really wake you up - even if it's damp and raining, just stand under cover and get some fresh air
  • Make time to exercise outside of work - pay attention to the word 'make' - simply review your day and see if you can slip in even 30 minutes
Find exercises that you enjoy
People often claim that they 'hate cardio' or 'just don't enjoy exercise' but there's plenty out there to help keep you fit. Join the gym with a friend, research workouts at home, find out what clubs are in your area. At the end of the day, you're not going to like everything. I personally never pictured myself lifting weights, or ever doing cardio, but you'd be surprised how much endorphins and changes in your body can change your opinion of something you once thought you hated! 

Other little pieces of advice: 
  • Try not to play off having a few glasses of wine or pints of beer every night as 'well deserved' - as a student I'd be a hypocrite saying don't drink every night, but as a graduate I feel okay giving this advice - things are okay in small amounts but every night can be bad for your health
  • Try new things - if you don't know how to go about keeping fit, find fun classes that you think might keep you healthy whilst at the same time give you the chance to meet new people and try something new, or perhaps something you once loved doing!
  • Don't go it alone - try to motivate your work colleages or team up with those gym bunnies and thrive off their motivation
Student life was just the same until I joined the gym and began to really enjoy it. You can't keep exercise up consistently if your heart and your head aren't in it. If you truly feel like you want to be fit, and are willing to give everything you've got, you'll do your best to fit in little bits here and there. And that's the best advice I could give. A little everyday will just help you keep more active, gradually feel less lathargic whilst at work, or during lectures, and in general will help your health.

It's as easy to slip into bad habits in an office job as it is as a student, so if you want to work hard at work but also work hard at staying healthy, you'll have to find the time and stop indulging in too many temptations, or if you've already figured out how to say no to those, it may just be a case of reminding yourself to get up and about more frequently!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Review | Gemweyth Sea Glass Jewellery

You may well know that I've recently returned from my annual Christmas in Cornwall, which was absolutely lovely. Whilst on holiday I had the chance to catch up with one of my closest friends, Becky. I've always loved going for walks along the coastline and around the countryside of Cornwall and me and Beck have most definitely been on some adventurous, tiring and muddy treks in our time. Becky's always been that much more adventurous and is 100% a Cornish lass. She probably spends as much time in the sea as she does out of it, whereas I'm more likely to be the one sat on the sidelines enjoying a pasty. Having moved away to Cardiff for University, Becky's now back and has settled right into her home again, and this time, she's found a new ocean related hobby. 

Cornwall is, as many of you know I'm sure, a place of natural beauty - and if you didn't know, just take a look at the photo below - and Becky has taken that beauty and made it into elegant bespoke jewellery that is inspired and partially formed by the beautiful sea itself. 
All of Becky's products are handmade and completely individual. The glass used in her jewellery is collected from local Cornish beaches, just like the one above, and she doesn't just select any old bits and bobs, she can spend hours sifting through the sand on the Cornish coastline to find the perfect pieces that inspire her products. Michael and I went for a walk down to Poldu Beach during the Christmas break and even helped her do some searching, to no avail, but we could see what a keen eye she had for spotting the perfect glass, an eye that we clearly didn't have. I think at one point Michael even picked up a Cuttlefish bone...clearly, not quite what we were looking for! 

To Becky, making her Gemweyth - which means Jewellery in Cornish - is a means of recycling or even up-cycling the products that are formed by the seas' crashing waves. Each piece is uniquely shaped and comes from the heart of the Cornish coastline, and for Becky, the jewellery all came to be when she realised her own personal collection of sea glass had got a bit out of hand. To say she's a hoarder of items washed up on our shores is probably an understatement, but the fact that she's chosen to share the pieces she's found is a delight for the rest of us. After all, a beautiful collection like this deserves to be shown off, and what better way than this!  
Some of the glass is harder to come by then others, and personally, having never thought to pay attention, I can't say I've really seen any of the quality and colour that Becky managers to discover. She combines some of her pieces with silver-plated charms inspired also by the sea, such as anchors, mermaids and shells, which add just that extra touch to her bespoke products. On request, Becky is also happy to accept special orders, but as this jewellery is almost entirely determined by what the sea will wash up that day, she makes no guarantees and stands by the individuality of each piece she creates. 
Whilst a little biased, I'm very impressed by the quality of the jewellery that Becky produces and can 100% say she puts so much time and effort into each piece. So, whether you're Cornish through and through, a local resident of the area, or just passing by - you definitely need to snap up some of these entirely unique pieces. 

If you'd like to view more of Becky's products or place an order, head over to the Gemweyth Sea Glass Facebook page, here

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Life | 2016

I stumbled upon my Life | 2015 post recently and found it so very strange to read about University. University feels like it was years ago and I guess it is getting to that stage, but to think in May 2015 I was still at university, in my little house in Newcastle-Under-Lyme - it's just hard to believe. 

And now 2016 has been a gone. For me personally it's not been a bad one by any means, I've stepped into a new job, I've been to new places and celebrated three years with Michael. I may not yet have my own place, a car or a puppy, but everything else is pretty fine and dandy. 

So, want to hear a little more about the stories behind my year in photos? 

Scotland | The year began with the usual working hours, cold mornings and cosy weekends under the duvet, but in mid-January we were en route for our first getaway of the year. Typically, the car wouldn't start in the early hours of the morning but we managed to get it going and it got us safely up to Arrochar, Argyll for a holiday by Loch Lomond in a lovely cabin with a hot tub. There was a little snow on the drive up but it really started to fall once we had safely arrived. It was a pretty magical place and we headed off on some nice treks around the area and there were some truly incredible views. You can read more about my holiday in Scotland, here!

Annie's | February was a fairly quiet month going from memory. There was a big annoucement at work early in the month and it spurred me on to start looking for a new challenge in my career. Aside from that, we finally took the time to go to Annie's Burger Shack - which you can read a review of here!

Frank | In March I celebrated my birthday with my boyfriend, my work friends and then travelled down to Cornwall to celebrate it with my family. The weather wasn't too bad either which made for pleasant strolls on the beach. Besides seeing my human family, seeing my beautiful cat, Frank, always makes the long train journey home so worthwhile. 

Driving around the Veil | In April, we met up with a new friend Michael had recently made and he very kindly let us take a ride in his Lotus. Whilst it wasn't too pleasant for myself and his wife squished into the back seats, which by the way, would barely fit your weekly food shop in, the drive was quite fun. We drove around the Veil of Belvoir, which is nice open roads, it was also a beautiful day which took away some of the unpleasantries of being squished into the back of a sportscar. 

My last drink at Keele | It seems so long ago that we all graduated however one of my closest friends from University, Faye, only graduated earlier this year having completed her Masters in Pharmacy. The three of us graduates took our very last opportunity to return to Keele and hit up the Union for a few last rounds. Looking around, it was mostly unrecognisable faces, as expected, and I felt somewhat alien and also quite snooty, particularly towards the girl in the queue outside who tried to describe the inside of the Union to me - Thanks HUN, but I was here before you even knew where Keele existed - and that was probably along the lines of what I said to her in my intoxication, but less aggressive. All in all, it was a good night! In May I also took the plunge and finally got some better blonde highlights in my hair. It's something I've wanted to do for so long and in fact did do once but it went horribly wrong with a home-dye kit and I ended up with a ball of lost hair and looking like the amber traffic light. Sensibly, this time round I approached the professionals and was chuffed with the result. Since having it initally dyed I have returned to slowly get those strawberry blonde tones out, but I don't want it too light so I'm still experimenting a bit! 
Catch-Ups & New Starts | Before her boyfriend made the big move to Sheffield to live with Faye's parents, I made a visit myself and Faye and I had a pretty good night out. I've found nights out in Sheffield are very hit and miss, but this was a good one! Faye also paid her first visit to Nottingham and off we went to Annie's Burger Shack, followed by a bit of shopping and a tea break at M&S. I also caught up with a friend, Hannah, from Nottingham whom I see infrequently due to life constantly getting in the way and had some lovely tapas at a place called Escabeche. The main highlight in June was starting my new job, in the building opposite to my old job. I took a nice step in my career and I'm headed in a positive direction. 

A month for exploring | Where didn't I go in July? Well, abroad for one. However, I did manage to get around this country a fair bit. Early in July, I was invited along to the races in Doncaster, where everyone spent a lot of money on Champagne and I got very drunk off of it, made a tit of myself in front of my friends' friends and then went to work the next day and moaned a lot. Despite the fact I didn't win the only bet I placed, it was an experience! Following that, in celebration of Michael finishing his final Pharmacy exam and his Pre-Registration placement, I booked a little getaway for us in Chester. Living under his parents roof is hardly a twenty-something couples dream, so to get away from everything and everyone was just what we both needed! We enjoyed the spa facilities at Rowton Hall Hotel and paid a visit to Chester Zoo and the Cheshire Oaks retail outlet. The zoo was much more fun though! Later in the month, with Michael waiting to hear back about his exam he made the effort to get even more qualified and we took a trip down to Cardiff so he could attend a seminar for flu jab training. 

On the road again | We went exploring in the Derbyshire Dales and found a few caves and climbed some great big hills. 
After receiving his pass and officially becoming a qualfied pharmacy (woo!), Michael picked up a few shifts of Locum work before we headed off down to Cornwall...again! It was great to have the car this time, as when I'd been down alone in March I certainly felt much less mobile. On route to Sennen, Michael took a detour and we headed to Gwithian instead and we were more than happy to stay! We came back day after day, even took my niece and nephew on a lovely day out. My nephew wasn't overly enthused after discovering the water was freezing cold, so we dropped him back home to my sister and took the more enthusiastic child back to the beach! Michael and I also went out for a meal with my Mum and Dad, to Kota in our village, Porthleven. It was hands down the best food I've ever tasted! 

A gift from France | My September was a relatively dull one, of course I caught up with Faye (which is never dull) but for the rest of the time I was working non-stop. On the other hand, my boyfriend, the lucky devil, had a nice little five day getaway on his friends' family yacht! He did watersports, went to casinos and beach party's, tried snails and expensive wines - whilst I twiddled my thumbs at home and then toddled off to Faye's house, whose boyfriend was also off on said holiday. Kindly, Michael bought back a gift of French macarons when he returned, which I savoured, and even more kindly, Faye's boyfriend promised a holiday with the two of us girls in tow in 2017 (and the flights are booked already!). 

Some Bro time | I rarely see my brother now I've moved away from Keele. During my final year of University he was only a 10 or so minute walk away, but now I've moved to Nottingham we're an hour or so train apart and he's working nights and weekends, whilst I work weekdays. It's not easy to find a time when we're both free, but during some scheduled holiday we managed to catch up and headed off to Manchester for a change of scenery. 

Some girl time | November was kicked off with a visit to London to celebrate Jenna's birthday. Now, we've all been friends with Jen for years, but three of us live in and around the midlands and Yorkshire, whilst Jen lives in the outskirts of London. We have a stronghold in Sheffield, aka Faye's family home, that we turn to for most celebrations due to location and space, but after declining an invite last year (because we all had plans for Halloween already, not because we were horrible friends), we made this the year to go to London and didn't regret it. We spent the Friday night knocking back a few drinks whilst watching films, and then experienced the Junkyard Golf Club in Soho, which was great fun! Drinking plus crazy golf - genius idea! Following that, we headed off to a surprisingly reasonably priced bar, enjoyed a short visit to it's rooftop bar - which everyone soon left after pitying me shivering around an open fire pit, wrapped in three blankets because ice runs through my veins - and spent an unreasonable £80 to get back to Jen's house in a taxi. All in all, it was a lovely weekend getaway! 

Home | Never one to turn down the opportunity for a visit back to Cornwall, I booked my Christmas holiday and this year, Michael joined us for a Christmas at the Goode's too. I started off December moving into a new team at work and looking after a new area, but I didn't have much time to settle in before my holiday came about. We headed down to Cornwall and found ourselves stood behind the crash barrier on the M1 within about 4 or so hours. Our car engine decided to cut out as we plodded happily along in the third lane on the motorway. Safe to say we shat ourselves a little, but help arrived and we were given a courtesy car for the time we were home whilst ours was repaired. I had the chance to catch up with my closest friend, Becky, and even went on a night out for the first time in the town next to me. I bumped into so many people I went to school with, one of whom exclaimed in her drunken state 'I thought I'd never see you again!'. I agreed, other than the very few I still remain friends with, I never expected to see anyone from school again except on social media. Michael and I prepped the dinner on Christmas Eve and were the designated chef's for the big day, and it all went down brilliantly. We didn't leave the house for a Christmas walk, and we didn't take nearly enough photos, but in general it was a lovely day surrounded by family. 

I know 2016 has been a hard time for many, especially those who have lost loved ones and idols. Unfortunately loss is a reality of life and no one can promise 2017 will be any better, but I hope for everyone it's everything they want it to be. 

For me, 2017 IS the year I will get a flat of my own!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Life | Counting Down to Cornwall

Counting down to Christmas in Cornwall has been the main thing keeping me going these past few weeks. Work's been challenging and a new role that starts on Monday will top the challenges I've already experienced. I've had one day off since my holiday to Cornwall in mid-August and I feel like it's been nonstop. Home life has been the most difficult of all - there's been an abundance of tension around the house with fall outs and fights galore. Having five adults under one roof who don't always see eye to eye is never easy going. So, I'm 100% ready for a break. 

I've had my Countdown App at hand to remind me how many days, hours and minutes away my journey back to Cornwall is, and when I started writing this post it was exactly...

So to fill those days, hours, minutes and seconds I thought I'd share what I'm most excited about...

I'm excited to, obviously, see my family. Unfortunately, my brother won't be able to make it home for Christmas this year, but on Christmas Day we're having my sister's family round for a sleepover which will make it so much more special. Christmas with children around the house just gives the Christmas spirit a real boost! We've got the dinner menu planned, the sleeping arrangements ready, a few boardgames to play and hopefully some good Christmas films to watch. And I'm sure we'll manage to get my brother up on Skype to join in the fun! 

I'm excited for decorations. My boyfriend's family don't, a single thing. They have cards up around the house but they don't even always put the tree up. I don't know if they've always been like this - but they don't even do stockings! I assume they once did when Michael and his brother were children, but if, like my brother, you're not home for Christmas, my mother will damn well post the stocking up to you! She has also never missed posting up advent calendars, and I doubt that will ever change! But with no decorations in sight around here, my Christmas spirit is currently low. People have started to decorate the office at work which helps pick me up a little. 

I'm excited to be and feel at home. I've lived with my boyfriend's family for over a year and a half now, and it may sound a little sad but I only feel at home when he is there. And even then, I only feel comfortable tucked away upstairs in our bedroom. I don't always feel welcome here and I don't always feel comfortable. So, to get back to where I belong is what I'm most looking forward to. 

I'm excited to go for long countryside walks and strolls on the beach. I found the area around Michael and I got boring quickly, mainly because neither of us feel like we belong here. But I find so much peace when I'm walking around my village, Porthleven. The people are more friendly, the air feels fresher, I just feel so free. 

I'm excited to have my first Christmas with Michael. We've been together for three years now but due to our family homes being 300 miles apart, and over the years us having either University or work commitments, we've not been able to spend a Christmas together. However, this year he'll be coming home with me. Yes, we'll be sleeping on a not too comfortable sofa bed, and yes we'll have to wake in the early hours to drive those 300 odd miles, but it'll be so worth it to spend Christmas with everyone I adore (except the aforementioned brother who can't make it down due to work!).

I'm not wishing the days away at all, but I really cannot wait to travel back. I know the ten days we're down there for will fly by as they always do, but I'm just so ready for a break away from Nottingham that lasts longer than just a weekend. 2017 is just around the corner now and I'm definitely looking forward to what's in store for both Michael and I!

So, what have you got planned for Christmas and what are you most excited about?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Student Life | Is University For You?

Five years ago when my second year of college rolled around we were instantly hit with the pressure of making our minds up about whether university was right for us. 

Honestly, at the time I was daunted by the idea of going to university. I was constantly torn between a year out and submitting an application which meant that in the end I cut it pretty close to the UCAS deadline and in fact rushed things to the point that I actually applied to one of the wrong universities. And then I only found out that I had applied when they rejected me! Nonetheless, I'm glad I took the time to ponder but I felt like I wouldn't have taken so long had I not lacked support and knowledge. Only one of my siblings went to university and he studied relatively close by which allowed him to commute from home. So when it came down to it, he still didn't quite have the insight of university life that I was looking for. I looked outside of the family circle for a bit more support and that came in the form of the parents of my boyfriend at the time, who I'm still so grateful to. Without their help, I wouldn't have gone to Keele. 

So, I thought, how can I really use my experience to help you guys out? 

Well, I think it's important, having experienced the mind boggling toil of making a decision about going to university to share how I felt and what put me off, and furthermore how I reasoned my fears and made the big decision to leave home. On each point, I've added in 'what to research' so you know what to consider when narrowing your choices down to your UCAS Top 5.

Let's kick things off with the big one...

The Cost
My year were the first to be hit by the £9,000 tuition fees and it wasn't really something that put me off, but I know it does for many and quite often put parents off too. The tuition fees are paid directly to your university and you don't have to start paying them off until you're earning £21k+, and even then it's not a hugely noticeable amount. I've put my mind at ease with the loans I have from university, because they're not like any other loan. You won't have bailiffs around your house if you've not paid it off quick enough and despite what people may say, it won't have a real impact on you getting a mortgage in the future either. The cost should most definitely not stop you from going to university.

If you want to know more about student loans, I would have a read of this post and get your hands on Student Finance for Dummies. 

Aside from tuition fees there's of course also loans and the general cost of living. Your loans and grants are means tested, which means what you get is assessed on what your parents earn, which in many cases isn't fair. Your parents may earn more, but it doesn't mean they can necessarily support you. University will always cost money, so you'll need to see if you can afford to move away from home, what forms of financial support you'll have and if you'll have the time to work and study. The main thing is, if university is really an academic step you'd like to take, consider it as an investment (yes, a big one at that), because realistically you are investing in your future.

What to research when choosing your Top 5:
  • If there are scholarships for high achievers or low earning incomes that will financially support you and what qualifies you for these, and particularly whether or not you need to apply or you get them automatically upon meeting the qualificiations
  • The cost of living in the area - don't just consider Halls either, have a look at how expensive the local area is for renting a student house too because most universities don't give students the opportunity to remain in halls every year
  • What kind of work is in the area - many chains of supermarkets, restaurant and bars actually offer transfers for students - this means you can work for a certain company back at home, and during term time transfer to a different store/bar etc. local to your university. If you're unsure if working in first year is right for you, check out this post with lots of pros and cons. 
Whether to Move Away and How Far To Go
Some people don't always go far away for university, but the move out of your parental home can always be something hard to come to terms with whether you go near or far. You're growing up and whilst 18 is still a young age you still hopefully have some basic skills to survive alone. Most parents are always willing to make a visit and there's the likeliness you'll return home during the university holidays. If you'd like to move away to experience a new place, but don't want to be too far from family, consider a university that has some familial ties nearby.

What the research:
  • The cost of travel - this is something I didn't consider, stupidly, and taking a complicated 12 hour bus ride home cost me around £60, but a more relaxed 6 hour train journey cost me nearly £100. It's important to do your research!
  • The cost of keeping a car - if you're lucky enough to be bringing a car to university, make sure it's worth while doing so. 
    • Can you afford to repair it if it breaks down? 
    • How much does parking at halls or on campus in general cost per year? 
    • Can you really afford to keep a car running? 
  • Is it the right place for you 
    • Do the places you're looking at have everything you feel you'd need? 
    • Are supermarkets nearby and easy to access without a car? 
    • Are there places for you to relax and unwind? 
    • Does it have the right social scene that you're looking for?
Living Independently
For most, independence is one of the main reasons they look forward to moving out; I know it wasn't one of my worries and I was excited about it. However this isn't the case for everyone, so before you head off to university make sure you're prepared with the basics: cleaning, washing, cooking. If  having to live independently is affecting your decision, look at places that are closer to home so your family can easily come visit if you're struggling. My best advice is to simply understand that the chances are one day you'll have to live independently anyway, so once you get the hang of things independence doesn't seem remotely daunting, if anything, it's pretty liberating!

What to research:
  • I'll delve into this further below, but research the support systems that the universities have in place
  • If you don't already know how, practice your house keeping and cooking skills!
  • If you're not ready to go it entirely alone, look into what catered living the university offers
    • How much does it cost?
    • Are meals available on weekends?
The Support
People warn you that the jump from school to college is not something to be taken lightly, and the leap from college to university, especially if you move out of your parents home too, can sure seem like a tough new challenge, but there's so much support at university. You'll be able to get support from your lecturers, your personal tutor and your new friends. There are also other people and support services in place to listen to your problems whether they're personal or financial, petty or problematic; there's always someone who will be able to listen and help.

What to research:
  • What support does the university offer? I.e councillors, personal tutors etc. In Keele we have a 24 hour anonymous service where you can phone someone in the support team and just talk about what's worrying you.
  • Does the university have a student mentor programme? These are often a good way to meet a second or third year student who knows exactly what you're going through
  • What are the processes for long term absence including sickness, bereavement, maternity  leave etc? 
The Social Life
University is often represented as a place for heavy nights out and I admit I've been guilty of this representation too simply because for a good part of university, that was my experience. However, just because university is often seen in this light it doesn't mean that it's all there is. There's more out there in terms of socialising than just having a pint in hand. And then there's also the academic side of university life to look into as well, which is likely where you'll find a lot of your new friends. University entices a plethora of characters so you're sure to find common ground with plenty of people.

What to research:
  • What societies does the university have? 
  • Are the halls dedicated to people who want a quieter experience? 
  • How close is the accommodation to the Students Union or other pubs, clubs or bars?
  • Are their opportunities to study abroad and widen your experience both socially and educationally? 
A whole new bag of opportunities...
...Is how I came to see university. It's not just about academics and socialising, it's about educating yourself in independence, about finding new hobbies through societies, meeting new people who could shape your life into something entirely different, travelling the country or further either to study  or to visit your new friends. You'll be able to attend guest lectures, book launches, poetry readings, film screenings, and in general, experience things that you perhaps wouldn't have ever thought to go to. Your years spent at university can offer you so many opportunities and the best way to find out what they are, is to do your research.

Don't rush your decision to apply, think long and hard and take a year out if you feel you need to. Don't think just because so many people go that you have to as well, and don't apply this year just because your friends are if you're on the fence. It's a big decision and can often change so much for you, but it's not something that should terrify you. Be scared by all means, but it should feel exciting too. It's a new chapter in your life and you'll experience so many wonderful and fun things alongside studying a subject or subjects you love. Look fully into the places you're considering applying to, if you haven't already made a few visits do so soon and if you're struggling with choosing a course, think about the things you enjoy most and the career path you could get out of it.

If you don't think it's right, try to have a plan in place to ensure you get the most out of not going. I know plenty of people who instead decided to work their way up, and later came back to doing a degree or didn't do one at all. University isn't for everyone and it's hard to have your life all planned out at the ages of 17 and 18. It's a ridiculous expectation, but it's also part of our reality - so, don't rush and research, research, research. 

If you have any other questions, or comments about your experience of choosing to go to Uni, please feel free to comment below or drop me an email -

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Life After Graduate | Scarlett - Keele University

My next Graduate to share her story is Scarlett. I only briefly got to know Scarlett during the time we studied at Keele, but I do know that she is an incredibly talented and creative individual who will most definitely lead a successful life. Without further ado, here is Scarlett's story...

First of all I’d like to thank Issy for asking me to contribute to her “Graduate Life” series. It’s been wonderful to keep up with the personal journeys of some familiar faces and it’s an absolute pleasure to take part. 

I feel like my experience of university very much took the form of chapters, and I would struggle to give a comparative “before and after” of my university experience. I guess that’s why I’m writing in this way; to be a little less formal than a ‘question and answer’ format. 
Being asked what it ‘feels like’ to be a graduate is a difficult question because as my time at uni progressed I sort of faded out of the campus community and never really felt as though there was one particular moment that I ceased to be a student (save for that heart-wrenching moment Urban Outfitters stopped giving me my student discount). I’d lived in halls for my first year and it was then that I made amazing memories of which I’ll always be fond. However I very much lived with one foot in Keele, and the other at my home in Cannock. I’d come home on weekends for my job and then in later years I lived with my then non-student boyfriend an hour away from campus. So by my second year I’d already began phasing myself out of “Student” status and it wasn’t really much of a shock for me once I’d graduated. Also as I had already cultivated my social circle outside of Keele, it meant that I only keep in regular contact with a handful of really close uni friends. 

If I could time travel, yes I would definitely go to university all over again. I’ve always loved reading, but without being exposed to creative writing courses and the kind of fertile environment of university, I would never have had the confidence to produce my own work as well as meet other like-minded people that inspired me and helped me to grow. The ‘light bulb moment’ for me was when my lecturer told me “even when you write prose it sounds like poetry” and I just knew I’d found who I was as a person. I’d always encourage people to go to university if they have the opportunity as you learn so much more than just what is prescribed on the course.

I got my degree in English Lit and History after doing a dissertation in Creative writing. I stumbled into a job in web design pretty soon after graduating and found that I had a flair for copy writing and content creation because of my background as a wordsmith. Along side that I run my little online poetry shop (which you can check out here) and continue to go to poetry reading events and workshops. Working full time has made me realise how precious personal time is, and evenings are either spent tac’tac’ting’ing on my typewriter until midnight to fulfil orders, or trying desperately to fit a half an hour of reading in so I can get to sleep at a decent hour to be up for work. However I feel that most of my friends are in a similar boat with jobs and commitments, so when we go out on a weekend we’re all ready to either let off steam and party till stupid o’clock, or vegetate with chinese food and trash telly; there is no in between. 

For now, I plan to continue writing, taking part in the poetry community and running my online shop. I'd also love to eventually end up with my own book of poetry! If I had any advice for recent graduates that find themselves overwhelmed with the sudden mountain of pressure and responsibility, it would be to not give up on what you love to do. I enjoy web design as it’s in a creative field that challenges and interests me, but I feel that my occupation complements my life rather than completes it. I would describe myself first and foremost as a Writer. So even if it means staying up half an hour later to read that book you’ve left dog-eared for weeks, or continue your blog you haven’t updated in a while, or paint that scene that’s been lingering in your head, then make sure you find the time to do it. Because if university was about finding yourself, then to lose it now would be too much of a waste.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Journey's End | Eugene - Keele University

My life has felt a bit up in the air recently. Work's been very busy as I've taken hold of more opportunities and new challenges, and my boyfriend's Mum has recently had a hip operation so we've all been chipping in to help out. I've also been making time to go to the gym and go out for dinner so I've really not had the time to blog as of late. I thought blogging during my student years was tough, but boy was I wrong.

Nonetheless, I'm back and bringing another Keele University student with me. Eugene is my next interviewee, who graduated with a degree in English Literature this year. Here's his story... 

Have you enjoyed your time at University?
I have enjoyed my time at university; in order of enjoyment I'd say 3rd year, 1st year and 2nd year last.
Do you have any regrets?
Not putting myself out there earlier and in general, not getting involved in more events and societies. I lived very much in the middle lane during 1st and 2nd year. I was willing to take part in nights out and anything else I was incited to, I travelled fairly often as well, but only in 3rd year did I actively seek out things to do, and get more involved with friends and social activities. I lost more sleep in third year but it's been much more enjoyable.  

What was the highlight of your university years?
Screaming at the militant black guy from Balls of Steel during my first freshers’ week was pretty fun, I got an applause from it. The first time I performed at karaoke as well, about a month before writing this. There are too many highlights to count.

How do you feel you’ve changed over the years?
I felt like I was quite an open person before university, but if possible I’ve become even more open to different walks of life. I’ve become a lot more tolerant as well. My housemate in the room next door pretty much didn't let us sleep after a night out, which my other housemates and I have learned to deal with. As well as dealing with him knocking on my door at obscure times.

Has your friendship group changed much?
I’ve stuck with two of my original housemates from 1st year for all three years which is pretty cool. So in that sense it’s not changed too much, I’m always with them. Perhaps my friendship group has diversified; one of our new housemates this year I’m pretty close with now, as well as people in the KRAP society, whom I’d never really connected with until this year.

What was your biggest achievement?
Maintaining a long distance relationship for near the entirety of my university life. Although my relationship has now ended, we made it pretty far and it was a testing time, one I enjoyed.

Do you feel like going to university has been worthwhile?
I feel like it has been worthwhile; if anything, you gain a lot of experience in numerous aspects. There’s more learning done at university than just inside the course you study. All forms of learning are a positive for me so even if I’m in the same situation when I return home as I was before beginning university, I at least have lived the university life and experienced what it has to offer. 

What are your plans now?
At the moment I’m going to try and form a band. This will be my main priority when I return home. I will most likely work part-time in my mum’s fish and chip shop as well. I will be relearning to drive with confidence and other than that, hopefully relaxing for a bit. I also have a Ninja Warrior audition, which I will be training for.
Eugene captured this photo whilst exploring the grounds of Keele
How do you feel about graduation day? 
Quite excited. It will be sad to finalise the end of university, though I suppose while I can visit, the end is never the end.

What was it like doing a final year project?
Quite challenging. I knew what I was like as a person in terms of studying, so I made a point to try and begin earlier and plan a lot more. I finished a chapter of my dissertation before the Winter holidays and it was still difficult to keep on top of the work load. Having picked modules which were all essay based, I had a lot more typing to do which was difficult to balance at times even when I finished some of them early.

What advice would you give to students going into their final year? 
Plan a little day by day. Try and make a schedule and stick to it. Make your life difficult at the start of the year so that you won’t be stressing towards the final hand in date.

What was the best night out you had at university?
I have no clue; I probably don’t remember it. Any night out where the SU is completely packed out I find enjoyable; I like being surrounded by lots of people whilst on a night out.

How did fresher’s week feels as a final year?
Just like any freshers' week I suppose - a lot of fun. Being a final year student didn’t make too much of a difference because university work hadn’t come into the equation yet.

How did your nights out change as university went on?
They became much more of a reward given the increase in workload. It was also a lot of fun being able to recognize people and say hi to old faces all the time.

Would you do it all again?
Without a doubt.