Hey, Fresher...

August 27, 2014

Life's been a little dull since coming back from Asia, and I've largely spent my days lounging around on the sofa powering through my Downton Abbey box set and drinking wine with my unemployed friends - on a really exciting day, both at the same time. That being the case, when Grace invited all the uni girls to stay, I was really looking forward to going down to Portsmouth to see them all again. After lusting after Outlook, Unknown and Bestival this year but not having the funds to buy any of them, I haven't been to a single festival - so to kill two birds with one stone, we all headed to the famous Victorious Festival at the weekend...


 I joke. It's not famous, but for £22 a ticket it was a pretty decent line up. Or at least, it should have been - but after spending a little too long drinking or, in my case, standing in the queue for the toilet, we managed to miss most of Razorlight, Scouting for Girls and Tom Odell. But still, in my opinion, time spent drinking cider out of festival cups and riding on fairground rides is never wasted. Lily is the world's most unlikely Dizzee Rascal fan and since we did manage to see him, we were all happy.




I had a great weekend with everyone, and seeing all my uni friends has got me thinking about going back for my second year; it's a terrifying thought that its been a whole year since my parents packed the car up to the brim and dropped my off in the big city on my own. It's been 12 months of drinking, cleaning up after messy flatmates and anger at TFL after copious amounts of tube strikes - which means I think I now officially qualify as a Londoner. But the whole year hasn't exactly been as easy as I thought - so for anyone heading to uni this year, I thought I'd share some of the things I wish someone had told me.

Here's the thing - I love London. I really do. I love running along the river past Tower Bridge, I love the miracle that is the Uber taxi app and I love being able to order takeaway (because we don't have that luxury in the countryside). But for Uni? It was a bit of a mistake.
From the comfort of your parents home, its easy to nonchalantly shrug it off when everyone asks you whether you're worried about the cost of living in London (which they will.) But in Fresher's Week, when all your friends up North are happily drunk and bonding on three treble vodkas for a fiver and you can't afford the cheapest drink in the SU bar, you might be a little less cocky. Equally when you start to be convinced that Primark are regularly putting their prices up, you'll regret voluntarily choosing to pay £165 a week when all your friends are paying £80. Whilst there's a great student atmosphere in the big university cities, London just hasn't got that. It's a fantastic place and I love living there - but if you're thinking of choosing a uni, do yourself a favour and have a look at Newcastle instead.


A few memorable nights from year one...


 So much of your first year is down to luck. If you're lucky, you get a flat of five other incredible people who you bond with over drunken nights and hungover breakfasts, and end up being friends for life. If you're unlucky, you end up with the kind of people who think its acceptable to put raw chicken in the bin and leave it for two weeks, and two Chinese people you only know exist from the unused Mickey Mouse rice cooker in the kitchen. Most of the time - it's somewhere in the middle.
So, if thats the case - join a sports club. Even if you hate sport and you don't even own a pair of trainers. At any Uni the sports socials are the best, and it's where I met the whole group of my closest uni friends this year. Take it from me - if you hate everyone in your flat, even being forced to drink mashed up McDonald's burger mixed with vodka as an initiation starts to look like fun.




I think the most important thing about uni is - don't be afraid to admit you were wrong. Quite frankly, Uni isn't for everyone - schools push students towards a degree when there are many other routes out there. It's equally easy to just end up at the wrong uni, even if you were convinced it was perfect for you - I know so many people who dropped out and started somewhere else, and absolutely loved it. It's a vast expense and if you're going to voluntarily be in that much debt, you should be damn sure you're happy.



In hindsight, maybe my uni isn't perfect for me - but other parts of my life have really come together and that wouldn't have happened anywhere else. I have a great group of friends at uni, including the girls I'm moving in with, and I'm really excited about going back. When everyone's posting how much fun they're having on Facebook, its easy to believe everyone else is having a better time that you; which just isn't true. Everyone feels a bit lonely at times, or misses their friends and home comforts. Your first year goes so fast that, at the end of it, you'll look back and wonder where it went - so enjoy it. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and if it turns out Uni wasn't quite how you expected; it will all work out OK in the end.







Why every girl should want to be Blair Waldorf

August 13, 2014


Since being given the box set for Christmas, I have been shamelessly working my way through Gossip Girl again from beginning to end. In an attempt to alleviate the post-holiday depression that has absorbed me for most of this week, I treated myself to watching the final episode with a nice cold glass of Sauvignon and the remainder of Sunday's hangover chocolate.

What a mistake. As I downed the last of my wine in a blur of tears, I suddenly remembered why the series was so fantastic - and why I was so sad it had ended. See, as sad as it sounds to admit, Gossip Girl was my entire adolescence. For six years I followed the lives of these fictional characters - through starting and leaving boarding school, my first relationship, A levels and leaving for university. As they moved on, so did I, and by the end I was emotionally invested. And I'm not the only one. In this day and age, when watching an entire boxset beginning to end in one session is totally acceptable, TV shows are a form of education. And what I learned was, you're either a Serena or a Blair in life; and I know which one I'd rather be.


Home sweet home...

August 03, 2014

It's a known fact that the hardest thing about travelling isn't the home-sickness, lack of 4G or being out of your comfort zone; it's coming home. 

It's hard to explain the feeling of sadness that creeps up on you the closer you get to landing. Somewhere between BKK airport and arriving at Gatwick 16 hours later reality sets in, and after being stuck in traffic for an hour on the M25 it begins to feel as if you were never really away at all. After excitedly recounting tales from your trip to everyone at home who will listen, you go to bed on your own and just feel sort of... flat. 

After a month somewhere, it almost begins to feel like home. Everything we found strange when we first got there - the heat and humidity, inability to put used toilet paper down the toilet (a personal favourite) and using chopsticks with every meal, to name just a few - became second nature. No matter how vividly you describe your adventures, no one at home can really understand them and you   quickly miss the company of those you travelled with. So instead of wallowing, I thought I'd write my last sad, emotional, little bit cheesy post about it; starting with why it's all so great. 



Friends

Travelling the world wouldn't be the same without the fantastic people you meet along the way. The staple "so how long have you been out here?" means that any stranger you meet turns into a friend. It quickly becomes apparent that you may be 6000 miles away from home, but the world really isn't that big. Its surprisingly easy to find connections or mutual friends - we met one girl from near us who I have mutual friend with from uni, and another who worked with a friend of Annie's cousin.We met people from all over the world and learnt loads of useful stuff about their countries - for example, it costs $600 to fly from one side of Australia to the other, kangaroos can get very vicious and in Perth a packet of cigarettes is £18. See? Travel really is the best form of education.




Communication

OK, this is a weird one. But I do find it very strange that I have had full signal without fail everywhere in Thailand - and I mean literally everywhere. If I wanted to make a call at the top of a mountain on Phi Phi, tiny island in the middle of the sea - it was no problem. It was the same with a tiny village in the mountains in the North, and rainforest outside Chiang Mai - and yet, apparently my multi million pound phone provider EE can't get me any signal in the middle of Bury St Edmunds. Equally, in Thailand, everywhere has high speed internet access. They may need to run the wires up some very dodgy looking poles along a mountain path to get it, but I had fast wifi in a wooden bungalow in the middle of a mountain village. At home, I live in the East of England and apparently Virgin can't get us broadband any faster than a snail's pace. Really? REALLY?


Cost

In Thailand, everything is really, really cheap. On our first night, we were told by the Thai receptionist of the hostel that the only place to get food was next door, but that is was "very expensive". Not looking forward to forking out on our first night, but without little other choice, we went in and sat down. "Very expensive" turned out to be £6 for a huge bowl of freshly made Thai curry, sticky rice and a large beer. That was still our most expensive meal of the trip - usually, a decent meal in a nice restaurant was between £3-£4. The most annoying thing about that, however, was that the cash machines only gave us money in thousand baht notes. I can only imagine that the makers of the cash points find this a highly amusing way to wind up tourists; we quickly discovered that when offered one of these notes, people look at you as if you are mad and refuse to accept them - the effect being that, really, you still have no money at all. Trying to break one of those buggers was a military operation. However, once that was done, everything was so cheap that the change from it lasted days. On a budget, Thailand is the perfect place to visit.



The scenery

There's a reason why Thailand is always featured on the front of travel magazines - it really is stunning. Whether it's sunset on a white sand beach, the crystal clear turquoise water or the stunning mountains and canyons, there was hardly anywhere that wasn't breathtaking. Even the concrete cities had gorgeous temples casually littered around it. The English countryside might be nice on a sunny day, but Thailand beats it without even trying. 






To be honest, I could go on forever. There's a thousand reasons for travelling but unless you bite the bullet and buy a ticket you'll never really appreciate them. It's a complete cliché but it's true - travelling really is a bug. It's addictive and yes, it's expensive - but for me, there's nothing I would rather spend my money on. It's not the same as a holiday - there will be some parts you don't enjoy and some moments where you fervently wish you'd never booked the flights in the first place. But it always turns around and, looking back on it, you almost enjoy those moments too.

For my first big adventure, this was the perfect place to go. It's safe and everyone is so friendly; from the hotel owners, to the taxi drivers, and all the friends we made out there. It really is a beautiful country and I'd recommend it to anyone. Thank you Thailand - you were brilliant!