Tuesday, 22 August 2017

33. Registration, Van Gough + Exploring Amsterdam

Things have been full speed ahead now that I am moved in and ready to go on the class front. My brain is still running in around three different languages, but I am getting there. The most important thing to me is that I work hard and do well here. Making the most of time is important, so I am trying to find that balance with my life as quickly as I can so that things feel as comfortable as York has right from the beginning.

The first part of my day was led by registration activities at the university. There was so much paperwork to go through, but it is a relief to have it all over and done with for now (there is more to do before I leave). It's so strange to have yet another new student card to add to my growing collection and a whole new marking system and such to get used to. We'll have more information over the next few days but so far it appears they have a marking system of 1-10, with 10 being the highest grade. So long as I am surpassing 5.5 (the pass mark) I will be pleased. It makes me determined to work harder than ever so that I might achieve the grades I dream of maintaining.

It can be really stressful to begin some place new as I was saying yesterday in relation to moving. With your paperwork, what I suggest is that you have an important documents file and just take it along with you. Having pretty much every document with my name on with me today saved so much time, as did keeping up to date with emails and knowing exactly what I wanted to talk about.

Exploring Amsterdam - Image copyright CLSS 2017
Amsterdam is only a brief train ride away, so we headed out to explore once all of the academia for the day was over and done with. It was sunny and the perfect afternoon to just wander and browse through the odd book shop here and there. All of those bicycles everywhere just makes the day that bit brighter.

It also surprised me just how much of the city I remember from the few days I visited last year. I was actually able to maneuvre us around the streets with little to no trouble at all. Wandering by the canals I can remember summer of 2016, eating strawberries and following a map to the bloemenmarkt. There was this one moment, sat on the dock outside of the centraal bibliotheek when I remembered saying 'I wish I could enrol at a library this amazing'. And now ... here we are. It can be difficult to imagine where the future will take us. I am glad it brought me here, but could not have foreseen it then. 

The Amsterdam sky line - Copyright CLSS 2017
We spent a fair amount of time exploring museum plein and just the city in general. There are a lot of fun details you can pick up just by sitting in the garden of the Rijk museum or looking up at the roof tops. The street names are an interesting one (seriously, look into it) as is discussing Dutch history and why exactly the national colour is orange or why the tulip is so infamous here. With some of the best buskers in all of Europe accompanying your thoughts with Vivaldi, you cannot go wrong. 

Learning about art here is fun because there is Rembrandt and Van Gough by the canvas full. These were painters who knew so much about thier trade and exactly what it was they wanted to capture with their oils. Certainly for me, it is a big part of what the Netherlands has to offer in terms of history. From their lives and the ideas they set out into the world, there is so much to learn. Sometimes it can just take one small idea to spark something so much more, whether that be impressionism or a book series. 

Exploring + my new oil paint pen - Copyright CLSS 2017
It was really difficult to say goodbye to my mum at the airport though - the last of my goodbyes this week. And it really struck home because it made me realise that this is it. This is really the beginning of something that is doubtlessly going to be hard and complicated and amazing and inspiring. I am excited but also afraid that the person I become as a result will not be the person I am now or even close. I want to get home and still be recognisable if not an even better person towards all those I care about. 

So my last act of the day was to quickly do some sketching of Van Gough myself. By going through those brush strokes with my own pen and talking to those who care, I have managed to start feeling a bit better about things. This is a great opportunity like I say and hopefully soon things will start to be easier and less overwhelming. For now, Doei!

My rendition of Starry Night - Image copyright CLSS 2017
Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you! 

Monday, 21 August 2017

32. Oxford, 500 Posts + Moving Day

It's been such a long day that I don't think is going to be a terribly long post. Firstly, greetings from a. the Netherlands and b. my 500th post for UCAS (that came around quickly). I feel like everything is happening all at once and that is quite overwhelming. I think moving in is possibly the worst part of heading somewhere new because you don't yet have the grips of everything, nothing feels in control and you have to leave behind all the positive things that you know you're going to miss. Saying goodbye, as I said yesterday, has been the worst part of what is otherwise a very positive opportunity. 

The weariest of all travellers 
The plane journey went fairly smoothly and arriving here was a bit odd because it didn't feel like we had left at all. I've never really had that feeling with a plane journey before so I found that quite intriguing. After this there wasn't really time to register with the uni, so instead me, my mum and my friend Izzie headed to our accommodation. 

The most difficult two things today (because everything else so far has been amazing) would have to have been the transportation and the grocery shopping. The transport because it can be a bit confusing to maneuvre if you haven't used it before and we didn't have too much time to get used to it. But I'm glad we did this instead of getting a taxi or anything like that because it would have made life ten times more complicated when we needed to test the waters and use public transport again. As for the grocery shopping... Well I of course had to check for allergens. And I don't always trust my Dutch on its own so I would then check the French and German translations available. Needless to say, my head is now very frazzled and I am looking forward to getting a proper nights sleep after everything has been properly completed this next few days. 

My new home for now - Copyright CLSS 2017
Something I am really liking about this particular area of the Netherlands is that it is so green. There are lots of little areas to explore, with trees and old buildings. The architecture is really intrigung to see as a collective because it pieces together into one bright, beautiful picture. I can just imagine that if there is ever a time when being inside is too much, there will be the perfect spot amidst a few ducks and trees in which to draft an essay. But for now, I'm enjoying the stress free sunsets which somehow blend the water into the sky. Photographs don't really do it justice and this is only day one!

On a final note, some more positive news which made today even more emotionally overwhelming (and celebratory). I got into the Oxford summer camp for 2018! I am so excited to have another adventure lined up after a year which I am hoping to spend working hard in both the Netherlands and back in York. There is so much to aim towards and I feel like I could conquer the world right now. Well - let me rephrase. After a good nights sleep! But until then, Tot Ziens!

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you! 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

31. Home, Packing + Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is always hard. It isn't my forte and yet in the past few weeks, I have found myself saying more goodbyes than I've been able to keep up with. Whether it be to those people I became friends with through Halle or the family I have always been so lucky to have, with each day and each goodbye comes a little bit more heart break. It's one of the only things I dislike about new opportunities and the need to move on because it means letting go of all the good things which have already been. 

Today was my last day in England for another 4 months and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that yet. Leaving home, whilst not the most ceremonious of things now that I have done it a few times, makes me miss my childhood and the times when home was just one place that stood stock still. I miss when time ran into time which ran into time, and I was able to chase years whilst staying in the same spot, in the same town, feeling that nothing around me was moving - until suddenly I blinked one day and everything had taken on a different guise; It doesn't quite feel that way right now. It feels like I am headed away on a trip for a while. The reality is I am ... it is only short, so impermanent. But again, it does not feel that way.

My mum had a mini party of sorts and me and my friends from HYC met up again (one week on from tour) to go bowling (in which I started off winning but came third). I already miss all of these people who make life so extraordinary and filled with adventure. I can't wait to see them again. My friend Anna even sent me a message reminding me to pack my toothbrush which made me feel so much better and brought a smile to my face. I don't think it really hit me until then that tomorrow I am actually leaving.

I'll see you all soon! Love the third place bowling champ
Perhaps the hardest person to leave behind is my boyfriend, Joe. He's my best friend and I see him pretty much every day. The same is true of my family, but in a different way. It's complicated. When it comes to long distance relationships, there is a lot to it that people who don't go through it won't necessarily see. For us I think it is that we are so close and know practically everything about one another - we have for the past seven years. So something we have come up with is exchanging diaries at Christmas as gifts that we will write across our time apart. We of course had to get matching Harry Potter ones (no others would do).

He is the Gryffindor to my Ravenclaw. 
Getting home from a day full of conversation and farewells was so heavy. Everything just kind of fell on me in this regard, and getting back to packing was tremendously difficult. It suddenly felt like it was impossible. But I got there. Still feel like I am forgetting something though!

A lot of my packing had been done in advance, especially when it came to clothes and sheets. Practical things aren't too difficult to get through. It was more the personal things I'll need on a daily basis that it was difficult to decide upon. I don't know quite how to explain - but which stationery to prioritise because I write best with it and which postcards to take for the walls. Most difficult for me as a literature student, knowing which books to pack and which to leave because there are still so many I am half way through that it is really hurting me to know I will not get the chance to read until I am back home in January.

Getting ready - Copyright CLSS 2017
I speak about it so much but, home really isn't too much about the place for me. It's more so the people. It has become that way as I have grown older and it's more complicated than that, but the heart of it is that I hate leaving behind those I love and not being able to take them with me. From my parents to my grandparents to my dog, I am close to all of them and they are my home more so than any construction of bricks or mortar could ever be.

This summer has been amazing and I've never felt so happy, at least not since life was a lot simpler when I was younger. This past year of university has presented so many welcome challenges that have allowed me to push myself and excel at things I never thought I would. My writing has really taken wing and suddenly I have this voice all of my own to do with as I want. I have the opportunity to explore and to travel. I have been to new places, achieved things I only ever dreamed of before and gained the confidence to take this next step in my life. I don't feel ready in ways to make this move and it may be that way for a while. But one thing I do know? I am ready for this next adventure.

An amazing, emotional, wonderful summer - Image copyright CLSS 2017

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you! 

30. 5 Revision Tips

Summer has flown by and the revision period is almost upon us again! Getting ahead on work during your weeks off will hopefully have prepared you for that next challenge which lies ahead. But no matter how well we prepare, it can always be good to look back to someone who has been there.

So, as that person, here are my top 5 tips when it comes to revising:

My revision wall
1. Schedule

Make sure that you start as early on as you possible can. You might think that reivison is not a necessary thing to be doing in the midst of September, but the reality is that there is no better time to start.

Schedule small slots of revision into your day, even if it means only half an hour of looking over the notes you made in the lecture that morning. This has definitely been a big part of university life because there is so much independent learning to be done.

2. Secondary Reading

Going the extra mile is one of the best ways you can enable yourself to remember all the necessary information. Pick out the things you are really interested in and play to your strengths. Even when it comes to your weaknesses, find the elements which are enjoyable and research something about it.

Tip - Keep a list of your research so they can be potentially referred back to in the future.

3. Colour Coding

My favourite thing to do when it comes to exam time is just to colour code everything. Get the A3 paper and make spider diagrammes, write your notes out in different colours and make keys so that you can really utilise this.

Fact - You are 25% more likely to remember things that you write down in colour than things in plain ink.

4. Repetition

It's the tried and tested, fool proof way to get yourself to digest and retain information; Remind yourself of it over and over again. Whether it be through flash cards or by writing things out repeatedly, find out what works best for you and roll with it.

Something I've found to work really well is saying things out loud so that I can hear what a good example sounds like in comparison to a bad. In addition to this, being able to explain something to someone else concisely only highlights how well you are versed in what you are discussing.

5. Peer Assessment

Your peers are the people whom you are most likely to learn from because they are the harshest critics. Me and my friends found it really useful to construct an essay club where each week, we can not only help each other go over topics we are uncertain of but also read one anothers work.

Keeping others up to date on your progress can also take a lot of the weight off of your shoulders. They can help you see where to begin making positive change and having support during this stressful time is the best thing for you.

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you! 

29. Inspiration: Aletta Jacobs

So far, this small series of blogs has largely featured on my literary inspirations. Those who I have found to be inspirational figures throughout my reading and research, ultimately fuelling my own ideas and encouraging me to keep working hard in the process of developing my own voice as a writer/creative individual. It is easy to pick out examples of inspirational role models from throughout history in terms of books or artwork. Well actually, not necessarily easy - there are so many of them! Beginning with Woolf, this blog series has slowly begun to take shape in showing some of the people, writers and artists from the past and present who inspire me to do what I do every day.

Many of those inspirations are voices speaking to us from the past in the form of paintings or novels, all manner of creative materials. But an inspiration who continues to have impact in the present despite her place in history would have to be Aletta Jacobs. 

I am sure we have not lived for nothing - Aletta Jacobs
When I was going through the 50 topics of Dutch history for my modules in the Netherlands, one of the figures who jumped out from the page and was immediately significant to me personally would have to be Aletta Jacobs. I thought I recognised the name from some previous reading that I had done, but as for the sheer scale of exactly what Jacobs achieved... I was blown away.

Her individual story alone is one which is immensely and immediately inspiring. Her father was a doctor and through seeing him work, through being taught about this line of work through him, she decided that she too wanted to pursue this path. But being a women, it would not have been possible for her to study at a university in the Netherlands during this period. So she decided to write a letter to the government officials asking for permission to study medicine - and she got it! But irritatingly the letter was sent to her father claiming he could grant her permission. Either way, Aletta went on to be the first women to study at university in the Netherland's and to become a physician. 

How Jacobs' assisted other people on the larger scale spectrum of time is what is most extraordinary about her. Seeing how women did not have control over their own bodies, she opened up the first planned parenting clinic (though it wasn't known as this then) and educated women (including in prisons) about their rights. She even provided free medical help to those too poor to afford it, before travelling to find out how she could continue to aim in the right direction when it came to helping women. 

There are a lot of firsts which Aletta Jacobs achieved pretty much single handedly and that is no ordinary thing, it is certainly quite remarkable. I think the fact that she remained so driven and focused no matter what she achieved is what is the most inspiring to me. I want to be able to maintain that focus and drive in order to succeed, with the example she set being kept close at hand. As I head away to the Netherlands, it is her work ethic I will be taking with me; Work hard and know that I will have not lived for nothing. 

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

28. On Reading Manga

A big part of my reading over the summer has been reading new genres. This hasn't always been easy to achieve in terms of the research and analysis which took part in these different mini-projects, but it has always been a lot of fun to get involved in. Do you remember those reading challenges at the library from childhood? The aim was so simple - to read new things and as many as possible. It has been a welcome thing to bring back into my life.

My last project was researching children's literature, but this month I wanted to do something a little different. So I decided to look into something which is for a wide range of ages and is popular all around the globe. Through taking this approach I happened across Manga.

Manga is all about story telling 
For those of you who don't know, manga is basically a literary form which is somewhat akin to graphic novels or comic books. It has a happy medium inbetween, where anything seems possible narratively speaking. Manga is a broad term which covers a lot of subgenres in the middle as, particularly in Japan, there is something available for every age group. I remember going to an exhibition at what was formerly the Urbis museum in Manchester (now the football museum) which was all about how writers put together their plots and begin piecing together their ideas with the images which will eventually form the finished manga product. And it is so much more complicated to work on than it looks - this is something you can discover just by reading a short example such as a volume of Ponyo. 

After heading to Forbidden Planet with a friend who is hugely interested in this genre, I became really intrigued. From what she told me about her favourite volumes and characters it became inherently obvious that manga is all about story telling. It's prime focus is to create something new and exciting which we as readers can slip away into from our every day lives. Perhaps this is why large collections featuring many different 'episodes' of manga are so popular; There is so much to choose from. With my curiosity levels up, I decided to purchase a few books myself.

The first book I purchased was Orange: The Complete Collection 1. This was a few hundred pages long but I managed to get through it in a day, even though it took me a while to get used to the right to left page situation. This collection is about a group of teenagers who one day get a letter from their older selves urging them to make the most of the present to change the future and save their friend. Whilst nothing major happens (this is not a plot of huge surprises other than the brief time travel) the characters are so well constructed through simple words and images that they seem real. Their situations are believable and relatable even now that I am out of highschool. Even the magic, the timetable, is written in a way that makes it feel normal as a facet to the story - it is believable. It really managed to create that entire atmosphere of daydreaming and fizzy-ness. I got through it so quickly and was devastated when I reached the end because it wasn't really an end! And now I have to wait until the end of the year until I can purchase the second complete collection and find out what happens next - oh well, something to look forward to. 

The other volume isn't necessarily manga but it is connected with the Japanese film industry known as Anime. You may have heard of Studio Ghibli? I've seen a few of their movies before now and have loved them all. Again, this is an art form which is all about story telling in it's finest form. I managed to find a translation of the novel My Neighbour Totoro which is so far proving such a lovely read. Whilst there is adventure, there is also so much sweetness to it and it feels like the perfect start to getting into the volumes of the manga by the same name. Next I think I will be moving to Howl's Moving Castle. 

Every manga subdivision is different, as is every individual story, which is what makes it such an interesting and important range of books to readers young and old alike. There is really something for everyone which is why I think it is so important that people try something new this summer. Even if you only read one short collection of manga, you'll never know you like it if you don't try reading it. I can't wait to keep up the research with this one and see what I can find next. 

What should be my next genre in this project series? Let me know in the comments below!

Some further reading:

- New York Times manga best seller list: https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/manga/?mcubz=1

 Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you! 

27. Top Tips For Stress Free Travel

Travelling always seems to be stressful. The place itself, exploring it and making up your own adventures as you go, that is wonderful. But the getting there? Not so much. I've always been a nervous flyer ever since I can remember. Especially as I have a nut allergy and it can be difficult to get people to listen when you ask for all nut products to remain put away, flying isn't usually an easy ordeal to go through. This means I am, as a result, quite uncomfortable throughout the journey.

Because I'm a nervous flyer and I travel a lot, I have over time worked out lots of helpful, trusty tips and tricks to return to again and again. These are the things which make me feel more at ease in the build up before the plane journey and also the things which make packing a smoother ordeal. Some of them might sound silly but they really do work. For instance, the metal detector always seems to go off because of my shoes when I go through which really makes me uncomfortable. So even if my shoes are fine, I always find it useful to take them off and put them in the tray to be checked just in case. Having these things to fall back on means that every trip is as enjoyable as possible. 

So here are my top 3 tips for a stress free journey. Sit back, relax and enjoy!

We were literally flying off into the sunset to Dublin! - Image Copyright CLSS 2015

1. Make A Packing List

I always make a packing list so that I know exactly what needs to go where. This will be useful both on the journey there and the journey home, so make sure to take a red pen for your return check list.

Having the basics is usually a good place to begin, you can always add on other things you have packed if you think you are going to forget them in the long run. For me, making sure I pack enough travel adapters and socks (as well as my tooth brush) is always a weak point. These are the things at the top of my list so that I definitely don't end up leaving without them.

2. Book Flights In Advance

There are a lot of myths around that the nearer to the time you want to travel you book, the cheaper your flight is going to be. This is sometimes true of places which would be fairly cheap to travel to anyway, such as flights to Dublin from the UK, but not so much regarding more expensive journeys.

Some flight offers begin at a reasonable price and then begin gradually building up every day. It's important that you keep an eye on flight prices and plan your budget around how the cost develops on a weekly basis. If you see a price that you are really happy with, be sure to aim for booking this as soon as possible so that you don't miss out on the ideal journey.

Tip - For those with allergies, be sure to let the airline know as soon as you can about the danger of anaphylaxis and remind the flight attendants at the beginning of your journey so that they can ask all passengers to put away allergen based products for the duration of the flight. This also means they will know not to serve products containing the allergens and to offer alternatives to customers.

3. Have A Plan 

If you're really nervous about flying or travelling, having an itinerary is the right move for you. Plus you can never go wrong with a schedule. Especially with the Lonelyplanet books, you can really get a good estimate of how much time you will have to explore. Use this to decide on which monuments + landmarks you want to head to first and begin booking tickets in advance.

If you take a rough guide line/ mini crash course along with you (from key phrases in the language to what you most want to see) then you'll find that it's possible to veer from a strict schedule and begin really enjoying yourself by being more spontaneous. It's easier to be spontaneous when you are feeling comfortable and relaxed. Let yourself have a good time and do the research in advance, you'll soon be travelling in style stress free in a fascinating new place. Happy travelling!

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

If you like, you can click here to vote for me as Blogger of the month. Thank-you!