Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Keeping organised, Lectures and Notes

Talking to some of the sixth form alumni who will be entering into the next stage of their education in September time, I am starting to realise how much this time last year I was nervous for the beginning of my first year at a conservatoire. University is intimidating for many reasons, but those reasons are also what makes it a great experience - things like moving away from home for the first time, meeting new people and encountering a work load properly for the first time as an individual student.

The classes and how you go about your work are not completely different from how you will have been used to them up until this point, this goes for GCSE students heading to sixth form too. You will have less classes, but this just means more independent work and your best shot at doing your individual work to a high level is by keeping good notes (yes - even if you are only interested in the performance aspect: trust me, the notation and analysis definitely does come in handy and you'll use it every day of your professional career)

So here are some tips on how to stay organised, how to cope with the amount you learn in lectures and (most importantly) how to keep your notes of a good standard and up to date:

1. Multiple copies 

Having multiple copies of your notes means having different options when it comes to choosing how to revise on a daily basis and also in terms of back up - say you lose your memory stick, you know you have more than one copy to rely on and don't need to panic too much.

As a student, I have always found note books and folders to be my best shot at revising. However, when it came to my A2 exams, writing things out over and over again didn't seem to be helping as much as it always had. The way I dealt with this was through researching different revision techniques, but also by having multiple copies of notes (aka - different ways of revising) Outside of notes and individual revision, I found organising out of class revision discussions or debates to be one of the most useful things as when I was talking to my friends it felt more like discussing something we were genuinely interested in, opposed to the things we have learnt from a text book that would secure us marks because it was all on the syllabus.

In terms of note books - I had a folder for class and a folder for home. In the first folder, I had the notes I used in class - some of these were quite hurriedly scribbled because we had a lot of lecture where everything had to keep moving at a fast pace in order for all the content to be covered by the time the lesson was over. These were colour coded to the best of the ability I could when moving quickly in class.

The second folder, for home, contained two sets of notes. Both of them were revised copies of the original class  folder. One half of the notes was just in pencil and pen whereas the other was colour coded. As someone who struggles with migraines, looking at all of that highlighter for too long often gave me a headache, so it was useful to have a copy where things were not too bright or seemingly chaotic. Pencil and pen notes were often ones which had been revised not once but nearly three times, so these were often the most developed yet concise versions of my notes.

On top of the two folders, I had a note book just for resources which was useful for course work especially. Whenever I would come across a source that could be helpful in the future I would note it down here. This note book I tried to carry around with me at all times as, the subjects  being studied were ones which I was passionate about so, it was very likely that in daily life I might just stumble across a really good source accidentally.

On top of the three versions of paper notes, I kept a set of flash cards for each subject (only one set for each subject though) which were useful for final revision tests but I didn't find I used these as much. Making them was the most useful part as it meant going through everything by writing it out systematically again. And last but not least, I had a memory stick. On this I had a typed up copy of the final set of definitive notes, as well as presentations and work sheets from class, a list of useful youtube links which would lead me to people who knew what they were talking about online - at the end of the day, this meant I was never short of a place to go when it came to how to study or what I wanted to revise and how I wanted to go about doing it.

2. Listening back (college videos and Dictaphones) 

If you can get permission from your teachers, you might find it useful to bring the Dictaphone into your life. It's basically just a mini-tape recording machine device contraption that you can set on your desk and allows you to record all the audio from your lectures. This means you can then later upload the MP3 files to your laptop so you can listen back in more detail. This is a really useful means for those people who might like to listen and learn on the go, especially if like me you are commuting quite a distance to college. It also immerses you more fully and can help you practice writing more quickly by listening through.

Your college/university may also offer play back as an option any way. On your virtual learning platform, there is usually a section where recorded lectures from the recent past will be available. The ones available on SPACE (the Leeds college of music learning platform) are amazing and so accessible! Literally three minutes after my last musicology lecture for example, the video of the entire lecture was already uploaded - record time!

3. Talk to your lecturers 

It may seem an obvious one, but if you are struggling and nothing is helping (including trying new ways of revising) perhaps it would be best to go over it slowly with the teacher in person. Of course this can be a bit intimidating but the most important thing to remember is that, at university, everyone is a grown up and no one is going to judge you or laugh at you because you are struggling with something.

Everybody struggles from time to time because, no one can be good at absolutely everything (Unless they are J. K, Rowling, Walt Disney or Stephen Fry - and they're all part super man) all the time, so if you are struggling, ask for help. It shows a great amount of strength to do so and you will be respected for it - especially if, in the long run, the questions you asked really end up helping in pushing your grades to the highest they can get. By the end of your year, you'll be looking like you're part Super man too!

4. Daily revision

Linking back to 1, you can never have too many copies of your notes and daily revision supports this a great deal as well as keeping your knowledge fresh and at the top of your game. Daily revision means taking your notes from that day and condensing them, making them more concise and clear at the end of the day when you can still remember things and can confirm them. It also means after rushing through writing down your lecturers thoughts, you can throw in a few of your own thoughts and other research too. These notes tend to be the clearest at the time of revision.

Keep these in a separate folder from your class notes as they are going to be a different set of content completely in many ways. Besides, the more organised you are with keeping things in the right place the easier it will be to find things when revision time comes around, opposed to looking through hundreds of pages because you have no idea where that section you wrote on the premier of The marriage of Figaro is.

5. Keep them interesting! 

If you write your notes in a manner you find interesting to read, you are going to be less likely to dread approaching them and trailing back through things such as equations or analysis which are pretty heavy topics within themselves. Writing in an interesting manner is the best way of doing this and you can do it by being creative with how you write things down. For example, if you are given a sample question with a particular few names you could change it to the names of friends or family in your notes so that you feel more engaged in the question - it sounds more realistic. Little things like this alone gradually up together and do have impact collectively in helping you revise successfully.

Colour coding and how your organise can also be useful - if you make them easy to look at (not too much highlighter, not too many diagrams, but not too little) you are going to be able to approach them more easily too. This is another factor which adds up with the previous when it comes to keeping your notes interesting.

In my last post when I was discussing how to write to students as a student for a blog or piece of written advice, I talked about how you want to make it sound like you have something to say and also to not just talk about what everything is like academically by throwing in a million and one statistics. Well the same goes for your notes too. Imagine you are writing for a different student other than yourself - you'll find the most interesting and engaging text books or posts about education are the ones where statistics are kept largely to diagrams, or brightly coloured diagrams, with their research sources directly beside or under them so it is clear where to go.

Make sure you include your opinions in the notes too - this is not only interesting, as it allows you to see how your opinions and thoughts have grown and developed, it's also incredibly useful because it is like you are revising yourself in a way - it will confirm your own thoughts as an individual in a few months time when the nervousness has almost convinced you that your mind is completely blank. That support, that extra kick from past you, is definitely the most effective of all.

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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, 27 June 2016

Experience and advice: Writing a student blog

Writing for students about being a student myself has been a great experience so far the past two years, yet when I was first entering into it I had no clue where to begin. Like I mentioned in the personal statement blog post a few days ago, when you are writing something about something you love to do the immediate response is to do the academic thing and write paragraph after paragraph about what you have achieved and when. But now I know that there is a lot more to it than that.

The first time I realised how important it was to capture the student experience properly was after reading about how education impacts differently on all of our lives. For some, their family could not be more supportive, for others it is much more complicated. This means that there are often many young people who don't know too much about what it is that they want to do or what options might be open to them. Through my blog posts, I have hopefully so far been able to get down some of the information my college shared with me and also pointed you towards some other places where you can get more information.

If you are entering into full time or part time further education in the future, I cannot urge you more to start writing about and sharing your experiences. In this day and age it helps so many students like us get to grips with what is true and false (when it comes to university myths) what you need to be prepared for, what you should stop worrying about and so on. It also means, similarly, answering lots of FAQ's which might have not been as closely looked into before in a widely readable format.

Here are some tips on how you can write about your experience as a student (because it is about capturing that part too) and what it is important to consider throughout your posting:

1. Write something you think would be useful 

Frequently when I had questions, I would come across many posts where the aim was to gather the statistics and not to provide clear information about the actual experience itself. For example, when I was trying to research personal statements and how to go about writing one, it was very easy to give up hope after coming across yet another article about how I should just talk to my careers adviser and they would give me all the information.

The most interesting and helpful posts were the ones that set out to be useful. For example, through some of the UCAS posts I was able to gather an idea of how to break up my personal statement into chunks because they had useful visual images which showed the different stages in colours and this made things more creative and fun. If you find something useful in an article, then you know it has succeeded in it's mission - so make this your own mission too. Make a list of things that you might have wanted to know or other people did and then answer these questions. If it has a clear point when you read it back then it will definitely be a useful advantage to others also.

2. Interview your peers 

I've done a lot of this because sometimes I get tired of my own voice and find that my influences aren't getting enough of the credit. And my influences are all around me every single day - my peers!

When I was in sixth form, my first step was to interview people who were going through the application process themselves to see how they were finding it and to see if they had any useful tips which they might like to share. It was also really useful then to interview people who I had worked with before or who were friends who might want to talk about their experience of being in university and to share advice about how things went from before applying to being where they were currently in their new place of education. I also considered the parents perspective when I wrote this series as parents too are impacted because they might want to know more on how to help their children when applying.

The past few months and weeks of being a music student myself have opened up the spectrum even wider - I have been able to bring you into music college in a new way by showing you the incredibly talented and hardworking people you will be working with on a regular basis. My aim now is to include more of these as you have stated them to be useful and this is what I would like to provide. When you are writing about your own experiences, consider your peers and perhaps ask them if they would be interested in a short interview - as long as you give them full credit and freedom of speech they are often quite happy to co-operate!

3. Tell things in your own way - Research

Linking back to 1 - don't try to condescend your audience. Although they might not yet have experienced some of the things you have, they are still likely to know about a lot of it. Speak to them as you would speak to one person - perhaps a friend or family member. If you write in this style, it is much easier to approach what you have said and to take something useful from it.

Plus no-one wants to hear what every body else has said a thousand times - they want something new, which in this incident happens to be you! You have an especially unique and important place in sharing your views because they are different to everyone else's so use this to your advantage to express your own thoughts. Don't cram everything you have to say full of statistics but do make sure that you have done your research - and if you quote anyone also make sure to leave foot notes or give them clear credit (just credit - it doesn't mean you have to go through the whole Harvard system and create a bibliography every time, though this can occasionally be useful)

4. Make things colourful and creative 

As well as telling things in your own way, make mind maps and bullet points when ever you get new ideas on how to express yourself in a new way or put into practice a new idea. The more colourful and creative you are in your description and approach, the more fun a difficult subject can become and this makes the approach entirely different to what it might have been before when it seemed a little more static or dull.

Use photographs and diagrams along with your words to invite people into the conversation. Diagrams can be especially useful because they tell the statistics for you without you needing to go into three paragraphs in order to explain. Photographs also show you aren't a robot - they let people see into the university or your projects. Of course your life and your university experience is personal, so this isn't something you have to share, but it can mean that you get to show first hand what the student experience is like. It can also mean you get to record a lot of your adventures and experiences as you go on throughout the year.

5. Talk about your own individual experiences 

Treating it like a scrap book can come in useful - because at the end of the year you look back and get to see how you have grown and developed as a person too. You get to relive all of those things you helped other people to encounter in order for them to make up their minds about what is the right path for them to travel down next. Talking about how you see the world and what has impacted you means that people are able to relate to you, to put themselves in your shoes to see how they would respond in the same/a similar situation.

At the end of the day, one of the most important things I have learnt on the whole is that it is through our story telling we are best able to communicate. So use those experiences to give examples of what an amazing journey it has been for you, that it is for you and that it could be for some one else.

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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, 26 June 2016

What to include in your personal statement: Hobbies

The first time I started putting together my personal statement, I had absolutely no idea what to put. This was still back in the days when my aim was to go to a more academic university to study music opposed to a conservatoire - somewhere like Oxford - so the pressure back then was definitely on. When we would have classes on how to prepare for UCAS and university and the next stage of our education, the teachers would provide us with work sheets outlining the criteria of personal statements for different types of courses.

One of the things that I found hardest was getting all that I had to say down into just a few characters and words. As a person who is quite 'wordy' so to speak, I have always struggled somewhat to make myself concise. It is both a blessing and a curse.

It took me a very long time to get my personal statement done and dusted. I'm talking about 26 edits, which I considered a job well done considering the UCAS submission is much earlier for conservatoires than it is for universities (I had to submit mine in October as auditions began in November!)

When I first began writing, my aim was to impress and to please. There was of course no syllabus that I could fit my words too, so I thought to go along the lines of my achievements and plans. This all sounded very academic and professional to me but when I took it to my teachers for advice, they would give it back to me telling me to write about things which I enjoyed - this confused me a lot of first. Of course I enjoyed music, in every element, but they wanted to know why I enjoyed music: What made it the only thing I wanted to study.

The way I showed how much music meant to me was by showing the different things in my life that I enjoy and am passionate about both academically and not so academically. Where previously I had featured examples of how I would go about analysing work in class and connecting the Russian history in class with my analysis of Shostakovich 5 in my music exams, I now decided to set out to show my hobbies. All of the things which made me as a person, an ideal music student.

This was hard - level of difficult, 26 drafts. So I talked firstly to friends and family to find out their thoughts on me as a person. What did it appear mattered to me and why? Was there evidence in their suggestions to support my ideas? I also made a list of all the things I enjoyed which went something like this :

- Dancing (tap and ballet taught by my mum and various academies since the age of 4)
- Swimming (competitive swimmer until the age of 15)
- Hiking (something I had always been quite passionate about)
- Reading (All the books!)
- Learning new instruments outside of my personal study
- Languages and travelling (in order to increase my new skills and learn about a broad range of diverse cultures)
- Painting (history of art and any art form in general I find interesting, especially water colours)

Well no... actually it started off something like, I enjoy collecting note books and disney movies (it's true but it doesn't show my passion for life, just my problem for collecting too much merchandise - e.g. notebooks and stationery:)

But once I had the definitive list of things I enjoyed (the first list, nary the second) it was much easier to begin planning things out in a more orderly and organised fashion in my head. This was the stage when less trees were angry at me because my paper usage went down rapidly and I began to work straight into word and character counters. 

From the list, I wrote a short few lines each and then put them all together for each thing. This way I could see which of my interests supported others or linked quite nicely with one another. Then I wrote a full length paragraph for each interest so that I could see which ones sounded better together. It was definitely most obvious from these full length paragraphs which things I was most passionate about and, in the end, I decided against learning musical instruments just for fun in my hobbies section because: 

A. This was already more than obvious in the rest of my personal statement when I discussed my multi-instrumentalist ability. 
B. It made me sound too much like this was just a skill to show off and not something which I genuinely enjoyed (which isn't true - it's definitely because I enjoy it and not because I want to sound like a snob) 
C. They wanted me to use this space in order to express all those things I was passionate about which had influenced and developed the way I thought and dealt with situations as a vocalist. 

I ended up speaking not about any of the truly arty things in my list, though all of those are important to me and who I am as a person. I talked pretty much only about hiking (with the others summarised in two sentences) This is some of the original content I wrote about hiking and then summarised into a shorter amount to complement the rest of my essay/personal statement: 

Cue original unedited content: 

Hiking began to become a big part of my life when I was around 5 or 6 years old, without me even realising it. Around the Hollingoworth area, I began to become interested in the land - the way heather would cling to the side of the hills and change from purple to brown to skeleton, or the way the ponds would thrive with life only to empty and freeze in the winter. My grandparents noticed my interest and decided to take me hiking up a nearby mountain called Blackstone edge. 

It is only a short walk, around 6 miles, but when I reached the top of that hill I felt such a feeling of accomplishment. Not even that - just content. Looking out over the patchwork of the earth and just feeling overwhelmed by where I was and what I was looking out upon. All that way below us there were pinpricks which might be cars, and full stops which perhaps might be people. And if I squinted way way out under the clear sky, there was the sea. 

After this, hiking became integrated into my daily life. I would plan, I would write about it and I would think about it. Much of the music I listened to in this time was English nationalism by the likes of Vaughan Williams and Elgar - through pieces like the Lark ascending I was free as that bird, as cliche as it sounds, to swoop and sore over the mountain top. To linger over the heather and to glide my wings across the top of a not yet frozen pond. Even now that music is my favourite because it fills me with the freedom of the peak district and the lake district. 

That was the first hike, but it was not my favourite. Each hill, each mountain, is as an old friend to another. They are each my favourite book. Through each I transform and re-shape into different elements. On Penyghent I am a wild sheep running through the long grass, on Ingleborough I am the vibrant wild flowers which can never be trampled. On Kinderscout I am the trees growing out of the steep cliff. On Pendle I am the myth of a witch. 

But most of all, on Scafell Pike  - I am free. 

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Preparing to move to your dorm/room + university

Now that your exams are out of the way, done and dusted, you will find yourself with a lot of time until results day and this can be the most frustrating part of it all - the waiting game. You'll find yourself doing some of the things you planned or (oddly) going to open the text book and revise only to find it isn't there anymore. Which leaves you doing the third weird post exam thing - procrastinating doing nothing.

In order to maintain an optimistic outlook on your exam results and continuing with education, whilst also maintaining a relaxed environment in which to recover from exams themselves, it can be fun to start to look into your potential move to university. Chances are you are in the process of looking for somewhere to stay or you have found the perfect place and are now tapping your feet, eager to get there and begin the new year as soon as possible.

In the preparation for moving to your new dorm/room, here are some of the things that you can do to make sure that when exam results day comes, you are one step ahead of the game.

1. Make a list of text books you will need 

Some of your books will have to be in a particular edition so it is important to double check everything on your reading list so that you don't end up with a book from 1989 on your shelves when you need the 2007 edition. There can often be major changes in editing, so a second hand copy unfortunately could be missing major chapters that are essential to your course now that might not have been before. Frustrating yes, but you will find it easier to get these books earlier on when they are cheaper. It also means you're one step ahead of the game and can even start reading a little. 

One thing I found useful was emailing to the college to find out whether or not I did need a particular edition. It resulted in finding a wealth of new texts that were not listed that my professors just enjoyed and thought would make for some good background reading over the summer, such as Waltor Piston's Harmony book. It is quite extensive in detail and no music student should be without it! 

Being early is also useful even if you don't need a particular edition of the book as it means that you can find the second hand editions at the cheapest prices in the best condition at the best time. Being one step ahead of the game on all sides from all perspectives. As for music students (on an extra note) it might also be useful to look into scores and CD's for extra analysis and listening to be even more on top of your game. 

2. Make a list of all the other things you are going to need (extensive!)

When I first made my list of things I would need when I moved out, it looked more like I was planning to go travelling for the weekend... clothes, toiletries and money. Ok, it wasn't quite that bad but it was not quite as extensive as it needed to be.

The definitive edition of my must have things to pack ended up being about five pages long and had subtitles such as the seasons (for clothing) or rooms of the flat (Kitchen, bathroom etc) List the things you think are most important first and then add to this as things come to mind. Make sure you list all of those things (like pencil jar or tooth brush) that you think are obvious and you'll remember them - because I promise you, if you don't list it then you won't be able to check it properly before you leave which can be a real problem if you're moving quite far away - especially if you're doing so without say... your phone charger.

3. Go shopping (the fun part)

Whether it be online or in reality, make sure that you have some fun when it comes to choosing your rooms defining features. Be practical, but be expressive, because these are the things which will surround you for pretty much your entire first year. Make sure you have some reason - don't get everything in different shades of pink, and don't get too few pens. Having a stock of the things you will need a lot of throughout the year (such as pencil sharpeners and paper etc) is important as it means that financially, you will hopefully have less to worry about. A pack of biros might seem cheap now but it might not in the future when you have to decide between being able to write and being able to do your laundry.

Don't buy food in advance, even if only a few days. Aim to do your grocery shopping on your first or second day of moving in. I went grocery shopping on my way to moving in so that I could carry everything in with me. For those of you who are semi-catered, it can be quite useful to have a few snacks in just in case (especially at weekends) I found it useful, as did my flat mates, to have post it notes as the shelves and cupboards were not split evenly. Write your name on everything you think needs it so that nothing gets lost or taken by someone else who might mistake for their own.

Have a budget! Saving starts now is a good outlook to have. If you set yourself a budget you can start shopping for the things you need and the things you want within reason. Practicing this skill is important now as when it comes to situations in the future you might want to go out but need to save money for food. It can be a difficult decision though right now it might not seem it, so having that extra money behind you can prove support not only for your bills and financial situation, but also mean that you do have the extra £5 to go and see a film or have a meal with your friends every now and again.

Plus it's an excuse to watch all those tutorials and hauls featured on good old youtube:

4. Organising bills etc (the not so fun part)

Planning how you are going to organise your bills is huuuuugely important. I found it so difficult sometimes to communicate via email when it came to sorting out my rent and making sure that all of my student loan stuff was in my bank at the right time so that things were paid in due course and met deadlines. On top of all your studying, you really don't want to be stressing about how much you owe everyone else.

Firstly check that you can afford your room as though it might seem that everyone else can, sometimes your money just can't add up to your dream accomodation and you may have to find a new dream accomodation that is more fitting of your own loan so that you have money left for food, if not included other bills, laundry, petrol perhaps, train tickets home etc. Knowing your personal situation and being clear about where you are at and where you need to be will let you gain comfortable ground when it comes to organisation of all of this confusing business for the first time (especially if, like me, you aren't the best with maths and numbers and all of that jazz)

Fun tip - Keep a small notebook and staple your receipts in and keep track of all payments here so that you have a clear go to. Keep an online copy too and a copy on a memory stick so that you have multiple back up on your side if anything goes bad or you need evidence of your payments in a quick and orderly fashion .

5. Be excited + finding your new flat mates

On a final note - be excited! You're about to embark on all of these adventures and adjust to this remarkable new world where you will learn and develop as a person. It isn't all perfect, but it is all about the adventure and what you make of it as an individual student. You have the power to change your education, your thoughts, to develop your opinions in class and your range of interests through societies and clubs and discussions with your new friends. Use the social media pages promoted by your university to start talking to some of your potential house mates and to make friends because you have time now to get to know people in advance so that things are perhaps not so scary on that first day.

Good luck with final exams people, and remember to enjoy this moment - because it's yours!

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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, 19 June 2016

Update: Father's day, Liverpool and Exam results

Some of the best days of the year, or at least my favourite days of the year, are those which celebrate others. So mainly birthdays, but also others like today - Fathers day. Because these are the few days when the people we cherish simply have to let us spoil them and make them feel as happy as they make us feel on a daily basis. It is a day to feel grateful, a day for little presents and goofy home made photo calendars featuring the snow man you built when you were three or that time someone got sunburned a particularly flamboyant shade of lobster on that last holiday to Spain.

I've spoken a lot about my grand dad and the difficulty of the past three or so years. My family is a very close one, despite the weird hours through work and school combined some times, and through them I have the most amazing memories of a wonderful childhood.

My dad is one of the most hard working people I know. He never complains, always has a smile and a couple of terrible (and I mean terrible) dad jokes to throw at you the minute you walk down the stairs. Sometimes you don't even get all the way down the stairs! He's also mad as a hatter - but as Alice in wonderland famously says 'all the best people are' - always ready for a new adventure. Through him we have found some really great places to visit for walking or day trips, and all because he wanted to see what was round a different corner to the one we would usually go round. I definitely get this from him!

Keeping with the theme of adventure, we celebrated fathers day in a rather famous English city which (until today) I had never visited before. Liverpool! Despite the rain, it was actually a really interesting city. We went through shops mostly to avoid getting our shoes too soggy, but we got to see the Liverpool Tate modern, where there was a particularly interesting exhibit called 'Constellations' Not one for modern art, but some of those ideas were quite hard to puzzle out, so it was almost like analysing some good Mozart! But more on this another day.

The main purpose of this update is to let you know the long awaited exam results! Basically, at a Conservatoire you get your results back gradually. At Leeds College of Music, you have your modules where you complete course work assignments and get the results back a month later, two creative projects which are featured in a 50/50 arrangement (one project in the first semester, the other in the second) and then your performance based exams (solo and ensemble) so everything adds up gradually as you go through the year, no matter what year you are in. 

Once you have your last exam result in you can calculate your average and see what result you got overall. In a way, this means exams don't really feel like exams, and working hard is hence something you have to do yourself a lot more - especially once the year ends and you still have exams to prepare for. We finished at the end of May, so I've had quite a lot of time off now (It gets boring to be honest - being busy is underrated!) 

I'm pleased to tell you that I have passed my first year, with some fairly high grades! My lower grades were in classes I struggled in, but I know how hard I worked so to get upper seconds in those situations was definitely a triumph (for instance, musicology, where I enjoy the essay writing but not so much the ordeal of putting all my research into the Harvard referencing format) This comes as a great relief, but I am not celebrating just yet - for now, I am keeping up the hard work and practice for next year. 

A level results day, same for GCSE, is quite a way off still I know, and there are also some exams still going on though they are almost over now - so keep working hard, the end is in sight and all that revision will pay off! I wish you the best of luck in your individual experiences. 

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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, 13 June 2016

Summer: Aquariums, Nicola Benedetti, and Qualifications

Summer has always been one of my favourite times of year, though the heat and me don't always get on (I am about as pale as a snow man so I get sun burn at random points of the year... sometimes it surprises even me) Because summer is this massive chunk of time when you are free to explore new ideas, get on with your own projects and most importantly, experience all of those things you have been planning throughout your exams and the amount of time sometimes feel so small that you are rushing from one thing to the next. I love that feeling, of going from one thing to the next without pausing for breath. In some ways, I often learn more during summer than I ever do in the academic year. But those are different ways of learning.

Last time you heard from me, I was recounting the many adventures that my short trip from Berlin included (especially that broken down train that did not help so late in the evening when it came to getting to the hotel) and also the equally awesome trip I went on to visit my pen pal Laura in Austria. Now that I have managed to sit down after travelling for a while, I find myself easily bored so I am trying to stay as in shape and on top of the game as possible until I get my final exam results back for the year.

The first thing planned which I had been waiting for for a while was the Nicola Benedetti concert (#Mozart) Last year because of Halle tour and also being sick, I wasn't able to make the concert which was pretty devastating as it had been something I'd wanted to go to for a long time (even on my bucket list) I mean, hearing her play is up there with that time I heard Joshua Bell play and the proms is up there too. It's one of those things you just can't miss out on!

So when I found out that she was going to be playing again this summer, I was in the queue for those tickets before you could say Beethoven, and you'd better believe it! Unfortunately, I found out after getting back from Austria that she couldn't play because she was sick. And I thought this was the worst luck in the world, to miss out twice. But it actually ended up being a really good evening, because there was an interesting talk before the concert on Mozart's mental health, it was the last night of the season for Manchester Camerata so they had lots of celebratory jokes going on, and the replacement violinist, Ray Chen, had very similar technique which was not better just different and equally fantastic in it's own way, so that was a great surprise! I also bumped into my old violin teacher and got to be part of this (get well soon video for Nicola Benedetti!) :


If there is any composer who is considered famous or well known, even revered, it probably has to be Mozart. The pieces themselves all have that shimmering quality that analysts can't define as just the prevalent use of sevenths or the just subtle enough amount of woodwind antiphony or orchestral unison playing. For me, his life is interesting and the music is great, but when you put those two things together and get the context before you hear a piece, that's where it gets interesting. Also, it is my opinion that great analysis has the power to be more than just academic - it can be greatly moving. It is why, perhaps, sometimes people who know more on a book or film enjoy it more - all that context!

This concert trip was quickly followed up by going to see Hamlet with the great Esidou in the lead role. It isn't my favourite of all Shakespeare plays but it is one that people say is a great one to see staged. I won't give anything away, though to be fair there several hundreds of years since then and so a lot of spoilers are out there, but this interpretation was unlike anything I expected - even from the highly creative RSC. Basically, the use of the culture and heritage of Ghana was used as an inspiration and so there were really brightly coloured sets and the use of a lot of percussive and rhythmic music which just made the whole story even more alive than it was previously. What is it with Shakespeare, people? It's like he got an extra 5000 genius points in the life factory - makes for an interesting reading or watching or anything. I don't think Shakespeare can ever not be current.

Also, only a little over a month until the UK release date of Finding Dory now! I don't think you realise just how excited I am for this - I consider myself a pretty huge disney fan. So to try and celebrate/contain my excitement, I decided to treat me and my family to a day at one of my favourite places - the aquarium! Blue planet is one of the largest preservation centres for sharks in the UK, so it is great to see that these creatures are being cared for well - perhaps why it is one of the most popular areas to visit. 

I'm also currently studying a free short course in Marine Biology at the moment (got 90% on my last test!) so this is exciting! To see the things I had been learning about a little in the flesh was helpful and it also made me even more interested in the preservation of one of the most beautiful habitats. One of the for sure biggest/most important things on my bucket list is whale watching. And also scuba diving and seeing the coral reefs of Australia and the ocean life of other places like Hawaii. But for now, that can wait because I have a lot of books, a lot of qualifications, a lot of studying and a lot a lot a lot of summer to enjoy! 

Hope all of your exams are going well - not long now. Keep studying hard! 

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Tips for travelling alone

As it's slowly getting to the point where all the universities are closing for the summer, and exams will be over in a little over a month, there are bound to be lots of us students making our way out into the world to get to know some of the places we have maybe only previously only read about. For some, this will mean returning home, for others it will mean moving to a completely new place and speaking a completely new language for the next few years, and for others it might only be a short stay to see how things operate on a daily basis somewhere else.

Travelling alone is a possibility for some of you, and it can seem scary at first. In some ways it is, but in others it can prove great fun as long as you keep safe and remember to pack everything you need (unlike my last visit to Austria where I forgot a working phone charger...) So here are a few short tips to hopefully encourage you to go on that next adventure and to help fill out the spaces where there are things you hadn't thought too much on before:

1. Flights and hotels 

Once you have a place in mind, it is relatively easy to press the search button for a flight or hotel. The not so easy part is deciding which would be best for you as, you might want to be in a place that allows you to get to the heart of the culture away from the tourist destinations and this can be relatively hard to do if you don't know the area too well. The best option is to look under different search conditions and make lists/different categories to choose from listing your options. For example, you could make three lists: Cheapest options, Most expensive options, Options which are near tourist destinations, Options which are further away from tourist destinations.

Once you have chosen your hotel and flight, make sure to keep a record of your costs and receipts. Usually you will recieve a booking confirmation for your trip, so print these and keep them in a safe place until your journey. When you pack printed tickets etc, make sure to keep them together in a plastic folder where they are easily accessible once you get to the airport, but where they are unlikely to get lost. If you have any questions about the reliability of your flight or hotel, make sure to question this before you get there. The further in advance you book, themore time you will have to make sure this aspect is sorted.

2. What should you pack? 

Depending on how long you are going away for, it is important to ensure you have the essentials : clothes, toiletries, money and so on. When packing toilietries, make sure that your products are accepted by your air line (you can check with the restricted lists) and also that you have the smaller versions of products. 100ml are your best options.

Make sure you bear in mind that you will have to pay extra if you want to check in a bigger suitcase. For longer trips, this is usually necessary as you are going to need a lot more than if you are only going for a day. However, if you want to save on a little extra money, be sure to get a backpack that fits the hand luggage criteria and that has a little extra space should you want to bring back any souvenirs.

As for money, it can also be useful to note that you should contact your bank in advance too. If they know you are going to be away at a particular time then it won't look like something to worry about to them if your card suddenly appears as active in America. Otherwise, they might think it has been stolen.

3. Travel lists 

This in itself is a form of travel list. It can be handy to keep a small list of everything you need - one for the way there and the way back, so that you can ensure you do not forget anything. When travelling alone, you don't have anyone to ask but you when it comes to remembering everything, which can be the most stressful part of it all.

Plus, there is nothing more satisfying in my opinion, than being able to tick off each thing or task as complete with a red pen once you have done. It also provides a little extra comfort when you can physically see everything in one place as complete. The organisation and planning part of a trip is the bit where you can save future you that extra bit of hastle.

4. Sorting out your technology 

Phones are troublesome things because they throw diva tantrums whenever they might feel like doing so. This can be a huge problem when you're in the middle of no where and need directions, or if you feel a bit home sick and just want to call your friends and have a chat.

As with bookng your trip in advance, this is another thing that needs to be at the top of your to do list before you go because although it is possible to sort it in another country, it is going to take twice as long and maybe means you will end up spending the first day of your trip in an apple shop or pursuing one in broken Spanish because you don't have access to the GPS that could tell you where the nearest one is...

Most phone companies have extra plans which means that if you contact them and let them know when and whereyou are going, data roaming won't become a massive issue because you have already covered any extra cost. If you consider how high the price of phone calls can be, this means preventing a lot of further stress. If you have any further questions on how to sort your phone or lap top, make sure that you contact your company  before you leave.

Also make sure you have a working travel adapter for any of your technology so that if it runs out of battery you are prepared. Afterall, what's the sense in calling the company and getting everything set up if your battery gives up half the journey there? Especially if an emergency should arise, this will cause extra unwanted stress.

5. Important documents - Maps and insurance

Because you are going to be travelling alone, it is important that you have all of your own health documents in a place where they can be easily accessed by you or another person if you should get into any difficulty. Once you have purchased your health insurance, you will be able to print a record of this and it is advised you keep this on your person at all times. You should also have an EHIC card, which you can apply for online. This will also ensure your safety and provide a little extra comfort and security throughout your trip.

In addition to your health documents, make sure you list all of the places you want to see in order to make the most of your time away. Lonely planet travel guides are especially good as they provide the next thing you will need: A good map.

The value of a good map cannot be questioned. You can become very fond of and very good friends with a map very quickly. The maps provided by Lonely planet are quite good as they usually have the majority of significant attractions already marked on so that you can start exploring an exciting new place as soon as you're off the plane/ferry/space ship.

6. Enjoy it! 

On a last last note, don't let the prospect of travelling alone make you too afraid. Of course it is a bit nerve wracking and intimidating at first, but as long as you are sensible and prepared, then you are going to be fine. In fact better than fine - because you're off on an adventure - the experience of a life time. Make it count! (I sound a lot like Doctor Seuss right now)

Happy travelling!

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The perspective of a first year student - Michaela Allen

Michaela Allen is currently at the end of her first year as a music student at Leeds College of Music where she is studying a BMus in classical music performance with piano. 

1. What is your favourite aspect of being a music undergraduate so far?

The sheer amount of opportunity I have had since moving to university. I have participated in projects that I never considered would be an option, such as improvising baroque style music for a dancer within his dance project whilst wearing a Tudor period Alice in Wonderland style dress! The amount of opportunity for performing has meant that I am less likely to be nervous when I am playing. People are not afraid to give you constructive feedback and, most of the time, it helps you to turn an adequately good performance into a great one.

2. How do you feel your playing has developed throughout the first year?

Before coming to Leeds College of Music I was self-taught. My entire approach to playing the piano has completely changed within the space of nine months; my technique has become more rounded, my approach to learning pieces is more accurate and astute, and I now understand that pieces have so much more character than one may see initially. I am better at sight-reading which is a skill I never really practised, as I thought that having a good memory would suffice. As a performer I have completely changed, and I am so much more confident in everything that I do – I no longer make faces when I make mistakes! I am studying under Nico de Villiers, who has given me the push that I really needed in order to begin defining who I am as a performer.

3. Has the BMus course lived up to your expectations?

It has. The level of teaching, the performance classes, the contextual classes and all of the rest, are absolutely brilliant. The business module was an unexpected part of my course, due to the fact that classical music is typically known for being all about practising. I have already learnt so much in the space of nine months at university. I particularly enjoy performance lectures as, while it is at first an intimidating thing to do, performing in front of people without warming up at 9am to then have helpful criticism thrown at you is a real character building thing.

4. What are you most looking forward to about second year and the rest of your degree?

I am excited to learn and perform new repertoire, play with new musicians, and gain more opportunities within the music industry. I am taking a module in self-promotion next year, which means that I am able to do more promotional videos and shoots – I find these quite fun! I want to do a master’s degree after I finish my undergraduate, so I am actually looking forward to putting lots of work in next year to achieve a good grade and to improve upon my skills.

5. What are some of your thoughts on the arts in general?

The arts are what makes Britain such a wonderful place. Artists create our tall buildings, the music that we listen to, the movies and TV programmes that we love. The arts are not specifically tailored towards anyone in general, and they feature in our everyday life. I believe that there are negative stereotypes associated with art forms which need to be eradicated; I frequently get told that I ‘do not look like a classical pianist’ and I know of other stereotypes, such as all artists being 'unemployed’ that are actually not as prevalent as they initially seem. We need the arts in order to enrich our culture, tourism, and generally the open-minded approach to life here, but we need to stop stereotyping the arts so negatively.

6. Do you have a favourite composer or a type of music you don't like?

I have an inherent dislike for minimalism (not all modernism, specifically minimalism) Although all music, at some point, can be deemed as ‘experimental’, I think that there is a fine balance between straying away from functional forms of music and dismantling and rearranging a piano to then deem it as music. I really dislike John Cage’s music, but I enjoy his philosophies about life. So as much as I may dislike some music, I do understand and appreciate the subtext behind it.

7. Relating back to the previous question, do you feel your classes have developed your musical expectations and opinions in surprising ways?

Yes. It sounds rather ignorant, but I did not realise quite how much a composer’s life affects the way they write. There is so much hidden subtext and scandal within the world of music, and it is surprising how much one person can influence an entire wave of new music to appear. I also found out that there is apparently no such thing as a second inversion chord when I attended my first harmony lesson, which really confused me, and made me quite mad - but I understand more now because of this, that harmony is essentially ridiculously hard mathematics. University education is a real eye opener – there is so much that I didn't and don’t know about music to learn here.

8. How different do you feel music A level is to music undergraduate?

A-level’s are scarier and, stress-wise, harder than university because you really just get thrown into a completely new way of learning. The content of the music a-level is really important in terms of learning the theory of music, yet while I learnt many valuable and vital skills within my A-level course, I was disgusted by the lack of effort that went into some of the marking of it. I felt as if I was harshly marked, so it felt as if the exam board was attempting to rid itself of the important aspect of valuing expression over academic accuracy. The undergraduate degree is just as challenging – being a conservatoire degree it is more performance based than the A-level was, but there is just as much theory and contextual information available to learn. It also seems to be marked in a better, broader way which incorporates every aspect, and is checked thoroughly by more people. If you put enough effort in at undergraduate level, you will receive the grade that you deserve as you are marked in closer detail.

9. Any advice to music freshers for September 2016?

You will meet people you love and people that you despise, and your teachers may scare you at first, but it’s only because they want to see you achieve. The most important point: PRACTISE! While your life should not only operate in a practise room, you should find a good balance between socialising – which you may do a lot of – and getting your work done. Your first year will be full of fun and you will meet people that will maybe feel like family for a while or for the rest of your life. Enjoy yourself!

10. And finally, do you have any further comments or projects to share?

Since joining Leeds College of Music, I have become further focused on both my solo repertoire and performance work within my piano duet. The Vesta Duet is made up of myself and Christopher Wood – we hope to tour next year. I am signed as an act to an upcoming label named Gateway Stone Music; I was invited by a student from my university who is currently on the business course. (A further note of advice - Never pass up a good opportunity!) Going to a conservatoire has been the best decision I have ever made, and I hope it’ll be your best one, too.

If you would like to hear more from Michaela, you can find her at her solo Facebook page and through Gateway Stone Music (the links are below) But for now, why not enjoy her fabulous recording of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 12 : 

Solo Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/michaelaallenpianist/
Gateway Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gatewaystonemusic/?fref=ts

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Austria, Day 5: Vienna

Last day in Austria and also my full day of exploring Vienna! Can you believe how quickly this whole visit went? It is so strange how five days can end up just feeling like one weekend and how all the memories merge together. In relation to this - can you believe it's now June, no longer May and now it has been officially 3/4 of a month since Berlin? Weird!

So firstly, of course, we headed out into the city which didn't take all too long. Once there, my tour guides led me past several buildings and their historical meanings, before we broke through the crowds into an even bigger separate current of people passing down the longest street of market you have ever imagined. In this street there were stalls with every kind of food from all over the world that you can think of and the best part was that every stall insisted passers by try their food because once someone has sampled something they are more likely to buy it (it also meant I ended up eating so much I didn't even need lunch!) Fried fruit is also apparently a big thing there, which is not really to my tastes but it was interesting to sample.

The markets took up quite a while, but after this we managed to find a tour bus which was quite useful as, although I wouldn't usually use these tourist based routes and would rather get to know the city just by finding my own way around, a day is a very short time to get to know a city so ultimately. So with time not on my side, as the new Alice in wonderland movie would joke, we decided to set off on this route. 

The tour bus showed many of the most famous land marks and well recognised institutions. The places used for movies were pointed out and lots of general knowledge was given out for those of us who want to hold on to this information for the rest of forever and tell it to absolutely everyone we know! I must have told a million people about how many pieces of artwork are being kept in the giant art museum which was originally designed to be a stable, or discussing the fact that the beautiful blue Danube which inspired one of Strauss' most famous pieces/waltzes of all is, in fact, a rather peculiar shade of green! 

If there had been more time on this bus journey, it would have been lovely to have stopped off at the natural history museum as despite everything, learning about dinosaurs and coral reefs are still two of my favourite past times and I don't think that will ever change. But the way I loo at it is this - no matter how old I get I am always going to have plans ready and waiting to go. My ambition and dream to visit Vienna for the first time does not mean that I cannot visit again - in fact it means I will have an ever better knowledge of the area for next time I visit.

 So in other words, I am definitely all ready and set to go next time, just like for Shakespeare and co. in Paris and the East side gallery in Berlin  - I have plans to keep myself busy for the next trillion years. There will also be lots more operas and chamber music concerts to see I'm sure. 

But the highlight of the bus tour was actually where it stopped and it's timing which was nothing short of amusing to the highest degree on the scale of irony. Basically the guide informed us that our last stop, the opera house, was originally opened with one of Mozart's operas - Don Giovanni (he actually composed the overture for that the day of the premiere and with a hang over...) But there was bomb damage during world war two, so the opera was rebuilt and repaired and everything before re-opening in the 1950's, this time featuring Beethoven's only operatic work, Fidelio. 

It was ironic because after hearing this information, we stepped outside in to the sunshine and who should be there to great us but Mozart himself! Ok, so not the Mozart, but practically a quartet of his doppelgängers. This was due to a concert I think, which would have been lovely to go to but with the amount of walking to do and the plane the next day it wasn't really a possible task. 

Walking past Hero square, we managed to see some of the Roman ruins which are the foundation of Vienna. Can you imagine that all of these places have these medieval roots that people get to search for and analyse? This is just baffling! Looking down at these stone remains, much as I had at the Schlossberg, I found it hard to imagine that these ruins had been once almighty buildings designed by one of the most powerful empires in the world. It was similar with Hero square - I just couldn't imagine Hitler making a declaration of his power of Vienna from the place which is now a quiet and peaceful library. As for the Mozart costumes - well, it was just hard to not think of them as costumes but what would have been fashionable at the time. As we pondered this, we looked over some chocolates at a rather famous little shop.

We of course stopped for a while at the famous St Stephens Cathedral, where we got to overhear the beautiful pure sound of the Vienna boys choir rehearsing. It made the whole place even more ethereal and magical, as we lit our candles and paused for a moment to reflect on just what an amazing place and how full of history everything we stood on was. The view from the top was also pretty impressive, though for me the architecture inside coupled with that music was the best part of seeing this famous icon.

But the high light of today for me definitely has to be seeing the Schubert museum - seeing where he lived and breathed as a composer when he was a child - it was just magical and there are no words. Perhaps when I can composer myself (a musical pun for you there) I will write an even longer post on this - but look, we got to the most famous original portrait and even his glasses! In this humble place, some of the greatest music ever imagined was imagined. For me that is just insane and harder to grasp than the history of that place. I was in Schuberts house! Nothing more amazing than that - that is about as amazing as it gets.

So tschuss for now Vienna - it has been awesome.

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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, 6 June 2016

Austria, Day 4: Vienna and Graz

After the past days being so busy, today was a bit strange as it was busy but it also wasn't. This morning it was just me for a while because here in Austria, exam season is still at large. My friend is a year younger than me and they finish high school as we finish sixth form in the UK only they take 'Matura' exams, which is basically like GCSE's and A levels combined but in every subject... so yeah, she still has lots of work to do and she had to go to a revision session for geography - fun times!

A tale of two cities in one day:

But first we went to see the city of Graz again - I had to buy souvenirs for my family of course, before we moved on to see Vienna in the afternoon. Luckily I was able to buy some little tins of Austrian cookies and other various goodies which would fit in my back pack because being silly old me I only took the one thinking I wouldn't need a suit case. Which in the end I didn't, but you will never see anything more comical than three people trying to get one backpack to stay closed!

There was one place I hadn't seen which was the giant mall they have. Some of the architecture is really old and dates back to Baroque times in Austria, but the rest has been newly constructed around it and is updated regularly. The effect is quite magical because you hence get this layer of buttresses over six floors with golden lining and intricate carvings, combined with the sky high modern glass architecture and roof top restaurant (which is expensive, but worth it just for the raspberry smoothies, doughnuts and view - a view to rival that from Schlossberg believe it or not!)

The floors each have a different theme, with the very first one being every girls dream. They have thousands of shoes and clothes in every designer label - it was quite weird to just step from a busy old street in to something that was like fashion week in London. So we had to, of course, take lots of pictures with the hundreds of assorted sunglasses available.

The next bit was where it got interesting ... basically I had to manoeuvre my way back to the apartment alone whilst Laura went to her revision class. It actually proved easier than I thought - tram then bus, and finding it wasn't too hard either. The main difference I have noticed about Austria in terms of transport is that it is easier to find where you are going because things are more clearly labelled - the S Bahn was equally efficient in Berlin, but the issue was there were a lot more lines so it was harder to keep track of where I needed to be. So I managed to do that on my own, which was perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the whole trip - plus no one questioned my German, so this is a good start.

Once I got back, I finished up the whole packing (revert back to the previous story of trying to cram everything into one backpack) ready for the road trip down to Vienna. It was such a hot day, but during the two hour journey down to the city, it started pouring it down with rain. But because it was so hot, the rain (even though it was quite heavy) reverted to vapour as soon as it hit the floor so it was really foggy for a while. It was so weird to see the rain just come and go so quickly especially as it had seemed to be ready to pour it down all day - but I guess that is just how rain works in England, not so much in hotter places.

Ten CD's worth of French music later (my host family spoke quite a lot of French) and a fresh crate of strawberries, we had arrived at Schonbrunn - an area of land famous for many attributes including the palace of Franz Joseph. We didn't go into the palace, but we did look at the gardens, orangerie and maze garden. There were so many roses and they smelled so good! The sun had come back out by this point, so it made everything that bit more exciting and interesting. We even saw some emus on the walk down, as there is a zoo also on this land.

But the maze garden, or Tier Garten, was the best bit of this visit. After admiring the architecture, we headed into the mazes. It was crawling with tourists - but to be honest, I can understand why this place is the most visited tourist attraction in Vienna. The first maze was the most challenging (the last was the easiest) I never thought a maze would prove as difficult as the movie Labyrinth made out - but David Bowie was correct - it was definitely 'No piece of cake' But with a little team work, we managed to make it to the centre of the maze!

The second maze, I have mixed memories of... basically it wasn't too difficult but there were these little games scattered around, like a dance glockenspiel for instance, where we played some honorary Mozart to celebrate the end of my exams!

But then we came across this water based one and the easiest way to describe it is a square pond with a wooden bridge on one side and on the other stepping stones. Now two of the stepping stones were wet whilst the others were not and I dismissed this, thinking them puddles from the rain. The sensible part of me thought to take the bridge, but I decided to take the stones... and instantly regretted it. I went first so could not have known that there were hidden water shooters ready to soak my feet! Laura found this hilarious, but I sulked for a while until she made the same mistake. But it was fun - soggy socks and all!

That's all for today (after this, we just went to meet Laura's aunt who lives in Vienna as we are staying with her) Other than the best pizza for tea that was huuuuge and also the best ever. Who says Italy is the place for pizza - I reckon it's definitely Austria! But so far this city is definitely proving a Mozart Schubert Handel crazy beautiful-esque wonderland! Hakunamatata for now - cheerio!

Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this 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.