Sunday, 27 August 2017

35. The Amsterdam Code

My first week of living in the Netherlands is officially over - though technically not as a student, because classes haven't officially begun yet and won't do for another week. Right now, it's all about catching up on study and getting to know the area. I know that there must have been a time like this last year when I first moved to York but I can't really remember it in detail. This is probably because everything there is so comfortable and familiar now I can't remember a time when I didn't know it the way I do at present. It's my second city and second home.

It's been strange adjusting to such a new place as you will have seen from my previous blogs documenting the experience so far, but that's all a part of the international student package and what makes such an experience so important. Gaining a new perspective of a place in detail is a cure to ignorance of any kind. Plus, it's also super fun to get to know new people and to learn a city your own way. Because remember this: No two people see the same place in the same way. You take from your experiences what you wish, and it is up to you what you do with that information.

Exploring Amsterdam + Gaining new perspectives - Image copyright CLSS 2017
So, from the Bloemenmarkt to the Vondel Park, here are a few of my thoughts on the city of Amsterdam as I know it right now. Here are the things which I have taken from my experience, what they have made me think and how I have developed all of this into something only I could have produced.
In truth it is a city of freedom - John Green
Image copyright CLSS 2017
The walls are taller than I can think
For they gain height in history,
And they are measured too in words
And all that they have known to be

Bicycle bells and tulip scent
Replace for me the urban trail
Of cars and skyscrapers, for here are only
Canal boats and harbour sails

Sometimes the stillness bothers me
It feels there is something waiting, waiting,
But I am getting used to this -
Gone is my hesitation

Instead I find that water
Is the way to stretch my legs,
That the obvious is the answer
That the right turn is the next

I can picture Auden strolling here
And the pictures he would spin,
The word equivalent of all the oil paint
Encased in each museum

There is something about this place -
It is a space that I can understand,
A space where each and every hand
Points towards the roof tops,
And the cobbles,
And the trees

Here everything is new and
Needs somehow to be reassessed,
As though normal guises cease to be
And each address, re-styled, re-dressed

Perhaps there is a code that we,
That you or I, will never see,
And even if we cease to be
Amsterdam would float leisurely

For the brimming gracht runs on
And the lovers? They will stay,
Though the clock chime strikes ever on -
If only for a day.

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!

Friday, 25 August 2017

34. Welcome Talks, Researching + More Van Gogh

Things here are busier than ever. But that said they have also started to calm down a little now. In spite of this, it isn't always easy to get used to the subtle differences between here and home. I've definitely had moments over living here this past week when it has been too hot or I have had a long day where it has sometimes been impossible to focus on anything else other than the negatives. Those moments are hard to deal with, but a conversation with a friend or a call to my parents is always something which I find reassuring. Knowing they are nearby no matter where I am in the world always makes me feel better, especially as I am going through what is known as the W curve in pschyology. 

Because, like I say, right from the start you will see that balance is key. There will always be sad moments as a part of your adventure during the adjustment period and that is a natural thing. University is hard and finding out where your support system is is so crucial to you performing well in class and being able to do everything from budgeting your shopping to working out the public transport system. It's important to be patient with yourself and to give yourself the space to learn. Everything is a learning curve outside of your comfort zone where you can improve upon your skill set whilst picking up new ones.
Just a casual group selfie
Something which really helped me feel a lot better was the day of international welcome talks. The first day was a series of short lectures delivered by some of the university staff as well as a few guests about the importance of being an international student and how this can benefit the world in general as well as those individuals who decide to make that decision. It reminded me of all of those positive reasons I decided to head down this path. Firstly, and most obviously, to give myself a challenge and to make myself work harder. And secondly (perhaps not so obviously) to broaden my perspective by learning regularly from the 180 nationalities surroudning me and that are represented in Amsterdam alone. 

Browsing the university book store - Image copyright CLSS 2017
The second day of welcome talks, and also the last thing before we begin classes in another weeks time, centred around Dutch culture more specifically. We even got to do a short Dutch class which was a lot of fun as, even though I knew a relative amount of the beginner language information, there were some things which I could only learn from someone who lives in the Netherlands and speaks the langauge on a regular basis. E.g. Slang. For example, did you know that the Dutch swear with illnesses? Think Mercutio - A plague on both your houses kinda' deal. You can learn more over at Stuff Dutch People Like (a realy useful website that our host speaker writes). 

In addition to being a little more grounded in Dutch culture, we were also taught a lot about the education system here and how exactly it works. This is something I am perhaps most worried about because, whilst it sounds similar in ways to the work I have already done at York St. John, it sounds much more difficult to achieve a high grade. Here achieving a C is something to be happy about, whereas that would not necessarily be the case back home in the UK. Either way, the classes I am aiming towards should be more welcoming overall of having students with strong opinions, which is something I am glad of. Hopefully, if I maintain my rhetoric of work hard and seek to improve, then it should not be too difficult to do well here. Everyone seems eager to learn and that is the most important thing.

Another funny thing was mentioned when discussing grading was that (bear in mind the system is graded with 1 being the lowest, 10 the highest) 8 is for the student, 9 is for the teacher and 10 is for God!

Sketching some more Van Gogh - Copyright CLSS 2017
To find something to do during my initial weeks here before class starts, I wanted to get some research and work done as well as all the exploring and adventuring with my friends. A personal project I had over the summer was to finish the Transparent language Dutch course before graduating on to the OLS course, and to get through all 50 topics on the Dutch history syllabus. After achieving these goals, I am now branching out to research areas surrounding my modules so that I will have some idea of what thoughts to be aiming towards when classes begin. I'm also researching more closely the cities I visit. After going to Amstelveen with a friend this week, it has been one of the top places on my list next to Rotterdam, the Haag, Leiden and Haarlem to learn more about.

Another thing I've been working on is my artwork. As you'll have seen from the Starry Night I worked on in my last post, Van Gogh is a current favourite for modelling my creative license upon. He has always been one of my favourite painters, so beginning with his work was something I was really eager to do. It has worked wonders with helping me to feel happier and to keep focused. Today for example I have got so much work done, largely in part to the fact that I know if I get it all completed then I can sketch some Van Gogh this evening. Next I think I will move on to Rembrandt.

Even more sketching, this time a favourite - Copyright CLSS 2017
Reading wise you'll have to wait for my August books post and also my monthly student read for the bookclub, which I've decided to continue with over the next academic year to help potential students with their decision of whether or not to study literature, to find out what I'm reading. There's much to look forward to and the posts I have planned for the next couple of weeks are something I am particularly focused on being creative and efficient with.

For now though, I'm going to head out to a movie night. The evening is still young and here in the Netherlands, the sun is just setting. It's such a pretty view from my window. And as I say goodbye, here is another new Dutch word for you - Doe-Doei (bye bye).

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!

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:

 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! 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

26. Back To School - Stationery Haul

The final preparation for my study abroad is well underway which means that it is more or less the perfect time for me to go on a stationery haul. This year will be especially difficult as I have to think light - everything needs to be packed and ready to go, in an orderly fashion of course. Keeping organised and on top of everything is proving a challenge in itself but gradually it is getting there.

Whether it be your last year or first year of university that you are heading away to, you can't deny that the best of the yearly preparation is always the day in which you can really go all out with a stationery haul! All of that new equipment packed neatly into your backpack ready to assist in the work of genius that will doubtless ensue over the next semester.
Knowing where to begin with stocking up on stationery can be a little difficult, so here are a few of the essentials that you are not going to want to miss out on stocking up on before the academic year begins:

My trust new note books for the year!

1. The Basics
Your basics incorporate the standard biros, pencils, ruler, erasers and so on. Feel free to be creative and experiment with different types over the summer to see which work best for you. It can be useful to have a ballpoint or two for lectures because the ink flows quickly enough to keep up.
Tip - Always have a spare pen at hand just in case yours runs out!
2. Ring Binders + Refill Paper
Who misses the days of exercise books? I know I definitely do! But despite this, it is much more efficient and easy to keep organised if you are using folders as you can hole punch any extra sheets you get in class to keep them with the other work from that day.
Be sure to stock up on refill paper too. Whilst there are always cheap options nearby at you local supermarket, nothing can ever quite beat the paper which you like best.
3. Coloured Pens
Colour coding works incredibly well when organising notes via ringbinder, largely because it means you can have both a normal set of notes from class followed by an updated colour-coded copy once you have re-written everything. You are also much likelier to remember things which are written in colour than you are if they are in plain black ink.
Plus, there is nothing quite as fun as getting to use your favourite colours to brighten up some work which is particularly dense with jargon + academic vocab. It always adds a little extra something to note taking and makes it less mundane in the long run, particularly when it comes to revision days and deadline season.
4. Laptop
Having a working laptop is of the utmost importance to the modern student as pretty much every assignment and reading list you will have access to or need to submit is going to be based online. Whilst this can be irritating to get used to at first, having a model of laptop which you are comfortable using really helps opposed to spending all of your time on the university computers at the library.
It also means being able to work on the go. Whilst I wouldn't advise typing your notes in lectures, I do recommend having a sturdy laptop case and memory stick so that your work is easily portable and always accessible.

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! 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

25. The Importance Of Blogging

Recently I was writing out my usual list of blog ideas for the month and trying to figure out what I most wanted to say in my posts. This changes not only every month but every day as I experience new things and go about my life, meaning that the content you read is often not quite what I initially had in mind to write but instead decided to upon a whim. Whilst there is always a little planning involved, being able to use my own versatility to write about the things I am passionate about that way is something I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to do. And realising this made me comprehend fully what exactly it is that I wanted to say at this point in time.

Blogging is important. Not only blogging, but all forms in which a person can express themselves through writing. I use the word blogging here because it is a new art form which has developed over the past decade or so, and in that time the new territory has begun to be tread. It is not quite a diary but neither is it an academic essay. It is not always thoroughly researched but sometimes a good blog post might be just the thing that is required as part of someones' research. Because of this it can perhaps be a tad confusing when it comes to writing a strict, exclusive definition.

Also, as a new art form, it is easy to treat it the same as everything else, to dismiss it, and because it is modern it is of course difficult to take it seriously all of the time. And the point isn't necessarily to take it seriously but instead to realise that blogging is literature in its' shiniest and most innovative new format. Through words in a blog post, you can immediately gain insight into a completely different perspective, broaden your own through the different ideas someone else has on a similar thing or become educated on something you had never previously heard about. Blogging is monologuing in its' purest format and because of this, we are able to really connect with the voices of others and improve our own communication skills as a result of this. Too often I think this is something which can be overlooked. We all crave that comprehension of others which is why it is so easy to engage with what we are reading when it comes to a blog.

No matter what happens, some memories can never be replaced - Image copyright CLSS 2017
Being able to blog has completely changed my life in so many ways. Firstly in how confident it has made me. By writing about my decisions and adventures, I have become accustomed to developing what I want to say as I am on the go. This means I am now a mean debater (and proud). Previously I was extremely shy and found it hard to difficult the things I most wanted to say. This is a skill I value indefinitely and am beyond grateful for. It's something I wouldn't have acquired in any other way to my thinking when I look back. In this regard blogging is perfect for anyone who wants to develop their thoughts and voice because it is immediately free and accessible. Anyone can write a blog afterall.

In addition to helping me articulate and develop my voice it has also allowed me to share my passions with the world and to build an audience with whom to share this. Being able to answer questions and provide advice about everything from how to pack for your next vacation to how you can best revise for your upcoming exam is so rewarding. It means that I can positively impact who ever is reading so long as I do my research and remain myself. Having the personal approach of having been there and done that means I am really able to reach out to you guys and be able to reassure you that things really are going to be ok if you hold in there and continue to work hard. That positive thinking is really important to me as a person and being able to share that with so many people means such a lot. Being passionate about a subject and about positivity can never be a bad thing in this regard.

And finally, blogging has allowed me to record and get even more out of all of the many things I have experienced. The opportunities which have arisen are all linked in some way to my work with blogging. Travelling is something which I became interested in mostly by reading travel blogs and getting a glimpse into how complex and different many cultures are. Getting to know about history and reading about others passion to explore made me want to try out these things to see if they worked for me and they did. My adventures with travelling, with study (A level, music, literature), with writing (especially this summer with my Guardian article), spending time with family and friends, and performing with the Halle Youth Choir... all of these elements of my life have been preserved in my writing so that I will never lose them. Not only is my blog a place in which I can use hindsight to unlock more from my experiences, it is a scrap book in which I can return to them again and again. 

More than anything this is just a brief collection of some of my thoughts on why blogging is so important. It's an ongoing conversation though and one I would certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts on so please do feel free to leave them in the comments below. I think that it is easy from time to time to as I say, dismiss things which you find on the internet as something which anyone is capable of doing. But the experiences, ideas and ultimately, the voices found through this style of writing are some of the strongest of the century. Who knows, one day you might stumble across a blog that changes your life. Maybe the next Shakespeare could in fact be a blogger. To blog or not to blog, that is the question.

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! 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

24. A Guide To: Simple Poetry Analysis

For some people, analysing anything from poetry to paragraphs can seem impossibly difficult whilst for others it might be exactly the right piece of cake for them to sink straight into. I think that both approaches are reasonable ones and that, whilst it comes more easily sometimes to those with the advantage of enjoying it immediately, it is something which everyone can enjoy and unlock with some guidance and practice.

The reason that analysis is intimidating is perhaps because of how intertwined with academia and exams it is. The reality is that analysis is something people have been doing for fun for centuries, as they have many of the things we find complex and (dare I say) dull now. It is all about training your mind set so that things are easy enough to approach. Just as with learning difficult vocabulary for a new language, the more you retain the easier it is to hear and spot things as they come up. You'll be able to see progress especially well if you monitor it. A good example of this would be looking back over the essays you produce in a standard academic year.

Without delay, here are my top 5 tips for improving your simple poetry analysis skills:

To think or not to think? That is the new question - Nadina Boum

1. Read It Through

Reading a poem through, as though it were your decision and not the readying lists', without analysing it is the first step in this process. As your skill develops, the analysis may creep in as you read without you even noticing but this isn't what you should pay attention to at this point. The initial read through is to really get a feel of what exactly the text in front of you is trying to convey. Is the author sad or happy? Is the setting cold or warm? Which things stand out? etc. Having that grasp of the foundation (the basic plot and characters) is the best place to start.

Once you have read through you might want to do two or three more intial reads so that you can really get around those tricky sections. I often keep a thesaurus with me on the desk when I'm reading (or a pocket dictionary when travelling) so that should there be any new or particularly difficult old words I cannot quite understand the context on I can refresh myself and bring myself back up to date. This often helps to clarify the situation in a way which allows the entire character of the poem to shift to something new.

2. Highlighting + Context

Having an old battered copy of the text which you can do with as necessary, or a photo copy at second best, can be useful as well with those initial readings. Colour coding or marking with a pencil means that you can work out initial ideas as you go, whether that be picking out every metaphor or noting every time a particular word is repeated. Having these markings makes accessing the deeper analysis much easier because you alreaduy have the fundmental aspects to your argument noted down and ready to use. From there you can begin fleshing out your thoughts using those as evidence. Through this I managed to discuss the significance of nature in a poem by T. S. Eliot which was entirely about the city and the urban space.

After you have done some simple highlighting, it can also be useful to go on to do a bit of research surrounding the author and the history of the piece. No matter what Barthes says, sometimes knowing about the poet themselves can add a little clarifcation to certain aspects of what you are reading. For instance, there might have been a painting which inspired the piece which you can look at yourself today or a significant event (e.g. war) which led to its' existence. Knowing these things can also allow for connections to be made which previously would not have been possible to reach because they would've been concealed. Context, as with initial highlighting, is everything. They work together to fill you in on what there is to know to form a skeleton to everything you can then go on to say.

3. Literary Techniques

More of a heads-up than an indepth tip as with the previous cases but still, look out for those literary techniques. If you are struggling when it comes to where to start, these are the things which will unlock the more difficult areas such as 'what does this represent/show'? Technique means anything which works to make the poem a poem, whether that be a rhyme scheme, use of sibilence, alliteration, metaphors, similies, etc. These are the things you can spot just by knowing the definitions, so it's another excuse to keep that dictionary nearby.

4. What Do They Convey + Why? 

Why has this literary technique been used here? What is it highlighting? How is it achieving this? Perhaps the word 'he' has been used throughout and suddenly the 'he' becomes a captain or a father or a love interest - suddenly the change of the word leads to an epiphany. This is often known as the volta: not always a word change, but certianly the moment in the poem when there is an epiphany or a change in dynamic.

Being able to make sense of what these techniques or ideas convey comes from looking around the point. Look at one sentence and see how those before and after impact upon it. Is this sentence what everything has been leading up to? If not, why? What is its' purpose? Getting your thoughts working in this way will help you begin to pick out evidence. E.g. This line is the volta because it changes the rhythm use, placing an emphasis on the word 'break' which represents the pain that has been charged throughout the entire piece - hence this is what the poem is primarily about.

5. Finding + Using Evidence

As stated in the above tip, finding the evidence comes with the initial analysis and building upon this. You have to know exactly what you want to say in order to make sense and use of the evidence, which is why you need that initial analysis and reading time. After you have done this, make sure you come up with a thesis statement of some sort even if it is only something very simple. If you have found the thing you want to say, think of it this way: you are finding the parts of the poem that will allow you to re-write it for someone else in an academic style so that they can see into your mind and the way you would read it. Pretty cool huh? That's what analysis is really about and that is what can make practicing it so fun.

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! 

23. August Favourites

It's that time again where I tell you my favourites of the month, everything from the books that have really stood out to unique new reads or fun new songs. July has passed by so quickly up until this point, and I think this is largely because I am experiencing so much whilst also heading straight for my study abroad. It is an odd combination to have but one that continues on nevertheless. 

In terms of new experiences, and re-discovering old ones, August has been packed full of them. I've seen so many new places in the UK via travelling, met up with old friends and university friends alike, and I've learnt an awful lot - particularly about writing. This past month, I've been working on more written projects than ever in order to develop and shape my voice further whilst there is time enough in the day for me to devote my full attention to something other than academia. The results so far have already started to pay off which I hope goes to show that hard work really does end up being your most successful ability in the end. But writing won't be a favourite on todays list, simply because otherwise it would have to be on the list every month! With heading away to Amsterdam soon being on the table, there have been a lot of goodbyes on the table which has been both painful and wonderful. It has meant being able to share some of my favourite moments with my favourite people. 

Without further delay, here are my top 5 favourites from the month of August so far:

1. Raven's Home

One of my role models growing up was Raven Symone who you might remember from her Disney channel show, That's So Raven. Well 10 years on, the show has returned for a spin off series about Raven and her life now that she has children. It's a great show for many reasons. There is of course the nostalgic aspect regarding the characters who have returned, but there is also new and exciting ground to be covered in the plot lines which are modern and relevant to the present. It is certainly strange to see just how much technology is on the set in comparison to the old episodes.

I think it is going to provide another generation with positive role models, especially young girls. Whilst the characters are funny and often a tad too whimsical, they also represent positive morals when it comes to how you should behave and communicate as a person with others. By presenting those morals alongside so much comedy and creativity, it is easy to soak everything in whilst giggling. I think that is what I perhaps like best about it.

2. Durham + The Halle Youth Choir

Purple Sky + Beethoven - Copyright CLSS 2017
Before the HYC residential week, I'd never been to Durham before though it had always been somewhere on my bucket list. Whilst we weren't staying in the more popular centre of this location, we did get to spend a lot of time in the area of Barnard castle which was incredibly beautiful. Every sunset there was so crisp and clear, as were the night skies. Even the town itself was full of books and new things to learn, whether that be through hiking and thinking or spending time in the nearby museums. It was the perfect place to be inspired to sing new things and to spend time with friends.

It's not goodbye afterall, not really
And of course, this was also my last tour with the Halle Youth Choir which feels incredibly strange to say. I still can't believe that for me there will be no more concerts in my red shirt and no more late Sunday rehearsals. It has been an impossibly big part of my life that has changed me beyond compare for the better. I wouldn't be who I am today if it were not for the Halle. They have been my family and my biggest form of support for three years. I'll forever be grateful to these amazing people and have some of my fondest memories due to them all.

3. Hiking 

Lookout as far as you can - Copyright CLSS 2017
Getting to hike so much over the past few months of summer has been such a relief. This is something I used to do a lot with my grand dad and haven't had the opportunity to reconnect with due to his illness and then grieving him after he passed away in 2014. Being back on the tops of mountains and ambling up rocky paths has done me a world of good. With my move fast approaching, it feels like being able to re-connect with him and to say goodbye to him for a while before I go away.

Plus nothing quite beats that moment where you push through your last bit of energy and suddenly you are looking out at the world below you. It feels somewhere between dreaming and flying. It is the best place to be.

4. Pancakes 
Pannekoeken - Copyright CLSS 2017
Pancakes are probably a year round favourite but still, how amazing are these pancakes which me and my friend Rhiana found on our meet up in Manchester to an American diner in the Northern quarter? Just like fish and chips in Whitby, I think they are just something you cannot beat!

5. UCAS Blogger Of The Year

Merci Beaucoup! - Image Copyright CLSS 2017
My favourite thing to happen this month though was something I found out way back on the first of August which feels like forever ago now (how can it only have been a few weeks?). And that would be of course, being voted UCAS Blogger Of The Year 2017. This is something I am so grateful for for many reasons, but most of all because it confirms that the content I am producing is something which is useful to you all and which you enjoy reading. So thank-you for sharing and engaging with my content and for voting for me, I'm so glad I've been able to share my university adventure with you so far. Here is to many a blog post more!

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!