Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Being a University Freshman

My first year at the University of Chester in pictures:

All packed up and ready to go.
My mum always says that when I left to go to University, she felt a stronger sense of loss than when I left to go travelling. She says it felt more permanent and real. I completely agree, when I went travelling, I always knew I'd be back, I mean I had the obvious fantasies of falling in love and never returning but realistically, I knew I'd be back - I had a place at University after all! But moving to Chester? Different. As far as my imagination goes, when University is over, I'm not moving back into my parents place, I'll be a fully grown adult expected to go be in my own place with my own all-grown-up, real-adult, full-time job - no wonder it felt so daunting!

Freshers Week.
I guess this is pretty obvious, but for some unknown reason, I hadn't thought about it until it was too late. Freshers Week is expensive. Like really expensive. I don't know about other people but my household and neighboring household went out EVERY SINGLE NIGHT (except the last night if I remember correctly), on top of that, we bought things for the house to make it our own, we had to buy food and explore our new home, so yeah, it really added up. Not an issue at the time because I still had some savings but it hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. Also, if you aren't the type of person to go out more than once in a week, or at all really, make an exception for Freshers Week. This is where you make your first friends and you meet tonnes of people and everyone is in a good mood. The atmosphere is a bit like a week long festival but with about 10 different locations. It's awesome, and you should make it your mission not to miss it. Even if you don't drink or usually party - go to this one.

The girls of 35 Cheyney Road
I don't really know how this happened, but one minute I was having my first shower in this strange new house and the strangers I had been put with were calling me to go to an introduction speech on campus and the next minute, these girls are my life and I would do anything for them. I guess I got extremely lucky, but for me, my housemates turned into the strongest friends I have made at Uni as of yet. So my advice to people who need it, hang out in the kitchen. (Everyone needs to eat at some point). Make friends with the people you live with but above all, learn to respect their individual personal space and boundaries. It makes life so much easier and in turn, way more fun!

The boys next door.
Something else that I don't know how or why it happened, but it became the habit of one of our next door neighbors to always end up passed out in our living room, even though he lived literally next door, where he had a perfectly good bed. But for whatever reason he had, I'm glad he did it as that and all the other shared antics between our two houses during freshers made us a team. Or, the Cheyney Road Family as I once icing-sugar-wrote on a brownie batch I made. But yeah, yet another reason to do Freshers Week to the fullest; it's a great way to get to know the people you live with really really fast.

This is a picture of me and Becky, when we had known each other less than a week.
I don't regret a thing.

Other people may have different stories, but starting my course seemed somewhat less fundamental to my future than freshers week. Although I got to know a lot more about my course and how University was going to be run and when my classes were and so on, I think the real aspects of University didn't kick in for me until after Christmas, when I finally decided I was happy to stay in the course I had started. (Except to change it a tiny bit and combine it with Tourism next year). For me, the first term was very un-stimulating academically but extremely awesome on the social side which caused a great deal of unhappiness for me around Christmas and the lead up to second term. However, I stuck with it, greatly down to my new friendship group I have to say, so thanks for that guys :) and now I've finished first year and am actually looking forward to the second!

I ended up not even going out that night.
 Another great bit of advice I can give you (haha I'm so smart) is to join a society. My father told me that when he started University, he signed up for so many societies that there weren't enough days in the week to fit them all in. I did something a little similar: I joined three. Snow Sports, Events and Pole Fitness. On top of that, I also joined the Wales University Officer Training Corp (WUOTC) which I'll talk about a bit later. My advice is to join several at the start, see how it goes and then pick one to stick with. For me, that one was Pole Fitness. It worked well as all of my house mates did it, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the socials were really good, but again, I think it wasn't until after Christmas that I decided which ones were worth sticking to. So give yourself time to explore your options thoroughly.

Polka dot night with the Snow Sports Society.

The Events Society's first meeting.
The Pole Fitness Societies' first social: Cops and Robbers.

The WUOTC's first social: Generations.
As part of my course, we were supposed to volunteer at an event before April 2014 came along, where we would have to write about it in an assignment and would get 0% if we made an event up. So around November I started looking for opportunities and during one of these interviews, I was offered an internship at a small company working at the Chester Business Park called Black Mango. They were a luxury events company and were currently working on Chester Arts Fair 2013 where I had intended to volunteer for my assignment. My only advice here is to 'stay awake'. These days it isn't enough just to have a degree, you need some form of experience as well, and if that means you have to work for free (like I did for the first 5 months and then for minimum intern rates, which are less than minimum wage) do it. It's worth it in the long run - Or so I am told... I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

Chester Arts Fair 2013.
As previously mentioned, I joined the WUOTC at the beginning of first year as well. I've never been a military person but when I saw them at the Freshers Fair (and heard that it paid you - not a lot but enough to get you curious) I thought I'd give another way of life a go and boy am I glad that I did. To tell you the truth, most of the time I hated it and wanted to quit, especially over Annual Camp but I didn't. I didn't quit because of the people. (...again, similar to not quitting University, ha I see a trend forming!). The girls that I met through the WUOTC were not military freaks as I had anticipated but Disney-singing, Shark-facing, legends. Even now, when I full well know that I wont have time for it next year, I can't bring myself to quit.

The Wrexham Ladies.
Through the WUOTC, I also met Duckie who has become my best male friend in Chester. We had planned to raise money for charity and hitch hike to Morocco in aid of a charity called Link: Community Development. We managed to raise around £200 before realizing that we really didn't have the time or money to hitch hike to Morocco "in aid of charity" when really we just wanted to go to Morocco and had no idea who that particular charity was. (I'm all up for raising money for charity but this didn't seem quite morally right). So we ditched that idea (the £200 still went to the charity of course) and decided to just go travelling together instead. We haven't managed that yet (money money money) but we're still talking about it! I'm sure I'll write about it on here when we do, so keep posted.

Duckie and I in our charity shirts.

 So yes, first year at the University of Chester has been a tremendous adventure, with it's fair shares of up's and down's, overall it's been a really good experience. I am now 20 years old, (Gosh I started this blog over 2 years ago!) sat in Amsterdam for the summer having finished my first year of University. How does that feel? Weird. My best friend Abigail lives in her own apartment, has her own rabbit and has been promoted in her full time job, my mother is learning Dutch and getting good at it, my father is in Romania for the week doing business, and my brother is still in Ireland doing artistic things way beyond my skill level. It's crazy where life has taken us all. Oh, and there is no way I could ever answer that "where will you be in 5 years" question correctly.

Me - 5 years ago (July 2009) doing my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze with Sadie.

So yeah, now I am just waiting for my friends to come and visit me so that the summer can really start ;)

Catch ya later,

Lucy xxo

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Things I have learned

It's been awhile but I'm back. Well I've not been anywhere, the blog has always been in the back of my mind but just like my still unwritten letter to Sarah (sorry!) it just hasn't been done.

It has been almost a year since I last wrote on here. It's been over a year since I went to Australia, and a year ago today I was mid-way through my stay in California. I've finished my first year at the University of Chester and I am now back in Amsterdam for the summer. So I think it is time to reflect.

People always say they want to go traveling, but why? Well obviously I know why but these days you need a deeper reason for everything. I mean, people say that traveling is good for you. Good for the soul. But that doesn't really look good on your CV, so how do you justify it?

Above all, I have found it exciting and educational in a different sense to school. I like to say that I was traveling for 14 months, if I am literal about it, then I wasn't really, as I went home a lot for short periods of time in between but even then, it was a new home, with new adventures (like when we moved house using only a bike with a big basket). So instead, I shall say that I had 14 months of unstructured learning and growing up and here are just a few things I learnt from it:


One of the most obvious things you might learn from traveling is a new language. Now I cannot claim to have learnt a new language but I can still remember a few words from several languages that I came across. I can also tell you, that I learnt more Turkish in 1 month in Turkey than I learnt French from 3 years of French classes at school! Now what does that tell you about Britons Language department? Anyway, that's a rant for another time...

So, my favourite Turkish phrase that I learned? pişmiş tavuk lütfen!
What does it mean? "Cooked chicken please" - Hey, don't judge, that's a very important phrase to me!

So what about in Australia where they speak English? Well, to tell you the truth I only met 4 Australians while out there, turns out Australians don't tend to stay in hostels. However, I did meet a tonne of Dutch people and there was one phrase that is stuck in my brain: Ik heb net pindakaas gegeten 
... or you might know it as "I just ate peanut butter." - yes there is a story behind this one. Apparently there is a famous Dutch rap artist that isn't all that great, and when asked in an interview to rap, his excuse was that, ik heb net pindakaas gegeten, and so obviously he couldn't possibly do it.

As well as Turkish and Dutch, I obviously came across multiple other languages, there are phrases from each that I have learned but most of all, I have learned how to distinguish between them all, I can now recognize the difference between Italian and Spanish, something that I couldn't do before I went to Italy, and I now know what German sounds like with a Swish accent. These things may never be particularly useful, however, to reduce the chances of offending people and their culture, I think its at least a very polite thing to have learned. Who doesn't like being greeted hello by their own language?

My advice to anyone traveling anywhere, learn the very basics; hello, goodbye, thank you and please.The rest is all pointing and smiling anyway! Oh and maybe the word toilet too..


Another big thing that I have learned while traveling is how to look after my own body. I think as a teenager, we often just take it for granted, and it isn't until something goes wrong that we realise how much we depend on them. (Hey everyone, take a second to appreciate how awesome the human body is!)

Something important I have learned however, is that most of the time, it isn't anything all that serious, so stop worrying or over dramatising things! I think this is one of our biggest issues. We as humans worry too much.. which causes stress, which in turn makes whatever we were stressing over 10 times worse. Damn circle!

I remember writing one of my first ever blog posts in 2012, and mentioning poo. I was writing about some of the things to prepare for when traveling (Mind the Gap Year, Dear - once again, thanks dad for that genius title). Well, I'm mentioning it again, and this time I write with far more experience. While it is one of the best ways to know if your body is functioning correctly or not, it can also throw you some curve balls, and is a perfect example of how most things are nothing serious. Don't be scared if one day, it's Beetroot Red and the next day its Pesto Green. You're travelling, and you're eating real weird. That's all there is to that one.

Other traveling health issues (apart from the obvious major ones which I wont be mentioning in this one because if you're worried about things like vaccinations etc. then you should go to somewhere official to ask questions and not get them from a random 20 year old like me) that I faced was loosing a lot of weight in Australia and gaining it all back in the USA. For some of you, loosing and gaining weight is just a normal thing that you've been dealing with since forever, but I haven't come across it before, so it was yet another learning curve for myself.

Something positive that I have found, is although looking at pictures of myself in Australia, I sometimes think, why am I not that skinny anymore? When I am not in a self-hating mood, I also think, I look so much better with a bit of meat on my bones! I know I am not anywhere near being "fat" so some of you may hate me for referring to myself as "having meat" but I am healthy for my height and body shape and that's what should matter in all situations.

One of the great things that I have learned from traveling, is that it really doesn't matter what you look like, where you're from or what size jeans you wear; if you're happy, and confident, people like you and there is nothing stopping you from having your own adventures.

Traveling is a great way to balance out the sometimes detrimental messages that glossy magazines send out.


This ones obvious. Traveling opens your mind to how other people live, how other countries work and how you might fit into all of that. I wont talk too much about this one as I think it's something you have to go and experience for yourself, but two things have just popped into my mind so I'll write about those:

Firstly, getting a pay as you go sim card for your phone. Now as far as I know, everywhere in Europe, you simply buy one for about 1 euro and put it in your phone and away you go. In California, (I don't know if this applies to all over the USA) you have to go to a phone shop and spend a good 30 minutes filling out forms and you have to pay something like $25 for the exact same thing. Not only that, but on top of the usual costs, you also have to PAY to RECIEVE texts. There are of course other options which aren't quiet a contract or a pay as you go but when you're only there for 2 months, it seems excessive to get anything else. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things this isn't a big deal but what have I learned from that experience? I guess, never take anything for granted, and never expect something simple to be the same as where ever you're from, because that's when it will hit you. Right in the money pouch!

Second, in England, or at least in the world that I grew up in, tattoo's weren't a very socially acceptable thing, at least not in the business world. If you have them, people tend to ask you to hide them when you are at work. In Australia, I met a lovely Canadian girl called Brittany who has a lot of tattoos; arms, legs, chest, and I was fascinated to find that she was a nurse and that it was perfectly acceptable in Canada to have a sleeve of tattoo's on show. How cool and forward thinking is that? Overall though, I did find that in Australia, I saw a hell of a lot more tattoos than anywhere else I've been to so far. Though I'm not sure whether that's because of a trend or because most people I met were in beach wear.


This category was a big one for me. I would say, that my "Gap Year" taught me the following things: that I can survive a stolen suitcase, I can find a solution to anything I set my mind to, I can survive on next to nothing and most importantly I can stand on my own two feet.

I don't know about you, but I would say that those things are some pretty important lessons. So in the argument of what does one get out of traveling that is of any value, it is that. Confidence in yourself. The confidence to take chances. The confidence to look fear in the face and shout right back. Or maybe in more relevant terms, the confidence to deal with a difficult customer or to tell the truth when something goes wrong or to have the confidence to start your own business. Basically, travel gives you the confidence to handle whatever life throws at you.

A way of life:

Lastly, traveling is a way of life. Once you've done it, it's not over, you continue and you start to see everything as an experience. Most of all, it has shown me time and time over again that the best memories come to you when you least expect it or when you expect very little from something.

My favourite examples of  my own spontaneous adventures are as follows:

With each of those 5 examples, I ended up finding a little piece of heaven, so my best advice to anyone wondering is to take chances and to go with the flow, as they say. I know its cliche, but it's that for a reason.

On another note, here are another two videos of my travels that I have created. The Australian one has been around for awhile but unfortunately YouTube.com has taken the music off because of one particular song used (I'm still working on fixing that but I don't want to use a different song because this one works so well) and unfortunately it wont let me upload it straight onto this blog but the USA one I made last night, so is brand spanking new!

Australian Video

California Video

I hope you enjoy watching them at least half as much as I enjoyed living them. That's all for the meantime but I've got some new ideas for this blog, so make sure to stick around if you like travelling ;)

Love from,

Lucy xxo