The annoyances of being a perfectionist

I’m a perfectionist. I always have been. It’s just another trait of my hyper-organised self which I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog already (in case you didn’t know, I even have a series of blogs specifically dedicated to being organised). To a perfectionist, the slightest of errors, mistakes and mishaps that transpire on the daily can be extremely irritating, not to mention hindering to their routine. To my perfectionist self, here are the 5 most annoying things that occur in everyday life.

1. Making small mistakes when handwriting

Don’t even get me started. (I know, I know – I’m the one who chose to start with this.) Though I don’t handwrite anywhere near as much as I used to at school these days (some might say penmanship is a lost art – especially amongst millennials – due to the rise of technology), I still handwrite quite regularly. At university, I used to handwrite my lecture notes (before I invested in a mini – and thus transportable – laptop), jot key dates in my diary and annotate all over printed readings; at work, I now create daily to-do lists, take notes during conference calls and scribble new information in training sessions. Nevertheless, I feel ~almost~ just as annoyed with myself when I make a mistake whilst handwriting now as I did when I was at school. I was so bad at school that, sometimes, I’d write my homework all over again and, sometimes, not just once, but twice. Maybe even thrice. I had to teach myself that it was okay to make a mistake and learn to accept that, sometimes, the only option was to cross it out and carry on; we didn’t have time to rewrite essays in exams or controlled environments. I remember a teacher – I think it was my Spanish teacher – requesting for us to simply cross them out with a nice neat line as opposed to a big fat scribble, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. Still, I don’t particularly like it.

2. Proofreading everything over and over

Now that academic assignments are predominantly – if not, completely – digitised, it’s even easier to proofread our work which, in turn, is a minefield for us perfectionists. Like I said, at school, we’d often lack the time to scan our exams or controlled assessments unless we’d finished early – even then, we might not have had the ability to spot mistakes as easily as we can now. In contrast, at university, I’d often finish my assignments with ample time to proofread them before the submission deadline. Again, I’d proofread them not just once, but multiple times (I think my proofreading guide validates just how obsessed with proofreading I am). I read them in my head, read them to others, had the “read aloud” function on Microsoft Word read them to me… you name it, I proofread my assignments in every way possible – even my 16,000-word master’s thesis (that, I didn’t read to anyone else; I think it would have dehumanised them). I know what you’re thinking: why? Why the hell spend so much time proofreading one assignment? Does it even matter? And, you know what? No, it probably doesn’t matter that much, so long as you meet the criteria, have a generally well-presented document and execute your argument or findings articulately, but it mattered to me. (And, if you look at the criteria, it kind of does matter.)

3. Over planning for any event

What am I going to wear? What do I need to take? How will I get there? These are just some of the many questions that occur to you prior to any event. But, do they occur on the day? No, no; they occur weeks in advance. Maybe even months. Booked a concert in August but it’s not till February? “Ah, it’s going to be winter. I could wear boots! Actually, I don’t want my feet to ache. Those ones are quite comfortable, though. Maybe I’ll just wear trainers. Yes. Jeans and a nice top with trainers. No. What if I want to wear a playsuit? Oh, I don’t bloody know!” And the thought process goes a little like that. Every. Single. Time. Also, I don’t know about you, but I have to prepare for the following day the night before. I don’t think I’ve ever picked a work outfit the morning of; it’s got to be out, ironed and ready to go as soon as I wake up. Likewise, I’ve never waited until the morning to plan a journey. For instance, every single night before work, I plan my route on Citymapper before I go to sleep and thus set my wake-up alarm accordingly. I don’t know why. Perhaps because my shifts vary. Perhaps because I’m ~that~ organised. Perhaps because I’m crazy. The point is: anything can happen that can impact your journey, so better to be safe than sorry, amiright?

4. Aiming for perfectly styled hair

Perfectionists and hair? Bloody nightmare. Whenever I choose to tie my hair up in a bun or ponytail, no matter where I’m going (that’s right – that includes staying in), it’s got to be smooth. SMOOTH. I cannot stand lumps and bumps anywhere in my hair when wearing it up, and it’s annoying af. It genuinely impedes my life. I’ve missed buses and trains to university, work and countless other destinations aplenty as a result of taking multiple attempts to tie my hair up smoothly (thanks to my hyper-organisation, however, I always leave early and thus almost always arrive at my destination with time to spare). Nonetheless, I’ve learned that my hair behaves best on the days after I’ve washed it, as the freshness from the wash projects a glossy finish, and after I’ve applied dry shampoo to it, as the powder from the product leaves a matted finish; hence, I aim to only tie my hair up on these occasions. It goes without saying that us perfectionists too cannot deal with kinks in our hair when leaving it down; after having spent approximately one hour to straighten my thick, long ass hair, when a kink forms in it just as I’ve arrived somewhere, I am LIVID. What’s the bloody point, eh?

5. Placing anything and everything particularly

The wardrobe. The dressing table. The drawers. The bathroom cupboard. The windowsill. No matter the location, everything has to be placed in a particular manner. Take my wardrobe, for example: all my clothes are organised into category; from left to right, it currently goes: jackets, dresses, jumpsuits and playsuits, sweatshirts and jumpers, cardigans, “nice” tops, blouses and shirts, trousers. Why? Because, well, it’s just logical (in my head, anyway). Then, take the drawers to my dressing table: “first in, last out” as they say; so, in my drawer full of hair products, my most used items – like hair brushes – are at the top, and least used items – like curling tongs (ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat) – are at the bottom. Again, why? Because it’s convenient. Finally, take my chest of drawers: the tops, jeans and pyjamas have to be folded not just any way, but my way (just kidding – “my” way is no different from that of traditional folding methods, apart from jeans which I learnt a super cool folding technique for when working in fashion retail). Let me repeat: why? Because it’s neat! Don’t mess with my placements, thank you very much.

If anything, this blog has just established that I’m a total nutcase. But that’s okay, because my fellow perfectionists can relate. I hope.

Love,

Sophie “Perfectionist” Pavlou at Little Pav ♡

Don’t let your return to work halt your creativity

Since the UK government advised that “non-essential” retailers could reopen their stores from 15 June after almost three months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s no surprise that a multitude of companies – big and small – jumped at the chance to get back to business. This means that most non-essential workers have returned – or will return – to work after being furloughed and warned to stay at home to assist in preventing the spread of the cruel disease: myself included. As a non-essential worker, I can wholeheartedly say that I am so thankful to all our key workers for continuing to work – and especially hard, that is – and risking their lives during such an unprecedented time. Also as a non-essential worker, I can honestly claim that I understand the impact of COVID-19 on smaller businesses who had no choice but to quickly transition and adapt to remote operations; my fiancé Daniel brought his office home not long before the whole country quarantined. And, as a non-essential worker, I can openly admit that I experienced my fair share of emotions throughout my time on furlough, predominantly uselessness, anxiety and even envy. Uselessness due to the inability to make my contribution to society. Anxiety due to the uncertainty surrounding the global situation. Envy due to the reality that those who could work from home at least remained occupied. Nonetheless, for us non-essential workers, the time to imperatively stay at home provided an opportunity to explore, utilise and perhaps even master our creativity. For some, that creativity is cooking. For others, that creativity is drawing. For me, that creativity is writing. It was during this pandemic that I finally took the plunge to set up this blog to fulfil my passion for writing not only as a pastime, but also a necessary outlet. Although my usual position is store-based, I was considerately offered by my employer the opportunity to temporarily work from home within a different department given my exceptional circumstances of living with Daniel who has a severe case of Crohn’s disease; of course, I gratefully accepted such an offer and am therefore – though not in my usual position – back to work.

Though I’ve only been back to work for five days, I’m knackered. That’s right: I’ve been back to work for just five days and I’m knackered. Don’t judge me. Or do. I probably would. My first week back consisted of day-long online training sessions for my new provisional role. Given that the company I work for is global, the sessions were conducted by leaders from several countries; my group included colleagues from an array of European locations. Hence, while the sessions ran from 9am to 5pm for most, they ran from 8am to 4pm for those of us in the UK. Yep, us Brits were the ones ~blessed~ with the ~beautiful~ 8am starts. Nevertheless, my overly-organised instincts drove me to set my alarm for 06:55 each day to provide me enough time to wake up, make an extra-strong coffee and log on for an intense day of learning new information, systems and processes, intaking more caffeine than I had during the entirety of lockdown and resisting the urge to fall asleep in the midst of a live 8-hour session on Microsoft Teams (don’t get me wrong, the trainers were fantastic, but it’s easy to lose concentration when you’re tired and instructed to watch a screen for so long). While I endeavoured to maintain a regular routine throughout my time on furlough by waking up at around 08:30 daily, dressing in standard everyday outfits like a band tee and jeans (yep, I was that person who opted to lounge in jeans as opposed to joggers or leggings) and trying to accomplish something, like walking my fur baby Diesel, hosting a virtual pub quiz or writing these blogs, I wasn’t doing anything that drained me of energy per se. Namely, I wasn’t waking up at 06:55 to acquire overabundant knowledge. Better yet, I wasn’t working. I have therefore concluded that it’s okay to be knackered after just five days of being back to work. It’s going to take time for me to adjust to this “new normal”, and that’s perfectly fine.

Immediately after sharing my first introductory post upon creating this blog in the beginning of May, I jotted a further ten potential blog titles down and proceeded to post a blog almost daily. That first post, although short and sweet, ignited a spark in me that had been fuelling for years. To reiterate said post, I’d been wanting to create a blog for ages because I have always enjoyed writing. From September 2015 to September 2019, however, all I’d written were more academic assignments than one can fathom for my bachelor’s and master’s studies. For four whole years, I’d never written anything for me; the rationale for creating this blog was to remedy that. Now that I’m back to work, however (again, I know it’s only been five days – forgive me), I’ve been wondering if I’ll be able to keep my blog going; “what can I write about now my life has restored its mundanity?”, “how can I write a blog when I’m this tried?”, “when can I write these blogs now?”. That said, here I am, writing a blog whilst feeling knackered in my spare time.

I don’t want to stop writing. I don’t want to feel deprived of time after being fortunate enough to just enjoy my time at home whilst key and office-based workers strenuously carried on with their duties. I don’t want to fall back into the routine of “eat, sleep, work, repeat” which I guiltily found myself trapped in once I’d started working full-time after completing my studies last September; leaving the house at 7am, getting home at 7pm and feeling too exhausted to do anything else – feeling like the only times I ever saw Daniel were when we got into bed at night and woke up in the mornings. But, you know what? I don’t think I will. I don’t think I will stop writing. I don’t think will feel time deprived. I don’t think I will find myself trapped in the eat-sleep-work-repeat routine again. Though I might not have as much time to write as frequently as I did during lockdown, I won’t let that stop me from writing altogether.

Luckily for me, I now get to experience the official “work from home” life for the first time which I believe will not only ease me back into a balanced routine, but also encourage me to make more time outside of work for myself, my friends and my loved ones. Then, once I return to the more familiar normality, I’ll use my commute time to write or even pick up another new hobby like reading books (as I’ve intended to for a really, really long time), I’ll make more of an effort to see my friends after work (even if I am exhausted) and, most importantly, I’ll make the most of my time out of work with my family and Daniel (even more so than I do now).

To my fellow non-essential and long-lasting furloughed workers returning to work, don’t forget to continue to utilise, explore and master the creativity you executed throughout your time at home. I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has certainly enhanced my realisation that work isn’t worth the stress that it often causes us. Yes, it’s important to take work seriously in more demanding situations. Yes, it’s important to work hard in order to progress in your career. Yes, it’s important to fight until you secure a job you love. But, when you come home, make sure to brush it off by doing something for you. Whether that’s cooking, drawing, writing, reading, painting, exercising, playing video games, experimenting with makeup or simply chatting with your loved ones, after witnessing the worst across the world, I hope you feel inspired to set aside the time to do more of what you love. Not only is it so fundamental for your mental health, but it will always be worth it because – as the saying goes – life’s too short. Don’t let your return to work halt your creativity.

Little Pav’s Guide to Being Organised: Proofreading Edition

Finally! At long last, you’ve reached the end of that seemingly endless assignment – the one that you’ve been working on day and night for the last 5 days straight, the one that you’ve been dreading most of all, the one that you deemed almost impossible – so, that’s it! Done! Finished! Complete! Right? Unfortunately, wrong; it doesn’t quite end there. After such hard work, there is one final – and vital – step that must be taken in producing a high-quality piece of work: proofreading. Whatever the assignment, be it an essay, a report or a dissertation, it is imperative to proofread it to identify any errors, mistakes or issues as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, clarity and overall presentation. Proofreading provides an opportunity to refine your work; of course, no assignment can be perfect, but proofreading can absolutely assist in boosting an assignment’s grade from a third to a 2:1 or a 2:1 to a first. Nonetheless, it is completely understandable that you might struggle to find the motivation to proofread your work after putting so much time and energy into producing it. As someone who loves to proofread (call me crazy, but it’s true; I even run my own freelance proofreading business), I wanted to share some tips for students on how to effectively proofread and when it is best to do so.

1.    Allocate some time to proofread

I get it. When you have so many assignments to do on top of one another, it’s hard to try to complete them all before their deadlines with some time to spare for proofreading. However, this is a really important step in the process of completing your assignment for the reasons given in the introduction. Not only should you make a note of all your deadline dates (as I suggest in my blog about how to be more organised at university), but you should also set yourself personal deadlines to complete your assignments at least a couple of days before the official due date. That way, once you’ve finished the writing up of the assignment, you can close it, call it a day and proofread it with a fresh mind the following morning. It is also important to give yourself a break in between completing and proofreading the assignment so as to not fry your brain!

2.    Read it to a friend or family member

Sometimes, the best way to decipher the clarity of your work is to read it aloud to a friend or family member. Even though your work will most likely require specific terminology related to your field of study to demonstrate your understanding of such, a great way to think about how to produce a clear and concise piece of work is this: “if a lay person were to read it, would they understand it?”. That’s not to say that your piece can’t be articulate and/or include highbrow vocabulary but, particularly for a fieldwork study or dissertation, think of it as a recipe: if somebody – anybody – were to read your study, they could replicate it. Reading your work to a friend or family member that hasn’t studied your course will help you determine the clarity of your work. Likewise, you can ask them to read it to themselves and provide feedback on anything that was unclear (or not – it could be entirely positive!).

3.    If you don’t want to read, listen

Want to know something amazing? Microsoft Word has a function whereby it can actually read your work to you! What’s more, you can alter the reading speed and voice to your preference! It’s like listening to an audiobook of your work. Like I said: amazing, right? When I discovered this function, I didn’t stop using it to proofread my assignments. In listening to your work, it can be even easier to spot errors or mistakes – especially spelling ones as you can hear the word being said incorrectly (Word doesn’t always detect spelling errors or mistakes, particularly if it still spells a real word). It also provides some time away from the screen; while it highlights each word as it is being read aloud, you can stick your headphones in, close your eyes and just listen. This was my favourite method of proofreading throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

4.    If you don’t want to listen, print

Another great method for proofreading your work is to print it out. After spending so much time in front of the screen to type up your assignment, it can be difficult to spot any errors or mistakes on said screen when you come to proofreading it. However, if you print the assignment, it can be easier to identify such errors or mistakes because the printout is larger and thus sometimes clearer. Again, it also means that you can spend some time away from the screen and read it more peacefully. The best part about printing drafts, in my opinion, is that you can annotate all over them – you can cross elements out, add some words or sentences in and draw on any missing punctuation – and use such annotations for reference when you go back to editing it on your computer.

5.    Send a draft to your professor

If you’ve completed your assignment at least a week before the deadline, your module professor will likely be happy to read a draft and provide some comments either by using the comment function on Word, writing some overall comments in an email or sharing them in person. After all, it is often your professor who provisionally marks your work before it is sent to be examined externally, so there is no better person to read it than the person who runs the module! In my experience, my professors always told us when they were accepting drafts and, when I provided them, they were as helpful as they could be; unfortunately, they can’t tell you whether it’s fulfilled the criteria (they usually tell you that upon your final submission), but they can definitely guide you.

Overall, it is vital to proofread an academic piece of work for a variety of reasons. It demonstrates that you can communicate in a clear and competent manner, that you pay attention to detail and that you take pride in the presentation of your work; skills that professors and examiners seek.

As usual, I hope you found these tips useful and I welcome all questions and queries in the comment section below or via social media or email (you can find my contact details here). Alternatively, if you’d like more assistance from me with proofreading, you can visit my proofreading business website PavProofed.

Happy proofreading!

Love,

Sophie Pavlou at Little Pav ♡

It’s been almost a year and I’m still not over losing my dog

Anybody who owns a pet would agree that pets are not just pets; they are members of the family. And incredibly special members, too. Be it a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a hamster or a monkey (in Ross Geller’s case) to name a few, pets can have a huge impact on humans’ lives. In my lifetime, we have owned a total of four pets in our household: two hamsters and two dogs. My older brother Mikey and I each owned a hamster when we were young; I called mine Fiddles because he was extremely fiddly in the little cardboard box we brought him home in, and Mikey named his Chomper because he almost chomped his way out of his little cardboard box. Unfortunately, Chomper lived for only 9 months, but Fiddles lived for a good three years. I remember going into school the day after he died and crying for almost the entire day because that hamster was my little buddy; he meant a lot to me. I would look forward to seeing him when I came home from school and putting him in his big pink ball to roll around my bedroom in. It was whilst we had these hamsters, or at least Fiddles, that we as a family welcomed our first dog into our home: a beautiful blue Staffy who we called Sky. This month will mark one year since we lost our beloved Sky and, quite frankly, I’m still not over it. I miss her daily; we all do. Although we still have our handsome half-Staffy-half-Sharpei Diesel to keep us going, we still feel pain and sadness when we think about our baby “Skyly”.

Sky as an adorable puppy

Sky was the epitome of a Staffy’s true nature: she was so friendly, so loving, so gentle, so sweet and so happy. She was so friendly to absolutely everybody she met. She was so loving to each and every one of us in the family. She was so gentle when she’d take a treat from our hands. She was so sweet in the way she communicated with us. She was so happy to see us every time we’d come home from wherever we’d been. When she was really young, as soon as I’d walk in the door from school, she would run to me, jump like crazy and her tail would wag like there’s no tomorrow. As she got older, she became unable to come to the door to welcome us home, but you could just see how happy she was when we approached her and cried “HELLO, SKY!” ecstatically. Then, after she’d just passed away, there was a really weird feeling in the air. Every time we came home, it felt instinctive to cry “HELLO, SKY!”, but she was no longer there. Now, we say hello to her urn in a more heart-rending way. Every time we’d take Diesel for a walk, we’d see her harness and lead hanging inside the cupboard next to Diesel’s. They still live there. We still see them daily. It still induces pain. Every time I’d go downstairs at night to grab a glass of water for bed, I’d expect to hear her snoring away on the sofa where she slept for the last few years of her life. I can still hear it so clearly in my mind. Almost a year on, these memories of her still occur daily.

Me and Sky

Just like humans, dogs have their own characteristics that make them who they are. While Sky enjoyed a cuddle from us and would kiss us all over our faces in her gentle manner, she also liked her own space. After a lovely cuddle, she’d tell us once she’d had enough; she’d make a cute guzzling sound as if to say “okay, can I sleep now?”. Once we’d come home from the park, she’d head to her spot on the sofa and remain there for as long as she deemed necessary to recuperate. Diesel, on the other hand, cannot have enough cuddles or get any closer. He wants to be with any one of us twenty-four-seven. It’s almost like he has separation anxiety; as soon as we stop stroking him, he indicates that he wants more by tapping us with his paw or manoeuvring his head under our arms. Even after a long walk, he’ll still follow any one of us around the house, but especially my mum (probably because she’s forever running around like a madwoman – love you mummy). Now, we’ll often find ourselves saying how we miss all the little things about Sky, like “I miss the way her head would lift up, her ears would rise and she’d release a sweet “ruff!” when we come home” or “remember when she was really little and she loved to play catch with her chicken toy in the kitchen?”. It’s so lovely that we can reminisce on all the things that she did that would make us smile, laugh or utter “that’s enough playing now, Sky”.

Sky looking stunning

Unfortunately, Sky had a lot of issues throughout her lifetime. For almost her entire life, she had trouble with her skin; it was always red in soreness and she would want to constantly scratch where it was irritating her. We would apply all sorts of creams to her skin to reduce the irritation. When she was around 5, she was diagnosed with cancer upon being taken to the vet due to our concern about her enlarged lymph nodes. She underwent chemotherapy for a few months, but this changed her drastically. She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t sleep; she wasn’t herself. We decided that it was best that she discontinued the treatment because we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer; we would continue to give her medicine daily, though. This was, consequently, the best course of action; she could walk, she could sleep and she was her happy self again. Then, not long after her cancer diagnosis, she unexpectedly had a seizure one night in my mum and dad’s bedroom. I still remember the scream I heard my mum cry. It woke me abruptly. They thought the worst was happening. Thankfully, it only lasted around 1 minute and, a few minutes after, she came around. The next day, they took her to the vet who diagnosed her with epilepsy for which she was provided more medicine. In the first few months following her diagnosis, her seizures were very frequent; she’d have at least a couple a week. Once her medication kicked in, however, they became less frequent and shorter in duration. Eventually, we (predominantly my amazing mum) had an inkling as to when she was “due” a seizure and we’d prepare with a towel to clean her up afterwards.

In spite of all these issues, however, Sky still went about her daily life as her friendly, loving, gentle, sweet and happy self. In spite of it all, she was still always so happy to see us, always so excited to go for a walk and always so content being in our presence.

I still remember the day she passed away like it was yesterday. Dan and I were awoken by my dad opening our bedroom door at around 3am; “Sky’s gone”, he said quickly. “What?!”, I screamed as I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. There I saw her, lying on the kitchen floor, slowly losing her breath. She was still breathing once I’d made it downstairs, but lifelessly. Luckily, I got to say goodbye as I was crying uncontrollably (like I am now). By the time Dan made it down the stairs a few seconds later, she took her last breath in my mum’s arms. It was horrible but, in hindsight, consoling to know that she went in the comfort of her own home. The home that she’d lived in for her almost 13 years of living. She passed away on 23 June 2019; she would have turned 13 on 13 July 2019. Once she’d let go, my mum and dad gently lifted her into her bed in the spot she passed on the kitchen floor. For the first couple of hours after her passing, we all stayed downstairs near her and continued to cry it out. Eventually, as we were so tired, we went back to bed (apart from my mum who stayed on the sofa in the dining room next to the kitchen) and would call the vet in the morning to arrange taking her in. We also called Mikey who moved out a couple of years ago now in the morning to let him know and he quickly made plans to come home to take her to the vet with us. I met him at the bottom of our road to prepare him for what he was about to see; our beautiful, beloved Sky asleep in her bed on the kitchen floor. Though there was no longer any life in her, she still looked so beautiful in her sleep. Early that afternoon, my mum and dad, Mikey, Dan and I took her to the Stone Lion in Wimbledon. My mum, dad and Mikey all went together in my mum’s car to make enough room for Sky in the back while Dan and I followed behind.

Sky on the sofa

Saying our final goodbye to her at the vet was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. Knowing we’d never see our beautiful, friendly, gentle, sweet and happy Skyly ever again was unbearable. However, we’d picked a lovely grey urn – similar to the colour of her blue coat – accented with small silver paw prints for her ashes and, now, we have somewhat come to terms with knowing that she is in there, still with us.

Even though we all anticipated that the day would eventually come, especially as she became less active as she got older, you can still never truly prepare for such an event. Like I said at the start, we still have our Diesel to keep us going; we still go for daily dog walks, have a happy, handsome face to come home to and are forever embraced with his cuddles, but our home is not the same. We all still miss Sky on a daily basis. We still look at pictures of her every day. We still talk about her all the time. As our first dog, and with her gorgeous temperament, Sky will always have a special place in our heart.

I love you, Skyly. Forever and always. ♡

Undecided whether to do a master’s degree? Here’s my experience

You’re approaching your final year of university. It won’t be long until you’re due to enter the “real world” of full-time work. You have no idea what you’re going to do upon graduation. All your friends have plans – one wants to go into law, another is going to become a teacher and another ~ somehow ~ landed a graduate position at a corporate company amongst thousands of other candidates – but you don’t. You have an inkling about what you want to do, though; “I kind of like the sound of HR”, “I think I want to go into speech and language therapy”, “I could go into events”, but what should you do in order to get there? Do you complete a year of unpaid work experience? Do you spend hours, days or even weeks on end sending out job applications, only to receive declinations from most? Do you study for a master’s degree related to the industry you’re interested in? This battle when approaching the end of your degree is one of the hardest to overcome; I know because I’ve been there. I’ve already written a blog about how I changed my career prospects after completing a PR & Marketing Internship for a luxury brand in the summer of 2017, but this blog is for those who are considering postgraduate study upon completion of their bachelor’s. In response to interview-style questions as asked by me (lol), here’s my master’s degree experience.

What did you study your master’s degree in?

I studied my master’s degree in Global Marketing Management. I chose this course because, upon completing said internship, I began to develop a passion for marketing. Of course, I researched the course’s content before I came to the conclusion that it was the course for me (I also considered Forensic Psychology, Audiovisual Translation and Computer Science as I enjoyed my linguistics-based bachelor’s degree modules in Forensic Linguistics, Bilingual Language Use and Syntax so much and thus contemplated careers in forensic linguistics, audiovisual translation and computational linguistics, too!). The course offered 7 content modules covering the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management and required us to complete either a dissertation of at least 16,000 words or a “consultancy project”, a report based on an organisation with which you would need to partner for fieldwork access. I opted for the dissertation for which I explored the extent to which TfL respond to consumer complaints on Twitter in line with linguistic theories of politeness (because I had to incorporate my passion for linguistics into it to make the completion process somewhat easier) and the advice of marketing professionals on handling social media complaints.

Did you enjoy your master’s degree?

100%. I know some of my friends didn’t enjoy it so much either because it covered content they’d already studied in their business-based bachelor’s degrees or because it required so much research and writing (which, to be fair, they’re right about; 6 modules required a presentation and a 3,500-word report, 1 module required a group presentation, a podcast and a 1,500-word report and our dissertation proposal required approximately 4,000 words; along with our dissertation, that’s a total of 42,500 words, for crying out loud!), but I loved it. I didn’t mind the amount of reports not only because writing is a hobby of mine, but because it allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the content we covered in each module. I enjoyed every module because all the content was entirely new to me and the nerd in me loves to learn something new. I learned how to be an effective marketing manager and how to thrive in such a career. Hence, I think it’s safe to say that I got as much out of my master’s degree as I could.

Dissertation submission day (a.k.a. the best day EVER)

Do you think doing a master’s degree has helped you to get where you want to be?

Yes. Not completely, but yes. I say “not completely” because I am yet to land my first “official” marketing position, but everything I’m doing now, I’m doing with the intention to get there. I only graduated with my master’s degree in late January 2020 and, around the same time, the role of Assistant Store Manager became available at the store I was working at part-time whilst completing my master’s and thus began working at full-time upon submitting my dissertation. I saw this post as a great opportunity for me to begin developing my managerial skills on a greater scale; while I gained so much sales, some team leader and little marketing experience alongside my degrees, the purpose of studying for a master’s degree in Global Marketing Management was to enable me to become, well, a manager. Although marketing is the industry in which I intend to land such a role in, I always seize every opportunity that becomes available to me to enhance my skillset and experience. Plus, I don’t think I’d have been offered the position if it wasn’t for the portfolio I’d created surrounding everything I’d learned as to what it means to be a good manager throughout my master’s degree as I’d never been one before and our store is one of the company’s flagship locations. I’m sure that holding this position will be pivotal in allowing me to progress to the next stage of my career.

Should I do a master’s degree?

That’s the real question. If you’re not entirely sure about what you want to do upon your bachelor’s graduation, should you do a master’s degree or pursue one of the other avenues like unpaid work experience or the never-ending job hunt for the “ideal” position? In my honest opinion, you’ll just know whether a master’s degree is the right path for you. If, like me, you’re academically driven and you’ve not studied the subject before, then it probably is. I’d never ~ properly ~ studied business or marketing before – not at GCSE, not at A level, not ever – for which reason I decided that studying the subject in a university environment, which I was already used to, was the best course of action. The truth is: all your options have their benefits. In some ways, gaining unpaid work experience – whether it’s for a week, a month or a year (has the Friends theme tune interrupted your reading process? If it hadn’t, it has now) – is similar to completing a year-long master’s degree but without taking out another hefty loan (wait, now it sounds better…) because you’re there to learn; the main downfall is that you might have to juggle another paid job on the side to get by. Likewise, job searching after university is not a bad idea; hell, it sounds pretty standard, right? As an unemployed graduate, however, it can be extremely tedious and, if you’re seeking a position in an industry unrelated to your degree, you might find that you need x amount of work experience in such. But, you never know: you could be one of the lucky ones.

Master’s graduation ceremony

How should I prepare if I want to do a master’s degree?

If you decide to study for a master’s degree, I recommend preparing in the following ways:

  • Do some pre-master’s research. It’s important to be certain about the course you wish to study. Research the course’s content and module’s on the university’s website, compare it to other universities’ courses in the same field and research the subject in general on Google or via any contacts you may have. This will provide you a greater insight into the subject and whether the course is right for you. My course even offered an introductory module when I signed up on the university’s online portal which yours might do, too.
  • Be organised. It’s even more important to be organised throughout your master’s degree. Remember, it’s postgraduate level for a reason. In some aspects, it’s going to be even harder than your bachelor’s degree; you might find that you have more deadlines in closer proximities, the requirements for assignments more difficult and the further independence from your professors slightly unusual. If you’re in need of some organisation tips, I’ve written a blog all about how to be more organised at university as both a bachelor’s and a master’s student.
  • Enjoy it! The most important way to prepare is to ensure that you enjoy the subject. A master’s degree is a commitment much like your bachelor’s degree. There is no point in committing to another one-to-two years at university if you’re not going to enjoy the subject. Once you’ve done your research into it and decided that it’s right for you, try to commit your lectures, deadlines and meetings with your dissertation supervisor as much as possible, all while making the most of it!

All in all, I really enjoyed my master’s experience. Like I said, I learnt so much about a subject I had very little knowledge in beforehand, I was lucky enough to make some wonderful friends with whom I could enjoy postgraduate life with (I’ve also written a blog about how to enjoy university as an off-campus student if you’re living at home throughout your master’s degree) and I think it has enabled me the ability to progress more quickly. If you enjoy studying and are considering a career prospect in a field new to you, then a master’s degree might just be the way forward.

As usual, I hope this helps and I welcome all questions in the comment section below or via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Graduating students, I wish you the best of luck and, if you’re going to do a master’s degree, have fun!

Love,

Sophie Pavlou at Little Pav ♡

Running out of ideas for your next virtual pub quiz? Here’s some inspiration

The virtual pub quiz has seemingly taken the world by storm amid the coronavirus pandemic. As families and friends across the globe have gone weeks – even months – without seeing each other to assist in stopping the spread of COVID-19, many – including my own – have turned to hosting and/or engaging in regular virtual pub quizzes over the likes of Zoom to keep in touch and spark a little joy during what is such an unprecedented time. While they might have become a cliché now, I for one can certainly say they’ve helped me to stay somewhat sane; they have provided opportunities to keep me occupied and have something to look forward to. Being an extrovert, I’ve confidently jumped at the chance to create and host a quiz on a few occasions now. The first few times I volunteered, I had many ideas for quiz rounds; the last time (a mere 24 hours ago), however, I admittedly had no more of my own. All my and others’ ideas had been executed already. Alas, for the first time, I turned to Google for the apparently highly-searched “virtual pub quiz ideas”. In light of my virtual pub quiz brain fart, I’ve amalgamated some ideas for quiz rounds from quizzes I’ve previously created, participated in and discovered amongst Google’s many responses for those who might be stuck for ideas for their next virtual pub quiz, too.

1.    “Name that musical”

In the first virtual pub quiz I hosted, my first round was inspired by a quiz I’d come across during one of my casual Facebook strolls; a “name that musical” quiz. Similarly to this quiz, my version merely included still images from 12 different classic musicals on one PowerPoint slide for everybody to examine and cry “argh, I know that one!” as they tried to jog their memories or inadvertently confuse Les Misérables with The Greatest Showman. A simple Google search will generate plentiful musical names and images to inspire this round. Or, if you want to make it a little more interactive, you could include or play clips from classic musical numbers and ask your participants to name the iconic musical, song and even artist for some extra points, too.

2.    Celebrity couples

One of the most fun rounds I’ve created for a virtual pub quiz is a “celebrity couples” round whereby I listed 10 celebrity couples, past and present, but eliminated the vowels from their names. For instance, for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, it appeared “brdptt & nglnjl”; for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman “tmcrs & nclkdmn”; and Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas “sphtrnr & jjns”. This can be really fun for your participants as they may be able to identify one name but struggle to remember the other half of the couple. It’s especially funny if you hear them muttering them to themselves, too, but that can actually help! (Say “brdptt” and “tmcrs” aloud and they ~ almost ~ sound like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, right?)

3.    The noughties

This idea for a round is a particularly fun one for both millennials and previous generations alike. It emits a sense of nostalgia for you as you gather the questions and your family and friends as they take themselves back to a time where the likes of Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Destiny’s Child were plastered all over MTV and playing on every radio station repeatedly. With questions like “Which Outkast song contains the lyrics Never meant to make your daughter cry // I apologize a trillion times?”, “Which female singer partnered with Nelly to release Dilemma in 2002?” and “In which year did Kylie Minogue release the single Can’t Get You Out of My Head?”, you’ll be sure to witness your participants scratching their heads.

4.    Warner Bros.

I won’t lie, I was quite proud of myself when I thought of this for a round. Rather than your typical Disney round which – don’t @ me – I’m not too much of a fan of myself (don’t get me wrong, many Disney films I love, but anything Disney Princess I’ve never particularly enjoyed), I thought: “why not Warner Bros. instead?”. Similarly to the “noughties” round, Warner Bros. can make you feel very nostalgic; questions like “Which 1996 hit single featured on the Space Jam soundtrack?” will remind you of easier days. Plus, it provided an opportunity for me to ask a Friends-related question which everybody was expecting from me in my first quiz: “What is the title of the famous Friends episode where Monica and Rachel lose their apartment to Chandler and Joey?” (if you know, you know).

My favourite episode! (Credit: giphy.com)

5.    “Finish the lyric”

Instead of the all too familiar “listen to this and name the song and artist”, you can switch up a music round by asking your participants to “finish the lyric”. This idea for a round when I was creating my second virtual pub quiz was inspired by a video that went viral of a lady being asked to “finish the lyric” by the videographer who sang a lyric from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Shallow. I provided 10 lyrics from 10 different songs in a list format, again on a PowerPoint slide, and asked them to simply provide the following lyric as an answer. You can make it even harder by merely reading the lyrics as opposed to singing them; your participants might recognise the lyric but forget the tune, making it more difficult for them to do as the round asks.

6.    Social media

In a world where virtual pub quizzes over Zoom have become the norm for occupying time as “non-essential” workers are imperatively staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s highly likely that your participants will be familiar with some facts on social media. To some, social media still sounds like a relatively new concept, but questions such as “In which year was Facebook launched?” and “Which early social network was bought by ITV in 2005 for £120m?” will soon make them realise that social media has been around for a lot longer than they might think. And, for those of us who have been using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the like since or soon after they launched, they will be a breeze.

7.    Catchphrase

During a Zoom catchup and virtual pub quiz with my linguigals (my group of friends who I talk about in this blog which, coincidentally, unfolds my pandemic experience), one of my linguigals was hosting and included a Catchphrase-like round (‘like’ referring to the Catchphrase TV show). It was quite different from your usual quiz round as, much like the TV show, we were shown a series of images which referenced common catchphrases, and the first to “buzz in” and shout it out earned the point. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I stole the idea for my next virtual pub quiz (thanks, G!). You could even, like my fiancé and I have also participated in, create a game show-themed quiz, including the likes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Price is Right and Family Fortunes as rounds.

8.    Logos

Does anybody else remember when an app called The Logo Quiz was all anybody could ever talk about circa 2010? Yes? No? If so, this one’s a bit like that. If not, this idea for a round essentially requires you to display images of an array of brands but excluding obvious details such as their name or an iconic symbol (you can find loads of photoshopped logo images on Google). Or, rather than asking your participants to merely identify the brands, you could also do a “this or that” and display two images of the same brand beside one another but, again, with minor details changed like the orientation of a symbol or the order of the colours (which is what I did). Since it’s been a good decade there or thereabouts since The Logo Quiz was prevalent, this one was fun for me to do.

9.    Album covers

Another friend of mine in their virtual pub quiz created a round which included a number of photoshopped images of famous album covers; similarly to the logos as explained above, obvious elements like the album or artist’s name were edited out. Admittedly, on her version, I didn’t recognise any of the album covers until they were revealed (~ obviously ~), making me question my music knowledge which is usually pretty good – or so I thought. Again, these images can quite easily be found on Google for you to include in your next virtual pub quiz. This idea for a round is a fun way to test your participants’ music knowledge (or lack of) and perhaps even decipher the kind of music they’re into, too.

10.   TV show sets

Another good idea for a virtual pub quiz round is to show your participants an abundance of images of the sets of popular – or, if you want to spice it up, more obscure – TV shows. With the likes of Netflix also having conquered many households across the globe over the last few years with their variety of television series, dramas and movies, this will – similarly to the album covers round – unveil how much (or how little) TV your participants watch. This round is again quite unusual; instead of the “identify the theme song” or “who said this quote in which television series?”, you can utilise the screen-sharing function on Zoom to display such images and get your participants thinking.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that you can’t go wrong with a “general knowledge” round (I usually leave this round till last). These rounds are always a success for both you and your participants as you can ask any burning questions that didn’t fit elsewhere in your quiz and it’s a fun way to test your family and friends’, well, general knowledge. If you’re unsure on what kind of questions to ask, there are millions – and that’s probably not an exaggeration – just waiting to be searched on Google.

As per, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Stay safe, stay home and enjoy your next virtual pub quiz!

Love,

Sophie Pavlou at Little Pav ♡

Little Pav’s Guide to Being Organised: CV Edition

I built my first CV at the age of 14. In Year 10, we were provided the opportunity to complete a two-week work experience during term time and the position I’d landed for the second week (I worked at two local theatres in the first week and in the women’s department of Bentalls Kingston during the second) required a CV as an application. I’d booked an appointment with a lady from the work experience department at school to help me build my first CV who was very helpful in explaining to me what information to include, how to format it and how to make it stand out from other applicants. Ever since, I have been keen to remain knowledgeable on how to build a successful CV, especially as what is perceived as such by employers is everchanging. Further, not only did I gain a fair amount of work experience alongside my studies from sixth form through to postgraduate and was therefore eager to improve my CV every time it needed updating, but, as an Assistant Store Manager, I have also assisted in the reviewing of CVs and even conducted interviews upon reviewing such myself. Based on both my own research on CV-building and experience in recruitment, I wanted to share some tips for students and recent graduates on how to build an effective CV.

1.    Keep it simple

According to James Reed, author of The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview (2019), a recruiter spends just – in case you hadn’t figured from their book title already – 7 seconds looking at a CV. Why? Think about it: they can have hundreds of applicants to review in a short space of time before they start inviting some for interviews. So, in order to ensure that your CV passes the 7-second test, my first suggestion is to keep it simple so as to not overwhelm the recruiter. By this, I mean:

  • Include a short objective. If a recruiter only takes 7 seconds to scan an entire CV, keep your objective short. In just two-to-three sentences, you can explain a little bit about yourself, your current position and your goals. This information will be enough for the recruiter to know whether you’re the kind of person they’re looking for and decide whether to continue looking at your CV.
  • Use headings. Headings make it really clear to the recruiter where to look for information regarding your personal profile, experience and qualifications. For instance, on my CV under my name, contact details and objective, I have the headings “Experience”, “Education”, “Key Skills” and “Websites”.
  • Keep a uniformed colour scheme. For the modern CV, it is absolutely acceptable to use some colour to make it appear more attractive and to highlight certain information, but try not to go overboard. If you’re going to use a colour scheme, keep it uniform and professional; don’t use neon or unreadable colours, for example.

2.    Use or follow a template

The modern CV is far different from the traditional one; it’s extremely rare that you’ll come across a CV nowadays that uses the Times New Roman font, follows a one-column structure and sticks to one font size. Instead, recruiters love a CV that – as mentioned above – has a bit of colour, includes columns or text box-like sections and somewhat reflects your personality. If you’re unsure on how to structure your CV, there are an abundance of templates available to use or follow online. For instance, when you select the “new” document option on Microsoft Word, a search bar appears which enables you to search for online templates; a simple “CV”, “resume” or “modern resume” search will generate plentiful templates. Likewise, graphic-design tool websites like Canva too have hundreds of templates to choose from; you might be required to sign up, but a free account offers you many benefits.

3.    Keep it relevant

Oftentimes, candidates will try to include as much information as possible from every aspect of life in an attempt to land the interview. However, if you’re applying for – say – a Sales Associate role, is that one cake sale you assisted in setting up in Year 8 really relevant? Probably not. If you’re in such a position where you have no work experience (we’ve all been there), think about what is more relevant and helps to define who you are, such as any qualifications you’ve achieved or any extracurricular activities you’ve committed to for longer than a one-hour cake sale. If you are experienced and are seeking something new, include relevant descriptions of your previous roles to the one you’re applying for; if they’re all similar, you might want to consider summarising your key responsibilities across all your past roles in one place so as to avoid repeating yourself.

4.    Try to keep it to one page

Again, think about it: if a recruiter spends an average of 7 seconds looking at a CV, they’re certainly not going to look at more than one page per applicant. If you use or follow a template, as I recommended above, it is entirely possible to keep all your experience to one page. This is where the “keep it relevant” tip becomes even more relevant for more experienced candidates. Like I said, I’ve had my fair share of roles since I was 16 and have several headings on my CV, but I’ve managed to keep it to one page because I’ve only kept what’s relevant. For instance, under the “Education” heading, when I completed my A levels, I had my A levels and GCSEs on my CV; when I completed my bachelor’s degree, I had my bachelor’s degree and A levels on my CV (I removed my GCSEs to save space); now, since I completed my master’s degree, I have only my bachelor’s and master’s degrees on my CV and have removed my A levels to save space. Also, I removed my first ever job not long after gaining a few more titles; it was important to have on my CV when I applied for my first “official” job, but now, who needs to know that I worked as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant for three months? (Oops, now the whole world knows…)

5.    Be honest!

We’ve all heard the “everyone lies on their resume”, like when Joey Tribbiani claims that he can tap dance, ride a horse and drink a gallon of milk in 10 seconds which he ~ successfully ~ proves (one thing I haven’t mentioned on my blog yet is how much of a Friends fanatic I am – you’re in for a treat!), but – on a serious note – it’s not worth it. Why lie when you can be honest about your actual skills, hobbies and interests and experience? Once again: we’ve all been in the position where we feel as though we have ‘no’ experience to showcase, but you’ll always have something, like your A levels, extracurricular activities and any voluntary work you’ve completed. If you really have ~ no ~ experience (although you probably have more than you think), there are always opportunities available. If you’ve never partaken in an extracurricular activity, you can join or create a society at university that interests you. If you’d like to complete some volunteer work, you can ask your university or around your local area. If you’re passionate about something like writing, art or textiles, you can create your own portfolio. Anything that presents who you are and why you are right for the role is enough to make you the ideal candidate!

Joey Tribbiani Friends GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Credit: giphy.com

As usual, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Good luck and have fun with your CV creations!

Love,

Sophie Pavlou at Little Pav ♡

Living with someone with a chronic illness: A World IBD Day tribute

This summer will mark four years since my fiancé Daniel and I started living together. I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way; I love waking up to him every morning and going to sleep beside him every night, especially after a long, hard-working day. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say we haven’t always had it easy. Our first couple of years of cohabiting in particular were extremely difficult; not due to “typical” living-with-your-partner inconveniences like fighting over leaving the toilet seat up, putting dirty clothes on top of as opposed to in the washing basket (which, I must say, is incredibly frustrating) and feeling on top of one another, but something very different: Crohn’s disease. Daniel was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in September 2016 – which, at the time, was one of the worst cases in the UK – and, boy, have we been on one hell of a rollercoaster ever since. Needless to say, his diagnosis has not only continued to strengthen our relationship, but drastically change our outlooks on life. As today is World IBD Day, I wanted to share my story on what it’s like to witness first-hand the impact of a chronic illness on someone’s life and the impact it can have on their partner (like me) too, but not before I give a brief overview of Crohn’s disease and its symptoms.

Daniel and me at a family wedding in 2017

For those of you who aren’t completely aware, Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system and is one of the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), the other being Ulcerative Colitis (ref: Crohn’s and Colitis UK). It is said to be hereditary and, while there are different forms of treatment such as drugs and surgery, there is currently no cure. As Daniel’s case is severe, he takes a multitude of medications daily as well as an injection weekly. The symptoms that Daniel experienced before his diagnosis, and still experiences regularly, include abdominal pain and (if you’re squeamish, brace yourself) diarrhoea, tiredness and fatigue and feeling generally unwell. A full list of the symptoms can also be found on the link referenced earlier.

Now, for the story. As I said, Daniel was diagnosed in September 2016. He suffered from the aforementioned symptoms and more for about nine months prior and underwent innumerable tests and scans before he was finally diagnosed via a colonoscopy, following which they explained to us that it looked like Daniel had – shockingly – had the disease for around five-to-seven years already. These months leading up to his diagnosis were some of the hardest for the both of us; it was horrible for Daniel to continue to experience pain and suffering for reasons the GP couldn’t even decipher, and equally horrible for me to watch him suffer and continuously wonder why. Daniel even turned to private care for a little while in hope that they could more accurately discover what was wrong; alas, even they couldn’t and misdiagnosed it as whooping cough. Unfortunately, it took Daniel to collapse at his desk at work based near Wimbledon and have his colleagues call an ambulance for him which took him to St. George’s Hospital in Tooting to finally figure it out. Ever since, Daniel has been under the supervision of some of the best doctors and surgeons at this hospital who have been an incredible help in making the experience smoother and easier to cope with for the both of us.

Daniel staying positive in hospital

Following his diagnosis, Daniel had to stay in hospital for a little while so that his blood and sugar levels could be monitored and he could be rehydrated after losing so much water in his body due to the diarrhoea. However, the following month – October 2016 – saw an even more unfortunate event for Daniel; whilst resting in his hospital bed surrounded by his parents, my parents and me, his bowel perforated and thus required immediate surgery. Just before which, I vividly remember a lovely stoma nurse coming to talk to Daniel and me all about having and caring for a stoma bag. Essentially, in order to give Daniel’s bowel a rest and allow him to recover from the symptoms he had been suffering, his doctors and surgeons decided that some of his large intestine would need to be removed and he would need a temporary stoma bag through an operation called a colectomy with ileostomy. This is – again, squeamish readers, prepare yourselves – a procedure whereby the intestine is brought to the surface of the stomach, and an opening is made so that digestive waste is passed through the stomach and into a bag rather than through the bottom; the opening on the stomach is called a stoma (ref: Crohn’s and Colitis UK). The period of time for which Daniel would have a stoma bag was uncertain as his doctors and surgeons would assess his progress and evaluate a time when they deemed it necessary.

The information about stoma bags was fed to us so suddenly that neither Daniel nor I were able to fully absorb it all at once. We were provided a kit with all stoma care needs including a large source of stoma bags when replacement was necessary, some curved scissors to help cut the hole in the bag for the stoma to the correct size (as stoma sizes vary) and various other supplies; a handful of leaflets and handouts all about life with a stoma bag; and a number of websites to navigate and phone numbers to call whenever we needed help. Nonetheless, almost everything we learnt about stoma bags was acquired through practise. Living with each other meant that I could help Daniel whenever he required it at home, be it to clean the stoma, change the bag or look after him when he continued to experience the usual Crohn’s disease symptoms. In fact, although the stoma was intended to help Daniel in the long run, his experience with it was still awful; he vomited every morning and night, struggled to digest a number of foods and was completely bed-bound, all whilst also experiencing the pain from the surgery on his stomach and the mental burden of it all (I can feel the water works coming on for me right about now). What’s more, when I met Daniel, he couldn’t even swallow a tablet; now, he had to start taking a surplus of drugs (the most he has been on at one time is thirty-three; now, he takes at least eight a day).

Daniel again staying positive in hospital

As the one not living with the condition nor the stoma, but living alongside the person with them, all I wanted to do for Daniel was stay positive, encourage him to keep fighting and continue to remind him that he wasn’t alone in this battle because – as cliché as it may sound – he had me by his side. Notwithstanding, this experience inevitably came with its downfalls on my part, too. The same month Daniel was diagnosed, I had just begun my second year of university. Fortunately, as I briefly mentioned in my blog about living at home for university, I had transferred to a university closer to home to continue my studies from second year not with the intention to live with Daniel (we managed the long-distance relationship quite well, actually), but because I faced my own battles with anxiety during my first year. And, even more fortunately, my new university (Roehampton) just so happened to not be far from the hospital in which Daniel would stay for months on end. So, every day after my lectures during the beginning of my second year, I would head straight to the bus stop outside of campus, jump on the 493 to St. George’s Hospital and sit beside Daniel in his hospital bed to keep him company. A lot of the time, whilst Daniel kept himself occupied by watching movies on Netflix on his phone, I had my laptop open to complete some uni work; being in each other’s presence was enough. Other times, we would merely have a chat, watch something together or, if he had family or friends visiting, we would be occupied by their company. Again, this time was certainly not easy for us, but we got through it together.

Almost exactly one year on from his diagnosis, and eleven months from his major surgery (as Daniel continued to have minor surgeries with his stoma; I gave up on keeping count of the number of endoscopies he’s had a long time ago), the time finally came for Daniel’s stoma to be reversed. Despite the horrible side-effects, his doctors and nurses internally saw a huge improvement on his bowel and intestines from the culmination of his drugs and the stoma. As it was September 2017, I had at this time just begun my final year of university and would, again, try my best to look after Daniel post-surgery alongside my studies. Not only was he bed-bound again, but he also had two large scars to recover from as well as the mental struggle to adapt to some sort of normality again; in layman’s terms, he got his bottom ~ back ~.

Daniel still staying positive in hospital

Now, Daniel is much better than he was. Of course, he still experiences flare-ups in his intestines every now and then which is normal for somebody with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis and has had to take trips to the hospital aplenty, but together we have learnt how to manage everyday life with Crohn’s. As I mentioned earlier, his daily drug intake has reduced from a whopping thirty-three to around eight, and the continuation of taking these drugs alongside his weekly injection have greatly assisted in the management of the condition. That’s not to say that we don’t get a scare every so often, like the possibility that he will have to stay in hospital for a long period of time again or – especially in times like now with the coronavirus pandemic – he’ll fall really ill again, but if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s to stay positive. We count ourselves so lucky every day that we live together and have each other by our sides during hard times and, whatever our future holds, I think it’s fair to say that we are both well-prepared.

Please be reminded that this is Daniel’s Crohn’s story; everybody’s IBD experience is different. Currently, it is estimated that Crohn’s disease affects about one in every 650 people in the UK and Ulcerative Colitis about one in every 420 people in the UK. When Daniel was diagnosed and I would tell people that he has Crohn’s disease, a common response was “what’s that?”. Four years on, I am pleased to report that people seem much more aware of it when I tell them as they either know or know of someone with the condition. Nevertheless, there still seems to be a lack of general awareness around IBD, and that is what today – World IBD Day – is all about. Given the above figures, it is likely that someone you know has Crohn’s or Colitis, so why not do some more research into them by heading to the Crohn’s and Colitis UK website or by following them on social media? Likewise, if you or someone you know is suffering from similar symptoms and is yet to discover what you or they might have, please ensure that you or they get checked out.

To those like Daniel with an IBD, happy World IBD Day! To my readers, thank you for reading and I hope this has assisted in the growth of awareness around IBD. Also, to the NHS, as we hear daily at present, thank you so much for the support and care you provide people like Daniel. And, of course, to my Daniel, I am so proud of you for all that you’ve achieved and all that you’ve been through. Despite all this, you have continued to work incredibly hard in your full-time role at an amazing and supportive firm called Z group, have passed a number of AAT exams and continue to conduct voluntary work for the Royal Air Force Air Cadets (RAFAC). You are an inspiration. ♡

Little Pav’s Guide to Being Organised: University Edition

Anyone who knows me knows that I am really (and, sometimes, annoyingly) well-organised. After my distinctively short height (which I recently evaluated in another blog), I’d say it’s one of the first characteristics that others notice about me. Just a couple of years back, I remember one of my (many) aunties explaining to me that she remembers how – when I was really young – I used to place everything on my desk at home in a very particular manner, like ornaments facing certain directions and sitting specific distances from one another; still, everything sits symmetrically, orderly and well-aligned on my current dressing table (I could just be mad; I haven’t quite figured it out yet). There is no doubt that I adopted my organisation skills – or madness – from my wonderful yet hyper-organised mother who insists that the beds be made as soon as we leave them, that the washing be put away as soon as it comes off the line and that the kitchen worktops be cleaned twenty-four-seven (all of which, due to having lived with her my whole life, I too have adopted and agree with!). Nonetheless, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I realised that organisation is something that many people find difficult to grasp; it’s so imperative to my everyday life that I forgot that it’s not a trait of everyone. That’s why I’ve decided to create a blog series called Little Pav’s Guide to Being Organised: to offer my advice on how to be more organised in an array of life situations! Hence, this blog is the first of a forthcoming series of organisation guides from me (which I am very excited for) and is aimed at prospective and current students on how to be organised during their university studies.

Being organised at university

To me, being organised at university was critical to my overall success in my degrees. It allowed me stay on top of my module requirements (which is important when undertaking multiple modules at once), keep track of deadlines (which is vital as assignments are often due in close proximities), and manage a healthy study-work-life balance (which is crucial to stabilise your mental health throughout your studies). I’m not saying that organisation alone will guarantee that first- or second-class honours as many other factors contribute to such, including appropriate studying of your course, the quality of your assignment submissions and your enjoyment of the course overall, but it does play a huge part. For which reason, I have offered a few tips on how to be more organised during your studies below.

1.      Folders, folders and more folders

Again, if you know me, you know that I love a folder. Folders are joy; folders are life (O.K., I might be getting a little too excited, now). The amazing thing about folders is that you can put everything you need in one little place. If I’ve lost you by this point, hear me out: for every subject module I took, I created a folder. In both my second and third years of my undergraduate degree, I took three modules per semester (twelve modules overall); over the course of my postgraduate degree, I took four modules in the autumn and spring semesters and completed my 16,000-word thesis during the summer semester (nine modules overall). That’s a lot of modules. How many modules you take – or can take – depends on your course of study however, everybody I know that didn’t study BA (Hons) English Language and Linguistics or MSc Global Marketing like me had to take many modules too since your overall degree classification is often determined by the culmination of your module and dissertation results. I organised my module folders like so: there are usually twelve weeks in one semester, ten of which are teaching weeks (as one week is usually a “reading” or “independent study” week and the final week is usually designed as a recap or discussion week), so I divided the folder using ten tabs for each teaching week. Under each week’s tab, I would place my lecture notes from that week’s lecture, any handouts that were provided either during the lecture or online that would assist in the completion of my assignments, and any further notes I’d made from relevant readings to that week’s topic.

A sample of my undergraduate folders (the acronyms refer to the module titles i.e. BLU = Bilingual Language Use)

Remember, these are just tips. I’m not saying that if you want to use folders, you must organise them like this. The beauty of folders is that you can organise them however you like and however works best for you. You could organise them by placing all your lecture notes in consecutive order under one tab and all other bits and bobs under another. Or, if you’d rather use one huge arch-lever folder for all your course’s resources, you could simply divide the folder by each module that you take throughout your degree. However, on my university’s online portal, everything was organised by week under each module tab on there also, so my folders corresponded with the portal whenever I needed to refer to a particular module and week.

A sample of my postgraduate folders (this time, I opted for project folders instead of ring binders which were real space-savers)

2.      Folders… again?

If you’re not old-school when it comes to stationery like me and are completely down with technology, you don’t have to use physical folders to keep your work organised; you can create folders on your computer, too! On top of my physical folders (because I’m that organisation-mad), I created folders on my laptop which made it much easier for me to navigate my typed-up lecture notes, assignment drafts and any PDFs of readings I could save. For my master’s degree, for example, I created folders called “Autumn”, “Spring” and “Summer” for each semester (hella creative) and, within those folders, I created sub-folders for each module i.e. in the “Spring” folder were sub-folders titled “Global Brand Management”, “Financial Performance Management” and “Leadership and Change Management”. However, you don’t have to go so far as to making folders upon folders; you could simply create one folder for all your assignments and another for all your readings if that works for you, too.

3.      Use a diary

Ah, diaries. Another key to my heart. Diaries are ~ almost ~ just as brilliant as folders because, similarly, you can keep track of everything in one place: deadlines, meetings and any social events to name a few. If you’re not too fussed about presentation, you can merely jot these down under their dates; if you’re a little more creative, you can use different-coloured pens or highlighters for each event – for instance, red for deadlines (because they are ~ serious ~), blue for meetings and green for personal activities. Or, if you’re – again – anything like me, you might want to buy separate diaries: one for your university-related events and another for your social life. From my experience, the best places that provide excellent diaries for students are TK Maxx and The Works; I had one from TK Maxx that highly resembled my high school planner, and my current ones (yes, I have two for the very reason I suggested, except one is now for work as opposed to university) from The Works beautifully present the day- and week-to-view formats. Again, however, if you’d rather use the calendar on your phone or computer to note key dates, that’s a perfectly practical option, too.

My work diary from The Works

4.      Download a countdown app

Now, not everybody gets on board with these because they can be quite scary when approaching deadlines and it occurs to you that you only have so many days to finish (or, in some cases, start and finish) your assignments. However, for me, a countdown app was really helpful in that it acted as a reminder of my upcoming deadlines as well as a clear representation of the order in which deadlines were due. Throughout my studies, I used an app from the iPhone App Store called Event Countdown where you can customise each event by assigning a relevant icon, colour and description to the event. I used it for both university and personal purposes as the reminder that I had a holiday, birthday or other exciting event coming up motivated me even more.

My events last year on the Events Countdown app

5.      Regularly check your university’s online portal

As I mentioned earlier, my university had its own portal whereby professors would share resources under each module, such as PowerPoint presentations of every lecture each week, handouts and important dates. It’s extremely important – and, ultimately, your responsibility – to regularly check your online portal as deadline dates, lecture and seminar times and professors’ office hours, for instance, are all subject to change. More often than not, your professors will remind you of such in your lectures and seminars or via email however, in some cases, you will only be notified on this platform (especially if you miss a lecture for whatever reason). It’s a good idea to ‘favourite’ the link of your university’s portal on your internet browser so that you can easily access it when necessary. Or, your university might even have an app version of your online portal which, for us millennials, is even easier.

As usual, I hope you found my tips useful and, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comment section below or by contacting me via social media or email (you can find my contact details here).

Prospective and current students, I wish you all the best in your studies, and… happy organising!

Love,

Sophie Pavlou at Little Pav ♡

Living at home for university? Here are some tips from a previous off-campus student

University. When you think about it, what comes to mind? Living away from home, gaining a wealth of independence and having the time of your life as that independent young adult? While that is the traditional notion, living away for university is not for everybody, even when you think it might be (I lived away during my first year and, after encountering an unfortunate experience, moved back home and continued my studies from there). That’s not to say that living away for university is a brilliant experience for many; most of my friends did and loved it. This blog is predominantly intended for prospective students who will be living at home during their university studies and are worried about “missing out” on the true university experience. From somebody who lived at home for three years (second year, third year and master’s) and enjoyed every bit of their experience as an off-campus student, here are 5 tips on how to make the most of university life whilst living at home.

1.    Make a day of your days on campus

What I mean by this is: if, for example, you have only one lecture or seminar on a Tuesday, be it in the morning, afternoon or early evening, try to make a day of it. If the lecture or seminar is in the morning, stay for some time afterwards to study in the library, explore the campus or socialise with friends; if they’re in the afternoon or evening, head to university a little earlier to grab yourself a coffee or a bite, complete some pre-lecture work or meet up with friends beforehand. Likewise, if you have several lectures and seminars in one day, like one in the morning and one in the afternoon, be sure to make the most of the time in between (without forgetting to take a break, of course). While the idea of enjoying a lie-in or leaving early from uni seems bliss (and is acceptable at times as a hard-working student), it’s important to get yourself both in the right frame of mind before entering a lecture or seminar where you’ll be listening to and absorbing a vast amount of information, and used to studying in the library where you’ll be spending a lot of your time when approaching deadlines and working on larger projects.

2.    Join or create a society

Towards the end of our second year, my friends and I collaboratively decided to create our university’s Linguistics Society. Joining or creating a society has so many benefits: if you’re simply joining one as a member, it provides a great pastime and distraction from your studies when you need it; if you’re establishing or joining one as a committee member, it provides an excellent experience to add to your CV. These were the premises to founding this society with my friends: we would all have a reason to meet up at least once a week outside of lectures and seminars as well as another role to further develop our portfolios (I held the positions of Treasurer in my third year and Social Media Manager during my master’s when my undergraduate friends were no longer with me *cries*). If you’re worried that it might take up too much time, know that you really don’t have to commit to much: my friends and I hosted a “study session” once a week where both second and third year linguistics students would gather to help each other with assignments, arranged a “film night” once a month playing a linguistic-related movie, and had the pleasure of occupying our own stall at our university’s Fresher’s Fair. I’m sure we’d all agree that these regular meetups were vital for our mental health during the completion of our degrees.

The Linguistics Society founders after winning “Best Academic Society of The Year”!

3.    Manage a healthy study-work balance

Undoubtedly, this can take some time to figure out, and what works for somebody else might not work for you as we are all different and have our own ways of managing our time. If you have or a looking for a part-time job alongside your studies but are struggling to decipher a good study-work balance, my suggestion is this: work as little hours as possible for your employer in the beginning, then discuss the possibility of increasing your hours once you feel more comfortable and have discovered your limits. During my first and second year, I worked on a 0-hour contract as a Crew Trainer at McDonald’s where I agreed with my manager that I would work only in the holidays (Christmas, Easter and summer); during my third year, I worked on an 8-hour Saturday contract as a Sales Advisor at Dune London; and, alongside my postgraduate studies, I started on a 4-hour contract as a Sales Assistant at FatFace, which increased to 8 hours a couple of months in, then 16 hours as I was promoted to part-time Operations Supervisor once my lectures had finished and I had only my 16,000-word thesis to work on. Further, make sure your employer is fully aware of your situation; I’m not saying you need to provide a copy of your study timetable to them, but kindly remind them of important upcoming deadlines and politely decline overtime when you feel unable to handle it. If you have to book time off around deadlines as holiday, do; at the end of the day, your studies at this point in your life come first and, if your employer can’t understand that, then maybe they’re not the right employer to work for.

4.    Create a suitable workspace at home

A lot of the time, you will find yourself completing assignments from home; whether it’s the night before a deadline and you’re frantically typing away to complete it in time if you haven’t already, or it’s just a day off and you’re not required to attend university, your home will inevitably become a study place. In which case, it’s important to create a suitable workspace to complete your work. If you have a desk in your bedroom or another room in the house that is ideal for working on, be sure to make ample room on it for your laptop or desktop, books or excerpts from readings and your lecture notes (and, of course, the all-important glass of water!). If you don’t have such space accessible, or you’re like me and cannot completely concentrate or accomplish your best work from home (except for those said late nights when you’re on your laptop in bed and you absolutely have to by the following day’s deadline), why not journey to your local coffee shop with your study necessities and complete some work from there? I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent in my nearby Costas, Caffè Neros and Starbucks’ (the Wimbledon branch being my absolute fave; the atmosphere on the second floor, involving an ambient combination of grey walls, subtle lighting and individual tables accompanied by a delicious soya latte was perfect whilst completing my larger projects), as well as in my lesser-known locals.

University reading on my iPad in a local bakery

5.    Make the most of your university’s facilities

There is so much to do on a university campus, and you certainly don’t have to live on campus to make the most of such. Spare some time to enjoy your Student’s Union; mine in particular had a food hall, its own Starbucks café and a bar, where you can enjoy both time alone for lunch or to give yourself a breather, or time with your friends to grab a bite together or enjoy regular pub quizzes. Use your university’s library; it is there for the benefit of your learning. It will have plenty of study spaces to study alone or with your friends, a plethora of books related to your course of study which your professors will more than likely recommend and direct you to, and – like mine – it will probably have a little café where you can comfortably take a quick coffee break (I realise I’ve mentioned coffee a lot in this blog; I am a tea- and hot-chocolate-lover too, I just can’t function without my coffee during the day!). Arrange meetings with your professors during their office hours; they are there to help you! And, if their office hours don’t work for you, you can always arrange another time or a phone call with them via email. Finally, embrace your campus’ surroundings. I attended Roehampton, London’s campus university, which possesses the most beautiful scenery and wildlife; it was perfect for exploring during a hard-earned break. Every now and then, take a walk around your campus and embrace the university that you chose. If it’s not a campus university, there are bound to be local parks and towns you can visit during your breaks. Especially if you’re spending an entire day at university like I said you could in the beginning, this time to embrace your university is crucial to your success and happiness there overall.

Wisteria Walk, Roehampton University campus (taken on my first day there!)

If you’re a prospective stay-at-home student and have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask below or contact me on social media or via email (you can find my contact details here). I hope these tips were helpful and I wish you the best of luck in your studies!

Love,

Sophie Pavlou at Little Pav ♡