On this day two years ago, I shared an Instagram post revealing that I’ve encountered various kinds of mental health issues in the past, but I intentionally did not delve any deeper. Why? Because, even though I’ve been in a much better place than I ever was for the past two-to-three years, I still felt uncomfortable in sharing my story as the underlying stigma remains strong. And there lies the issue. So, today, I’m breaking that stigma; having been much more open about past experiences since creating my blog back in May, I now feel comfortable enough to share my story in the hope that it can encourage others to take the plunge and share theirs, too. Here goes…
When I say I’ve encountered “various kinds” of issues, I am predominantly referring to depression, anxiety and OCD, but they have occurred in an array of forms. Take my first ever encounter of depression: high school. As I touch upon in one of my latest blogs, I was depressed throughout the entirety of my high school career due to feeling like a misfit, entangling myself in toxic friendships and thus isolating myself from others. On top of this, I suffered with acne all over my back, chest and some areas of my face; the culmination of the factors that caused my depression induced the development of my excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, a condition related to OCD involving the relentless picking at one’s skin. As a result, I also suffered with body-related anxiety issues; every time I undressed in the changing rooms for PE or Dance, I was forever afraid of being judged for the scars all over my skin.
Cut to sixth form and, honestly, Years 12 and 13 were two of the best years of my life. How did my life alternate so drastically? I’ll tell you how: those who enkindled the toxicity were no longer present in my everyday life. I could relate to those more in my A level classes because A level was a more serious matter; nobody felt “obliged” to study English and nobody selected Dance just to “fill a gap” in their timetable. My acne finally began to cure after years of trialling treatment after treatment; I eventually found something that worked. I loved every moment of my sixth form life, so much so I didn’t want it to end. Towards the end of my sixth form studies is when Daniel and I also started dating – what a way to consummate a wonderful two years!
After sixth form came university. I mention briefly in my blog about living home for university that I was so sure that moving away for university was the right path for me; I was confident that I was ready for a fresh start in an exciting location with an abundance of new faces. What’s more, the prospect of moving to Brighton for university sounded like the ideal; it’s a cute place for a day out and a fun spot for a night out. Nonetheless, from the onset of my first year at the University of Sussex, I was again depressed and, this time, also severely anxious. Depressed because, although I made some friends on my course of study and in my halls, I didn’t make ~great~ friends. Anxious because I was gripping onto the hope that I would eventually build better friendships, but the year only became worse and worse; it felt as though I was reliving high school all over again. I began to suffer from panic attacks nightly and resorted to utilising the university’s counselling services. My fourth session in, even my counsellor muttered: “I don’t see you coming back here”. At first, I thought: “what an incredibly harsh thing to say”, as though she had no faith in that I could return and things would improve or change for me. The summer between my first and second year when I moved back home, however, it dawned on me: she was right. I couldn’t face returning to a place where I was so unhappy; the notion was sickening. After long and hard consideration, then, I decided that it was best to move back home and transfer to a London-based university.
September 2016. I successfully transferred to the University of Roehampton London, commencing from second year as the first-year content of my course of study, English Language and Linguistics, aligned with one another at both Sussex and Roehampton. I was happy again; returning to my beloved home in Surrey and commuting into my favourite city every day for university was the dream. If only I’d realised this back in sixth form, eh? Anyway, I made wonderful friends immediately at Roehampton – people I could resonate with, people with whom I shared commonalities, people who cared – and the professors were brilliant which only enhanced my experience. Nevertheless, October 2016 – as I draw on in much more detail in my blog about Daniel’s Crohn’s story – saw a daunting event for Daniel; after months of experiencing painful symptoms in his stomach and chest, his bowel perforated and required immediate medical attention. Hence, my anxiety heightened once again due to the worry of Daniel’s overall health; I was just glad I’d moved back home to cater to his needs as much as I could post-operation whilst simultaneously focusing as hard as I could on my university work.
After an 11-month rollercoaster of emotions, appointments and assignments, Daniel’s stoma was thankfully reversed, meaning the two of us could return to some form of normality again. That same month, I had began my final year of university which would just so happen to be the best year of my university life; I developed even stronger friendships, made the most of my experience outside lectures and seminars and enjoyed every aspect of my course’s content, even if it was more demanding. Of course, the worry about Daniel continued – and it always will – but his condition was under control and, in retrospect, the encounter only made us stronger as a couple.
Fast forward two years and, now, I have two first-class degrees, Daniel and I are engaged to get married, and I have an incredible group of friends. Of course, life still happens in between – I’ve lost several loved ones these past few years, confronted numerous job rejections before finally securing a managerial position I fought long and hard for, and had shitty days aplenty; but, most importantly, I never gave up.
If you’re reading this and feel as though you can relate to anything in my story, just know that it gets better. It’s okay to seek help. You will make friends. Hard work really does pay off.
I concluded my post two years ago with a particular quote that I have lived by for many years, and I feel it is appropriate to finish on the same today: “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end”.
A few weeks back, I wrote a blog post which expanded on why I’m now so into skincare after having an almost unhealthy relationship with my skin for so long. If you haven’t read said post, in sum: I have suffered with excoriation (skin-picking) disorder for over a decade now however, after developing an interest in skincare as influenced by the powerful Caroline Hirons during lockdown, I have begun to learn to love my skin and work to distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack it. In mid-July, I commenced a strict skincare routine according to Caroline’s book Skincare which I received on its release date towards the end of June and – six weeks in – I have genuinely noticed some incredible results. My skin hasn’t felt as good as it does right now in so long; I have combination skin which is usually acne-prone, especially when it’s my time of month, I’m feeling particularly stressed or as a result of a sudden diet change. Nonetheless, since beginning my routine, I’ve encountered just one bad breakout (and that was in the first week and I was on my period), I haven’t picked my face anywhere near as much as I used to, and my skin is glowing! Honestly, I couldn’t be happier that what was simply an ever-growing interest has emerged into an essential ritual in my everyday life – and an extremely positive one.
Soon after my copy of Skincare arrived, I studied the book thoroughly, noting everything that was relevant to my skin type, age group and most frequent skin issues. For instance, it was through this book that I ascertained my combination skin type; it was through this book that I discovered excellent recommendations for products for twenty-somethings; and, it was through this book that I realised that – if anything – you should always wear an SPF. Upon acquiring such knowledge, I placed my first official skincare order of a non-foam cleanser (specifically Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm), an acid toner (precisely Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract), a hydrating spray (in this case, Garnier Organic Argan Mist), a facial oil (I opted for The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane after previously trying and enjoying another product of theirs), and the all-important SPF (I came across Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+ which, coincidentally, Caroline endorsed just days later!). After trying these products day and night, my skin almost instantly felt healthier; it felt fresher after removing my makeup with a cleansing balm as opposed to makeup wipes (yes, yes – thanks to Caroline, I know how bad wipes are now!), it felt revitalised after applying a facial oil, and it felt protected after smothering plentiful SPF. As this was my very first order of an almost complete skincare routine, I purposefully selected products on the less expensive side (except for the cleanser) because – if these products were going to work – I knew that I would be contented to make even larger investments in the future (not that bigger prices mean better quality because we all know that, oftentimes, they merely reflect brand reputation!). Nevertheless, when wondering which products from which brands to try next, I needed a little more guidance.
If you’ve been an avid follower of Caroline for a while, you’ll know that – since the end of 2019 – she has released numerous (I haven’t heard her reveal exactly how many, but I’d say a good few hundred) limited edition full-sized skincare kits in collaboration with a multitude of brands; two in Winter 2019, another two in Spring 2020 and the latest two in Summer 2020. I say an “avid” follower because I’ve been following Caroline on Instagram for over two years now after discovering her on Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin’s Life and Lipstick podcast however, I didn’t know about these (bloody brilliant) kits until early July after she discussed them in a few of her many Instagram Lives during lockdown. Essentially, in said seasons, Caroline releases two kits which are similar in that they include almost the same amount and kind of products, but differ in that they are targeted for slightly different groups. For instance, this summer’s Kit 1 included 11 products and was formed with a slightly younger, more acne-prone audience in mind; Kit 2 contained 9 products for a slightly older, more mature audience (loosely speaking). What’s more, Caroline and her team didn’t intend to release any kits this summer; after the Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 kits, they intended to next release kits in Autumn 2020. Nonetheless, following the success of the previous kits and due to popular demand, the Summer Kits were quickly formed. Having engaged in all her lockdown Instagram Lives, even if I didn’t watch it live but afterwards on her main grid, I knew that I needed to get my hands on one of these kits. The kit included everything (apart from an SPF) you need for a proper skincare routine: a cleansing mitt, a non-foam cleanser, a cooling mask, an acid toner, a hydrating spray, an eye creams, a facial oil, two moisturisers, a vitamin C serum, and a hydrating serum (as below).
As made obvious by the above caption and, if you’ve been paying attention to my aforementioned skin type, age group and most frequent skin issues, I opted for Kit 1. The Summer Kits were released on 14 August and everybody who would try for one was warned to head to the website as quickly as possible to order because they’re so desirable by Caroline’s “Skincare Freaks”. They were released at 10am and, not only was I off work that day, but I was also incredibly lucky in securing one within just two minutes from their time of release! Some shared their experiences on the Skincare Freaks Facebook Group as to how long they waited to ~bag~ a kit (lol) which is why I felt quite lucky to secure one so quickly.
Now, for my favourites. First thing’s first: I cannot fault any of the products from Kit 1 thus far; they all make me feel good in their own ways. Secondly, I’m still in awe of the saving; Kit 1 had a retail value of £462.50 and went on sale for £225 – a whopping 52% off its worth(!!). If you’re no skincare lover, I can understand that you might think “why the hell would you spend so much on skincare?” however, if you’re on my side, you’ll just know that you will probably never encounter such a deal elsewhere. Think about it: the Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads which were included in the kit, for example, usually go for £65 alone – that’s a quarter of the price of the whole kit! In-SANE, amiright? Also, as touched upon earlier, this kit was the perfect segue into starting a complete routine, discovering brilliant brands and – most importantly – finally beginning to form a better relationship with my skin.
After trying and alternating the products from Kit 1 every day and night for the last three weeks, here are my top five products (in no particular order) and why:
Chantecaille Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask. This mask is just beautiful. I’ve used it several times straight after my night-time cleanse and it feels and smells divine. It is to be applied all over your face and rinsed off after 5 minutes. Upon rinsing it off, my skin feels incredibly smooth and the gorgeous smell of jasmine remains.
Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads. Now, this is the product that has predominantly alleviated my spots. When I used these pads the following two mornings after my last breakout, my spots cleared completely. These pads are meant to gently exfoliate, which they really do, and others have said that they helped with their spots. So, if you’re acne-prone like me, these might just be the pads for you.
REN Clean Skincare Perfect Canvas Jelly Oil Cleanser. As much as I love my Clinique TTDO cleanser, I definitely have a softer spot for this REN one! I have used it as both a morning and night cleanse – when I use it in the morning, it makes my skin feel so soft and clean; when I use it in the evening, it removes my makeup perfectly.
Emma Hardie Plump & Glow Hydrating Facial Mist. I thought my face felt hydrated after using my aforementioned Garnier hydrating spray but, damn, this product is the epitome of a fantastic hydrating spray. One soft pump makes you feel instantly refreshed, rejuvenated and revitalised; a few pumps all round awakens you for the day.
Motherdirt Moisturizer. Before this moisturiser, I only ever used creamy moisturisers; now, I wonder why. This oil-based yet non-sticky, soft and hydrating moisturiser is the perfect penultimate product in my morning routine before applying SPF and final product in the evening for making my skin feel reconditioned.
If my skin is feeling so much better now after six weeks of using these products, I can’t wait to see how my skin continues to improve. While I don’t think I’ll go for Caroline’s Autumn Kit this year after investing in one of the summer ones, I might just have to use a few of the bounce back codes on the products that will be redeemable on the brand’s websites after the kits’ releases to test even more new and exciting products.
Have you ever managed to ~bag~ one of Caroline’s kits? If so, what are/were your favourite products? Alternatively, if you’ve used any of the above products not as part of these kits, did you like them? If so (or not), why? Let me know!
Finally, if you do not have a proper skincare routine, I urge you to start one as soon as possible. A great starting point is the book. Then, you can figure out which products you need. You don’t need to spend much; just enough time every morning and night to take care of your skin, our outer body covering and largest organ.
Of late, I’ve began to develop an ever-growing interest in skincare. It all started soon after I listened to the delightful Life and Lipstick Podcast hosted by fabulous makeup artists Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin and, as I unfold in my blog about how this podcast encouraged me to reflect on my own makeup influences, I followed even more powerful women in the beauty industry on Instagram as a result. My favourite episode of the series was Season 3 Episode 2: Caroline Hirons where they chat with incredible skincare expert – you guessed it – Caroline Hirons. I won’t judge you if you don’t know who Caroline is if, like I was pre-Life-and-Lipstick, you aren’t familiar with the beauty industry. Now that I’m pretty up-to-speed with all things beauty and skincare, however, I will judge you if you too claim to be familiar with the industry. Many in the industry dub Caroline as the “powerhouse” of skincare and, believe me, they’re not wrong. As I do with many beauty and skincare professionals, including the lovely aforementioned Lisa and Hannah as well as the wonderful Emma Guns, Cher Webb and Ateh Jewel to name a few, I have continuously engaged in Caroline’s Instagram Lives and have thus learnt a hell of a lot; predominantly, how to take care of your skin.
If you follow Caroline, you’ll know that she says everything as it is. She’ll tell you which products are no good. She’ll call out brands that are misleading. She’ll highlight the blatant misogyny in our government, such as how women are still unable to open their salons amid the coronavirus pandemic, yet men are allowed to have their bloody beard’s trimmed (what the ACTUAL fuck, Boris?). Hence, I admire her honesty and trust her advice. Although I feel somewhat deprived of her expertise given that she has blogged about beauty for more than ten years and I only started following her just over two years ago, I also feel that I jumped on the bandwagon at a pretty good time. Why? Because, although she’s been blogging for this long, she only very recently – namely, just under two months ago – released her first book, appropriately titled Skincare. Her “freaks” (fans of Caroline, particularly members of her closed Facebook group Caroline Hirons Skincare Freaks which I proudly joined just a few days ago), refer to this book as their “bible” (as I do, too). Again, why? Because, like it says on the cover, it really is “the ultimate no-nonsense guide” to introducing an excellent skincare routine into your daily life and understanding the importance of skincare not just for anybody, but for everybody. Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or sixties+; have dry, oily or combination skin; have acne, eczema or psoriasis; have money to spend or a budget; whatever your situation, this book is for you. I, for instance, hadn’t a clue where to begin with my skincare routine before this book; now, not only has it helped me to ascertain my (combination) skin type, but it has also helped me to fathom which products to use based on my skin type, age and (now) occasional acne.
You might be wondering why it is skincare that I’ve developed such an interest in. Well, we all have issues with our skin; it’s only human. Sure, some have more severe issues than others, but we all have problems we’d like to “fix”. Hence, the main reason I have begun to develop such an interest in skincare, and thus an admiration for Caroline Hirons, is due to my personal battles with – as I mentioned briefly above as well as in my Life and Lipstick appreciation blog – acne. For years, I hadn’t had a particularly healthy relationship with my skin because of my acne. If anything, it was quite abusive – only I didn’t realise that until about two years ago, around the same time I started listening to Life and Lipstick. Now, before I go on, it’s worth noting that the only people who are aware and have witnessed the severity of what I’m about to unveil are my parents and my fiancé. Other than those individuals, three of the most important individuals in my life, I have never told anyone about this; not extended family members, not my best friends, not anyone. So, sharing what I’m about to share is a pretty big deal to me. However, I hope that it will not only help my readers to understand why I’m now so into skincare, but also help others who have experienced similar issues in some way or another.
If you know me, then, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve been suffering silently with a condition called excoriation disorder – otherwise known as skin-picking disorder – for over a decade. Excoriation disorder is a condition related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which involves the repetitive picking at one’s skin, thus resulting in skin lesions, scars and – especially in my case – hinderance on everyday life.
From the ages of 11 to 16, I suffered badly with acne on my face, chest, shoulders and back. My last memory of having smooth, spotless, scar-free skin is when I was in Year 6. It was during this school year that I began to break out in spots; nevertheless, I’d always conceal it with anti-blemish foundation, long sleeves and high necks, hence why – if you know me – you’ve probably never noticed. (Even now, it’s extremely rare that you’ll see me in a strappy, V-neck or low-back top and, when you do, rest assured I’ve assessed my skin and deemed it as somewhat acceptable or applied a generous amount of makeup to the exposed scars.) Then, I started high school: a period that would become the worst half-decade of my life. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I hated school and I envy everyone who says they enjoyed it; they have no idea what it’s like to go about their daily life wondering what you’re going to be mocked for next, questioning every hurtful name assigned to you just for being you and feeling like a misfit in the entire year group… for five whole years. As a result of my negative experiences, I suffered with depression for most – if not all – of my high school career. I can’t pinpoint when the skin-picking started exactly but, in retrospect, the start to my depressive episodes makes sense. Still, I have this awful habit of picking at every spot, lump and blemish on my skin in sight but, thanks to Caroline and her book, I finally have a prompt to work on it. It’s taken time – and probably much longer than it should have as a lot of the damage to my skin is done – but I am finally working to not only distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack my skin whenever I’m feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, but also to accept my scars.
And that is why Skincare is so significant to me. It has taught me to love my skin, not loathe it. It has taught me to understand why my skin still breaks out every now and then, and how to treat it when it does. It has taught me a brilliant routine which, for the past month, I have sworn by every morning and night. Apart from my obsessive skin-picking, I thought I had a fairly decent skincare routine before buying this book; I moisturised my face and body after a shower and before applying makeup daily, and again once I’d taken off my makeup (regrettably, with wipes – if you’re not sure why I regret that now, read her book!) nightly, I used facemasks one-to-two nights a week and I applied eye cream for my dark circles every so often. Now, if you too think that this is a decent routine, think again. While moisturiser and eye cream is good, it’s not good enough when you’re not prepping your skin beforehand and applying the eye cream after the moisturiser (when I think about it now, it makes so much more sense to apply it before!). Ever since I bought this book, I have introduced an array of skincare products into my routine which I’m beginning to see results from, such as (in order of application in the morning):
A non-foam cleansing balm (currently Clinique Take The Day Off, as recommended by Caroline)
An acid toner (currently Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract, as Caroline recommends a salicylic acid for an acne-prone skin)
A hydrating spray (currently Garnier Organic Argan Mist)
An eye cream (I have been using several for a while, including Clinique All About Eyes and Benefit It’s Potent Brightening Eye Cream)
A facial oil (currently The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane)
A moisturiser (again, I have been using several for some time, including Benefit Weightless Moisture Face Moisturiser and Nivea Crème)
An SPF (currently Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+)
At night, I follow the same routine but without the SPF. Oh, and I now use flannels to wipe off my makeup as opposed to wipes – yay!
If, like me, you have a skincare issue you’d like to treat, have no idea where to begin with your skincare routine or have a mere interest in the beauty industry, I – in case you haven’t gathered already – would highly recommend you follow Caroline Hirons amongst the others listed earlier and buy Caroline’s book Skincare. Skincare is an element of selfcare and is therefore a fantastic segue into introducing selfcare into your daily routine, and this book will help you to do just that.
Caroline, if you were to ever read this, thank you. Thank you for your expertise, for your book and for using your voice to name a few. It has certainly helped me, and I know it has helped so many others. You are amazing!
Soph, Little Pav ♡
If you haven’t already, and if you can, please sign the petition and donate at Beauty Backed, a campaign organised by Caroline, Millie Kendall and British Beauty Council to raise money for those in the beauty industry who are still unable to work and need help. Watch this video on Caroline’s Instagram feed to learn more.
Essays. The bane of every student’s existence, one might agree. Me? I beg to differ… to some extent. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the essay-writing aspect of both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; not only am I a passionate writer, but I was – and am still – deeply passionate about my courses of study, which made the processes of learning about, conducting research into and producing pieces of work based on such a hell of a lot easier. Throughout my studies, I saw every essay, fieldwork study and report – even my 16,000-word master’s thesis, as lengthy (albeit interesting) as it was – as an opportunity to develop my written communication skills; writing is a craft which becomes more easily attainable to master with every piece. Don’t get me wrong: like many students, I often lacked motivation to begin, continue and complete an essay; procrastinated some to the night before (and, in a couple of cases, the day of) its due date; and fought the very real urge to frustratedly throw my laptop at my bedroom wall – believe me. Nonetheless, my best pieces of work – on the basis of their grades and my satisfaction upon completing such – were those that I’d invested ample time into. As a student, it is only inevitable that you might not feel as motivated to produce some essays than others, but for when you are motivated, here are some tips on how to produce a great essay.
Do your research
What good is an essay if you haven’t done your research? The point of an essay is to execute your argument in response to a question or statement posed by your professor in a clear and competent manner, and to acknowledge alternative perspectives to clarify the validity of your argument. Whatever the topic, make sure you do your research; investigate past literature on the subject by various scholars, identify gaps in the literature and consider how the literature can assist in explaining your argument.
Plan the structure
I can ~almost~ guarantee that every good essay ever written was planned. Hell, it was only possible that I achieved a first on the essays I started the night before because I had a plan; without a plan, I would’ve been screwed. Planning doesn’t have to be over-complicated; I planned most of my essays by creating sections and bullet-pointing under each section header the points I wanted to communicate. Be it a list, a mind map or a detailed proposal, whatever works for you – make sure you plan your essay.
Allocate enough time
Again, in my experience, my best essays were those that I spent the most time on. I know, I know – it can be hard to fathom how to best prioritise your assignments. But, once you do, I can assure you that you can make the time to write your essay. As I recommend in my blog about how to be more organised at university, invest in a diary, download a countdown app or even create your own study timetable to not only keep track of your deadlines, but to plan your time around producing your essay.
Proofread it all
When planning your time to produce your essay, it’s so important to incorporate enough time to proofread your essay. I’ve already written a blog on how to successfully proofread your work but, in sum, proofreading is a vital step in the essay-writing process because it enables you to not only identify any errors or mistakes you might have made as to spelling, punctuation and grammar, but also to ensure that you’ve covered everything you intended to. As per my proofreading blog, you can proofread your essay in a variety of ways.
Submit a draft
Most of the time, your professors will offer you the opportunity to submit a draft of your essay and, if they haven’t vocalised it, they will probably accept one if you ask. In any case, take the opportunity to submit a draft to your professors (provided you submit it approximately a week before the deadline) so they can provide feedback on the work you’ve already produced and perhaps offer some suggestions on how to make it even better. From that one draft, your essay could gain just a few more marks which can make a great difference.
Whether you’re heading into sixth form, your first, second or final year of university or your first year of postgraduate study, I hope these tips were helpful on how to produce a good essay!
As usual, I welcome all comments and questions in the comment section below or via the form on my contact page.
I’ve always been a gamer girl. Growing up in the early noughties with an older brother by three years who has owned all the PlayStation consoles to date, and would play classics like Abe’s Odyssey, Tekken Tag and Grand Theft Auto, I always wanted to get in on the action. Likewise, I have owned many – if not almost all – the Nintendo consoles, including the Nintendo 64, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS Lite and Nintendo Wii; even my mum possessed the very first Game Boy which my brother and I would continue to play Speedy Gonzales on for hours in our childhood years. For my 21st birthday back in 2018, then, it was only inherent that I wished for the Nintendo Switch. (Gamer Girl or Nintendo Nerd? Either is fine by me.)
When I gratefully received such, not only was it accompanied by the incredible The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild (Ocarina of Time was one of my favourite Zelda franchises growing up!), but I also rushed to my local Game to acquire Mario Kart 8 (the Mario Kart series has also been a long-time favourite, of course) and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (who doesn’t love DK?). While I loved all three of these games, I spent hours of my summer following my 21st predominantly rekindling my driving, dashing and drifting skills on Mario Kart 8.
When Nintendo announced that they would be launching an Animal Crossing franchise for the Switch soon after I obtained the console, I was ecstatic to say the least. Animal Crossing: Wild World was my most cherished game on the DS Lite and, alongside my second-year university studies, I was glued to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp from the App Store. When Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) finally released on the Switch back in March this year, I purchased it on March’s much-anticipated payday and quickly became obsessed. It was also at the end of March that the UK quarantined as a result of the global situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic which, for us avid gamers who would be furloughed for the following three months, paradoxically enabled the gift of time to invest in such games.
The graphics on ACNH are incomparable to any of the other Animal Crossing franchises; they are insane! I remember literally uttering “wow” under my breath as I roamed my brand-new island and glanced at the sea surrounding such. I remember thoroughly enjoying the way I had to accomplish a multitude of tasks before I could obtain the museum, the shop and the tailors on my island. I remember feeling a wave of nostalgia sweep over me as I encountered some of my favourite characters from the Wild World franchise. If you are a Nintendo lover or an Animal Crossing fan like me, you will understand exactly what I’m talking about.
Eventually, as you unlock the ability to terraform your island after reaching three stars and having K.K. play outside Resident Services, I went a little too far. Because I had so much time to play this game due to being in lockdown, I became a little terraform-happy and attempted to renovate my entire island. I had plans: I planned to create a more distinct town centre, a specified residential area, an orchard – you know, the typical ACNH ideas you might have gathered from YouTube – and I was ready to make this island my own from scratch. Alas, once I’d relocated all my residents’ houses to one side (which costs THOUSANDS of bells, by the way *cries*), knocked down all my raised land and chopped down all the trees, I was lost. “Where the fuck do I begin now?”, I pondered. Basically, I’d fucked up. I realised that I’m not as innovative as the YouTubers I watch and I’d made a mistake as to wiping ev-er-y-thing. Then it dawned on me: “I have to start again”.
The contemplation to start all over again on ACNH is not an easy one. You can’t, for instance, select an option to “reset” your island or move to another new island; the only way to restart is to delete your save data from the Nintendo Switch menu and start from the very beginning like you do upon purchasing the game. By the time you reach said level, you’ve usually obtained a lot of furniture, clothing and perhaps some of your favourite characters, and – as my fellow ACNH lovers would know – this takes hella time. Nonetheless, I was not prepared to rebuild my entire island from scratch because – again, if you know, you know – terraforming is tedious af.
And so, I started my island again and, this time, I played logically. From the beginning, I placed my museum, shops, tailors, home and characters’ homes carefully. As I was experienced, I knew exactly what I had to do in order to reach three stars and unlock the ability to terraform. When I could terraform, I had every intention to not tamper with my island’s natural landscape but to instead use every inch of it to its advantage. Thus, I finally reached four stars and I was satisfied. Not elated, but satisfied. Nevertheless, as I attempted to follow the requirements to reach the esteemed five stars, I couldn’t do it. If I didn’t have enough flowers, I’d plant more flowers. If I didn’t have enough trees, I’d grow more trees. If I didn’t have enough fencing, I’d build more fences. I was doing everything I needed to and yet I could never achieve the five-star mark. I don’t know what I was lacking, but I was obviously lacking something.
“What did I do to remedy this?”, you ask. Well, I started again… again. I am now in the process of developing my third island from the beginning. And, again, I have plans. Big plans. What’s different this time is that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never achieve the perfect island (I mean, I do aim to reach five stars this time!), and that’s okay. I’m not a professional gamer who knows every nook and cranny to gaming (ha… ha…). I’m not YouTuber who is getting paid to create the “BEST FIVE-STAR ISLAND EVER!!!1!11!”. I’m not going to lose anything if I don’t achieve such an island. The only person I want to create such an island for is me. But, hey: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do it right!
In a way, I’m thankful for the time I had to experiment the game in all its glory. Now that I’m back to work and therefore don’t have as much time to play it as I did during lockdown, I’ve realised that there are some things I wish I’d known before starting Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Whether you are new to ACNH, are contemplating restarting or have recently restarted your island like me, too, here are some tips I wish I could have shared with my pre-ACNH-obsessed self:
Choose an island layout that works for you. There are so many articles available on how to choose the best island layout from the start, and most of them recommend that you choose one that has Resident Services in the middle and an even spread of land surrounding such. To be fair, my latest island very much resonates this because – as I said – I am now on my third attempt and I thought I’d follow the advice (however, I did have to reroll multiple times until I was offered such a layout which was frustrating af), but my previous island differed from this and still worked nicely.
Keep everything that you obtain. In the beginning of the game, it’s tempting to sell any items you obtain that you don’t particularly like from other residents, balloons from the sky or visitors like Wisp in order to make more bells, but you can make use of all items available anywhere on your island. Already own something in a different colour? Use both; you gain more points for having unique items on your island. Unsure what to do with something? Keep it; you might just obtain more items that work with it to create a specific area. Don’t like something at all? Gift it to another resident; it enhances your friendship with them.
Don’t strive for perfection. Maybe the reason I’ve restarted ACNH so many times is because I’m a perfectionist, or maybe it’s because the game really is that frustrating when it comes to placing buildings accurately, designating a specific amount of space for a particular area or continually attempting to achieve those five stars. In any case, remember: it’s just a game! If, like me, you’re no professional gamer and aren’t trying to achieve an amazing island for anyone but yourself, don’t beat yourself up if your island doesn’t look like a YouTuber’s whose life revolves around filming themselves accomplishing the impossible in every game. Be patient and enjoy the wonder that it Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
To my fellow ACNH lovers, hmu with the reasons for your love-hate relationship with the game (and your Friend Codes while you’re at it, if you like)! To those who don’t own the game and are considering investing in it, prepare yourself for a whirlwind of fun, fondness and frustration!
Hair. It’s a funny thing. To some, it is merely an aspect of their existence; to others, it is a means of expressing their identity. Since my early teens, I’ve had an ever-changing relationship with my hair; I’ve dyed it several colours, cut it extremely short and let it grow extremely long (as it is now) to name a few.
Just a couple of weeks before lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had plans to chop off my current long locks to donate them to The Little Princess Trust. Although restriction measures were not yet in place in the UK, it was evident that the global situation was worsening and so – amongst many others – I decided to cancel my appointment. I was certainly disappointed at the time however, I am now so glad I made that decision as quarantining has not only provided me the opportunity to let it grow even longer, as there is a demand for longer hair donations, but also to take extra care of my hair. For instance, I used to dye my hair every three months and wash it every two days; now, I haven’t coloured my hair since New Year’s Day and have washed it just once a week since April. I still very much intend to donate my locks before my return to my regular position (I am currently working from home temporarily as I explain in my blog about returning to work after having been furloughed) as the notion of providing an individual who is unable to now the ability to embrace long hair is infallible.
In light of my realisation that I will soon be giving up my long locks, I evaluate my ever-changing relationship with my hair – in the form of a timeline – hereafter.
2008. The beginning to my (unknowingly, then, dreadful) high school career. When I started high school, I had relatively long hair – it fell a couple of inches below my shoulders. In my first year of high school, I had not yet “discovered” my identity, so my natural ash-brown hair colour remained untouched.
2009. My first colour contemplation. As my mum was a hairdresser in her young adult years, her ability to dye hair in a professional manner continues. My first ever colour choice was a reddish brown (I would have loved a brighter red had it been allowed at school). Thus, my mum proceeded to dye my hair and simultaneously cut it to shoulder length for a fresh lewk.
2010. The “emo” phase. Yep, I was one of those who experienced the infamous “emo phase”. Though my favourite band at the time was The Jonas Brothers (judge all you like; bitches might not have liked them then but drool all over Nick now!), my music taste branched out to the likes of Paramore, You Me At Six, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Sum 41, and my hair was a reflection of this.
How, you ask? One: my mum – again, professionally – dyed it jet black. Two: my mum’s friend – who happens to be her hairdresser – styled it in the most emo way (as per my request). The layers. Oh, the layers. In retrospect, they were laughable. The shortest layer was about an inch long and every morning before school, I would not only straighten my hair, but I would also backcomb every bloody layer.
Funny side note: I was told by multiple people in my year group that I had the “best” hair and, rumour has it, a few girls showed their hairdressers a photo of me to have it cut in a similar style. LOL. #OGtrendsetter
2011. The sudden urge to chop it all off. I specifically remember showing a photo of, and explaining to my mum’s hairdresser friend that I wanted it cut like, Frankie from The Saturdays. Remember The Saturdays? Remember Frankie? Remember her extremely short hair? That’s how I wanted mine cut, and that’s how I got it cut. Again, in retrospect? Laughable. But, the maintenance? OH-SO EASY.
2012. After several cuts to maintain the oh-so short hairstyle (and dyes to upkeep its jet blackness), I decided to grow out my hair. The grow-out stage from such a style is the absolute worst. Not only was it shorter on one side than the other, but it was also impossible to tie up for a really long time; I followed the terrible trend at the time to input as many bobby pins in the back as possible.
2013-2015. Sixth form. The “bun” all day, every day period. By the time my hair had finally reached the “long bob” stage, I was able to tie it in a bun – and not just any bun, but the neatest bun. Fortunately for me, hair donuts were a real hairstyle staple at the time and thus allowed me to tie my hair in a neat bun. Oh, and dip-dye was a real trend at the time, too, so my mum dip-dyed my back-to-natural brown hair blonde.
2016. My first year of university. By this point, my hair finally looked nice enough to leave down after two years of growing it out. As I was already used to in my high school years, I would take the time to straighten my hair once it had dried after a wash and proceed to use my straighteners briefly in the mornings when getting ready so as to ensure it stayed straight throughout the day.
2017. By the time I reached my second year of university, I realised that my hair had become “long” again; it was becoming too much to maintain before, during and after every wash. My solution? Tying it in plaits every single night and untying the plaits in the morning for a “beach waves” look created from the plaits every single day. Eventually, this routine became almost as easy to maintain as my previously short hair.
2018-2020. My hair has become too long for me to cope with. I’m surprised I’ve got this far without mentioning how bloody thick my hair is; hence, when it’s long, it’s like trying to maintain a bloody lion’s mane (don’t get me wrong, I’m really appreciative that my hair is so healthy; my comparisons are meant for exaggeration!). Now, I have the urge to again chop it all off. Just not so short this time.
In preparation for my chop (before I cancelled my appointment back in March), I researched everything I needed to know about donating hair to The Little Princess Trust. I am delighted to confirm that my hair is fit for donation according to their terms and conditions and, as mentioned previously, the demand for longer hair donations continues to grow. Hence, I intend to donate at least 14 inches of hair (I’m not quite sure how long my hair is at present in inches – I just know that I want to cut it to a long bob so, if my hair below my shoulders is actually longer than 14 inches right now, great!).
Your hair is a part of you. Just as you like to take care of your body by showering, moisturising and exercising, remember to take care of your hair. Do some research into its type to find the right shampoos and conditioners for you. Take the time to put a mask on it every now and then. Brush it gently. And, if you can, consider donating it to those who don’t have such an ability.
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 goesa 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.
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 tired?”, “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.
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 2:2 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.
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 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to 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!
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).
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.
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.
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!
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 youare 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!
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).
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.
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.
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).
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 ~.
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. ♡
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. This blog is the first of a forthcoming series on how to be more organised in an array of life situations 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
To me, being (very) short is a large part of my identity. More often than not, my height is the first thing people notice about me. At school, however, I was almost made to feel like it was problematic; the observation “you’re so short!” was made daily (that’s right: every single day for five whole years), to which my response to the boys would be a sarcastic “well, obviously” and to the girls a nicer “haha, I know”. I’ve learned as I’ve grown older (and no further in height), however, to love my shortness; needless to say, it certainly comes with its disadvantages when trying to accomplish everyday tasks. In light of such, I thought I’d gather some of the perks and the not-so-easy aspects of being as short as I am, beginning with the latter.
• Reaching for things. While climbing on the kitchen worktop to grab something from the elevated cupboards can be fun at times, it definitely has its downfalls; the fear of slipping off and cracking your head open on the tiled floor is one extreme, yet very possible, example. In our kitchen at home, we genuinely have a little stool for us shorties (my mum and me, mainly), which, when I do rightly decide to pull it out instead of recklessly jumping around, makes life a hell of a lot easier. It’s a shame it’s not socially acceptable to carry a stool to the supermarket when you can’t reach for something on the top shelf; though I’m not embarrassed to find either an employee or a passerby and laugh “I’m sorry, could you grab that for me, please?” (in my overly polite British manner), when nobody’s available, what do you do? Well, if I’m feeling brave, I might riskily attempt to place one foot on the bottom shelf to bump me up a notch, or scout for another item that I can use as a manoeuvring device to shuffle the item on the top shelf closer to me. If those options fail, well, great: I can’t buy my essentials because of my damn little legs.
• Public transport. Every time I opt to get on the train in rush hour and have to painfully stand as I gawk at and envy those who sit comfortably in the red-cushioned seats, I always wonder what the viewpoint for taller people is like; “they can actually see other people? Like, they can see across the entire carriage?”. Because, every single time, I involuntarily end up in the midst of a taller guy’s sweaty armpit, an older lady’s side-boob and a school kid’s Nike rucksack as we all hold onto the bright orange handrail for dear life. What’s more, commuters on public transport only care about themselves and their own comfort, so I have to endure this pleasurable combination of sweat, boobs and bags crushing me for the entirety of my journey. I know what you’re thinking: “if you drove, you could avoid all this havoc!”. Well, one: I don’t have my license yet, as driving is just another thing I’ve managed to conjure up an excuse for the procrastination; two: when I’m travelling to Central London… nah, I wouldn’t drive anyway; and three: public transport is ~ relatively ~ cheap and works for me anyway so, for that reason, I might as well try to learn to embrace the revulsion that is the “07:57 South Western Railway service to London Waterloo”.
• Always. Being. Told. Everywhere I go, everything I do, everyone I meet; I’m always the shortest one. That, I don’t mind; it’s the mere constant need for everybody to remind me all the time. I’ve heard the “oh my God, you’re so tiny!”, “wow, how come you’re so short?” and “oh, you’re so cute!” more times than you can imagine. Well, guess what? I’m the one who’s 4’9”, so I am very aware of the fact that I’m “so tiny” or however you want to describe it. I’m a product of a full-Greek-Cypriot mother and a half-Burmese, quarter-Irish and a little bit of Italian, French and apparently Native American Indian (according to my auntie’s ancestry test; isn’t that AWESOME?) father, so that’s probably why I’m so short, since you asked. And finally, you think it’s cute? Aw, shucks. (That’s my favourite remark, really.)
• People offering to do things for you. Contrary to the nuisance of trying to reach for things myself, oftentimes people will kindly offer to grab things from a great height for me to save me from straining my oh-so-tiny arms and legs. Be it at work reaching for my diary above the desk, in the university library aiming to reach for a book from up above or at home struggling to obtain a glass to quickly quench my thirst, there are many considerate people out there who look out for their smol friends and family members (thanks, guys).
• Fitting into junior-sized shoes. This doesn’t necessarily apply to short people, but people with small feet, and I’m sure each and every one of us would agree that being able to buy trainers from the junior section is a blessing. I mean, they’re usually half the bloody price of the size 5-and-aboves! If you’re a size 4 like me or below and have been shopping in the general shoe section, you’ve wasted hella money, my friend. Most places I’ve shopped at for trainers and boots have a junior section, and if they don’t, then maybe – just maybe – I won’t shop there.
• I LOVE IT. As I said, I’ve learned to love my shortness. It contributes to the characteristics that make me… me. In some ways, I also feel like it enhances my femininity (not that tall girls aren’t beautiful, because they are – shoutout to my tol friends!). I sometimes even forget myself just how short I am; I’ll be cuddling Dan and he’ll impulsively point it out (just like the rest of ‘em) after almost 5 years of being together, or I’ll order some trousers from the petite section online and make the mistake of not checking the leg length and thinking “eh, they’ll be fine” and, unsurprisingly, they’ll still be too long (top tip for my fellow shorties: buy cropped-length trousers and jeans for average-sized people for the perfectly-lengthed bottoms for yourself). But, when I remember, it makes me happy.
Short people, tall people, ALL people: remember, we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways! But, in particular, to all my fellow tiny people: may we embrace our fun-sized selves together!
Soph, Little Pav ♡
(If you hadn’t figured already, do you see where the blog name comes from now?)
Before I began studying for my master’s in Global Marketing in 2018, I had the slightest clue about business and marketing. The only understanding I had of the subjects before then derived from my 12-week marketing internship in London three summers ago which I sought as an opportunity to spruce up my CV, incognizant to the fact that it would later become a subject of interest and – better yet – a desired career path. Therefore, in order to prepare myself for a year of strenuous knowledge acquisition and intense research into an area I lacked such in, I tried to immerse myself into as much business-and-marketing related content around me as possible. The modules I would be taking covered the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management, so the answer to my wondering “what can I do to gain a better insight into marketing and brands now?” was a simple one in this day and age: social media. “On social media, follow all the brands that you like, and discover as many influencers that you relate to,” I considered. The best platform to do this on? Instagram.
I realised that, on Instagram, I was only following a minimal number of brands. I was predominantly following people I know from school, university and other walks of life. The only brands I were following were those that I’d either worked for or that would pop up under ‘people to follow’ that made me think “oh yeah, I like that brand”. I realised that I probably wasn’t receiving the full extent of the Instagram experience that was available, which is so imperative to marketing these days. So, after gathering all the brands I’ve ever liked or encountered in my mind, I went on an extremely large follow spree. I gazed around me as I sat cross-legged on my bed with the Instagram app open on my phone for inspiration; “a Dunelm duvet? Let’s follow Dunelm. A Cath Kidston moisturiser? Let’s follow Cath Kidston. A Fjallraven Kanken rucksack? Let’s follow Fjallraven”. And the bout continued. The most significant following of all, however, was Benefit Cosmetics. Soon after said following spree, I would notice that they would often appear on Instagram Live; on Tuesdays, in particular. At the time, Lisa Potter-Dixon, a long-time professional makeup artist, best-selling author and glitter enthusiast was Benefit Cosmetic UK’s Head Makeup Artist and, every Tuesday night, she would conduct a “Tip Tuesday” Live on their Instagram. Thus, every Tuesday night, the “@benefitcosmetics is now live” notification would emerge at the top of my screen. Little did I know that, from the first time I tapped on that notification and would watch the live video, I would become addicted.
“This woman is incredible!”, I thought, as I watched Lisa enthusiastically present her favourite Benefit products and expertly apply them to her flawless skin whilst amicably speaking to her live audience; “why have I not seen these before?”. By the time I’d engaged in these Instagram Lives a few times, the teaching for my master’s had started. And, when told in our E-Marketing module that, for our summative assessment, we were required to write a report that critically evaluated the digital marketing strategies adopted by an organisation of our choice on a social media platform of our choice… Boom! Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram came straight to my head. (I loved that about both my degrees; being given the ability to research into topics, contexts and brands of our choosing made the completion process so much easier.) My thinking as to following as many brands on Instagram as I could turned out very, very well.
Eventually, there was no way I could wait every Tuesday to partake in Tip Tuesday (such a millennial with a thirst for instant gratification, huh?), so I followed Lisa’s personal account on Instagram where I would discover even more delight; her “5 Faves of The Week” where she offers honest reviews of a multitude of products not just relating to makeup, but also fashion, beauty and lifestyle, her fabulous nails which I would often use as inspiration when I get my own done at the salon once a month (outside of lockdown, of course), and her incredible thigh-high vibrant pink boots which she pulls off so naturally to name a few. Then, one day (over a year ago now!), she announced that she would be co-hosting a new podcast with another stunner, expert and inspiration of a makeup artist, Hannah Martin, called Life and Lipstick. I’d been longing for a podcast that I could listen to with interest and not cut it short and turn back to my music (again, talk about a social-media-influenced short attention span), and this was it. Of course, I also started to follow Hannah who I developed as much admiration for upon learning that she once held the role of Pro Makeup Artist at Bobbi Brown, listening to her also honest and wholehearted product reviews and watching her excel at life as a busy mama of two, and my commute to uni for the foreseeable was sorted: listen to Life and Lipstick!
After listening to their first episode, which was an introduction to their crazy but lovely selves and the podcast overall, I was sold. I adored listening to their stories about how they became makeup artists which shared wonderful similarities and differences; for both of them, it wasn’t something they particularly intended to pursue, similarly to the story that I shared in my previous blog about how I changed my mind from wanting to pursue teaching to wanting to pursue marketing. That’s what I loved about this podcast from the onset: it’s so relatable even if you’re not a makeup artist yourself. As the episode progressed, Hannah shared that her grandmother influenced her love for makeup and, likewise, Lisa explained how much her model mother inspired her when she was younger. It really made me reflect on my makeup influences; something I’d never taken the time to reflect on so profoundly before. It made me realise that, like Lisa especially, my mum has greatly influenced my makeup habits, too.
When I was in Year 6 – around about 11 years of age – I started to break out in clusters of spots on my forehead and chin. The thought of going to school with these uninvited, irritable lumps on my face was daunting. At the time, my mum used Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which she would also use to apply an ever so light coat to my face once I’d got ready for school in the mornings after I broke out and, my god, it worked a charm. A simple light coat of foundation to disguise the redness and unevenness across my face made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin. When I wore it, I had no worries about feeling ugly, being picked on or feeling low, which wouldn’t stop consuming me when walking around in my bare-faced, acne-prone skin. As I progressed into high school, my acne gradually became worse and worse and I would rely on that foundation to make me feel better about myself. Of course, I couldn’t always use my mum’s as she wanted to use it for herself, so she kindly bought me my own Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation at the age of 12 not as a birthday or Christmas or any sort of occasion gift, but as a treat because she could see how much happier I was in myself when I wore it (thanks, mummy!). That foundation, then, was unknowingly the start to my impending makeup collection.
As a young teenager in high school, I inexorably developed a desire to play around more with makeup. Throughout my high school career, I woke up at 6:00am every morning, even though school didn’t start till 8:30; likewise, my mum woke up at this early hour every day even though she didn’t start work till 8:30, too. My mum always likes to ensure that she has enough time to wake up, get herself ready and complete some household chores before she leaves for work and I adopted this mentality from her whilst I was at school; I still like to be ready as early as possible for any event like work, a social outing or a date night. So, when I’d get ready for school and still have time in my morning to spare, I’d sometimes watch my mum apply her makeup and imitate her routine. I’d watch her apply her Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation gently with her clear-tailed Clinique foundation brush, apply her Clinique Lash Power Mascara (can you tell she likes Clinique?) flutteringly to her eyelashes and stroke her neon blue Bourjois pencil eyeliner carefully below her eyes. Obviously, I couldn’t wear blue eyeliner to school – or any makeup for that matter, but I ~ rebelliously ~ did every single day anyway (thinking about it, I can only recall having one makeup-related detention after trying on a super orange-tinted powder foundation a friend bought for me; either I did my no-makeup makeup look really well or my teachers loved me that much) – but I replicated many of my mum’s makeup habits when applying my own. Also, I couldn’t own as many high-end makeup products as my mum because I was only in high school – I wasn’t earning my own money – so I would buy most of my other makeup products like mascara, blusher and lipstick from brands available in Boots (I mean, their 3 for 2 deal has always been a winner) including the likes of Rimmel, Maybelline and Collection with either birthday, Christmas or pocket money (although my mum continued to kindly renew my Clinique foundation every time I’d run out – isn’t she amazing?).
Echoing my earlier statement, only after I’d listened to the first Life and Lipstick episode and reflected on my own makeup influences did I realise how much my mum’s makeup habits had shaped my own. Again, as I said, I’d never thought about it before; I merely saw makeup application as an essential part of my mundane getting-ready routine. Then, when my skin finally started to clear up by the time I was 16 and I no longer needed an “anti-blemish” foundation, I was eager – after 5 whole years – to try a new foundation. The summer I turned 16, I went to Brighton with my mum and walked into their Mac store – a brand I’d heard a hell of a lot about through word-of-mouth, but never experimented myself – and each of us had a lovely lady apply numerous foundations to our faces until we found the right ones for us. I can’t remember which one I purchased exactly, but I used Mac foundation for about three-to-four years until, for some reason, it began to disagree with me. That’s when I turned to Benefit, thanks to Lisa Potter-Dixon. After watching her use Benefit Cosmetics’ Hello Happy Foundation on a Tip Tuesday soon after it launched, I thought “I need to get my hands on this baby”. And so, one day after work in Kingston-upon-Thames, I headed to the Bentalls Centre and straight for the Benefit Cosmetics counter. The sweet Sales Consultant on shift applied it all over my face and, honestly, I felt rejuvenated. It was exactly what I was looking for; all I needed was a light coverage to conceal my acne scars. I don’t like the feeling of full-coverage, heavy foundations on my face, perhaps from my experience of using a light coat of anti-blemish foundation to cover my acne spots and adhering to a no-makeup makeup look for so long, and this foundation is anything but heavy. I’ve tried a couple of other foundations since, like Benefit Cosmetics Hello Happy Flawless Foundation (yes, it’s different – notice the word ‘flawless’), but I still use Hello Happy at present because it works so well for me.
The entire Life and Lipstick series was such a pleasure to listen to, especially the latter two seasons where they talk with an array of big names in the beauty industry including the powerful Caroline Hirons, the inspirational Zoe Boikou and the one and only Bobbi Brown; not only did it make me appreciate and develop an everlasting respect for the beauty industry, but it also made me realise how impactful makeup has been in my own life. Thanks to Lisa and Hannah (and the aforementioned Zoe Boikou from the very emotional episode in which she is featured), I now use the best makeup brushes I’ve ever used (from Zoe’s brand Zoeva Cosmetics; they specialise in high-quality makeup brushes which are INCREDIBLE), I can create the ~ almost ~ perfect feathered natural brow (which I receive compliments on so often) and I have discovered a plethora of inspiring women to follow on Instagram and engage in their Instagram Lives, Instagram TVs (IGTVs) and merely enjoy their content during my evening social media scrolls. So, Lisa and Hannah (if you were to ever read this), thank you!
From the ages of thirteen to nineteen, I was so sure I wanted to be a high school teacher. Certain, in fact. I was so sure, I was doing everything I could to gain as much teaching experience as possible alongside my GCSE, A level and university studies to add to my CV. Six years is a really long time to be certain about the career path you intend to pursue – so long, the plan inevitably became like a comfort blanket for me. The notion of “knowing” what I wanted to do in the future made the journey there seem a hell of a lot easier. When it came to choosing my A levels, I didn’t need to think twice; I knew I loved English, Spanish and Dance, so those subjects I chose. I developed such a passion for English Language during my A level studies, I confirmed that’s what I wanted to study at university. In order to be a high school teacher, I knew I had to complete a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) upon completion of my bachelor’s. Basically, I had my life all figured out. Sweet. Done. Easy. Or, so I thought.
During my second year of university, I started to have my doubts and change my mind as to whether I still wanted to pursue teaching and, honestly, I didn’t know how to handle or respond to my thoughts. “I was so sure teaching was the career for me – why am I changing my mind now?” “Is it normal to start changing my mind so suddenly?” “Is it too late?” Because. Yes. No. They are the short answers to those three questions in consecutive order. The long answers? One: I was changing my mind then because I had been studying for my degree for almost two years up to that point, and I had learnt so much not only about my course of study, but also about life as a student, essential life skills and friendships to name a few; I continuously found myself inspired by my surroundings and was therefore growing as an individual. Two: it was normal to change my mind so suddenly as the plan to become a teacher remained subconsciously in my mind whilst I was letting my surroundings sink in; when the doubts found an opportunity, they hit like a ton of bricks. And three: it definitely wasn’t too late to start changing my mind because I still had a whole year to complete my degree, arrange meetings with my academic advisor and conduct some research into my growing interests; and, most shockingly of all, I was only nineteen. Of course, I hadn’t realised all this at the time; I was extremely confused and most certainly couldn’t find a solution alone. But, before I go on to explain how I approached my thoughts and accepted that I no longer wanted to be a teacher, let’s backtrack a little. You’re probably wondering why I was so certain that high school teaching was the career for me from such a young age. Here’s the story.
Before thirteen, I wasn’t entirely sure as to what I wanted to do in life, but I had an idea; “something in English or performing arts” was my thinking. As I’ve said a few times on my blog now, writing has always been a passion of mine. Likewise, when I was younger, I was extremely passionate about performing arts; I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London every Saturday from the ages of about nine to fifteen and, as I’ve also mentioned before, I have always enjoyed writing songs. Then, when I started high school, I began to develop an ever-growing passion for contemporary dance. I found not only dancing myself, but also the professional choreographers and works that we studied exciting, intriguing and thrilling. When it came to choosing my GCSEs then, along with the core English, Maths and Science and mandatory foreign language (as my school specialised in languages), I went for the triple threat: Drama, Music and Dance. During our first year of working towards our GCSEs in these three subjects, we also completed work towards a smaller award called the Bronze Arts Award (which, for some reason, they stretched across one whole academic year when it could have easily been completed in one half-term). The requirements to complete this award for each subject were similar: for all of them, I remember that we had to give a presentation based on a person who inspires us in that area. For Dance, however, I specifically remember that we had to lead our own lesson, either individually or in pairs, which would be recorded to send to the examination board.
The lesson had to include the following: a pulse-raiser, a mobiliser for the knees and a physical game. We were required to create a lesson plan and write a script to provide to the examiners, too. I remember rehearsing my butt off for this lesson like my life depended on it. I had just begun my GCSEs; life was gettin’ serious, K? The night before, I read over my script again and again and again until I was somewhat satisfied. The day of, I was shitting myself. I walked into the dance studio feeling sick to my stomach. I was “number four” of thirty-odd in the class to approach the task, and the first to do it alone. I remember my teacher pointing the tiny camcorder (yep, that’s what was used back in 2011) toward me as I stood facing my classmates in front of the mirror-covered wall. I was holding my script shakily. “Ready?”, my teacher smiled. “Yep”, I responded hesitantly. Beep! The recording, and thus my lesson, begun.
To cut an already long story short: my lesson went really well. As soon as I heard the ‘beep’, I instinctively dropped my script to the floor beside me. It felt like it had just removed itself from my hands. I didn’t need it; I’d rehearsed enough, I guess. Beep! As the recording stopped, my teacher slowly brought the hand in which she was holding up the camera back down to her hip and blurted “how good was that?” to the rest of the class. Commotion. Everybody in the class was crying “Sophie, that was so good!”, “wow, have you taught before?”. Even those in my class who bullied me outside of class were saying nice things – I mean, what is that about? “You’ve got a career in teaching”, my teacher continued; “that was incredible”. At the age of thirteen, hearing that “you’ve got a career” in something feels pretty amazing; it provides a sense of confidence, achievement and direction. And so, from that day, it was decided: “I’m going to be a teacher!”. From that day, as I said in the beginning, I did everything I could to build my teaching portfolio: I ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club when I was in Year 10, I was nominated to be a tutor for a Year 11 English student when I was in Year 12 and I opted to complete the Volunteering In School’s Award (VISA) by helping my Dance teacher in her Year 9 lessons also whilst I was in Year 12.
Further, just before I started my degree in English Language and Linguistics, we were given the opportunity to elect one subject module per semester in our first year; the others were compulsory. Or, in place of a different elective module per semester, we also had the option to study Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) – another qualification which enables you to do as the title says upon completion – which would continue into our second year and thus take over a couple of elective module blocks in that year, too. “A teaching module? Tick.” When the teaching of that module – or qualification – began, I really enjoyed the first few lessons, predominantly because they focused on the recapping of English grammar, syntax, morphology, etymology, phonology; the nitty-gritty of the English language, which I’m an utter nerd for. However, when we began to learn how to teach this nitty-gritty content to a second-language learner, I didn’t enjoy it so much. “That rules out teaching English as a second language, then”, I thought. That was the extent of my thoughts. Notwithstanding, the unfulfillment of this module directed me to contact someone at the university about the possibility of discontinuing the qualification (and therefore merely gaining the amount of credits equivalent to that of one module) and choosing a different module to study in the spring semester, which was fine. Instead of the second part to TESOL, then, I elected a module called Language, Mind and Brain. “Now, this is what I’m talking about; this is what I came to study.” It was basically psycholinguistics, a branch of linguistics which is just SO cool, and it’s true; I came to university to study English Language and Linguistics, and this module was one awesome aspect of that. The other compulsory modules across the year covered semantics, phonology, grammar and discourse, which all contribute to what linguistics is about, too.
So, teaching English as a foreign language was a no-go. “Fine. No worries, I’ll just stick to teaching curriculum English.” Following this discovery, I decided to continue as I finally figured in my first year through to my second year; to choose modules that concentrated on the elements of linguistics that I was genuinely interested in, rather than bothering so much about choosing modules that partly aligned with my teaching plans. I intended to study for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s which would qualify me to teach anyway, so I decided to enjoy my course’s content while I could. Then, during one of my Forensic Linguistics lectures in the spring semester of second year, two third-year girls were invited into our lecture to discuss the opportunities my university offered to gain work experience over the summer through their internship scheme. “It’s so easy to sign up”, one said, “you just have to go to the website, create a profile, and when you see an internship post that sounds interesting to you, you just upload your CV and wait for a member of the internship scheme team to contact you!”. That does sound easy, right? So, when I got home, I entered the URL in my laptop, signed up, and on the home screen of the website popped up a plethora of internship roles in London which, once you clicked on them, had a job description and a “send my CV” button appear. It really was easy. Although I couldn’t find one teaching-related internship, I thought I’d try my luck and send my CV to any role which sounding interesting to me; incidentally, they were all related to social media marketing. Whilst I was studying, I was also working as a part-time Crew Trainer at McDonald’s, so it inadvertently became an opportunity for to develop my professional portfolio as opposed to my teaching one.
The next day, and I mean not even twenty-four hours after I’d sent my CV to various places, I received a call from a recruiter who worked for the internship scheme at my university. “Four of the employers would like to meet you tomorrow!” he cried. I was in a state of shock. What was it about my CV that made me appear an ideal candidate for marketing? The fact that I have a good command of the English language? That’s all I could think of. Anyway, the recruiter and I agreed that meeting all four employers in various places in London in one day was a bit absurd, so we’d arranged a date for two and would get back in touch to arrange the other two. The first interview I’d attended was for a twelve-week internship as a PR & Marketing Assistant for a luxury baby-and-children’s furniture brand. Again, long story short: the interview went really well, and the day after that, the recruiter told me the job was mine if I wanted it. “That’s great!”, I said excitedly, “but what about the other interviews?” It turned out that all the other internships were only intended to last between two-to-four weeks, so I cancelled the pending interviews, accepted the role as PR & Marketing Assistant in Central London and consequently, after almost three-and-a-half years, quit my part-time job at McDonald’s to focus on the internship (I wasn’t too worried about not finding another job during my final year; I was quite confident that, after this internship, I’d have ample experience).
Throughout my twelve weeks in this role, I’d gained experience and skills aplenty. I’d learned everything I needed to know about social media marketing for a small business; I learned how to use specific marketing tools such as WordPress (hence why I’m here!), Buffer and MailChimp, I created three-to-four social media posts daily for their social media and wrote blogs and newsletters weekly for their website. However, when I was offered an extension of the internship (namely, the opportunity to continue to work for them remotely or in store on the weekends alongside my final-year studies), I safely declined. My bachelor’s degree was very research-and-written heavy and, truthfully, I didn’t want to commit myself to having to write blogs when I had an abundance of assignments to complete. Nevertheless, when I’d started my final year, I’d arranged a meeting with my academic advisor and positively told her all about my internship experience. “Now I’m really confused as to what I want to do in life”, I said. “Do marketing”, she replied abruptly. “Marketing. You enjoyed that internship, right? That’s just a taster.” She was right; everything I did during that internship was just a microcosm of what a career in marketing holds. “I could do marketing, I guess.” And so, after a long, well-needed chat with my academic advisor, I’d decided that instead of studying for a PGCE upon completing my bachelor’s degree, I’d study for a master’s in Global Marketing Management.
I realise now that the reason I didn’t know how to handle my thoughts as to why I was changing my mind about what I wanted to do in life was because, as I said near the start, I was comfortable. I knew what I wanted, where I was going and pursuing my goals seemed pretty easy. Then, when I started to consider other avenues, I didn’t enjoy the feeling of escaping of my comfort zone and exploring something new. It’s like I almost believed that teaching was destined for me and that I shouldn’t even allow any other career prospect to enter my mind. Well, I was wrong. Studying for a marketing-based master’s degree was the best decision I’ve ever made; not only did it open my eyes to the business world and enable me to recognise the impact of brands on our everyday lives, but it also taught me an array of life skills that are essential in every workplace, something that teaching might have lacked. If you’re changing your mind about what you want to do in life, just know that it’s O.K.; I did, and it worked out wonderfully.
I came across this quote on a post shared by Glamour UK on Instagram during my evening social media scroll one day last week and, damn, did it hit home. Just a couple of days before, my linguigals (the name I’ve assigned to my gal friends with whom I studied linguistics at university with; original, right?) and I were discussing this very topic on our group chat: how we’ve kept ourselves occupied during lockdown. One bravely revealed before-and-after photos upon completing a 30-day workout challenge (in which she looked INCREDIBLE), two painfully cried that they have predominantly been swamped in master’s assignments (I know that feeling, girls) and another proudly declared that she has managed to consume a whole can of Pringles to herself (this one clearly wins). While us linguigals always intend to empower one another, this conversation had the opposite – and unintentional on their behalf, I know – effect on me: it made me feel useless. While most of my friends have been working their arses off to keep fit or submit assignments displaying the best of their abilities (or eat as many snacks as possible, in one’s case), what have I been doing? As I mentioned briefly in my previous blog: playing Animal Crossing. A lot of it, for that matter. “For over 205 hours or more”, my Nintendo Switch profile confidently tells me. Call me mad. Call me crazy. Call me nuts. I am all those things.
Of course, that isn’t all I’ve been doing (though, undoubtedly, it has taken up a lot of my time). I’ve ensured that I take my dog (my sweet, sweet Diesel) for a long walk at least once a day, be it alone or with my mum, dad and/or fiancé Dan, for both mine and Diesel’s good. I’ve been playing ball in the garden with Diesel when the weather has been too nice to stay in my bedroom glued to the Switch. I’ve emptied my (and Dan’s) entire wardrobe and chest of drawers out only to place our clothes back in, but more neatly. But, is that enough? Should I be doing more? If so, what should I be doing? These are just a few of the many questions that began to occur to me following the aforementioned conversation with my friends. Beforehand, I believed that everything that I was doing was fine; it didn’t even cross my mind that I “should” be doing anything else or differently. In fact, from the onset, I perceived this time as an opportunity for me to rest and recuperate after a few full-on years of studying (“half a decade”, almost, as one of my linguigals pointed out when reassuring me that how I’ve spent my time is O.K. also). After completing my A levels in July 2015, I went straight on to study for my bachelor’s from September 2015. After completing my bachelor’s in May 2018, I went straight on to study for my master’s from September 2018. After completing my master’s in September 2019, I went straight into full-time work that same month. I’ve never taken a break, like a gap year or simply “time off” to give my mind and body a rest. Up until that conversation, I counted myself lucky that I didn’t have any assignments to complete for once; I counted myself lucky that I had so much time to spend on the wonder that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Upon expressing how I began to feel a little bummed to my linguigals after seeing their successes, each and every one of them reminded me that there is no “right or wrong” way to spend our time in quarantine (don’t they sound amazing? That, they are!). In sum, our conversation – and, subsequently, that Glamour UK post – made me realise that the pandemic experience is different for everyone, and it most certainly isn’t a competition as to who has achieved the most during this time we have imperatively stayed at home to protect ourselves and each other. To some, it has provided an opportunity to learn new or pick up old hobbies such as exercising, cooking and reading; to others, it has provided a break for their mental and physical health. The latter is most certainly what I relate to the most, and however you have spent your time is O.K., too.
To all our NHS and key workers, thank you so much for what you do. To those who, like me, have stayed at home to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19, how have you been spending your time at home? I’d love to know!