Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Year Abroad Lessons: Coming From London...

This is the first in what I hope will be a bit of a series of lessons I've learnt on my Year Abroad. Think of it as an 'alternative prospectus' for the whole 'living abroad' thing, if you must...

Coming from London is a great icebreaker.

Pretty much every time you meet someone at an Erasmus event (or even generally out and about - the guy serving me at one of my favourite bakeries asked where I was from last weekend) the conversation will include 'Woher kommst du?', or 'Where are you from?'

Like most people, I have various answers for that, depending on where I was born, where I grew up, where I'm at uni, etc - but I tend to go for the one that most people will have heard of:


(The reason I don't give the country is that it invariably ends up with having to explain why Great Britain is different from the United Kingdom, and although I've got great at giving that explanation in German, Vereinigtes K├Ânigreich is a bit of a mouthful!)

The reason it's a great ice-breaker is because everyone has heard of London and knows where it is, and it leads into so many possible conversations.

'You sound like you're from LAAANDAAN' (most people seem to know that quote even if, like me, they've never seen the film... and yes, I've become excellent at imitating that line)
It often degenerates into talking about how my Mum can't always understand what my Scottish cousins say, or telling the story of the time I was in Washington DC and the guy on the other side of the McDonald's counter didn't understand my asking for a bottle of water (I gave up and had a Coke). It's a lot of fun, honest!

It also often leads into discussing how expensive London is, or other impressions of it people who've visited (or always wanted to) have had, which is always interesting, to see what people who've visited have thought of my home city.

Sometimes, with politics students, we end up having an in-depth discussion about the Scottish independence referendum, nationalism, and, yes, the difference between Great Britain and the UK. Hey, it takes all sorts! (Says the politics student...)

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I've mentioned in passing a couple of times that I'm on a study year abroad this year. I thought I'd tell you the full story.
Source: Getty.
I Google Image Searched 'young woman looking up at aeroplane' and couldn't resist using this result!
A year ago today, I couldn't have dreamed of being where I am today. I was recovering from having had every autumn and winter bug going and counting down the days until I could go home for Christmas. Once there, I was in total denial about going back to Uni, and so did next to no work, which made returning even more horrible than I expected.

When I got back to Uni, I spent a week suffering with stress-induced gastroenteritis (I'd known for ages that stress and stage fright could unsettle my system slightly, but it had never been anywhere near that bad before) and finally got the courage to see my GP and a Uni Counsellor to talk about what was happening. I'd signed up for a counselling appointment twice before, and cancelled both times, feeling that my problems weren't that important. But I was crumbling, and I knew I needed to talk to someone. I didn't have any faith that it would work.

But, to my complete surprise, it did work. I had been putting so much pressure on myself over the past few years (possibly from having been to a school which put pressure on me, possibly from being the oldest and more 'academic' child in my family, I don't know and it doesn't really matter) and just having someone to talk to who was impartial and emotionally uninvolved was a godsend.

After a few counselling sessions, I began to feel more on top of things. In a lesson I'm still using now, I learnt to break down tasks for uni into their constituent parts, and to keep separate to-do lists for each subject so as not to get overwhelmed by how much there was to do.

By that time, I'd missed most of the deadlines for sandwich year placements (and had been feeling that if I left education for a year, I'd never come back), so I started applying for the few summer internships that were still open.

A couple of weeks later, after a few more counselling appointments, and a week at home which was perfect for cleansing my soul, I was given the opportunity to fill a place on my department's Study Abroad scheme. There were a few places left over that the actual Languages students hadn't filled, and completely by luck, one of them was at a university in Germany which also had courses in English (I have been studying German alongside my degree instead of as my degree subject, and so my German wouldn't be quite good enough to take all my courses in!). I replied to the email, and, well, the rest on that front is history. I was talking to my Mum a couple of weeks ago, and she said that when I told her and my Dad that I'd been offered the opportunity to go abroad, they couldn't believe I was taking it up. I had been so scared of the world just a month or so before, and now I was taking the chance to move 600 miles away, to a different country, completely alone.

I can't believe I did it either, but I'm so happy I did.

And that's not all: weeks after I thought I'd been rejected by every internship I'd applied for, I was invited for a phone interview to the one that hadn't yet rejected me. That turned into an assessment centre, (where, yes, I cried on the phone to my Mum the night before in a strange hotel by myself), which was a really friendly and supportive experience. I truly believe now what I was telling myself immediately before it: that you get invited to those assessment centres and interviews because they want to hire you, and they want to like you. And there were scones!

Well, I got the internship, and spent the summer discovering and living and working in Edinburgh, one of Britain's most beautiful cities, and where I think I want to make my life after graduation - which just seems as if it might be possible, now, both because the people of Scotland voted to stay part of the UK (thank you!!!) and because the company I was working for have offered me a place on their graduate scheme!

To summarise: A year ago, I was both physically and mentally broken. I just wanted to get through uni in as close to one piece as I could manage. Today, well... I'll leave it to Cool Runnings to say what I can't...

I don't remember the last time I was this happy with life; I don't know if I've ever been this happy. Being able to make a fresh start was exactly what I needed, so that by the time I go back for final year the horrendous experience I had last winter will be just a distant memory.

PS: If you're at university and feeling like you're really not coping, don't suffer in silence like I tried to. Call your university nightline or Google '[your university name] counselling' to find someone to talk to. You're not alone, I promise. It gets so much better.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Emergency Make-Up & Useful Things Pouch

If you ever bump into me in the street, the chances are somewhere above 90% that I'll have this little fella in my bag:

This is one of the Cath Kidston 6x4 zip purses (this is my favourite of the current selection; it's worth noting that they're nearly always available at the Bicester outlet branch, and also that unfortunately the new pouches, of which this is one, are slightly smaller and have worse zips than the old ones).

Inside is everything that's small and has to not get lost, for easy transfer between bags. 

First, stationery essentials: A few Papermate Inkjoy 100s (they're my favourite ballpoint), a Schneider Slider Edge XB ballpoint, a pink (of course_ highlighter, and a packet of ink cartridges for my fountain pen, which lives in a separate pocket in my handbag (and is this in orange).

My passport, because being in a foreign country I have to carry it at all times (the UK doesn't have ID cards like most other European countries), anti-allergy medicine, and some McDonald's vouchers to use at Zurich Airport when I fly back home in December.

And my emergency make-up! This is what gave me the idea for this post, after reading this on The College Prepster - and after getting to uni last Wednesday, having to give a presentation, and realising I'd done my hair and completely forgotten to put anything but moisturiser on my face. I had my powder, and luckily a stray lipstick was floating around my bag. I now have everything I would need should I have a completely bare face, or need to touch up after crying or something:

  • Soap and Glory Kick-Ass powder. This is a great powder, and even better for on-the-go than their previous One Heck Of A Blot powder (which I used to carry). 
  • Max Factor Mastertouch Under-Eye concealer. This is similar to the L'Oreal and Maybelline versions, just a generally good concealer that does the job. I use shade Fair - 306. 
  • Travalo, currently filled with Gap Established 1969 Bright perfume, which I recently bought. It's sweet and young and I may grow out of it before finishing the bottle, but at €14.95 I'm not too fussed. 
  • No7 mini Lovely Lashes mascara. 
  • Boots Natural Collection Moisture Shine Lipstick in Rose Bud
  • Rimmel ScandalEyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal in Black. 

Not shown: mini pack of wet wipes. Gotta have them!


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