A New Chapter

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

I can't even begin to explain how much I loved 2015 - I kickstarted it in Amsterdam with my friends, turned 21, started writing for Elite Daily, graduated with a First Class Honours in print Journalism and travelled the world. The prospect of 2016 was of course exciting, but incredibly daunting at the same time. After the best three years of my life at University and the most amazing three months in Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hong Kong, the next chapter was going to be very different. I knew 2016 entailed growing up, getting a proper job and starting my life as a twenty-something year old graduate. In the last couple of months I've celebrated my 22nd birthday with friends and family, had a University reunion in Nottingham and spent precious time with my friends, family and boyfriend after three months away from them all which I've loved.

While I was having a great time doing all the fun things, I struggled to secure a job or an internship. My CV was standing out but my lack of experience was hindering my applications. As much as I tried not to take it personally, there's only so many times you can accept rejection before you start to get disheartened. I knew it wasn't a reflection on my capability, someone else had just always been better suited to the job which is a normal thing to experience while job hunting. The hardest thing for me was that I wanted it so much. I'd worked my socks off to get a First, I'd juggled writing for Elite with running my blog and completing industry experience and my efforts just weren't being recognised where I wanted them to be. But (are you ready for it?) two months, 55 job applications and eight interviews later I have my first graduate job and I'm SO EXCITED.

Say hello to the new Social Media Coordinator for SOLETRADER. I was applying for journalism, PR and social media jobs but I loved the job specification as soon as I saw the role advertised. I spend a large proportion of my time both on social media and blogging so this is pretty damn ideal. This means that I'll manage social media content across all channels, including social ad campaigns, create copy for use on each channel and work with the digital design team to create artwork, research ways of improving social media engagement and develop a strategy for the best use of each channel, create blog content, monitor and report on the performance of each channel and work on non-social marketing initiatives when necessary. The thing I loved about SOLETRADER when I went to my first and second interview was the close-knit team, community spirit and integration of roles which sounds great as I'll get heaps of experience in different fields.

It sounds as though I'm going to be given lots of responsibility which is incredible seeing as it's my first graduate job. The opportunity is great as they were looking for someone to create new ideas and concepts which leaves so much scope for creativity and hopefully, great results. One thing I particularly liked about the whole interview process was how keen they were, despite how intense I found the first interview. They seemed to really want me, appreciate my research into the role and valued my achievements, especially my degree which I was flattered by. When you feel as though a company really wants you to be part of their team and believes you can do great things, it's an instant motivator. I'm determined to prove them right and work really hard to flourish within the role. And I'm also ridiculously excited to go stationery shopping.

I start on Monday 7th March so I've got two weeks left at my current part-time job which I did full-time in University holiday periods and I've been doing part-time since I returned from travelling while I looked for jobs. I always leave and I always come back purely as it's always been a stop-gap but this time I'm leaving for good. I'm leaving for my first ever grad job and I'm leaving to kickstart my career. It's such an exciting time because I have no idea what the near future holds - I just know that I'm looking forward to getting stuck in my new role. Having money to spend and booking a holiday with my boyfriend will also be fab perks. I've worked so hard to get where I am which is furthermore topped off by the fact that I'm getting a new car. SOLETRADER HQ is in Hemel Hempstead which means a 10 minute drive from my house - perfect for my 9am-6pm hours. 

The future of my blog remains a little uncertain as I'm planning on focusing all of my energy and creativity into my new job but I'd still love to have this little outlet of mine. I love blogging and it's helped me secure this job as both interviewers commented on the standard of my blog and how great they thought it was. I've been blogging throughout the whole of my University experience and I don't feel quite ready to stop yet, so maybe it'll just be a little less regular. Who knows, I guess time will be the best indicator of that. I feel as though I've turned totally adult overnight and I'm not quite sure how to deal with that. Primarily I'm just a little overwhelmed but I also feel so much happier and calmer than I did during my job hunt which is fab for my stress levels which have now been restored. Now it's time to try and nail being an adult and all that.

Here's to the very exciting unknown...

Afternoon Tea | House of High Tea | Berkhamsted

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Afternoon tea is quite possibly one of my favourite things ever. I don't know whether it's 22 years of annual trips to Cornwall where we religiously stuff our faces with cream tea or my general sweet tooth, but you can't beat it. After returning from travelling just before Christmas I still haven't managed to properly catch up with everyone, so when one of my best friends Demi suggested afternoon tea, I quite literally jumped at the chance. After a productive morning looking at cars (new big girl job calls for a new big girl car, but I'll save the deets for another post), I treated myself to a Benebrow in Debenhams (very impressed) and headed over to Berkhamsted to meet Demi at House of High Tea. It's a quaint, beautifully traditional little tearoom situated just off of the high street that I'd never heard of before despite living in the neighbouring town. We managed to park up one of the hilly side roads and after a slight umbrella mishap, we fought the drizzle and went to indulge.

From the moment we stepped inside until the moment we left, the service was impeccable. The staff attentive, welcoming and friendly yet not intrusive or overbearing. A lovely man took us to our reserved tables up a few steps, situated in front of a small bay window lit by a gorgeous chandelier. The table even had a little posh silver reserved sign on it which was a nice little touch. We'd previously enquired about the menu and prices so we were aware of what the three courses would consist of for £23 per person. The decor was very cosy and homely with printed wallpaper and traditional tables decorated with fresh daffodils. We were quickly given elderflower fizz in a champagne glass topped with a strawberry which was a great welcome, although I'd have preferred it to have been actual champagne. But you can't have it all, can you? With over 20 different fresh leaf teas to choose from, you could also opt for coffee, hot chocolate or a chai latte for no extra charge if you're not a tea drinker. I was boring and chose the English Afternoon Tea followed by a hot chocolate with marshmallows. The drinks are unlimited and we were frequently offered top ups and new choices.

The first course was served on a tiered cake stand and consisted of freshly baked sausage rolls with chutney, cheese scones with butter and finger sandwiches including salmon and cream cheese, ham and mustard and egg which were all lovely. The sausage roll and cheese scone were particularly dreamy but the sandwiches were also lovely and soft. When we were finished we were served a minature lemon posset to cleanse the palate before the final course and I've never tasted anything like it - it was gorgeous! We were then presented with the sweet course and had the most amazing minature vistoria sponge, chocolate ganache cake and sweet scone with clotted cream and jam. After three hours of eating inbetween chatting away and sipping on our drinks we somewhow managed to work our way through everything. Although it took all of our strength not to undo our top buttons - the struggle was real and it's safe to say we both enjoyed every single bite.

There was absolutely no rush to leave which is something I loved. We arrived at 1pm, took our time and left around 4pm. The tea room wasn't particularly busy which was great as it wasn't overly noisy and I especially liked where we were sat, right in front of the window with pretty lighting. Including the mandatory 10% service charge, which I always find a bit cheeky, it came to £50.60 which we split down the middle. The staff were great, the service was perfect and the food was delicious. It was nice to visit somewhere completely original and unique because it's honestly a little bit of a hidden gem. Sometimes more advertised afternoon tea packages can be a little bland or overpriced, however I can't really fault this one at all. Situated just off of the high street it's in a great location especially if you fancy going for a little wander afterwards. 

Me and Demi hadn't seen each other since the end of July, despite a few hours at my birthday meal in which we didn't get to properly catch up, so we had over 6 months worth of life to catch up on. We talked boyfriends, friends, work, life, gossip and I don't think we actually stopped talking until we said goodbye and drove away. It was so lovely to spend the afternoon together doing something we wouldn't normally do. Our usual catch ups consist of shopping and lunch but we decided to avoid shopping seeing as it's not the most ideal location for a serious catch up. We've promised not to leave it so long next time which shouldn't be a problem seeing as part of it was due to me being out of the country for three months, but sometimes life just runs away with itself and it's hard to keep on top of continuous catch ups. I had such a fun afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed eating excessively. And I still managed to wolf down a curry a couple of hours later. Credit where credit is due, thank you very much. And I'll definitely be going back, even if it's just for a slice of cake and a cuppa.

Telegraph Media Group: Stella Internship - Assessment Day

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Up until this year I'd only ever had one interview. As a slightly shy 16 year old I turned up to Next in my hometown for a Sales Assistant role, sold a pair of shoes during my practical shop floor assessment and was subsequently offered the job. I secured an office job during University holiday periods at my sister's place of employment which didn't require an interview, and after graduating in July 2015, I gallivanted around the world for three months until Christmas. When I entered 2016, I knew I had to grow up, grow some balls and face my fear of the dreaded interview process. After a few interviews under my belt in London, I learnt that if I prepped well and let my passion for the industry overshadow my fear of being interviewed, I'd be perfectly fine. I'm far from having mastered the art, but I'm no longer petrified. Once you learn that people are simply trying to understand you as a person rather than trying to catch you out, it gets easier. 

Nerves are in fact a good source of motivation because it means you care and are less likely to come across as arrogant. Although I wasn't being offered the jobs I was applying for, my interview feedback was positive. I was interviewing well, my previous work was impressive but someone else had been better suited to the role. Informal chats tend to be the preferred course of industry interviews, that was until I applied for a 9 month paid internship at the Sunday Telegraph's magazine Stella. The application itself required two written answers to questions and two Youtube video answers to questions, but no CV. Sure, I blog, but I don't do YouTube for two specific reasons. I hate seeing myself on camera and I hate the sound of my own voice. I chose to study Print Journalism not Broadcast Journalism, remember. So, the application process: I sat at my desk one Wednesday morning - makeup on, hair straightened and blind up for flattering lighting. I might have even been sitting in my joggers purely because the camera cut off just below the boobs. Who knows.

I had to answer what makes me get out of bed in the morning, what my dream job is and how the internship would help me get there in a video no longer than 4 minutes. After bullet pointing what I wanted to discuss and four takes later (home phone ringing and dog barking aren't preferred video effects), I marked the YouTube vid as unlisted and completed a very obscure equal opportunities form before hitting submit. I still don't know what free school meals has to do with a job application but, whatever. The closing date passed and I assumed I'd been unsuccessful as most large companies won't notify you when you haven't been successful. On Monday 18th January I was contacted by Sam Morris inviting me to an assessment day on Friday 22nd. I'd never attended an assessment before and as I read my way through the email I got that horrible interview fear back. Stella had sent three copies of the magazine first class to my home address so I could pick a feature and create a three minute presentation to present to the interview panel.

The brief was to write an additional 300 word sidebar to compliment the feature and explain your thinking behind it, say what you liked/didn't like about the feature, 3 things you would've changed and how you would have presented the digital version differently. The overload of information was a little overwhelming and after telling myself there was no way I was backing out of such an amazing opportunity, I got stuck in. I'm fully aware that you have to step outside of your comfort zone and push your boundaries and that's exactly what I was about to do. I absolutely hate presentations, I don't particularly like speaking in front of people in presentation form and I was scared of criticizing a magazine's work. I picked a depression feature, practiced my presentation a million times in front of my mum, and rocked up at the Telegraph offices just before 9am on the Friday. I may have struggled to find the building due to construction work but I checked in, was given a visitor pass and sat myself down on the large leather sofas to observe the light morning buzz.

The offices were very plush and open plan with lots of sleek white and glass interior and I instantly started chatting to a girl called Kristy who is currently studying at Loughborough University. Gradually more applicants started filtering in and we were all sat over 2 sofas chatting away about our intern experience - I loved the fact it wasn't a catty competitive environment. We were whisked upstairs at half 9 and taken into a large room lined with chairs and a projector. My heart dropped as I thought I'd have to present in front of everyone (7 applicants for Stella and 7 applicants for the Saturday magazine) but luckily it was only for a short introductory video. Another fab thing was that we were informed that we were the 7 shortlisted applicants out of hundreds of people who had applied. Sam emphasized the fact that it was a huge achievement to have made it that far which was a little confidence boost. The other girls applying for Stella including Kristy, Rosie, Samantha, Rahdika and a couple of others were all really nice and we chatted away in the communal area.

Unfortunately I was last to present my work which was horrible as the waiting around made me even more nervous but we were given drinks vouchers to use in the cafe which was nice. My presentation went surprisingly well, despite an incredibly dry mouth by the end, and I left feeling happy. Once everyone had been we had to participate in a group task whereby we had to brainstorm a feature idea for the magazine and decide how it would be executed in print and online (observed by the interview panel). This again went well and I feel I expressed my views and ideas efficiently. There was supposed to be a knockout stage at lunch time (felt like I was on The Apprentice, seriously) but we all made it through to the afternoon interview stage as they couldn't decide on who to send home. Not being sent home at lunch was obviously a great feeling as it meant I had clearly done something right in my presentation. I wasn't too worried about the interview as I'd prepped a little, but unfortunately I personally felt my performance wasn't up to scratch. 

After getting lunch, courtesy of lunch vouchers which was lovely, it was my turn and the interview consisted of five questions, three of which I think I answered well, but the other two were slight curve balls. I just hadn't considered answers to those specific questions, which is a learning curve in itself because you learn from your mistakes. Although I answered them, I felt my answers lacked confidence and structure so I left feeling pretty disappointed with myself. Although I still wanted the position I felt that I'd halved my chances and went home feeling a little deflated. Luckily we heard back really quickly as we were all emailed that same evening, but I didn't secure the internship. Some of the girls I shared the process with gave me their numbers and we created a little Whatsapp group so we could find out who got the internship. A lovely girl called Rosie was the lucky one and although I was gutted I was really pleased for her as she seemed super talented. It's so hard not to get disheartened when you're unsuccessful but I'm trying to take a positive from each experience. 

To have even been invited to the assessment day and make it through to the interview stage was a huge deal so I know I'm capable, I just need to keep searching. I'm going with the mindset that I just haven't found the right role for me yet, but I'm so glad I took a leap of faith and went for it as I achieved a lot that day. I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and equipped myself even more for future interviews or assessments. I feel like that's the toughest an interview can get so to have experienced that within less than a month of applying for a graduate opportunity is definitely something to smile about. When I sat in my bedroom and joked about food and my dog in my application video I didn't think I had a hope in hell, so hopefully I can keep proving myself wrong. I've watched the video back since the assessment day simply because it makes me laugh, and has taught me that a little bit of passion and personality can go a long way. It might not have been my time to shine this time, but I'm hoping it will be soon with a bit of luck.

The Catch 22 Of Being A Graduate

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

I've studied for three years, achieved a First Class Honours degree in Journalism and have industry experience under my belt. That might sound similar to your story, and that must definitely mean we're going to walk into jobs, right? Oh. So. Wrong. I've spent tens of thousands of pounds on further education, I've invested time, blood, sweat and tears into working my ass off and I'm still looking for degree-related employment. Granted, I may have only been searching for something industry related for six weeks, but I'm uncertain as to how long those six weeks are going to turn into. Getting the interviews isn't the problem - I'm being noticed, but I'm not standing out in and amongst the graduates who can actually afford to work for free for more than two weeks.

Entry level roles have seemingly been replaced by internships, clouded by the sudden realisation that some of the most perfect positions are unpaid. I fully understand and comprehend a week or two of unpaid work experience but some companies are offering three to six month unpaid internships. UM HELLO, I HAVE A DEGREE. What the holy hell is going on? Don't get me wrong, I know experience is invaluable, but who can realistically afford to work unpaid for that amount of time? More often than not, full travel expenses aren't even covered which only adds more fuel to the fire. Yes I'm living at home but I have rent to pay, outgoings and I still need to live so for me, and many others, it's unfeasible to accept an unpaid position.

A lot of the time the internships don't guarantee a full-time paid position at the end of it, meaning you'll be dropped back into the pool of unemployed graduates. I went to University so I could fulfill a career in my chosen industry that I'm so ridiculously passionate about. This means that I'm not prepared to give up and settle, but with unpaid internships inundating job vacancy feeds, the fight is even harder than usual. Unless you've got money behind you or have access to funds that can cover you during an unpaid internship, these positions are demonstrating that key industries are sometimes being shaped by privilege. And since when was it okay to condone an elitist approach? Because it definitely doesn't sit well with me.

Another problem is experience. You need experience to get a job but you need a job to get experience. And if you can't financially afford to complete an unpaid internship, the stakes are even higher than usual. Getting a job is cut-throat enough as it is, never mind when you're competing with thousands of other fully qualified graduates fighting for those gold dust positions, especially when some of them are working for free. And if you even attempt to question it, there'll be a queue of people behind you willing to do it for free. Thing is, I'm not unwilling, it's just exceptionally unrealistic and unfeasible. Why should an internship be based on who can afford it over the best candidate for the job in some cases?

I've got a plethora of unpaid pieces of writing published I've completed in my own time, alongside having juggled my degree, blog and industry work experience but I'm struggling with where to go from here. Maybe it's a game of persistence, but I can't seem to shift the feeling of not being good enough for the majority of internships or positions I've applied for. I don't have enough experience, so I've been told over and over again, and it's hard to showcase my strong work ethic, drive and commitment to the industry without being given a chance to show what I'm capable of. Of course I didn't think a degree would land me a job straight away if I clicked my fingers, but I certainly thought that my positive attitude combined with a little experience and proven commitment, opportunities would be a little more forgiving.

As an intern your helpful nature and hard-working attitude helps a team. Your work or ideas are often published or used, and more importantly, although your time is appreciated, it should also be paid for. Interning five days a week doesn't leave any scope for any source of income which feels a little bit like exploitation. Not being paid for contributing to a business and an industry, especially when you're educated to degree level, feels like you're being undervalued and underestimated. It might be a catch 22 we've unwillingly been immersed in as graduates fighting to enter an industry, but we're not quitters. It may take us longer, but at least when we do succeed, we'll have worked bloody hard to get there. Here's to perseverance, kicking ass and being fabulous.

Why Wine Drunk Is The Best Type Of Drunk

Monday, 18 January 2016

It's common knowledge that wine is fabulous. It's great for both celebrating and drowning your sorrows because it either dramatically sends you to the crazy depths of your own personality or sends you to sleep. Wine is a people pleaser and quite frankly, it's good for the soul. So grab a glass of Vino and read why:

Everything Is Funny
Whether you've had 1 glass or 5 glasses, everything is so much funnier when wine is involved. Don't ask me why, it just is. The most mundane story you tell turns into the most hilarious award-winning anecdote and you praise yourself and your gal pals for being so damn funny. We've all had the wine giggles.

It's Always A Good Idea
When has anyone EVER turned down a glass of wine? Whether it's the 'oh one won't hurt' sort of persuasion or the 'hell yeah, I'll grab the glasses' (they're my favourite type of people) approach, more is always the right answer. I mean, I don't think there's even such a thing as one glass of wine, is there?

It Always Gets You Drunk
It's the naughty little jungle juice that suddenly creeps up on you and reminds you how drunk you are. There's no gradual 'I'm getting drunk' process, it's all or nothing. There's no long-winded sipping on a spirit and mixer involved, wine is straight to the point and we love it for that very reason.

It's Goddam Classy
You've got to admit that you feel pretty sophisticated sipping on some Sauvignon Blanc, don't ya? It doesn't matter if you can't pronounce it and nobody has to know it cost you less than an hour's wages at Tesco Express. Wine is wine and we're here to drink it. No judging allowed.

Until You Spill It
Being wine drunk only leads you down the clumsy path of having zero spacial awareness But the beauty of it is that if you drink red, white will remove the stain. Benefit at its finest. Although if you stick to white you can avoid that problem entirely. Win win situation.

DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation) Central
Don't ask me why but consuming wine always leads to the deepest and most sentimental of conversations of how much love you have for your best friends and how you're gonna live the life of luxury and conquer the world. 'OH MA GOD babes, you are totally my best ever friend. We'll still be doing this when we're saggy AF - you've always been my favourite', you say in every wine-induced encounter. We've all been there - it's cool.

Say Hello To Your Inner Bad Ass Bitch
Something about wine makes your sassy alter-ego rear it's beautiful head and turn all 'oh no she ditunt' on anyone who crosses your path. You gain a type of wine confidence you've never seen before. And quite frankly, it's pretty great. We should drink wine more often, shouldn't we?

It's Always On Offer
Desperate times call for desperate measures and when things are a little tight, wine is one thing you're understandably not willing to sacrifice. And how can you refuse when it's always half price? It's literally on the shelf calling your name. Go grab it girl.

Waste Not Want Not
If for any absurd reason you crack open a bottle and don't finish it (and realistically, when does that ever happen?), the lid can be screwed back on and it can be popped back in the fridge for another day. Of course, that's a silly idea but say an emergency struck, you know it's not going to be wasted.

It's Made From Grapes So It's Basically Healthy
It's completely diet friendly because it's actually a fruit. It doesn't matter about the process it went through to turn into alcohol, if it's original state was grapes when it MUST be good for you. End of.

Guaranteed Great Sleep
Unless you're alternating wine with red bull or showcasing your best slut-drop on the D floor to keep your energy levels up, wine will more often than not send you into a sleepy state. You can't even blink more slowly than normal for fear of falling asleep. BUT, when you do go to sleep, it's the best. EVER.

Moral of the story is that wine has multiple benefits that keep you coming back for more. It's responsible for the wildest nights, the deepest chats and the stickiest clutch bag, but you can forgive and forget. And if you can't forget, just keep pouring until you do.

Travelling: What You Need To Know

Thursday, 14 January 2016

If I'd have had someone to grill before packing my things into a backpack for three months and jetting around the world, I'd have been laughing. I would have ditched the stupid things I didn't need, packed things I definitely did need and probably have a more realistic perception of what my trip might entail. But, that's where I come in. Whether this benefits one or more of you, here's what to do, what not to do, what to pack and what not to pack. I can't pretend these are going to be in a logical order, because I added them to my iPhone notes as and when they popped into my head while I was away, but luckily for you they're here to help:

  • In Australia and New Zealand, the lack of plugs is equally surprising and mortifying so make your first purchase an extension lead. You can either buy one when you're there or take one and plug it into the relevant country adapter (NZ & Oz are the same).
  • Leave enough money in your bank account for outgoings so you don't have to worry about moving money over while you're away. And don't touch it. The bills have to be paid people.
  • Make sure you've got an emergency fund of money. Unexpected costs may occur - doctors bills or when you genuinely run out money. If you don't, you'll be screwed.
  • Buy Havaianas. They're the most comfortable and industrial flip flops you'll ever wear. Mine were worn to death and they're still fully functional. Avoid white because mine got ridiculously dirty.
  • Take a bum bag - you'll thank me when you've got two free hands and your possessions are safely zipped away with less chance of being stolen.
  • Buy a sleeping bag liner - it makes nights in grubby hostels with minging sheets (only sometimes) all the more bearable. It's also a good bug deterrent and was definitely my favourite travelling investment. You'll thank me.
  • Mosquito repellent will be your best friend.
  • Take as much medication as you can - you will get the shits and/or be sick in Thailand so take something to stop it coming out of both ends for goodness sake.
  • They don't sell tampons in Thailand - take some if you're going to be on lady time.
  • Take a day rucksack that you put all your valuables, passport, electricals in.
  • Get a Caxton currency card. You link a bank account, load GBP (minimum £100 and only one upload every 24 hours) and withdraw in whatever country you're in. You can load via an app or pay by card in most places. Very simple to set up and use.
  • Pack your clothes in bags within your rucksack to make finding things easier. Tops in one carrier bag, bottoms in another and stack.
  • Don't be fooled into thinking you'll wear denim shorts in the day. It's far too hot and sticky for tight clothes in the day. Loose clothing is your best friend.
  • Don't drink anything but bottled water in Asia.
  • Barter everything in Thailand - never accept the price they initially ask for.
  • Prepare to be constipated at least once. Sorry guys, it just happens.
  • Don't over pack as you tend to re-wear the same things.
  • Keep all your tickets, receipts, leaflets etc for a scrapbook when you're home.
  • Check where hostels are in relation to the main beaches and party areas.
  • Use Hostel World or Booking.com to book hostels while away.
  • Mosquito nets are a waste of time. There is nowhere to hang them and I didn't use mine once.
  • Utilise Peter Pans in Australasia. They're amazing and will plan as much or as little as you want them to. So so helpful and great prices.
  • Book trips as soon as you get to a country so the bulk of activities are paid for so you can budget the rest of your money.
  • If you're going with a friend/s keep a kitty and all put the same amount in or take it in turns to withdraw money. It gets SO confusing being like, you owe me 3 dollars 70 every day.
  • Take aloe vera - I'd never had prickly heat before but got it badly on my bum. It's literally a miracle product and it'll be gone within a few days.
  • Take extra storage (memory stick, hard drive etc) for photos - my iPhone was full and I didn't want to lose photos so shoved them on a memory stick.
  • Do a skydive and get the video. It'll be one of the best experiences of your life.
  • Take a waterproof camera - don't risk beach photoshoots with your iPhone because it will end in tears. Waterproof cameras are fab.
  • Take a pack of cards and a pen. It's the little things.
  • Write things down - it's amazing how much you do and how much you forget.
  • Take a jumper, a pair of jeans/leggings and a lightweight rain coat. It can rain or get cold on the other side of the world too, you know.
  • Take carrier bags for dirty washing.
  • Take a portable charger - sometimes a life saver.
  • Buy a waterproof pouch that goes round your neck for your phone. Protects it on the beach and can still use the touchscreen.
  • Put suncream on your scalp. A severely peeling scalp isn't fun. Or pretty.
  • Take 2 micro towels - one for showering and one for the beach. They fold up really tiny and dry very quickly. No worse combo than a damp sandy towel on a clean bod.
  • Buy a refillable water bottle in NZ/Oz as you'll save so much money on bottled water. The water there is safe to drink and it's important to stay hydrated.
  • Take paracetamol, ibuprofen etc. You will be hungover.
  • Download a currency converter app - it puts costs into perspective when you're spending money every day so you can determine if something is expensive.
  • WiFi is rubbish in Australia and New Zealand. Prepare to pay everywhere. Cheaper to buy an Australian/NZ sim card as it works out about 40 dollars a month (£20 ish) for calls, texts, data. Else it's 5 dollars every day. Or buy a WiFi dongle which will also save money.
  • Make sure your data roaming is off. You don't want to be returning to a hefty bill.
  • Hand sanitiser is a must. Everywhere.
  • Leave some money aside for when you return home. Even if you return to a job, you'll probably have to wait a month until you get paid.
  • Buy postcards or souvenirs wherever you go - they're nice memories.
  • Be safe - always stay together. It's an incredibly exciting world out there but bad things do happen occasionally. Have the BEST time but be sensible.

What A Year 2015 Has Been

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The older I get, the quicker time goes. I feel like 2015 has taught me how precious time really is and to be totally honest, 2015 has been the best year yet. Hand on heart I've met the best people and made the most incredible memories during the past 12 months and feel as though I've established myself as a person. By that I don't mean that I've got my shit together (far from it - I'm unemployed and I've got no money), but I just know what I want, what and who is important and I've got a rough idea of how to achieve what I want from life in the near future. Saying I've had the best year of my life isn't me boasting about how fabulous I think I am, because I don't think that by any means, but I think it's always good to celebrate your achievements and set goals for things that didn't quite work out as planned. You learn from your mistakes and I think a little yearly review works nicely as a roundup, especially to look back on when I enter 2017 to see what's changed and how far I've come - fingers crossed. I'm proud of what I've achieved and who I've become this year and there's certainly no shame in admitting that. I entered 2015 with three of my best friends in Amsterdam. We treated ourselves to a mini city break and had the funnest few days gallivanting around the city, seeing in the new year on a boat. After a very drunk and hilarious taxi ride home we did all the touristy stuff and I headed back to Uni a few days into January. The second term of University saw a lot of work and an intense news week as part of my course. Abby, Kate and I booked travelling which was super exciting and life turned into one big countdown until September. I turned 21 at the end of January and had a fab time celebrating with family and friends. I went for a gorgeous meal at Browns and saw Billy Elliot in London with my parents and sister which was probably one of my favourite things all year. We rarely get to spend time together just the four of us anymore so whenever we do, it's always special. The beginning of February was also celebration-worthy as I landed a spot as a contributing writer for Elite Daily which was a huge achievement for me. It made me relieve some of the pressure I put on myself and made me realise that you can achieve things with hard work and perseverance.

The rest of February was pretty work-heavy and boring from what I remember and Abby, Georgia and I spent Valentine's Day eating copious amounts of food and watching trashy films and TV. March was pretty much the same and I was working towards my Shorthand exam. The NCTJ qualification was part of our course and I'd worked my socks off since the previous October. Once again I proved to myself that hard work pays off as I passed my 100WPM exam and shortly after celebrated my mum's birthday at home with the rest of my family. April consisted of Easter Break but that didn't mean play time - it meant going back to work at home to get some money together while juggling my dissertation. May was very intense and stressful as I had deadlines AND got University results back. Abby, Kate and I did go for a little rehab getaway in Leeds one weekend which was a great stress-buster and we also enjoyed Sports Ball which is always great fun. In June we officially finished University and went to our last ever Ocean. It's a weekly social event we attended for two years with Dance which consists of a massive bar crawl in fancy dress, ending up at the grubbiest but funnest club called Ocean. It was ridiculously emotional and we all bawled our eyes out together while Take That - Greatest Day played in the background. University finishing also meant Last Day of Term so we all did that together and got drunk one last time to celebrate the past three years, and did the same at Grad Ball. While June was a lot of fun and we all went out all the time after all the stress was over, it was also incredibly nerve-wrecking getting results back. I'd never worked as hard on something as I did on my dissertation feature and I was desperately hoping for a high grade. I focused on male domestic violence and it became a topic that I was very passionate about. I got a First and I cried. It meant the world to me that my hard work had been recognised and whether I got a First overall or not, I was just delighted to have been awarded a First for my feature.

I also moved home for good in June which was a massive adjustment. I felt sad for days and it was really strange accepting the fact I'd never be at Uni in Nottingham again. It had become my second home and I loved the place and the people so much. But that's life - one door closes and another one opens. I went back to work at home and saved for travelling, so although I wasn't doing as much as I'd have liked to - July was a pretty incredible month. I started going out with my boyfriend who I'd been friends with for a while and things went from good to great. I went to see Ed Sheeran with Abby and Kate and then Kate and I went to EDC with Emily which was all in the space of the same weekend. It was one of my favourite weekends of summer because it was so much fun. We had absolutely no worries in the world and it was amazing to spend so much time with my friends. Our friendship group also spent the weekend in Leeds celebrating Abby's 21st birthday which again, was so much fun and so nice to be all together again. From what I remember (this is why I'm pledging to keep a journal this year so I don't have to rely on my memory which can be questionable at times), August was a pretty uneventful one. However, I did go to my boyfriend's auntie's wedding which was a pretty big step as I met the rest of his lovely family. We had an amazing weekend and it made me remember how much I love a wedding. September was a countdown at work until travelling and my boyfriend and I went away to Clacton for a long weekend with another couple from Uni - Alice and Alex. We had such a chilled few days by the seaside and it's always cute to do double couple things. September was super busy and super exciting as my sister got engaged. It still sounds weird writing it as it's one of those moments you dream of - your big sister's wedding. She's getting married on Saturday 4th August 2018 and I'm being bridesmaid which is super exciting. I also had my last day at work before going travelling with two of my best friends from Uni - Abby and Kate.

We jetted off for three months and went to Thailand where we started in Bangkok and island hopped around Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket before flying to Singapore. We then travelled up the East Coast of Australia before travelling around the North and South islands in New Zealand and spending 5 days in Fiji before a whirlwind 24 hours in Hong Kong before flying back to London for Christmas. I had the most incredible time and it was hands down the best experience of my life. I'd strongly encourage anyone considering travelling to seriously just get out there and see the world. It's such a beautiful place and makes you appreciate life and your loved ones so much more. I did more in 3 months than I've done in 21 years and it's made me even more determined to see more of the world. I jumped 14,000ft out of a plane over the Whitsundays, zipwired over the world's first bungy site in New Zealand, elephant trekked, scuba dived, snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef, held a koala, did The Challenge in Koh Phangan, held a monkey, drove a 4x4 on Fraser Island -  the world's largest sand island, sailed on the Whitsundays, did caving and tubing 60m underground in natural caves, dug my own natural hot pool and went horse riding along the beach in Fiji. Those are just the standout moments - there was so much more inbetween but I'm sure you understand what I'm trying to say. It was the most incredible end to an already amazing year and to top it off I spent Christmas and New Year with my family, friends and boyfriend. I've achieved so much in the space of 12 months which just goes to show that you're in control of your own life. If you want to do something, take the necessary steps to make it happen. It's not going to happen overnight but if your heart is set on something, don't give up until you've achieved it. Everything I've been lucky enough to experience and achieve in 2015 I've essentially made happen myself and that's something I'm not afraid to celebrate. I'm proud of how far I've come and the person I've become. My life is far from perfect but I certainly know what I want from 2016. With that in mind, I'd like to set myself some resolutions. It doesn't matter if some of them fizzle out halfway through, but it's nice to set yourself goals and see what you can achieve within the space of a year. It all depends on priorities and what's important to you. Here's what I'd like to focus on in 2016:

  • Lose between half a stone and a stone
    Whoever said you lose weight while travelling is a liar. Or doesn't eat. I put on about half a stone in 3 months which isn't bad, but combined with Christmas indulgence means I've got some extra skin I'd like to shed through healthy eating and exercise.
  • Drink more water
    I'm so bad at remembering to drink and can easily go until lunchtime completely drink-free. I know I'll benefit from drinking more water so I'm making a conscious effort to be a good girl and drink at least two litres every single day.
  • Learn about history
    I loved Geography at school which sadly means my history knowledge is severely lacking. It's actually very embarrassing how little I know about British history. So much so that I've put a British History for Dummies book on my birthday list.
  • Get a job with my degree I enjoy
    I'm going back to my old job part-time while I look for something journalism-related. I'd like to explore social media and PR so I'm open to options, but I'm looking forward to putting my degree to good use and getting a job I enjoy.
  • Be financially stable
    Travelling stripped me of every penny I owned. And then some. Having money again means I'll be able to pay people back and finally get back on my feet again. I've always been a poor student/poor traveller and it's time to earn an annual salary.
  • Start saving
    Once I've paid my debts and started chipping away at my overdraft, I'm going to start saving. Whether that's for a house or a holiday is yet to be decided, but at some point I'm going to want to move out and I'll definitely want a holiday.
  • Go on holiday
    Leading on from the last point it may be a little contradictory but we all have things we like to spend money on. Whether it's our hair, nails or a season ticket, my thing is holidays. I like to travel and it's never a bad decision to treat yourself.
  • Keep my bedroom tidier
    I was lucky enough to come home from travelling and move into my sister's old room which is full of glossy white Ikea furniture. I also have the desk of my dreams (Ikea Malm Desk - yep, it's the makeup drawer one) and I'm determined to keep it tidy.
  • Grow my Mac lipstick collection
    Not all resolutions have to be adult and boring, do they? I've always liked Mac but I've recently fallen head over heels for their matte lipsticks. I only currently own Yash (personal fave), Velvet Teddy and Ruby Woo but that will change this year. Whirl is my next victim.
  • Be more grateful
    We're all guilty of taking things for granted sometimes and the other day highlighted this for me. I was moaning about my smashed iPhone screen while people's homes were being flooded. I'm going to make an effort to count my lucky stars more often.
I've loved 2015 and in all honesty, 2016 has a lot to live up. The next few months are very daunting as I'm fully committing to adult life and being a big girl after running away from real life for a few months, but it's also very exciting. Here's to a happy and healthy new year!