Saturday 25 July 2020

Bring Your Instagram Feed Back to Life

I'm sure that over the past 4 months, many of us have spent a considerable amount of time scrolling, refreshing, scrolling, refreshing. Following the same 100s of Instagram accounts and viewing the same 1000s of posts and stories can certainly start to get boring. It's so easy to build an engaging and dynamic feed by making considered choices when choosing who to follow, and yet often we still find ourselves scrolling through a long, lifeless, repetitive feed. 

So if you made your Instagram account back in 2012, and simply have not unfollowed a single account since, have a cleanse and get rid of those 50, 100, 200 accounts that you have no interest in following. I'm not saying unfollow all your friends and mutuals, meme accounts and celebrities - if you enjoy humour on your feed or like to keep up with what your favourite celebrities are doing, then that is justification enough. I'm talking inactive or spam accounts, fan accounts from when you were obsessed with Twilight/One Direction/Harry Potter back in the day, people you have had one conversation with 5 years ago but just continue to follow out of politeness. Simply, unfollow accounts that do not add any value to your life or your feed. Instagram algorithms mean that we do not actually view every account's content anyway, so what is the use in filling your feed with meaningless posts? 

In finding new pages to revive your feed, think about what you are interested in and follow accounts/pages that fuel your interest, whether that's makeup artistry, history, or cooking. Following things that are relevant to your hobbies and interests, your career, or your goals, for example, are all going to improve your Instagram experience.

It's crazy how much we can just scroll and scroll without actually thinking about the content we are viewing, let alone whether or not we actually like what we see. As it has developed, Instagram has become so much more of an art form and creative outlet - everybody is different, but I'm sure others will agree that it's about so much more than just seeing your friends' photos. On my feed, I want to see bold colour and cool graphics, career tips, news and politics, delicious food, I want to follow blogs and join communities - I want to be interested every time I load the app.

Putting the time and effort into freshening up your Instagram feed my seem like a bit of a chore, but it is absolutely worth it! So to finish off, these are my top 10 of recently followed accounts within the last 4 months. (Oh, and maybe follow mine whilst you're at it... @rosiecossins)

Politics, current affairs & updates
  • @shityoushouldcareabout
  • @soyouwanttotalkabout
  • @simplepolitics

Uni, careers & comunities
  • @unigirlsnetwork
  • @galswhograduate
  • @girlsinmarketing
  • @thefemalehustlers

  • @webottomlessbrunch
  • @beautifuldestinations
  • @beautifulcuisines

What are your current favourite Instagram accounts? ♥️

Thursday 9 July 2020

I Opened My Eyes in the Middle of October

As I type, my gaze flicks between the words I am writing, and the downcast view from my window that tints my room grey. My fingers are pressing the keys as quickly as the rain is falling - rapidly but thinly, like a multitude of sharp little needles. The needles are so thin that when my focus shifts, the rain turns into a drizzly mist. The air is calm and silent, reminiscent of a crisp October evening. 

Not quite the description you would expect considering we are a week into July, when evenings should be muggy and thick with mosquitoes, and we don't mind too much because the heat will soon enough disappear and we'll be back to wishing for long warm nights. 

There is some serious pathetic fallacy going on in the UK right now. A few weeks ago we hit 100 days of lockdown - a number that was never anticipated back in March when lots of people were thinking they'd still be able to fly out to Marbs at the end of May after Boris Johnson had single-handedly eradicated the virus. With each week of lockdown that slips by, so a downcast mood spreads across the UK like the grey clouds through my window. Realistically, if we all had time machines to just take us straight to January 2021, to a date that is hopefully looking a little less covid-y and a little more mingle-y, we wouldn't have missed out on much more of a summer than we're missing now. Whilst more and more summer activities, like going to the pub garden or catching a flight abroad, are slowly becoming allowed again, there is no sense of normality attached.   

But even though the weather has been so dreary and downcast for the past week, maybe it's been a blessing in disguise. The more grey days, the less mass gatherings, the less pub garden trips, the less beach crowds - the less chance of a second wave. We can also forget the pandemic for a day, because now it's the weather stopping us from hosting a big garden BBQ or going on a beachy day out - not the risk of contracting the virus. 

I am really not a sun worshipper anyway, so I never mind too much when another summer of sunniness but not stickiness rolls around. But there is just something about the weather tonight that really makes me feel as though I blinked and opened my eyes in the middle of October.

Saturday 27 June 2020

Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting an English Degree

Don't let the title of this post fool you. I love my degree, and I certainly know that I made the right decision to do English at Birmingham, but if I could go back and give past me some tips for starting out, then I definitely would.

I may as well start at the beginning. I remember being sat in my first ever 9 am lecture on a Monday morning off the back of a night out the Sunday before (and still planning to go out again that Monday night, as freshers continued into the first week of term!), having not read the text. Up until that point, I hadn't properly registered that I should have. Naturally, the lecturer was speaking to us in great detail about it, making references to lines I had never read and characters I had never met. I also had my first seminar later that afternoon in which we were actively discussing the text, so you can imagine that that was even worse. This is probably something that goes for all degrees, rather than being specifically English, but yes, you are just thrown straight into working. There is no 'introduction to the text and then as a group we will read a chapter a week up until we finish the book at Christmas'. NOPE. You are expected to be up to speed from the start, particularly as you may cover something in week 1 and not return to it until exam season or when writing an essay several more weeks into term.

It seems fairly obvious, but there is loads of reading on an English degree; way more than at English A-Level. Of course I knew that going into my degree, but it wasn't necessarily something that I took seriously until I found myself actually doing the reading. During sixth form, I covered 3 poems, 3 novels, 2 plays, and my coursework texts across 2 years. In year 1 of university, I was reading roughly 2 texts a week and 1 a fortnight, as well as secondary materials and essays. In year 2, I read 3-4 a week, and secondary reading doubled. So I wish I had known that as an upcoming English undergrad, you need to use your summer to exercise your reading habits and abilities. You can't go from reading nothing to then reading 2+ texts in a week, still managing to absorb all of what you are reading and keep on top of your seminar preparation, research, commitments to societies and sport, etc.

Purely to save disappointment, I wish I had known that there is actually less freedom with choosing your modules than you may initially think - and this won't just be with English or just be at Birmingham. Often when you attend university open days, you are handed a leaflet offering a huge variety of exciting modules. Great!, you think, and immediately start mentally listing your top 10 from this list of 50. BUT, the reality is that you may only be able to pick 4 modules from the list (or maybe not any in your first year), and that actually, you can't do all 4 of your choices anyway, because they all come from the same category from which you are only allowed to pick 1. It's like picking your GCSE options; you may have had to choose a subject from each box in order to have a well rounded combination, though it may not have been your ideal combination. 
   There has to be some structure to ensure you are getting a thorough degree, which I completely understand now. However, this isn't always understood when you are a prospective student, eyes gleaming with the thought of being able to tailor your degree exactly how you want to. You can't just trundle through three years at university doing whatever you want; you will do modules you don't necessarily love, and you will also end up studying topics you thought you would hate, but come to appreciate.  

None of these things make you a 'bad student' for not realising or not picking up quick enough; I really don't think there are many university students who couldn't say the same, whatever degree they are doing. The first couple of weeks of your first year of university are a huge learning curve for every fresher. It doesn't take long for you to be whipped into line, so it's really not to worry if your first week ends up being a bit more overwhelming than you had anticipated. 

Saturday 20 June 2020

How to Make the Most of Deferring a Year Due to Coronavirus

Thousands of students all over the UK may be faced with the dilemma of either choosing to continue straight into university education after their A-Levels, or to defer a year and wait the pandemic out so that they can have the full university experience. 

As much as parents or teachers who have already been to university (and have made the most of their experience!!) may tell you that university is just about getting a degree, it is also about so much more than that. Many people will still choose to go to university this September, and that is brilliant, but it is also absolutely fine if you know that it is not the right choice for you. University is expensive, and you want to get the most out of your experience. Missing freshers week, not visiting the places your new city has to offer, completing your entire first year online, and only making friends with people via your course group chat only to then hate them when you meet them a year later in real life does not come under The Best University Experience.

So if you are planning to defer, there are many things you can do over the course of your year to help you stay focused, motivated, and to keep your academic 'muscles' exercised, so that you are ready and raring to go the next September. Here's how to answer: 'What's your plan? You can't just sit around for a year!' 

There are now more courses and webinars online than ever before as a result of covid-19 and the move to online learning and working. You can take advantage of these during your year to begin learning and building upon a lot of skills that might prepare you for university and post-university. These courses may look brilliant on your CV, and are not something you would necessarily have time to do whilst at university, anyway. Future Learn and Inside Sherpa are two examples of platforms hosting a range of online materials and courses. As someone who is interested in marketing after graduation, I have recently discovered the Girls in Marketing community. As well as offering cheap or free webinars, they also feature a courses section on their website, providing a mixture of their own and others' marketing courses. You may not be interested in marketing, but my point is to highlight that if you are able to join communities based around your degree subject and areas of interest, then quite often this can point you in the right direction towards further resources.

Alternatively, you could create your own project or piece of research. I know the capacity for doing this would vary from subject to subject, but thinking myself as an English student, it would probably have been quite easy for me to undertake some work towards finding out more about a period or style of literature I was particularly interested in. It wouldn't have to be anything intense or professional (you're not writing your dissertation yet!), but conducting your own research could be a good way to spend some time if you are deferring for a year, as it will maintain, or initiate, your abilities to understand and interpret information, your awareness of key terms and phrases, your ability to undertake research towards a project or essay, and will demonstrate your commitment to something you are interested in. You could end up loving what you do so much that it influences your choices of modules in later years of university, or even your final dissertation topic. Similarly, if you don't like the idea of committing to a whole project, simply reading as widely as you can in your degree subject or potential career fields will never be time wasted.
   *Your ability to do this would be greatly improved if you have access to academic articles and archives on sites such as JSTOR. My secondary school didn't have access; during my A-Level education, I had access through a teacher's university alumni login. I believe there are loopholes to accessing academic content for free, but if you can, see if you can borrow someone's institutional access.

Tutoring could be a great option for many of the same reasons previously discussed; it would be stimulating, and provide you with a routine and a focus. Some virtual tutoring platforms, such as the Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative, do require tutors to have already started their degree, but there are lots of other sites on which A-Level students can tutor GCSE students and lower, such as MyTutor. It is highly likely that there will be an increase in demand for online tutors going forward, one reason being that students are likely to need extra support with their learning in the future, whilst their current physical learning has been disrupted, and another reason simply being that it is not currently possible for physical tutors to operate.
Getting a job may be easier said than done, as unemployment rates are currently high due to many people having lost their jobs as a result of covid-19. But if you are able to or need to, there is no shame in spending your deferred year working as a cashier or stacking shelves in order to earn some money - particularly if you are making a financial contribution to your family whilst spending an extra year at home. Your hard earned money will also be able to go towards your university living when you do begin the next year.

I think that most importantly, though, keep a record of it - whatever you do with your year. When you do graduate with a degree, you'll be entering into a highly competitive world, so I think that if you are choosing to defer for a year due to coronavirus, it's important to have something to show for it. Maybe even start a blog like this or a YouTube channel in order to document your experience, the ups and downs, what your year has taught you; a record of what you have been doing could be very beneficial to you in the future. 'Tell me how you used your time during the coronavirus pandemic', 'Tell me about a time you showed resilience in the face of challenge' could end up being coronavirus related future interview questions. 
   So it may not be the typical gap yarrrrrr in which you find yourself whilst back packing through Asia, but that's not to say you can't do something worthwhile and useful with it.

Saturday 13 June 2020

How To Do Your Uni Bills Yourself

Bills. The one word other than 'dissertation' that strikes fear into every student's heart. Maybe you've clicked on this post because you have yet to sort out the bills for your shared student house for the upcoming university year, and you're unsure where to start. Or maybe you're one of the lucky ones whose landlord sorts it for you, and instead you've come to gloat. 

But I'm here to tell you that sorting out bills is not actually as dreadful as it sounds, and so you should probably just get on with it rather than putting it off. So if your bills are not included in your weekly rent (you should be aware of this, but contact your landlord or letting agency if you are unsure), you have two options.

Option 1. Purchase a bills package in which every member of the household pays a bills package provider (e.g. Glide) a combined payment of your water, WiFi, dual energy, and TV license. You can easily get a free quote; I did one just now on Glide, and based on my house for the upcoming year, I had a quote for £12.26 per person per week. However, be wary and do your research into these different packages. They sound like a stress free, hassle free option, but I have heard about people then being asked for large extra payments due to 'overusage' at the end of the contract.

Option 2. Do the bills yourself, no packages involved. You are a lot more in control of your bills with this option, though of course this requires trust that everyone will pay what they owe each month. This works out at £8-£10 a week, and whilst this is not a lot of difference per week, Option 2 can save you about £100-£200 a year per person when you do the maths. This is the option my house choose for the university year just gone, and it's what we'll be doing for our upcoming final year, too. I will be focusing on only this option for the rest of this post, as it is what I recommend.

So, as discussed, as a university student, the three bills you will be paying monthly are water, WiFi, dual energy (gas and electricity). You will most likely also be paying a TV license, which will be a one off payment at the start of the year when not part of a bills package. Ignore anything to do with council tax, even if you receive letters in the post regarding payment. If you are a house entirely made up of students, you are not eligible to pay council tax. (One non-student, however, will make you eligible).

In my house this year, three of us volunteered to take the three different bills. I took on the energy bill, and so I cannot give as much information regarding water and WiFi, but these two are both cheaper and easier to manage than energy, so there is less to worry about. (Important to note that our water was not on a water meter, and therefore we were just charged a fixed amount each month). So if you are doing your bills yourselves,
  • Choose who will be responsible for each of the three main bills.
  • For each of the bills, get a few different quotes from suppliers to find out how much the bill will be per person per month. (Or just stick with whoever currently supplies the house!)
  • Have all members of the house set up a standing order to each 'bill person' for the amount of money owed each.
  • If you are the 'bill person', you have to remember your own payment towards that bill. Your housemates are not paying the entirety of the bill to you between them.
  • The money will be taken from the 'bill person''s account by the supplier each month.

If you are taking on the energy bill, there are some important things to remember. 
  • If you are switching suppliers, and your house contract starts at the beginning of July like mine, then go, go, go! The switch does not happen over night; my switch to Octopus Energy in my new property, for example, takes about 17 days.
  • Locate where your meters are in the house; our electricity meter was by the front door, but the gas was behind a box in the front downstairs bedroom, and took us a while to find.
  • Take meter readings as soon as possible - on the first day of the tenancy if you can be there. This will save you a lot of hassle. My experience was made far more stressful due to the fact that the previous tenants submitted a massively incorrect gas reading at the end of their tenancy, which could have potentially cost us a lot of money. I was able to submit the early readings I had taken in order to resolve the gas dispute.
  • Following this, take readings monthly, and keep a record of them. Many suppliers will also ask you to submit them.
  • It is likely that your energy bill will stay the same each month, as it is based on an annual average. So you may use more energy than you are charged for over the winter, but this should balance out over the summer.
  • I would recommend everyone paying a bit more in their standing order than the monthly energy bill requires, and placing the surplus money into a spare account. Surplus money can then be used to settle any possible final payments after submitting the last meter readings, or can be divvied up and paid back to everyone. This means you won't have to chase people for money at the end of the tenancy.
  • Octopus Energy supplied my energy in the university year just gone, and we will be using them again for final year. If you are interested in Octopus, feel free to use my referral code when signing up. I've never used it before, but apparently I can 'split £100 with every friend who signs up with this link'. Referral code:

So as you can see, there are a few things to remember when sorting out your bills, particularly the energy bill, but I hope this post will have helped anybody that is unsure as to how the process works. It can seem like quite a daunting task at first, but if you and your housemates can all work together, it should be very straightforward!

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Making the Most of Lockdown: How to Get Your Motivation Back

Yesterday marked the start of our 11th week of lockdown in the UK. I desperately want to type, 'hang in there, we're on the last leg now!', but the reality is that no one really knows for certain how much longer we have in lockdown, particularly whilst the threat of a potential second wave and second peak looms. An unknown amount of time stretches before us, and the prospect of this is quite demotivating. Whilst some people may have found a new burst of energy in returning to work after a long time of either furlough or working from home, I know that a lot of those who read my blog will be my friends. A large percentage of my readers, therefore, are students like I am - probably without a job to focus on considering the fact that there are a lot more students than virtual internships, and that a lot of student employment comes from the hospitality sector. So in other words, motivation could be in short supply.

Overall, I have managed to stay quite motivated, and exercise is definitely something that helps me. I am not exercising as much now compared to the beginning of lockdown (the novelty of home workouts is starting to wear off), but I do still enjoy the post-workout endorphin rush. I also find going for a run really refreshing, particularly if I manage to get up and go whilst it's still cool and before too many people are out. 
   If you are struggling with lockdown because the days seem so long with nothing to fill them, taking an hour to go for a dog walk will bring you one hour closer to the next day. It can be a lot harder to find motivation to 'do something', such as exercise, reading, taking online courses, self teaching, etc., if there is no immediate pressing requirement for you to do so. I completely empathise with this; it can be very internally frustrating if you want to do something, or know you should be doing something, but sometimes just doing it is easier said than done if you're feeling down in the dumps.

The biggest thing that has increased my motivation and stopped me slipping into a rut is having a routine. I think routine helps me hold on to a bit of normality. My routine has been massively helped by the fact that I spend three days a week volunteering for For The Love Of Scrubs; my days do feel different to each other, rather than each week just feeling like one everlasting Sunday. Volunteering three days also means that for the four days I am at home, I am busier. However, routine can easily come from just doing daily exercise, eating meals at the right times, and getting up at the same time each day. I think routine and a healthy sleeping pattern kind of go hand in hand; I have a health and wellness light that I feel makes a massive difference to my mood, and helps me to get up in the morning so that I don't turn off my alarm. I have become a bit of a morning person in lockdown, and I think having energy first thing in the morning can really set the tone for the rest of the day.

If you find that you struggle when faced with lots to do, then the best thing I can suggest is keeping lists. Lists are the best things for planning your time, and definitely makes tasks feel more manageable if you are able to block them out over a month, over a week, or over a day. I keep one overall to-do list in my phone, and then, because I like to be as organised as possible, I keep a daily planner to-do list, in which I divide my tasks for the upcoming week/fortnight across each day. This really helps me to divide up my time and stay on it, and there is something about checking off your list or deleting things from the list that is really satisfying, so I think it's a good motivator. I honestly cannot live without my lists.

Motivation is definitely an individual thing, but personally, I find that the more tasks and activities I have to keep me busy, the more motivated I am. This definitely won't be for everybody, but I would say that for the past month, I have had something on my to-do list every day - even if that's just to finish my book and hoover my room. Having a rolling to-do list really keeps me focused; I know personally that if I were to take a week off and dedicate it to sleeping in till midday and watching Netflix all day, I would feel very sluggish and would struggle to find any motivation. That's not to say that you shouldn't still spend time relaxing and recharging as well - I really enjoy watching some TV in the evening, reading, or going on a socially distanced picnic. Some social interaction or a chat with your friends definitely can elevate your mood and make you feel a bit more human if you've been feeling a bit lethargic and not your usual self.
   I think when it comes to lockdown and motivation, the biggest thing to remember is just not to be too hard on yourself, and listen to your body. To make the most of lockdown, use the times when you are feeling energetic and uplifted to get things done, but remember not to panic or criticise yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed or demotivated. Often the feeling will pass, but also think about adopting some healthier habits if you are feeling demotivated more than you are motivated. ❤️

Sunday 7 June 2020

Ways to Support Black Lives Matter


Following the recent murder of George Floyd by the US police force and the riots and protests that have been happening across the states and the UK as a result, I wanted to use my own platform to speak up about racism, and the belief that it is only an American problem. As a white person, I cannot comment on nor understand the experiences of black people and the every day racism they endure, but I can educate myself about systemic racism, microagression, and white privilege - and use my voice and my words to educate others and be actively anti-racist, rather than passively not racist. Even if only one person reads this, that is potentially one more signature towards a petition supporting Black Lives Matter. 

I grew up in a very white town, and as far as I can remember, I had no black teachers or classmates throughout school. Of course I had always grown up knowing that racism was wrong, and I don't think I necessarily thought that racism didn't exist - it was more that I didn't think about race that much until secondary school, because my white skin meant that I didn't have to. There is a lot of racist British history that the British curriculum would prefer to keep hidden, and has meant that a lot of people's education in systemic racism is so lacking, or flawed. My year 9 history module, titled The Slave Trade Triangle, certainly was taught as though slavery and the mistreatment of black people was so far in the past that it had no real bearing on today - not to mention the fact that whilst Britain's role in the slave trade was discussed, it was massively downplayed, and deflected on to the US. If I'm being honest, the thing that initially made me the most aware of the fact that racism was still a widely prevalent issue was probably when I encountered novels that dealt with race (To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men) in my English literature lessons. A lot more of my awareness and education has come from studying English literature and history at A-Level, and through my own reading and researching as a result. But I know that I still have not read or learnt enough. 

There are a number of ways in which you can educate yourself further about black culture and history, colonial history, and white privilege. I have recently read Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which was very accessible and informative, and reveals a lot about Britain's own history of racism. If you're a student at the University of Birmingham like I am, you can access the e-book version of this book for free through FindIt@Bham here. (If you're a student from anywhere else, it is worth seeing if your institution offers e-book versions of texts like these). There is really no excuse to not be learning and educating ourselves on race when there is such a wealth of material online! 
   I also feel it is important to mention that, aware of the recent surge in demand for her book, Reni Eddo-Lodge recently tweeted urging people who are accessing the book online to donate the price of the book (roughly £7) to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, or to sign relevant petitions if financially unable. Posting a black square on Instagram is not enough; it really takes no time at all to sign a petition, and so I would urge everyone to do so if you have not already. I have linked the Justice for George Floyd petition here, and a petition calling for an education of systemic racism to be a compulsory part of the British curriculum here - of which I have signed and donated to both. But that is only two of a huge number of petitions that should be signed in order to contribute towards change; there are lots more you can access through Twitter threads, which only require a quick search and a tap on the link. Other free ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement is through 'stream to donate' videos on YouTube. All of the ad revenue from the video will be donated; all you have to do is stream a roughly hour long video, being sure to not skip any ads. I have linked one such video here, but as I said with the petitions, there are a number of others online that can be easily searched for and accessed.

I know that all of this information is widely available on the internet, particularly on Twitter, but I still felt it hugely important to share ways in which you can very easily support the Black Lives Matter movement towards ending systemic racism. Not that a level of ease should determine whether or not we support the movement, but the point that I am making is that how could you not support? When a petition takes 30 seconds to sign and 30 seconds to verify your email (do not miss this step, otherwise you will not have signed!), time and effort is not an excuse. I personally feel that my own awareness of race and prevalent racism came much later than it should have due to a lack of honest and thorough education in school, and so I am still learning and reading. I have already discussed that I am using lockdown to read widely, but I am committing now to reading a lot more by black and other minority ethnic authors in order to continue to educate myself in support of change. 

Tuesday 2 June 2020

What My Second Year of University has Taught Me

This Saturday, my family and I drove up to Birmingham to my shared student house to completely move me out for the academic year. Despite the fact that I do have some tasks to complete over the summer regarding dissertation research and third year prep, it feels as though my second year is now officially over. For a number of reasons, second year was a slap in the face. Like many other students at the University of Birmingham, I went from living in a leafy-green, safe, and friendly bubble called the Vale Student Village (an accommodation campus located within Edgbaston - a very affluent, attractive area of Birmingham) to living in an ugly tardis-esque house squatting at the end of a very very long road in Selly Oak, which is typically deemed deprived, unsafe, and unattractive. But despite all its ugliness, I do still have a soft spot for Selly, and it's a shame that I won't be seeing it at its best in the summer time.

My first two years of university have been so different, and for that reason, second year has taught me a lot of different things compared to my first year, education aside. Once you reach second year, time speeds up. You are no longer a silly fresher, and instead things have started to get serious. My second year has definitely helped me develop a mentality in which I am now thinking far more seriously about post-graduate life and my career. Overall, the year has also developed a lot of my resilience. For the most part, my first year was one big massive high, but second year has seen far more ups and downs, and a lot more challenges in the way of being responsible for your own learning in the face of UCU strike action and covid-19. 

But aside from the degree part, the most important thing that my second year at university has taught me is how to cook! I lived in catered accommodation last year, and so never had a real opportunity nor a need to cook. I had a card on to which meal money was loaded weekly, and so heating up a tin of soup on a Sunday night after using up all my money for the week was about as adventurous as my 'cooking' got. At the other end of the scale, I have made loads of meals this year; from simple sausage and mash or a vegetable stir fry, to more complex dishes like lasagne, carbonara, and a full Christmas roast at the end of the first term. And I'm pleased to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed it; my best friend and I cook together every night that we can, and this definitely makes it a sociable time to look forward to, rather than a chore. On the subject of food, second year has also taught me that you can absolutely do a one person weekly shop for about £17 or less if you shop sensibly. I used to go to Morrison's fortnightly in my first year (I shop at Aldi now), and could easily spend double that just buying a few basic staples on top of my meal card - yoghurts, fresh fruit, juice, milk, bread, a few snacks, etc.

This year has definitely also required me to step it up in the way of 'adulting'; for those living in student halls like I was in my first year, there is no time spent sorting gas and electricity bills, water supply or a WiFi package. I took charge of setting up the energy supply and bills for my house this year, which ended up being a much more difficult task than it should have been after the previous tenants of our house submitted a wildly incorrect meter reading at the end of their tenancy. Nevertheless, university is as much about the life skills as it is about the degree, so every experience is a worthwhile experience.

On a personal level, second year has solidified a lot of my strong and important friendships. Many people argue that you meet your real friends in second year, having made quantity over quality in first year friendships. I don't think this is necessarily true; a lot of my current tight friendships were close friends in first year too, but as you would expect, these friendships have just strengthened with an extra year. Naturally, this year has still seen some friendships run their course, simply because paths do not cross that often, or perhaps because we are not as alike as initially thought. The first few weeks of your first year of university are very intense, and are not real life compared to the rest of your university experience. It's totally normal to have let go of some people, and in the mean time to have met new friends as well as strengthened meaningful relationships with not-new friends.   

Now I cannot say that I enjoyed this final lesson, but second year has taught me that you can write half an essay in a night - and also that you should be uploading your work to a memory stick more than once a month! I know a lot of people are used to writing a whole essay in one night, but that simply is not me; I like to start early and take it slow. But anyway, not that I had much choice back in January when I was still writing at 3am after the file containing my essay corrupted the night before the essay was due.

Whilst I'm not sure what my third year will be like, as I am sure it will still involve a lot of online learning and social distancing, I hope it is a successful year from which I will learn a lot more. Whatever shape the final year of my degree takes, I'm hoping for an enjoyable and positive experience. I already cannot wait to be back with my friends and living back in Brum <3

Saturday 30 May 2020

My List of Betterment

One of the things that I have committed myself to doing during lockdown, is reading as much as possible. As I have no current required reading for my English degree and am now living a strange limbo between second and third year, I am extremely aware of the fact that for the rest of my degree, I will never again have the same chance to read as much or as widely in a number of periods and styles as I have now. Of course, university is educating me very rigorously in a variety of periods and styles, but for every 'university book' I read, there will be 2, 3, 4+ other books that I should also read, but that university has not required me to do so.

I have just finished reading Andy Miller's The Year of Reading Dangerously, in which Miller discusses the 50 brilliant (and the 2 not so brilliant) books that he dedicated himself to reading over a year. Miller, an editor working in London, decided to read these books having reflected on the fact that reading had lost its place in his life; there were plenty of books he wanted to read, as well as many that he only pretended to others he had read. From this birthed Miller's List of Betterment, compiling a selection of some of the books he felt he ought to read, in order to better himself. Whilst The Year of Reading Dangerously is certainly not the most riveting book I have ever read, for I am much more of a lover of plot-driven fiction (but this is all part of my challenge - reading new genres and styles!!), I am enjoying it. Although I have never pretended to have read a book I have never even opened, I feel I can relate to a lot of what Miller feels about his own reading habits, for reasons discussed above. Before I knew this book existed, I had unintentionally created my own List of Betterment by dedicating my spare time to reading as much as possible before beginning my third year of university. And so as my own experience has now intersected with Miller's, I felt that this was the perfect time to put forward my own List of Betterment, which begins with the beginning of lockdown, and has not ended yet.

There are so many ways in which I could have annotated and subdivided my List of Betterment; e.g., most thought-provoking, most easily readable, most boring, but to avoid unnecessary complications, I felt that the following four categories were the most important: 
  • (gp) = Guilty pleasure, rather than aimed at bettering. There are some other titles in this list that are not particulary 'literary', but if I enjoyed them, then I think they have contributed to my betterment.
  • (dt) = Degree text. I cannot take full credit for my List of Betterment; though books 1-3, 5, and 6 have bettered my reading, they were not my own personal choices. These are texts from my English degree that were either missed due to the sudden closure of term due to covid-19, or from weeks earlier in the year, during which lecturers were striking.
  • ** = Top 7 favourites from my List of Betterment. I decided that 5 favourites was not enough, but 10 was too many.
  • :( = A book I thought would be 'bettering', but sadly was not. Steer clear of it altogether. 

*Rosie's List Of Betterment (plus 5 university texts, 3 guilty pleasures, and 1 book that I thought would better me, but it did not).
1. The Child in Time, Ian McEwan (dt)
2. The Adoption Papers, Jackie Kay (dt) (a collection of poetry rather than a novel)
3. Zone One, Colson Whitehead (dt)
4. Keep You Close, Lucie Whitehouse
5. She, H. Rider Haggard (dt)
6. Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler (dt)
7. Queenie, Candice-Carty Williams **
8. The Secret History, Donna Tartt **
9. Lady Chatterley's Lover, D. H. Lawrence
12. The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker
11. Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
12. The Skeleton Cupboard, Tanya Byron **
13. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
14. Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens **
15. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
16. Normal People, Sally Rooney (gp)
17. The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood **
18. Delirium, Lauren Oliver (gp)
19. Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni-Eddo Lodge **
20. The Blank Wall, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
21. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant **
22. The Greek Myths: Stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold, Robin Waterfield and Kathryn Waterfield :(
23. Autumn, Ali Smith
24. The Year of Reading Dangerously, Andy Miller
25. CURRENTLY READING: Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver (gp)

Other titles I intend to read to better myself include Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If you wish to keep up with my future reading, or would like to know what else I have read since January, you can keep up with me on Good Reads!

Despite the fact that I was a typical bookworm child growing up, I can't remember the last time I read this many books over a given period of time. I set myself a challenge back in January to read 100 books this year, but I certainly didn't think that by now I would be on track and exceeding the target. The Year of Reading Dangerously was my 46th book of the year, and now I am on my 47th - only 53 more to go!

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Are We Really in Control of Our Successes?

We are told throughout life that we are in control of our futures; we are in control of our productivity; we can have anything we want (within reason) as long as we work for it. And whilst we are in control on some levels, there are so many ways in which we are not at all. In answer to my post title, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because I have been using lockdown to be as productive as possible in order to hopefully create future opportunities for myself. But also no, because ultimately I cannot control a global pandemic and all of it's repercussions. These unprecedented times (sorry to use the phrase everyone is sick of) show that to an extent, we are not as in control of our successes as we like to believe.

This was the year that I felt like I was really starting to get my life together; I had an internship secured for the summer break, and was ready to start revising for my second year university exams. The social media marketing internship that I had lined up at The Play House Birmingham is now cancelled for the summer, and it looks like I will only be able to undertake this at the earliest in October (university timetable permitting), if at all. I try to remind myself that all university students are in the same boat and that I have the rest of my life ahead of me, but when you are a year away from graduating, it's not much of a comfort. I don't have my whole life ahead of me to secure another internship or placement, I don't have my whole life ahead of me to get involved with new clubs and societies, and I don't have my whole life ahead of me to make myself extra-employable, when I need, or preferably would like, to be extra-employable in approximately 12 months' time. Because in a few years, I will be at a different stage in my life; this stage of my life is what will define the next, and is not something I can defer now that I am half-way through it.

But this is not a pessimistic post, more a thinking-out-loud one. The economic climate and the (un)availability of jobs after I graduate is obviously way beyond my control, but luckily I am in the position right now to try and improve my chances. On the whole, I have adapted to lockdown quite well, and this is not something I ever thought I would say, but I currently feel that I'm at the height of my productivity. I think that having university deadlines towards the beginning of lockdown has helped me stay on the ball. I have found many things to keep me busy and maintain a focus, including daily exercise, virtual internship applications, reading, voluntary work, and online courses. That is not to say that I am not productive at university, but whilst university can be the best time of your life, it can also be incredibly draining and unproductive. There are so many more things in a university environment that can affect your productivity and that are out of your control, whether it be a flatmate that decides on hosting a loud party two nights before your essay is due, or the WiFi going down across the whole of the student suburb for the best part of the day. University for me is as much about the life experience as it is about getting my degree, so I normally spread myself quite thinly over lots of activities and commitments during each term. But now that my university assignments are completed, I have a huge break, so I am doing my best to take control of it. 

We can definitely make choices to influence our productivity and our successes; I know that choosing to exercise in the morning can really boost my mood and my productivity throughout the day. But ultimately, we do not have absolute control over our successes and the extent to which hard work will come to fruition. There are just some things you cannot control or prepare for, and I think that is a healthy thing to accept.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Best of Brum: Bars & Booze

The sunny weather we are experiencing in the UK right now is making me want nothing more than to be back in Birmingham sipping on a delicious cocktail. I have seen a lot of people building back garden bars and developing their own 'quarantinis', but making my own cocktails is something I have yet to try. This could be quite a long post, so I'm going to cut to it. Here's the run down of my favourite bars in Birmingham.


- Pricing: average of £7-£9 for a cocktail
- Location: very central; close to many other bars, restaurants, and hotels. Near to the bullring shopping centre, new street, and new street train station. An attractive and bustling area of central Birmingham.

My number one bar is one I only discovered at the end of January this year, and, having left Birmingham two months later due to coronavirus, I have not yet been back. I look forward to when I can again!

As you can see from the name and the photos above, The Botanist themes a lot of their drinks around plants, from the ingredients within the cocktails, to the garnishes and decorations that complete them. The quirky glasses are similar to those you would find at a bar like The Alchemist in terms of the sciencey-laboratory image. This trend is really popular right now, and though it does often come with a price tag, it's a nice touch and will make your visit feel that little bit extra. The Botanist is definitely cheaper than similar competitors if you are looking for a bar of this sort of style.

My friends and I went on a Thursday night having submitted our post-Christmas essays, and it was really busy. There aren't many places you can go on a Thursday night in central Birmingham and not find a lively, busy atmosphere. Even in January!

The only thing I would change about this bar is perhaps the addition of a Happy Hour; you'll see as my list continues that Happy Hour is a fairly common feature among other bars. Having said that, the drinks were at the cheaper end of the scale, so I didn't mind too much.


- Pricing: Dropshot offer a range of drinks packages, which you can view on their website, linked above. Drinks can also be bought individually, though I cannot be sure on pricing as I visited the bar with my university netball club and we were kindly provided with discounts and deals for the night. Information about booking is also provided on the website.
- Location: Digbeth, a less attractive area of Birmingham, but one that is developing and has a lot to offer. Digbeth hosts a thriving night life, and is home to the Custard Factory, the O2 Institute, Digbeth Dining Club, and a range of bars and clubs - some of which are situated in transformed warehouses and railway arches.

Unfortunately I have no pictures to show, but this was a really cool bar, and unlike anything I have seen before. This bar is less about the drinks (I believe they did sell cocktails, though none of these really caught my eye, so I opted for vodka and mixer), and more about the entertainment. Dropshot holds about four full size table tennis tables, table football, table curling, and a large TV displaying live sport. The idea is that you get involved with all of the entertainment and games they have to offer, whilst drinking. They also serve pizzas and chips, which I think is a great idea for satisfying the alcohol munchies. 

This bar was so much fun, and I felt it to be really unique having never seen a concept like this before. I'd really recommend Dropshot if you're looking for something a bit different to change up your usual night out.


- Pricing: average of £9-£11 for a cocktail, BUT Happy Hour means you can get two of the same cocktails for the price of one.
- Location: Brindleyplace is a beautiful area of Birmingham that holds many different bars and restaurants at a range of prices and styles. Brindleyplace sits next to the Mailbox on the canal side, and backs on to Centenary Square, which is a very attractive and regenerated part of the city centre home to the Main Library, The Rep Theatre, hotels, and businesses. I have also been to the Slug & Lettuce in Harborne, though I would recommend Brindleyplace for its appearance and its comparatively central location.

A lot of people label Slug & Lettuce as a 'nice' Wetherspoons, but I think this does the chain a disservice. I really like this bar, and I think it's a brilliant one if you are looking for a wide variety of alcoholic drinks, including yummy, flavoursome cocktails. The inclusion of Happy Hour(s) also gets extra points from me.

Slug & Lettuce is a fairly big chain with bars in many different towns and cities, so it may not necessarily be the first bar you want to visit if you are coming to Birmingham. But I would argue that it's a worthwhile choice! In particular, the location is a reason to come to Slug & Lettuce; Brindleyplace is one of my favourite parts of Birmingham (pictured in the last two photos above), and is absolutely gorgeous in the summer time.

Slug & Lettuce is always busy due to its popularity, so if you're going from Thursday-Saturday, you probably won't manage to get a table unless you're there before 8/9pm at the latest. However, that may not be so important to you if you are going for the fact that it turns into a mini club with a dance floor as the night draws on.


- Pricing: average of £9-£10 for a cocktail, BUT like Slug & Lettuce, Happy Hour is normally much more than an hour, and means you can get two (any two, I think) cocktails for the price of one with the cheapest being free. The last time I went to this Dirty Martini, Happy Hour was also the entirety of Sunday. 
- Location: Virtually round the corner from The Botanist. 

I have been to Dirty Martini on a few times now, and it's definitely a firm favourite. The drinks menu is huge, and offers a variety of colourful cocktails with all sorts of interesting ingredients, not just the classic martini. There is guaranteed a drink for every taste-bud, as there is a helpful grid in the drinks menu informing you of the drinks that are fruity or spirited, and sweet or sour, as well as where they lie on the spectrum. I particularly like the dragonfruit and pomegranate martini, which is described as 'tropical and tart'.

Dirty Martini is famous for it's neon wings, which have become a popular backdrop for a photo in order to mark your visit. Other than the wings, the interiors of this bar are also gorgeous. With dim lighting and intricate wall designs, stepping into Dirty Martini feels like stepping into a 1920s Gatsby party.

I have never been to Dirty Martini on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night - only Sunday or early in the week. It's been fairly quiet whenever I have been, except for when a function was taking place in the upstairs mezzanine. 


- Pricing: average of £9-£12 for a cocktail
- Location: Beautiful Brindleyplace. There is also one overlooking St Philip's cathedral, near The Botanist and Dirty Martini, though I haven't been.

You can't go to the Alchemist without ordering 'the colour changing one'. Unfortunately I have no photos, but it is a cocktail that bubbles and smokes, and, yes you guessed it, changes colour. It also has a delicious apple flavour, so it's as much about the taste as the aesthetic! 

With a place like The Alchemist, you are certainly paying those couple of extra pounds for the experience of colour changing drinks, smoking drinks, and drinks that arrive in fancy bottles, test tubes, and beakers. For that reason, it's not a place I would go to regularly or for just any old night out, but it is a really lovely place to go for a special occasion, or if you have not yet experienced the novelty. The food served is also delicious!

I have only been to The Alchemist at dinner time on a Wednesday evening. It was quiet, though I imagine it's busier at night, and particularly so at the weekends.

So that concludes the best for bars and booze in Brum! There are so many other bars in Birmingham that I haven't been to, but that I would love to soon in a post-coronavirus world. These include Cosy ClubAlunaBe At OnePitcher & Piano, and The Lost and Found. What are your favourite bars in Birmingham, or anywhere in the UK for that matter?

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Sydney Romantics Branding, Design, and Marketing Course: Brand & Authenticity

Sydney Romantics Sydney Romantics Design & Branding Virtual ...

I am currently completing the Sydney Romantics online design, branding, and marketing course, which I have accessed through InsideSherpa. You can access this course 
here, or if you would like to browse other courses offered by InsideSherpa, click here. The course is comprised of four modules, with the first two exploring brand and design, and the third and fourth modules focusing on developing social media marketing and community engagement skills.

This blog post is the final piece of module #1, ‘Brand and Authenticity’, which focuses on three main areas; brand positioning, brand analysis, and brand communication. Task brief: ‘Choose a brand that you identify with, and create a YouTube video or blog article reviewing your nominated brand. Discuss the work that they do, and why they inspire you’.

For this task, I have selected ASOS, which is an online British company selling clothes, accessories, and shoes – as well as homewares and cosmetic products. One of the reasons why I love ASOS, and why I have selected it for this task, is because there is something for everybody; ASOS has a huge range of clothing styles and designs, qualities, materials, and a brilliant range of price options, from affordable collections to more luxury brands. ASOS kind of functions like an online department store in that they sell over 850 brands, several of which include their own: Collusion, ASOS Edition, ASOS Made In Kenya, ASOS White, ASOS 4505, and ASOS Design - ASOS Design is my favourite of them all.

I chose ASOS for a number of reasons, and in this post I will consider both my personal reasons, in terms of the way I like to shop, as well as reasons surrounding global impact, sustainability, and ASOS's support of smaller brands. Starting personally, the main reason why I chose ASOS is simply that it is my favourite place to shop, and pretty much the only place I shop! I even end up buying things from ASOS when I am not intending to :) I also have to shop primarily in the tall section, particularly when it comes to the jeans/trouser/skirts department. At 6"2, I have much more limited clothing options, so I rarely ever buy clothes from a physical shop, hence why ASOS is my go-to. I know that more and more brands are focusing on developing tall ranges, but many brands still have yet to actually get it right. Too many times, I have ordered tall range trousers from other brands, only to find that they are still coming up as a pair of ankle swingers, or if they are long enough, then they disappoint in other areas, such as the rise not being high enough to button up the trousers properly without pinching. But 99% of the time, ASOS gets it right, so I know that without this brand, I would really struggle to buy affordable clothes that fit me properly!

On a wider level, I really love that ASOS stocks a lot of smaller and more unique brands, rather than focusing on just other big brands. One of my favourites is Regal Rose, which is an online jewellery store that produces very different but very beautiful, often edgier pieces of jewellery. After discovering the brand a year ago, I have purchased Regal Rose on ASOS, and since purchasing through ASOS, I have gone on to buy more jewellery directly through the Regal Rose website. I definitely don't think I would have found this business if it wasn’t for the fact that it was stocked by ASOS, which I think says a lot about the importance of large companies supporting and stocking smaller brands.

There is no denying that ASOS is a fast fashion brand, but I think it's important to acknowledge the work that they are doing to improve their sustainability and their environmental impact. Recent work includes ASOS’s new responsible edit, which allows you to shop more sustainably by featuring clothes that are ‘environmentally conscious’. You can now also filter clothes by 'responsibility', which I think is a brilliant addition to the site's filtering system. This gives customers the opportunity to shop for clothes containing sustainable fabrics, or for clothes that are made entirely of recycled materials.

In 2018, ASOS also announced a ban on the selling of mohair, silk, cashmere, and feathers in all of their products by the end of January 2019, in order to rid animal cruelty from their brands. Following this, ASOS also launched a sustainable fashion training programme, which provided their designers with training that considered the whole life cycle of the product, in a bid to reduce the drive of creating more products constantly. The fashion industry, ASOS included, still has a long way to go, but I thought that these developments were a really important step towards improving ASOS's ethical and global concerns. Read more about ASOS’s moves towards creating cruelty free, environmentally conscious fashion, as featured in Vogue: ASOS-ban-sale-of-mohair-silk-cashmere-feathers & ASOS-sustainable-fashion-training-programme.

This sums up the central reasons why I love the ASOS brand, and why I have chosen it for this task. This blog post completes the end of the first module, 'Brand and Authenticity', for the design, branding, and marketing course hosted by Sydney Romantics. 


Saturday 16 May 2020

Ditch the Detox: Why it's OK to Stay Connected on Social Media During Lockdown

I have seen many people discussing the idea of lockdown as an opportunity to disconnect from their phone, and reduce the time they spend on social media. Equally, there are lots of articles circulating the web that also heavily promote this digital 'detox'. Instead, I want to write about the importance of staying connected - or to word it better, why you should not feel guilty if you choose to stay connected and active on social media during lockdown. I want to make a quick disclaimer; of course, lockdown is impacting different people in different ways. Social media and hyper connectivity may be detrimental to some people's mental health, and this post is not attempting to invalidate or dismiss that. But as somebody who loves using social media and interacting online, I want to discuss from a more general perspective, why you should not feel guilty if you take pleasure in continuing to keep connected during this time.

I feel that now, despite the fact that it is fairly common knowledge that most people rely heavily on their phone throughout the day (whether this be for work, to answer emails, message friends, google a new word or concept, scroll through social media), there is still a lot of taboo surrounding high phone usage, and in admitting that we are checking social media and staring at our screens 'more than we should'. When was the amount that we should be using our screens ever determined, anyway? If you google 'social media detox lockdown', there will be hundreds of articles telling you why you should be stepping away from screens 'now more than ever', followed by the same regurgitated suggestions that you may want to try going for a walk or reading a book. It's a bit absurd that the underlying suggestion is that it is not possible to do these things whilst retaining a healthy and balanced relationship with social media. I feel that the term 'detox' immediately negatively associates social media with the idea that it is toxic, draining, and unhealthy. Of course, social media can incite negativity, but I think that there is also a tendency to forget the joy, the humour, the love, and the interactivity that social media provides. In ramping up the obsession with the need to digital detox during lockdown, perhaps this is conditioning and shaping the point of view that lockdown can only be a depressing time, and one that will be inevitably worsened by social media. It's a bit of a paradox that it is always the internet telling us that we need to detox from the internet. Perhaps we are more obsessed with the constant feeling of guilt for using our phones regularly (and therefore with feeling that we need to detox), than we are with using the phones themselves. This may be a bit of a reach, but I do think it is important to rewrite the narrative that social media is a happiness drain. There is no reason why a healthy and positive attitude towards social media should not be encouraged, rather than perpetuating the idea that it is not possible to stay connected and stay happy at the same time.

For those who are furloughed, or students, etc., lockdown means that we have all the time in the world to dedicate to reading, baking, exercising, and completing online courses, so why step away from social media and using our phones now? Particularly if it brings you so much pleasure, and enables you to appreciate the littler things in life by uploading a photo of your freshly baked cake to your Instagram story. 

The age old argument is that social media is damaging, because 'we only see the best bits' of a person's life. Whilst the latter is true to an extent, it is arguable that now, nobody has any 'best bits' to share, because nobody is living a filtered life in the middle of a pandemic and a national lockdown. And yet, people are still engaging with these platforms. I love that social media allows me to still see my friends and keep in touch with my family. I can stay in the loop with what people are up to and how they're feeling, without even directly contacting someone. And if I am missing my favourite faces, I can see them at the tap of a button. I really think that in this time I would be struggling more without social media - not because I am a phone addict that desperately needs a detox, but because I would be without the pleasure that social media brings to me. 

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Webinars: Embracing the Rise of Online Working & Learning

I am sure I am not alone in saying that the coronavirus lockdown in the UK has had me googling and learning some new words and phrases - 'what is furlough?' definitely will be somewhere in my search history. Today, 'Zoom' and 'zooming' are phrases that we use as much as we would have once said 'Pub' and 'yeah, town was packed last night'. It's interesting to think about how much our vocabulary and speech has changed in the event of this pandemic, as much as our physical behaviours (increased caution, distancing, sanitising), and our ability and attitudes towards working from home have.

A few weeks ago, I was emailed by the university careers department regarding some optional webinars (an online seminar, and therefore more intimate and more interactive than a big lecture or class) provided by the careers team, focusing on developing networking skills, using LinkedIn effectively, and working towards career goals during lockdown. Of course, webinars have always existed before lockdown, but it certainly wasn't a word or a concept that was on my radar; if I have to miss a lecture or a talk at university, I have the option to listen to a recorded, non-interactive version, but now through zoom meetings and webinars, live interactivity is happening online rather than face to face. I knew I wanted to give these webinars a go, but having never participated in a webinar before, I was a bit nervous - simply because I had no idea what to expect for the session and what may have also been expected of me. I also had no idea who else would be attending the session, and the idea that they would have a view into my bedroom was naturally a bit alienating. (In the end, participants' webcams were turned off, leaving just the host and their shared screen, but I had not expected this). I always say that I love to try new things and embrace challenge, but that does not mean that trying new things is not sometimes a bit intimidating. Arguably, turning on your webcam and attending a zoom webinar may not seem to be a 'real' challenge, but I think if it's new to you, then the sense of the unknown can make it a challenge. 

After the webinar had ended, I was so pleased with myself for having attended it that I had a mini endorphin rush, and immediately made a note to attend the next week's webinar, and following that, started planning ALL the changes I was going to make to my LinkedIn, ALL the online courses I wanted to do in the coming weeks, and ALL the changes I wanted to make to my blog in the process of restarting it. I ended up really enjoying the webinar, and I found it super useful and insightful in terms of how I could really maximise my time in lockdown, and the things I could start doing in order to begin building an online network from home, and so came away from the session feeling really motivated. Yes, it may be just a webinar, but I knew I wanted to share this with others who may be feeling a bit demotivated by the length of lockdown time stretching before them, and slightly put off by the thought of trying something they have never done before. I think this has certainly improved my attitude towards trying new things; if you don't try, you'll never know, and the not knowing what you might have missed out on can become very frustrating. I am an avid lover of social media, and I love connecting and interacting with people online, so I'm not sure why I had built doing this into such a big thing - I can only put it down to a bit of lockdown-overthinking, which I am sure we have all done during this period! Essentially this is my long-winded way of saying that sometimes the scary and new things turn out to be the most rewarding. So I cannot stress this enough, whether this is you deciding to also attend a webinar, or something totally different, just do it!!!

But this experience has also got me thinking more broadly, about online learning and how we have so quickly incorporated the use of platforms such as Zoom and Skype into everyday work. This has of course been discussed by many others, but lockdown really is highlighting that not everything has to be conducted in person. Of course, as humans we are hugely sociable, co-dependent, and probably would become miserable if everything was online in a world where lockdown becomes a permanent, black-mirror-episode reality. But we should be able to find balance when we return to normality - i.e. by increasing the number of meetings conducted online or via email, particularly if people are commuting purely for a single meeting, which is poor for the environment and incredibly inefficient.
   At university, if my seminar tutor is ill or unable to conduct the session, it more often than not is cancelled, and not rescheduled. Whilst this does not happen often, that is not to say that it does not have a large impact on studies; as is typical for English degrees, a book is studied per week per module, with a new text introduced the next week. If a seminar is cancelled, then a large amount of valuable knowledge and discussion is either abandoned, or it is up to the student to attempt to replicate their own seminar based on an online handout that is only provided 50% of the time. But, of course depending on the reason for absence, why can't it be rescheduled and conducted online? More often than not, a lack of rescheduling is due to timetabling and rooming issues on the university's end, but if a seminar is transformed into a webinar, this massively reduces these issues, significantly increasing flexibility. Lockdown has shown that these things have always been possible, but just never implemented. (I still love you, UoB). Hopefully we can all take this with us as and when we return to normal life, adapting our behaviours and our styles of working and learning, embracing the online world and the flexibility it can provide.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Long Time No Type

Hello hello hello! 

I'm wasn't really sure how to start this post, as I've been away from my blog for three and a half years, but I think I shall just see where my thoughts take me. I never intended to stop blogging, but I feel like everyone goes through that phase at the age of 15 of wanting to become a full time fashion and beauty blogger, and whilst that becomes a career for some people, it was a hobby that ran its course for me. So now I have decided it's time for a refresh and reboot! As you can see, I've given my blog a bit of a re-brand, and moved away from the alias of 'rosalynwrites' to just my full name; I wanted to create a more personal and upfront image, as well as have some consistency with my social media @s. I have also spent a bit of ££ and invested in a new domain name, and bought myself the Culture Shock template from Pipdig, which I absolutely love! 

Since my last blog post - a Zoeva eyeshadow palette, very 2016, of course - I have completed my A Levels, and have almost finished the first two years of my English degree at the University of Birmingham; my second year has sadly been cut short by coronavirus, with exams cancelled and all my learning moved online. I can definitely say that in this time away from blogging, my love for writing has not fallen away, but that it has grown and hopefully improved! It's no surprise that as an English student, I am always writing, and additionally, my best friend and I have started producing content for the food and drink section of the university newspaper, Redbrick, as of this year. We have a shared love for cooking and experimenting together in the kitchen of our house that we rent with four other girls, and so wanted to document this collaboratively! Self-promo alert, but I have actually created a small shortcut on the right tab of my blog that will take you to our most recent Redbrick article, should you wish to have a look. My enthusiasm for this was definitely one of the things that got me thinking about restarting and rebooting my blog.

I am trying to use this lockdown as a period of positivity and time out, to reflect and really focus on the things and activities that I both enjoy, and that will serve a long term purpose for me. I am hoping this blog will be both! Whilst I am sure a lot of my coming content will focus on lock-down related themes such as online learning, social media, and simple pleasures such as reading and cooking, I also want to use this space to document and write about topics surrounding university life, travel, what I am passionate about - and I'm sure many other things that I have not thought of yet now that I have become so used to living within a quarantine bubble. That is not to say that I will never discuss makeup and beauty ever again, but for now I am exploring a new direction, and it is one that I am very excited to get blogging about. 

I am also super keen to begin building/re-building my blogging network, so please feel free to leave any comments on this post, even if it's just a hello!, or follow me on Bloglovin' - I'm actually having a few issues with my Bloglovin' account right now so it looks a bit scatty but I am still aiming to be very active on there! The link to my Bloglovin' profile can be found along with the rest of my social media icons on the right hand tab.

If you got to the end of this post, then thank you for taking the time to read - I realise updates can be a bit boring but I felt this was needed to fill the gap before I begin blogging 'properly' again. Watch this space!!

Lots of love, Rosie x

p.s. if you would like to know how I've been spending lockdown so far, hopefully these pictures can provide a nice summary...

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