Thinking Back to Freshers

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Good Evening Readers,

You may be wondering as to why I have returned to this topic as it is something that I have written about in some detail over my three years of writing. None the less, as my time at Bishop Grosseteste comes to an end and I am left thinking about my experiences at this university, it is natural to think back to my Freshers week and all the exciting experiences that happened there! Therefore, for one final time, let us revisit the beginning of my journey at university.

We shall start at the beginning, shortly after my friends and family had left and I was sitting in my university room alone. There I was, in a place that I barely knew with an entire year in communal halls ahead of me. Barely knowing anyone – apart from those I’d spoke to on social media and wondering what to do next.

As I sat there preparing for the first next of Freshers which was to be a ‘white t-shirt party’ I started doubting whether or not I should go out or not. A part of me wanted to stay in and just be alone in my room and process everything – which, in my case, would have been a unhealthy decision. However, a friend persuaded me to go out and therefore, Freshers begun! I’ll be honest with you, I cannot exactly remember the first night of Freshers. I remember alcohol; music and a lot of signing peoples t-shirts (a t-shirt which still hands on my wall today!). Then waking up the next day with the ulmightiest of hangovers.

This first night consisted of making friends, swapping numbers and discovering people off my course and so on and so fourth. It was a good first night of Freshers. Now, on the second night of Freshers, I did not go. Why? Simply because I did not want too and thought I’d chill. So, in true student spirit, myself and a newly made friend stayed in, had a cup of tea, ate biscuits and watched the Lego Movie – all in all, a good night. Therefore, one of my messages here, if you do not want to go out and drink during Freshers, you do not have too. You can bond with your flatmates and get to know them without drinking. No one will judge you. Do what makes you comfortable! (I did miss Wild West night though, how sad!).

The following night was ‘Geek Night’. I did attend this event. Again, drinking, dancing and bonding with new people. I feel as though Freshers can be summorised with these words to be honest. Following this there was ‘Frat Party’, ‘Pub Quiz’, ‘Silent Disco’ and then finally ‘Freshers Ball’. Therefore, as you can, my SU had arranged a variety of different events to attend and out of all of them, I only missed one.

My Freshers experience was a generic one if I am being honest. It was fairly stereotypical. It had a lot of alcohol, dancing, making friends, making memories, taking pictures and the occassional bit of drama – because let us be honest, drama never ends. No matter what age you are. (Ironic as I study a Drama degree). Freshers is definitely an experience in itself and should not be something to fear at all. Especially when it comes to a fear of drinking, because as I’ve established (and at this point, I might just get it tattooed on my body) you DO NOT have to drink during Freshers so please (please, please, please) do not feel as though you have too or feel pressured into it.

Freshers is the start of your univeristy journey and although there is many stereotypes around this ‘crazy’ week – I have ‘hopefully’ debunked a lot of those for you in previous posts. Freshers can be experience in a variety of different ways and enjoyed by everyone, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Your SU will host a number of different activities and ways to get involved and meet people and so on. Just do your research and find out what they offer! Also, do not fear. Everybody is in the same boat when starting university and there will ALWAYS be people who feel like you – whether you believe that or not.

There we go, that brings this article to a close! This was the final time I shall revisit the story of my Freshers and it gives you a final, brief overview of what my Freshers experiene was like. Freshers 2017 is fast approaching for you prospective students and you have a whole lot of excitment ahead of you. Embrace it, enjoy it and have a drink on me! (Even if it’s a cuppa!).

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Lee Carnihan – How to Create the Perfect Home Studio on a Budget

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The rise of social media as a shop window has been a blessing for countless numbers of student performers across the country. Finding a new band member by watching their YouTube videos is much easier than putting flyers out across campus. Building an online audience is great for demonstrating your popularity which will help with getting gigs and who knows, if the right person sees your video, fame and fortune could be waiting for you.

But let’s not get carried away. If you are keen to start recording music rather than just playing a few requests at parties, you are going to need a home studio. It might sound like a challenge to set up a studio in the bedroom of your student house, but don’t let limited space and budget stop you.

While the development of home recording technology has been remarkable, the cost of assembling a professional standard studio can still be prohibitive. Using this simple guide, you can join in with the fun, defy your budget and make a slick, professional sounding track at a fraction of the cost of renting a studio.

Of course, your style of music will have a huge effect on what equipment you will need. Recording a full band as live would demand a plethora of microphones as well as space and sound proofing, meaning it isn’t suited to a budget environment.

However, if your passion is electronic music or you play solo, you will be sure to get a great sound from this type of setup. Likewise, if you are prepared to spend the time, this studio is ideal for multitracking and experimentation.

Vocal microphones

If there is one area of your home studio that you will need to spend money on, it is the microphones. If you have the best equipment in the world and a cheap microphone, your final mix will only ever be as good as that weakest link. Senior theatre sound technician Robert Hearn explains, “Great results are about investment ultimately. Buy cheap and it won’t last. It is far better to invest at the signal end with a better mic and high-quality cables. Not only will your recordings benefit, but the equipment will last for years to come.”

To find a balance between quality and keeping costs low, a USB microphone is the obvious choice for vocals. Most offer good quality and, as it can connect directly to a computer, it doesn’t require an elaborate audio interface, saving you a huge amount of money. 

Recording instruments

With the vocals dealt with, a simple USB interface will allow you to record your guitar or piano with ease. A basic device can connect a guitar and a microphone to your laptop, cost less than £100 and still offer incredible results.

Electric instruments can be plugged in directly and you might think it is as simple as that, but when you listen back to your blistering solo, it might sound rather flat. Adding a microphone to capture the sound in the room will restore the vibrancy and character that you heard while you were playing.

You could pay thousands for an elaborate room microphone, but as home recording grows in popularity, there are now plenty of high-quality microphones that are designed for smaller budgets. They might still be expensive, but as long as you do your research, you should be able to get something perfect for your setup.

Soundproofing

Let’s be honest, without a dedicated studio to record in, most of your time will be spent in a part of the house that is probably not designed for creating musical masterpieces.

It might seem like an elaborate step, but soundproofing can be as simple of fitting foam panels to the walls, or having them stand free. They can make a huge difference as Duncan Geddes, Joint Managing Director of Technical Foam Services, explains, “By using a range of high performance polyurethane foam and melamine foam tiles, sound waves are absorbed, reducing reverberations and echo on recordings, making a real difference to the quality of the sounds you can achieve from a home studio setup. The tiles can be cut to a variety of surface profiles, such as pyramid, egg-box etc., which further improves the absorbance of the sound and also makes the acoustic tiles more aesthetically pleasing.”

MIDI

I know I said that you wouldn’t be able to record drums but that doesn’t mean they can’t be on your track. Toontrack’s EZ drummer series offers hundreds of virtual kits that you can edit on your laptop. All of the individual drum hits have been professionally recorded so, while the drummer might be virtual, the sounds are all real.

Putting together a drum track can be a laborious task, but with a little determination, the result will be as good as having someone playing in the room, with the added bonus of not having to spend time with a drummer or annoy your house mates or neighbours!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a secret lurking behind slick productions people have made in their rooms: a lot of the instruments aren’t real. MIDI instruments are entirely software and offer everyone the chance to add sweeping strings, mournful horns, or even choirs to their acoustic guitar strumming. Like the drums, this can be mapped onscreen but if you control it with a simple MIDI keyboard, you can “play” the strings with a few basic chords.

DAW

Using a computer to record, mix and produce requires some serious software. The range of digital audio workstations (DAW) available is vast and, frankly confusing with lots of technical terms that can baffle anyone. Depending on how much budget is left, there are really two options.

Avid Pro Tools is the industry standard for recording and editing. It is an intimidating piece of software and requires a fairly powerful computer setup, but if you aren’t intimidated it can do almost anything you will need – if you are prepared to put the time in to learn. While the basic package is expensive, there are often student discounts or monthly plans available, making top end software much more attainable than it might have seemed at first.

By this point you might be running low on budget. A more stripped back option for digital editing is Audacity, a free alternative which has most of the key features you might need including multitrack recording. It’s not as flashy but, it makes it easier to get your home studio up and running. After all, you can always upgrade later.

So, that’s the recording done. You’ve got all of your track in the DAW and it just needs some spit and polish for the final mix. This can be done in Pro Tools, but for a more economical alternative Goldwave is an outstanding piece of software. From clearing hiss and pops, to adding noise gates and effects, you can make sure that your final track is gleaming.

Blood, sweat and sound

Congratulations, you’ve done it! Hours of sweating about that slightly off-beat cymbal and countless takes to fix that duff note nobody else will ever notice, you’ve got your studio up and running and you’ve made your first track. Now go forth and conquer YouTube with your own brand of techno-funk, orchestral metal or Ed Sheeran covers.

 

 

Being a Student (My Personal Truth) – Part Two | THIS IS ME

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Hello readers,

Obviously this article is a continuation of ‘Being a Student (My Personal Truth) – Part One‘ – which you can find linked. In that article I began the first part of a two part article on being a student – but my own personal truth about being one, my experiences and all. Showing a slightly darker, gloomier, stressful side than is painted in general. Therefore, being honest about the life of a student.

Now, this article is some what a continuation of that but I’m about to get real personal about ME. No, not just the experiences I’ve been through and the things I’ve learned from it and advice – this article is going to be a complete and utter truth about ME. ME as a student and what I feel on a daily basis.

TRIGGER WARNING – THEMES: ANXIETY, STRESS & MORE

NOTE; Everything I am about to write is completely ME. I am not saying that I’m the only one that feels this way or that my problems are worse than others – I’m just covering what it’s like on my side, through my eyes.

So, to start, I’ll recover some things quickly. You ALL know (well, those of you that have read a majority of my articles) that my journey through university has been a rollercoaster, I have had both good and bad experiences and learnt a lot along the way in that time. Also, in the end of my Second Year, I got diagnosed with anxiety that led to me having a very difficult summer, that then led to counselling at the beginning of Third Year. Caught up? Awesome.

I write this article because in the last week and a half, I have been suffering with pains in my stomach and issues a long those lines – I have been to the doctors and fingers crossed everything is okay. However, though in reality, I ‘know’ I’m okay – my body does that understand. See, my anxiety is also joint with Health Anxiety – therefore, I overthink EVERYTHING with my body. After nearly a week and a half of stress and other situations going on in my life, it all became too much and last night I had a BIG anxiety attack, I hadn’t experienced one in a long time. I thought it was the end – I thought it was an anxiety attack – it sounds silly but I was literally pushed back by the force of it and followed to say goodbye to everyone out loud. Silly? Oh well, this is me!

So for me… an average day is as follows;

Imagine waking up and having a ‘good’ couple of minutes of being in that ‘dozy’; sleepy and comfortable state. As you rub your eyes and bring yourself too, you are fine and then everything hits you – all your small anxieties, your worries of your day, your stresses of the day before and everything like that – it hits you like a tonne of bricks to the face and exhausts you instantly as you realise you aren’t as happy and carefree as you thought – well, you are, but your body doesn’t like to let you think you are.

Anyway, that’s me waking up.

Upon waking up my mind instantly begins to focus on EVERYTHING it can about my body. Every weird sensation, every weird pain and growl and all of that. It begins to boil over within a minute about EVERYTHING I could have wrong with me. Then my first Google of the day – I Google things such as ‘Bowel Cancer’, ‘Pancreatic Cancer’, ‘Stomach Cancer’ – everything is CANCER, CANCER, CANCER – that’s all my mind can focus up. To understand me, know that everyday I think that ‘today is my last day on earth – I will die today’ and it’s not silly things like going out side and getting hit by a car, something 100x more realistic – but no, I think about the germs and everything that could be destroying me inside. Once this initial over-reaction is complete, I Google things like ‘Anxiety Symptoms’, ‘Indigestion Symptoms’ and so on – more rational things to calm myself. I continue with my day, trying to ignore the shaking that occasional happens or my heartbeat that feels like it is trying to hammer it’s way through my chest and make a break for it or the vein that throbs in my leg, or the stomach ache that never seems to wake or my mind that never seems to settle. This is just my morning – this will go on. I worry about going to lectures or various situations because I think of EVERY single thing that could go wrong whilst in my lecture – ‘what if I pass out in lecture?’; ‘what if I have a heart attack in lecture?’ and ‘what if everyone laughs?’ are some of the things that go through my head. I get to lectures and sit there – panicking over something happening but pushing through, trying to get my attention to focus on the lecture.

I come home and the morning routine repeats, my body focusing on the little things, me Googling away my symptoms convincing myself that I must have at least three types of cancer and something else that should mean I should be dead already – but no, I’m fine. That’s what I have to tell myself.

I try and shift my attention, I try and focus on university work. I try and write an assignment but I can do it too quickly – if it’s a good day (because what I am talking about here is a bad, BAD day and they rarely happen – however, the feeling of impending death is always there) and therefore, I finish it quickly and have nothing to distract myself. I try and lose myself in a film or a TV show because that’s my favourite thing to do but I just find myself wishing my life was life that or comparing it to situations in my life. I waste my time – I don’t push myself. Well, it’s in waves – sometimes I do. I’m social and have fun and don’t let it bother me because I AM FINE but then others I want nothing more than to be in my room and ignore the rest of the world and just not move so my body has no reason to do anything silly.

Therefore, on top of all I have mentioned going through my head – I am trying to balance a social life and my university work and attempting to find a job – so that’s all fun.

I’m trying to keep people happy as well. This is the first time I’ve really opened up about this publicly so it’s weird but yeah, I try and keep people happy and avoid talking about me because ‘what if they don’t understand me?’, ‘what if they make fun of me?’ and ‘what if I push them away because of it?’ – these questions echo around my head – so,  I just keep telling myself I AM FINE and carry on. I feel like all these things ruin me and sometimes, I’m desperately trying to hold onto people because I don’t want them to walk away because they think this is an accurate representation of me. My anxiety is not me – it is a separate entity. I am not my anxiety and even if it wins every now and again and controls me, it will NEVER own me.

So, all in all, I’m juggling a lot – university and the work load and pushing myself to lectures, work and trying to find a job, a social life and trying to maintain friends and relationships and then juggling… well, me. Like I said, this is a really, really bad day and sure, when it’s a bad day, I’m really low but when it’s a good day, I’m higher than high. I’m on top.

Also, I wear my heart on my sleeve and having all of this, and my overthinking, it ruins me – it ruins things. Good things and I hate that. I overthink situations and try and make them work when I don’t need too – they are fine. Nothing needs to be done about them, then I overthink other situations and don’t do anything when they aren’t fine and I should do something. I try and continually bow down and make things work and overthink when I should just accept the days as they come, love deeply and truly and just enjoy everyday.

ALL of this, is in my head. It’s inside me and over the past six months, I am winning. I am beating it but every now and again, it gets back to me and ruins things – ruins me and I find myself looking for my strength again.

But, what I will say is this, you should know and I do know, I AM FINE. I am strong and I will keep pushing. There are people that care for me and know me and they support me and that means the world – but I AM OKAY. I AM GOOD.

And that’s me. That’s me as a student and everything I’m trying to juggle.

This is my personal truth and one, that is now live on the internet. If you do manage to read this and you suffer from anxiety, or anyone for that matter, just know something that took me a long time to realise – you ARE NOT ALONE.

Be honest, be kind, enjoy everyday and remember, YOU ARE STRONG.

 

Lee Carnihan – A Few Good Tips for Students Buying a Motorbike

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As a uni student, you’re probably on a budget (definitely on a budget) and if you can’t afford a car but still want the freedom and independence from owning some form of transportation, a motorbike might be your best option.

The benefits

Firstly, motorbikes are usually cheaper to buy and run than cars. Take for example, the Suzuki GS500. Known as a fantastic bike for beginners, the Suzuki GS500 is small but powerful and “gets great gas mileage”.

If you’re interested in buying one, you’ll be looking at anything between £1000-£2000 depending on whether you’re buying used or new. Not only are these reliable rides fairly cheap, they’re also good looking and nippy, so they’ll get you where you need to go in style.

By law, you have to wear a helmet. A basic helmet should cost you around £30-£40 and will give you the protection you need. Even though a full set of riding leathers isn’t a legal requirement, it will protect you from injury, especially if it includes body armour. Falling off a motorbike at 30mph “will rip through normal clothing” and you could end up seriously injuring yourself or worse, which is why it’s best to invest in some kind of protective clothing.

A set of leathers offers excellent protection, but this would to set you back £700+. Instead, you could invest in textile protective clothing – made from Kevlar and ballistic nylon for example – because it’ll be a lot cheaper and still provide a very good level of protection. You can also upgrade textile protective clothing and wear body armour, so you’ll receive even more protection.

Motorbikes are usually cheaper to insure than a car, and they’re also extremely fuel efficient, whereas filling up a car costs a lot more.

Other than being one of the most affordable vehicles to buy and run, motorbikes are nothing if they are not fun. Nothing can beat the freedom and exhilaration you gain from riding through the open air.

Motorbikes are great if you’re on a budget and you want the freedom that comes with owning your own transport. But there are also times, where you’ll wish you had a car…

The drawbacks

Two words – helmet hair. It’s unavoidable. Just make sure you carry a comb with you at all times!

Storage is also a major problem with motorbikes. Unlike a car, which has a boot, a motorbike is very limited. But there are ways around this. You can attach objects onto your motorbike with “straps, bungees or other retention methods”. As long as the object doesn’t “impinge on your ability to comfortably control a motorcycle” you should be able to carry almost anything.

Safety first

Fashion faux pas and storage issues aside, whether it’s rain, snow, or sweltering heat, you can’t avoid the elements on a bike.

There are some very real dangers to be aware of when riding in extreme weather, especially the heat. Even if there’s cloud cover, you should always take regular breaks on long rides and carry a bottle of water with you to rehydrate yourself.

Dehydration can creep up on you and seriously affect your awareness and ability to control the bike safely. And of course, riding in the cold brings the risk of black ice.

The best advice is to always check the weather and check your bike before you head out.

Persuading your parents

One of the major problems you’ll have to tackle before even thinking about buying a motorbike is persuading your parents. They’ll undoubtedly share their concern that the ‘roads aren’t as safe as they used to be’.

However, there’s a lot more awareness around motorbike safety than there ever was. For instance, the number of motorcyclists killed and seriously injured in the UK has fallen since 2008, “when 493 motorcyclists were killed and 5,556 were seriously injured on Britain’s roads”.

This statistic has lowered immensely due to increased awareness, but the number is still high which is why there are further precautions that you can take to ensure your safety (and to keep your parents’ minds at rest): further skills training, wearing the right gear, and choosing the right helmet.

Choosing a bike

Mopeds are not very powerful, but they are ideal for travelling short distances. With an engine capacity of 50cc, a moped’s “top speed will be restricted to 30mph so it’s no good for faster A-roads”. But if you’re wanting to travel long distances, then you’re going to need a more powerful engine.

In this case, a motorbike would be perfect for the job. But there is another option: the scooter. Scooters are so named due to their vintage design, and can have an engine capacity up to 700cc.

Dealer or no dealer – used or new

Buying from new can be expensive if you buy the bike outright, but there are ways around this. For example, leasing a motorbike is more affordable because the monthly payments can be low and usually, no down-payments are required. Plus, major repairs are often covered by a warranty, however, maintenance costs are not covered. Besides, if you buy or lease from new, you’ll get the peace of mind knowing that this shiny, beautiful, brand new bike has had no previous faults and no previous owner.

Buying from new outright can be expensive, so if you’re on a budget, it’s usually better to lease a motorbike or buy used. Buying used will be a lot cheaper and you could end up with a great deal. As long as you know what you’re looking for, you won’t end up with a piece of worthless junk.

Key things to look out for

You’ll be needing a bike with low mileage, preferably below 20,000m (this may seem like nothing for a car, but for a motorbike that’s quite a lot). You’ll also need to check for signs of an accident or a drop by looking “at the condition of the brake and clutch levers, bar-end weights, straightness of the bars and instrument cluster”. Make sure you check the fuel tank for corrosion or rust. And don’t forget to check the visible frame: there should be no visible damage including any dents or kinks.

Getting qualified

If you’ve got a full driving license, then you’re legally allowed to ride a moped (50cc) without needing to take the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) test. The CBT is a mandatory test that you’ll need to pass if you want to ride a motorbike up to 125cc on the road.

If you don’t have a full licence, you’ll need at least a provisional to take the CBT test. All riders have to pass the theory test before taking the motorcycle test. Once you’ve passed the theory test, the practical test, and gained the CBT certificate, you’re good to go.

 

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

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Happy New Year readers!

Here we are, in a New Year! We’ve left the horrors and hardships of 2016 behind us and now have a brand new start ahead of us – who knows what it will hold. For myself it holds my last ever semester at Bishop Grosseteste University – my last term of Third Year. It’s a surreal experience if I’m being honest – three years has flown by and I feel like I’ve got whiplash from it.

However, this is something I repeat over and over – in all of my articles.

So! In a lot of my articles over the past year I’ve talked about a lot of topics and a lot has happened, I’ve also achieved a fair amount… it’s been a good year for this blog.

As I go into my final term at university, I’m going to attempt to document the final few weeks of my experience and draw this blog to a close BUT I can announce now that the end of this blog will NOT be the end of JustGeorgeJ. As of two days ago I applied to do an MA Drama specialising in Playwriting at University of Lincoln – therefore, when my ‘undergraduate’ blog ‘closes’ (even though it will always still exist and I’ll still do advice articles) a new ‘masters’ blog will open up that will document my experience through that and so on and so fourth – therefore, there will be content from me still being produced for a while.

ALSO; as of a couple of days ago I took on a job on a website called ‘Tutora’ – basically meaning I’m now a tutor and I have control over how much I charge, subjects I teach and hours I can do; SO, if you are in the local area of Lincoln and need tutoring – have a look at my profile page here.

Obviously, if you’ve been reading this over the past two years, you’ll understand that I have a lot of side projects which I undertake – one of which being ‘The Student Room’ and helping out on there which I should be getting back too over this weekend, so, if you’re a potential student and need help, head over to that website! I’ll be there! Even if you’re a current first, second or third year student – head over and create an account and offer your wisdom!

I have got a few articles in the pipelines that should be released over the next few weeks so keep your eye out for them, ALSO, remember that you can be a Guest Writer on my blog – if you’ve got articles you want to share, just get in touch with me at: justgeorgej@outlook.com – I’ve had a lot of interest this past year and a lot of articles that have been posted, get involved!

I look forward to posting new content soon,

Again, Happy New Year guys!

Is Work Experience During Uni Actually Essential? | Beth Pembrook – Guest Writer

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If we’re all honest, work experience is often viewed as a bit of a waste of time by a lot of students. A simple tick of the CV rather than an actually life developing experience or gaining career insights. A week or two spent making cups of tea and sorting out filing cabinets that make young people dread working life rather than look forward to it!

A big question that hangs over the whole ‘work experience’ notion is, is it actually worth it? A tick on the CV and potentially improved job prospects aside, many students don’t actually think that they will gain much from in terms on knowledge while they are on placements.

Many of us heading into work experience placements tend to assume that we won’t be given particularly important jobs to do, or worry that we might be over-loaded with boring, mundane tasks.

However, work experience is definitely worthwhile in the current climate. Gone are the days of being sat for 8 hours a day sealing envelopes or fetching someone’s lunch for them! In recent years companies have started to use work experience placements to their advantage, meaning they now allow work experience candidates to do some real worthwhile tasks. This means that most placements will actually throw you in at the deep end and get you fully involved.

If you are not completely sure about what career path you want to take, then work experience is something that should definitely be considered. For a start, if nothing else, a work experience placement will give you a taste of what a standard working day is like. You’re likely to be treated like a temporarily employee in a professional environment and be given assignments just as if you were a fully-fledged employee there.

Also work experience gives you the opportunity to meet people in the field your studying in. You can ask them any burning questions you may have about your potential future job, and they can give you some top tips about how to get into a competitive job.

Placements aren’t just there to encourage you to do a job, but also to learn if a job isn’t for you. One of my friends at uni went on a hospital work experience placement in South East Asia and realised that her life-long dream on being a Doctor actually wasn’t for her when she started feeling increasingly nauseous around any blood! While she was gutted, and did enjoy here placement abroad, it saved her 8 years of training and studying for the wrong job. By the same token, another friend of mine undertook a work placement at a PR firm because it was the only one that accepted her. Despite being in an IT course at uni, she loved the work experience so much she decided to pursue a career in it!

You should be open to all opportunities that come your way at Uni. Sadly, having a degree doesn’t just been that you’ll get a job – you need to stand out from the crowd. If you do end up having a placement somewhere that is pointless – aka: glorified tea make – then so be it. It will still look good on your CV and you can just take another placement somewhere else!

Lee Carnihan – 5 Ways To Make Your Student House A Home…

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… without breaking the bank.

Your hard work has paid off and you’re on your way to university. While your social life is going to improve and you are sure to get an excellent education, living away from your parents for the first time could easily see a dip in other areas.

Up until now you have enjoyed creature comforts, cooking and laundry service that come with living in the family home. Suddenly you are on your own and you may well feel like you are out of your depth. When you arrive at your new digs, chances are the walls will be magnolia, the worn carpets will be showing the spills and scuffs of years of use.

The landlord is not there to make this an attractive place to live, that’s your job. Brand new carpets and curtains might be out of your budget and you may well be lacking the flair and inspiration of an interior designer, but don’t panic! Help is at hand.

Here are five ways to create a home from home on a small budget:

  1. A burst of colour

It is amazing what a transformative effect a splash of colour can have on a room. Simply repainting a single bedroom wall can create a fresh feeling that makes an otherwise cold space feel warm and homely. It is also quick, easy and much cheaper than redecorating the whole house.

As with any big changes to the house, it’s always worth getting in touch with the landlord first. Most will not object if your colour choices are tasteful. An added bonus is that a lick of paint will hide any marks or nail holes left in the walls by previous residents.

Feeling creative? Painting a section of wall with whiteboard paint is a great use of space for leaving notes memos and messages for yourself and your more forgetful housemates.

  1. Keep it in the family

If you have a lot of pictures from home, there is a very simple way to display them without taking up precious surface spaces. By looping a stretch of hessian cord around your walls and pegging up some photos, you can display all those pictures of your pets, friends and family very quickly and easily. If it is just a few very special photos you could arrange them on your wall or, if you prefer to avoid manual labour completely, simply allocate them a space on your desk.

  1. Pristine plants

Having plants in the home is always a good option. They bring colour and energy to any room and are a simple way to add style to a busy house. However, in a busy house it is not unusual for them to become neglected. If you don’t have the time for watering, pruning and re-potting between lectures, essays and parties, it might be worth considering another option.

Pick up some affordable artificial plants and you will be amazed by the number of people who can’t tell the difference. They look great all year round and only require quick dusting now and then to maintain their no so natural beauty.

  1. Create your own style

Another great way to fill in bare walls are posters and pictures. Quicker and easier than painting, it will hide any blemishes just as effectively. Canvases, framed pictures and even postcards dotted around will instantly bring personality to any space with minimal effort.

A very cost effective way to construct an interesting display is to collect some wallpaper samples with attractive designs and frame them, giving you a quirky take on a feature wall at a fraction of the cost. Samples can also be used to bring tired furniture back to life.

Wall transfers have become increasingly popular way to decorate a student house. A quick search on Pinterest will turn up all kinds of ideas and very soon your room could be encircled by a forest or city skyline. The best thing about transfers is they are easy to remove so committing to one design is never an issue.

  1. Hide what you can’t fix

Chances are the chairs and sofa in your new student digs will be older than you are. It’s not worth worrying about what they have gone through to earn those tatty corners and worn out covers. After giving it a quick clean, all your sofa will need is a charming throw and a few cushions to restore its former glory.

Similarly, threadbare carpets merely need a colourful rug strategically placed over the worst parts and you can spare your guests the horror of what lies beneath.

You really don’t need to spend a lot of money to turn your student accommodation into a home. With a few simple purchases and some creative thinking, you can transform the whole house and hide those well-worn blemishes.

Lee Carnihan | Secret Santa for Cash-Strapped Students

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Christmas presents.jpg

By the time Christmas comes around you will have spent months away from home and settled into the strange dynamic of sharing your living space with several similarly hungover and poor house mates. There are so many great things about being a student but Christmas is right at the top. It’s a great excuse to let go, relax and throw a series of spontaneous parties with your house mates.

Sure, this group aren’t perfect but they are your new family. Working with them to decorate the house on a shoestring budget is sure to be a great laugh. Well, until you come home with a box of faulty fairy lights from the pound shop.

Once the decorations are up and lectures are coming to an end there is the difficult situation of deciding who will get presents begins. It’s too expensive to buy for everyone but it could make things difficult if you just buy for your closest friends and leave someone out, so why not instigate a house Secret Santa? This way there is a set budget, everyone gets a present and you only need to buy one! Perfect!

Of course, in any group there will be some people you like more than others. At this time of year, you can get away with practical jokes in the name of Christmas spirit, so why not take this chance to get your own back on anyone who has wronged you with a joke gift? Just don’t forget to record it so you and the rest of your house mates can laugh at their shocked expression over and over again!

Secret Santa may sound like a cheap way to buy gifts for everyone but it can add up very quickly. By keeping these simple pointers in mind, you will be able to dazzle your house mates with amazing gifts and still have some cash left for New Year’s Eve.

Try not to go crazy

Set a price limit that everyone can afford. A fiver? A tenner? Whatever it is, make sure you’re all ok with that. Yes, it might be the season of goodwill, but you don’t have Bill Gate’s fortune to plunder.

Always re-gift if you get the opportunity

At some point in your life, you’ve probably received a present that you’ve never liked or used, which is why the art of re-wrapping is so handy. As long as the present is in a really good condition (preferably unused) you’re good to go.

So the only thing you’ll have to buy is the wrapping paper, and a card if you’re feeling generous. Just make sure you don’t give the re-wrapped present to the same person who gave it to you originally! That would be awkward, especially if you gave it to the awkward person you don’t get on with.

Give everyone a chance

Get everyone in the house involved, even if it is that one housemate who never seems to leave their room. Knock on their door, introduce yourself (just in case they’ve forgotten who you are even though you’ve been living together for three months) and say; “Hi, I know we haven’t officially met – I think we may have bumped into each other at one point going to the bathroom – but did you want to play Secret Santa?”

Even if they don’t want to play, at least you’ve finally met the ‘other’ house mate. Congrats! Your housemates will be proud of your bravery. Getting everyone involved makes the game much more interesting, and you’ll avoid feeling bad if anyone were accidentally (or on purpose) left out.

Keep it simple

Some people are against buying generic gifts like a pack of scented shower gels or a mix and match makeup kit, but for a student it’s perfectly acceptable. You can never go wrong with buying gifts like these, and not only are they an easy purchase, they’re also worth the money and you can find some cracking bargains.

If you want to get something just a little bit different but still practical, grab a bar of luxury hand-made organic soap. They smell delicious and can even make a subtle point to the person in the house who doesn’t always like to wash as frequently as everyone else!

Never leave it late

Try not to forget about actually buying a gift, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a moment of panic, frantically trying to find something last minute to give them. Giving them a packet of crisps or a pack of jam donuts might seem like a great and useful “gift” but frankly, it’s a bit rubbish and thoughtless. You might be skint and this might be Secret Santa, but there are limits to how low you can go! So don’t leave it until the last minute (you’ve probably heard that from your lecturer plenty of times).

The more the merrier

You may have had a great time with your house mates but don’t forget to include your actual family. They may have been in the background recently but they are just as important to buy for, especially if you aren’t seeing very much of them, so make sure to save some space in your budget to get them something nice. It can also work in your favour; it softens the blow if you have a gift in one hand when you return home with bag of dirty washing in the other. If you have enough money spare, buying one final Secret Santa gift for dad is a great idea. It can be silly and funny or useful from somewhere like Hawkin’s Bazaar and it doesn’t have to be especially expensive. Meanwhile, a simple box of chocolates, some flowers or a bottle of wine will keep mum very happy.

Top Tips Every Student Should Know When Buying A Car – Lee Carnihan (Guest Writer)

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Getting to uni is one thing, getting around is another entirely. Wherever uni is for you, you’ll need to get from home to uni, to the supermarket, to the pub, to the gym and all manner of other places during term time.

You might want to dart back home for a weekend of “mum’s cooking” too, or head off to the beach with your house mates on Bank Holiday Monday. Yes, you can get around by foot, bike, unicycle, pogo-stick, skateboard, tube, tram and bus – but they won’t give you the flexibility a car will.

Having a car basically makes everything much easier. Chief among the benefits is not having to ‘borrow’ trolleys to get the shopping back on a cold, wet, dark and windy night after a long day in the lecture hall. So unless you’re extremely lucky because you live right next to a supermarket, you’re going to need a car.

But money will be tight and you might have no idea about what kind of car to buy for your budget. You’ll want something affordable, but not so cheap it breaks down frequently and costs you even more to fix or leaves you stranded in the car park with six heavy bags of shopping with chilled or frozen food rapidly defrosting.

MG classic car.jpg

So here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a car:

1 Stick with “old reliable”

The newer the car, the more expensive both the car and insurance is likely to be, so you’re better off looking at slightly older cars like an early 2000s Vauxhall Corsa, or a 2008 Fiat 500. Both cars are reliable, great for long distance driving, and fairly cheap.

If you’re a fan of the classics but you’re worried about the general up-keep of the car and insurance, you should go for a relatively newer classic like an Austin Mini. Depending on your definition of a ‘classic car’, classic Minis can range from early 60s to late 90s, so you’ve got a lot of choice.

Surprisingly, these quaint old cars are great for long distance travel, which makes things so much easier when you’re wanting to travel home from Uni for the weekend.

Minis are extremely reliable, and owning a classic car such as this, might mean that you’re eligible for classic car insurance instead of standard car insurance. The way the value of a classic is determined is different, so you might get better value.

2 Inspect the car and ask to drive it 

When you’re viewing a car, always ask if the car has had any major damage or other significant repairs, which should all be detailed in the log book. Look over the general condition of the car for rust, oil leaks, scratches, bumps, dents and differences in paintwork on different parts of the car. Anything like this will put the price down if you ever want to sell the car on.

And if you have absolutely no clue about what you’re looking for, take someone who does! Another perspective is always helpful.

Ask to take a test drive, even if they want to accompany you and your friend: listen out for splutters and chokes and feel the biting point: where the clutch engages and disengages when you change gear. Get out and look at the exhaust too. If it’s black, blue or grey, it could be a sign the engine is burning oil, too much fuel or has some other problem.

If you’re unsure, walk away. There is no shortage of second hand cars out there.

3 Where to buy and how

Choosing where to buy a car can be a bit of a challenge, so here are some pros and cons to help you:

Auctions

Pros: Cheaper than buying from a garage and you may end up with an absolute bargain.

Cons: Cars are sold as seen which means no test drives allowed. You’re not guaranteed a warranty so if you end up purchasing a classic, like a Triumph Herald for example, but it doesn’t start or there is something seriously wrong with it, then too bad. If the car has serious issues and you’re not willing to pay more money to get it fixed, then you’re only option will be to put it back into the auction and hope wholeheartedly that it’ll sell again.

Garages

Pros: One of the safest ways to go about buying a car. This is because any registered noted dealer is required by law to supply the car with a warranty, and the car must be fully road legal. When buying from a garage there is always room for negotiation.

Cons: Usually more expensive than buying from a private seller or buying from an auction.

Private

Pros: Cheaper than buying from a garage. Again, there is always room for negotiation, especially if the seller is eager to sell the car quickly.

Cons: You’re not guaranteed a warranty when dealing with a private seller. So if there is something wrong with the car, you have very little comeback.

Online

Pros: Official online dealers are covered by trading standards, so you’ll be guaranteed a warranty.

Cons: Private online sellers are not covered by trading standards, so you’re not guaranteed a warranty. With all online dealers or sellers, make sure you do some research and ask about warranties.

At the end of the day…

Choose a car with a relatively small engine because they’re cheaper to buy and insure and the running costs are usually lower. If you “do your homework” – sorry if you thought you’d heard the last of that phrase – you’re more likely to get a good car for a fair price.

I’VE BEEN FEATURED!

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Fantastic news, today is a brilliant day! 

It all begins with this…

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“Why that little square?” I hear you ask! Well my lovely readers and supporters, as that square reads, I’ve been added to a list of ‘top student bloggers’!

There I was, sitting at my desk after starting back lectures today. I was starting to look at everything I have to do very soon and then up pops this email!

This email told me “Congratulations!” and that I’d been featured in an article called “33 Of The Best Student Blogs To Follow In 2016” and guess what? You can read it here!

It may not seem a lot to some people but for once, this wasn’t a website where I’ve been asked to be put on there. This is an individual website reading my work and believing I was good enough to be featured on their list with the content I provide and for me, after a couple of years of work, it’s so nice to finally be recognised and I really appreciate it.

Thank you so much to all my readers and supports over the years and I hope you, my lovely people, keep growing and growing! Expect much more content in the next year and for a very special Student Giveaway very, very soon (probably today at some point) and win yourself some goodies!

Again thank you to BellVue Students and it just goes to show what a little student with a computer and the passion to write can achieve, this is huge for me and just goes to show why students should blog!