Livin’ in a check-box world…

(I now have ‘Uptown Girl’ stuck in my head thanks to this title. I hope you do too.)

Throwback to late May, and second year was drawing to a close in a leisurely fashion, with the final weeks of post-exam freedom passing in haze of sunny day trips and chilled nights in.  The end came quickly, and brought with it a mad rush to try tidying our house and the horrifyingly prospect of having to completely empty our fridge and freezer (some interesting lunch combos transpired as a result of this.)

My final weekend in Exeter coincided (just as it did in first year) with the University’s summer Open Day. Bizarrely enough, my brother is just finishing year 12, and with UCAS looming he’s repeating the same process I went through and traipsing round said-Open days. We’re definitely peas from the same pod, the lil bro and I, so it was no real surprise that with me having raved about how much I loved Exeter as a university and a coastal city, that he fancied a look around too.

So it was an early start on my final day down South to take him to his tour of the Physics building, dodging harried looking parents clutching campus maps and weaving around student ambassadors offering help (“thanks ever so much but uh, I actually go here? So we’re alright, honest.”) Campus was heaving with people oohing and ahhing and it was with the slight satisfaction I always feel when around pre-Freshers (I so remember being where you are now and I am SO glad I am not still there) that I got to play tour guide for the day. Continue reading

Why I’m Doing a History Degree

(I posted this first on my student blog, but I’m in the process of slowwwwly moving things over and seeing as it’s the season of impending UCAS applications I thought this particular post had again become relevant. Not that history isn’t always relevant of course.)

Today, I thought I’d make a post on a more academic vein than I usually prefer to opt for. There’s no doubt that university life involves so much more than the degree, but it’s also important to appreciate we are only here after all because of our degree. The UCAS applications and A levels weren’t geared towards having fun at societies and learning the pros and cons of independent living; ultimately we’re here to study our chosen discipline. Through the pain of 8:30 lectures and the stress of deadlines however, sometimes I find it’s easy to lose sight of why I chose history. This is a sentiment I think most students go through at some point, especially during exam season (“why oh WHY did I chose this horrific subject??”). So in this post I thought I’d look back and consolidate some of the reasons why, despite how much I resent it some days, I chose a History degree – and why I have no regrets in doing so.

  • I had a wonderful history teacher. I feel no shame at all in admitting that my fabulous A level teacher at school was a huge influence in me deciding to pursue history. Impossibly clever, terrifyingly witty and generally very entertaining, she would conduct whole lessons on the ins and outs of the French Revolution without referring to any notes or plans. She’d done her undergrad at Birmingham and then a PhD at Cambridge (with her thesis being on Medieval gambling and horse racing) and there’s no doubt a little piece of me wanted to be like her; knowledgeable about seemingly everything and able to win the respect of all who met her. I was far from the only one – of the students who took A Level history I reckon at least 4/5 went on to do a History degree, and will largely in debt their decision to her.

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The One Where The Country Is Going To Shit

Somewhat ironically, bearing in mind in my last post I had ranted and raved about the wonders of basketball, last week started off with me badly spraining my ankle at said-basketball training.

One minute I was up, mind, body and soul focused on not letting the 6 foot 2 girl I was playing opposite get any shots up if I could do anything about it goddamnit – and the next I was on the floor.

I like to think I have a relatively high pain threshold – I don’t cry easily, but then I don’t often get injured or ill. But man alive this hurt. So much so that all I could do was sit in the middle of the court blinking in shock until the Riders assistant coach came over, tied my trainer laces to an impossibly tight degree and prodded me to standing.

While weight-bearing was so painful I was seriously concerned I’d actually broken it (Dad, having poked around at it a bit in true Sports Medicine style, confirmed it wasn’t) the pain was not the worst part of it. It was lying awake in my bed at 4 am the next day, having been woken by the excruciating agony of accidentally jostling my foot, and knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it – any of it. Basketball was off the cards for at least a month, I wouldn’t be able to meet with friends in town as planned that week, and in that very moment, tossing and turning and failing to find anything resembling a comfortable position, I couldn’t even get up for more paracetemol. I just had to lie there, blinking back tears, while my family slept on and the sun began to rise.

The simple act of being able to get up and out of bed is a gift of good health that isn’t truly appreciated until it’s gone.

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The One Where #BallIsLife

I thought it was about time I wrote a blog post about basketball.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and while this indeed might not immediately seem relevant to my year abroad planning endeavours, I’m aiming for basketball to continue to be as big a part of my university experience in Ottawa as it has been in Exeter. In fact, Ottawa’s impressive women’s team track record and nationally acclaimed coach was partly what attracted me to the university in the first place. Though I haven’t been playing the sport for long, it has become a hugely positive influence in my life, both physically and mentally.

I guess it makes sense to start at the beginning.

And in The Beginning there was Keith.

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An Open Letter to my Teenage Self

So I’m turning 20 tomorrow and feeling nostalgic about no longer being able to call myself an official teenager. In the past I used to be pretty sad the day before my birthday (I was an emotional child; Toy Story 2 ruined me and I used to get paranoid that my toys were upset I wasn’t playing with them). The thought of getting older was always an intimidating one, and I didn’t like the idea of with each passing year moving further away from a carefree childhood into the realms of responsibility. I have become accustomed to said-responsibility now, and so am not feeling sad about no longer being 19 – 20 is just another number to get used to – but I am very aware that I’m closing the chapter on an important part of my life. Adolescence is a rollercoaster of an era, and as I say goodbye to the teens I thought I’d look back and write a letter for each year to my teenage self.

Dear 13-year-old Tess…

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(Actually 11 here but this photo is hilariously awful)

  • Your period will have started for the first time 2 weeks ago today, and you feel world-weary, as though your childhood has come to an end. It hasn’t, I promise. You aren’t automatically an Adult now, and you have plenty of opportunity to make mistakes. Periods will be an inconvenience (and a sucky one at that) for the next 40 years or so, but it’s an inconvenience you share with 50% of the planet’s population. You get used to it and will share so many period-related stories at sleepovers that make you cry with laughter you won’t feel as alone as you do now either. Keep playing with the kids next-door, they’ll be your friends for life, and spend time with your brother. The Twilight Series is awful; Team Jacob is the wrong choice, and so is Team Edward. Seriously. Team Bella is the way to go because Kristen Stewart is a babe.

Dear 14-year-old Tess… Continue reading

The Universal Uni Issue: Dealing with Stress

NOTE: This is based on a post I posted last year on my student blog, but it feels very apt given I’m neck-deep in exam season at the moment (I had a French exam today and it went TERRIBLY. I actually advised my fellow students in my essay, for the sake of the environment, not to go clubbing because clubs don’t use eco-friendly lightbulbs?? All I could remember was the word for lightbulb.) Anyway, here is a post I’m kinda proud of and does me good to re-read and remember in such stressful times.

Stress is a popular topic. Everyone seems to be constantly stressed; jobs are stressful (the prospect of jobs even more so), deadlines are stressful, family and friends are relationships are stressful. We crave weekends and the holidays for a brief respite from it all, and dread the workload and the stress of it all starting again.

Stress and anxiety seem to be a ruling norm in student life especially, and certainly at the moment with Year 2 coming to an end, with every essay and exams ‘counting’ towards the degree. Either you’re stressing too much at the detriment of your health, as evidenced by the long waiting lists at the Wellbeing Centre, or you’re not stressing enough at the detriment of your grades. At the moment though, I’d have to say I see far more of the former. Continue reading

The One Where I’m Keeping an Eye on the Little Things

This post is from my student blog for Exeter, and was posted in early March (still being Difficult, said-blog, so I may well start transferring posts over to here because it’s just a tad frustrating). I wrote it after the excitement of having my Ottawa placement confirmed and just as a general update. I also wrote it because I Know Me and I know that getting caught up in planning and thrilling over going to Canada is going to detract inevitably from the end of my second year. And, as much as I can, I really don’t want that to happen because year abroad aside, I love this university, I love my life here, and I certainly don’t want to wish it away.

‘I will miss Exeter next year, am in some ways already missing it. I’ll miss the practical compactness of the city and the fact it’s mild enough now that the daffodils and snowdrops are already all over campus. I’ll miss my friends too, but fortunately most are doing Industrial Placements for third year, so most of us will be back together again for final year. A year away though I think will do me the world of good. This past term I have definitely felt myself slowing up a bit motivation-wise, and although I will be obviously working towards my degree, I hope I’ll be having a lot of fun too. Seeing as I didn’t take a gap year, this will be the first big chance to do the ‘independent travel thing’ as such. Continue reading

A Snapshot of my Life in Notebooks

I have a terrifying number of notebooks in my possession. Seriously.

I’m the kind of person who is consistently given at least one new notebook a birthday, but then also the type to stand in Paperchase ogling over the frankly stunning Paperblank collection and thinking to myself, yes, okay, I may have approximately 72 unused notebooks in my bedside table, but do I have a peacock feather design one?? No, I don’t, and that frankly, is a travesty that must be rectified. 

I’m not quite sure what it is about notebooks. Maybe it’s the fact that there are precisely a million and one stunning designs to choose from; maybe it’s the beauty of all those crisp, clean pages on which you can doodle and sketch and jot down thoughts to your heart’s content; or maybe it’s the romanticism of the idea that perhaps, one day, the next Harry Potter will begin life scribbled down in it’s very pages late one night. Even though ever since I got my hands on a hulking starship of a laptop aged 13 I have done all my writing (fictional and otherwise) on a computer, I love the idea of drafting novels in notebooks.

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