Diary Posts, Exeter, Personal, Student Life, University Blog

A Reality Check: Thoughts on moving home

It’s been a while!

The final term of final year has been a hectic one, and besides the obvious workload I’ve been trying to make the most of university life, of living with my housemates and being part of societies and teams here. For all the deadlines, it’s been a fantastic term, and I’ve enjoyed the movie nights in, clubbing nights out and meandering chats about life and the universe with various friends in-between.

Alongside that, there’s been Other Concerns that have taken up more thinking time than I care to imagine.

Or, as my best friend likes to put it, ‘the Future with a capital F’.

Specifically, there’s been a lot of headlines recently that while previously may have passed me by have been commanding my full attention as of late:

Continue reading “A Reality Check: Thoughts on moving home”

Personal, University Blog, Writing

Reflections – 2017

It’s been a year.

2017 began at midnight (as I’ve been told most new years do). Shoulder to shoulder with my German friend, as we hopped from foot to foot trying to keep warm, bundled up in front of the Canadian Houses of Parliament, half-singing/half-yelling along to Carly Rae Jepsen and squinting up at fireworks through the snow. Earlier that day I’d said a tearful goodbye to my family, who’d made the trip over the Atlantic to see me for Christmas. Earlier that evening I’d laughed as a home-friend facetimed me from the new year in the UK, tipsy and giggling and telling me she missed me.

It feels like eons have passed since that day, that night. Now, I’m back at home. Sitting at my desk, in the room that’s been mine for 15 years, procrastinating working on my dissertation. The draft sits ominously on my desktop – a constant reminder of ideas that need refining, reading that needs doing, notes that need compiling.

But it’s the 30th of December, and I’m allowed some time to reflect. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself anyway.

Because it’s been a hell of a year.

It’s been one of incredible highs, but also of lows too. Trying and failing to hold back floods of tears in Central Park on the morning of my 21st birthday, cursing myself for investing so much time and energy into people who would not return the favour. That wasn’t a highlight of mine, I won’t lie. Neither was learning awful news from my family, in a hipster cafe in San Francisco, half the world away from the people I wanted to be with most. Neither was curling up in a ball on my bed in early November, aching from the pain and anxiety of the future squeezing the life out of my present, as I wished desperately for my final year to be over already.

But then again. My Mum hugged me hard in Central Park, and wiped my eyes and told me I was a good person and sometimes people were just cruel. My Dad teared up over Skype in that San Francisco cafe when they broke the news, and I wasn’t crying alone. Curled up on my bed in my student house, a knock came at the door, and my two lovely housemates let themselves in and climbed onto my bed with me, smothering me in hugs and reassurances that it was okay – I wasn’t the only one, that we were all a little lost, in our own way. Continue reading “Reflections – 2017”

Diary Posts, Exeter, Student Life, University Blog

The First Week of Final Year: Beginning of the End

Out of the front door and into the sun I go.

One of my favourite parts about our student house for this year (four bedrooms, brown carpets everywhere, living room sparse of all but essential furniture, a broken washing line in the garden, but a blackboard in the kitchen my housemate has already decorated with stars and smiley faces) is the view from our top step. Over the recycling bins and bikes belonging to the neighbours, over the rooftops and past the telephone wires, there’s a perfectly framed view of the Cathedral, towers imposing and ancient, the Devon hills that have been here far longer than anything else on the horizon.

It’s warm in the sun on the top step. I’m still determinedly wearing a dress or shorts or a skirt, even though it’s edging into Autumn by most accounts. It’s always a little bit warmer here than back in the Midlands anyway, this far south of the Gloucester services on the M5.

On my walk into town seagulls screech overhead, chasing clouds that unfurl across the sky like stop-motion animation in the wind. I see someone I recognise crossing the zebra crossing, smile and wave to them. On the corner there’s a battered red phone box that’s seen better days, three Carlings cans lined up neatly on the wall nearby; British student life summed up on a street corner. Continue reading “The First Week of Final Year: Beginning of the End”

Exeter, Personal, Pre-departure, University Blog

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 “Livin’ in a check-box world…”

Exeter, Student Life, University Blog

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.

Continue reading “Why I’m Doing a History Degree”

Diary Posts, Pre-departure, University Blog, Writing

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.

Continue reading “The One Where The Country Is Going To Shit”

Diary Posts, Exeter, Pre-departure, University Blog

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.

Continue reading “The One Where #BallIsLife”

Personal, University Blog

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…

(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 “An Open Letter to my Teenage Self”

Exeter, Student Life, University Blog

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 Universal Uni Issue: Dealing with Stress”

Diary Posts, Exeter, Personal, Pre-departure, Student Life, University Blog

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