Student trip: Oxford

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I remember finishing Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass and setting in down in awe. In my 14 year old mind, the “His Dark Materials” trilogy had achieved a status few ever could: it was just as good as Harry Potter. It had stories of friendship, love, death, murder, deception, heroism, multiple dimensions… truly, it had everything.

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One of those things – perhaps the most mundane of them, but most symbolic – was a bench in the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens. I kid you not, that bench was the desktop wallpaper on my computer for a long time. It seemed so far away to the awkward middle school kid that barely left the house some days. And this week, I got the chance to see it.

DSCN1149Actually, it was fairly anticlimactic. My friend and I got to the garden and realized that we didn’t actually know which of the many benches it was, so we sheepishly asked one of the staff. So we found it, we sat on it, and we left. Worth it!

The only other place I wanted to see was the free Pitt Rivers Museum, which apparently inspired the shops in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. It was easy to see how – it’s a relatively small building packed full of displays of natural history and tall glass shelves of anthropology artifacts from all over the world.DSCN1172

If you’re looking for a good day trip that’s pretty close to Worcester, I would recommend Oxford to pretty much everybody!

I know a missed a lot – if I were to go again, what do you think I think I should do in Oxford? Let me know in a comment!

A lovely ‘rainy’ day in Cardiff

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When you have completed something (hopefully in a successful way), what’s better than rewarding yourself for the hard work? After a long and somewhat sleepless week of writing assignments, Saturday was my ‘reward’ day, when my friends and I visited one of UK’s must-see cities - the beautiful Cardiff!

The trip, organised by the University’s International Centre, was definitely what I needed to recharge my batteries.

Despite the rain, we had a great day in Cardiff, especially as it was our first time there.

We were ‘super-tourists’ – we explored the city, we met a friend of ours who lives there and we even managed to do some shopping!

Welcome to the Cardiff Castle!

Welcome to the Cardiff Castle!

Cardiff is a city which is rich and proud of its culture and history.  Our first stop was the Cardiff Castle - one of Wales’ main heritage attractions. With its 2000 years of history, it is definitely a site of international significance, having been  a Roman Garrison, a Norman stronghold and in Victorian times it was transformed into a “gothic fairytale fantasy”, as described in the leaflets.

Then we were browsing around the beautiful Victorian Arcades in the city centre – definitely the place for one to find unusual gifts and many many other funky things to buy.

As we had limited time in the city, we decided to get on one of the city sightseeing coaches and get a tour around Cardiff. One of the stops was the Dr Who Experience, just next to the BBC headquarter in the city, but as it was taking about an hour to go through everything inside, we thought it would be best to leave it for our next visit.

Our next stop was Cardiff bay and the Millenium Centre – what a magnificent building! From the outside it was pretty impressive and once we went inside, we fell in love with it – so many arts under one roof. We were lucky to catch a live performance of a band with really talented musicians.

Cardiff bay

Cardiff bay

Despite the rain, we enjoyed the beautiful Cardiff bay, full of restaurants, shops and galleries. I believe it would have been even better with a bit of sunshine.

Then we took our coach back to the city centre, where we enjoyed some absolutely delicious nachos and main meals offered in Chiquitoif you are a nachos fan, this place is a must when you visit Cardiff.

Once we were done with our meals it was time to catch up with a friend that we haven’t seen for a while, who graduated and worked at the University of Worcester a couple of years ago.

My friend Dayana and I

My friend Dayana and I

Our sweet chit chat could have lasted forever, but the clock was ticking and soon it was time for us to head back to the coach where everyone else was waiting.

Cardiff is definitely a place that I’ll go back to visit again very soon, but now a more exciting trip is coming up – Amsterdam, you are only two weeks away and I can’t wait to see you!

 

Student trip: Stratford-upon-Avon

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When I was young I remember hearing the phrase “In like a lion, out like a lamb,” referring to March weather. This month more than ever has proved it false. To give some perspective, my hometown still has snow right now – but the first few weeks of March here almost made me forget I was in England!

Some friends and I took advantage of this wonderful weather and went to Stratford-upon-Avon, most famous as the birthplace of the poet and playwright William Shakespeare. To say that the city has capitalized on this fact is an understatement. Shakespeare has become a cornerstone – the cornerstone – of the city.

DSCN1039One of the things we were doing there was filming a short film based on one of Shakespeare’s works. This included a short scene in the cemetery, and after that we entered the Church of the Holy Trinity to see Shakespeare’s grave. By this time you have probably figured out that I have a more-than-casual interest in graves and death places. I admit, it’s pretty weird, traveling somewhere to see someone’s remains – it sort of takes celebrity worship to the next level. It struck me as amazing that we were so close to the earthly remains of Shakespeare himself, re-enacting his work – but odd because the DSCN1044world had changed so much since his death. Even our modest production used technology that Shakespeare himself couldn’t have dreamed of.

We spent the rest of our time in Stratford wandering its ancient streets. The city was somehow different from others that I’ve visited in England, but I couldn’t quite place why. I think it’s the juxtaposition of old and new, and the constant reminders of its culturally-ingrained prodigy. It makes an excellent student day trip from Worcester if you haven’t already been!

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What do you think of Stratford? Let me know in a comment!

 

Heading up North with a Mission: the BBL Trophy Final

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Since the University of Worcester Arena opened its doors, I have had the pleasure to be part of the social media team which covers some very exciting sports events there, including the Continental Clash, the Netball Superleague Grand Final, all home games of the Worcester Wolves, amongst many others.

Last Sunday, we had to take our social media work to another level – live coverage of the BBL Trophy Final! We had the mission to deliver excellent real-time coverage and the Wolves had the mission to get that Trophy and bring it to Worcester.

 

Glasgow, here we come!

Glasgow, here we come!

 

Bright and early at 6.30am, the Wolves and University Arena social media team (my lovely colleagues Carly, Corina and myself) and the two coaches of ‘the best fans in the league’, we all headed up north to Glasgow, where our very own Wolves were going to challenge Glasgow Rocks for the BBL Trophy.

Our social media work started minutes after we left Worcester, thinking about how we can spice up Twitter and Facebook before the game. Among us were some of the University’s Wheelchair Basketball players, who went very creative in their preparation for the day – fantastic t-shirts, banners and Wolves masks.

"I'd rather be a wolf than a rock!", said the University of Worcester Wheelchair Basketball team!

“I’d rather be a wolf than a rock!”, said the University of Worcester Wheelchair Basketball team!

After 6 hours of travelling, we were finally at the Emirates Arena, ready to make some noise and see the Wolves get the reward they deserve.

While the fans were making their way to their seats, we headed up to the Press Centre where we picked up our press packs and we set up all laptops and tablets.

Twitter was getting on fire with all the lovely messages from the Wolves’ fans, wishing the team lots of luck and hoping to see them with the Trophy in their hands.

The Emirates Arena was huge and full of people – nearly 6000 basketball fans came to see the clash between the two teams. Despite that the wolfpack was a lot less in numbers, nearly 250 fans, compared to 5000+ Rocks’ supporters, they were ready to shout, jump, support and show their love to the team.

Meet the wolfpack!

Meet the wolfpack!

After a quick slam dunk competition, it was 3pm – time for the court to decide who is going to win. There was only one thing that was clear: both teams came to win – that game was going to be a nail-biter.

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Wolves and Rocks on court

The players were showcasing their great skills, the crowd went crazy and all of us, the photographers, we were going around the courts, trying to get the shots that we wanted to have.

With the advantage of being on their home court, the Rocks took early lead and opened up a 10 point difference in their favour. The Wolves were determined to change this and reduced the difference to six points at half time.

Hungry to win, the third quarter saw Paul James‘ team taking the lead.Will Creekmore and Jamal Williams in action

Will Creekmore and Jamal Williams in action

 

The crowd was getting louder and louder, the atmosphere was buzzing as there was one final quarter that was going to decide who get the Trophy – enough time for a change in the score.

That last quarter saw the Rocks’ fouls mounting. The pressure on the court was more than obvious. More and more fouls, more and more thrive from both teams to get that win.

 

Captain Alex Owumi

Captain Alex Owumi

The game stayed open until the very last seconds. When the final buzzer sounded, the score board was showing 83 points for Worcester Wolves and 76 for Glasgow Rocks.

The wolfpack lifted the roof with happy ‘howls’, Coach James and Assistant Coach Alex Radu couldn’t hide their euphoria and Captain Alex Owumi couldn’t hold his tears. Jamal Williams proved to be the man of the game, getting the award for Most Valuable Player with his 26 points.

Jamal getting his MVP award

Jamal getting his MVP award

The Wolves made history – winning their first silverware since joining the BBL in 2006. The Trophy does the justice to the hard work of the whole team.

Paul James and Alex Radu

Paul James and Alex Radu

The team went to meet and share the happiness with all those dedicated supporters, who were the proudest in the world at that moment. Hugs, kisses, smiles and love was all around in the air.

Celebrations on court

Celebrations on court

The game was over, but our job was at its peak – Wolves and Arena Twitter accounts went absolutely crazy, I don’t think we have ever done so much tweeting, retweeting and favouriting in one day.

As we went on the coach and headed back to Worcester, I opened my laptop and started selecting and editing the first images. Our game was still on and we were up against all other media to release the images and try to recreate what happened minutes ago in the Emirates Arena through pictures.

Now, when you see someone at a service station rushing to go to a spare plug socket to charge their laptop, phone or tablet, it is highly likely that this person is not crazy, but works in social media. That was us – all three crazy ladies, as Carly said, making a beeline to charge our gadgets for the rest of the journey, getting all the strange looks we possibly could get.

Despite that the laptop’s battery died, our phones kept vibrating and the tweets kept coming though until we reached Worcester, about 12.30am.

At the end of that day, there was one thing we could say: both missions successfully accomplished!

Make the most of a long student summer!

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So, it is finally on its way! Creased pairs of shorts making their way out of the backs of wardrobes and giant whole-face-covering sunglasses reappearing can only mean one thing… Summer is on its way!

Now, although we have pretty much the entirety of Spring to go yet, which is not a season without its merits, I have taken it upon myself to think positively in advance, and dedicate a blog to the best ways to spend one of our beautiful three month long (unless you’re teachers or nurses… sorry about that, guys) student summers!

Now, once more speaking as a completely unbiased, purely objective Cricket Coaching and Management student, I can honestly tell you that one of the best ways, if not the best way, to spend a warm Summers day is down at your local cricket ground, enjoying some 6′s raining down in T20′s, some good solid forward defences in 4-Day Cricket, or perhaps even a few of Worester’s own, attempting to break a cricket-based world record

…like I said, completely unbiased!

However, if the greatest sport ever played is not your thing, there are plenty of other (probably more productive) ways to spend your 3 lecture free months. Here’s just a few of them!

Travel to a Far-Away Land Doing Something You Love to Do

If you’re a loyal follower of this blog, which I like to assume you are, but won’t hold against you if you’re not, then you will have already heard some amazing tales from fellow bloggers about work they’ve done at Camp America and in Madagascar.

And if you enjoyed reading about these, or think this sort of thing may take your fancy, then I can assure you there are PLENTY of opportunities to do volunteer or paid work abroad in the subject you love!

In cricket coaching alone opportunities have come up to coach in New Zealand, India, Ghana, South Africa, and Argentina, so why not make the most of your months off and take a look at what is available in terms of volunteering abroad in your subject category?

Student Summer Travel Abroad

 

 

Find A Group of Friends Who Want to be Bored as Little as You and Go on Holiday

Yes, this isn’t Uni related. Yes, this is something you have to pay for and not get paid for. No, this will not help you obtain a further qualification or level of experience for your degree. But yes, it will be ridiculously fun, well worth the money, and a great way to blow off steam post-exams and after a tough academic year!

Seriously, students, you’ve earned the break. Take it! I certainly am, and I, for one, can not wait for my Lake District trip with my best friends after we have all handed in our final assignments of our Second Year!

Further tip: If you can’t afford to go on holiday together, why not each go and stay at each other’s houses in the various places in the country you will undoubtedly be from? Will save money, you’ll get to see each other more, and it will be a great way to experience new places for each of you without having to go somewhere far away!

Student Summer Holiday

Find an Internship or Work Placement in the Industry You Want to Go Into

I have probably harped on about this enough, but I can not explain how useful all of this will be. So once you’ve topped up on your tans and taught English to a group of underprivileged children in an amazing environment, why not look a little closer to home, and see if there are any companies in your area offering placement opportunities that sound intriguing to you, or similar to what you may want to do when you leave Uni?

And if there aren’t any advertised, then why not ask them? It just may be the difference between you getting the job of your dreams after Uni and it going to Barnaby from Cambridge because he spent his Summer wisely!

Student Summer Scholarship

and last but not least…. Try Something New!

This can fall into any of the above categories. See what events are on this Summer near you, and get involved! From helping out backstage at a theatre, to pulling pints at a local festival, to dressing up as the mascot for your local sports team, why not throw yourself head first into something you’ve never done before and see how it goes? Chances are, you will probably like it!*

Student Summer Try Something New: Work Experience

 

* If you don’t, please don’t blame me!! I accept absolutely no responsibility for any bad decisions being made of this nature!

So that sums up my guide to how to take advantage of an incredibly long break from University this Summer! Hopefully one or more of those things will have taken your fancy, and you will start preparing for this Summer well in advance!

 

But if not, no worries! Enjoy the start of the Sun everyone! :-)

 

Ps, here is a really high quality, exclusive behind the scenes picture of my high-tech photo-shoot for this blog!

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My journey to become a teacher – Gap year or no gap year?

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A topic that has cropped up a few times in conversation recently, is how much everybody wants to travel the world.

When I was younger, I never really thought I’d be the travelling type.
I never really thought that I’d feel independent enough to want to book myself a round-the-world plane ticket.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my course and being at University (as you’ve all heard a million times,) but I do wonder when my time will come to explore all of the places that are on my bucket list.

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Being a teacher is, and has been for years, my biggest ambition. I got accepted into  University of Worcester straight out of sixth form and it seemed like too much of a great opportunity to defer. I guess secretly that I was a little worried that if I took a year out, I might somehow forget how to study and miss my real chance of becoming a teacher.

I’ve loved University so far and wouldn’t ever want to change the experiences that I’ve had.
But.. do I regret my decision to not take a gap year?

I do of course, envy those of my friends that had the time, the money and the bravery to take a year out after school and see the sights. I also seriously envy my best friend from back home who has just bagged herself a year studying in Hawaii. (I know right!!)

gap 1But, one of the brilliant things about having a career in teaching (as many people like to point out,) is that we do get a lovely summer break. Of course it is likely to be filled with medium term plans, marking and stacks of paper work, but it does give me hope that there are still many summers coming up that I can spend travelling.

I wanted to travel a few years ago, but becoming a qualified teacher was my first priority. So University it was.

Little did I know at the time though, that I would in fact get to experience a bit of the travelling life, when the University offered me a scholarship to teach for a month in Madagascar, at the end of my first year. I got the best of both worlds in that sense and explored an incredible country. More can be found about my trip on my Extra Opportunities blog.

If travelling feels like the right path for you, then do it. Studying or working can always come later.
And the same goes for booking that plane ticket. Get your studying out of the way first and travel later, if that’s what you want to do. You never know, you might get lucky like me and have chances to do both at the same time!

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I guess this blog is aimed at helping those who may be wondering whether a gap year is for them or not, or for those who are in the same position as me.

My advice, if you choose to take it, is to do what feels right for you at the time.

One of the things that has become so apparent over the last few years, is how pressured we all are to grow up fast and make huge life decisions before we are ready. Decisions so big and scary that I feel like I’ve missed out on so many things already, when I’m only 20!

Thankfully though, I have realised recently that you do not have to pick one or the other.. there is time for both.

Because of this, I will continue to browse through travelling websites and brochures for many years to come, and eventually I will jump on that plane. But right now, I know that I made the right decision for me at the time.
My dream job comes first, and University iof Worcester can provide me with that.

Student trip: Welsh Weekend

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Wow, these last few months really have been an exciting start to the new year!

My latest destination was the beautiful country of Wales; specifically, Snowdonia National Park. We went again as a group of University of Minnesota-Duluth students. It took the form of a weekend roadtrip, really, as we took the opportunity to do sightseeing along the way.

Portmeirion

The village of Portmeirion is an interesting one. It confused me at first; it’s an unexpectedly colorful village situated between the woods and the coast. It actually reminded me a little of Park Güell, in Barcelona, on a smaller scale. We wandered around the village for a while, made our way through the woods, onto the beach, and back to the bus.

DSCN0976Beddgelert

Beddgelert (“Gelert’s Grave”) was named after a myth involving a fatally loyal dog and his quick-tempered master (you can read the full thing here.) I was dismayed to learn that it was, in fact, actually just a myth.

Idwal Cottage

We had the incredible fortune of staying in Idwal Cottage, which I am told is the most popular hostel in Wales. It’s easy to see why – it’s literally right in the middle of the mountains, at the foot of hiking trails and a stone’s throw from mountain lakes. DSCN0987

After a short hike, on which I fell and twisted my wrist, we ate an awesome homecooked meal and played (well, tried to play) Welsh Monopoly.

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon was the first “real” castle that I’ve been to. By “real” castle I mean “castle that conforms to my exceedingly high DSCN0997expectations of a castle as set by fantasy literature and entertainment.” We spent an hour an a half wandering around the grounds, and we still didn’t have time to see everything.

Chester

On our way back, we stopped in the city of Chester (not in Wales, I know!) It is home to several Roman ruins (you really can’t go anywhere around here without tripping over Roman ruins, can you?)

DSCN1023However, the most interesting thing I got to see was the ruins of the St. John’s Cathedral. It has quite a long and storied history; the ruins seem to emanate a sense of greatness, and you can get a sense that it was once an impressive building by walking among what remains. The most poignant feature is an open tomb set in the upper wall, in which can be read “Dust to Dust.”

In a few months’ time I will be visiting the southern part of Wales, so by the time I leave I will have gotten a pretty good tour of it! What do you think of Wales? Let me know in the comments!

Weekends away on a student budget: saving £75.76!

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At this time of the year third years are pretty snowed under with dissertations, assignments and interviews, and I am definitely one of those snowed under people! To take my mind off it my boyfriend and I decided to have a weekend away in Cardiff, but as I’m a student I kept to a few rules to make sure that I didn’t blow all my money. You can still have a good time on a student budget. Here are five top tips to make sure that you can still go away on a student budget!

1)      Railcards: We could have driven to Cardiff but it would have cost £13.95 each way in fuel, but because I have a railcard I purchased a return ticket for £15.40.

I got my railcard free with my student bank account so it’s worth looking around for good offers when you choose your bank. (SAVING OF £12.50)

2)      Walking: When we got off the train we needed to get around, we could have got a taxi but it was a nice day so we decided to walk.

Taxis can be really expensive so if it’s not raining, have a nice walk! (SAVING OF £39 ACROSS TWO DAYS)

3)      Tickets: We went to the Doctor Who Experience (yes I know – I’m a Doctor Who geek but I don’t care!) but to save money I booked the tickets online.

Tickets are £15 on the day but only £13 online. Students get 20% off too but you have to buy on the day so I didn’t want to risk not getting a ticket – which one you choose is your choice! (SAVING OF £2)

4)      Hotel bookings: When booking the hotel I looked around online to try and get the best savings. As we were only staying one night, we didn’t really need to splash out on a fancy hotel, we just needed it to be clean and tidy so we stayed at a hotel in the City Centre called the Big Sleep Hotel.

Once again as I booked in advance online I was able to make the most of the non-refundable offer online. (SAVING OF £13)

5)      Loyalty cards: One of the best ways to save money is to use shop loyalty cards and student discount NUS extra cards. We went to Nandos and because I had a loyalty card I got a good saving!

With this card you collect up stamps and get savings on future meals. With this card I managed to get a whole free meal! (SAVING OF £9.26)

I had a really nice break and it was just the thing to take my mind off the stress of uni and give me the motivation to keep going for the last stretch! I didn’t miss out on anything across the weekend but was really pleased with the £75.75 I saved! So, enjoy yourself on your breaks but keep an eye out for any money saving tips along the way.