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    Life Update

    life update.pngHello, lovely people! How are we all?

    It has been quite a while since I last posted anything – since April, I believe – so I thought it might be nice to get back into the swing of things by way of a little life update since it is all go go go right now.

    These past couple of months have been VERY BUSY INDEED. I have finished up my degree and am now just waiting on results which should be with me any day now (I have been refreshing the page roughly every five minutes all week), and just have my grad ball next weekend and graduation at the end of the month to go. Crazy.

    These past four years have absolutely flown by, and I know that I made the right decision with my choice of course and university. It has been stressful, of course, and there has been many a tear shed, but I am so grateful for all the things it has allowed me to experience and achieve, and feeling eternally lucky for the people that I have met along the way.

    Also…I GOT ACCEPTED INTO MY MASTERS.

    Ok, I have been telling everyone I have been accepted, and then I remember that I need to actually pass this current degree first and meet the condition of a 2:1 which is definitely doable (famous last words). I have even been conditionally accepted into not one but all three of the universities I applied for which is such a reassuring feeling since it was very heavily weighted on portfolio work. Everything going to plan, I will be heading back to university in September to study an MLitt in Creative Writing. Yep, more words. Can’t get enough of ’em.

    But, after graduation, and before I start my masters, I have another exciting project up my sleeve (apparently there is a lot of room up there, eh) – I am spending my summer in Fiji!

    On the 1st of July I will be flying out to the tiny South Pacific to live in a rural village and teach English, Maths and sports in a school. I will be working with a group of other UK university students so I won’t be alone out there, and it is being organised through an ethical volunteer charity called Think Pacific. I know there is the whole debate over white saviourism with this type of expedition, but Think Pacific are quite unique in their outlook by only going where they have been asked to, rather than just turning up and declaring that they are ‘here to help’. They also work in conjunction with the Fijian government to ensure the work that we are carrying out is the work that is actually needed, in order to ensure a better start to life for the kids in these rural areas who are at a disadvantage to those in cities where there are far more opportunities available and much higher quality schooling.

    Since I was going all that way, I also figured that it would be a shame not to do a bit of travelling afterwards, especially since the flights were so expensive! So, when the month in Fiji is complete, I will then be flying to Brisbane in Australia with a couple of other people from the project and travelling down the coast to Sydney over the course of two weeks. I am SO excited for this. Mind you, I haven’t met these people yet so I hope I like them considering I’m now going to be stuck with them for an entire six weeks…

    In other news, I also recently visited my best friend who is on a year abroad in Spain. We met up in Barcelona and the most fun weekend I have had in a very long time. It has been months since I last seen her, which has been quite the adjustment considering we have lived together for the first three years of university after being randomly placed together in student accommodation in first year and moving into our private rented flat the next year. I am not going to go into too much detail about this trip though because I am planning on doing a travel photo diary like I did for Hamburg in January. Stay tuned!

    And I think I will leave it there for now. I’m looking forward to being able to read for fun for a couple of months rather than constantly sticking to class reading lists, so I feel like I have got a bit of my old mojo back. Exams and dissertation writing was an incredibly stressful time, even more so than I could have imagined, but now I have finally reached a point of recovery that it isn’t too painful a topic to speak about.

    In typical me fashion, I also have a good bit of motivation suddenly (now that exams and my entire degree is finished, OF COURSE) so I am hoping to channel that into getting back to blogging and preparing for my impending trip.

    Hope you didn’t miss me too much!!

     

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    lifestyle, personal, recommendations, travel

    TRAVEL DIARY: 21 hours in Hamburg

    hamburg.jpgHello! Do you still remember who I am?

    I haven’t been blogging much the past month or so, while I got back into the swing of things with uni after the long Christmas break. I am now halfway through my final semester of classes in my four-year-long degree which I CANNOT BELIEVE I am even saying right now. I really love my classes this semester actually, especially my one on Victorian Gothic literature (Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Island of Dr Moreau, some Sherlock Holmes, SO MUCH GOOD STUFF) so it hasn’t even been much of a task making myself sit down at my desk and crack on with it. It makes such a difference to your productivity levels when you really love what you are doing, doesn’t it.

    Anyway, now that I truly have the hang of it again and am back into a good routine, my blog can return from its place on the back burner. I have missed writing on here!! I have a couple of blog posts planned for the next couple of weeks, including a book review on The Wicked King, if you aren’t sick of those already from every other book blog under the sun (although I could read people’s thoughts on Jude and Cardan all day long).

    Today though, I wanted to tell you about a very exciting and last minute trip I took a couple of weeks ago with my flatmate courtesy of Ryanair flight sales.

    Yep, I went to Germany for the day for the same price as it would cost to get the train home for the weekend.

    Warning: long post ahead.

    hamburg 1hamburg 2The week before we went, or even knew we were going, my flatmate got an email through advertising cheap Ryanair flights as part of their January sale. It started off as sort of a joke, wondering where we could jet off to, and we started looking at flight times without really caring about the destination. Most of them didn’t suit because they didn’t fit around our university classes, and since we are semi-responsible adults now we didn’t want to miss anything so close to graduation. Then we spotted one to Hamburg in Germany that meant we would only be away for a day in total, and a few minutes later we were booked. Read more

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    feature, life, lifestyle, personal

    A 2018 Re-Cap

    photo-1482329833197-916d32bdae74Happy new year everyone! I know we all say it every year, but I really can’t believe 2018 has already been and gone. So much happened throughout the year, both for me personally and across the world, but at the same time, it also feels like it has absolutely flown in.

    2018 saw me start my fourth and final year at university. I definitely don’t feel ready to (hopefully) graduate in a few months time – I should still be that little fresh-faced eager first year who hasn’t a clue what is going on around me! My flatmate for the past three years also went off on her year abroad to Spain, so it has been a very different few months living with my school friend who took her place in the flat. I also started a new part-time job in September working behind the bar in my student Union, a job I absolutely adore. It is a surprising amount of fun working with only other students, serving students. Working nights doesn’t bother me in the slightest either, probably because I am a night owl anyway.

    My sister, her husband, and their three young children also visited in the summer. They live in America so it was an absolute delight to catch up with them properly and hear “Aunt Holly” coming out of their little mouths. At Easter, I spent two weeks on the east coast of Spain in a small town called Los Alcazares, which is the third time I have visited there now. I really love it there. It isn’t super busy, and everyone seems to know each other. Our favourite bar owner remembered us, and we would sit and drink the ridiculously large measures of gin into the small hours of the morning, chatting to the staff and the ex-pats who frequented it too.

    I also turned 21 just last week. I am officially an adult. To be honest, I was always kind of forgetting that I wasn’t already 21 because my friends’ birthdays are all earlier in the year so they have been that age for a little while. But still, it is pretty exciting, even if I do feel like I have to get my shit together now. And I can legally drink in America!! As if I haven’t been drinking in Scotland for years… Speaking of which, wow hangovers are a BITCH now that I am old.

    All in all, it was a pretty damn great year. There were many lows as well of course, many moments of self-doubt, lack of motivation, and generally feeling like shit. But, I am looking forward to 2019, and everything that it is set to bring. I hope to look at myself in the mirror and think, ‘actually, you’re not too bad.’ I hope to put in my best effort possible into my final semester, so I don’t come out the other end wishing I had done more, or tried just that little bit harder. I hope to graduate from university with a grade that I am proud of. I hope to plan what I am going to do next, which may include applying to study for my masters. I hope to do so some solo travelling, most likely to visit my best friend on her year abroad. I hope to be adventurous in the summer too, and maybe even work in that little part of Spain that I love so much. I hope to continue to write for fun, whether that is here on my blog, or articles for The National Student. I hope to read for fun, and not just because I have to attend a class on that book or topic.

    Here’s to all of us having another great year.

     

     

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    Learning Basic British Sign Language

     

     

    A little bit of a different kind of post today. For the last couple of weeks, I have been attending a Beginners British Sign Language course run by my university. The course is 20 lessons in length, with two-hour classes one night per week. BSL is something which I have wanted to learn for some time now, probably ever since I watched Switched at Birth and was fascinated by this language told completely in hand gestures and facial expressions.

    And then, during the summer when I was working in a local café before going back to uni, I served a deaf couple. They were very understanding, and didn’t expect us to know anything in the way of sign language at all. They wrote down what they wanted to ask us, and were able to make very simple signs and point at things to order. But, this encounter has really stuck with me ever since. All I could actually say to them that they could fully understand was ‘thanks’. That’s it. An entire language, and I can say thanks.

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    5 Things, lifestyle, list, personal, student

    5 Things: What To Do When It All Gets A Bit Much

    I have had this blog post sitting in my drafts for a while, and this week seemed like the perfect time to pull it back out. There were no words in it, just the title so I could come back to it. Writing this introduction after I have finished writing the rest of the post, I can safely say that one of the things that I can to when it all gets a bit much, is write. So I guess that goes with number 5.

    We are halfway through week 2 of semester 1 of year FOUR of my degree. This is my last year at university, my honours year – also known as the year. This is the year that everything rides on, and every grade counts towards what level of degree I am awarded with at graduation next summer.

    If you have finished a degree yourself, you will know that that is a LOT to think about. It is constantly at the back of my head, and has been all summer, but it is just in the last couple of days that it is has really hit home. I was awake until the small hours on Sunday night stressed out my mind at the pressure of it all. I don’t want my last few years to have been a total waste of my time, and I don’t want to be disappointed with my degree next year when I know I could have done so much better if I had just put the work in.

    A lot of this is probably geared towards university stress, t least in my head it is because that’s what I am stressed about, but you can apply it to your own personal situation.

    Maybe this blog post is just as much for me as it is for you. We can all be little balls of stress together. (Or should I say LOVELY CALM PEOPLE together after we all read this blog post???) Read more

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    life, lifestyle, list, personal

    30 Questions To Get To Know Me

    Well that’s a large photo of my mug to start us off, isn’t it.

    HELLO. It has now been nearly a month since I posted on my blog, and like I said on Twitter, it was beginning to feel like the longer the break became, the more stressful it was.

    I am also back at university now and officially a FOURTH YEAR Honours degree student. I honestly can’t believe. Where did the time go?! How can I really be nearly DONE?! The pressure has really been mounting up, especially the past week. I am perhaps even a little bit too overwhelmed. I think the weight and importance of it all has suddenly hit me all at once and now I am like, “SHIT I need to get my act together,” whilst also simultaneously letting Netflix auto-play the next episode of Jane the Virgin.

    This is a post that I had saved in my drafts, nearly complete and ready to go for a rainy day. Well that day is today (although, actually, it isn’t raining). Now that I have come to terms with those first week jitters (almost), I am hoping to get a little bit better with my time management and motivation and get. shit. done. Encouraging words are welcomed!!! Please!!!

    I came across this list of questions while reading a blog last month (sorry I have forgotten who! I will update this if I remember, I knew I should’ve put the link in this post while I was still on the page).

    I have been blogging a few months now, so it must be about time that you knew something about me other than the fact that I quite enjoy a good book and a good glass of pink gin and lemonade. Turns out, there are a few other almost interesting facts about myself. Who knew. Read more

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    books, life, lifestyle, student, writing

    7 Tips for Studying an English Literature or Creative Writing Degree

    I’d like to start off by saying I am absolutely by no means the best student out there. I am lazy and unmotivated and self-deprecating, constantly racked with guilt after spending another day hungover in bed watching Netflix and doing no writing or reading.

    But, I have somehow managed to actually get some extremely good grades over the past three years, some of which I’m not sure I really deserve. In fact, my end-of-year grades for 3rd year were astonishingly good considering my lack of effort as I managed to pass with distinction, which would allow me therefore to (SOMEHOW) graduate just now with a First Class Bachelor of the Arts in English, Journalism and Creative Writing if I wished. However I am continuing on for my fourth year to do Honours level.

    I feel it is only fair to pass on the wisdom I have picked up throughout my time at university. Some of them probably only apply to the creative writing side, but many suit both writing and literature degrees. These degrees open up so many avenues for you in terms of careers – teaching, publishing, writing, pr, copywriting, editing, you name it. I’m not sure yet exactly where I hope my career will take me, but I do hope that it will include writing. I always said I never wanted to be an English teacher, but the closer it gets to the end of my degree, the more appealing it sounds to pass on my love for the subject. 
     
    Until then, here are some tips for if you are set to start a course after the summer, or thinking of applying in the future. I can’t recommend it enough if reading and writing is your passion.  
     
    I actually really enjoyed writing this post, so I hope you like it too! A lot of these tips come from my mistakes – just saying.

    DON’T PICK THIS DEGREE FOR INSTANT MONEY AND SUCCESS

    Unlike some types of degrees, and English or Creative Writing degree does not instantly qualify you to do a specific job. If you want to be a teacher, you have to combine it with an education degree or do a postgraduate degree in teaching. Like I said, they open up so many avenues for different careers, but you have to find the one that is right for you, and that is not necessarily going to be glaringly obvious before you start your degree. It is very much a degree to go into with just a passion for the subject, and see where that takes you. I still don’t know where that will be, but I am fine with that. (A little stressed, but mainly fine.)

    Prepare for lots of questions from people asking, “So when do you qualify?” NEVER. 


    READ READ READ

    This kind of goes without saying. The best writers do a lot of reading too. Not to steal other people’s work and ideas, but to improve your own writing skills and imagination. It also helps to not just read ‘good’ writing. I often find myself critiquing writing while I read without meaning to, picking out little mistakes that hopefully translate in my own work.

    DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHARE YOUR WORK

    It is often in class during a workshop that you will get the best ideas for your work. There is something about the banding together of fellow creative minds that can do wonders for your story. You can get ideas you may never have come up with on your own, and rework them to suit your own style. It may be daunting, especially at the beginning when you have no idea who these people are and how dare they criticise your work, but it is really one of the most valuable things about a creative writing course.

    ALWAYS GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO EDIT

    I have some cheek saying this, when I was always the one frantically typing the day the assignment was due and uploading it after barely giving it a second glance because I didn’t have time to edit. This is not the way forward. Learn from my mistakes. You will be sick of hearing this piece of advice from your tutors, but believe them when they say you need a fresh eye. You can’t spot your mistakes, irregularities, or plain stupid writing if you read it straight after writing it. You need to give yourself time to forget the tiny details, almost like you are reading someone else’s writing for the first time.

    This goes for blog posts too!

    YOU WILL HAVE TO DO CLASSES THAT DON’T INTEREST YOU – BUT PERSEVERE

    Depending on your university, you may have varying levels of flexibility when it comes to module choices. This often means you will be stuck doing core classes that are of little interest to you, which I do have a lot of experience of. I’m talking Renaissance literature, scriptwriting, poetry writing – you name it, I’ve done it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact you are still graded on these subjects and you still have to do your absolute best, whether it gets you all hot and bothered or it drives you to the brink of insanity.

    As difficult as it may be, remember that each of these classes are still improving your skills by forcing you to branch out from your comfort zone, read and write different things, and be as amazing at your craft as you possibly can be.

    FIND YOUR BEST WRITING TIME

    Do you work best by getting up at the crack of dawn and heading to the library with your take-out coffee cup when there are hardly any people around? Do you like your long lies and prefer to work in the afternoon? Are you a night owl, happy to sit up to the early hours of the morning typing away on your laptop? Whatever works best for you, stick to it. I definitely don’t work well in the mornings. My brain needs more time to wake up before I can be creative. This also relates to choosing your seminar times, if that is something your university has you do. If you aren’t creative at 9am, then it goes without saying that that is not the class time you should be going for, even if that’s the one your friends are picking.

    WRITE TERRIBLY FIRST

    I do pretty much all of my writing in a word document on my laptop because I much prefer the ability to write anything I want, no matter how terrible, and then be able to delete it without a trace before anyone can read it. Writing it down on paper feels so permanent, and I find myself struggling to get started in case it is shockingly bad. What is difficult to remember, but so important though, is that sometimes the stuff that starts off so terrible can be reworked later into some of your best work. If you don’t get anything down on the page, be it a paper or an electronic work, there is nothing to re-do later. The first draft is made to be deleted.

    I’d love to know if you study a literature or writing degree, so let me know! Do you think a writing degree is essential if you want to be a writer?

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    book review, books, lifestyle, student

    A Grand Welcome

    Three years into my English literature, journalism and creative writing degree and I have come to the realisation that I don’t have all that much experience under my belt outside of university assignments and the plethora of unfinished ‘books’ that I wrote on the ancient family desktop computer when I came home from primary school each day.

    I’ve always loved writing. I was really that kid that reminded my teacher at the end of the day that she had forgotten to give out the homework she promised (I wish that was a joke). I own more books than you could count, so many that there is an honest-to-god crack on my living room ceiling directly below where my bookcase sits in my bedroom. That’s because I haven’t just filled the shelves, but also created a makeshift one on top and surrounded the floor around it in extra little piles. then there is a pile on each of the bedside cabinets on either side of my bed, one in probably every handbag I own, some more randomly dotted around my room, and did I mention I live in the great city of Glasgow for university and have more here too? I think you get the point I am trying to make here.

    I actually recently found a sheet of paper in my cupboard signed Holly, age 7 from the time I started my own newspaper. I called it The Holly Gazset (creative and spelled well) and spent the whole one page detailing how mummy and daddy and Lewis (my brother) must pay real money for this, it can’t be pretend money, it has to be actual money, instead of reporting any real news. God loves a trier.


    With a bit of luck, and perhaps some effort, I am hoping this blog won’t be one of those many books I tried to write over the years. Of course, I waited until THE BUSIEST UNI YEAR to do this, aka dissertation year and the year I somehow sorta accidentally but very gratefully became the arts editor of the student newspaper.
    I’m not too sure what I can say about what will be found on here, but I feel it is safe to assume that the focus will be along the lines of reviewing books, sharing my delight at the delicious smell of a new book, and even the joys of navigating life as a very clueless 20 year old living away from home.
    Welcome, and enjoy!

     

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