The Pros: Would I Recommend Going to Uni?

It’s been more than three years since I left home at 18 and moved to a city 200 miles away that I’d spent little more than a couple of hours in. It was the start of my university career: one that saw me write countless essays, meet new people, have many ups and downs as far as my health was concerned, learn far more than I can currently remember, and spend a little too much money on books. So, with a little distance between my final deadline back in May and now, I thought I’d write two posts about the experience: the pros, and the cons. This, obviously, is the pros post. Here I’ll share what I loved about going to university, and some of the things you might be able to look forward to – or reminisce upon – about your own time at university.

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That ‘Uni Lifestyle’

In the months, and sometimes years, before heading off to university you hear many things. To name but a few: it’ll be the best years of your life, you’ll spend a lot of time partying (and a lot of time hungover), and you’ll meet friends you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Is it all true? No, not inevitably. Is there some truth to it? Sure! I loved moving to university, and leaving my old home behind. It was an adventure I’d been looking forward to for years, and I felt ready for it. I wanted the independence, I wanted to meet new people, experience new things, and live somewhere else. I got all of that. University is one of the biggest, most readily available opportunities for you to find a complete new start; a new environment, new people, the ability to make plenty of new impressions. Plus, freshers week? Basically a week to practice making your new first impressions over and over again before you really start to meet people the following week. Who could ask for more?

And now I’m going to try to stop saying ‘new’ for a minute.

Snapchat-2116391219Enjoying What You Do

One of the biggest factors you’ll consider when choosing to go to university will be the course. What you’ll spend your life studying or working for for the next three years (or more). You need to choose the course that is right for you, because if you like the course, you won’t mind doing the work for it. Dare I say it, you might even look forward to the work. A degree is an intense undertaking for most people and if you aren’t willing to work for it, you likely won’t finish it. So be as sure as you can, and it’ll make the hours in the library worth it.

Luckily, there is plenty of choice out there, so there probably is something for you. Some of my best memories of university are to do with the modules on my course. I studied English and History joint honours, so I had two departments to contend with. One of my first modules at university was an English Language module, much of which studied differences in regional accents and pronunciation. And as the 200-odd students in the room came from all over, every lecture was punctuated by the murmurs of students asking whoever was next to them to say something and laughing at the response. It’s not the worst way to bond, y’know.

DSC01332.jpgOther fond course memories come from a module where I basically learned about ghost stories instead of the civil war I was technically meant to be learning about; a module where I learned that in the middle ages it wasn’t unheard of for rats to be issued with court dates; and a module where I spent hours watching films in a language I couldn’t understand, a friend translating where she could.

The People

As I said earlier, going to university is the perfect opportunity to meet people – and to get used to meeting people. We all know it can be a hard thing to do, but simply starting a conversation with the person next to you by saying “hi” can do you well. It can feel strange, because almost as soon as you get to university you need to think about who you want to live with the following year, so you often agree to move in with people before you know them particularly well. Some friendships will last and sometimes you might end up with a housemate you can’t wait to leave behind, but it’ll all be valuable life experience.

And let’s not forget, while you’ll come away from university having experienced some weird things and encountered some weird people (I can guarantee you this much), all of those encounters will turn into stories you’ll look back at with amusement. For example, one of my first year flatmates claimed to have a phobia of shiny things and ended up somehow melting a neon green plastic piece of cutlery in the oven without noticing it. Extremely weird both then and now, but an anecdote which never fails to make people laugh.

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The whiteboards on our fridge in my first year flat were home to many a weird conversation

The Perfect Time to Be Selfish & Try New Things

Another thing about university is it’s the perfect time to focus a little more on you and what you want to do. It’s probably one of the best times to consider getting yourself a gym membership; universities sometimes give their students free memberships, often discounted ones, and local gyms regularly provide student rates. In my first year I was a member of a city gym near my flat; it was roughly equidistant to the university gym but cheaper and 24/7, so it was a little more flexible. In my second and third years, I moved to the other side of campus, so the university gym was nearest and I went there. With the flexible schedules most students have at university, it’s remarkably easy to fit in regular workouts if that’s what you want. And why wouldn’t you – increase your fitness, counteract the countless hours spent sitting down studying, great for your mental health…

Aside from exercise, university gives you the opportunity to explore many other things; you can try new activities wherever you live, take advantage of events the university runs, join societies… In my first year I had the opportunity to attend a radio recording at the BBC in Media City. A friend and I both came to the conclusion that we weren’t good enough at exploring Liverpool and the surrounding area during the semester, so after the January exams and summer exams we’d set aside a few days or a long weekend to do nothing but explore. It was a great help that northern trains are so cheap – I mean, £5 return for an hour’s journey each way? Yes please! Where I live, an 11 minute journey each way will set you back about £7.

Other opportunities I took advantage of included: attending John Boyne’s book launch for The Heart’s Invisible Furies; seeing ITV’s Victoria being filmed near campus (not something the university advertised, but something I stumbled across); and going to Haworth to see the Bronte parsonage and write in the special copy of Wuthering Heights that was created for Emily Bronte’s 200th birthday.

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One of the BBC buildings in Media City, Salford
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Writing in the handwritten Wuthering Heights manuscript for Emily Bronte’s 200th

A Trial Run at Adulthood

Going to university and living away from home is a little like a trial run at full adulthood. Budgeting, cooking, cleaning, getting yourself to lectures etc on time, figuring out how to self-motivate, dealing with landlords and agencies, finding places to live, finding your favourite supermarket, remembering when to put the bins out… All with just a little less pressure. By the time you’ve graduated, you’ll be ready and eager to start your fully adult life.

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So, that’s that for this blog post – all my pros about going to university! Soon will be the second post about the not-so-enjoyable parts, and whether they might outweigh everything in this post. Keep an eye out!

I Completed Adriene Mishler’s 30 Day Yoga Journey

If any of you have spent any time browsing YouTube for workout videos, you’ve probably come across Yoga With Adriene. With more than 4.5 million subscribers, Adriene’s channel is nothing if not successful; throughout the year she uploads free yoga practice videos suitable for anyone, from beginners to those who’ve been doing yoga for years.

I myself first stumbled upon her videos back in my first year of university, so around two years ago now. I’ll admit – I’ve not been consistent in my practice. University living generally doesn’t come with a lot of floor space, so I’d take my opportunities where I could. This year though, I have just enough floor space for me and my yoga mat to fit in my bedroom, so I thought I’d take advantage.

Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Journey (not challenge) is something of an annual event; every January she releases a video per day, all aimed towards finding what feels best for you and your body.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m hypermobile – I’ve probably spent about half of my life injured at this point in some way or another, so fitness has always been a bit of an uphill battle. I’ve seen various physiotherapists who have liked to inform me that my hamstrings in particular are very short for someone my height, so that’s fun. So what I’ve always wanted to know was, if I were to follow a regular yoga routine (which, of course, involves a lot of stretching and muscle control), would any of this improve?

Day 1: Discern

The hardest thing about doing anything like this is getting started. Day one happened to take place on the same day I was travelling back to university after Christmas, which involved a lot of luggage, a car, a train, the tube, another train, and a taxi over the course of about six hours. Then came the unpacking, the food shopping, and the general tidying. So it’s safe to say I wasn’t feeling it when, at about half ten at night, I decided to lay out my yoga mat.

The good news? When the 50-minute session was finally over, I felt a great sense of triumph.

Days 2 & 3: Foundation & Observe

I decided I’d try doing the sessions in the morning, before my day had started, and see how that felt. And honestly, it felt good. I struggle with dark winter mornings, but Adriene’s videos are always soothing to the soul. It was nice to wake up, crawl onto the yoga mat, and just gently wake up my body.

Day 4: Feel

When day four rolled around, I thought I’d save it for the evening again – only a 20 minute practice this time, it was a floor session focusing on the shoulders, spine, and – wait for it – the hamstrings. And yep, mine are still very tight! But the session went well, it relaxed my spine somewhat (another thing that’s been very tense lately), and again, I felt better afterwards. Could this be the key to a happier body?

Day 6: Core

Day 6 was a day I coincidentally found out what has been going on with my ribs recently, and it turned out to be inflamed cartilage. But I figured that as Adriene’s yoga practices haven’t made my ribs feel painful at any time, it should be fine to continue. Plus I’d heard that yoga can help with inflammation, which is definitely something my body could do with!

Days 8 & 9: Meditate & Divine

I ended up doing days eight and nine on the same day – day nine. I spent actual day eight in a lot of pain with my ribs, which probably wouldn’t have been too much of an issue as the Meditate session was very gentle, but I felt like I’d be better off with my hot water bottle and working on my deadline. As Adriene says, it’s about finding what feels good.

I woke up feeling much better on day nine, so did day eight’s practice in the morning, and day nine’s in the evening. The day nine practice was definitely more strength-based, but I noticed my heels in downward dog were suddenly a lot closer to the ground (though not quite there yet), and my arms were shaking less on the planks. I even managed all the push ups! Bent knees, but still…

Day 15: Reveal

It’s been a while since I checked in, so I thought the half-way point would be a good place to do so. Today’s practise, ‘reveal’, was a short 17 minute practice in which Adriene remarked that if you keep consistent with yoga, its magic will reveal itself to you. And weirdly enough, I have noticed changes – in the way I hold myself, in the way I move, even in the way I breathe. Every now and again during the day I’ll find myself just taking a few deep breaths, or adjusting my posture to one better for my body. All without conscious effort.

Day 18: Love

In the interests of honesty, I have no idea what happened with this practice – I don’t think it was the practice itself, but my body just was not feeling it. Maybe because I didn’t eat much the day before? Who knows. I struggled through the video just to say I’d done it. But I’m over half-way now, so I’m not giving up.

Day 20: Lead

Two days later and my day eighteen hiccup turned out to be just that – a hiccup. Today’s practice came with the pleasing revelation that I can, for the first time in my life (I’m 21), bend over and touch my toes! Normally, the furthest I get is just past my knees, or maybe somewhere around mid-calf. Not anymore…

Day 30: Liberate

My main thought at this point was something along the lines of “I’ve done it!”. 30 days of yoga, completed in (I’ll be honest) 31 days. That’s not too bad going, right? The final session was unguided, with the option to either follow Adriene or to do your own thing, and it was surprising to me to find that even without her speaking, her guidance still sounded in my head, a friendly voice of support.


So what did I think overall?

Well, the biggest things to note are probably the physical changes in my body. My wrists (previously notoriously weak) are much stronger. My hamstrings are looser. I can touch my toes, and I can do some push ups. My thighs are stronger. I don’t want to blanket state that my balance (also notoriously terrible) is loads better, because that does differ day to day, but I would say there is more control there now.

Mentally, I’d say it’s refreshing. This month hasn’t been hugely stressful anyway, but it has been an enjoyable space to wander off by myself and bring my attention back to the basics. It’s funny, because I let some friends know I was doing the month journey and one of them said “oh, I forget you do yoga.” I agreed – I usually forgot too. But now, we’re in February, and Adriene releases monthly calendars of video suggestions day by day, and I’m planning to continue the practice. Maybe not everyday, though I will if I can.

So is it worth the time? I’d say so.

Celebrating My 21st Birthday!

One week ago, I turned 21! Yes, that does mean my birthday was on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which is why I decided to primarily celebrate my birthday the day before.

My parents drove 200 miles to Liverpool from home on the Friday night, and arrived at my uni house early on Saturday morning – with a bunch of stuff I’d left at home in September in tow. This was quite an amusing collection of things – reheatable hand warmers, a new jumper, my waterproof coat, and some other bits and bobs. When I moved into this house 2.5 months ago, I had belongings spread around the country – it took some time to figure out where everything was!

We didn’t linger in the house long; we walked down to Liverpool’s Key Lime Café, where they serve a variety of breakfasts, including American style pancakes alongside more savoury things like Eggs Royale. After a leisurely breakfast there, we headed to Central station and hopped on a train to Chester.

We’d decided to spend the day there rather than in Liverpool, as my parents had never been and I enjoy going. I think it’s almost the perfect city, in my mum’s eyes – plenty of history, interesting architecture, good size, but without the same mania that can surround places like London.

My entire family has a thing about history, I think – we’re all interested in it, and so I knew my parents would enjoy seeing the cathedral. We spent quite a long time in there, actually; I think we spent an entire half an hour trying to find one particular feature by a window… it turned out to be on a different window than the ones we were looking at. But by this point, my dad had a hankering for a coffee, and I was a little hungry, so we went to the cathedral’s café for lunch.

It was at this point, while we were waiting for our food, that my mum decided to reveal what she’d been lugging around all day in her backpack – when I’d enquired what was in it, her answer had been “space”. For some reason, I actually believed her! But, alas, she unpacked a collection of coloured envelopes and presents.

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Photos courtesy of my dad, who a) has a far better camera than I do, and b) was the only one to actually bring said camera with him… I forgot mine. I was also paying absolutely no attention the fact he was taking photos.

Now, in all truth, I hadn’t been expecting this – I knew their stay in Liverpool wasn’t going to be cheap, and I’d already had an intended-21st-birthday-present earlier in the year (awkward timing meant it arrived a little closer to my 20th birthday instead!). Nevertheless, I received a pair of earrings (which I’ve worn every day since), some perfume, chocolate and notebooks from my parents, and some other jewellery and cash from other relatives, which I’m very grateful for.

After lunch, we left the cathedral and had a bit of a lazy wander around the city walls and exploring the city, including a visit into a tea shop (my parents are definitely tea people, I can’t say the same myself) and an old pub with a good few centuries of history behind it.

Soon enough, the sun was starting to set and we went over to Miller and Carter for dinner – and odd thought, considering I’m pescetarian and they’re primarily a steakhouse, but they had a fair menu of non-meat dishes so I had salmon. I’m pretty sure my dad had steak, but I have no clue what mum ordered! Terrible memory, I know. I think I was a bit caught up in conversation to notice.


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The next morning, my parents turned up bright and early at my house again (it was now my actual birthday) and we went straight back to Key Lime Café for breakfast. This café is conveniently positioned opposite Lime Street Station, and thus in close proximity to St George’s Hall, where Liverpool’s Armistice Parade was due to take place. As we ate our breakfast we saw various groups of people in various uniforms getting ready for the parade.

We were careful to leave the café with a good amount of time before the parade was due to start, and managed to find a fairly good place to stand, a little way to the left of the monument pictured above. It was a lovely thing to watch; the crowds filled the area and during the ceremony, poppies were released from the roof of St George’s Hall, and petals were released from the top of the radio tower – the wind was blowing in the right direction so they all fell over the plateau and crowds.

I didn’t capture any of the parade and ceremony on camera; aside from the fact I forgot to bring my camera again, it seemed a bit inappropriate. But I had my poppy on, and my mum grabbed a programme they were handing out beforehand, and she managed to catch a few petals (that woman is amazing), so I do have some souvenirs.

After the ceremony had finished, we waited for the barriers to be moved so we could get closer to the monument (which I have walked past dozens of times and know quite well, but we wanted to see the wreaths). Then it was down to the docks to find some lunch, because the world would have turned upside down if an outing with my family didn’t largely revolve around food!

Sadly, the early afternoon meant it was time for my parents to leave. We got a taxi back to my house (instead of the 30+ minute uphill walk), and then my parents were off on their journey home.

So yeah, that’s what I did for my 21st! I’m never that big on birthday celebrations, and celebrating at uni can be a bit weird when your friends and family are miles away, but it was really nice to spend this time with my parents.