Autumn Favourites 2017!

Wow… it’s been a little while since I’ve done a ‘favourites’ post. I tend not to make monthly favourites, purely because I’m poor, and man can’t afford enough new stuff to write about every month! Also because at this current moment, I’m making two blog posts and two YouTube videos (check out my YouTube channel here!) per month. Which may not seem like much in terms of content, but I’m happy with it.

So, to wrap up the November on this blog I thought it would be fitting to wrap up a few of the things I’ve been loving these past few months as the weather’s gotten colder (yessss), days have gotten shorter (double yessss) and the great C-word approaches (Christmas, I mean Christmas). So here they are!

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Wearing

Mustard Jumper – H&M

Ah yes, this is where I give myself away as the absolute epitome of a female blogger: the mustard knitted jumper. But damn, do I love it. It was super cheap (like £6???) and I’ve gotten so much wear out of it already. I must admit, I was worried I wouldn’t suit the mustard, but I think I get away with it. Definitely #worthit.

Tan Leather Rucksack – Accessorize

This was one of my more extravagant purchases of autumn 2017, which sounds a bit weird considering it’s a rucksack. And it’s not one of those weird super-expensive Swedish ones either. But for me, buying a bag from Accessorize is pushing it a bit. But I figured I need a good quality backpack to last me a few years of uni, and I use this every day. For uni, going to Connor’s house, and even taking to work. I’m mega-fussy when it comes to bags and purses, etc. so this was perfect. Even if it did slightly break the bank at the time.

Using

Fragrance Free Lip Balm – Superdrug

Ah, Winter. Thou art a heartless bitch on the lips and skin. Which is why I needed to find a new solution when my trusty lip balm ran out. And yes, I did actually go for the simplest, cheapest option out there, it was a good choice. A cheeky pack of two means I’m never without a quick fix for dry lips (try saying that five times fast), and they do the job.

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Facial Wash

Speaking of winter and its effects on the skin, boy oh boy does my skin HATE the change in seasons. But this has seriously helped. A combination of a good face wash every day, moisturizer and drinking lots of water helps keep the breakouts mostly under control. Also, this one smells super good.

Reading

The Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare

Okay so… I’ve read QUITE A LOT these past few months. Might have something to do with the fact that I have a BookTube channel all about the books I read. (and I’m almost at 50 subscribers so!!!) but yes, I’ve read a lot. However, as university work has gotten more prevalent in my life, reading has unfortunately gone on the back burner. So at the moment I’m slowly making my way through The Mortal Instruments (yes, I know I’m ten years late).

I started off not loving the world of the shadowhunters too much, mainly due to personal dislike for Cassandra Clare’s writing style, however the series and characters have definitely grown on me and I can see this series staying with me for a long time! If you want to find out about my opinions on this series as I continue reading (I’m currently on the fourth book), then make sure to subscribe to my channel!

Listening To

Harry Styles by Harry Styles

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Okay so I was never ever ever a 1D fan. Nothing against them, I just was slightly too old to love them, and slightly too young to hate them. But out of a need for new music recently (after listening to the same 4 bands for the past like 5 years), I decided to give Harry’s album a go. Even though I didn’t like Sign of the Times when I first heard it, I LOVE this album. I think Harry is by far the most talented out of the group, and his personal style truly shines through in this album. It has hints of classic rock, ballads, and even country at times, and I absolutely love it. Every song makes me want to sit staring out a train window and leave my old life behind in a turn-around montage, you know? It’s that kind of music.

Watching

Stranger Things

Come on. We all know this would be on here. If this isn’t on everyone’s Autumn favourites then they are LYING. I have not met one single person who hasn’t loved this show, and season two that blasted into my life at the end of October was everything I could have hoped for for my Hawkins children and more. I love each and every one of the characters and storylines so much, and this season truly did just expand on the Strange World and the characters I loved the first time around. It’s one of the best pieces of cinematic artwork I’ve ever seen, and I even used it as inspiration for one of my university presentations. That’s how much I love it.

The Vampire Diaries

It may have taken me eight years (this show first aired in 2009. 2009?!?!), but last night I finally finished The Vampire Diaries. And I full-on sobbed for the last five minutes of the last episode (sorry, Connor). I’ve been through many ups and downs with this show, and I can easily say it is not the best show I’ve ever seen. At times, it actually felt like I was physically being thrown into a fantasy writer’s worst nightmare, what with the plot holes and convoluted storylines, but I did feel an attachment to many of the characters, and I’m so glad it ended in the way it did. But if I think about it too much, I’ll never shut up. So let’s move on.

Miscellaneous

YouTube

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I know I’ve spoken about this multiple times in this post alone and I’m SORRY (but I’m also not sorry), but I’ve started a YouTube channel! I’m currently posting one video a fortnight, and trying to get motivated to do more (maybe over Christmas?) but I basically just talk about books! Books I’ve read, my opinions on books, and I even have a series on book recommendations for each of the Hogwarts houses!

I’m loving the whole feel of creating videos for my YouTube channel, and coming up with ideas for the future is just as exciting as seeing people commenting and enjoying them, and I can’t wait to put more effort into my channel into the future, since I’m finally doing something I’ve always wanted to do (make YT videos) while making it about something I’ve always had a passion for!

University Life

And finally, I’ve been loving uni life. While I’ve not been the typical fresher, what with living at home (check out why I decided to this here), and with not being really into the whole alcohol culture that comes with uni, I’ve been loving learning again.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to get a degree for a long time, but after deciding on what I wanted to do in the future, I knew it was a step I had to take to get where I wanted to go, and I’m going to embrace every second of it. Starting uni has given me the opportunity to keep my innocence and act like a teenager for a bit longer, something I won’t be taking for granted. I get to live at home with my family, I get to learn every day, and have spare time to spend on hobbies that I love. I’m loving university life, and I’m so lucky that this is a part of life I’m able to take part in.

So there you have it, a few of my favourite things from this Autumn. Much like everyone else in this world, I can’t believe we’re nearly over with 2017, but honestly I’m so excited for what’s coming up in 2018 as some pretty exciting things are in place already.

If you’ve got a favourites post, link it down below so I can check it out, and if you’ve been loving the same things as me then let me know, I’d love to hear about it, and also let me know if there’s any Christmas-y/Winter-y or other content you’d like to see from this blog!

‘Til next time,

Jess x

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Five Reasons To Live At Home While Studying

If you didn’t already know by my countless tweets, blog posts, Instagram posts and even mentions in YouTube videos (oh yeah, I have a YouTube channel now), I started uni. I know, right? Bet you never would have guessed.

In all seriousness, I started my undergrad degree in Communication and Media just over a month ago, and it’s been going… interestingly. Read More »

REVIEW: If I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo

Honestly, I don’t know where to start with this. I’ve always just told myself that I’m awful at reviews, and to leave them far far away, for other people to write, and honestly I’m a little scared to attempt this. But you know what? 2017 is the year of facing fears, I think (maybe) and I’d like to start writing reviews. So here goes (cue superior-sounding and intimidating review-er voice)…

If I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo

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If I Was Your Girl tells the, frankly overdone, story of a young girl who has to start a new school, and her struggles through making new friends, first loves and parent troubles. It’s one of those basic story premises that’s been done and done a thousand times over, the world over. I’m sure that no matter the culture, religion, race, every teenage girl has once wanted to read about the life of another teenage girl.

But with this, there’s something different.

And it’s not something that you have to wait until the last page for, either (which is something I personally don’t have the patience for). From the get-go (even the blurb, actually), we – the audience – are aware that Amanda, our beautiful, smart, nerdy and mysterious protagonist, used to be known as Andrew.

Meredith Russo’s debut novel details the post-transition Amanda’s life as she tries to make it safely from high school to the World Beyond – something of which I’m sure we can all relate to. But Meredith’s life as a trans woman has enabled her to transform a somewhat over-done story into one that I think – honestly – everyone should read. Or at least read about. The simple fact of the matter is: there aren’t enough stories about trans people.

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Now, as much as I could, I’m not going to make this post about trans issues. It is not my place, nor my right to address issues faced by those in the trans community.I have never faced gender identity issues, and I can’t imagine ever doing so, and that is where I will leave my knowledge on the subject. However, if a trans person, or someone struggling with gender identity issues is reading this: I support you, you are brave and amazing and you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to, I am here.

Now that that is out of the way, I’m going to continue by saying that this review is not going to address the serious matters of gender identity, transgenderism and social inequalities, as I simply haven’t got the words – or the authority – to do so. I will, however, review this book as a book. 

If I Was Your Girl, while hugely important and eye-opening for someone who is cis-gendered and uneducated, could have been better, book-wise.

The subject matter, while fascinating and wonderful in its modest glory (Amanda’s brief descriptions of the transition process I felt were a nice way to satisfy reader’s curiosities, while remaining steadfast in her secretive nature, and were well played-down by the author), could have been paced much better.

My biggest problem with IIWYG was simply the pacing. I felt this book could have been light-years longer. It felt rushed, and because of this, characters and their actions often felt unrealistic, and it could sometimes feel as though Meredith – the author – knew things that the audience didn’t, but forgot, and described scenes and emotions as thus.

While I can see the advantages of trying to write a book – particularly a YA book, as this is intended – that is long enough to be a story, while being short enough to keep young reader’s attentions, I felt this was just not long enough. There simply wasn’t enough space to put all the emotions of someone who has been through so much, on paper in just under 300 pages. I often felt as though, if I were in Amanda’s situation, I’d need a hell of a lot more time to digest some information and make some decisions, than she did. But that’s just me.

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Some may complain that IIWYG was too shallow. That it only tread the very shortest of depths that LGBTQIA+ fiction could do, but I think that’s enough. For now, at least. The general public may still be wary of literature that dives too deep into the minds and bodies of those who aren’t “normal” (and I use that term sarcastically, if you didn’t guess), and, while some of us may be ready to dive deep, the world might not be yet. Baby steps.

But, If I Was Your Girl did exactly as it was supposed to, and for that I commend it. It made me laugh. It made me sad and angry. It made me love Amanda and Virginia and Layla and Grant. It made me hate others. It made me feel that first-love, first-kiss, first-everything feeling that we all crave sometimes. And it made me more aware. 

And for a mainstream, published, printed and talked about book (If I Was Your Girl has actually been featured in Zoella’s book club with W H Smith for this year, which is incredible and huge for the author, to have someone as influential as Zoe recommending this story to her millions of avid fans…) to hold such power and knowledge. The power to turn attention towards this issue that the world faces (by issue I mean transphobia and homophobia, etc), is fantastic.

I urge you all to pick up this book (or download it.. whatever you fancy), and just try it. Your age, your gender, your sexuality, your reading preferences do not matter. You should read this, for your own education.

Thanks guys, let me know if I did OK for my first book review (that’s been published on this site). Also let me know what’s on your reading lists for 2017, I need recommendations!

Jess x

My Apprenticeship Experience (So Far) // Blogmas Day 3

Find other posts in my 2016 Blogmas series here!!

From the beginning of September 2016, I began my Level 3 Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing. A qualification that not only allows me to “earn while I learn”, but also enables me to get that ever-crucial first year of experience that is vital in almost any industry these days. So, this post is going to be about the first few months of my apprenticeship, how I’ve found it, and the finer details that those looking into what to do after education might be wondering!Read More »

Writing Your Personal Statement

Okay, so this is what anyone who’s actively been following this uni series has been waiting for (not that there are any of you) since the beginning.

By far the most daunting part of any application, not just when applying for University, but throughout all of life. Schools, colleges, jobs, anything. The bit where you have to actually *shudder* write about yourself… in a nice way

It is scary, I’ll admit. But, as someone who’s never had much trouble bullshitting my way through life, I hope I can provide some insight.

As some may know, I have been through the entire UCAS process previously, so I have written a UCAS personal statement in the past. And (not to brag), but I did manage to get offers for each and every university and course that I applied for. So… you should probably listen to me. You know, if you want…

1. Research Your Arse Off

Literally just Google the words “UCAS Personal Statement examples” and you might as well be good to go. Well, in an ideal world you would be. But seriously, looking at examples of students past and present, reading help guides online, looking at the UCAS website and, of course, reading this post one million times.

Think about it this way: you cannot possibly know where to begin if you’ve never seen a personal statement before in your natural life (or unnatural, I ‘spose). So know what you’re getting into. Find out what’s worked for others, what hasn’t. Find examples you like, and styles of writing that you feel really reflect you and who you are, and where you want to be.

Think about the Universities you’re applying for. Are they super-posh and scary Oxbridge places? Then maybe all those jokes about you in Year seven aren’t such a good idea. But if you’re aiming for creative courses and more liberal universities, then switch it up a bit. Maybe take a chance on your style, and hope for the best.

2. Plan, Plan, Plan

And here, my favourite activity finally comes into good use in an advice post…

Make lists. Make a list of what you want to include in your personal statement. Make a list of the qualities you have (or at least, the qualities you should have) that match your chosen course and Univerisity. Make a list of your previous relevant experience, and even previous irrelevant experience. Make a list of goddamn everything that could be useful to you when writing your statement. The literal worst thing is when you’ve finally got everything to the perfect word count, everything is absolutely perfect, and then you remember that you didn’t include your relevant work experience, but you actually did include That Random Award You Won for Participation in Year 3 Sport’s Day.

3. Beware the Word Limit

This is probably the most obvious tip in the world ever, but honestly it’s the biggest. UCAS will not let you submit your personal statement if it exceeds the strict character/line limit.

Familiarise yourself with this limit. Learn the limit. Love the limit. Be the limit. I’m serious.

When I was writing my statement drafts (so many drafts – more on this in a second), I constantly had to be keeping in mind this character limit, and working around it. If you forgot that you had a particular experience or skill and want to include it, but you’ve already hit the word limit, be prepared to scrimp on those fancy words you prided yourself on.

Be liberal. Take your favourite/most powerful phrases and keep them, but lose all the faff. You don’t need it. You need to create a big impression, in a short space.

4. Be Different

Obviously, you know this one. If your personal statement reads just the same as every other fucker’s personal statement then it will be skimmed over, and you will fall short of that place.

You want to stand out, obviously. But – again obviously – you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Be different. Be interesting. Find a first sentence (and this is crucial) that grabs that admissions person by the eyeballs and makes them desperately want to read the rest.

If you’re going for a particularly creative course – for example Creative Writing – then maybe set your statement out like a fictional story. Or Journalism – set it out like a news piece. Or even a script, or address the person reading directly. Work with the cliches, and go above and beyond them. Don’t say the dreaded “Ever since I was born I’ve wanted to be a Dentist” or something stupid like that. Get a good momentum of a fab first sentence, then carry on through.

Also, make sure to end with the Best Sentence Ever Written. No point making the first part of your statement sound like Charles Dickens wrote it on a good day, and then ending with “Hope you want to have me on your course. xo” – again, the best thing for this is

5. Breaks & Second Opinions

Take breaks from your work. If you try and write this all within one huge, Redbull-fuelled-3am-why-am-I-doing-this Night of Terror, and then send it off – you will die. Literally. Do not do this. Do this, sure, but do not send it off. Write it when you have the mojo, and read it back over when you have it again. Take your time, and take breaks.

Linked to this, when you’re having a break, make sure to ask others check your work, and don’t just leave it up to yourself. Please.

Get your mum to check it, your teachers, your aunts, your uncles, your siblings, your dog. Because while the ideas and content of your statement might be amazing (which I’m sure it will be), and creative and fantastic, there could be any number of silly little spelling or grammar mistakes that you just didn’t catch, because you’ve been staring at this piece of writing for seventy five years. Also, spell check will only go so far. So make sure you’re constantly reviewing the written English of your piece.

6. Check, and Check Again (and again)

You might think that your statement is perfect. That it is the most incredible piece of literature since sliced bread (or some other great piece of literature), and that no one in the entire world has ever, ever, ever written anything as immaculate as this.

You might be right. But then again, you could have written the world “public” as “pubic, and you might as well just give up and buy a dishwasher for your mum, so you can use the box to live in.

I’m kidding, but seriously that would be embarrassing. So for the love of sliced bread, check your work one thousand million times before you send it off. 

Trust me, there’s no bigger turn off than bad grammar and English. (And that doesn’t just apply to UCAS, if you know what I mean…)

Aaand, there you have it. My Personal Statement tips. If you need any extra help, and want to see an example (by me, because I am clearly the best at everything) (kidding), then I will put my previous UCAS personal statement in the comments. (Which landed me five conditional places, just saying).

Good luck guys, if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, and let me know how your applications are going. Stay tuned for more!

Til next time,

Jess

 

What to Look For at a University Open Day

And we’re back again, with my (probably not at all) eagerly anticipated ‘Applying for University’ series.

At this point, you’ve been back at school for about a month now, and all your teachers are up your arse about getting your UCAS started. And trust me, there will be more posts about that process very soon. I will not leave you just as the hard bit starts, I promise!

My advice for this point in time, would be to create your UCAS logins. That’s it. Go onto the UCAS site, take a look around at all the articles (they’ll be a lot more helpful than mine, I guarantee you), and get your logins sorted. You don’t have to start the application process; you don’t even have to think about it yet. But definitely make use of the resources available to you. Every single piece of information you can get from sources like UCAS (you know, the legit ones) are invaluable, and can help you to the Nth degree. So that’s my first piece of advice.

But the actual purpose of this particular post was to give you some advice about open days. In my last Uni Series post, I told you to start researching potential unis that you might be interested in, using things like league tables and just taking a look at different University’s websites. From these sites you’ve probably seen a lot of adverts for open days.

Please go to open days.

Obviously, it’s not always possible. And if you’re looking to move to the other side of the country, then it might not be the most convenient option to just go gallivanting off (great word) for the week. So, try to go to as many open days as possible. And, as many are held on Saturdays (and a lot of people looking to attend University probably work on weekends) try and work around your own schedule. Some unis offer ‘Guided Tours’, which aren’t open days necessarily, but are times during the week that you can visit and have a look around on your own, whenever you’re free.

Try to go to open days that you feel you really want to get a feel of. Some unis have Virtual Tours on their websites, or live webinars you can watch, as well as YouTube videos about the uni, so if there is really no way to get there, you can still get a sense of the place through these.

It’s really just about your own personal preference, whether you want to go and be surrounded by hundreds of other people in the same boat, or if you’re more nervous in these situations, then trying to find a way to take a look of a school that fits best for you.

However, the only reason I recommend going to Open Days above all else, is that they are simply the best way to see how life works around that particular place. And, when you’re at these open days, here are some of the main factors that you should be looking out for:

  • The atmosphere/location of the Uni. Is it city-based? Or a bit more quiet? Does that suit your lifestyle/personality?
  • What are the students like (and not just the student ambassadors that show you around, because they’re being paid to be there, but try striking up conversation with any random student you see, they’ll give you a real answer).
  • What are the staff like? Do you think you’d get on?
  • Do the facilities available look of a high standard for your chosen course? (Especially if you’re doing a science, media or sports-based degree)
  • Does the course look interesting, and suitable for you?
  • What is the accommodation like? Does the uni offer different types of accommodation, that would suit you more than halls, for example student houses for first years, or single-occupancy studio flats?
  • What is the current level of student satisfaction? (Can also be found online here)
  • Transportation allowances: are you allowed to take your car? Is there a free student bus service? Is everything close together or will you need to find a way around?)
  • Are there nearby places that you could find a part-time job, if you are planning on looking for one?
  • If you have specific dietary/lifestyle/disability/religious requirements, are your needs met by the university if requested?

Alternatively, possibly an even better way to check out a school, would be to stay there for a day or two, with someone who actually goes there. Last year, when I was looking at Universities, I considered going to Brighton. A few weeks earlier, one of my cousins had started at that Uni to study Aeronautical Engineering. I mean, it was absolutely not what I wanted to study, so he couldn’t really help me there, but I got to go to his shared house, meet some of his friends, check out the area, and see what student life is like on a quiet night (because we all know what it’s like on a messy one). Then the next day I went on a guided tour, got to see the facilities, and meet staff and students.

Unfortunately, (obviously), I didn’t end up having the best time at the open day, and Brighton didn’t end up being one of my final choices. However, that experience was unbeatable, and really gave me the best chance to look around, in a way that wasn’t just student ambassadors shoving me around and staff giving me weird smiles to try and get me to attend. I got to see what life there is like through an actual student’s perspective. Which was really cool.

Obviously, this whole thing is bloody scary. It’s absolutely freaking terrifying, and I understand. But taking it one step at a time is the best thing to do at this point. Try not to overthink it, because there’s probably a lot going on at school and stuff at the minute, and I promise it will all be fine!

Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it…

Thanks for reading, and look forward to the next post in this series (hopefully) next week!

Jess