Why you should think about what you read: what English Literature has taught me this week

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw may have been published over a century ago, but aside the eeriness of the ghost story, a more literary critical point lies underneath. The principal narrator of the book, the governess, starts off as sounding as more than adequate as a narrator. As the story proceeds, however, one finds her story less believable and her narration unreliable as she recalls her tale.

James was undoubtedly ahead of his time. He brought up the idea of questioning what we are reading and why; and whether reader should fully believe the person writing or narrating. This concept could not be more relevant in today’s world; in a global phenomenon of fake news, swarms of paparazzi and endless clickbait, taking a step back and critically evaluating what we read is vital.

Whilst this may give people uncomfortable flashbacks to close reading at High School, the skills we use for reading in those situations can also be applied when reading any article or information. I’m not saying bust out all your highlighters and pens and look for alliteration; I’m saying think about who is writing this, who they’re writing it for, and why.

Take well-loved Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. I liked him; for a start, almost every article I read was saying how much of a hero he was compared to President Donald Trump – and I believed it blindly until I was fortunate to come across this article by the Guardian. Trudeau, as far as I’m aware, is not a racist or sexist (so far) – but like Trump, he’ll do what he thinks is best for his country. In this case I profoundly disagree selling barrells of oil is best for his country. I don’t hate him, but I don’t see him as a saviour for the West as beforehand.

If it wasn’t for that article, I would have continued to buy the wonderful portrayals of Trudeau and how he could do no wrong. Of course, I don’t feel as strongly against him as the author of the article does (I watched the video of Trudeau and he did say he would sell the oil ‘safely’ and ‘sustainably’ – how he will do this I don’t know).

This brought me to think about how, if we feel so strongly for or against something, we will take on almost any article that supports or believes it. Countless articles link to videos or paraphrase what people said, and before you know it bloody battles are being fought on the well known battlegrounds of Facebook comments, with as much as half of people not even watching the original video or reading the original article or quote. Why?

We like to see what we believe, and belief is a beautiful thing. Anything that comes close to shattering this, we get our guards up and will look for anything that backs our point up. These days you can find any type of statistics and data to back up any point you want to make; if you find something that supports your initial belief or view in a paraphrase, you’re more likely just to go on that rather than check out the original quote.

So what do we do about this? Read actively. Find a quote? Look for the original. Find a statistic? Look for other ones to back it up and its source. Find an article supporting your point? Research the author and look at the newspaper its written for. I’m not saying you should do this for every Buzzfeed quiz or Film Review (though Buzzfeed’s reliability is altogether another question).

Like James’ The Turn of the Screw, a story can have different narrators and these people may or may not be reliable. So don’t just believe everything you read, even if it does match your viewpoints; if you can back up your point having said you’ve looked at all the influencing factors, you’re already further ahead than most people are.

Check out my last blogpost on living far away from your extended family here.

 

Living far away from your relatives: a tribute to my late maternal Grandfather

Last Tuesday it was six years since my maternal Granddad died. This made me reflect not only upon his life, but on how difficult it was to be so far away from your family; my grandparents, cousins and most of my Aunts and Uncles are in India and Malaysia and this can make seeing them frequently very difficult. Of course, I do remember my Grandfather, but I do not have as many memories with him as my cousins back in India do.

This idea made me think of what it was like for many people who have settled in the UK and have their parents – and their sons and daughters’ grandparents – far away. I was quite fortunate to visit India (roughly) every three years or so, yet I did not know my Grandfather nearly as well as some of my cousins did.

Even with the wonders of Skype and instant messaging on Facebook, it’s nothing compared to living down the street from your grandparents like some people have the luxury of having (no matter how much one might complain about their in-laws). When you go see your relatives every few years, the talk can often be the same. “She’s grown so much!” “What year is he in now?” “Do you still like to do…” As a result (at least in my experience) you don’t truly get to know them.

I discovered far more about my Granddad after he died than after he was alive. The more I heard about him, the more I wished he was still alive. I have so many questions that I wish he could answer.

Of course – and as horrible as it sounds – I did not experience as much pain and sadness as my Mum and relatives back in India did when he died. I was very upset, but for different reasons; I never knew him like they did.

There are times I actually forget that he died. I’ll be thinking “I can tell tha tha this…” and then I’ll remember I can’t. I think of all he missed: the entirety of my time at high school; my graduation from high school; and me starting University. He was keen to hear me how I would get on at school, and I used to like telling him.

One of the saddest parts is that my younger brother was only six when he died; I was twelve. He doesn’t remember tha tha as much as I do. He never even met my paternal grandfather, who died when I was very young. One thing that being far away from your relatives teaches you is how precious your time with them really is: you want to make the most of it while you are there, because you don’t know if there will be a next time.

However, I’ve not lost all hope. My maternal Grandmother has visited many times and we are seeing her soon. Thanks to phone calls and such, we still communicate and will catch up a lot when I next see her. I know the last thing my Granddad would want is for me to be sad.

I also realise that it’s probably not nearly as hard for me as it is for my parents, who of course do know our grandparents well and have to deal being so far away. I suppose they get used to it, but it doesn’t mean they never miss them. Yet, this is just part of the wider experience of having your roots elsewhere in the world; it’s one of the many difficulties to be endured.

Nevertheless, I want to end on a positive. I have been incredibly lucky compared to some other people. Both my grandmothers are still alive. I intend to see them both – and spend as much time with them and my relatives as possible. I’m still young and have lots of time to make many more memories. My grandfather’s death, over many years of reflection, has taught me you have to make the most of absolutely everything. You just don’t know when it will all go; seeing my Mum with regret was one of the most painful things I’ve seen.

I want to do everything I set out to do – and better.

This article is a tribute to my late maternal grandfather. 

 

 

Types of Flatmates

Out of popular demand (which is an understatement by the way) and a desire to have a good jab at some people, I’ve decided to do types of flatmates featuring…well, my flatmates. No names will be used, but you guys will all know who you are! In all seriousness, I love you all really. Here we go, in no particular order:

The one who always goes missing

This person, no matter where we are, just manages to achieve losing every single other flatmate. They just randomly disappear out of nowhere and it takes AGES to find them. Also, when you do happen to find them, they could be either drunk out of their mind or making out with some old guy (or both at the same time). This person, however, is also secretly REALLY smart and actually can take extremely good care of his/herself. She is very sweet and works really hard. The important thing is, they turn up in the end (somewhere).

The one who always goes off with a guy

This flatmate is dancing with her good friends one minute and making out with the guy dancing next to her in the next. Literally, the next minute. To be honest, she may as well just go up to the guy and get straight to the point with what her intentions are, rather than stringing it out (it’d save everyone else so much time on whether to go home without her or not). She also made up an entire University in her head thinking it was an actual University and thought that Asia was 4 hours away on the plane. Realistically, this person is smarter than she thinks and is super self-sufficient, paying her own way and managing work (just). She also always has great chat and does really good hair!

The one who is basically a baby

This type of flatmate would probably be okay being pushed about in a pram if people would allow it. This person has had everything done for her (I mean everything) before now. If other people hadn’t told her she would have probably thought pasta didn’t need water to cook and eggs didn’t need to be cracked open to be fried. You could put her favourite food on the other side of the kitchen and she’d complain about the walk there.  Although, this person is actually really nice and is surprisingly good at weird things such as DIY. She also buys cool stuff from the supermarket, has a great devotion to prophets and we definitely relate on a cultural level which is pretty cool.

The one who has it altogether

This person, quite frankly, is just annoyingly perfect. She’s doing a really difficult degree, exercising, looking good, staying happy AND having an active social life all at the same time. The worst part she’s just so nice about it all. It’s like, are you trying to make us all feel bad about ourselves? Can you not just mess up once? Can you not just get super drunk, once? Be really horrible? Jokes aside, this flatmate is awesome and makes the best cookies ever. She’s probably doing amazing in her degree already and am sure she will be great at whatever she does one day. Keep killing it girl!

The hyperactive one

This person is just excited. All. The. Time. Please stop randomly dancing in the kitchen or busting out your vocal chords at random times. Oh and don’t run across the road. This person is also someone we’ve all badly influenced; she’s turned from alcoholic virgin to…well, just an alcoholic. Yeah, you ‘don’t drink.’ Annoyingly though, this person can just sober up in a moment of crisis and turn into a doctor from Grey’s Anatomy. Were you even drunk in the first place mate? Also, this person’s food tends to just consist of lentils. And rice. She’s also English, which is another major put off. To be honest though, this person is one of the sweetest people I have ever met and is really kind, as well as being amazingly studious and smart. Her excitement is something I definitely aspire to.

The really blunt Glaswegian

Blunt does not even cut it for this person; she says what she thinks whether other people like it or not! This person also is a party animal, and will literally dance with anyone when drunk. She’s also goes to the gym at like half six in the morning. For spin class. Who DOES that? It’s probably just to check out all the fit guys as she just cannot stop going on about how she wants a fit medic. Like all the time. If someone fit proposed to her right now she’d probably say yes. Also, please don’t scream hello in my face all the time. However, as much as I make fun of this person for going to the gym at crazy times, she’s probably really fit and has the most amazing laugh ever and we both love food. She also looks out for everyone deep down and is pretty much flat mum.

The major procrastinator

Procrastination is one of the many skills of this person. If this person had a deadline the next day and still had to write an essay, she would still put it off – procrastinate isn’t this person’s middle name, it’s their first! It’s pretty annoying as I’m quite sure she is secretly a genius and will probably pass her exams with little to no revision. This person also loves a good party, so much so that she decides to pass out and resurrect again just before people arrive to help her. Thanks a lot, mate. It’s bad enough you rub it in that you do no work, but to basically resurrect from the dead is not cool. Also, how do you make amazing looking food all the time? Don’t lie to us about how you can’t cook, you clearly can. Truthfully, I’m just jealous of what a good cook this person is and how smart she is without revising. She’s also quite cute when drunk and we also relate on a cultural (and biscuit) level, which is always a good thing!

The one with the super cool degree

Everyone envies this person for one reason alone: they hands down have the coolest degree. It’s almost like this person is trying to rub it in your face how cool it is! This person also just happens to just absolutely love their degree and is just amazing at it. Additionally, this flatmate somewhat is all for pres and just ditches us before we go out. As much as I relate to that sentiment, seriously? We’re all dressed up and going out and you just sit there drinking, not even bothering to make an effort? Disappointing. Like, at least dress up a bit or something. Don’t take drink and not commit. Jokes aside, this person is awesome and I’m sure will be super successful one day. She’s really kind and we both like Downton Abbey so that’s a major plus. I also totally get why she’d only do pres – less money, just as much fun!

The lazy one

This person basically sleeps all the time and then complains about not having enough time to do work. 5 hour ‘naps’ and 12 hour sleeps are just normal for this person, as well as just scrolling through social media as she complains about not having enough time to do her essay. At least be awake most of the time if you’re going to try and do work. Also, what’s up with the noises? And the singing? You’re always ‘tired’ and then you’re belting out a tune at like ten am? Yeah, you’re ‘tired’, sure. Seriously though…this person is so lovely. When she does get into doing work and learning, she’s super passionate about it. She’s also an awesome singer and kills it with working two jobs (I don’t even have one).

The really cool exchange student

This flatmate is only here for a short amount of time and is from a really cool place. She seems to have it all together and on top if that is just cool! Almost like she’s too cool for school as people hardly see her. It’s like, are you alive? How do you eat? Are you human? It’s not the floating Trump we have in our kitchen, is it? (I’ll have to explain this another time). This person is actually really nice and it’s a shame she is only here for a short amount of time – hopefully we haven’t put her off from coming back to Scotland!

The one we haven’t ruined yet

This person is just nice. All the time. She is studious, never goes out, she’s quiet and polite. To the point where you just want her to stop and actually just burst out and shout at everyone. Or just get super drunk. Just mess yourself up in some way, please? Just get really grumpy one day, or be really annoying. Just do something that isn’t perfect. In all honestly this person is super lovely and I just wish I could be as nice as she is! She’s smart, kind and always has some good chat when we’re in the kitchen.

And finally… the English student

No prizes for guessing who this is…this person just writes. About everything. Every day. To be honest it must just be really annoying for everyone else. Another blogpost? Another newspaper article? Like, do you do anything else? She also looks super pretentious with her scarves and Starbucks cups. All she needs is a book in her hand and she’ll look like the most pretentious English student ever. It’s probably just to shelter from the fact she’s never had a proper relationship and the number of friends at Uni is the most friends she’s ever had. Also, does this person have any right to be dishing out advice on her blog? She’s only just started University. Like, calm down please. Stick to writing!

 

And there we have it! Types of flatmates featuring my very own group of them. I said it before and I’ll say it again; I love these guys and they’re honestly the best. So, do you see any of your flatmates fit in these descriptions? If they do…good luck.

Photo Credit Alina Brust.

Check out my last article on my first two months of Uni here.

 

 

 

8 weeks and counting: a reflection of my first two months at University

Eight weeks yesterday I had moved out of my childhood home of eleven years and embarked upon a new life in Edinburgh. I was excited but also immensely terrified; I had worked very hard to get into Edinburgh University. What if it wasn’t what I expected? What if my flatmates hated me? What if I wasn’t good enough for the course after all? Questions flooded my ahead and the answers were not immediate; two months later, I’m almost a changed person.

But it’s only been two months! That’s what many of you will think, and that’s why I say I’m almost a changed person. I do miss home in some ways, of course, but I couldn’t have been more lucky since moving to Edinburgh; my flatmates are incredible (more on them soon), my course has been great, I’ve made loads of new friends and couldn’t have settled into Edinburgh life better. In Fresher’s week alone I found myself doing things I never would have otherwise; I’ve pushed boundaries since too.

Yet, it’s not all been amazing. Needless to say I have been a lot more lucky than some other people I know, who have been finding themselves incredibly homesick, stuck with a bunch of uncooperative flatmates or on a course they hated. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago, I myself started to really miss home all of a sudden. It wasn’t like I was constantly sad, but I did start to feel more down than usual.

I soon came to realise that many students that are initially on a high from the start of University suddenly get down about halfway through semester one; deadlines are looming and you’re suddenly not going everywhere meeting new people all the time like at Fresher’s.

So what did I do? I got up every morning and kept going. I tried to meet up with new friends to solidify friendships; I met with old friends to remind myself home was not too far away; I worked hard on my coursework – in short, I kept myself busy. This served me well and I’m already feeling better.

In terms of living in self-catered halls, this has proved an altogether different education. What you thought was ‘cheap’ before when spending your birthday or Christmas money is suddenly really expensive  (or, if you get to the point of absolutely denial of how broke you are, you go all out and into your overdraft. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me). Anywhere with free food is a must go – and balancing your work, social life and making sure you actually feed yourself can be a great challenge. I suddenly woke up and thought one day how much my parents do every single day, as well as dealing with us teenagers and kids. Realising how much you take for granted, you suddenly become a lot more grateful (before you go back to living off your parents money and buying that extra coffee you know you shouldn’t have).

If you’re from a quiet not so heterogeneous place like me, you also realise how much more of a world there is outside your home. My flat alone has eight different nationalities including my own. I’ve met people from all over the world and learnt about different cultures within a matter of days, never mind months. I found a society for pretty much every single culture or country, which was a refreshing experience for me coming from the Scottish Borders.

However, the thing that struck me most about University was that – unlike high school – people just don’t seem to care who you are or where you’re from. Though certain groups do form after some time and circles of friends are established, the social hierarchy is not as it is in high school. There are no ‘popular kids,’ no ‘uncool’, no ‘don’t talk to me.’ There are no horrible cliques or them and us. That’s not to say University is free of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination – it’s far from perfect. Yet, you can go and talk to anyone or attempt to be friends with anyone you like. The worst that’ll happen is that the feeling is not mutual and even then, you have literally thousands of other people to choose from.

University, I have found, is not always perfect; at times it can be far from it. But it’s the time for you to find out who you really are, without being judged (too much) for it. That, for me anyway, is a wonderful thing.

Check out my last article on looks and beauty here.

Looks may matter – but not in the way that you think

In a world where more people are undergoing plastic surgery than ever before and the cosmetics industry is worth billions of pounds, it’s clear people want to make themselves look good. But what does ‘good’ mean? And do looks matter?

Some people will say that looks don’t matter at all; some others will say that the ‘hard truth’ is that looks are the only thing that matters. Personally, I disagree with both statements:  in my opinion, looks matter but it is definitely not the only thing that matters – and that they don’t matter in the ways people think.

So what makes people want to change the way they look – to small and large extents? Do people want to look good for others or for themselves? I started wearing make-up every day when I was a teenager, but I only use eyeliner and a bit of foundation to make myself look a bit more awake in the morning. Others fill in brows or just put in mascara; some won’t be seen dead without a full face of make-up. There is a wide perception that everyone who wears make-up are doing so to look good for others – and of course this is true in many cases. Yet, there are also a significant number of people now who want to do this just to look good for themselves – not anyone else.

I’m certain people have been doing this for a long time, but this is a growing idea in modern society. Memes that show women dismissing guys when they make remarks such as ‘You’re wearing too much make-up’ or ‘You don’t need make-up’, and growing ideas of people being bold with – or without – make-up is becoming prevalent. This is good progress in society as it empowers people to do what they want with how they look.

There is, however, an ugly side to this too. More and more girls are being diagnosed with anorexia, growing trends such as thigh gaps and ridiculously small (and obviously photo shopped) waists. This costs confidence and far too often, lives. Much of the time, people end up at these extremes not because they want to look good for themselves but because society demands it; it is a toxic trend that should be addressed better by the cosmetic and clothing industries.

This leads me to my next point. Looking healthy contributes a great deal to looking good as well, as well as looking and feeling confident (see my article on confidence here). The more you appear confident in yourself and how you look, the more other people will perceive you in the same way; confidence is infectious, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be used as a tool to feeling good about the way you look.

I truly believe that beauty is in in the eye of the beholder; that is, different people find different things attractive or beautiful. Some people will scoff, but I think beauty is relative to different countries and a perception of beauty differs between every single person, however slight or great. What is conventionally attractive in India (fair skin) is not conventionally attractive in the West anymore (tanned skin). Even then, to say that every single person of India’s population 1.3 billion believes fair skin is attractive would be false.

I suppose there will always be those people that everyone just looks at and thinks “Wow.” But it’s important to think that it won’t be everyone who thinks that. What was conventionally beautiful fifty years ago may not be conventionally beautiful today; and what is beautiful today may not be another fifty years. From this, therefore, we can learn that we should learn to accept all types of beauty; if we can learn to say that looks matter without forcing a desired look upon society, then we can go forward.

 

 

 

“It’ll look good on your Uni application.” Five things teachers told you that would help that turned out to be nonsense

Throughout school, one frequent go-to phrase for teachers to get us to do something was ‘”It’ll look good on your Uni application.” This had variations of course, such as “it’ll look good on your CV” or “it will help you later in life.” Teachers were not always wrong of course, but what I found towards the end of school and in the first week of University is that a lot of ‘advice’ that teachers gave was unfortunately scare-mongering. Here are five things teachers told me (and many others) that would ‘help’ us that turned out to be pretty much false.

Neat, beautiful handwriting matters

I can already see my Mum reading this in horror! In Primary School we were taught neat, joint-up handwriting was the way forward – and anything other than this did not please the teacher. Of course, I completely agree that legible handwriting is important – but for me it stops there. Now, even if our handwriting isn’t legible we can type up exams – and many assignments at Uni, if not most of them, are typed up. Neat handwriting may look better of course, but I feel that the amount of emphasis and time spent on beautiful handwriting at school is increasingly becoming time wasted – plenty of people I know with bad handwriting (including myself) managed to get to University. Furthermore, there are many people with good handwriting that don’t join up their letters! If your handwriting is legible to some extent, then there is nothing to really worry about,

The Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award will help you with your application 

Ok, I’ve never sat with the people that decide who gets a place at University and seen whether they consider the Duke of Edinburgh award or not, but the amount of people I know who took the award so it would look good on their CV or Uni application is numerous (it played a significant part in my decision to do the award as well). I have no doubt that the award looks great on your application, but do it to learn some practical skills instead such as learning how to put up a tent, read a map or cook while camping (all of which I am still awful at, by the way). Otherwise, do something else that you would enjoy instead – don’t just do it to look good on your University application (it’s not worth the walk, seriously).

National 5’s (or GCSE’s) matter just as much as your Highers (or A-Levels) do

I don’t know if everyone was told this at school, but in fourth year some teachers did a fantastic job of scare-mongering people pupils when sitting our National 5 exams. That’s not to say they don’t matter at all – it helps to have done well at National 5 at Higher, and to develop a good work ethic. However in terms of your Uni application it is Highers that are looked at first and foremost. If you got 4As at Higher, you’re probably going to get in (unless it’s St Andrews or Oxbridge). Yet if you got straight As at National 5 but average grades at Higher, there’s no guarantee. I have heard some Universities consider National 5s, but all in all it really does not have equal significance to Highers. So if you’re sitting National 5s – or you’re doing Higher and are really worried about the grades you got last year – do not worry. Work hard on your Highers (or don’t if you’re just naturally really smart) and get the grades this year – even if that fails, you still have sixth year to make up for it!

Extra-curricular activities will make a huge difference on your application

Now I can see a lot of disapproving looks when parents and teachers read this; but hear me out. Extra-curricular definitely help in terms of giving you different skills, confidence and something else to focus on outwith your exams; however the amount of time teachers spent drilling this into us and seeing people who had essentially done nothing until sixth year get unconditional offers for University came as a surprise to some. This is relative of course; for subjects such as Medicine and Law this really does matter, as well as for most degrees at Oxbridge.  However for many degrees, it’s the grades that take precedence, then extra-curricular activities. I make this point mainly so that people realise they have it’s not vital to do 101 activities and find masses of time to study. Find one or two activities that you enjoy to do to take your time off things and if that’s enough for you, do not stress about doing any more.

And finally…University is the best way to go 

This is the biggest and most important one I think. Whilst I always knew that academically, University was the best for me, the idea that University is the best end point for every high school student is inane. There are numerous other options out there for pupils such as college, apprenticeships or simply straight into work. Whilst it is great that more students are going to University than ever before and is something to celebrate, it seems like getting more students into University is becoming a good statistic to show off on a school’s (and a government’s) record. If more pupils got more accurate guidance on what is good for them based on what they want and their academic record, less career advisors would get things wrong and more people would leave school happy rather than confused.

These things will have not been told to every single pupil of course – like with many of my other articles, I’m talking from my own experiences. However I feel like the points above are true not just for me but for many of my school mates. I’d also like to add, I had some fantastic teachers at school and not all of them were like the ones I describe above! However, I feel the day teachers try to be more honest with their students rather than try to tick a few boxes on a form or get a good statistic will be the day school – and the future – improves for school students.

 

Not getting lost, late night snacks and drunken walks home: what clubbing is really like

Growing up in the Scottish Borders, house parties were the main places I went to drink and have a good time – so moving to Edinburgh and discovering clubbing was a totally new experience!

Now, I had watched videos on what clubbing was really like and taken it into account, but I still imagined it mainly to be what it appeared to be; a time to dress up, get drunk and have a super good time with no stress whatsoever. How wrong I was (well, about the stress part anyway!) Note: I am in no way trying to claim to be an expert in clubs – I’m really quite new to it all – this is just my experience of them.

When you’re a student, you’re pretty much needing to budget all the time, so a night out means good pre-drinks (enough to get you at least tipsy) so you don’t have to spend loads on buying drinks at the club; deciding what club to go to; deciding whether it’s worth getting a taxi or walking to that club; and when you finally get there, in some cases, trying to get in before you have to pay for entry!

This is all before you actually get into the club. Once you’re there, you have to decide whether you’re going to pay to lock your stuff away (and whether you can actually afford it) what drinks you’re getting; when to get up and start dancing (personally I just sort of go for it because I have no social conscience) and make sure you know where all your friends are! You know the types; the ones who get lost, the one who always finds a guy (I’ll leave this for another article).

Of course, once you’re drunk enough and everything is sorted, you can start to dance and have a good time; you’re not free of problems just yet though. There’s still the chance of getting awful blisters on your feet from those heels, guys getting the wrong impression because you smiled at them, disappearing friends, making sure your friends don’t get too drunk that you don’t get kicked out; making sure you don’t get too drunk so that you don’t get kicked out…

(So far I’ve been a massive spoil sport about clubbing, but I should say at this point that I promise clubbing is fun for a lot of people and that you shouldn’t let this put you off!)

Once the clubs close, you may think the night is over…but not just yet. You may discover 3am as a potential new eating time as you head to your local chippy or kebab shop for a snack (or even a whole meal as I have seen). Getting drunk and then dancing for hours can make you very hungry so definitely be prepared to spend some money on some chips. After this you will either get a taxi home or have a fun drunken walk back, which can be surprisingly fun when your mates are just as smashed as you are.

When you’re home, there may be after drinks or if you’re easily tired like me, you’ll head to bed! If you’re lucky enough you could wake up with no hangover (I have a flatmate who has yet to have one) but for many of us, you wake up with a pain to your head, a dry throat and achy body…or all three. Time for lots of water, food and rest!

If you’re a club virgin and reading this, I’m sorry if I have scared you. This is meant to be a guide of what to expect more than anything else! Clubbing can be great fun with the right people, the right club and good budgeting; if you end up with none of those three, the worst is you’ll have a bad night and know better next time. Of course, clubbing isn’t for everyone and that’s ok to; there are plenty more ways to have fun at University.

 

Check out my last article on 5 quick energy boosts for University here.

 

 

Energy all-time lows: 5 quick energy boosts for Uni

Deadlines are fast approaching and you realise that you signed up for way too many societies; as a result, you feel drained of energy and you constantly want to sleep (except when you scroll through your newsfeed at half one in the morning). Here are six ways for quick energy boosts when you’re on the go at University:

Listen to an upbeat song

This might sound trivial, but for a quick energy boost this can really help. Sticking on a song that is upbeat and that makes you feel cheery can suddenly give you a jolt of energy that could keep you awake for just one more lecture. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend putting on a playlist of upbeat songs in place of a good night’s sleep (or any of these quick energy boosts at that) there’s nothing wrong with a good tune to get you going again. Everyone has different music tastes so it’s up to you what song you can choose; one personal favourite of mine is Sunshine by Tieks ft Dan Harkna.

Go out for some exercise 

Okay, this is very trivial (also I’m probably the last person to lecture anyone on exercise) but I’m going to make the definition of exercise very broad here; exercise can range from a good solid workout on the gym to a ten minute walk to the park. When I was studying for my exams last year at school, a quick ten minute walk would be enough to keep me going for two hours. Other exercises include some simple body stretches or a quick bicycle ride. A good dose of fresh air can make a world of difference, especially if you’ve been cooped up inside listening to lectures or studying.

Tidy up 

Tidy-up? Why would you want to do that? Surely this would take up more energy? Until last year, I detested tidying up. However, I found that even tidying up my desk or doing my bed suddenly made me feel more energised – you don’t have to tidy up everything at once! I realise this will probably not work for everyone and instead bring up a lot of guilt about stuff you have accumulated over time, but if possible I highly recommend giving your desk a quick clean or even organising a shelf on your book shelf. Doing one thing productively can often lead to another productive task – and so the knock on effect begins!

Pause 

This is probably the most cliché point in the article, but hear me out. When you’re constantly typing up essays, summarising notes or listening in lectures, you probably find yourself zoning out and then reprimanding yourself by saying things like “I should be concentrating now!” For this I suggest giving yourself permission to set aside a time of day to just think about anything, to let yourself ponder. By doing so, you may find your mind less busy for doing things afterwards, hence increasing your productivity. Of course, this takes a lot of discipline and you probably shouldn’t start off with this if you’re a major procrastinator (I know plenty of people who would run away with this idea). However if you think you can manage it, I strongly recommend giving it a go.

Drink some water 

This may work better in the long run by drinking water throughout the day, but it’s amazing what one good glass of water can do. Dehydration can make you feel awfully tired, so any water you drink should help you feel less hydrated and thus less tired. I have a bottle with time markings that I try to stick to throughout the day and is a really effective way of getting your two litres. You can find it here.

Of course, these are all quick energy boosts and I should reiterate that these are not substitutes for a well-balanced diet and a good night’s sleep (though I know well enough both can go out the window when you’re at studying at university). However, these are great starting points to feeling better throughout the day and once you get the hang of it, you can find ways to make your energy longer lasting.

 

 

When you realise you actually have to start knuckling down: 5 ways to really help you study productively if you’re a fresher

Okay, I know what you are all thinking – yes, I’m only in year one and yes, it’s only the fourth week. Yet this can be the point where most fresher’s start to feel the toll and their high on student life takes a big dive to become a serious low. You realise that you worked so hard to get into university to do…well, more studying (or partying and some hard-core procrastination heavily assisted by Netflix).

Jokes aside, I have managed to come up with ways to help me study productively. I’ve not become the most conscientious student but I’ve definitely come up with some improvements to help me in the last few weeks. Here are five ways to help you study more productively at uni:

1. Break it down

It sounds easy to break your work up into chunks, but it’s definitely easier said than done. Most of us decide to settle for the ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ excuses, but in most cases even doing an hour’s work can really help. As an English Literature student I have a lot of reading and rather than trying to read everything at once, I try to break it down into sections by looking for various themes or concepts. Of course, this is not applicable to everyone but in general doing a bit of work every day or every couple of days can really lighten the load. Of course, not everyone studies like this and some people just prefer just to do it all in one go – if I have a lot of time I sometimes do this too. It’s important to figure out what is best for you, whether it’s an hour’s work or a good few hours to knuckle down.

2. Have food on standby 

This probably calls for another article altogether (cooking and cooking at university are two entirely different experiences) yet this has definitely helped me study more. If possible, on the days you plan to study more, try to cook less – or not at all. Batch cooking is a great way to get around this; meals such as chilli con carne or chicken curry that can last for a couple of days are great and fill you up well so you’re not constantly snacking (as a proud snacker of biscuits, this doesn’t always work for me – I snack well whether I am studying or not). If you can cook some long-lasting meals on days you have a lot of free time, you can save a lot of time for studying on other days.

3. Work with people who work as hard or harder than you

Study groups can be amazing if you’re all actually studying. Unfortunately, many of us do fall into the trap of five minutes of reading and then a good gossip about the night before. Personally, I prefer to study alone but this is definitely an exception. You can learn a lot from peers doing the same course as you and if you can find people who have the same level of work ethic or have an even higher one, it may just motivate you to do more work. If you’re finding it hard to look for people to study with on your course, even just going with a friend to the library who you know you can work with side by side (silently) can help you study better. If all the people around you are working hard, something might just click in you to do the same.

4. Do the bits you hate first and the stuff you enjoy later 

Like most students, I have bits of my course that I love and bits that I definitely don’t love. However, when it comes to revising, I always do the bits I struggle with or simply dislike first. This helps in two ways: one, instead of wasting energy by dreading the boring work I’ll have to do afterwards, I’m focussing the energy on actually getting the work done; two, I actually have something to look forward to afterwards so I feel more motivated to complete the work. I understand this won’t work for everyone – alternatively, some people like to start with something they enjoy to help them get into the mood and then tackle the more difficult stuff later. Again, it’s whatever works for you.

5. Finally…if you’re not going to do it, you’re just not going to do it 

While it does sound a bit discouraging, I believe this is more realistic than anything. One difficult lesson I learnt that there are some days you will just not be in the mood to study – and that’s ok. Rather than wasting your energy and staying at home telling yourself that you’re going to study when you’re not, sometimes it’s better just to accept you won’t work that day. Once you do, you’ll immediately feel better and you can actually enjoy your day instead of constantly feeling guilty for not doing work. You can either use it to recharge your batteries or get some errands done (like the batch cooking I mentioned earlier). Procrastination may feel familiar and comfortable, but it can also seriously drain your energy levels which could be used more productively doing other things.

It’s important to remember that you’re not going to suddenly perform all these five ways to perfection and it will take time to improve your study routine. These ways are also subjective and will not work for everyone, so the bottom line is to try to find really works for you. I still find myself low on food on days I don’t need it, putting off work and trying to read all at once; yet improvements have been made and any improvement is something to be proud of. However, don’t let that make you get languid – if you think you’re capable of more, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t push yourself to the limit.

 

We can forgive, but we must not forget: Shashi Tharoor in Edinburgh

Shashi Tharoor

As I mentioned in my last article about confidence, I had the phenomenal opportunity of meeting Indian MP and bestselling author Shashi Tharoor. Students, teachers and visitors from outside the University all attended the lecture, based on Tharoor’s latest book ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India.’ The politician went viral in 2015 after he gave a speech at the Oxford Union as to whether Britain owed her former colonies reparations. Tharoor, who believed they did (though he does not believe in reparations in the form of money as such, rather a simple acknowledgement of what happened) made a strong case and since then has been lauded as a hero by Indians across the globe. However, many of you will not know who Shashi Tharoor is – and why he’s so important.

Going to school, I hardly learnt anything about the British Empire. We did have a unit in Higher History called ‘Migration and Empire,’ though how little we learnt is astonishing. Hundreds of years of colonial history was boiled down to two columns titled ‘strengths and weaknesses,’ one of the weaknesses being ‘not getting on with the locals’ (if you want to call not getting on with the locals killing at least three million Indians in the Bengal famine – and many more in other famines the British decided to ignore – and a massacre in Amritsar that saw open fire to peaceful protesters.) Tharoor has ignited a debate in Britain, from whether it does owe reparations to her former colonies to the question of why it is being left out of the curriculum.

The fact is, my generation and many before me have little knowledge of the empire. Whether or not you believe it was a benefit is a different issue, but not to know about it at all is dangerous. Why does it matter that we know, you ask? The empire is a pretty significant reason as to why many countries, such as India, are in great poverty today. As Tharoor says, “India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” Many people as a result (and no, not just ‘poor people’) have emigrated from their countries and come here because their own homeland cannot give them the good life many British people can have in their native country. In addition, much of these people are well-educated already, including my own Mum who is a Dentist. It is not far-fetched to say that the immigrants you see from post-colonial countries, in short, are here because the British – or whatever other European country colonised their country – were there.

Being of Indian heritage myself, I find it astounding and almost insulting that this country has left out a significant part of its history, a part of history that affected millions of people including relatives of my own family. Hearing questions like “does it really matter now” is downright ignorant. Just because Britain is no longer living a harsh post-colonial reality, doesn’t mean her former colonies are not.

Of course, many people will still disagree on whether it still matters – including Indians themselves here and in India (I can’t speak for all of them.) I’m not saying India hasn’t made her own mistakes, because she has. Yet, the state it was left in 1947 was a poor starting point and considering this, I’d say India is doing pretty well: it’s one of the fastest growing economies in the world and an emerging world power; though I think the latter is still far off. I’d urge those who think it no longer has any significance to at least think of the people still living the consequences of the empire in India, Africa and the countless other places that were colonised. So much of the wealth generated from the empire was invested in Britain and of course, can still be seen today in countless buildings and cities: including Dundee which boomed during the First World War because of Jute from India; Glasgow, which was said to be built on the empire’s wealth;  industries such as Tetley tea and Tata Steel (this may be a bad example, now that it is India-owned.) Britain is wealthy largely due to the empire she had.

So what can we do about what Tharoor calls the ‘historical amnesia’ in Britain? Education is pivotal and a great starting point. Teaching children about British colonialism should be just as important as teaching them about World War, World War Two and the Romans is. In Germany, pupils are taught about the country’s ugly history with Nazi rule and the Holocaust. America teaches its children about the slave trade and disgusting treatment of black people. Why should Britain be any different?

Whatever people think of the Empire, one thing is clear; generally, people do not have enough knowledge to make an informed opinion. However much I may be against it myself, I know why I am. As Shashi Tharoor says; we can forgive, but we must never forget.