20 things I learnt before turning 20

As I celebrate my 20th birthday I find it important to look back and realise what I’ve learnt from life up to this point. As I leave behind my teenage years and enter a new decade of my life, I want to reflect on my experiences up to now and how they’ve helped me to grow. In doing so, it also helps me to remember I have much to learn and to go into my twenties ready for new challenges. Because I’m going to explain what I mean by each point, this is going to be a long post so grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and dive in.

  1. The importance of me time: I feel like I’ve definitely spoken about this on my blog before but that’s only because I feel it is so important. For so long, I would fill all my time wanting to keep busy but all this time I was neglecting my need for time alone. Don’t get me wrong I love to see friends and family and often start to feel lonely when I haven’t had contact for a while. However, I’ve learnt to embrace the time when I’m not surrounded by people and if I have a busy schedule I make time to have a bit of self-care.
  2. People will change and that’s okay: this includes you. Change can be scary but it’s important to embrace it as it can often be for the best. Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time things can work out in the end. It may be a blessing in disguise.
  3. You really do live and learn: I’ve heard this saying so many times and as cliché as it sounds it’s very much true. Most people are just learning as they go along. Even if you feel overwhelmed by the future just remember you’ll learn as you grow and things will begin to fall into place. This leads me nicely into my next point.
  4. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them: It can be scary realising you’ve made mistakes and admitting to them. This however, is the only way you can learn and begin to improve yourself. Also, in facing them straight on will allow for others for forgive you, if what you have done has impacted others in some way.
  5. 18 may be legally an adult but it doesn’t feel like it: I may have been an adult legally for the past two years but there’s so many points of adulthood that I am yet to learn. There are experiences that I haven’t yet had or issues I haven’t yet worked out how to resolve but I am slowly learning. You don’t just learn how to be an adult over night.
  6. You won’t do everything first try: It can be so easy to think something is too difficult and give up after failing first try but you won’t learn if you don’t persevere. I recently attempted to put up shelves for the first time (which was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be) and I just couldn’t get it right. In the end I asked for some help but I still worked through it and now I’ve learnt how to do it for next time.
  7. Not only is it okay to ask for help but it’s important: This has so much scope. It relates to my previous point about how you may think something should be easy and it would be embarrassing to ask for help. Most of the time people will be happy to help and won’t care if they think it’s easy, people are different. Not only this, but if you’re struggling with say mental health, it is vital to open up and look for help.
  8. Other people will go through the same things you will, you just may not know it: You may feel alone in your struggles at times but often you won’t be the only one experiencing it. I’ve found that by opening up to friends about things we can often relate and feel less alone. And even if they personally haven’t been through it, they may know someone who has or offer advice on how to get through it while being there for you.
  9. How to live independently: Going to university has eased me into living alone. I have that security that I will be going home in the holidays while navigating independent living during term time. Like I said earlier about living and learning you’ll work this out as you go along. Yes, it can be daunting at first but if you’re at uni most people will be in the same position and you can get through it together.
  10. Things can be harder than they seem and vice versa: A lot of the time you could be dreading doing something thinking it will be too difficult when it really isn’t. The best way to navigate this is to wait and see. As the saying goes; cross that bridge when you come to it. Even if something is a lot more difficult than you perceived it to be you can work through it, don’t let yourself be put off by that.
  11. Make the most of your time with friends and family: I don’t mean this in a morbid way but going off to university changed the dynamic of when I see people. The friends that I saw everyday at school and my family who I permanently lived with suddenly became people I would only really see in the holidays or if I visited for a weekend. My university friends became people I live with and then don’t see when I go home. I try not to take advantage of the time spent with people and enjoy the memories we make.
  12. Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: I remember being a young teenager looking up to people in their late teens thinking they were so grown up. Now I’m at that age I don’t feel that way at all. It’s strange how we perceive the years ahead without truly knowing what’s going on.
  13. You can’t know everything: when I was younger in school I loved the thought of discovering and learning new things and I still do now. The only difference is now there’s so much more to the world than I really realised and I can’t learn things fast enough. I find it important to accept there will be conversations where I won’t have an opinion because I don’t know enough on a topic but I hope from understanding the stories and opinions of others I can learn new things.
  14. You’ll have bad days, the important thing is learning to embrace the good days: So often it is easy to dwell on the bad days and thing what went wrong or what could have gone better. Instead, I like to look at the good days and treasure the memories.
  15. You won’t look stupid admitting you don’t know something: I personally feel it’s better to admit you don’t know something so that you can be informed. You’ll probably look even more silly talking on a topic you don’t know anything about or you don’t fully understand. Personally, I love a chance to learn something new!
  16. It’s important to go at my own pace: For so long I saw life as a race. I felt like I needed to keep up with my peers to be successful in life. However, as I’ve grown up I’ve realised I need to do things at my own pace and it will be worth taking it slow in the end.
  17. I have definitely changed over the years: like I said earlier change can be really good. I like to look back over how I’ve changed and what life events have led me to do so. I have come to the realisation that I’m not the same person I was when I was 16 and that really is a good thing. Looking back at her I’m glad of everything I went through to become who I am today.
  18. I have slowly grown into myself as I navigate life: As I have lived and exited my bubble life, I have learnt to understand myself better and developed as a person.
  19. There is still uncertainty ahead: Though I have learnt so much in my first 20 years, there is still so much to learn. I have no idea where I will be in five years or realistically even a year from now. But, I look forward to finding out.
  20. I’ve had my ups and downs but so far I’ve had a good twenty years!

What to pack for university: stationary

Personally I love stationary, I like my notes to look pretty and organised. There are gong to be essentials, you can choose something basic or if you’re into stationary find bits that will match your aesthetic. Also, different courses will need different resources, personally I do history so that’s what I know best.

Notebooks: Even if you plan to take all your notes on a laptop, I’d have a notebook just in case you need to jot something down or you have technical issues. I personally have separate notebooks for taking notes in lectures and seminars and then for writing up notes neatly. This means when it comes to revising I can study from the notebooks with organised and easy to read notes.

Pens: Seems obvious but you never know when you’ll need a pen. Remember to take a good number of these, you don’t understand how many pens you will misplace. I like to have different colour pens for different modules so I can easily organise my notes and immediately know what’s what.

Highlighters: Especially if you do a subject with lots of reading like me highlighters are a must. Again, I colour-code my highlighters to match my pens. I’d also recommend pencils to underline in borrowed books so these markings can be rubbed out.

Planner: This is honestly a life saver. You can note down your deadline, your commitments and plans to keep on top of everything. I also use mine to make mini to-do lists to keep myself organised.

Folders: These are great for organising your notes and any random sheets you have lying around. I then use dividers in the folders to organise notes into folders.

Hole punch and stapler: Often forgotten but so useful. If you plan to put things in a folder a hole punch is a must have so that things can be organised. and a stapler can keep sheets together so the order doesn’t get muddled.

Joining societies

You may feel a big part of university is joining societies. Some people will know exactly what they want to pursue in terms of extra-curricular; maybe you’ve done an activity your whole life or there’s something you’ve always wanted to try. However, like me you may feel overwhelmed by there being so much choice but not knowing where you fit.  Trust me if you’re unsure you’ll be able to find something; try things out, if it doesn’t work move on to the next thing. 

Honestly, I went to try out hockey in my first year and it was not for me at all, everyone else had so much more experience. But after that I decided not to try anything else because it really put me off. Looking back, I would definitely advise not to let these experiences hold you back and just try something else. Since trying again, I have found some great societies to be part of, I am now part of my student newspaper and party of the University Tango Society. I absolutely love them both and now I’ve joined them I’m glad I did. Don’t get me wrong I don’t regret not joining them earlier, I went at my own pace and really started getting involved in second year. That may sound contradictory to me saying not to be put off, but I think it works differently for different people. I think if you really want to find something to be part of definitely keep looking as you will find a place where you belong but if you feel that you are overwhelmed and have other things to focus on when you first arrive that’s okay. Go at your own pace and do what feels right for you. 

There are so many different types of society and most universities will have a societies fair and trial sessions in the first few weeks of university. From these you can go and see what will work for you, perfect for if you have no idea or are not ready to make a commitment. 

Exploring Paris on a budget

View from the Pompidou

Me and my friends had a great time in Paris last summer and it is full of tourist attractions you will want to visit. I’ve talked through the ones that stuck with me to help you plan what you can do if you visit. While it’s not the cheapest city, it’s still possible to visit on a budget!

The Eiffel Tower : an obvious one but definitely worth it. We could see it from the apartment we stayed in making it feel a very Parisian experience. I would recommend seeing it in the day and at night. In the evening we would head down with our strawberries, chocolate and pink gin and sit on the grass in front of the tower and watch it light up. I would also recommend going up it for some amazing views and to have the full experience. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought with adult prices starting at 10,40€. We chose to climb the stairs which was an experience in its self and honestly not that tiring and there’s plenty of places to sit down when you reach the top. Though, you can pay a bit extra to go up in the lift if climbing 704 steps to the second floor really isn’t for you.

Arc de Triomphe: it may seem just like a big arch but seeing it in real life was extremely impressive and it’s a lot bigger than I expected it to be. Also, I finally found out how to get over to the island without risking your life by crossing through the traffic. There is a tunnel that goes underground which brings you out onto the island and it’s just stunning.

The art galleries and museums: I’ve been the the Musée d’Orsay which was just beautiful. Even without looking at the art the building in itself is breathtaking. It used to be a train station and there are these huge clocks at each end. I would definitely recommend going and having a look, you may even qualify for free entry otherwise it’s only 11€. We also went to look at the glass pyramids of the Louvre but the queues were so big we just didn’t have time to go in but it was a great photo opportunity. Again with this you may qualify for free admission otherwise it’s only 15€. Instead we went to the Pompidou centre which housed modern and contemporary art which was interesting. I liked the fact the escalators were in see through tubes on the front of the building giving amazing views as you ascended. This was also the perfect place for views of the city with the Eiffel Tower in (which you obviously can’t see when you’re in the tower itself) on the outside viewing decks. This one is 14€ but check out if you qualify for free admission before you go.

Mont Matre– this was such a lovely walk as we went through the small streets until we arrived at the summit where we found the sacre couer. On the way up we also saw the Moulin Rouge which was exciting for me as it’s my favourite film. I would recommend going here not just for the main attractions but because there is so much to see as you walk up and down the hill; little cafes and independent shops you can stop off in.

Champs Élysées – I would only do this if you’ve done everything else you wanted to do or if you’re extremely into your shopping. While it was one of those things I felt you should see while in Paris it was very overcrowded and full of shops you could find elsewhere that wouldn’t be so packed.

Just explore: yes, I got us lost at one point but it meant we were able to explore the small side streets of Paris which were gorgeous.

Packing for university: the bedroom

This is probably my favourite thing about moving into my university house. I love decorating my bedroom and making it feel more like home. This post is going to be one where I will make suggestions of what you might want to take to make your room extra comfortable but I will start off with the essentials.

Bedding: first things first you’ll be sleeping in your bedroom and so obviously you’ll need bedding. The first thing you need to do is find out what size bed your room will have, so that you know what size bedding to purchase. Once this is sorted you’ll want a duvet, pillows and bed linen. I took two pillows for my single bed in first year and four for my double bed in second so it’s just working out what you need to be comfy. Remember you’ll be sleeping here every night so you want to have that added comfort. I personally had two sets of linen (duvet cover, pillow cases and sheet) so that I had a spare one for when one was in the wash and so that I could change it up a bit. I’d say you could get away with only having one of you plan to keep on top of your washing and dry it in the tumble dryer. I also had cushions and a blanket for extra comfort and to make everything look a bit nicer. Obviously these aren’t essential but they can add something to your room if that’s what you like.

Find out what is provided: there are things you will need that may be provided by your halls so check out whether these things come with it. I would definitely recommend a lamp for either your bedside table or your desk as you may want light without having to use the big light. I would also recommend you take a extension lead. Not only do they mean you can plug things in when there are no plugs nearby, they will increase the plug sockets you have which may otherwise be limited. It’s also a good idea to take storage boxes, I used these for under my bed so that I had more space to keep things I needed but weren’t in daily use. I took a full length mirror as well which was really good to have, it went over a door so I hung it off my wardrobe. If this is something you’d need you might want to look whether that is provided as I had one in the house for second year but had to take my own in first year.

Clothes: you may have limited wardrobe space (I know I did) so I’d recommend you don’t take all your clothes with you. I just took the season appropriate clothes then swapped them over in the holidays as the weather changed.

Decorations: though this is not an essential this will definitely make you feel more at home if you have reminders at university. I loved having photos up and lot of lights to make it feel more cosy. When doing this, do be careful that you keep in line with the policy of your accommodation as they may fine you for sticker or blue tack marks. I used command strips which claim they don’t leave a mark but some of them didn’t work as well and pulled some of the paint off. Though I didn’t receive a fine or anything for this it’s whether you want to take that risk.

That’s all for the bedroom but look out for my next post in this series where I’ll talk about stationary bits I recommend.

Finding the uni job for you: Tutoring

Welcome to the next instalment of my university part-time jobs series. This week, I’ll be talking about tutoring. Though I haven’t tried this personally it sounds like a great idea and so I’ve researched this to help you make the best decision for you.  This would be a great job for someone who wants to go into a career with children or in mentoring or some kind of teaching.  You can teach younger students in a subject that you are passionate and watch them learn and become more confident. 

How do I find a job? There are two main paths to get into this job; privately or through an agency. It might be a better idea if you are just starting out to go through an agency to help you build a clientele and get some good reviews under your belt. However, these agencies will usually take a percentage of your earnings for their services.  The other option, where you would be working more on your own terms, would be to go privately. This would be perfect for you, if you have good reviews and references you can show potential clients, so they feel secure in you as their choice. You should also thing about whether you would want to do this in person or virtually. 

Positives of working as a tutor: As with most jobs that I’ve suggested in this series you can choose your own hours, also depending on the clients they may be happy to reschedule if you need to.  The pay will usually be better than working in other industries like hospitality and retail meaning you can work less hours while still bringing in a decent amount of money.  Of course, it depends on your level of expertise and experience how much you will be earning but that allows for you to grow in the industry.  You can teach almost anything, some things you may need extra qualifications to teach, but if you are really passionate about music or a particular subject you can teach others your favourite subject. You also get that sense of fulfilment from watching your students grow and succeed. 

Negatives of working as a tutor: The working hours will have to be around the children you are teaching meaning, you will most likely be working evening and weekends. However, considering they will have to be up in the morning for school, you most likely won’t be doing late nights so you can still enjoy the night life of university without worrying.  It can also be a difficult industry to start out in as parents will want to see references and you won’t be able to provide them until you’ve had some experience. So, navigating that can make it hard to get started.  Being self-employed will mean you have to do the relevant admin for taxes and other official bits which can be time consuming. 

My ultimate guide of what to take on holiday

Travelling can be so much fun but there are some aspects that aren’t so exciting. Knowing what to take and actually packing and fitting everything into your suitcase can be a chore.  As I’ve said in previous posts, I tend to take only a cabin bag to avoid having to pay for a bag in the hold as I usually travel on a budget. Having a small bag means you need be sensible with what you pack to fit it all in. 

Clothes: This is the big one, I always like to take my favourite pieces from my wardrobe with me because I love taking so many photos on holiday. The first step to deciding what to take is to look at what sort of weather you’ll be having.  I definitely prefer hot weather on holiday so that I can wear my summer dresses and crop top and shorts combos, but I will usually take a few pieces for if the weather isn’t as good on a few days. A good idea would be if you plan to take some layers, to wear them on the way to free up space in the suitcase.  Also, shoes, if you plan to take more than one pair, I’d wear the chunkier pair on the flight, though you may not need more than one. If you are going on a city break, make sure to wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking.  You’ll also need pyjamas and dependant on where you’re going maybe a bikini or swimsuit.  

Toiletries: Make sure you don’t forget your toothbrush! You may want to take things with you, but it might work out better to buy it once you get there.  You’ll want to remember shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face products, sun cream, toothpaste, deodorant and sanitary products. I also, like to take a bit of make-up, you won’t need your full collection (unless you have a collection of just the essentials). As with everything, work out what you will actually need and only take those things to save space. Don’t forget your hair, if you’re taking hair straighteners or a hair dryer maybe communicate with the others you are travelling with and only take one set of each to share. You’ll also want a hairbrush and maybe a few products but remember liquid restrictions on flights.

Electronics: You’ll most likely want to take your phone so don’t forget you’ll also need a charger. I forgot mine when I travelled last summer and it was such a pain. You may also want to take a camera, obviously not an essential especially as your phone will have one anyway. But if you do want to take your proper camera to get better quality pictures make sure to take all the bits you’ll need with that. 

Travel documents: This is the most important one and you should pack these so that you have them to hand at the airport. Your passport is of course the one thing you really can’t forget and make sure you have any Visas you might need to enter the country you are travelling to. Also, boarding passes for you flights and any documentation you need for hotels or other things you have booked for while you’re there. Check about the currency and whether it is recommended to exchange it at home or when you arrive in the country. You could also look into getting a debit/credit card that doesn’t charge you to be used abroad if you want that extra security. 

For when you’re out and about: Think about what you’ll need when you’re there. You’ll want a secure bag for when you’re exploring with a good amount of space for a drink and maybe a packed lunch. A reusable water bottle is also a good idea. You may even want a portable charger just in case so that you don’t get stuck with a dead battery in an unfamiliar country. 

Book Review: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What is it about? Queenie is a 25-year-old, Jamaican British woman navigating life in London. She is going through a break-up with the man she thought was the one while working at a Newspaper where she is surrounded by white middle-class peers.  She attempts to deal with her problems sometimes in good ways but also by going down unhealthy paths and learning as she goes. 

What did I think?  It is such a beautiful book, it made me laugh, it made me cry. The character of Queenie is a relatable character in many ways and educational in others. It teaches the reader about the struggles faced by black women everyday which is important so that we can recognise and challenge such injustices. I found Queenie and her friends to be far from perfect, but this is what makes them likable characters, had they all had perfect lives it wouldn’t have been such an empowering story. Also, it makes them more real, no one is perfect, and it is refreshing to see such growth in these people. The difficult friendships and relationships they have, show real life and not an idealised version. It dealt with important issues such as; anxiety, therapy, body image, abuse, family issues and difficult relationships in, what I thought, was a mature and understanding way. It gave the reader the support that if they too were suffering or had suffered through these things they were not alone and that things can get better with work. Queenie is a book that will stick with me for a long time and I feel it is a book everyone should read especially young women attempting to navigate adult life and who might feel like it isn’t going as planned.  

Would I recommend? Yes, I think this is an absolute must read. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a while and I know I said that about His & Hers but the reasoning for it was so different. It’s a book that may make you feel less alone in your worries, it’s a book I will keep and most likely read again in a few years. It teaches the importance of forgiveness, knowing when to let go and doing what’s best for yourself. 

What am I reviewing next? Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Owens 

Packing for university: the kitchen

Packing up and moving into your university flat is a huge task so you don’t want to be taking more than you need.  You really don’t need to take everything but the kitchen sink as you really won’t use everything.  These are of course just my recommendations and there may be things you won’t need and there may even be things that I don’t mention that you may feel for you is an essential. I will do a separate post on the kitchen, bedroom, stationary and miscellaneous, just to keep the posts short and easy to read. This week will be the kitchen so look out for the others in the coming weeks. 

Crockery: I would recommend you only take two of each, you really won’t need a family set of 4 or 5 of each item as you won’t use them. Even if you have guests, you can always borrow from others. Remember you will have limited shelf space and so you really need to take as little as possible. I personally think two is the perfect amount as things are likely to get broken and you will want a spare, I know I definitely broke a lot of crockery.  Also, if you really need to you can always buy replacements while you’re there so keep that in mind. I took bowls, dinner plates, side plates, mugs, glasses and pasta dishes and found that was all I really needed. 

Pots and pans: I would take a few of these if I were you, at least two pots (including one with a lid) and a frying pan but of course it depends on your cooking habits. This would be a minimum for if you do a general amount of cooking. These are very bulky and so will take up a lot of the space in your cupboards so be sensible with this and only take what you know you’re going to use. Think about how many pans you use at a time when you cook at home and use that as an estimate. 

Food preparation: You’ll also need bits for preparing food. I had two chopping boards to avoid cross contamination, so I basically have a meat one and a non-meat one. You may feel you need more or if you don’t use meat you may just be happy with one. These are often easy to store so you don’t really need to worry about having too many.  You may also want to take food storage boxes or freezer bags for if you plan to make food in advance and then freeze it for later but be sensible I had boxes of every size and didn’t even use most of them, they just got in the way.

For the oven: When it comes to baking trays, they won’t take up a lot of room and again I’d recommend two, just for if you have to put things in the oven at different times or you don’t want food mixing on the trays. I did also have a pizza tray and while I could have gotten by without one it was useful and easy to store. You may also want tin foil to protect the trays or to put over food, so I’d recommend just taking a roll of this in case. 

Cutlery: This will go missing I can assure you. I lost so much of my cutlery in first year, so I’d definitely recommend against buying just stainless-steel cutlery.  It looked exactly the same as everyone else’s and so I never knew what was mine. I ended up buying red handled cutlery and this meant I knew exactly which was mine because of the red handles.  I took about six of each; knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons because it meant I had plenty for if they went missing.  I also recommend taking good knives for preparing food; I had a big knife, small knife and bread knife. This worked well and was perfectly enough. Also, there will be extra bits you might forget which you never know when you will need; spatula, fish slice, potato masher, potato peeler, ladle, cooking spoon, scissors and a strainer. 

Baking bits: If you’re into baking then I would recommend taking these but if you barley bake at home the likelihood is that you won’t really use these at university. I didn’t take any of these things and if I really wanted to bake something, I just borrowed from someone else as this was just on the rare occasion. Now that I’ve got more into baking, I may purchase some bits for third year but as with everything else on this list, be sensible and only take what you will actually use. 

Finding the job for you: Retail

As I said last week with my hospitality post, I’m making a little series of jobs you can do part-time at university to get a bit of extra cash.  Of course, I only have experience in hospitality, but I have looked into these other jobs so that I can give you a range of options. This week I have decided to talk about working in retail. Like hospitality this is a customer service job, but it is obviously going to be different in some ways.  For this you will be working in a shop; maybe re-stocking the floor, helping out customers or working on the tills.  It’s a great job for you if you are a people person and want to engage with people constantly while you’re at work. 

How do I find a job? With retail it probably best to look outside of the university. I know my university does have a few on-campus shops which people can apply to, but this is limited. There is also a co-op on our campus that employs students so maybe look into privately owned shops close by. You can of course also apply to jobs in the local area, most of these you will be able to apply for online if they have vacancies or their websites will give information of how to apply but it won’t hurt to see if they’ll accept your CV in person, especially if it is an independent shop.  

Positives of working in the industry: The big positive of working in retail for students is the flexibility, whether it is set shifts or different shift patterns each week they will usually be able to accommodate you around your studies.  This means you can have your university life and work life separate and won’t have to worry about them clashing. This is also the type of job that will keep you on your feet and while some people may see that as a negative it’s a nice change from studying. I find while at university a lot of it is sitting down; in lectures, when revising and when preparing for seminars. Having a job that requires you to keep moving helps towards having an active lifestyle.  There are so many retail opportunities up and down the country meaning that wherever you are at university there should be plenty of places for you to apply to. Lastly, the one a lot of people would consider the best perk is that most retail places will offer a staff discount as an incentive to work there, so if you’re looking for a job it’s something you might as well take advantage of. 

Negatives of working in the industry: You’ve probably heard many negatives when it comes to retail and a big one people talk about is difficult customers. As annoying as it is this is something you will need to prepare yourself for and if this is something you want to avoid it might be best to look for a job in a different industry. It can be inconvenient hours; if you’re hoping for a break at weekends this may not be possible if you’re working in retail as this is going to be when they are busy, and they will need staff.   The work can become very monotonous after a while; there are very limited tasks you will be able to do, and you will find yourself doing things over and over again with very little change.  As with hospitality, there will be many people going to university looking for jobs and many of them will have experience. It can be a difficult industry to get into without that experience and so may take some work to find a job.