Wednesday, 27 April 2016

How to stay healthy during exam season

Healthy living as a student is tough at the best of times. When I was an undergraduate, my main form of exercise was dancing on nights out and I considered chocolate and instant noodles key food groups. This last year I have been trying to live healthier (partly because I study Global Health - learning about health makes it easier to live healthier). I joined the gym and started cooking healthier food.

However, staying healthy during the exam period? Forget about it. When I'm stuck at home or the library all day and stressed out by coursework deadlines, making sure I'm getting my five a day and spending time cooking is so low down on my list.

In an effort to figure out how to live healthier during exams, I asked some fellow postgraduate students for their top tips for staying healthy during exam season. Hopefully this list helps other people who face the same struggle as me!

1. Stay hydrated! 

It's so easy to forget or neglect to bring a water bottle to the library with you, especially when you are carrying your own weight in books and a laptop, but if I don't bring any water with me then I won't be able to work for long before I end up with a headache.

2. Buy carrots.  

This one really surprised me but it does make sense. Carrots are one of those healthy foods that you can eat raw and a friend of mine really rates them as a great stress food because you can reach for them when you would normally reach for a chocolate bar.

Okay…so maybe they aren't as satisfying in terms of sugar, but they fulfil that desire to just eat something which seems to affect all of us when we are stressed out. Fruit works too but one advantage of carrots is that they don't get bruised in your bag and they have a longer sell by date which means you are less likely to have to throw them out because they've gone off.

The ultimate comfort food – must resist!

3. Do the weekly shop online.  

The logic for this is absolutely brilliant. Firstly, walking round a supermarket is a total time eater; I know when I go shopping even when I have a list it ends up taking me at least an hour, plus getting there and back during exams and coursework. I just don't have that time spare. Doing the shop online is much more time efficient which can totally help stress as well.

However, the main way it helps you stay healthy is that supermarkets are very good at marketing junk food to customers. As soon as you walk in you see muffins or cookies on offer, and then you walk around and see more goodies on sale. By shopping online, they can't tempt you with sweet and sugary food and instead you can just buy what you actually need. Plus, you can almost always arrange a delivery time that suits you perfectly.

4. Don't forget your friends. 

Revision and working on coursework can be quite isolating, and often you feel it's something you can only do on your own. However, study groups can be an amazingly helpful way to learn and by staying social and getting you out of the house. Even just meeting up to chill out is a good idea – there can be a life outside of exams!

Celebrating the end of teaching with the public health lot. 

Remember that health is not just exercising and eating right. During these intense study periods levels of stress are higher and we have a tendency to stop looking after ourselves in favour of just getting work done. However, this doesn't necessarily work, as the less healthy you are the less productive you are.

I will definitely be trying these four tips for staying healthy, and hopefully these ideas inspire you to find your own ways of staying healthy to ensure the most successful exam season possible.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

My Southampton highlights

Apologies for the seemingly never-ending “it’s all about to end and I don’t know what to do with myself” posts, but I guess if we can’t talk about this stuff now, when can we? This week I’ve been reflecting on my time here at the University of Southampton as a whole.

It feels strange picking only a few select moments from three years of incredible happenings, but in doing so it also encouraged me to look back over everything, so it proved a really useful way to kick-start that much needed retrospective.

Also it’s pretty obvious that I’m not quite done yet, and with a whole bunch of exciting events still to come (the Media Ball and the EVAs just to name a few) I’m sure there’ll be space in this list for even more fun stuff.

But for now, like some sort of cheesy, X Factor-style greatest hits montage, here are my “best bits” from my life at Southampton. Cue the reflective piano music.

Freshers’ (duh) 

It’s practically impossible to run through the highlights of my time at the University without at least mentioning how it all began. Freshers’ week might well have been one of the craziest and busiest weeks of my entire life - but in the best way possible.

In the space of less than 7 days, I learned how to dance, learned how to cook (well…sort of) and managed to meet an incredible group of people who have gone on to become some of my closest friends in the entire universe (a university family, if you will). That one week of intensity changed my entire perception of life altogether, and pretty much single-handedly set up a lot of the fun stuff that came later on. So yeah, worthy of highlight status I think.

Halloween/Christmas/General Holiday-themed merriment 

Any opportunity to celebrate has always been embraced here, between our own DIY-Christmases to some dodgy Halloween costumes and the occasional spot of green face-paint for a certain Irish holiday. Narrowing it down to just one is impossible!

The upside to being away from home means that as a student, you get to do a whole bunch of these things twice. I even blogged about the wonders of a ‘Uni Christmas’ back in December, and how magical the entire celebration is; the Campus Christmas lights will never be forgotten. It’s become an ongoing tradition every year here that I’ll miss hugely - celebrating two weeks early over awesome food and mismatched cutlery is something you can only ever really manage as a student, and here in Southampton we truly mastered it as an art-form.

Our first uni Christmas will never be forgotten!

Press Antics 

Aside from my degree, easily the best thing I did work-wise whilst here in Southampton was to join The Edge - our on-campus entertainment magazine. Little did I know when I first wrote a pretty shoddy review of the TV show Dexter in Freshers’ week 2013 that some years later I would be Film Editor, rolling around in screener discs and rubbing shoulders with famous people!

Thanks to The Edge I’ve found myself going all-access at the BFI London Film Festival not once but twice, interviewing some insanely interesting people and even organising an entirely student-run film festival (easily the most triumphant highlight!).

Not only has it awoken my voice as a writer (due thanks must go to this here blog too!), but it’s also helped me find a career path through a multitude of experience, which is basically irreplaceable in my books.

The Edge got me this close to Chris Pratt and James Gunn meaning I will always be indebted to them


The one thing I really can’t get enough of is the film culture here in Southampton. When I first joined the University, I was a relatively shy film nerd with huge ambitions that I never really thought possible. Now, I feel like I can tackle anything, and a major part of getting to this point has been down to meeting so many like-minded people.

I guess it helped that I chose to study Film here, but also through societies like The Edge and SUSUtv I met a whole heap of other film nerds and together we conquered so much, taking on the Union Films Halloween All-Nighter every year (that’s non-stop horror films from 8pm-8am!), and an entire multitude of midnight screenings and other marathons!

The Reel Opinions review team attempting to make sense after staying up all night

The ultimate highlight came this time last year though, when a group of friends and I stayed up through the night for a midnight screening of the latest Avengers film (Age of Ultron), before keeping ourselves awake and hiding out in Hartley Library thanks to its 24-hour opening times, so that we could film our SUSUtv review the very second the SUSU building opened. There’s very few people who would be nuts enough to join me in such endeavours, and it feels like I could only really have ever met them here!

Then there was the time that Hollywood came to Southampton (quite literally) as the Tom Cruise-starring Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation started filming nearby in Fawley. They auditioned a ridiculous amount of our students in the Students' Union for roles as extras and I was somehow lucky enough to be picked! I’m still not really allowed to talk much about what went on, but it was quite possibly one of the most incredible weeks of my life.

I feel like I’m using that phrase a lot, but it couldn’t be more true. Over my three years here, Southampton has graced me with some of the most standout moments possible.

Looking back, it’s going to be sad to leave it behind, but the memories will always be here, and I’m sure there are more adventures yet to come!


Monday, 25 April 2016

South Coast road trip: Salisbury, Sandbanks, Poole and Bournemouth

Judging by the headline, you can probably tell I’ve been on quite an exciting road trip! This time it was extra exciting, because my boyfriend and I literally sat down and pointed at somewhere on the map close to Southampton. We ended up with Salisbury, which I’ve always wanted to visit because I want to see Stonehenge.

The original plan was to go up to Stonehenge, but because I really want to go there the next time my dad visits, we decided to stay in Salisbury and look at the map once again for some inspiration.

We ended up driving down to the Sandbanks and Poole and stopping by Bournemouth on the way home, so it was quite an exciting day.

Although without a car you might not be able to do all of this in a day, all of the mentioned places are well worth a visit, so I thought I’d share what I enjoyed the most with the different places we went to.

Salisbury, Poole and Bournemouth are all reachable with regular trains from Southampton Central Station.


Salisbury is about an hour away and reminds me a lot of Winchester - so in other words a very nice town. For those who read this blog regularly, you might recall that I was quite astonished by the Winchester Cathedral. Well, let me tell you, Salisbury has a cathedral, and even though I didn’t think it was possible, it is even more astonishing than the one in Winchester!

First of all, one of the four original Magna Cartas from 1215 is preserved in the cathedral and you can have a look at it there. It is all very well-organised with guides to explain every part of the cathedral and answer any questions. Entry is, in principle, free, but most people donate something at the entrance.

Inside Salisbury Cathedral.
At the moment, they have an art exhibition around town, 
including inside the cathedral with human rabbits.

Apart from the cathedral, Salisbury has quite a few shops and loads of nice places to have lunch. If you are driving to Salisbury, it takes about 10 minutes more to drive through the New Forest. I’ve written about the New Forest before, so if you fancy meeting a donkey or two, you know which way to drive!

A cute New Forest donkey!

Sandbanks & Poole

To my understanding, Sandbanks is a part of Poole, so this will just go as one. If there is one word to describe it there, it is: WOW! This is about 10-20 minute drive from Bournemouth, so the beach is basically the same, but the difference is that Sandbanks has massive houses on the beach which are a bit of an attraction in themselves.

By the time we had reached the Sandbanks it had gotten cloudy, so we went for a long walk on the beach and around town. However, you can rent a kayak or paddle board so this is the perfect spot to go over the summer. It’s also a nice alternative to Bournemouth and definitely worth the extra 10 minutes train journey.

Sandbanks beach 


Although I’ve been to Bournemouth a couple of times before, I realised I had missed out on something very important: the arcade! I thoroughly enjoyed trying to win myself a selfie stick on the machines, racing cars and playing on the 2p machines.

If you need some inspiration for your next road trip, I hope you found some here!

In other news, Life at Southampton are recruiting new bloggers for next year and the applications close on Monday 16th May. I would strongly encourage any University of Southampton students who might be interested to apply. For myself and the blogging team this year, blogging has been productive procrastination and a good break from all the academic writing we usually do. I know this blog has encouraged and motivated me to go and explore more of Southampton, the south coast and in general all the things the University has to offer – so I hope anyone who likes to write will consider applying!

If you’re a current student, you can find details here!


Friday, 22 April 2016

How being a ‘Life at Southampton’ Blogger has made my university experience

It is strange to think that it was over a year ago I applied to become a blogger for the University of Southampton, and now the time has come to recruit for new writers! How time flies by.

Thinking about the fact that my stint as a working blogger is coming to an end has made me contemplate just how much of a tremendous impact the job has made on my life here at Southampton.

At the same time, I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to apply for this life-changing experience!

So, why is being a blogger so great?

Blogging has boosted my confidence

It has given me the voice and the confidence to approach new people to learn about new things. The job requires you to come up with interesting content regularly. When I am running out of ideas to write about I have found that reaching out to people around me and checking out what they are getting up to makes for exciting content and an enjoyable experience of learning on my part. Not only has this built up my network here at the University, but it has also helped me make new friends.

Getting to know Enactus Southampton!

Meeting with AISEC and other societies for SUSU’s Culture Week. We chatted about activities for guests at the International Culture Night and the Global Village

Blogging has taught me the benefits of introspection

The more you blog about your life, the better you see and appreciate details that you take for granted. They say that your time at university creates some of the best years of your life. Taking some time to be mindful about what is happening right now has not only helped me understand myself but also get a better idea of where my life is going beyond Southampton. What’s more, this reflectiveness and the constant need to generate ideas has helped me think clearer.

Blogging has challenged me to be more disciplined

We all have to do something challenging at some point. Before coming to university I was not the best person at disciplining my use of time. Procrastination was my enemy, indeed. In addition, I can have the tendency to be lazy about connecting with people and keeping schedules. Since becoming a blogger I have an incentive to show up, meet with people and write.

At the same time, I have had to challenge myself to become better at time-management skills. This is essential as, in order for you to have a social life at university as well as managing academic work, you need to really have a good grasp of how you spend your time.

Holding the Filipino Society’s first Halloween party

With the FilSoc committee

Blogging looks good on your CV!

A project like this can really sell your CVs in job applications and helps with employability. Having the title of a “professional student blogger” on your CV makes you stand out from the pack. It shows that you learnt something outside of academia during your time at university.

Maintaining a blog also shows commitment to employers. Not only this, but because the theme of the blog is geared on student life, it says that you are emphatic to your audience and mindful about current events.

Blogging helps other people

This digital age is a wonderful era to live in. Your content can reach many people from different continents and cultures. The idea that your personal thoughts touch other souls is gratifying to say the least.

By frequently sharing an inside view of what life really is like as a student, and openly sharing moments about your life, you help potential university undergraduates decide if this is really the path that they want to take after high school or sixth-form college.

What I am up to now: obligatory dissertation hand-in photo! Can you say I 'got diss'?

Applying for the position

So, if you want to do something challenging, fun and generally make your student experience a hundred times better, you can do so by applying to be a blogger!

As my time here at Southampton is nearing its end, I can honestly say that I am very proud of becoming a Life at Southampton blogger!


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Borrowing a dog for the day

I’ve never really been one for being homesick. I miss my parents, but university is too much fun to worry about that for too long. However, I do get ‘dogsick’. I miss my family dog Teddy silly amounts and have done throughout my four years here.

Recently I found out about this wonderful site called ‘Borrow my Doggy’, which puts dog owners and potential dog sitters in contact with one another. Some people are looking for dog walkers, others are looking for someone to look after their pooch while they’re away. The concept is simple: not everyone can own a dog, particularly students who can’t look after a dog full time, but definitely have a spare afternoon for a walk around the common, and not all owners can fulfil their dogs’ exercise and care needs.

My dog Teddy - just look at that face!

I signed up and was contacted by a lovely woman who needed someone to look after her terrier Megan on Sunday mornings. I was thrilled; I have been trying to lose weight and since I’m not one for going to the gym I thought dog walking would be just the thing to get me out of the house and at least doing some exercise. So, Sunday rolls around I’m up early(ish) ready to meet my new pal and go for our first adventure on Southampton Common.

Alas it was not to be, as fate seems to have matched me with a dog that is as lazy as I am! We had barely gotten on to campus (which considering I live at the top of Church Lane is not that impressive) before Megan decided that we’d walked far enough, turned around and dragged me back home!

She spent the rest of the morning lying next to my feet providing a wonderful distraction from the coursework that I was attempting to finish up.

More belly rubs, less exercise please!

It was a delight to meet Megan and I’m looking forward to future Sunday mornings, and I endeavour to encourage her to go further than the SUSU shop! I know a lot of my friends miss their family pets, and things like this are a great way to enjoy the company of animals, without the responsibility of owning a dog full time.

She’s so fluffy

All in all, it was a great way to end the Easter break and I’m looking forward to being back at university properly…although trying to get back into a routine and wake up before 9am may be difficult!


Monday, 18 April 2016

The final stretch: embracing the end of student life

It’s certainly taken some time but, somehow, I’ve found myself eyeing up my last ever term at university. Ever.

It’s pretty difficult to contemplate leaving this place and, in the paraphrased words of a certain pesky little Gollum, “never coming back”, but then again I figured, I’m never really leaving for good. I’m not leaving right this very second either. I still have a whole two months of hardcore dissertation finalising and essay crafting to push through.

This next little period of time has proven to be the final stretch. The sprint finish, if you will. It’ll no doubt disappear in an instant, so I might as well enjoy it whilst I can. Obviously it’s a very odd time for any student on the brink of finishing education altogether, so I’ve compiled together some thoughts to help curb any worries:

It’s Not Really Leaving Forever 

I’ve said this already but it’s slowly becoming my mantra right now. Although my course at the University of Southampton might be ending, I’m leaving my student house here and my ID card will no doubt stop letting me into the libraries on campus (boohoo), I’m never gone for good. It’s not like the very second I leave Southampton the whole place will vanish into a puff of smoke and cease to exist.

In fact, I still have a whole heap of friends and acquaintances here (not forgetting my girlfriend, who has another year left on her course) meaning that travelling back for the odd weekend is pretty much a given. I might not live here anymore, but I’ll still be coming back!

Leaving this lot will be tough, but they’re not gone forever

You Get To Be A Real Adult 

I mentioned a little while back that, for a lot of students, the fun comes from occupying that wonderful little ‘Goldilocks zone’ in between being an adult and a child. You end up embracing the best of both worlds.

This obviously means though that when you finally stop being a student, you do have to take the whole ‘adult’ thing more seriously, but that shouldn’t be something to be afraid of. Being an adult, earning your own money and maybe even raising a family are pretty much the most exciting parts of life - everything we’ve experienced so far is just the precursor to that.

To borrow an analogy from every boxing movie ever: being a student is the training montage before the actual fight. It’s super-fast, filled with incredible music and makes you feel on top of the world, but it’s not where the real meat of the story comes from. Don’t think of it as daunting, think of it as exciting; all those possibilities, with nothing holding you back from embracing any number of them.

It Doesn’t Have To End (If You Don’t Want It To) 

Aside from sounding vaguely like the title of a grungy 90s rock ballad, this means exactly what it says in the title: if you don’t feel like you’ve gotten the most out of university, you don’t have to leave. This does mean finding another course (whether it be another undergraduate degree, or one of the University’s range of postgraduate taught and research programmes) but if you find one that suits you better than the working world, why not go for it?

You might find that you want academia to even become your career and never leave the university community ever, which again, is totally fine. This part of student life is all about finding what you want to do, and rolling with it.

Me personally? I’ll be brutally honest, I’m still figuring it out. I know it involves writing and films, but how I’m planning on combining these two remains to be seen.

Right now, top of the list is nailing my final assignments, and making these remaining months of student life the most incredible ones imaginable.

It’s not about dwelling on the sadness of leaving, it’s about looking forward to all the exciting prospects we have lined up for us. The friends I’ve made here may be moving slightly further away than what I’m used to, but they’ll always be there, and the same goes for Southampton.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Student volunteering in Southampton

When you start university you have a ton of opportunities to engage with the university community. Be it through societies or course representation or sports.

Although it is natural that we as students mostly engage and associate ourselves with other students, I believe we tend to forget how much students can have an impact on Southampton as a local community.

Ever since I got to England I’ve always felt it would be nice to give something back to Southampton as a city - after all this is my home now. This brings me on to the topic I want to discuss in this blog post; volunteering.

I’ve been volunteering as a Befriender for Age UK Southampton since February of this year. It is something I have thought about for a long time. There is definitely not a shortage of volunteering opportunities in Southampton, but it’s all about finding an association that fits you.

I chose Age UK because I cannot imagine anything worse than feeling isolated and alone, especially at an older age. Being a Befriender means that they set you up with an elderly person who needs a bit of company once a week, mostly it’s around an hour, which I believe everyone has spare in a week. They currently have a long waiting list of people who want a Befriender and, with the amount of people who live in Southampton, it shouldn’t be like that.

Most elderly people want a befriender during the day-time. However, most people who work can’t spare the time until after-work hours or during the weekend when the need isn’t that big. That’s why students with flexible timetables are a great fit as Befrienders!

Volunteering isn’t just a one-way thing, it is genuinely very rewarding to feel and see that you can make a difference to someone’s life and that’s why I have chosen to write about my experience in this blog post.

For me, volunteering means visiting my new friend once a week for about one hour. With travel time, I probably spend around two hours a week on this, which is nothing compared to the time I procrastinate or do other irrelevant things. The big difference is that volunteering isn’t irrelevant. For example, I have now learnt a lot of new English words through playing scrabble and I continue to learn and hear new things all the time I spend volunteering.

Therefore, if there is anyone out there who wants to volunteer, but doesn’t really know where to start, I have three tips:

  • Firstly, find out what you want to do and who you want to work with. For example you could work with elderly people, homeless people or animals.

  • Secondly, when you have established who you want to work with, find out who you want to volunteer for. For example, there are a number of volunteering societies at the in the Students' Union, which offers you a great range of organisations you can volunteer with. Our Careers and Employability team can also help with finding you a role with their Volunteering Bank. Alternatively, you can simply Google your way to an organisation and contact them directly!

  • Thirdly, find out what fits your timetable and explain to the organisation so you can work out a good plan. I have chosen to do my volunteering on a day I don’t have any lectures. 

In case you are not in Southampton at the moment, this is the sunshine you are missing out on. 

I hope that you consider doing some volunteering in the future – it’s definitely very rewarding and I highly recommend it! Not only are you helping others, but it can teach you new things and also looks great on your CV!