The Intermission

I have known I was going to embark on a year abroad as soon as I decided I wanted to study Spanish, which was a fair few years ago. However, this inevitable adventure is no longer blissfully out of sight (although nothing is ever out of mind in my world). I’m leaving next month.

Everyone talks about their life lessons/profound realisations/regrets during or after any travels, but I rarely see any reference to the anticipation beforehand. Still to this day I am reminded that the best part of any good thing is looking forward to it. At this point, everyone is stuck in an interval of their lives, looking into the unknown of moving to a different country, and none of us know what to expect.

One of the most important things to be aware of is that no year abroad experience has ever been the same. Comparison is unavoidable when all your course mates are having similar experiences, and issues like finding accommodation, admin, the culture shock and being completely submerged in the deep end can be generic. They cannot be limited to individual experiences, which can blur the line between a unique and common venture.

Now we’re in the intermission, the intermission which no one seems to talk about. You can only prepare so much, so the time is now spent watching dog documentaries and and discovering a new love of craft beer.

My main piece of advice to future travellers in this position is do not be afraid to reach out to people. Email your lecturers if you’re unsure about something, or even if it is to point you towards the person that you actually should have contacted. If you have an opportunity to talk to students, message them. Embrace the benefits of the internet and make connections if you can.

There are so many things that could go wrong, but there are also so many things that could go right.

The Limbo which is Summer

I’m at a crossroads, I believe.

Summer has always been a blank void, as I don’t have the routines that come with school and university. I’m also back at home in the valleys where my friends don’t live a stone’s throw away and very little is within walking distance. It’s a dramatic change, but a familiar one.

I’ve never had a routine with this blog. I’ve always just written when I’ve felt like it and as a result it’s never been forced. However, now I’m struggling with a direction.

Do I continue to write about my travels, to cities and countries? Do I continue writing about books and review them, and discuss other themes? Do I straddle the line across both themes? Do I focus on one and rebrand as I grow?

Who knows.


Anticipating the next adventure

During my fourth week in Costa Rica, I received an email from the British Council.

I was anticipating this email. In fact, as soon as the first person reported that they’d received one, everyone who had applied to teach abroad for the next academic year suddenly started caring deeply about the fact that they were stuck in a rainforest with no WiFi. It felt like I was receiving exam results, something I always dread, on a much greater scale. This email dictated the next eight or nine months of my life from the end of September, and there was NOTHING I could do to change what would be typed in black ink on my larger than average phone screen.

Thanks to a hummingbird garden with internet access, one by one our emails flickered to life as our fates were revealed to us. It turns out that my year abroad, a crucial part of my degree, will be spent in the Basque Country in northern Spain.

Everyone was ecstatic. There were people who had been granted their first choice of region, people who were already working out which friends they were close to, and people updating their Facebook statuses in a flurry of excitement. I was overwhelmed.

In hindsight, my situation was laughable. The other two places I’d applied to either had limited spaces or none at due to budget cuts. In hindsight I was lucky to get any of my choices (obviously an essay on Welsh Rugby is exactly what the British Council need). However, it was a massive deal to 20 year old me who was currently on the other side of the world, about to LIVE in a different country.

“Loads of people have done it before, and they’ve been fine”, people say. “You’ve literally been in Costa Rica for five weeks and you’ve been alright, how is this different?” others will comment. I’ve never been to Spain. This is going to be very different.

A few weeks later, I found out my province, my town, my school and almost every other piece of information I needed to know. This time, I was the first out of my friends. I can plan. I can look into where I’m going, what I’m doing, and bombard my new contacts with emails.

Bilbao and the area surrounding it, here I come!

Underrated Necessities for University Folk

It’s that time again. For another University related list. I’ve been a classic University Student™ for a year and a half now, and there have been some things I’ve noticed. Firstly, there are things that you don’t think about buying that are actually game changers, and the things that your mother insists you get six of and you probably won’t even use one. So here are the underdogs in life. Enjoy

Things you think you won’t need but absolutely probably will need

  1. Plastic cups. You’ve got enough glasses and mugs and measuring jugs, you don’t need anything else right? Wrong. Glasses break, and you don’t want to use those for Beer Pong, and if you’re having a house party do you want that person you met two minutes ago drinking out of your favourite cup? I think not, as I almost lost one of my brand new Mason Jars in my first week by doing that.
  2. Thinking along the same lines, STRAWS. Save yourself washing up and spend a pound at most on a gazillion straws, chuck one in the bottle of wine you’re drinking and boom, you’re sorted. Although that does mean you’ll probably end up drinking the whole bottle, but it’s university.
  3. A colander. You’re probably thinking that sounds like a kitchen item you’ll never use and I’ve put it in the wrong list, but trust me, you’re going to be draining a lot of pasta and rice, and the lid to your pan is going to mysteriously disappear within the first month.
  4. A lunch box. If you’ve got a 9am-6pm day at Uni, it’s inevitable that you will just buy a meal deal on campus, but if you buy a decent one at the beginning of the year hopefully you’ll be more motivated to make your own lunches and even make healthier lunches, at least that’s what I’ve noticed recently anyway.
  5. A flask. For all those library sessions you think about doing and the lectures at silly times in the morning, most of you will want some sort of hot drink but won’t want to spend £3 a day on a beverage, even if the Uni knocks off VAT with your student card. This sounds like something you can live without, but why spend more money on coffee when you have it at your questionable student digs?

Now I’ve imparted some wisdom I’m going to get a coffee and take a nap.

Invisible to You // A Ramble

People say mental illnesses are invisible. If they’re invisible, it means they don’t exist. They’re not a bother, they’re not a burden. It’s not really an illness at all, it’s just a glitch in the mind, an anomaly, an error.
So when it turns out that you’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future, you’ve almost resigned yourself to the fact already that you’re no longer going to be taken seriously.

You’re not taken seriously because of the people who write lamenting posts online daily, who can only be “brave” or “an inspiration” so many times before it’s “annoying” or “attention seeking”. You’re not taken seriously because everyone gets anxious, everyone has days when they feel sad and everyone gets nervous. Its normal to feel things, but as soon as you don’t feel them the same as everyone else it is wrong.

It’s wrong to feel so nervous about something that you almost suffocate, your brain is blinded by dread, your lungs and voice cease to work and you’re reduced to nothing.

It’s wrong to not go somewhere or choose to not do something because you’re so drained and unmotivated due to your emotions running you dry, but that is seen as laziness.

I was told once that having a panic attack is like running a marathon, but that doesn’t mean it is taken seriously. You don’t move, in fact you do quite the opposite to running a marathon: being frozen into place and losing the ability to function, why is it the same thing? Why am I left with the same feeling of being worn out as I would after spending hours at the gym?

The feelings get suppressed. You explore outlets, you disconnect, your panic is replaced with rage and then replaced again with sadness and bitterness. You’re confused. Why are your emotions so different and so overwhelming that it’s no longer categorised in society’s neat box? When do your emotions stop being associated with mere loneliness or a bad day or nervousness and start being associated with deterioration and a loss of the will to live? The people you may gain the courage to confide in feel helpless yet concerned, as you’re dragged down an individual path of hell that you struggle to control.

You may go to counselling. You may exercise. You may take medication. No one can see anything to diagnose. They have to trust you. There’s so little trust in this world that you fight against yourself, and you find ways to not be able to justify your feelings. You have gaps in your memory, your eyes are sore from crying, your head is pounding, but you still find excuses. People dumb it down, so you dumb it down. It feels stupid. It feels wrong. They see it as black and white while you are feeling so many different shades in the spectrum.

They may be perceived as invisible to the world, but they are visible to people within this world.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them // Review (Film)

I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a couple of weeks ago. I would have reviewed the book but since the concept was made for the silver screen it was better for me to fully expose myself to this new chapter in the story. I’ve been meaning to write this as soon as possible but I haven’t been able to find any time at all. I would love to dedicate time to this but apparently I’m studying for a degree or something. I’m currently eating my body weight in Pringles. I’m nailing student life.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. I was very apprehensive about this, especially after the minor disaster that was The Cursed Child, but the fact that this is a completely new take on the Harry Potter universe made me feel optimistic. I was ready for a fresh start and a dip into the past, and I liked the fact that I was learning new things about a world that is so familiar to me. Another familiarity was the fact that David Yates was directing this, like he has for the previous Harry Potter films. The style was familiar somehow and comforting, however I feel like sometimes you can tell the budget was so much lower for this film.

Newt Scamander, in my opinion, was portrayed excellently. I liked that he was a stereotypical awkward British person who really really adored animals, and I think it was clear throughout the film. What I’m gutted about though is that I’ve heard rumours about him being sidelined in future films? What is the point in presenting a character only to push them to one side in sequels? I’m ready to see Newt grow as a person and learn more about things and discover more of his story, but that’s just me. Hopefully the rumours aren’t true.

However, is it me, or did there not need to be a romantic element to the story? It was predictable and somewhat annoying that the four of them pair off perfectly, but part of me needs to remember that this is Hollywood and not literature. I feel like literature is so much more progressive these days but on the other hand the film industry is so much more accessible and people are so quick to pick up and judge films for lack of diversity or lack of anything really.

Wait, I’m basically judging it right now.

Never mind.

Go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them // Expectations

So, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out in the big wide world. Well, it was released at midnight last night in the UK. Would I have got tickets to see a midnight showing? Absolutely. Am I a university student with a gazillion deadlines? Absolutely.
I am making do with a trip to Manchester tomorrow to see it, and like I did with The Cursed Child many months ago (which you can read here) I thought I’d ramble a bit about my expectations.

Due to my experiences reading The Cursed Child (which you can read here), I didn’t rush to pre-order the book. Like The Cursed Child, the novel for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is a screenplay, and in hindsight it would be a much more authentic experience to see the film first, without spoilers.

Despite this, I am much more excited about the prospect of Fantastic Beasts. Not only is it more accessible to us poor students that can’t afford a trip to London to see a play, but it’s not affiliated with Harry Potter himself. The fact that it is set in 1920s America adds a completely different perspective to the Harry Potter universe, unlike the Cursed Child which carries on directly from the Deathly Hallows. As much as I love Harry Potter, I feel like J K Rowling seemed to focused on the future than filling in the gaps of the past. I enjoy speculating on the future, and that’s why sites like FanFiction are so successful.

I’m ready to focus on a new character in the franchise. Although Cursed Child was supposedly about Albus and Scorpius, Harry still played a major role in his story. It’ll be refreshing to have more context and some fresh theories to discuss, although I doubt my best friend and I will ever run out of something Harry Potter related to debate about.

I’ll hit you all up with a review once I’ve seen it, but in the meantime, if you’ve seen it feel free to reply with spoiler free thoughts and I’ll see you on the other side.

The Thing About Home

Wordery have launched another new campaign recently about embracing local history and encouraging people to explore their roots. If you want to check that out you can swing by here. Now, I’m going to talk about Home.

Home, for me, is South Wales. I was born here, and I grew up here. Even though my welsh isn’t fluent like many of my friends, Wales is pretty much ingrained into my soul now. Home is described as the place where one lives permanently, but as a university student I spend more time in Chester than I do in Wales. Sure, I have a soft spot for Chester and I may digress into that in another post, but my little Welsh town will always be home.

To other people, Wales is a novelty. It’s unheard of, or only known by TV programmes like Gavin and Stacey. Also if I had a pound for every sheep related joke I had heard, I’d be able to pay off mine and my friends’ student loans. There’s mountains and fields everywhere, and my friends I went to school with are there. My friends’ pets are also there. Darcy is there.

I know where everything is at home. I know where my nearest shop is. I know how long it takes to get to the station, I know how long it takes to go to my best friend’s house, or to get on the train to visit my boyfriend. I can see my Grandparents in minutes and I know good cheap places to hang out with my friends. I also know Arriva Trains Wales can be absolutely awful even if it does get you from A to B.

I reminisce a lot when I’m home. I used to walk to college and pass the park where I practiced for a talent show in year five, where I attended Sports Days, and where we drank terrible 35p energy drinks in the bandstand one summer. It’s comforting when you’ve lived in the same place for 18 years.

The singing is wonderful, the atmosphere at the rugby is incredible, you feel the cold and you embrace the rain when it pours.

That is the thing about home.

Negative reviews: Are they worth it?

I’ve been thinking on this for a while. It started when I was at my best friend’s house, picking books from a selection that her and her Mum were giving away (keep your friends close and the people who give you free books closer). Many of them were books that she had enjoyed when she was younger, and we were both reminiscing over the tropes and themes we loved as preteens but have now grown to despise and laugh at. Armed with several bags full of YA books and some other pretty hardbacks, I started reading from my now dangerously high TBR pile.

I’m going back to University next month, and yesterday I dumped half my belongings into my new room, along with a pile of unread books to keep me going through the term. I had decided to divide my pile between YA and older reads, as I’m currently lending books to a 14 year old and making the most of being able to be a human library. It’s safe to say you all probably know what genre I’m reading lately.

I may be out of the age range, which is probably why I’m not enjoying a lot of YA books anymore, but some of the things I’ve read are cliche and boring, and characters have been incredibly one dimensional. As a result we hit the million dollar question: is it worth writing a review about them?

I started this blog to write about books I enjoy, and to write about a mixture of books that have become popular or have been highly anticipated, and books that I was pleasantly surprised about or took me out of my comfort zone in a good way. I’m struggling to justify writing a review about a book that’s almost entirely negative.

Don’t get me wrong, few books are perfect, and it is all down to interpretation. I like to be able to write a review that highlights positives and negatives. On the other hand I feel like if I want to write about a book it’s because I want to recommend it or share it. Maybe if there’s an aspect that bothers me I’ll write about it, but that would mainly be regarding an issue or theme rather than the book itself.

If I haven’t got anything nice to say is it worth saying anything at all? Or is it important to see all interpretations and opinions regardless of how negative they could potentially be?

I need a cup of coffee.

The Thing About London

London is a whirlwind.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit for the second time this week, but there’s something about London that completely wipes you out if you’re not used to it. There’s something about London that is incredible and wonderful to observe. It’s diverse. There’s any shop you could ever want (if you can afford it). The tube gets you anywhere you want to go in minutes. There’s so many things to see and do you’d have to stay for weeks if you wanted to visit everything in one trip. There are musicians everywhere, it’s like you’ve been dropped into a musical but you’re merely an extra in the crowd. One fades out and another fades in. Silence isn’t golden, silence isn’t heard of here.

The crowds can be terrifying. Some people have absolutely no mercy. If you’re not fast and graceful you will be squashed, or even worse, you’ll miss your train. Apologising doesn’t seem to get you anywhere, British courtesies don’t seem to work in London from my experiences, which is ironic in itself. 

Some don’t have any mercy when it comes to queueing either, if there’s an opportunity to cut in, they will. People are always in a hurry, people always have a destination to get to: a place to be or people to see. There’s no time for the present, there’s only time to prepare for the future. People have their journeys they repeatedly take daily, and people who get in the way of that seem to be absolute scum in the way that they glare at you. Saying that, some people were very gracious regarding my initial confusion. Some people gave directions like they were talking to a friend. Not everyone was harsh and brutal. 

The traffic is almost as crazy as the streets. You can get a taxi from almost anywhere, and crossing a road is more challenging than finding the place you need to go. There’s more to London than Big Ben and the London Eye. People are constantly taking selfies, recording memories with their phones instead of their eyes, not forgetting to add the Snapchat filter to clarify that they are indeed in London, and checking themselves in on Facebook to again clarify that they are indeed in London. Not only are you navigating through the people constantly moving against you, you’re navigating through the people who are absorbed in the moment on their screen. 

There’s something about London that makes me enjoy every visit. There’s something wonderful about it, how different it is to the small town where I come from, and the fact that people seem to be able to fully express themselves here in a way that would seem strange in Wales. People are united yet also very, very divided. People are people, yet some people are deemed as different. 

The Theatres have a vibe that other places will never have. I’ve been lucky to go to three different musicals this week, and each theatre was cool and different and completely refreshed my love for the stage, and the music, and the stories these people have to tell. No theatre is the same, and that adds to the excitement. 

Long story short: this week has been eventful, and now I’m overdue some time to just read undisturbed. Sweet. Cool.