Adjusting To Moving Back Home For The Summer

University life can be so overwhelming and frantic that sometimes it is easy to forget that you have another totally isolated, ‘parallel’ life that co-exists.

Separate from relentless partying, flowing banter, and constantly feeling hungover, over-tired and hungry, is that other world: home life.

This is a different ball game altogether. A change of mind-set is required to successfully negotiate completely different everyday encounters. Behaviour and conversation-topics that would be embraced and lapped-up at uni, become taboo and inappropriate in front of parents and other family members.

Discussions over last-night’s drunken antics, banterous, witty, facetious comments are replaced with mundane dinner conversations regarding the recycling, The X Factor, and Dad’s train that got delayed by five minutes this morning. Riveting.

Instead of constantly meeting potential friends and sexual partners, you are treated to visits from long-lost family members, in which you are inevitably reminded how much you have grown, as if you had forgotten the natural process of human growth.

Within hours of arriving home for the summer, you delve into the ‘honeymoon period’ where you catch up with friends and family you haven’t seen in yonks. This is a very exciting, and sometimes emotional time, albeit abrupt. After all, there is only so much about university life you can share with family members without risking to indulge them in details only fit for the ears of someone your age.

You then begin to realise the sheer size of the task on your hands: you have literally nothing to do for the next three months. Of course, you failed to line up any sort of work experience, internship, or paid job. “I’ll do it tomorrow, Mum!” You never did.

It is then that you start to seriously fear for your sanity over the summer. After all, death-by-boredom is more common that you would think.

Your freedom and personal enjoyment seems extremely limited – you can no longer sleep as late as you like, come back as drunk as you like, at whatever time you like, with whoever you like, or play your music as loud as you like.

Living in a house of four does not leave a whole lot of time to be alone for some, er, ‘personal reflection’. There are only so many scowls and snide comments your mum can give you before you finally turn off the PS3 and empty the dishwasher.

Of course, there are some advantages of being home for the summer. The cleaner, dad’s credit card, improved phone signal and the warmth and love of your nearest and dearest spring to mind.

Soon enough, you learn to love (tolerate) the obsessive humming sound your dad makes, the constant smell of cooking in the kitchen, and the unnecessarily loud phone conversations your sister has with god-knows-who.

You embrace your endless free time. You set self-improvement goals for the summer. Join a gym. Explore your city. Study the entire works of Charles Dickens. Learn Mandarin. Become a world-renowned pick-up artist. Whatever.

Eventually, you actually start to enjoy the thought of having the entire summer to do whatever you want, with no pressing responsibilities.

That is until you get a bit sick of everything and everyone after just days back home. You pine for the freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want – without curfews, limits, and check-up texts from the rents.

Only 3 months, 13 weeks, 90 days, 2191 hours, 131487 minutes to go….

DW

The Ultimate Guide To Surviving Your First Year Of Uni

University. It’s everything school promised to be but never was: sociable, entertaining and optional.

I would safely say that this year – my first year at the University of Birmingham – has been the best year of my life. I could not have hoped for more. I was unbelievably excited to escape the monotony of school life and start afresh in a completely new environment. I met people who I know will remain lifelong friends, embraced diverse experiences, and just generally thrived in the university scene.

However, none of this would have been achieved so smoothly and effortlessly without the set of vague guidelines by which I stuck.

These covered a wide range of bases, including how best to hack two nights out in a row, learning which lectures you can get away with going to still drunk (if at all), and how to juggle new friends, old friends, and family.

Below are the seven best pieces of advice any fresher could hope for:

  1. Freshers week is absolute carnage. The perfect mix of constant socialising, feeling like utter death curled up in a ball on your less-than-average-sized bed, and kneeling in front of your already disgusting toilet wondering if it’s possible to actually throw up essential organs. The key to limiting just how shit you feel is by manning up and drinking even more. After all, if you’re drunk you don’t realise you’re hungover. “A night not wasted is a night wasted.”
  2. After a week of relentless partying, the inevitable emails start flooding in from lecturers inviting you to your induction seminar. They seem to completely miss the point of uni. You are obliged to attend, but there is no mention of in which state – be it hungover, still drunk, bearing bodily scars, or still in last night’s clothes. Naturally, you immediately identify which geek is best to retrieve missed lecture notes from, and who the hottest girl is, in order to tactically position yourself close to her in the lectures, and offer any after-hours ‘tuition’.
  3. Everyone starts off by being *that* keen fresher who signs up to every sports team and society. However, sooner rather than later, you realise you’re just not that bothered about trekking 20 minutes to some backstreet pub to perform stand-up comedy to a smattering of tipsy 20-somethings, or representing you’re halls at ultimate frisbee in the pouring rain when you could be doing, well, anything else. Instead, you establish the familiar routine of sleeping in, going to the odd lecture, sleeping some more, drinking. Repeat.
  4. Eventually you will establish a solid group of close friends. These may consist of flatmates, vodka, coursemates, PlayStation, and mates you already knew from home. You will spend more time with them than anyone else, and they become your substitute family. You determine which girl is most dependable and will cook for you (mum) and which guy insists on cracking unfunny jokes at every opportunity (dad). These friends become your bedrock, you go on nights out with them, eat with them and, in some cases, sleep with them. Other good friends you will depend on include Night Nurse, Candy Crush, and Tesco Home Delivery.
  5. The university (and your parents) would have you believe that your main purpose at uni is to study. As if! But, as such, you are required to attend at least some lectures. You may even get into a healthy routine of going to every lecture…until you remember you only need 40% to pass the first year. Referencing is taken unbelievably seriously, and so that bloody Oxford Referencing Guide becomes something of a study buddy. Pencil cases and textbooks are replaced with a single biro and online texts. Required readings really aren’t very required at all, and you become pretty disillusioned when you realise all lectures slides, along with everything the lecturer said and handed out, are put online in full.
  6. Uni can sometimes be quite a lonely place. When not in lectures or out clubbing, you face a toss-up over wanting to see your friends, but not wanting to piss them off by dropping in unannounced and forcing them to hang out with you. Alas, you are forced to spend quite a bit of alone time. Chilling. Pondering. Sometimes you can even become so bored that you start a blog. You develop little ways to stay entertained, such as people-watching outside your window, playing disgusting amounts of FIFA, and going clubbing purely so you can use your hangover as an excuse to do absolutely nothing all day. You will most likely become nocturnal as your sleeping pattern gets completely screwed. As a result you end up watching obscure Chinese second division football matches on the regular, become hooked on several TV series at once, and Facebook stalk anyone and everyone just to pass the time.
  7. Your mum will definitely make you promise to keep your room clean and cook healthily. She may even send you up with some dust wipers, Dettol spray, vegetables and some diet Coke. Of course, these are immediately discarded once you realise she’s no longer around. Pot Noodle becomes your gourmet speciality, you accept Cost Cutter own brand cola will have to suffice, and tap water replaces Evian. You will become very short sighted and refuse to bulk buy as you convince yourself you will hardly even drink six Tangos, let alone a 12-pack. No matter how many times you fall in love with the tremendous waft of the latest Paco Rabanne cologne, you will plump for citrus-scented Febreeze as you realise your student loan just won’t stretch. Finally, you will refuse to make your bed (unless expecting female company) because, well, what’s the point if you’re just gonna get back in it again?

The points above are just a selection of things that will inevitably occur in your first year at university. No matter how much you promise yourself that you will attend every seminar, persist with table tennis club and drink less alcohol, it just won’t happen.

I can only encourage you to embrace and cherish every moment of your first year, because in the blink of an eye it’ll be over!

DW

The Anatomy Of The Haircut

I’m sure you must have noticed, but I’m going to point it out anyway: having a haircut is a very awkward and uncomfortable process.

From the moment we timidly shuffle into the barber shop, work out who is in the queue and who is merely waiting for a mate/child, and then proceed to hide behind the red top newspaper on the table, the whole experience is one tactical game of chess.

The premise is simple: keep the barber happy in order to ensure the best haircut possible.

This tricky task is often challenged and ultimately compromised by a series of obstacles, the first of which is set in motion as soon as we are eventually called up to the chair.

We must decide almost instantaneously, without even a shred of self-doubt, which exact cut we are hoping for, and then describe in intense detail how we expect the barber to go about achieving this look – completely forgetting it is, in fact, their actual job to know how to do this. We may even feel the need to show them a picture of some extremely good looking celebrity with hair we can only dream about having, in order to guide them, or even a picture of a previous haircut we had that we actually liked.

After giving the barber a step-by-step guide to our dream haircut, this is when the most important stage of “Operation: Keep Barber In A Good Mood” is undertaken. We must decide whether to sit stone-faced and silent throughout, or engage them in conversation. Inevitably, we opt for chit-chat on a wide range of topics including football, the weather, football, football, and that murder that happened last week. “Terrible, far too young.” “I know, awful.” “So, you gonna be watching the big game on Sunday?”

This next bit is crucial.

We must must must, at all times, keep in mind which football team the barber supports. This is absolutely imperative as one slip of the tongue leading to us criticising his team could result in catastrophic repercussions for our hair, or even our personal safety. After all, he’s the one with the scissors.

The best bet is to just agree wholeheartedly with everything he says – even though it’s probably all garbage.

We must always remain as polite as humanly possible throughout the interaction, as the haircut can seem like a very tense and stretched process. Everything that is involved seems like it is achieved at a slight push, and we invariably act as if everything we ask/do somehow inconveniences the barber.

Almost subconsciously, we automatically weaken and modify our requests to suit the barber’s needs. This is done by adding ‘…if that’s ok’ after asking him to take your sideburns up a bit, and saying ‘…as long as you don’t mind’ when he asks if we want some gel in our hair.

When he shows us the back of our head in his little mirror, we nod approvingly.

When he hands us a tissue as some sort of going home present, we thank him profusely, pretending that we actually wanted it

When he asks if we like the haircut, we lie through our teeth and act overwhelmed with joy and happiness at his ‘fantastic’ job.

When we pay him, we always leave a pound tip, regardless of our satisfaction. (However, I do not agree with this custom: https://musingsofabored19yearold.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/tips-on-tipping/)

Finally, when we leave we rush home as quickly as possible, avoiding as many people as possible, itching the back of our neck as much as possible, have a shower, and then weep in front of the mirror, pining for some sort of miracle hair growth to fix the monstrosity we have paid an extortionately overpriced fee for.

A Student’s Guide To Revision

Revision. Revision. Revision.

In my old age I have grown to accept this concept – not fight it. Revision is now a permanent fixture in my academic calendar. It occurs annually, taking up most of May, and sometimes even trickles into early June.

The problem is, however much revision I do, I just never get very good at it. Maybe it’s my technique. Maybe it’s my commitment. Maybe it’s just that I’m a bit shit at working.

Be honest: how many of you can actually say that you have truly figured out the best and most productive way of learning stuff to pass an exam?

Exactly.

One of the major issues we all face around this time of year is the fact that revision is meant to be, literally, a ‘re-visit’ to things you have already learnt. Effectively, you should already know the syllabus, and by revising you are merely consolidating your knowledge.

However, in reality no proper learning has been done all year, and so we are left to teach ourselves the entire course in the space of a few weeks. You’d think we’d learn, but this has happened for the last 3 years. Oops.

There are several phases one goes through while undertaking their revision. They include:

  • Denial – ‘It’s only April, I definitely don’t need to start revising yet.’
  • Reluctance – ‘I’ll revise for a bit, but then Made In Chelsea is on, and I have to watch it.’
  • Embrace – ‘I genuinely feel like I’m learning something.’
  • Reality – ‘It was only a past paper – who cares that I got 28%.’
  • Excuses – ‘I know so much that revising any more would actually be bad for me.’
  • Worry – ‘Is it possible to un-learn stuff overnight?’
  • Cramming – ‘I can definitely teach myself the entire syllabus the night before the exam – that’s what Red Bull’s for.’
  • Relief – ‘Who cares that I only passed by one mark – I only wanted a B anyway.’

We all have those little friends we call upon during exam season. They’re the equivalent of real-life ‘get out of jail free’ cards. Teachers swear by them and students use them as an excuse to not have to write actual notes

Eh?

You know, those sumptuous spider diagrams, fantastic flow charts, luscious lists, amazing acronyms, and, er, very (good) Venn diagrams.

Ultimately, we realise that all of these are, in fact, a bit naff and don’t really help much at all. So, in the end we inevitably plump for making notes on notes on notes. On notes.

Our handwriting somehow turns from surprisingly good to disgustingly – almost illegally – illegible, and then we face the age old problem of selecting which words are slightly more highlight-worthy than others.

We never know whether staying up to revise into the early hours the night before an exam is helpful or not, or whether it is better to get a good night’s sleep and put our notes under our pillow – because the knowledge will obviously seep through the pillow and into our brain.

Of course, we opt for the second option as it is better (easier).

After all this trauma, we wake up and question our nerves – after all, the pass mark is only 40%.

We stumble to the exam half-asleep, desperately look for someone in the exam hall who looks worse-prepared than ourselves, and complete the exam with an almost empty bank of knowledge.

Results day then comes, and we regard it as a mild success to have escaped with anything remotely over the pass mark.

Twelve months later – repeat.

DW

Motivate Me – Now!

As a student, living in student accommodation, studying in a university crammed full of students, I come across quite a lot of students. One thing that seems to be a recurring theme among them is a constant need for motivation and/or inspiration (the words seem to be interchangeable as far as anyone aged 18-22 is concerned).

Everything that goes on in the world of a student seems like it is achieved at a slight push, or that every time anything is accomplished, it is done so expending just a little bit more effort than should have been required. This is really quite exhausting.

For instance, getting out of bed in the morning (or, more often than not, afternoon) always seems such a chore. “If I run extra fast to campus I can definitely have ten more minutes in bed.” Even though the food at [insert shop] may be nicer than the food at [insert shop], we students will inevitably plump for the shop that is fractionally nearer, for one reason and one reason only: it’s easier.

In order to overcome these painstakingly horrendous challenges that we face, we often pine for some sort of divine inspiration to motivate us.

My question is simple: why is inspiration from elsewhere always needed to deal with our own problems?

A quick Google search on the words “motivational quotes” returns approximately 18 million results. Flabbergasting. Now, it’s all very well the incredible feats of others being used as some sort of proof to us that we can also overcome this particular challenge. However, the sheer extent to which people rely on these quotes/stories/anecdotes in order to get by is ridiculous.

Recently I have witnessed a surge in the number of Twitter accounts who feel they are adding something to the world by recycling famous “inspirational” quotes. Internet memes combining a picture and a quote, or supposedly emotive message, are also intended to be a form of inspiration.

People have even started to get jobs and establish careers as inspirational speakers who travel internationally to give seminars which will apparently transform you into a “better” person. Don’t get me wrong, some people, for example Aron Ralston – the guy that the film 127 Hours is based on – have genuinely inspiring stories to share with us. They should be celebrated and embraced.

However, it seems to me that nowadays any chip off the old block who grew up in a dodgy council estate, only to use initiative, escape, and make a mild (relative) success of himself, is considered “inspiring” and can make money out of this by selling their story. Pathetic.

My gripe is that anyone with any sense of personal pride and sliver of initiative should be proactive enough to inspire themselves to success. Internet phenomena, potentially fabricated quotes, and exaggerated stories of human feats of people we don’t even know, should not be relied upon to stimulate us to achieve something.

Proactivity, diligence and conscientiousness should be more than enough to inspire and motivate us to be the best we can.

So, the next time you find yourself Googling “inspirational quotes” when in need of a lift, get off your arse and be proactive!

DW

The Alternative Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shalt not telephone another house, nor flush thy toilet chain (unless it’s a number 2), after 10.30pm.
  2. Thou shalt not ask a stranger if they are nearly done on the loo.
  3. Thou shalt only consume dropped food if it was on the floor for five seconds or fewer.
  4. Thou shalt avoid the use of a urinal directly next to another at all costs.
  5. Thou shalt stick to the ‘one per segment’ rule when using revolving doors.
  6. Thou shalt adore one, if not all, of Drake, Justin Bieber, One Direction and Beyonce.
  7. Thou shalt abide by the ‘follow back’ rule on Twitter, the ‘add everyone you meet’ rule on Facebook, and the ‘take pictures of everything’ rule on Instagram.
  8. Thou shalt be completely outraged by any hint of racism, yet proceed to still be a little bit racist thyself.
  9. Thou shalt enjoy a love-hate relationship with all reality television shows: hating them publically, whilst simultaneously secretly loving them.
  10. Thou shalt always be aware of the potentially catastrophic repercussions when deciding how many x’s to put at the end of a text.

DW

That Little Thing You Do When…

…walking past someone you know, you pause your iPod so you can hear exactly what they say, preventing you replying ‘good thanks’ in response to ‘hey’.

…you automatically answer ‘yeah that’s great’ when the barber asks if your haircut is okay, even though you actually absolutely despise what he’s done to your hair.

…you see a crunchy looking leaf and feel that you simply could not live with yourself were you to not step on it.

…instead of asking someone if you can alternate with them on the machine in the gym, you simply do a little dance with your index fingers, making them revolve around one another.

…you quietly mutter ‘sorry’ as you brush past someone in a crowded corridor, even though you have not done anything warranting an apology.

…misspelling a word on your phone/computer, instead of merely deleting the word back to where the spelling mistake began, you erase the entire word and start again.

…walking alongside a friend, you have to begrudgingly accept they’re a slow walker, and adjust your speed accordingly, rather than asking them to increase their speed.

…you shield your PIN number as if your life depended on it, even though no one is remotely near enough to be able to see it.

…at school, the teacher cleans all the writing off the board but misses out a few squiggles, and you suffer a mini panic attack while contemplating whether or not it would be socially acceptable for you to ask him/her to clean them off.

…you are required to know whether a letter comes before or after another, so you recite the entire alphabet, having never fully mastered it in primary school.

…having already asked someone to repeat what they said three times, you still cannot understand them, but decide you can’t say ‘what?!’ again, so you pretend to understand them and simply nod/smile.

…ordering tap water at a restaurant, you become incredibly awkward and feel obliged to apologise, as if having offended the waiter.

DW