Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Second Year

Two months after finishing second year and just over a month until I begin third year I have been thinking about the various ways these past two years have impacted my life and how the next two years and beyond will shape my future. If you believe what the papers say then we're all doomed to work in minimum wage jobs and never get a graduate job, regardless of how good your degree is. This is why I think it is so important to make sure you get the most out of your time at university. Of course the main reason people go to university is to get a degree but it is so much more than those hours you spend in lectures and the library. This past year I really put myself out there and got involved with stuff I am interested in, my attitude was that it wouldn't hurt to go out into the world and meet new people.

Every post written about university emphasises how great societies and I couldn't recommend joining one enough. In first year I didn't make the effort to go to many events but this year I attended meetings every week and even joined a committee! My best advice would be to go to events and join societies that you are genuinely interested in. There is nothing more boring than going along to events that you don't care about with people who don't interest you, purely because the society looks good on your cv. Sometimes committees and societies are super cliquey and intimidating but who wants to be part of that anyway?

Although you shouldn't join random societies because it looks good on your cv, university is such a good time to build your experiences and thus your resume. I've started writing for a human rights magazine which allows me to improve my writing skills whilst writing about issues important to me. I've volunteered at and helped organise events for different issues, gaining more experience each time, and enjoying myself raising awareness for various causes. Join LinkedIn and put all your experience in your profile, nothing is too small or invaluable! Go to workshops on ancient and medieval coins because you think it's interesting, buy tickets for a feminism in Islam conference because you want to learn about something new, hold a last minute bake sale and stand for ten hours selling baked goods - why not? 

Friendships blossom throughout university but they also die, it's just part of life. I lived with eleven people in first year and eight of us became fast friends, fast forward a year and our group is down a person. Initially I was sad, I had made an effort with this person and put myself out there, yet there was nothing in return. But now I realise that if the respect and effort isn't reciprocal then it is not a friendship that I want in my life. Life is too short to continue with friendships that aren't good for you, cull your friends on facebook and enjoy a more peaceful life. 

Get to know your tutors and lecturers, make an effort with them and that effort will pay off. Simply saying hello or good morning really does make a world of difference. In the years to come they might be your dissertation supervisor, your colleague or the one person who helps you get into a PhD scheme! Don't be scared or worried about annoying them with your questions and queries, one answer can help you go up a grade or mark. 

Looking after yourself is hard, especially when deadlines and commitments are overwhelming, Speaking from too much experience university can be really bad for your mental health, but it can also be revolutionary. Take full advantage of any mental health sessions or counselling sessions offered by your university, talking to someone neutral to your situation helps you see it from a new perspective. 

Take a day off from worrying about that essay, grade or scary future. Go for a walk, buy yourself flowers, have a well deserved nap. In the grand scheme of things one day is nothing, so go outside and relax.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Everyday Emily

It's been a while since I've done an Everyday Emily but that's because anything exciting that I've done has warranted it's own post. However, these past few weeks have been exciting.

I am currently revising for my second year exams which means I am half way through my degree! I have chosen my modules for third year and I get to study things from an archaeological perspective which I am really looking forward to! In the space of a month I have gone from having no idea about what to focus on to having a topic for my dissertation that is a year away and looking at post-grad courses in Cambridge! 

I am also now on the committee of the student archaeology society which will give me some experience for planning events and finding opportunities. I also participated in IJM's Stand4Freedom. I couldn't do the whole 24 hours but I managed 10 hours and it was a great experience! My legs definitely hurt and I was very cold but getting to spend time with big-hearted people raising money and awareness for a great cause was 100% worth it!

During my spring break a group of friends and I travelled to Glasgow to go to a Bethel Worship Nights, and it was an amazing night! I got to sing some of my favourite songs with so many passionate and spiritual people. 
I am also seeing Sigur Rós with my dad in August. He has never seen them before and their whole performance is incredible, the combination of lights and sound just blows me away!

My lease ends in August which means I have the joy of staying in St Andrews over summer. Luckily the Open is in Troon this year so there won't be as many golfers. I am working in a hotel this summer which wont be very exciting but that's because my exciting summer plans are happening next year!
However I am excited to spend my time off at the beach and taking in the beautiful town that is St Andrews! Plus a few of my friends are also staying over the summer so I wont be completely alone.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Rome: Pantheon and the rest.

For me the Pantheon is one of the highlights of Rome, it combines ancient Rome and a beautiful Christian basilica, plus it's free! We arrived at midday after a rainstorm and the lighting inside was amazing. 

The Trevi fountain was jam-packed with tourists, both times we passed it. We snapped a photo and didn't even attempt to go near it to make a wish. It is really easy to walk from Trevi to the Spanish Steps etc, which we did a few times. 

As Rome doesn't follow the typical Roman style city-plan there are tonnes of tiny streets and back alleys to explore. On sunny days everything is bathed in lovely orange sunlight, making even the grotty streets look beautiful. One quirky thing that I loved about Rome is that public buildings and utilities all have SPQR on them, meaning Senatus Populusque Romanus or The Roman Senate and the People. Referring back to ancient Rome and the power it was in the Mediterranean world.

The Spanish Steps are annoyingly shut off so the view from the top of them is blocked. However, we travelled along the road and found many viewing points with fantastic views across the city. Nothing beats a St. Andrews sunset for me but the Roman one sure was nice. 

After spending a busy week in Rome I am already itching to go back! I am a huge fan of ancient history and pizza, both are plentiful in Rome. Hopefully my academic career will bring me back to Rome in the coming years.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Rome: Colosseum and Roman Forum

The colosseum, or the Flavian Amphitheatre if you want to be pretentious, is perhaps the most iconic Roman ruin in the entire empire. To avoid the queues we arrived early, taking full advantage of our student discount for the triple ticket which included the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. After a lacklustre tour from one of the official guides we explored on our own, guidebook and personal knowledge in hand. Whilst many of the walls remain the seats and steps are gone, meaning imagination must be used. For me however the highlight of this day was the Roman Forum. 

As someone who studies ancient history and spent two weeks researching and writing an essay on the Forum Romanum, this was an exciting day. The forum itself is large and has ruins from the very beginnings of Rome through to the end of the empire and beyond. Unfortunately the majority of the buildings in the forum are now ruins but you can go into the ones that were turned into churches, and thus saved from ruin. The signs aren't too detailed so I would recommend getting a good guidebook or a tour. I could have spent all day in the forum, just imagining what it was like in the glory days of Rome. 

The Palatine Hill overlooks the Roman Forum and is the site of some ruins as well. The beautiful Farnese gardens provided a shady spot on a sunny day. It is the views of both the forum and the colosseum that make the uphill walk worth it in my opinion. 

The Capitoline Museums have a good collection of art and archaeology, making it a good introduction to Rome. There is a large amount to see but the layout and variety means you can spend a good couple of hours there. For me the best part was underground in the Tabularium, in archaic times this is thought to have been archives and nowadays has an impressive view of the Roman Forum. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Rome: The Vatican and St. Peters

We paid €8 to get an elevator up and then had a few hundred stairs inside the dome itself to climb up. These stairs are weird and at points very cramped, just a word of warning. However the view is worth the stairs! The first view you get is of the inside of the basilica dome and the basilica itself. It was great to see the ornate decoration up so close. 

Of course, the reason anyone climbs all those stairs is to see the iconic view of St. Peters square and the city of Rome behind. 

We spent the morning at the Vatican museums which I unfortunately have no photos of. The Sistine Chapel was good to see, if a little underwhelming. The museums themselves can be overwhelming as there is so much stuff from a large period of history. The rooms themselves are heavily decorated and there is something to see in every room. 

I recommend buying your ticket online, it costs €4 more but it is worth it to beat the queues that wrap around the city walls! We sat in St Peters enjoying the weather and the views, and then explored Vatican City for a few hours.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A Hope Perspective

I have been back for eleven days and I still don't know how to answer the question 'how was Calais?'. It feels weird describing it as good considering the reason I was there. Yes I did have a nice time meeting new people and there was a strong sense of camaraderie. But at the end of the day it is a horrible and desperate situation. 

If I had to summarise what I saw and experienced in 'The Jungle' with one word it would be hope. Just a never-ceasing hope despite the dire situation. Everyday hundreds of people face perilous journeys in the hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Even after facing death and loss they still have hope. This hope is so evident in the camp. 

However is also hard to come away from this situation without being angry. It is hard to meet twelve year old boys who have lost their families and are living in a 2x2 shelter and not feel bad about how little your government is doing. The fact is that there are fellow humans living in these horrible conditions so close to our doorsteps and our politicians, the decision makers, do not care. I am angry and sad and disillusioned. 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

January Playlist

I spent a lot of January either travelling by train or alone in my house, I've listened to a lot of music.

Space Oddity - David Bowie
This Must be the Place (Naive Melody) -Kishi Bashi 
Death with Dignity - Sufjan Stevens
Easy - Commodores
Problem/Regulate - Hozier
Ooh Ahh (My Life be Like) - Grits ft tobyMac
Hurt - Johnny Cash
Wherever, Whenever - Mundy
Rocket Man - My Morning Jacket
Silk - Dustin Tebbutt ft Thelma Plum
Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell 
Can't Help Falling in Love - Elvis Presley 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

2016 \\ Reflections

This time last year I wrote a post about the changes I wanted to make in 2015. I like looking back at the things I've achieved over the year and also I have loads to look forward to in the upcoming year.

In 2015 I became myself, I'm still not 100% there but I am closer. I started to understand my place in the world and the way that I can impact the world in a positive way. I am just one person but that is not something that will hold me back. I have met so many passionate people this year, people who want to change the world and not for selfish reasons. I have grown deeper and more mature in my faith. I have friends that support and push me to grow closer to God and to be the person He says I am. My ideas for my future are changing and I am not sure what I definitely want to do but that's not important. I am studying things I am interested in and I love the town I study in. I travelled to new places and really went out of my comfort zone. I was stubborn and this negative trait helped me do incredible things. It was also a really hard year at times. My mental health was the worst it has been since I hit the bottom a few years ago. I am naive and worried about admitting I have mental health problems. But I know they aren't my fault and that so many people face the same battles that I do. It got so bad that I jeopardised my studies but I got around it whilst nearly driving myself into the ground. I analysed my relationships and realised that some people are toxic and that I have no responsibility to be there for them. Even if they are your mother.

In 2016 I turn twenty-one. I also start my third year of university and my grades will count towards my degree. 2016 is the year it all gets serious and I am scared but excited. Later this month I am going to Calais to help in a refugee camp. I understand that donating money may be more helpful but I want to go there to show them that they are loved and respected. I am visiting Rome with my best friend and getting to see all the important monuments I have studied over the past year. I move into a new house with someone who loves the same things as I do. I am going to write more, both here and poetry. I will sing more and not care if I am not in tune. I will continue to build on my relationship with God and let it shape me into a better woman. I am going to put effort into my relationships because I really do have amazing friends. I might finally become organised and stop procrastinating. I am going to focus on my mental health and recognise when it's bad again. I am going to admit I am not perfect and enjoy my imperfect life.