What they don’t tell you about graduate life

Since graduating from university in July this year, life for me has been a bit of a confusing rollercoaster. Filled with relief I finally finished uni, joy I never had to write another History essay again, and terrified that now I was no longer under the academic safety blanket with no job, and no clue what on earth I was going to do with my life. I can’t speak for all, but I know for a fact that no-one quite prepared me for how weird this time would be. So, I suppose this post is my small attempt at saying I think a conversation should start about how, while life as a graduate has its undoubted perks, it also holds a lot of struggles that I wasn’t quite expecting and that we need to talk more honestly about it. This isn’t all light-hearted, but I do hope at the very least this makes some of my fellow graduates feel less alone.

  1. Whatever decision or path you take, it’ll always feel like the wrong one
    Whether it be jumping straight into a grad-job, picking up a panic, (or not so panic), masters or taking the year out, what no one tells you is that whatever you do, it always feels like you picked the wrong path. I decided to take a year out to relax, do some travelling, get some experience, and work out what the hell I want to do with my life. But almost none of my friends have done that; most have gone straight into jobs, gone back to uni for their final year, or started a masters. I have never doubted myself so much as to whether I should have taken a different route. I know many of my friends who have chosen different paths to me have waves of feeling the same. Ultimately, no one told me that I just have to take a step back and realise no choice is the right choice, and that’s totally fine too.
    45460969_722447278153779_8469722434524676096_n.jpg
  2. Being at home has major plus points
    Washing day at uni was always a drag, and coming home from a day on campus to remember you have no food in the house was the worst thing in the world. Being at uni has made me totally appreciate how good I have it at home. My washing is always done, food is always in the fridge, I’m not wearing 50 layers of clothing to save the heating bill, and for the time being, I am living rent free. It won’t be much more time before that all ends, so I am fully on team parent-appreciation-society in the meantime. I don’t think I say it often enough, but my parents are the best.

 

  1. Life is a lot lonelier than you realise
    Suddenly moving out from living around the corner from your best friends, seeing course mates on campus every day, or even having relatable experiences, like essays to discuss, just seem to disappear. Since moving back home I felt like I didn’t have anyone in the same position who seemed to be going through the same feelings that I could talk to, and that was super isolating. As much as my parents are amazing and supportive, they didn’t quite understand why I just felt like crying a lot of the time even though I have a part-time job and plans to go travel. There was genuinely no real rhyme or reason to any of it. This period of life is super confusing to go from high stress and deadlines to suddenly nothing at all. For whatever reason, it just meant that if anyone asked what I was doing with my life, if I watched an episode of Bake Off, or just couldn’t find my glasses, I’d cry. Not ideal.

 

  1. The world is completely your oyster
    You’ve got a degree, no one can take that away from you now. So even though every decision you make may not feel like the right one, the beauty is you HAVE the decision. If I want to get a job I can hustle and apply to loads. If I want to take time out, I can book a flight. Although I may not be able to snap my fingers and have my dream job, or have the money to go travel, the only thing that matters is I have all this time and all these opportunities in front of me which is part of the whole reason why I worked so hard at uni in the first place.

45348700_965635543632191_4251725109997338624_n

  1. You cannot rely on Instagram to give you the full story
    With our generation, it is so easy to open Facebook or Instagram and feel like everyone is #livingtheirbestlife, totally happy, and doing exactly what they want. But honestly, I am never going to post a photo of me crying mid-dissertation, or of me pouring my 100th pint of the day behind the bar, or even when I get my 3rd rejection of the month from an internship that would have barely paid my travel expenses. My point being, we only post the highlights, and so while everyone might appear to be living like life is peachy, remember it’s only for a moment, and often reality is a little more complicated than a perfectly filtered square photo.

 

The left is an actual image of me post-20 minute breakdown in the toilet close to my dissertation deadline, the right image is what I posted on Instagram instead. 

  1. You’ll be even more careful with your money
    Gone are the days of that juicy student loan, and now those Friday night beers are totally self-funded. If you’re like me and trying to save for travels, then suddenly happy-hours are a lot more important, birthday cards start to look a lot more ‘homemade’ and a night in with Netflix seems a lot more tempting than a night on the town. Every penny counts in the grad world as you’re either saving for travelling, saving to move out, or just straight-up trying to stay afloat in this new scary adult world.

 

  1. Everything is, and will be OK
    I’m fairly sure people do tell you this about grad-life, but it’s worth hammering in anyway. Everything is, and will be OK, even when it feels like it’s not. Things work themselves out, you will find the money, you will find a job, you will finish that masters, you will have an amazing time traveling, and you will see your friends.

Try This: Ultimate Shakshuka

Mornings are getting darker, evenings colder and for some, freshers week is around the corner. Summer may have only just left us, but as I do live in England, winter is very much making its way in, and I have already lit the fire twice this week. Dreary and wet days mean that a nice cold sandwich will no longer cut the mustard and some warm comfort food is on the menu.

I made this for lunch a couple of days ago and posted it on my Instagram stories and to my surprise, I had loads of people message me asking what it was, and for the recipe. (Side Note: When I say loads I mean 7. But that was enough for me to feel like I was Nigella Lawson and that I might as well make a blog post out of it).

 

Shakshuka is my new love affair. There are plenty of recipes online so you can adapt how you like as I sort of made this one up on the spot. The basis of it is a rich spicy tomato base with some runny baked eggs in the middle, this warming dish is perfect for brunch, lunch and dinner, and works as my personal favourite hangover cure. So if you are in need of a little comfort food, hanging from freshers week or want to mix up your mid-week meals, give this one a try.

Ultimate Shakshuka: 
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
1/2 pepper (chopped)
1/2 chilli (chopped)
Large handful of spinach
2 eggs
1tsp paprika
1tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Bread (toasted)

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to around 170. Place the chopped tomatoes, pepper and chilli into a saucepan and place over a medium heat to start heating through and reducing the tomatoes.
  2. Add all of the seasoning and chickpeas and place a lid on the saucepan and let it thicken up a little.
  3. Once thickened, add the spinach and stir until it had wilted and combined.
  4. Then transfer the contents of the saucepan into a bowl of choice.
  5. Make two small wells in the mixture with a spoon and crack the eggs into these wells.
  6. Place the bowl under the grill and leave until the eggs are cooked through.
  7. Garnish, and serve with some toasted bread to dip into the egg yolks as mop up the sauce.

21729794_1611099962275050_1003365178_o

Super easy, and super quick, it probably takes me max 15 minutes to make. And you can play around with your ingredients; sometimes I use a tin of 5 bean mix instead of chickpeas, or you can go one better and get the 5 bean in a tomato sauce and then you have no need for the chopped tomatoes. Frying off some onion and garlic and adding to the sauce also gives some nice flavour, or my personal favourite, crumble some feta on the top after you have cooked the eggs!

 

 

Can You Like My Selfie?

I’m not really sure where I am going to go with this one. It’s a Thursday afternoon and should be packing to go home, but instead I decided I wanted to write a blog post and I wasn’t really sure what on, so here I am, bare with me.

I, am a 19-year-old university student who is glued to my phone, the internet, and social media 98% of the time. This probably makes me a walking stereotype, the most clued up, yet the most susceptible to the world of social media and image.

17623002_1445994598785588_1671187118_o

A lot has been written about this, so I don’t claim that my opinions are revolutionary, but they are my opinions none the less. I am also not going to pretend I am some ’above everyone else’ guru on this subject either, because I too, almost daily, fall into the trap of flicking through Instagram and despairing at the fact I am not a tiny, tanned, bikini wearing, green juice drinking, always holidaying model. But here is where I do differ to some girls my age, I know that is not the full story or real life. And on the flip side to that, I fully believe in girl power, so where we shouldn’t ‘fat shame’, we equally shouldn’t berate women who are slimmer or enjoy their kale liquefied. I realise I am full of contradictions on the subject, but the world of social media is sadly not black and white anymore.

Girls my age sigh and tell each other their life ambition is to just get paid to post pictures on Instagram, to get sent products from exclusive brands all the time, sponsored to go to the gym and make appearances at certain events. Is this what I should aspire to? Is this what we have been reduced to? If you don’t get a certain amount of likes on a post, are you even liked, if you don’t take the perfect picture of your brunch and post it on Snapchat, how will anyone know what you did today?

17670445_1445995335452181_2040849085_o.jpg

I’ve tried to write a post about something like this before but I always have so much to say and not enough eloquence to really say it, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Recently, and I don’t judge them for this, some of my friends have said things like ‘can you like my Instagram picture’, ‘is this selfie worthy of uploading’ or, ‘can you like the video I shared so I don’t look like a loser’.

And I think it took me aback a bit. I knew that obviously, social media can be quite immersive sometimes, and I am honestly one of the biggest culprits, I am always uploading things to Instagram. But it really got to me how much validation some of my friends were seeking from it. Almost as if a post didn’t get over 50 likes they weren’t pretty or popular, and I know that for the most part, my friends aren’t like that, they’re super strong and amazing women. But if even they were asking for likes and validation online, what would other girls who weren’t as strong and secure be thinking?

17668660_1445995088785539_1697535850_o.jpg

I do it, I post a picture from when I went on a night out, showered, with a full face of makeup, hair done nicely looking happy. But no one saw that the next day because of deadline stress I was covered in spots, hair a mess, headache from hell and I ate marmite toast all day in my pyjamas – most of what is on Instagram is a tiny snapshot of our lives, and people go mental for it.

To throw another spanner into the works, I think everyone should be allowed to upload the pictures they want, all of the selfies that make them feel good, the bikini pictures from their favourite holiday, the gym shots because they’re proud they worked hard. But what I really want, is for people to stop thinking that the things they see online translate onto real life. That everyone has their shit together just because they can stick a filter on a picture they took a week ago, that less than 50 likes mean they aren’t liked. Do you genuinely know 50 people that you regularly hang out with, who you value the opinion of that much? So why care so much about it online?

17692982_1445994595452255_939852254_o.jpg

I guess what I am really asking for here, is that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want on social media, upload pictures, voice their opinions, share their happiness – but just don’t feel like you need that validation.

The praise, validation, opinions and compliments that are truly of value, will always get to you in person, from the people you surround yourself by, who actually mean something to you. It’s really lovely when that girl you went to college with likes that arty shot of your avocado on toast, but if she doesn’t like it, should it matter that much? You’ve spoken to her a total of 3 times in your life, should her opinion affect your happiness?

17622686_1445994602118921_1181941705_o.jpg

So that was just some word vomit on a page for you thank you if you stuck with me. But essentially,  be happy with you, and support each other online and in person, do what makes you happy on social media and don’t care what anyone else thinks – life is far too short and so much bigger than your IPhone screen.

Much Love x

Lent: Rebranded

As Shrove Tuesday has come and gone as quickly as we could shovel down ten pancakes dripping in lemon, chocolate and all things delicious, you wake up on a Wednesday morning, with a food hangover. Memories are blurred from the night before, where you seemed to be drunk on maple syrup, and as you look down at your stomach, disgusted, you vow, ‘I am giving up chocolate/ sugar/ fat/ carbs etc. for lent!’. Six whole weeks you spend torturing yourself at the sight of a crème egg, crying internally when a friend offers you a biscuit and then when it’s all over, you scoff six weeks’ worth of your beloved, in one sitting, feeling just as grim as you did on pancake day.

img_1937
I mean, six weeks without this?!

 

Now don’t get me wrong, lent does have a genuine and significant meaning to those who follow Christianity, however, as in line with many occasions on the British calendar, religion doesn’t really play a part for much of society today. We give up chocolate because we want to be healthier, have a detox, or just to set ourselves a ‘challenge’. Some attempt to be more inventive, they proclaim six weeks without Instagram, Netflix, alcohol etc., and I highly admire a lot of people that do deny themselves of something they probably do daily, because it’s really hard!

 

17093222_1416272811757767_48707729_o
And really, how can you give up booze when you are a student

 

But here is where I differ in 2017. Every year, many of us will spend six weeks having pangs of misery not being able to enjoy something when they want, guilt when we fall off the wagon, and more often than not, feel worse once we binge at the end of our struggle. Why would we put ourselves through this pain and discontent to then inevitably reverse the effects on Easter Sunday?

 

17105829_1416272805091101_866858160_o
I’d love to say this was after indulging in too much chocolate, but sadly, it was after too much wine. And it wasn’t even for lent…

So my decision is to do something positive with lent. Every day I am not going to deny myself of anything, I am instead going to DO something. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all use those six weeks to do some thing positive, such as learning a new language, creating a new (good) habit, de-cluttering your house (for a few off the top of my head examples!).

And so, for lent this year, I have decided that I am going to perform a random act of kindness every day. Be that as small as complimenting my housemate’s hair, or as charitable as helping my university donate food to the homeless. But my aim is simple, to remove the typically negative uses of lent and make it positive. That is 42 days I can use to perform 42 acts of kindness to make someone, a group of people, my family, friends and myself, happy, even for the briefest amount of time. And the same goes for any of these ‘positive lent’ actions, after 42 days you could be able to say a few sentences in Spanish, able to juggle on one foot, or have a stupidly clean downstairs cupboard, my point is, you’ll finish those six weeks not being glad it is all over, but perhaps glad it happened.

17091087_1416717161713332_1815399645_o
Example: This was in a library book I took out a few weeks ago which made my afternoon infinitely better.

 

And so I challenge you all not to give up something for lent, but to start something new, do something positive, and make your life, or someone else’s better for six weeks, not miserable! Now go and have that chocolate biscuit you have hidden in the cupboard, guilt free and happy.

Much Love x

P.S. I’ll be posting all of the acts on my Instagram feed/ stories so for anyone who is interested, bored or just plain nosey (I would be) – go have a look https://www.instagram.com/hollyambwest/

My Week With No Internet

 

It’s enough to make people breakout in a cold sweat, riddled with nerves. You cry ‘what am I supposed to do all day’ and despair how you could ever live without it. Internet. The all-mighty wifi. So freely available to us in this technological age it really is hard to imagine life without it.

We check our phone when we wake up like we would a daily newspaper. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, E-mails, Messenger, Snapchat etc. then we can finally go about our daily routine, showering, brushing teeth and eating breakfast (while refreshing all theses apps and flicking through again). We live in a time where it is quicker, easier and more common to get a hold of our friends on WhatsApp, or where we find out the worlds biggest breaking stories through Facebook or Twitter rather than watching the news.

img_1636

The internet is amazing, connects us in so many ways and gives us access to a universe of knowledge, but we all fall prey to being wired up so much, we see life through a computer screen. I know I struggle to feel at ease when I don’t get to check my messages every half hour, we all do. So while on holiday this summer with my family the wifi unexpectedly went down for a few days, I like many, felt at a loose end, here is how my week went…

 

Day One

Mid-morning the internet suddenly stopped working. This initially caused only little panic as the wifi was pretty shocking here, and so it wasn’t uncommon for it to stop working for half an hour or so.

It got to lunch time and nothing was happening. This was followed by asking each of my family members several times if theirs was working ok, which it wasn’t, and even having a conversation with the people living in the same apartments if they were having the same issue.

Then came the obsessively switching on and off the wifi, forgetting and then re-joining the network, turning on and off my phone, walking round the complex to see if anywhere had better signal, but to no avail, it was truly RIP to my beloved wifi.

img_1550

Day Two

Day two of wifi-gate started much the same as day one ended, obsessively connecting and reconnecting with the hope that if I did it enough times it might give in and work.

My dad laughs and claims he wanted to set us a challenge to go without wifi anyway, and jokes that he asked the apartment owners to cut the cords just for his amusement. However, this was no laughing matter, as I had undoubtedly lost my Snapchat streaks with my housemates and that was a tragedy in itself.

More attempts to reconnect are made throughout the day, but less frequently than the morning, my detox had begun and I was starting to accept my fate. I even turned to reading an old fashioned book, shock horror, which I began and completed in one afternoon.

 

Day Three

The morning check for wifi was becoming a ritual just as checking Facebook once was, my friends back home had probably filed out a missing persons report by now, as it was uncommon for us not to speak for a day, let alone 3.

But then I went about most of the morning and afternoon barely touching my phone, knowing it wasn’t worth checking for internet, it was left to the side while I went about my unconnected day.

It still played on the back of my mind when I would finally have wifi that I would have so much to catch up on, but it then became sort of accepted that there was nothing I could do but wait and yet another book was started and finished within a matter of hours.

img_1567

Day Four

Still no sign of my beloved, and even dad who laughed at first is getting agitated that he can’t read the surf reports or check us in online for our return flights. Reduced to family card games such as rummy or uno would I ever see an end to this torture?

After despairing again this morning, my phone got left for the entire day, untouched and forgotten, it seems my detox is taking an effect as I am not breaking out in a sweat every time I think of all the notifications and emails I’m missing out on.

 

Day Five  

Yet again my phone was left on its own for the entire day, knowing there wasn’t much point in trying anymore.

However, although I had become less dependant in wanting to check my phone every two minutes, getting to day five in this traumatic experience, we were starting to get stupidly fed up with not being able to google things we couldn’t remember like the name of a random Argentinian football player (Diego Maradona btw) or even check the weather for tomorrow.

img_1513

Day Six

It was our last day in tropical paradise, and how bitter sweet it seems, the internet magically began working as we began our departure.

I’d like to say I had detoxed so much that this didn’t phase me, but I, like so many would, spent a good hour catching up on emails, Facebook messages, Instagram notifications, etc. etc. Which may beg the question, had I really learnt anything?

I can safely say I won’t be going a week without wifi again any time soon, but as I returned to England, and quite shortly after, to uni, I did feel time away from the connected world had done me some good. I learnt the universe would not implode if I didn’t hit refresh every minute, and that being on holiday was supposed to be about disconnecting and it shouldn’t matter if I have internet or not. But most importantly, I learnt how to have a bit of switch-off time at home. Dad (and many others) call this ‘mindfulness’. Every day, I have a 20-minute walk to uni, and in those 20 minutes I turn off my internet. I might have some music playing, but other than that I have no contact with anything or any one for 20 minutes to uni and 20 minutes’ home, I am alone with my own thoughts, I can look at the beautiful sunset or sunrise around me and I can just, for those 20 minutes, remember that the world does not need to revolve around my phone.

img_1588

If you stuck with me for this long, then I applaud you, it was a lengthy one! This sort of came out of avoiding revision and trying to be more productive with my time when I’m not doing uni work, so where this is not a promise to be posting more regularly, it is a promise to myself to make use of my time doing things that I enjoy or are productive.

I hope you all had a wonderful 2016 and move into 2017 ever more positive as I am.

 

Much Love x