Fundraising from the heart

24 Oct

It’s been a while since I last blogged- graduate life being what it is, ‘life’ has just been getting in the way. The second instalment of my Graduate Life Series is in the pipeline- but first, a short detour to promote a fundraising cause close my heart.

I recently joined the Fundraising Team for the British Red Cross in Yorkshire. Before this, the charity sector was a relatively new adventure. Since joining I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time- about myself and my skills, about fundraising and the charity world, and about the life-changing work of the Red Cross.

The Red Cross is the largest independent humanitarian aid organisation in the world. It helps people whose lives have been devastated by crises and disasters both in the UK and overseas – such as house fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, famine, epidemics and war. Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 11.13.45It reaches a huge variety of vulnerable people, from providing an elderly person with a wheelchair, helping a refugee trace missing family members, caring for an ebola patient, to helping my friends in Columbia, South Carolina recover from the recent floods that devastated local areas and clean water supplies.

The moment Marie is reunited with her children after 4 years apart , having been forced to flee to the UK from the Ivory Coast without them. ©BRC

The moment Marie is reunited with her children after 4 years apart , having been forced to flee to the UK from the Ivory Coast without them. ©BRC

The reason I love being a part of the Red Cross is because I believe in their fundamental principles and values.

As a non-religious, non-political and impartial organisation, the Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. It doesn’t discriminate between race, class, gender, age or ability. It simply cares for people based upon need, helping the most vulnerable members of society when they need it.

For the Red Cross, human compassion is the driving force behind charitable behaviour and volunteer work.

In the face of the Refugee Crisis, the world’s most desperate humanitarian crisis since WWII, we need to keep the values of the Red Cross in our hearts and minds more than ever.

So, in the name of humanity, on 31 October I shall be attempting a 120ft abseil down a famous Sheffield landmark to raise money for the work of the British Red Cross.

As it’s Halloween I’ll be doing the abseil in fancy dress- providing I raise enough money. If I raise:

295791_10150807645390113_1480251409_n£50+ I’ll abseil as a black cat. (But everyone knows this is the rubbish Halloween costume get-out card- please help me raise more than this!)

£100+ I’ll abseil as a vampire. Cape. Fangs. Easy!

£200+ I’ll abseil as Michael Jackson. Full costume including sequin blazer, hat, white socks and white glove. The train journey home should be interesting…

So help me achieve the Thriller factor this Halloween and dig deep for a fantastic cause!

It would mean the world to me if you donated now, and it would make a difference to the lives of so many people all over the world who need help in crisis situations.

You can donate here:

Can’t wait to find out what my abseil costume will be…

The Graduate Life Series, Part I: Emerging from the student bubble

1 Oct 1779702_10156011440340113_1338622534432109583_n

I used to think that moving out of the parental nest and adjusting to university would the biggest challenge I’d face in my early life. Constantly meeting new people, learning how to cook, how to budget, how to manage my time, how to reference my work, how to cope independently, where to go in Leeds, where to avoid, how to stay safe, how to share a bathroom, how (not) to wash my clothes- the list goes on. Every new day brought a new challenge until eventually, university life became the norm. I even started to call Leeds home.

Packing for uni

Packing for uni in 2011

Now that I’m a Leeds graduate I’ve realised just how wrong I was. I started my blog in 2012 to write about the ‘inconstant and unpredictable’ nature of student life. But living life out here in the cold and blustery real world has made me see just how stable and routine student life really is. It’s not called the student bubble for nothing.

Clarence Dock, Leeds

Clarence Dock student residences, Leeds

Aside from the initial adjustment period when every fresher feels like the teeniest of tiny fish floating around hopelessly in the ocean, for the most part, university is a rose-tinted, bubble-wrapped version of real life, and you don’t fully appreciate it until it’s too late. Snapchat--1238704030912438085

Life in the student bubble has actually been one of the most structured and straightforward periods of my life so far.

The path ahead is laid out in manageable, bite-sized chunks consisting of long and carefree summers and ten-week semesters. You’re encouraged to explore a whole variety of interests and commitments as freely as your heart desires, because that’s all part of the self-discovery process. 1391661_10153414794925113_1337663628_n-2

You can choose option modules, dip in and out of work experience, or try extra-curricular activities. Feedback is structured by a team of professors and mentors who are employed specifically to help you be your best. There are endless clubs and societies who would love for you to ‘find your place’, make friends and join their community. 10450432_10155274694840284_8924909320892087277_n

Even the bumps in the road are relatively harmless. If you fail your exams there are always re-sits. If you don’t enjoy your degree after a year you can apply to change your course. If you don’t get on with a certain group of people you can always find new friends somewhere else out there- and when you do find your friends, they’re all in one place. If you need a break from studying you can always study abroad (because nobody actually studies on their year abroad.) You can even test the waters first and do a year in industry before running back to the bubble for final year. University is full of plan Bs, escape routes and second chances.

'Studying' abroad looks difficult

‘Studying’ abroad looks difficult

 There are hundreds of extra benefits, too; student discounts, student bank accounts and student club nights, not to mention being part of the irresistible student voice. Whether it’s on campus, on Twitter, on TV or in the Guardian: there’s always a sense that you are one of millions of young people who all have something in common. (That something being a) not enough money b) not enough time and c) not enough food.) 11540862_10155849535865113_6193419562908029401_o

By the time you graduate, you’re at the top of your game. You feel like you really know how to do this life thing. You moved away from home, found friends, paid bills, loved and lost, studied hard and came out the other side a stronger, smarter and more self-assured individual.

Good job, too. You’ll need all the strength and self-belief you have when you graduate and stare into a long and unfamiliar path full of immense responsibilities and difficult crossroads. Gone are the days deciding whether to drink wine or vodka at pre-drinks. Brace yourself. The real world has arrived, and the bubble is gone…

To be continued in Pt. 2: Facing the myths of graduate life

Coming to university in Leeds? Here are ten ways to make the most of student life in Yorkshire

17 Aug Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 18.07.46

Graduate with no regrets and embrace all that Yorkshire has to offer in the nation’s biggest and best county

Yorkshire attracts approximately 216 million visits every year- that’s as much as the total number of visitors to Walt Disney Attraction Theme Parks Worldwide. The county promises a variety of adventures whether you love the coast, the countryside, or the metropolitan buzz of a vibrant student city.

It’s no surprise, then, that Yorkshire & the Humber attracts 15 million overnight staying visitors every year.

Lucky for you, you’re here for more than just one night. Whether you’re a fresher coming to Yorkshire for the first time, or a second year student looking for weekend adventures with your housemates, the year ahead promises to be anything but boring. Here are my top ten ways to make the most of student life in the nation’s most glorious county!

Escape to the countryside

What better way to explore the county far and wide than escaping to the countryside for a breath of fresh air? Some of the most popular country walks include Brimham Rocks, Aysgarth Woods & Waterfalls and Ilkley Moor. If you’re heading to Ilkley, don’t forget to stop in at the renowned Cow & Calf vintage pub for their delicious peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake.
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Indulge in Yorkshire’s food: the weird, wonderful and traditional

Don’t just stick to pasta and tomato sauce. There’s a whole world of mouth-watering Yorkshire food out there, just waiting to be devoured. Why not try something different at The Reliance in Leeds and order their whole Yorkshire pigeon breast? If you’re after something a little more delicate, there’s always the British classic of afternoon tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms in Ilkley, York, Northallerton and Harrogate. Or for a helping of a traditional Yorkshire delicacy, the York Roast Company has plenty of giant Yorkshire puddings and carved sandwiches to choose from.

Plug in to Yorkshire’s music scene
Yorkshire is home to an eclectic music scene that stretches far beyond the typical gig. Try something new at Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, where you can munch on street food while you enjoy fresh sounds. Discover your alternative side at the Brudenell Social Club, located in the heart of Leeds’ student area. See what’s on further afield at The Adelphi in Hull for some gloriously quirky concerts, or The Fibbers in York for a variety of live music every night. Some chart favourites performing Yorkshire this term are Imagine Dragons, Ella Henderson and Of Monsters and Men.

Visit the seaside
Discover another side to Yorkshire- the seaside! If you’re feeling cramped up in student halls and need a change of scene, head to Whitby, Scarborough, or Robin Hood’s Bay to breathe in the sea air. Rumour has it that Whitby’s Magpie Café serves the biggest and the best portion of fish and chips around.

Get active
As host of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ 2014, Yorkshire is a popular choice for anyone interested in sports and outdoor pursuits. To go on a cycle tour of your own, visit Dalby Forest, home to England’s largest mountain biking trail centre. You can also swing through the trees in Dalby at their outdoor climbing centre, Go Ape. Yorkshire also hosts a variety of sporting events throughout the year, from the Tour de Yorkshire, Tough Mudder and the Great Yorkshire Run. For a truly quirky day out, check out ‘Pesky Husky’ in the North York Moors and where you can try husky dog trekking- who knew?!

Feed your mind at Yorkshire’s best museums
Yorkshire proudly showcases six National museums and a range of other unique and award-winning collections covering a whole host of eras and topics. You can indulge your sweet tooth at York’s Chocolate Story, let your guard down at the Royal Armouries and steam ahead to the National Railway Museum. There’s an exhibition out there in Yorkshire for you, whatever your interests. If you’re heading to Leeds’ Royal Armouries, don’t forget that you can catch the FREE water taxi there from the centre of town (near the Double Tree hotel, Granary Wharf)

Delve into the artistic world
The Tetley in Leeds displays contemporary art in a former art deco brewery. The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth tells the story of some of the nation’s best storytellers; Charlotte, Emily and Anne. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield lets you explore open-air displays by some of the world’s finest artists. Jackrabbits Pottery in Roundhay offers you the chance to get creative and paint your own pottery.  Whether you’re studying an arts degree or not, Yorkshire has plenty of attractions to indulge your creative side.

Explore picturesque ruins, abbeys and castles
Studying archaeology, history or medieval studies? You’ll love the endless number of ruins and castles to visit in Yorkshire. Kirkstall Abbey, the ruins of a Cistercian Monastery from c1152, is a short bus ride away from Leeds and holds a market once every month from March to November. Bolton Abbey in Wharfedale promises Instagram-worthy sights and Clifford’s Tower in York offers visitors panoramic views of the city. If you’ve got your trainers on, climb up Whitby’s 199 steps to reach Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s classic story, Dracula.
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Travel back in time through Yorkshire’s rich history
Get in touch with Yorkshire’s industrial past by visiting World Heritage Site Saltaire, an industrial village built by philanthropist Titus Salt in the 19th century. You can stroll through the Salt Mill for free or relax on a canal barge for just £4. Or for a lavish day out, try Harewood House, a luxurious 18th-century country mansion, home to exhibitions of contemporary art, a renowned Bird Garden and over 100 acres of exquisite gardens for visitors to explore and enjoy. You can even visit Harewood’s Humboldt Penguins enclosure and feed the adorable birds for £15!
For the ultimate historical journey, visit York- whether it’s the York Dungeons, York Castle, the National Railway museum or the York Minster that takes your fancy, a day out in the historic city is guaranteed to take your mind off deadlines.

If deadlines are just getting on top of you, Yorkshire has plenty of opportunities to relax. Rejuvenate in beautiful surroundings at Harrogate’s Turkish Baths and Spa, or catch the late September sun at Ilkley lido. Alternatively, Camp Kátur in North Yorkshire promises to help you ‘discover your outdoor happiness’ in one of their luxury glamping tents, tipis and pods. Where do I sign up?!

And finally…Check out some of my pictures from my four years in and around Yorkshire- enjoy!

The Calls, Leeds11846106_10155903994765113_64860738_n 11872016_10155951731700113_4116907341806808102_o
11188379_10155832167325113_5003117571722932371_n 11012470_10155832076580113_353350627528234430_o DSC03744


Approaching graduation: the sprint finish and beyond

1 May

It’s been a fantastic, if not slightly unconventional week.

I’ve spent my time suspended in limbo between waving goodbye to my dissertation and gearing up towards revision. After I submitted my dissertation on Monday, the devil on my shoulder told me to take the rest of the week off and celebrate. The angel on my shoulder reminded me that my final exams are only three weeks away and my revision won’t do itself. Part of me resents the fact that I even have exams, as I’m pretty sure over the last few months I’ve exhausted all the mental energy and self-discipline I have left. (I know- woe is me.)

What final year feels like...

What final year feels like…

In the end, I opted for a happy medium. I carried on studying, somewhat leisurely (which means at home in my pyjamas) under the resolution that I’d reward myself at the end of the week. So for the first time since last October, tonight I’ll be returning to Fruity Friday for a night of terrible dancing and cheesy music at the Students’ Union.

One of my first ever student nights out was at Fruity Friday, circa 2011

One of my first ever student nights out was at Fruity Friday, (circa 2011)

Next week, it’ll be back to hibernation mode as I reclaim my usual spot in the library. It’s only been a week since my last visit to Eddy B but the thought of returning is enough to make me shudder. My only saving grace is that the next few weeks really are the sprint finish of my entire degree. In fact, the month ahead is my last ever month of student life. Sob!

I'm finally approaching the distant horizon of graduate life

Graduate life is on the horizon

So what lies beyond the university horizon for puravidastudent? While I’m heading towards graduation and life outside the glorious student bubble, Summer 2015 comes first- and it promises an exciting line-up of blogging treasures.

In June, I’ll be rekindling my half-American side as I welcome my old American roomie, Sanne, to the UK for a week of British tourism and no doubt lots of catching up about our final year of university on either side of the Atlantic. From June 24-28 I’m going to my first ever music festival; seeing as it’s the one and only Glastonbury, I don’t think I’ll return to Leeds disappointed…

Can't wait to be reunited with my American roomie

Can’t wait to be reunited with my American roomie

During July I’ll be working as a Social Assistant for the Leeds International Summer School. I’ll be working within a team of Leeds students and graduates to help international students have a fulfilling, fun, safe- and most importantly- life-changing experience during their month-long exchange at the University of Leeds. I can’t wait to show them what Yorkshire has to offer!

Bolton Abbey- one of Yorkshire's best tourist spots

Bolton Abbey- one of Yorkshire’s best tourist spots

Speaking of good old Yorkshire, during August I’ll be enjoying a relatively new challenge on a work experience placement in the PR department of Welcome To Yorkshire. Ironically, in needing a place to stay during my time there, I’ll be renting a room at Liberty Dock, the student halls that I lived in during my very first year as a student at Leeds. Despite four years of student life across two continents, somehow, at the end of it all, I’m rounding off the experience right where I began. It seems only fitting that I’ll be able to indulge in some reflective, meaningful nostalgia before departing from student life entirely.

Little fresher me, at Clarence Dock, September 2011

Little fresher me, with my friend Nichola, at Clarence Dock, September 2011

Finally, at the end of Summer 2015, I’m jetting off to Croatia for a girls’ holiday with my friend Amy, exploring the stunning national parks and soaking up the sunshine. NB: #sorrynotsorry in advance for the holiday spam and insta-bragging that will inevitably unfold during my adventure…

So what’s my long-term plan, lying beyond the threshold of graduate life? At the beginning of the year, the thought of the unknown terrified me. I was convinced that if I didn’t secure a place on a high-flying graduate scheme, I’d failed. But since then, having secured my summer job and my work experience placement, I’ve realised that in your early 20s, it really is OK to lay the short-term stepping stones just ahead of your feet as you go along. Making the transition from the student bubble to the real world doesn’t necessarily have to be an abrupt burst, but a process of careful, thoughtful discovery (and elimination) as you embrace new experiences and exciting challenges.

So, while my plans for ‘real-world’ life after August are currently under construction, I’m embracing the unknown with a smile on my face, and I can’t wait to see what my next chapter has in store.

Eat. Sleep. Diss. Repeat.

27 Apr

If my first year party-animal self could have seen into the future and witnessed my final semester of student life, I think she would have been horrified. Over the last few months, my life has followed this exhilarating pattern: eat, sleep, diss, repeat. For anyone who is blissfully unaware of life in the student bubble, ‘diss’ means ‘dissertation.’ Also known as ‘disso’, ‘the d word’, ‘my baby’, ‘the bane of my life’, or, the world’s worst April Fools joke taken way too far.

My 12,000 word dissertation has completely taken over my life. I’ve waved goodbye to the social life I used to enjoy and I’ve forgotten the (quite) nice person I used to be. When you work on an independent project that carries so much weight in your final degree mark, it suddenly becomes all you think about. I’ve had dreams about my dissertation. I’ve been losing sleep over my dissertation. I’ve had dissertation guilt just from watching Netflix. It’s brought out the best and the worst in me; it’s made me a better historian and writer, but it’s also made me perpetually stressed, emotional, and exhausted.

I've been living in the Leeds University libraries

I’ve practically been living in the Leeds University libraries

But today, the end finally arrived. The tantalising light at the end of the tunnel that I’ve been squinting at for so long finally expanded and revealed a picture of utter dissertation bliss. I submitted my dissertation to the Leeds School of History and took myself straight to the Terrace bar to share a pitcher of Pimm’s with my friends in the sun. Freedom at last! Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 22.43.42Submitting such a momentous piece of work has left me feeling pretty reflective. Having envisioned this day for the past year, I’ve realised that in reality, it feels nothing like I thought it would. I thought I’d hand in my dissertation and never look back, but letting go of such an important project is just as emotional as the writing process itself. Is my dissertation any good? Does it make sense? Did I give 100%?

All in all, despite the emotional dissertation cocktail, there’s one thing that I’m grateful for. I wrote my dissertation about two of my greatest passions in life: America and women’s rights. Writing my dissertation about the history of American women has been the perfect excuse to encase myself even further into the dreamy American bubble I’ve been creating over the past year. What’s more, I’ve seen part of myself reflected back in the depths of the project; writing about European perspectives of American women has been a legitimate invitation to indulge in some study abroad nostalgia. DSC03122

So if I could give one piece of advice to anyone approaching their final year, it would be to pick a dissertation topic that you actually enjoy. When you’re in the thick of it, you’ve had five hours’ sleep and you begin to have an existential crisis, your genuine passion for the topic will, at times, be the only thing that keeps the disso spark alive.

Whatever grade my dissertation gets in the end, I’m just glad that I wrote about a topic that I care for. It’s been an area of history that has a great bearing on my real life interests and something that has helped me to reflect upon two of my greatest passions. The star of my dissertation, Alexis de Tocqueville, once said: ‘In America I saw more than America; I sought there the image of democracy itself.’ I would- somewhat playfully- like to put my dissertation to bed, by replying: in my dissertation, I saw more than my dissertation; I sought there the image of America itself.

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How small acts of kindness transformed my year abroad

17 Mar

Studying abroad? Here’s why the small acts of kindness mean so much, and why you should give something back to the international student community

If you’ve recently returned from studying abroad you’ll remember how daunting everything seemed at the beginning of your experience. Arriving in a foreign country with jet lag and a single suitcase suddenly makes all the little things incredibly important. The smallest acts of kindness from people in your host country can help make you feel at home, from the kind passenger on your outbound flight to the welcoming student ambassador who showed you to your new halls of residence.


Many of these comforting encounters begin before you arrive. Before I studied abroad in South Carolina, I was lucky enough to meet up with Spencer, an American student who was on exchange in England. While I’d been given plenty of information from the study abroad office, it was great to hear about my host community first hand so I could truly get a sense of what to expect out there in the Palmetto State. What’s more, we stayed friends. As an exchange student who didn’t know a soul in America, making just one American friend who knew about the ups and downs of studying abroad was immensely reassuring.


Then there were the small acts of kindness I encountered on arrival. When I made an offhand comment about enjoying sports to Stefano, a student ambassador, he asked if I’d like to join his intramural volleyball team. Having just arrived I thought it was probably a polite gesture, but it later became another friendship, which turned into an international volleyball squad made up of his American friends and my British buddies.

There were countless other instances of generosity and hospitality throughout the year. There was the CVS employee who gave me discount because I was using recycled shopping bags. There was that bookstore guy who stuck a ‘for rent’ sticker on an expensive new book because there were no cheap second-hand ones left. There was my friend Emily who would always check to see if I needed to get groceries before she drove to Publix. There were my Trek America campmates who pitched my tent when I was sick. Then, unforgettably, there was my American flatmate Sanne who invited me to her house for Thanksgiving (which was three months away) within five minutes of meeting each other. 10407419_10154214701390585_7405287887855901787_n

Why do the little things, which seem so coincidental and disconnected at the time matter so much when you study abroad? I’ve been reflecting on my year ever since I got back last June and I’ve realised that it’s those everyday unexpected gestures, above all else, that seem so clear and unforgettable.

When you study abroad, the small things that you take for granted at home suddenly feel like daily obstacles. I lost all sense that there were ‘big’ things and ‘small’ things to tackle, but there was an overwhelming list of daily obstacles that felt equally immense. Where is my class today? Where can I get my new student card? How do I set up a bank account? What if I don’t make friends?!


So those small acts of kindness became a string of tangible and meaningful experiences to hold onto when my surroundings felt alien and unknown. Those moments made me feel at home when home felt like it was worlds away. In fact, they helped me to make a second home for myself within a new world.

wal mart

Those moments didn’t merely improve my year in South Carolina: they defined it. Those welcoming and accessible links made me feel part of an international student community that looked out for me regardless of where I was and where I’d come from. It’s precisely those gestures that remind me of the importance of giving something back to that community, whether it’s chatting with outgoing students about what to expect, signing up to a buddy scheme or just helping an international student with directions.

So if you’ve studied abroad and want to give something back, remember that it doesn’t matter how small an insignificant act of kindness might seem to you. When you help an exchange student, it’s just the kindness that matters, because when you study abroad, all the small things and the big things roll into one giant adventure.

10435843_10154288286280113_2245153624072383149_n I wrote this blog post for You can view it on their website here.

25 emotional struggles of being a final year student

9 Mar

…as demonstrated by my cat. Take it away Fudge.

I’ve had the most amazing summer. I can’t face even thinking about packing for university, there’s just too much…stuff.

This is probably all I need.

I get a headache just thinking about all the work I have to do this year. Make it stahhp.

I’ll just go out tonight instead. That’ll solve it.

Walk into the club like...

Walk into the club like…

That was AWESOME. It’s 4am and the room is spinning. I have SO MUCH to do tomorrow.


No. NO. This can’t be happening. I’m never, drinking, again.


That’s better.

Urgh I drunk texted last night! I should probably send a mature follow-up message to explain my actions.

Right, now that’s sorted, WORK. Time to move into the library all day every day.

Needed energy drinks. Had energy drinks.

Must. Stay. Awake.

Must. Stay. Awake.

Feeling pretty good, I submitted that essay with a comfortable 30 seconds to spare.

I'm so on top of my life right now.

I’m so on top of my life right now.


No. It can’t be. It’s Christmas in a week!

Everyone else is festive and what am I getting for Christmas? Stressed. I’m getting stressed.

Don't tell me what to do.

Don’t tell me what to do.

I got fat too. I got stressed and fat for Christmas.

Don’t even remind me that it’s January already. I’m not ready for that kind of comedown.

Won’t go back. Can’t make me.

Should probably unpack my things and get back to the library. 

It's worse than I remember.

It’s worse than I remember.


Bumped into Margot in the library today. She asked me how my dissertation is going.


The conversation did not end well.

I wonder how Margot’s dissertation is going. Maybe I’ll ask her.

Only a few weeks to go and I’m feeling full of energy, at the top of my game.

I don’t know if I can make it

Just have to keep calm and think of summer…

To be continued….


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