Classic First Year Uni Mistakes

Friday, 6 September 2019

Your first year at uni is a crazy time and there are endless learning curves. Obviously, you’ll do a lot of studying on your course but you also have to learn a lot of life lessons as well. For most people, it’s the first time living on your own away from home and making all of your own decisions, a lot of them to do with money. When you were living at home, you probably got fed up with being told what to do in the years you’re yearning for freedom, but you’ll soon start to realise that their advice wasn’t all bad. 

Nobody is perfect and you’re never going to get it right the first time around, and I certainly had a few issues when I was getting to grips with the new lifestyle. Some of those mistakes are only minor and you don’t need to worry, but some of them can have a bigger impact on your life, and it’s those big mistakes that you need to avoid. These are some of the biggest mistakes that you’re likely to make in your first year of uni, and how you can get around them. 

Spending Too Much Money 

This is by far the biggest mistake that people make because they’re not used to budgeting their money and paying their bills, so it’s likely that you will overspend at some point. When you first get your student loan payment, it seems like a lot of money and so there’s a tendency for students to just blow it all right away and get overexcited (trust me, I’ve seen it happen). But between your rent, food, and going out, you’ll soon burn through that money and halfway through the term, realise that you are starting to run out. It’s at this point that people will start learning how to budget so they can survive until they get their next payment through, but that’s not the way to go about it. If you only start budgeting once you are already low on money, you will have to stick to a strict budget that doesn’t allow much money for fun things at all. It’s far better to start budgeting your money properly from the very beginning, so you can still afford all of your important bills and have some money left over for fun activities as well. I chose to work out a weekly budget for myself, as that way I constantly had a close eye on what I was spending and never seemed to stray far out of my budget!

A lot of students forget about the summer as well and only write a budget that covers them during term time. But you have to remember that your final payment for the year has to last you through summer until term starts again next year. Summer is a time when you should be having amazing travel experiences or catching up with old friends, and you need money to do that stuff. Summer jobs are a good option, but it’s still a good idea to save some of your loan so you have enough money during the summer. Missing out on experiences is one of the most gutting things!

Picking Bad Accommodation 

Finding somewhere to live is one of the most important decisions that you have to make but a lot of students make mistakes because they don’t know what they’re looking for. Some student landlords will try to rip you off or get away with letting properties that are in terrible condition because they know that students don’t always know better. When it comes to accommodation, don’t just go for the cheapest option because there is usually a reason that those places are so cheap. The first thing you should think about is the location. You want to find student accommodation in the city centre, close to the university. If you are living too far away from everything, you will be spending a lot of money on buses to get around. As well as the location, you need to know whether the bills are included in the rent or not. Usually, it’s best to get bills included so you have one simple payment to deal with and you don’t need to worry about how much you are using. Finally, when you look around, watch out for things like damp and mould or things that are broken. Some landlords are not very good with the upkeep of the property and you don’t want to rent from them. 

As well as the accommodation itself, you need to think about who you are living with if you are going into a house share. Just because you get along with somebody, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to live with them. Think about which friends have a similar lifestyle to you in terms of studying and going out, and don’t live with anybody that is too messy if you are a neat person because it will cause arguments. 

Going Out Too Much 

Going out is a big part of university life for most people and it’s fine to have a good time with your friends. But you need to find a balance between work and play, otherwise, you’re going to be in big trouble when exams roll around. If you neglect your studies, your grades will suffer and in some cases, you may even struggle to pass the year. As long as you prioritise work and make sure that you get everything done before going out, and skip the night out if you’re falling behind, you will be fine. 

Not Asking For Help 

So many first year students find themselves struggling but they don’t ask for help. It can be intimidating and people worry that their tutors will think badly of them if they admit that they are having trouble keeping up, but that isn’t the case at all. It’s what they’re there for and if you ask for help early on, it’s easy to get back on track. But if you stay silent for weeks and weeks, and only ask for help a few days before an assignment is due in, that’s when you will be in big trouble. 

If you can avoid these big mistakes, you should be able to survive your first year at university and have an even better time than you ever imagined. 

* this is a contributed post

The Best Experiences When Travelling as a Student

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Travelling is something that many students ponder over while they are away at university, including myself. It is the ideal time as you're faced with little or no commitments, time away from your studies, and a chance to learn and gain a different perspective when it comes to culture and how people live. It can be a great experience. 
However, when it comes to choosing what to do and where to go, you can feel a little spoilt for choice. It is a big world out there, and with a bucket list as long as your arm, you may want to seek advice from specialists in student trips so that you can get the most out of your experience. With that in mind, here are some of the destinations you may want to quickly add to your travel bucket list ready for the next student year, as they will certainly be joining my list.

Image source

Skiing in The French Alps

If you are feeling inspired to experience a real winter, then you may want to consider adding a skiing trip to your bucket list. The French Alps are a popular destination that many people choose to go to. Skiing is something you can enjoy with friends or family, and often similar trips get run by uni societies and groups so is a perfect way to get it all organised. With little or no experience there are many ski schools and beginner slopes you can take advantage of. Once all the skiing is done with you can retire to your wonderful accommodation and enjoy a hot chocolate or two. 

Seeing the Northern Lights in Finland

Perhaps you want to take your bucket list seriously in 2019 and consider seeing one of the true beauties of the world. Sticking with a winter theme you could head to the unreal country that is Finland and enjoy the sights of the Northern Lights. You could even consider heading to the home of Father Christmas himself in Lapland. Not only do you get to see the Northern Lights but you could also stay in the famous ice hotel and see some of the ice sculptures, making for an all round breathtaking experience.

Exploring the USA

Perhaps you want to consider exploring some of the fantastic states in the USA, and with fifty to choose from, you should always have an option for vacation away. However, there are a few that could offer you a different experience. There’s places like Washington DC if you are interested in politics and history. You could consider Texas and see some of the amazing sights like NASA or just enjoy a different vibe in the capital, Austin. However, we can’t forget some of the other iconic places such as New York, Florida and California. So much to see that the US could be added to your bucket list for travel each year. 

Backpacking through Asia

Backpacking is a great way to see a lot of a country on a smaller budget and is extremely popular for students looking to take a study break or use it as a part of your gap year. You get to see places from a different perspective and you are offered the chance to see much more. Asia is one of the most popular continents to explore, from the islands Thailand has to offer to the hustle and bustle of Bali in Indonesia. 

Let’s hope this has inspired you to consider some other types of vacations and destinations to consider while you are a student, as you simply don't want to let these opportunities run past you.

*this is a contributed post


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Before going vegan, eggs were a staple part of my diet (especially at uni) and so I was quite worried about making the big transition of cutting them out despite knowing it was what I wanted to do. There are all sorts of egg alternatives available now, I know Follow Your Heart have a ready made egg replacement, but I thought I would try a tofu scramble for something I can use for breakfast/brunch. To this specific recipe, I added some Violife cream cheese to make the flavour slightly creamier - and I always used to like a slight cheesiness to my scrambled eggs anyway! It only takes around 10 minutes to make and is really filling.

Ingredients: serves 2 (for on toast etc.), but if you want it as part of a fry-up breakfast maybe split between 4.

  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 block of tofu  - you can use any firmness of tofu (this happened to be extra firm as it is all I had left, hence why I added cream, but if you use silken tofu leave out the cream as it will be creamy enough)
  • 100ml vegan cream, I used Oatly
  • 2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Black pepper (to personal preference/taste)
  1. Melt the vegan butter in a frying pan over a medium heat
  2. Crumble in the block of tofu (if using firm), or place silken tofu in the pan and break up with a spoon, and toss in to the melted butter
  3. Add the garlic powder and turmeric and continue to fry off, until the tofu is completely and evenly yellow from the turmeric
  4. Add salt and pepper and stir through again
  5. Add the vegan cream, and stir through so that it soaks into all pieces of tofu
  6. Just before serving, stir through the vegan cream cheese gently so that it is evenly distributed through the scramble
  7. Serve and add extra black pepper as desired
Such a simple recipe as you can see, and one that is really easy to incorporate into brunch meals. You can also alter the flavour of these really easily, by removing the cream cheese and switching for something else - maybe a curried version with more spices, or using it as part of a brunch burrito with beans, rice, tomatoes and avocado. The options are endless, and I'm excited to try more!


Sunday, 6 January 2019

One of the most daunting things about transitioning to a vegan diet is finding the best plant-based alternatives to the staple items in your kitchen. Finding the perfect plant milk is one of these, as many are more effective for certain purposes than others, and this guide will seek to help when choosing which milk to opt for. There is no point in assuming these will taste like dairy milk in any way, because they don't, but when you find the right ones they are delicious.

Cereal/porridge: for this, you can essentially use any plant milk on the market as they all compliment cereal in different ways, and in reality this one just depends on your personal preference. My favourite for cereal is hazelnut milk as it has a really rich and unique flavour which adds something extra to your cereal, but when I don't have this at home I just reach for whatever is available. If you want to really treat yourself, try chocolate soya milk in porridge. Sweetened versions of plant milks usually work best for pairing with cereal.

Hot drinks: this is something that scares off a lot of new vegans as the milk can seem to almost separate when in a hot drink - this isn't actually anything to be bothered by but it's understandable to not want this. If this bothers you, try the Oatly Barista edition milk, it's specially made for hot drinks and also I find oat milk to be the one which doesn't alter the taste of tea or coffee - and avid hot drink lovers will appreciate this I'm sure.

Cooking: milk can often be a component to many recipes in cooking and this of course needs to be chosen correctly to avoid the risk of the flavour being thrown off. For curries, always opt for coconut milk as it works the best and is commonly used anyway even in non-vegan dishes (or, try the Oatly cream for something even creamier). For use in making sauces - for example a vegan cheese or alfredo sauce, I stand by oat milk once again, or rice milk works pretty well too. Maybe opt for unsweetened versions to ensure the taste isn't off.

Baking: this is another that generally can universal, however my favourites are almond milk and oat milk. You can adapt the milk flavour to the recipe you're creating too, and even could use chocolate soya or almond milk when you're baking something chocolate flavour for extra richness. A lot of recipes for baking require you to mix the milk with cider vinegar to create a 'buttermilk' type thing, so sometimes this can change the taste - so perhaps don't be too concerned with what type of milk you choose here.

Hopefully this makes things a little easier when deciding your plant milks of choice, and let me know your favourites in the comments! I'm always up for trying new brands and types considering so many new products get released these days.


Thursday, 3 January 2019

I'm starting a new series on my blog titled 'how to vegan', as a way of making meals and takeaways more straightforward to new vegans or those transitioning, and thought as Veganuary is underway this would be the perfect time to begin. Chinese food is one of my all time favourites, and although some of you might be on new year diets and wanting to avoid takeaways, this guide will prove helpful throughout the year anyway. These guides will aim to give some basic pointers as to how to navigate your favourite meals/cuisines as a vegan and make life slightly easier, as well as demonstrating that you can always join in with non-vegan eaters when they order food.

The obvious options: this might be something of a no-brainer, but starting with the basic options that are undoubtedly vegan can get you a pretty substantial offering of choices already (although if you ever are concerned about cross contamination, or where the items are cooked definitely consider contacting the shop before ordering). My ultimate favourites under this category are salt and chilli chips (divine), crispy seaweed and vegetarian mini spring rolls. With a side of curry sauce you've got yourself some tasty options already.

Noodles: this isn't always guaranteed, but it is common for some takeaways to use wheat noodles rather than egg noodles - meaning vegetarian/mushroom chow mein and plain fried noodle dishes are often vegan-friendly. This is one that is often worth checking beforehand, but if you are still concerned simply just switch to fried rice with no egg.

Tofu based dishes: not all takeaways offer tofu based dishes, but where they do, it is delicious. It is deep fried so the classic tofu texture is usually not there at all, and can be found in a variety of styles - black bean, curry, or salt and chilli to name a few (which of course is my favourite, pairing nicely with the chips). If you are struggling to find tofu on the menu, look for deep fried 'bean curd' instead - it's just another name for it, and will probably be under the vegetarian options. If all else fails, a vegetable or mushroom curry could do the trick for your main dish.

Veggie specialised takeaways: this is one for those who predominantly live in bigger cities, as in my small home town this isn't an option, but if you're lucky some Chinese takeaways actually specialise in vegetarian options, offering a selection of mock meats in classic Chinese dishes meaning the options are endless and nothing is missed out on. However, if you don't have access to this, I'm sure this post has demonstrated that it is always possible to create a substantial meal just by looking around the menu a bit more.

So, that's the first 'how to vegan' guide dealt with, if there's any particular meals, restaurants or cuisines you would like to see next, leave some recommendations in the comments for inspiration and I'll try and give those a go, especially if you need help during veganuary!
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