A Former Couch Potatoes’ Guide to the Fitness Influx

I feel like in recent years, the fitness industry has been able to reach many people both online and in circles around me. As someone who dreaded PE at school and just about exercised once a week I wondered if this was due to the fact that our metabolisms all begin to slow so we might not be able to take as much advantage of Dominos ‘Two for Tuesday’ or if there was more to it?

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At the start of my placement year I decided to try a personal training gym that happened to be on the end of the street I had moved to. I booked a consultation and signed up for four weeks with the intention of quitting after because I would probably hate it. Thirteen months on I continue to train three to four times a week and love it.

So, here’s what I’ve learnt.

You can do more than you ever thought you could. I found that I was surprised that I could lift weights that I never would have imagined I could. I will never be the strongest or most athletic person in the gym but that doesn’t matter because you will only get better as time goes on. Exercising teaches you to have a little more self-belief. This then spills over into your everyday life where you challenged yourself a little more, even if it’s just with small things, and you achieve more than you were expecting. I only go for 30 minute sessions so I don’t let myself make the excuse that ‘I don’t have time.’

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Exercising makes you feel good, it’s a fact! It releases endorphins which improve your mood, so even on your worst days just going for a walk helps to clear your head and regather your thoughts. I found this especially helpful when I was stressed during placement or had assignments due. It’s important to remember that sometimes taking a step away from something that you’re working on, even for 20 minutes, can help you look at it from a whole new perspective. In general, exercising helps me to have a more positive outlook on whatever I’m doing.  It’s also nice to be able to take a break from your phone for 30 minutes in the day.

It helps you meet new people. From going to the gym I’ve met so many people I never would have come across in my daily life from a range of different backgrounds. I’ve been trained by people of all ages who are cheering you on to be the best you can be while learning about each other’s lives at the same time.

Nobody is judging you. Some people fear that others are watching you while you exercise, especially if you’re only starting out, but I’ve found that this really isn’t the case. If everyone is working hard, they are generally more focused about what they’re doing rather than what you’re doing.  I have found that it is important to not get caught up with comparing yourself with others, especially online. What I’ve found works for me is following accounts in Instagram that actually inspire me rather than accounts that are simply just skinny girls. Some of my favourites include – @faisalpmafitness who promotes having a positive mental attitude and @whitneyysimmons who tries to see the good in every day along with posting short gym workout videos.

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Even though going to the gym is what I enjoy I understand that it’s not for everyone. You can do anything from going for a walk with friends to ice skating, as long as you’re moving in some way, you’ll feel the benefits of it.

 

Benita Brown is a Final Year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations (CMPR) student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – @benitabrown96 and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/benita-brown-929911194/

First time in Bali and learning how to ride a Motorbike.

Growing up I have always wanted to know what it felt like to sit on a motorcycle, let alone actually ride it myself, and I eventually got the opportunity to learn how to ride one in Bali, in 2017 when I went on holidays with my family. Bali is an island located in Indonesia, South East Asia. It is famous for its tropical weather, great beaches and waves (famous amongst surfers), volcanic mountains and natural scenery. We stayed for 3 weeks at a hotel called The Haven in Seminyak, a beach resort area, packed with tourists from around the world. We were joined by 2 of my cousins from Australia who were not new to Bali since they visit every year due to it being so close to Australia, but this was later on at the hotel.

Since you get your holiday visa on arrival, we had to line up in a long queue which took us a whole 30 minutes before making it to the baggage claim area. After getting our bags we made our way outside which was packed with taxi drivers and private drivers that surrounded us like paparazzies offering to take us to our hotel, each offering a cheaper price than the previous one. It almost felt as if we were harassed.

Tip – Make sure to contact your hotel to book a driver in advance, saves a lot of time and hassle! If you’re feeling spontaneous then travel in a blue bird taxi (They’re an actual taxi company and you can always negotiate prices with them since they don’t always stick to the meter.)

Despite Bali being relatively safe, we made sure we had our guards up since it was our first time visiting. Luckily our driver sent by the hotel was there waiting for us. We asked if he could wait while we exchanged currency, but he told us not to bother since the exchanging fees at airports were very high.

Tip – You can always find a currency exchange shop with low rates and no commission fees in the streets of central Kuta (Close to the airport).

Despite the traffic being insane compared to what I’m used to here in Europe, the traffic laws didn’t seem to make up for it. After exchanging our pounds to the local currency Rupiah in Kuta, we made our way to the hotel which was supposed to take us around 10 minutes, although it took us longer due to the traffic. Completely different from anywhere I’ve been to in the western world, Bali felt like paradise with the scorching heat hitting my face and the first thing I noticed was the amount of motorbikes on the road. It seemed like the roads were covered in the them, with all sorts of shapes and sizes but one thing that caught my eye the most was the amount of people not wearing a helmet in central Kuta and Seminyak and the police just didn’t seem to care.

Tip – Despite seeing people not wearing helmets, it is advised that you wear it due to the crazy traffic and some corrupt police officers look for an easy target to bribe (YES CORRUPT POLICE OFFICERS). This brings me to the time where they stopped me and asked for 200,00IDR but I’ll get to that later.

After settling in at our hotel, one of my cousins from Australia, Jacinta planted the idea in my head that we should rent motorbikes to get around quicker. She told me about how you were able to rent a motorbike for less than 10,000IDR a day which is equivalent to less than 10$. This didn’t happen because the rest of my cousins and I were too scared to ride a motorbike on my first day there (I certainly didn’t want to die abroad) and since we arrived around midday, we had plenty of time to explore and get around on our first day. After getting ready to go out, we decided to look for a nice restaurant to have lunch since we were starving, and we came across a Cantonese restaurant in Kuta called seafood house. It had live fish, crabs, lobsters and other marine animals swimming in tanks and the chefs would fish it out before cooking it according to how we’d like it (Definitely not your ideal restaurant if you find that cruel). This was a new experience for me and although I was first sceptical about it all, the waiters were very nice and friendly, they explained how everything was done and how we were able to choose how we’d like our ‘fresh, live fish’ cooked.

After lunch we walked towards Kuta beach which wasn’t far and since it was right across Beachwalk shopping centre, we got a little shopping done. Despite the beach not being very clean with people offering to sell (harassing us to buy) souvenirs and fake sticker tattoos and forcing to show their clothing stores at the back of dodgy alley ways, it was very refreshing with a long coast line. Since the waves were quite high, it was a popular spot for surfers and not so much for regular bathers. Padang beach and Nusa Penida were much suitable for bathers with breath-taking natural scenery.

After spending most of our day exploring, we decided to head back to our hotel to get ready for our first night. We decided to head to a live music/salsa restaurant in Seminyak, down the road from our hotel where I ordered the best Nasi goreng I have ever tried (Nasi goreng’s literal translation to English is fried rice). I was served with fried eggs, shrimp and chicken and I hope I come across it again someday. After having dinner and a few drinks, we met a Brazilian tourist who stayed at the same hotel as us and so we all got blue bird taxis to a beach party in Canggu called sandbar where we partied till 4am. The vibes were insane and if you think your dance moves are great, try dancing on sand!

Despite not sleeping till 5 am, I woke up in the morning determined to learn how to ride a motorbike. I decided to ask my cousin to teach me and so we were off. Now if you’re an adventurer and somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, there is no chance that you would let this opportunity slip through your fingers. We found the nearest motorbike rental (despite looking nothing like a rental place), and we decided to start off with an easy one. At the time I only had my provisional licence, but they didn’t even seem to care if I had one, all I had to do was leave an I.D as insurance so I just gave them my student card (Never leave your passport). We rented 2 motorbikes for 1 week with the option of extending.

So off we went, my very first time on a motorbike and despite only being a passenger, I was over the moon, taking pictures and making videos of everything as embarrassing as that may sound. We stopped at a quiet ally way that was wide and long enough to ride in the first thing my cousin told me to do was hop on. She didn’t even bother sitting behind me knowing what the consequences might be. All I had to do was gas it a bit and off I went, very slowly. My other cousins and I practiced a few times before finding a quiet road to try ride on. Although it wasn’t a big motorbike, it was a big deal for me as I learned it in a completely different country with different rules or almost without any rules. I kept practicing for the next 2 days before being confident to ride on busier roads during off-peak hours. It might sound insane, but I stuck to the side of the road, doing 25mph and annoying drivers behind me. It wasn’t till near the end of my trip where I finally found the courage to speed up a little and swerve in between cars and motorbikes.

Probably one of my proudest moments. I got faced my fears, gained new experiences and came back home with stories that I’ll be proud to tell. My main highlights of the whole trip were holding a python around my neck (It was heavy), learning how to ride a motorbike which I also took turns riding from Semimyak to Uluwatu, going to the WaterBom, going to open air bars like single fin bar (amazing views), and last but not least, going to a monkey forest full of monkeys in Ubud.

Joel Silva is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter – @joelsilva2112 and Instagram – @_joelsilva21.

 

WEP Italia Camp Counselor – The experience of a lifetime

When summer 2018 ended, I always said to myself “I want to make the most out of next years summer and do something different from what I’ve always usually done”. I then began to think of what I could possibly do; what would really interest me and benefit my career as well? Inter-railing seeing as all my friends have done it (near enough all of them)? Get a full-time job and make money that will go towards getting my first car, not to mention that it’ll help with my CV accreditation as well? Both ideas seemed great at first, but I wanted the good life; to get both sides of the deal, travelling and developing my career. My older brother Tony gave his thoughts on the situation and said to me “why not do CAMP Italy with me this year? 2 weeks of teaching and travelling around Italy, It’s a win-win situation for you!” So, I did, Tony and I went to Bardonecchia in the north west of Italy, 30 miles west of Torino to teach Italian children aged between 7 and 14 how to speak, understand and improve their English. 

We started our official first day as camp counselors on 8th July meaning we’d have a day to prepare ourselves for the teaching methods, which counselors would get what students to teach and rules and safety operations for the kids. So, the night before I got stuck into my first ever teaching experience, I could not sleep; the thoughts going through my mind of messing up and the sheer pressure I was putting myself under to give these kids the best possible experience of their summer camp. At times during that night I was questioning myself saying “what the hell am I doing here? This is already too much for me!” even though the camp coordinators (Ester, Lucila and Jasmine) explained everything brilliantly and always had their door open for everyone, I still couldn’t quite get to grips of the whole idea of me being a teacher; Unease and unrest to say the very least. Next thing I knew it was morning and time to take a 3-and-a-half-hour lesson for the intermediate class.

First 20 minutes or so into the lesson were a disaster I thought personally. I started the introduction for the class by saying the usual stuff, my name is…, I’m from… etc. and then asked the children to tell me their name and a fact about them in English. Big mistake! These kids barely knew how to say hello my name is … in English never tell me a few facts about themselves. Luckily, however, Diana (another counselor) came into the lesson and set the tone for the rest of lesson. She understood the best way to teach kids learning and developing another language; kinesthetically. It was like a huge mystery for me but then I saw the correct manner to approach this lesson; by bringing energy to the lesson, act out the word I was describing and take my time, I had to remember that I wasn’t talking to my mates back home over here.

As the days continued during the week, the more comfortable I felt teaching Federico, Alessandro, Sofia, Danielle and Flamine. I felt good for myself and more importantly for the kids’ education and their summer experience; that they were getting better teaching standards for something that is brilliant, and quite popular, to have for an Italian kid (2nd language). Within 2 or 3 lessons, their confidence improved, their grammar and pronunciation skills were correct, and they had more enthusiasm to engage more with questions I had asked them, making me feel really proud, as if to say I had taught them well.

I will always be grateful for WEP Italia giving me this fantastic opportunity to advance my teaching experience, but I will also always be thankful for them allowing Tony and I to travel around both Italy and southern France during our 2 weeks teaching abroad. During the 14 nights in the great weather, we visited the Italian cities Rome, Torino and Milan and as for southern France we took a very quick day trip to Cannes, Monaco and Nice, Yes, all in 1 day! We were exhausted travelling back to Bardonecchia, but you have to seize the moment when it presents itself to you and we made sure we did. Seeing the Alps, the Colosseum, and the Monaco scenery were some of the highlights of the trip. These were places I never thought I’d ever see, places that I always wanted to see, yet I I’ll never forget those views I saw, ever!

A Picture of both Tony and I after playing a crazy football match with Christian Camp, another summer teaching camp based in Bardonecchia. This is solely because when the town held the winter Olympics in 2006 many hotels, villages and hostels etc. had to be created to hold all the competitors, media and fans and ever since then, Bardonecchia has been home for Italian summer camps. The story behind us playing together is quite something. Our WEP students were playing a game and I was sitting down embracing the view of the forest park in the alps and then someone, whom I hadn’t saw before or were able to say I recognized him sat beside me on the huge log. We then got talking and next thing I saw were a few of his pupils, from his camp, coming over to sit down with us as well. Next thing I knew at least 20 pupils were crowding us! I felt like I was a celebrity… for 15 minutes at least; good while it lasted. And from there, they suggested we played a match, we did, they won sadly but that was the least important thing to get worked up about! 2 teaching camps came together and created a memory that all involved will never forget! Some things just write themselves.  

This entire experience, from start to finish, was scary, exciting, nerve-wrecking, funny and just pure brilliant. I would highly recommend doing a summer camp for any need and anywhere; it’s a great chance to make new memories, new friends and actual learn more about yourself. But most importantly, yet rewarding, you will be helping children, teenagers and kids from all parts of the country or Europe etc. gain a new lifetime skill and experience. Surely, I don’t need to say anymore after that do I?

Connlaóth McSherry is a final year Bsc Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on: Twitter – @ConMcS and LinkedIn – Connlaóth McSherry

Tide Pod challenge creating brand crisis?

Do you ever just remember something that was popular or trending and just think wow the human race is just insane, like really really stupid? I mean how are we supposed to be the most intelligent mammals when things like this become a thing. Well this is exactly what I thought when I heard about the ‘tide pod’ challenge

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Basically, it became trendy to eat tide pods- yes as in the ones you put in the washing machine to do your laundry. Which by the way, contain ethanol, citric acid and other dangerous chemicals that are poisonous. The whole thing started when tide pods became known as a ‘forbidden snack’ online due to their colourful appearance making them appear like sweets. Soon after videos emerged of teenagers (yeah not toddlers) eating the laundry detergent. While it was later confirmed most people where only pretending to take a bite, a lot of people actually did. American association of poison control reported 86 cases of teenagers intentionally ingesting laundry detergent in 2017. I’d also like to highlight the point about this being teenagers involved, I mean I would of understand if my 3-year-old godson was fooled by this. The main problem was both social media and the headlines in the mass media. Social media is dangerous in that everyone seems to want to be famous on it these days so will do whatever to keep up. It also made the few serious incidents of actual ingestion look like a worldwide epidemic. Image result for tide pods challenge gronk video"

I also think the mass media look for any reason to blame the younger generation for all the worlds problems. They also in some ways fear the popularity of social media and so want to undermine its positivity. For example, headlines started along the lines of ‘teenagers eating laundry detergent pods and posting the videos online’ to ‘teenagers risking their lives for internet challenge.’

For Tide pods this was a serious PR disaster. Many headlines suggested that it was even time to ban tide pods for good. Whether people where really eating them or just pretending to it brought forward a real danger about the design of the pods. They have been known previously to confuse the elderly people with dementia and of course young kids with their bright colouring. Therefore, this viral trend had others thinking in this way and demanding something be done. The owners of tide pods could not in their right minds predict that teenagers would take up eating their products as a hobby. Due to this they were probably not well prepared for this particular PR crisis, however, their parent company Proctor and Gamble handled the situation quite well considering. They got American footballer Rob Gronkowski nicknamed ‘Gronk’ involved in the recovery. They uploaded a tweet of them asking Gronk should people ever eat tide pods to which he replies ‘no’ several times. He then goes on to say use tide pods for washing not eating. Teenagers today are obsessed with celebrities, so It was smart of Proctor and Gamble to use one promoting safe use of their products

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They didn’t really go crazy with their crisis management over social media. There was that video and one other tweet ‘Only things that should be on today’s menu: nachos, wings and plenty of team spirit. Save your tide pods for the stains later.’ This was probably the best thing to do as most parents will agree telling teenagers not to do something seems to make them want to do it a whole lot more. The product itself was already safe as it was properly locked so focusing on the social media craze was all they could really do. They also tried to get the videos removed to stop them from reappearing or becoming another PR crisis in the future. YouTube did eventually start to delete the videos however the jokes and memes will live on forever really

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That being said in a world where there are now apparently over 100 genders is it really that much of a reach that people would eat laundry detergent to gain internet fame. The real problem here is that teenagers need to learn the difference between famous and infamous.

Katie Doyle is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram-@katiedoyle54 LinkedIn-https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-doyle-9a0551195/ Twitter-https://twitter.com/ktdoyle6

Budget like a Boss

“Living the dream, sure you know yourself.”

My automatic reply for the obligatory office pleasantries had worn thin. Was I really living the dream – working 9 to 5, living off ready meals and returning to a freezing cold student house every evening? It was time to put my money where my mouth was. I booked 6 holidays over 6 months (7 over 7 if you count a budget weekend in Donegal).

March – mates weekend away in an Airbnb in a village-off-a-village-off-Falcarragh

April – 8 day combined 21st and 60th birthday blowout with my mum in New York and Pennsylvania

May – 4 days in Paris with placement pals

June/July – 2 week long road trip around the Southern states of America with a handily placed Study USA friend

August – 9 day trip to visit another handily placed friend on placement in Toronto

August/September – 6 days by the French Alps flowing onto 6 days in Split and Dubrovnik

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Why the sudden bragging? Because it was at this point I promptly remembered that while my term time address is in BT9, my bank account hadn’t caught up with my Malone Road travel mentality. Luckily, my inner East Belfast scrounger was here to save the day. This, readers, is how I budgeted like a boss.

Unleash your inner accountant

Set your monetary goals (in my case, holidaying without getting into debt) realistically in relation to your income and outgoings. Scan through your current account and note what you regularly spend money on, such as running a car, groceries, eating out and subscriptions. Take a few minutes to reminisce about your biggest childhood expense being a LipSmacker set from Claire’s Accessories, then sort all these expenses into an Excel sheet to find out what you will need to earn to cover these expenses and meet your financial goals.

So close, yet so far

The thrill of my final Excel formula coming together was caught short when the number it produced was well into the quadruple figures – quite a stretch if I wanted to eat more than Pot Noodles for the rest of the year. Therefore, like many a millennial before, I adopted the side hustle.

While not sustainable as a main income source for many, part time casual work is the perfect option for the cash hungry. Outside placement hours, I picked up shifts in promotional work for a local radio station, however there are several companies specialising in casual work in events and hospitality. Grafton Recruitment and Eventsec allow recruits to work when suits them whilst earning above minimum wage.

Make like Brangelina and split

Newly motivated, my next step was to translate these lofty goals into smaller monthly segments. With the help of a *free* Monzo account, I split my monthly income into separate ‘pots’ for different purposes. My standing orders for bills came out of one pot, whilst my contributions toward holiday money went in another. The current account tracked my day to day spend against my personalised monthly budget, with reminders if I needed to slow down on my usage of its iconic ‘hot coral’ card.

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https://twitter.com/monzo/status/1057922509486678017?lang=en

I ❤ cheap thrills

A reduced disposable income doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced standard of living. Here’s some quickfire ways to make your money go further:

TREAT YO SELF – in two weeks. That must have item? Hit add to basket and come back in 14 days. If you’re still day-dreaming about it, and your monthly budget permits, let that be your reward for staying on track.

FOOD – Youtube is a great resource for cheap meal inspiration (my breakfast for the year was sorted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XSVK_LliQM). From the gluttony of recipes online, I had my breakfast and lunches down to less than £8 per week. Sound extreme? Watch me enjoy meals out guilt free (after asking for student discount of course).

STOCKPILE – Running the risk of sounding like a crazy coupon hunter, bulk buying items you use regularly while they’re on offer saves money and hassle of running to the shops last minute. (Just don’t mention the 5 litres of apple juice clogging the kitchen cupboard to my housemates)

GET THRIFTY – The social media shame of outfit repeating has done wonders for the stock levels of charity shops. Big ticket items like formal and wedding guest dresses, often designer, fill the rails of shops dedicated to worthy causes.

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Smiling smugly in my £8 dress – thank you Oxfam x

SOCIAL MEDIA – If you were on a diet, you’d swiftly unfollow BuzzFeed Food in case their latest brownie-cookie-cheesecake-ice cream-taco derailed your good intentions. Why should budgeting be any different? Unfollow whichever sites get you reaching for your card (does anyone ever remember their CVV number?) and curate your feed to motivate your saving, be it an influencer renovating their first house or hashtags of upcoming holiday locations. Instagram accounts @thefinancialdiet and @clevergirlfinance gave realistic financial hacks tailored to millennial living, a far cry from your granda bragging about how he bought his family home for a price of a Freddo.

And finally, don’t get blindsided by unforeseen expenses. I learnt this the hard way from driving a 15 year old car! A chunk of money set aside for a rainy day really does leave you with peace of mind. That way, you can crack on with #livingthedream.

Georgia Galway is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Georgia Galway and Instagram – @imthatgalwaygirl

 

Was University For Me?

First blog with no idea where to start, but here we go.

Growing up, there was no pressure on me at all to go to university as nobody else in my family had decided to do it, and they all turned out OK (well, as far as OK can go).In school I was SET for going to university, but then again, I done no work for my school work, probably not the best idea when I actually wanted to be a nurse. I know what your thinking, ‘if she wanted to be a nurse, how the hell is she a final year student in CMPR?’

Lets go back to the start, firstly, I would highly advise anyone who wants to do what they want to do for the rest of your lives, pick A-level subjects you actually enjoy, that was my BIGGEST regret. That’s just the start, I chose to study biology, home economics and sport for my A-Level subjects, understandable that you don’t care about that. But how long did I actually last at them subjects? Actually the whole year, I know, SHOCK!! But did I do well? Absolutely not. This set me back a whole year, making me doubt whether or not I wanted to attend university as all of my friends were going to be there one year longer than me.

Believe it or not, because of this reason I considered continuing doing the subjects id hated and failed just to keep up with my friends. Idiotic idea, I know. The only perk of going back to repeat the year for me was that I would be able to go visit my friends all the time and get a few days in the Holylands like a legend!

Thankfully with the persuasion of my mum and the fact I wasn’t the only one going back and changing my subjects, I decided to go back and repeat. After the two years, I was completely motivated to pursue my dream career as a children’s nurse. Then came the interviews. Wow. Them interviews really was the end of that dream for me.

Believe me, I was more than disappointed in myself for not getting past the interview stage as in my eyes I had done everything I could. This completely knocked my confidence. I had convinced myself I wasn’t good enough. Not just for nursing but for every course.

After school ended and I got my results (good results they were), I decided it was best to take a year out from education. I expected to do so many things in that year out, go travelling, get a job that id get good experience from, maybe even move away. But did I do any of the things I wanted to do? No. I was working in a dead-end part time job, didn’t leave Ireland, (apart from going on a two-week girl’s holiday – would not recommend.) But did I want to apply for university again? Definitely not, and this was all because I wasn’t accepted into what I wanted to do first time round. The only good thing to come out of that year out, was the new friends I had made, friends for life (cringe)!

But one night, (two nights before UCAS deadline, I know, panic time) my friends mum (shoutout to Christina McCann), persuaded me to apply to CMPR because she knew how I felt about advertising and the way companies go about marketing.

Along came the day, I got accepted into the course. The joy I felt was crazy!! All I could think of was getting a house with the girls and freshers, just as every fresher student would think of! (Coming from a 22 year old final year student, who has been attending freshers from a young age, they get boring. Sorry to disappoint).

As months went on, semester merged into semester, I was really just going to university to keep up my attendance, every lecture was going in one ear and out the other. I left every assignment to the last minute and decided to start revising the night before each exam. I thought this was normal, all my friends done it too. It was not normal.

Doing this put me in the horrors of all horrors. I’ve always said I work really well under pressure. But doing a university assignment the night before its due really is pressure I’ve never experienced. (I swear I’m not writing this the night before.) Bare in mind I got through the first two years doing this and here I am sitting in final year trying to figure out what to do my dissertation on..

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This blog isn’t just my story on my experience on my university life. I will swiftly move on to living that amazing student life that everyone dreams off, including myself. I thought moving out of my home house during the week would be the most amazing thing. That me and my friends were going to be living our best lives in Belfast, going out every night of the week. But I never thought far enough into it. I never thought about the bills id have to pay, the rent I had to pay monthly, that it would get really, really cold in the Holylands when it snows or the fact that I would had to feed myself.

Within the first month of first year my little bubble popped. I had spent most of my student loan from going out, eating out and continued to block out the fact that I had debts of rent to pay. Finally, first semester ended, and I could go home for Christmas, bare in mind I didn’t drive in first year so I had to stay down until one of my friends were driving home each week even if I didn’t have class.

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Me and the girls living our best lives!! **NOTE – Hole in the roof, oops**

Felt like years before second semester ended and I couldn’t have been happier.  Especially after having a rough encounter with mice in our house and living in the library before exams.

Second year came, and I don’t know why I thought it would be any different to first year. In first semester, I done exactly what I done first year. Partied my life away the same way any normal student would. After this, the friends I lived with began to one by one drop out of living in the house. There I was all alone. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. I hated living in Belfast this way without anyone in the house and having the fear of god in me every-time I heard a noise in the back yard. February came and I took the plunge to move out of the house. It was the best thing I have ever done. I finally started to actually focus on my university work for the first time in the two years.

I thought I was ready to do the student life as I was always up for a night out at home, but it gets boring after a while when your doing it every night every week for 24 weeks of the year.

Was I ready for University? Yes.

Was I ready for the student life? No.

Do I regret any of it? Absolutely not! It was a learning curve if anything.

Anyway, back to the dissertation I go…

Emma Murphy is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-murphy-bbb628196/  , and Twitter – @EmmaMurphy97

Instagram Vs Reality

When I sat down to write my first blog, with not a clue what to write about I did what I do best every time I procrastinate. I lifted up my phone, clicked on Instagram and began pointlessly scrolling. It was then that it clicked, Instagram really is one big illusion.

There’s so much more to life than the perfect Instagram post, so many hiccups and imperfections covered up by a filter.

For me personally, I took a scroll through my own Instagram feed. It went like this – two weeks in California for Christmas, a summer touring around California with my best friend, winning Camogie championship with my best friends, trips to Dublin and London and plenty of nights out in between. Yeah you could say I’ve had a pretty good year but in reality I’ve also had the most mentally challenging and toughest year imaginable.  

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Here’s a small insight – It began last March when my Granda died, as this was the first death of someone very close to me, it hit me and my whole family hard, he was a big part of all our lives. Then 13 months later, my aunty Orla died. 49 years of age, the life and soul of every room she walked into, vivacious, healthy and with so much more to give and fulfil in her life. How could this happen to her? When she took herself to the hospital a few days after she came home from holidays with what she thought was a ‘bug’ from the plane home little did she, or any of us, know that within just 60 short days she would’ve been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer with secondary tumours in her lymph nodes, liver and kidneys and die.

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My aunty Orla and I at my 21st birthday, 5 weeks before she died.

I don’t even know how to begin to explain the sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression and grief that has overtaken me this past year but what I do know for sure is that it’s ok to feel like this and it’s ok to ask for help, as hard as it is to admit to.

I know for sure there are many friends and maybe even family members of mine reading this now who were totally unaware of the way I’ve been feeling. What I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to post an Instagram story out for lunch on a Saturday but what you don’t see is the anxiety attacks, petit mal seizures*, days of meltdown, tears and not leaving my bed that had happened before I finally headed out for that lunch.

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The thing I’ve learnt about grief is that it affects everyone differently and at different times. I remember straight after Orla died I was so confused why I wasn’t so sad all of the time and felt bad about it and it wasn’t until my granny sadly passed away after a long 13 years of suffering profound brain damage from a car accident in September that all of a sudden I became sad, angry and confused about Orla’s death – grief just having it’s moment. In the midst of this, my dad had taken a heart attack and had two stents put in. As if I wasn’t stressed and anxious enough, being the complete daddy’s girl that I am I was struggling to come to terms with everything that had gone on, the fear of what if it was too late for my dad, it was tough.

Anyway, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that everyone is fighting a battle none of us are aware of. Loosing 3 very influential and special people within 17 months has been an extremely tough time for me yet looking at my social media outlets you’d be none the wiser.

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Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to scroll through and post on Instagram but at the end of the day Instagram is like our ‘life highlight reel’, our social media persona and I’ve learnt not to compare myself to other people. The point is this—do not fall victim to the highlight reel. Do not fixate on the lives of others, don’t compare your life to someone else’s. No one’s life is perfect. As my very wise Granda used to say “be slow to blame, you might’ve done the same.”

Thanks for reading!

Niamh Mac Manus is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter – @niamh_mac_manus, Instagram – @niamhmacmanus_ and Linked In: Niamh Mac Manus

*An absence seizure is a form of internal epilepsy which causes you to blank out or stare into space for a few seconds and can result in you becoming forgetful.