The PR Diaries: Part II

‘Every brunette needs a blonde bestfriend- Oh, and a little bit of Barcelona.’

 

When deciding upon a blog topic I found myself sharing ideas with my bestfriend.  This was in the midst of sweating profusely at the gym, looking like a very hot and bothered baked potato.  This thought leads nicely to my first point- spontaneity.   Often, the best ideas are created from random conversations, conversations that lead to those little light bulb moments.  The more I shared my ideas with Jordan, the easier it became.  I was simply reminiscing about Barcelona and the friendships that I have gained recently.  That is when it clicked.  I felt the urge to write an appreciation post for the friends that I care deeply about.  Especially those who I have made incredible and long lasting memories with over the past couple of months.  Starting with a cheeky Spanish adventure to Barcelona.

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Friendships are incredible.  As social species we need others to survive, to feel a true sense of connectedness.  Being in the company of others helps us to feel accepted, to feel safe and most importantly to feel loved.  I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately, those that have the power to enlighten any mood.  True friends have seen us at our worst and seen us at our very best but most importantly have been there to elevate our spirits.  We have friendships that we have nurtured from a very young age.  Those relationships are special but those that we form later in life are just as precious.  I am thankful for a lot of aspects of my life and when times become tough I am especially grateful for my inner circle.  We know exactly when we click with someone.  Someone who is on our wavelength and shares similar interests to us.  Usually, it is difficult to locate these types of friends as we are each very unique.  However, I believe that those personalities that mesh perfectly make the best kind of relationships. Jordan Patterson, this is my blog post for you.

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

According to friends, family and social media, travelling alone is one of the best experiences that life can offer.  At 21, I have yet to explore another culture solo, yet it is something I am not ashamed of.  I know that I have many years ahead of me to explore the beauty of the world, it is a daunting yet exciting thought really.  I would like to share one of the best experiences of my life to date, which consisted of an adventure to Barcelona with a bestfriend.  Deciding upon a location to travel to was not hard as we both agreed that Barcelona looked so dreamy.  In addition, we are both HUGE foodies.  We are the type of girls that think about where we are eating and when- all of the time.  There may have been a small percentage of hanger involved on our trip but that is a subject that we prefer to avoid talking about!

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Hanger level 100/100

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5 inevitable things that will happen when you travel with a bestfriend:

I believe in being spontaneous.  As much as I do like to plan, I am probably the most random out of my inner circle of friends. However, it is very rare that you find somebody that matches that inner freak and equally not afraid to show it.  When I met Jordan a couple of months ago we really ‘hit it off,as they say.  Now I am really making us sound like an old married couple and I would just like to clarify that Jordan is taken.  In fact she is engaged and I am bursting with excitement for her!  When telling others that we had planned a city trip to Barcelona, they questioned our friendship, ‘have you not only known each other for a couple of months?’ You see, I believe that the duration of time that you have been close to someone does not matter.  It is the quality of that relationship in the present moment.  If that person makes you happy, makes you laugh, hold them close.  Jordan is a beautiful person, inside and out and we instantaneously bonded following our first conversation (which I am sure consisted of talking about donuts, winner).

It is important to give value to those who give value to you.  Travelling with someone that you have a lot of time for really will put your relationship to the test.  Being friends with somebody is one thing but travelling with them is a different story.  The inspiration for this blog is based upon the countless laughs and good times that we had.  There was not a day that went by that we did not have one major giggling fit- an attractive sight really.  Therefore, I would love to share 5 things that inevitably happen when travelling with a true friend- be prepared for a lot of planned and unplanned photographs- oh and many foodie shots of course!

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Stepping out of your comfort zone- I’ll do it if you do it:

 When we travel, we like to push ourselves.  This was my first trip abroad with a friend which made the experience even more exciting and interesting.  Jordan and I have a very similar sense of humour which I believe  is why we are so close.  One of us just has to say something completely ridiculous and the tears are rolling down my cheeks for half an hour afterwards. There are many aspects of our lives and personalities that set us apart of course.  However, it is important that we learn from a friendship, whether that is the platonic or romantic kind.  We both decided that we should experience ‘Hostel life’ whilst staying in Barcelona which was the best decision.  It was great meeting people from different parts of the world and sharing cultures.  As two random girls, we wanted to do something together that would mark our trip away. Thankfully we dodged the cliché ‘let’s get matching tattoos’ idea at 3am on one very spontaneous night.  Never the less, we settled for ear piercings- wild.

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You will start to say the same things:

For me, adopting a friend’s vocabulary or slang is a first level friendship achievement.  We don’t even realise we have adopted mannerisms from others until we spend quality time together. It’s weird and it is often creepy, however I believe that it is one of the most powerful indicators that you truly know a friend well.  You are comfortable in their presence which is incredibly important.  Friends are great at pointing out our flaws when needed but they are even better at lifting our spirits.  It was great walking around the ancient city streets of Barcelona, mocking each other’s slang words and living our best 21-year old selves.

Food, food & more FOOD- you will eat your body weight

Yes it is true, friends are the worst and best influences when making food choices.  You will gain 3 stone in weight, but I can guarantee that you will burn it off laughing or walking around whilst lost.  Just to reiterate this point, I love eating.  Jordan loves food as much as I do and so it made choosing where to eat very simple.  On our first night we decided to eat on ‘Las Ramblas’ where we very naturally embraced the Spanish culture-ordering two very large Pizzas which did not last for very long at all.  The Sangria counts as Spanish cuisine, right?

‘Brunch and Cake’ is a small artisan café that we happened to stumble across on our wonderings.  If you are thinking of visiting Barcelona I highly recommend this gem as their pancake stacks, waffles and cakes are out of this world.  The best way to explore Barcelona’s food scene is disregarding all plans. Planning is great when travelling but when thinking about somewhere to eat, it is best to stumble across hidden gems.  Hanger was beginning to consume us again on our last night and by chance Jordan spotted an amazing Mexican Burrito Bar.  Again, not very cultural but a great find whilst drinking a few Coronas and watching the Barcelona sun go down.

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Lights, camera, action- you will take MANY photographs.

I have no shame in posting travel photographs.  Little and often however as there is always that risk of posting only our ‘best selves’ online.  There is an element of travel photography that is special but when travelling with a friend, be prepared for some locations to transform into a low-key photo shoot.  By no means am I suggesting that you base your entire trip around trying to take the most perfect and aesthetically pleasing shot.  That is no way to live or experience somewhere new.  Both Jordan and I are strong believers in living in the moment (live, laugh, love) but in all seriousness it is so much better experiencing the beauty of Barcelona first hand.  Not through the lens of modern technology.  However, we are both guilty of sneaking in a few beach photographs which was very hard to avoid given the beautiful climate and scenes.  Being close to a friend means forming a little photography team, knowing which angles and shots suit best.  Several months have passed and we are still posting beach photographs on our Instagram accounts- they will eventually stop, sometime!

 

You will gain a true friend for life:

Travelling with a best friend taught me a lot about myself.  It taught me to be more patient, more resilient and more understanding.  Travelling with a best friend means opening your heart to compliments, constructive criticism and endless conversations filled with love, memories and laughs.  Travelling really does put our relationships to the test and if you truly want it to work, it more than likely will.  You are in each other’s space for several days and when you reach a point of not holding anything back, you know you have found someone very special.  There is great comfort in knowing that your inner circle of friends will always be here for you.  To support you and to cherish you.  In life, we need friends to support our ideas and achieve a sense of connectedness to the world around us.

As much as I enjoy my own company, travelling with a bestfriend was incredible.  If you are thinking of travelling around the world solo, do it.  If you are thinking of travelling with a partner, even better.  Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, yet all we need to do is embrace them and accept them.  Acceptance is key.  Make good out of every dull situation and explore every opportunity that is presented to you.  I would like to thank my inner circle of friends who are always here. Always keen for a chat, laugh, cry or trip to eat food (obviously).  That sense of loneliness that you experience when you return home from a trip away? This simply reminds us that we are invested in that friendship.  It is real.  Life can teach you a lot of valuable lessons, but it is our friends and sense of self that keep us afloat.  Thank you Jordan, for keeping me sane but equally insane. I am proud to call you my bestfriend and I know that the bond that we have formed through our travels will last for a lifetime! Those who travel together, stay together.

Now, let me just check Sky Scanner!

K x

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Kathryn Bigger is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.

I Amsterdam

I Amsterdam

From their original laid-back country to a country filled with thousands of tourists every day, what is Amsterdam really like to visit? From seeing the recent articles published about the popular tourist attraction ‘I Amsterdam’ sign being removed from the city, I decided to reminisce on my trip to Amsterdam in September. I have to say it really is one of the most easy-going countries I have travelled to date and think it is a country everyone needs to experience.

With the recent masses of tourists landing in the city every day, the council decided that they needed to try do something to cut down the number of tourists within the city. I can safely say the city is probably one of the busiest cities I have ever stepped foot in. Every other step you take you’re either going to be hit by a tram or a cyclist. They even have traffic lights for cyclists it’s that bad. Traffic lights!!!! The sign that the city has removed from the Rijksmuseum has been seen as a background in a marketing story, the sign was made to show the individuality within the city however, it turned into a huge tourist attraction and made the city into a marketing ploy. In saying this I don’t understand why they believe the sign being removed is going to deter people from the country, as I myself didn’t see the big deal with the sign. But yes, I was a typical tourist and I did have to go see it and get my photo with the sign…

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Anyway, back to my trip now and why despite the city themselves not wanting tourists here are some of the reasons why I think if you haven’t been to Amsterdam, then you need to book your flight ASAP.

First of, there is the whole legalisation of ‘weed’ not going to lie this is probably the main reason why most people go to Amsterdam. The legalising of this must be doing something right… everyone that I met while I was there were the nicest people you could come across. I know we like to believe that Ireland is the best and we are hands down the nicest people in the world and everyone loves the Irish, I think the Dutch need some recognition when it comes to this trait. Whenever, I first landed we went to one of the cafes it was called 420 café, I had never experienced anything like it. It was a café filled with smoke and everyone just sitting as calm as anything, there was even a cat lying passed out in front of me, which really just sums the country up.  One of the things that baffled me was whenever we went to a bar later that night, I overhead an American man asking the barman could he smoke tobacco inside, bearing in mind that everyone was smoking weed inside the bar… the man said no smoking tobacco it has to be outside. I just couldn’t grasp my head round it. The man then explained and said it’s because they believe weed is good for you where as tobacco is a completely different story.

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Another thing they say to do when in Amsterdam is take a boat trip down their canals. Whenever we decided to do this it ended up raining, but that was not the worst part about it. The boat trip was the most boring thing I have ever endured. But in saying that it clicked whenever I seen that the only people getting on this boat were 40+ I knew we made a mistake with it. Amsterdam is a city that all streets near look the exact same due to the way the buildings look, so if you do decide to take a cruise down the canal, please don’t make the same mistake I did and put the earphones in. Otherwise, you’ll wonder why the driver has been taking you round the exact same part over and over again.

One of the other things I did when in Amsterdam was the ‘ADAM Lookout’. I would recommend this part to anyone, however, make sure you have your bank card with you at it or you won’t get very far. I made the mistake of not bringing one and the only reason we actually got to go was because we pre-bought our tickets, I think it was the only place in the city to not take cash which was strange for such a big tourist attraction. It also is hard to find but if you visit the lookout and find yourself on a boat with about 100-foot passengers, 50 bike passengers and 3 mopeds then you’re in the right direction. When arriving the swing looks terrifying whenever your looking down from below as it is just you are sitting in a swing being swung over the edge of one of the tallest buildings in Amsterdam. But I would recommend you do it as you see some of the nicest views.

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Despite the city looking to cut down the number of tourists visiting Amsterdam, I would highly recommend that if you haven’t been then it is a city you need to experience ASAP. From seeing the red-light district to being swung over the edge of a building, it truly is one of the most beautiful cities.

Kacie O’Connor is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Linked in – Kacie O’Connor; Twitter – @kacieoconnor; and Instagram – @kacieoconnor.

Lil Lemon in the Big Apple

As I sit down to write my second ever blog post the one thing that keeps coming to my mind to write about is New York City and the short time I spent there. This is strange because anytime in person when I try to describe my time there I can never seem to find the words, nor when I do find some words do I feel like they do the place justice. However, I will give it a go.

In a city that never sleeps, I never slept. How could I when being here was something I fantasied over in my dreams for as long as I can remember. It seemed to be a distant dream, one that I never knew would come true so quickly and at the tender age of 21. The television and a movie with NYC in it was the place I’d go to get there on a weekly basis. Once I got there and hopped off the bus it was clear that neither my dreams nor the television ever came close to what it was like actually being there.

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My cousin Micheal and I at Times Square

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge. I will advise you on what not to do though if you are going to walk it. Don’t do it with a hangover and don’t do it in near 40® C heat, it’s a bad combination. This is the most important one, do not under any circumstances bring your luggage consisting of two kit-bags and a full suitcase across it with you. If you can’t check in like us then just do yourself a favour and ditch the luggage. You’ll be doing yourself a favour and taking in the views will be a lot more enjoyable. Also do not dress like a white trash hillbilly like this guy below. There are thousands of people walking across that bridge and they will all give you that same dirty look. I blame Patron Tequila from the night before for the fashion mishap that day.

 

 

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Hillbilly gets picture on the Brooklyn Bridge with all his luggage

Visit Ground Zero. This is where the famous Twin Towers once stood and where the new Tower One stands, dwarfing all the other buildings in the city. Standing and taking in the atmosphere around the footprints of where the Towers once stood before the cowardly attack took place was one of the most surreal things I have ever done. It is hard to describe but everyone just knew to be that little bit quieter. Standing where thousands of people lost their lives would have that effect on people and that little show of respect by the thousands gathering at a time was something I will never forget.

 

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9/11 Memorial site

Get to the top of the Empire State Building. I wouldn’t recommend climbing it quite like King Kong did but each to their own I guess. I’m easy going so I took the elevator. It is a long ride to the top but the elevator music was good. I was in the elevator for a good length of time and could almost hum the tune exactly how it was six months on. The long elevator ride was worth it though, the view was stunning. The sheer size of the city was almost incomprehensible. The fact that I once again had a slight hangover didn’t help with me trying to get my head around this head staggering view that was Manhattan. It’s starting to sound like I have an alcohol problem but I promise that’s not the case. It was one weekend away in New York and I turned 21 that Friday, so cut me some slack.

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Top of the Empire state Building

There are many more famous things to do that I could tell you about but a personal recommendation and one you’ll not get anywhere else is what I’m about to tell you.

Accommodation. When booking a place to stay in New York try to avoid hotels and well known apartment spots. Narrow your searches down to apartments that you haven’t heard of as much but still have a look at the pictures of the place to make sure it isn’t a dungeon. Once you’ve found the spot do not book it online or over the phone. Instead go to the premises and try to bargain with the owner. If you pay cash you’ll be sure to get a massive discount. Also be sure to ask for a top floor room, if you are lucky like me and my friends were you’ll find the exit to the rooftop. No need to go to a rooftop bar when you can have your own. Get a speaker, put on the tunes, crack open a beer and take in your very own rooftop view. It will be hard to find one as good as this spot below but here’s to me hoping you do and that you make it to New York. It is safe to say I will be back and that I found some words to describe my time there. I hope you all take something from this.

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Apartment rooftop views. Two blocks away and standing above was the Empire State Building lit up in French colours on the day they won the 2018 World Cup.

NYC, As You Were. CL x

Connell Lemon is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Instagram – connell_lemon97 ; Facebook – Connell  Lemon.

The trip of a life Thai’me

Yes, your absolutely wrong to think I’m not going to have a cheesy Thailand pun as my title in attempt of being funny- obv. Well in case you didn’t catch on to what the post is about, here we go anyways. In the summer, I spent just under a month travelling around south east Asia with my boyfriend- Shane. And what an experience it was to say the least… from being forced to try burnt scorpion, to receiving a death threat from a Thai taxi driver, and experiencing horrendous food poisoning, its’ just your standard trip to Thailand I suppose? Well in this blog I’m going to be sharing some of my experiences and tips with you, so feel free to have a wee read on.

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Why Thailand?  

Well for one, everyone goes to it, so it must be admired for a reason (yes, I’m a sheep) … and two, your lying if you say it isn’t on your bucket list!

Initially I was extremely hesitant about going away and thought I wouldn’t be able to cope with being on the other side of the world basically. On top of that the whole living out of a suitcase for a month without having my mummy there to do the washing; just wasn’t appealing to me. But here I am, wishing I was back there right now and dwelling on all the class mems I made. In other words, I manned up and would go back in a heartbeat if I could.

So, jumping right in, our trip began in Dublin where we flew to Helsinki and then landed in Thailand- weird I know, everyone usually stops in Dubai as their connecting flight. But when you’re on a student budget and Helsinki is cheaper, it’s the one I’m going to go for.  The flight in total was just abit over 13hrs and to be honest I’m not really a big fan of flying. I’ll admit I cried on the first flight, due to the turbulence being a nightmare, I truly thought I was a goner at a stage, but after a ‘few’ G&T’s the nerves were gonzo. Apart from being dramatic, the flight went in quick enough as there was plenty of cracker movies to watch. Marley & Me and The Greatest Showman certainly kept me occupied.

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The breakdown of our trip:

Bangkok otherwise known as the land of buckets. I remember just arriving into the city and thinking NUTTERS. You know how on a motorway there’s 3 lanes allocated to fit 3 cars? Well they make about 7 cars fit in that space, and then coming up the side of you there’s Susan on the moped with about 4 of her children crammed on it and none of them with a helmet between them. Was stressin’ for them!

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Chaing Mai was OK. I really recommend the ‘Johnny boy elephant sanctuary’. The workers are such good craic and the sanctuary is completely against animal cruelty which is a plus! Although when we were booking the elephants the man told us to get into his van and he would show us some pics- being naïve, we hopped in. After about 20mins sailing around, while the man and his 2 workers were upfront, we started to panic a bit and by a bit, I mean a lot. We assumed the worst and thought we were getting kidnapped, as we couldn’t understand how it was taking so long to see ‘pics’ and why it took 3 men. So anyways we started to tactically plan our big escape, and came up with jumping out of the truck (its like a open back truck thing) at the next red light and make a run for it. Long story short, the wee man’s office just turned out to be situated far away and in the end,  he gave us a free lift to our hotel.

Koh Samuai is an example of why I would recommend booking as you go along, as what you see online is not always what it looks like. The hotel on our first night was basically in a jungle, so yes you can imagine all the creepy crawleys etc lingering around our wee bungalow. Just before we went to bed we heard numerous clicking/ tapping on the door, which really sounded like someone was trying to get in. Being out in the middle of nowhere I was not taking any chances! So I grabbed the hair spray and scissors and had them at the ready incase any baddies were coming in to tackle us. Well it turned out that the clicking noise was a lizard. We seen it run along the floor once we turned the lights on and were both standing screaming on top of the coffee table, like 2 big girls. But there you go lizards make clicking noises and they are EVERYWHERE in Thailand.

Koh Phangan is only good for the full moon party- which is mental. Other than that, it’s pretty boring.

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Koh Toa was my absolute FAV. This island is the best for snorkelling as the water is literally crystal clear, and the island is so stunning, and much cleaner compared to others.

Phi Phi is picture perfect, although when we went it rained bar one day. So, we went to monkey beach, the monkeys are cute to look at but they are so cheeky and try to sneak on to the boats to hitch a lift back to the islands.

Phuket, I got food poising from pizza and was bed bound. Though, its V good for all your fake trainers (hey, fake it till I make it), if you haggle them down that is.

There you are that’s Thailand for you in a short and sweet version, I’ll not bore use to death anymore.

CYA, Clodagh x

Clodagh McFaul is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/clodaghmcfaul/ ; Facebook – https://en-gb.facebook.com/clodagh.mcfaul ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/clodagh-mcfaul-592381173/

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Dive Right In

The travel bug. Me, myself and I was fortunate enough to get bitten by this so-called travel bug back in the latter half of 2014, when I packed a bag, moved halfway across the world. It lasted well over a year until 2016 came swiftly around the corner and then I quickly packed my bags and moved back home to try and accomplish a degree (hopefully).

Since then my life has consisted of, Save. Travel. Save. Travel.

Four years later, and I can swiftly tick off, USA, South Africa, Australia, Thailand, Poland, The Netherlands, Malta, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesian islands of Bali & Gili, and the Philippines.

What has really captured my heart after the equivalent time of 19 months with a backpack glued to my back like a second skin?

Diving.

Having deep sea dived in numerous spots around the world, including Malta, The Great Barrier Reef; Queensland Australia, Gili in Indonesia and Bohol an Island in the Philippines,

I’ve found that nowhere (so far) can compare to Koh Tao. A small paradise island, somewhat isolated in the gulf of Thailand. Anyone that has been to Thailand or not has heard of the partiers dream the ‘Full Moon party’ and having been twice I can say it is a crazy experience. Well Koh Tao is situated just 1-hour boat journey north of the famous Koh Phangan land of the full moon parties and £2.00 Vodka buckets.

In English Koh Tao means ‘’Turtle Island’’ and it certainly lives up to that name let me tell you. No wonder this small island attracts thousands of visitors a year. The natural beauty of the place is close to utopia, both above on the snow white sandy beaches and below the water, with the rainbow coloured fish and corals.

Background check complete, now for diving.

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like a pro

Have you ever put much thought into or considered that there is a whole other world just out of our reach?

With simple breathing equipment, and goggles, a whole other world is at our fingertips. Experiencing the weightlessness while exploring the stunning visuals of the underwater wildlife you are truly immersed and feel like you have jumped into the screen of the latest David Attenborough documentary.

My first visit to Koh Tao, I completed my Open Water Diving course, which is the first diving course to complete, to gain a grasp and learn the fundamentals on diving, you also watch videos before even stepping into a swimming pool, after that you are thrown into the deep end ‘literally’ going to at maximum 18 metres down.

The first time you slowly sink down into the ocean, like that first scene in finding nemo, is pretty surreal. My brain felt like it was going to explode (not literally) but your body is screaming at you to resurface, as it’s the most unnatural thing. Breathing underwater. No matter how many times you silently tell yourself, your mind can’t comprehend how your lungs aren’t gasping for breath, and that you amusingly enough aren’t suffocating.

After my Open water course, the following year I chose to return to Koh Tao complete my Advanced Diving Course.

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When they call it advanced they really mean it. On my first dive I was 28 meters below swimming amongst Nemo and Dory, get this… UPSIDE DOWN. Head nearly in the sand kicking my legs like a propeller because apparently practicing being an underwater helicopter is an essential part of buoyancy skills.

If I asked you on the spot, tell me one of your happiest moments in life? What’s your first thought?

Mine? Hands down my first ever night dive. Pure serenity. My 13th dive to date was my first night dive.

Leaving the beach at 8pm to get on the boat while everyone else is popping open there first (or tenth) beer of the night doesn’t sound ideal, but the humming of the boat as it slowly ripples over the calm ocean water drowning out the white noise of the parties on land has a certain calming nature to it.

Jumping back first into the water with a small torch attached to your wrist, sounds chilling, but slowly sinking into the depths of the unknown wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

Once I was 20 or so metres down, looking up above was a school of stingrays swimming overhead, you would never see this during a day dive. It resembles watching birds fly as the majestically swam peacefully by.

Mind blown.

Next, the barracudas, skilful predators they have adapted to hunt at night as the torches from the scuba divers can sometimes stun a fish in a large school. Then strike… ripped to shreds.

Mind blown. (again)

Lastly the bioluminescence. Turning your torch off and diving in pure darkness, the miniscule particles of plankton at touch illumine. It doesn’t feel like you are underwater but high in the night sky. Psychedelic dancing colours of green, blue, and white right in front of your eyes, seems unimaginable to describe without first hand experiencing it. A mix of relaxation and pure joy. It’s completely different to any other form of scuba diving.

 

Honestly, if given the fortunate opportunity to try scuba diving, without a doubt…

Dive right in.

Alexandra McEvoy is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @alexmcevoy_ ; Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandra-mcevoy-111ba5171/

A Stateside Summer

A Stateside Summer

Home for the next 14 weeks…

Wow! Where do I even begin to describe the BEST summer of my entire life? Well…

The 8th June, 2018 at Dublin Airport <DUB>. The day I left all my friends and family behind for 14 weeks to go and work at a summer camp, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Saying goodbye to my family!(my dad and brother trying not to cry was so cute!)

After a 6 hour flight, I touched down at Logan International Airport, Boston <BOS>.  A couple of hours of waiting around later, the Camp Assistant Directors, Vicky and Kevin came to collect me and a few (equally as nervous) camp-goers. Little did I know, within weeks, these people would become some of my best friends in the world!

A 90 minute bus journey later, and I had arrived at a place I now called home, Camp Burgess and Hayward,  in a small town called Sandwich (lol yes, i know), Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I was greeted by about 10 or so people, who arrived at camp before me (one of them being my best friend Jessie – who i’ll talk about later!). Everyone was immediately so so friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t believe it! First thing was first though…SLEEP! I could feel the jet lag starting to kick in already. The Camp Director, Allie, brought me and another girl, Megan, from Liverpool to our room where we would be staying the ENTIRE summer as ROOMIES!

Where it all began…

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This is the van – my baby for 3 months! Fun fact: in this picture the van was stuck in sand for 6 hours, where we had to be rescued by the local police and then be threatened with a $1000 fine for it to be towed!!!! Luckily enough the tow-truck man loved my accent so let us off for free!

So basically, it’s a funny story how this whole trip came about. I initially never really had much interest or knowledge about the whole ‘Camp America’ thing, but my friend Jessie (who I mentioned before) had applied and was offered a job as a Horseback Director in January, at Camp Burgess and Hayward. She told me that she had got placed and I was over the moon for her, but also envious that I still had no plans for the summer.

Anyway, a few months passed, and in April, Jessie mentioned that the camp was still advertising for people to come and help out for the summer, and that they needed people to be van drivers. As soon as she told me I couldn’t have emailed the Camp Director, Allie any quicker. A whole 3 months at a summer camp, with my best friend, driving around in a van?! SO much fun, I couldn’t say no!

Allie (who was the BEST BOSS EVER) emailed me back and we arranged a phone interview. The interview consisted of questions about my driving abilities where I completely lied and said I had drove 1) an automatic before, 2) a van before and 3) on the other side of the road before. Thankfully Allie trusted me enough to give me the job!

So there it was – I was officially going Stateside for the summer, with 2 months to save up enough money to last me 14 weeks and to fill out enough paperwork to last me a LIFETIME.

A day in the life…

Every single day at camp was so different. There was a general schedule which we followed every day, but what happened within that day just depended. Each morning at 7.50am we would have ‘flagpole’. This was a fun way to start the day where a member of staff would stand up and do something to help wake everyone up, like teach everyone a dance or do some stretches. We then raised the flag and said the Pledge (so American, I know!)

We would then go to the dining hall for breakfast, which was usually something like pancakes or waffles (believe me, after eating the same food every day for 3 months you start to get sick of it). Although the food was always amazing and the kitchen staff worked so hard to cater for almost 400 people a day!

As one of my duties as Resource Specialist (the scientific name for van driver), I would do a run into the local town, Hyannis, which was about 20 minutes away, at 10am, where people would spend their days off. After that, I would usually have somGA3e wee jobs to do  in the morning time, like collect things for camp or do the daily Dunkin’ Donuts run!

Whenever I didn’t have any van related jobs, I would spend my time at the waterfront, playing on the water trampoline, over at horseback with the 12 gorgeous horses we had (Elsa was my favourite) or playing on the slip ‘n’ slide. Yes I know, my summer job was SO DIFFICULT AND BORING!!

Lunch and dinner time in the dining hall was by far one of my favourite parts of the day. Everybody gets up and sings at the top of their lungs, standing up on chairs and dancing around the place like crazy people! At the beginning it is so daunting, because everybody knows each other so well from previous years at camp, and being the new ‘international’, you feel so shy and awkward, but after a few times, you soon start to learn all the words and become just as crazy as the rest!

GA2
This was the big bags of paint that we separated into small buckets. My hands were stained green for DAYS!

At camp, one of the big events was the colour run. This was one of my highlights of camp. The run was 5k around the camp property, and all the kids and staff took part. Hundreds of dollars worth of powered paint was ordered in, there was inflatables, waterguns, a popcorn stand and speakers blasting music all day. The atmosphere was literally unbelievable! It was a day i’ll never forget.

The grand finale of camp was our 2 day long colour war, M&P (Mariners and Pioneers). The Mariners are the blue team, and the Pioneers are the red team. The neutral team in the middle was purple (the team I was on).I can’t put into words how seriously this colour war is taken. Looking back it’s funny because it’s only a colour war at a summer camp, but people get so competitive. There literally was blood, sweat and tears over the course of the 2 days.

The Pionners won this year, and the moment it was announced, the whole camp ERUPTED! It was such an amazing way to end the best 3 months of my life.

After camp ended, me, Jessie and Megan did some travelling for 2 weeks. We went to Boston, New York and New Orleans. Safe to say it was a crazy whirlwind of events. I’ll leave it at that.

Anyway, here I am, a month and a half now i’ve been home. In final year and working 35 hours a week. The joys!! Roll on next June when I can return to the second place I like to call home!

G x

GA4

Grainne Arkins is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/grainne-arkins-a54401173/ and Twitter: @GrainneArkins

 

My summer of a lifetime – 5 things you need to do in Chicago during the summertime

So if your anything like me, you are hating these long, cold winter evenings. I am having serious summer blues and vitamin D withdrawal! What better way to get over these summer blues by reminiscing on the good times….. or just making myself even more upset that summer is over for another year.

NC3

Chicago is the first place I have visited outside of Europe and I must admit – I have a sweet spot for this state and I left my heart there! I traveled to Chicago to work and live in the summer of 2016 for 3 months with a group of friends. I also visited Chicago last year on a mini weekend holiday whilst working in New York.

Chicago was everything and more! From street festivals, rooftop bars to the absolutely breath-taking lakefront, there is a long long list of things to do. Before jetting off for my summer of a life time with my friends I had a bucket list of all the things I wanted to do and see whilst over there!

What to do?

Beach daysNC1

A massive thing I loved about Chicago is you are always within a 10mile radius of the beach, no matter where you are in the city! North avenue beach was a personal favourite of mine, I mean look at that view! It is one of Chicago’s most popular beaches, this beach has everything you need for the perfect chillaxed day at a beach, there are volleyball courts, and a snack area including all my favs, nachos, hot-dogs, cheese fry’s the list goes on! There are also Jet Ski rentals which I highly recommend, and of course the bar! Although don’t say I didn’t warn you, this beach is the busiest in the city, I love the buzz about that but if you are looking for somewhere a bit quieter and relaxing I would suggest oak street beach which is also amazing.

Street festivals

There are endless amounts of street festivals on all the time in Chicago, from music street festivals to food festivals there is something for everyone. Myself and my friends got to work on a food stall at one of the food festivals called Taste of Chicago it was an amazing experience and we also got to go around all the different food stands, I was in my element as you can imagine!

Visit Cindy’s rooftop barNC2

If there’s one thing I love more than drinking in the sun, its drinking in the sun on a rooftop bar taking in the absolutely stunning views. Cindy’s was my favourite, it has the best views of the city and the atmosphere is amazing! Don’t get me wrong we most definitely were not living it up in rooftop bars all summer, we were J1ers after all and of course had to budget, but it was nice to get too treat ourselves every once in a while. We deserved it right?

Free movie in the park

As I mentioned, we were J1ers and some days were completely broke – I’m talking not even enough money to eat sort of broke! We’ve all been there.. Thank god for free movies in the park eh? Chicago park districts movie in the parks line-ups are pretty awesome, some movies myself and my friends went to see were grease, Mrs Doubt fire and footloose, footloose being my all-time favourite! Don’t disagree with me on this one. As you can see we made the most out of this whole free movie thing – just pack yourself some snacks, a blanket and your sorted!

Visit Navy PierNC4

Navy Pier is M-A-G-I-C-A-L, mark my words! Navy pier is one of Chicago’s top attractions, and once you visit you will understand why. Guys I honestly can’t put into words how amazing this place is, the pier has fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night during the summer which are a must see!

So guys if any of you are thinking of going away for the summer to work or just to visit – I highly recommend Chicago, it won’t let you down!

Niamh xx

Niamh Cosgrove 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/niamh-cosgrove-62b986131/