10 tips for both surviving and embracing an Erasmus year in Spain

Erasmus is an amazing opportunity to study abroad in another European country while receiving funding from the EU. I spent my Erasmus year in Madrid, Spain teaching English to children in a primary school, and I had the most amazing year. It has shaped me as a person in so many ways. I can now say I am a more confident person and I can even do my own washing and ironing! Sadly, Erasmus is a scheme that has a rather uncertain future with Brexit around the corner, so I’m here to tell you not only how to survive it, but how to embrace it while it’s still a thing. ‘Cus, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone and all that.

    1. Don’t book your accommodation online. Go and see it first!
      If you are going to be living in these digs for around 9/10 months, they’re going to have to be decent. Imagine booking a place online and paying a reservation fee only to arrive and it still be a building site, and then having to live with no kitchen for your first week, no central heating (the entire time) and worst of all, no WiFi for two weeks. I bet you think I’m joking and that’s a hypothetical situation I’ve just concocted in my head. Well it’s not. It happened to me. Here is some photographic evidence if you still don’t believe me.
    2. Your language skills will only improve if you make the effort.
      If you want to improve your Spanish skills, establish this with every Spanish person you meet when you meet them. If you begin speaking to them in English it will stick. And it’s very awkward and embarrassing to then switch languages half way through knowing a person. Depending on where you are in Spain, there may be a lot of temptation to just speak English. Which is fine if that’s what you want to do, but in my case I was there to improve my Spanish, and sometimes you have to push yourself and make extra effort to do so. If you don’t know any Spanish people you can speak to, research where your local intercambio (language exchange) takes place. These are a fun, relaxed way to practice your language skills, and it’s not intimidating as everyone there is in the same boat!
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    3. If you’re a fussy eater, you might want to stock your suitcase full of supernoodles.
      The food in supermarkets is not the same as at home. The bacon is pre-cooked for you to reheat, ensalada rusa (russian salad) is not the same as coleslaw (do not make this mistake) and if you’re a fan of fajita nights they don’t sell sour cream ANYWHERE. Literally, nowhere. Aside from this, Spanish food is actually really tasty. Try not to stick to just what you’d eat at home, you’re only there for a short time, try something new!
    4. While we’re on the topic of food, I hope you like jamón (ham).
      If you don’t, you should probably just go home. The Spanish are obsessed with ham, and they eat it in all forms, shapes and sizes. Where I was in Madrid, there were even jamón museums. It is really tasty, though, it’s definitely a fad I was able to get on board with.
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    5. Spanish bureaucracy is, to put it straight, a nightmare.
      Getting your documents is a daunting task, I’m not going to lie about it. For some reason in Spain they manage to make everything a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Be aware of the law of ‘falta uno’ (one missing) which refers to the fact that for some reason every time you bring your necessary documents to register for whatever it may be, they will always tell you there is one missing and to come back when you have it. It’s a known phenomenon and it’s incredibly frustrating.
    6. When it’s your birthday, don’t expect everyone to buy you presents. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite.
      At the school I worked in, every time it was someone’s birthday they themselves brought in biscuits, cake, sweets, etc for everyone else. WHY?! Surely they should be the ones being gifted? In Spanish culture, though, the responsibility of celebrating one’s birthday falls on said person. Luckily my birthday was in July after my Erasmus year was over, so I was back home and of course I got presents.
    7. The Spanish have their own concept of time.
      Do not ever take a Spanish person seriously when they ask you to meet them at a certain place at a certain time. Instead, tell them to text you when they’re on their way. They will never be on time. Ever. Spaniards are extremely laid back, to the point where for someone as timely and organised (some may say uptight) as myself, it’s annoying. Spanish time is relative and very vague: mañana is anywhere from 8am-2pm, tarde can last until it’s dark outside, and noche can mean anything from late evening to the early hours of the next morning.
    8. Do not mention Catalonia or the referendum if you don’t want an argument.
      Whether the person is from Catalonia or they’re Spanish, this is a topic that is bound to wind people up. It’s a bit like bringing up the troubles in Northern Ireland with someone you don’t know, you just don’t do it. Unless you’re in the mood for a debate.
    9. Be aware that people will stare at you on public transport.
      Here in Northern Ireland, I’ve come to realise that we’re very private people. We don’t like to know each others business, we stick merely to small talk about the weather and football scores. However in Spain, everyone will watch everything you’re doing. And when you catch them staring, they won’t feel awkward and stop. They’ll continue. And don’t worry if you feel awkward, because they don’t.
    10. Lastly and most importantly, embrace it!
      Moving abroad and experiencing another culture is an amazing opportunity that you may not get again, so grab it with both hands and enjoy every second. Be aware of the little things I’ve pointed out, but also embrace your own culture shock – everyone will make their own observations when living in a foreign environment. The year will be what you make of it, so don’t shy away from the opportunity. This ‘throw yourself into it’ mentality I picked up on my year abroad is probably the reason I took the plunge and decided to study this course which something completely new to me, and it’s exciting!
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Anna Stewart is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Advertising student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @astewart95 and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-stewart-b3127a139/

 

UK versus USA education and culture, the difference across the Atlantic!

In the UK and Ireland, we all have a distinct perception of what college in the U.S. is like, Right?

The parties, the frat houses and the socks and sandals combo – yes it is real!

In general, we aren’t far wrong. But having been there, done that (and bought hundreds of T-shirts) my views have changed and, to be perfectly honest, I prefer it over there!

…and here’s why:

SCHOOL SPIRIT –  

Americans have SO much school spirit! Whether it be a big basketball game or a coffee morning charity event you can’t help but notice everyone wearing the college colours and excessive face paints to show their passion.

People you don’t know or have never met all of a sudden become your best mate just through random events. I LOVED IT!

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WORKLOAD –

I was very surprised by the amount of work! It’s undeniable that the workload in the U.S. is considerably bigger that over here, but the work is definitely worth less of a percentage towards your overall grade.

In other words, if you do badly on an assignment it’s not the end of the world because it’s only worth 10%, unlike our 50% exams at home.

I also had a love/hate relationship with pop quizzes (well more of a hate!).

These are tests at the beginning of class, adding up to a ‘daily grade’, but as long as you’ve done the reading, you’re sorted. These tests also became a godsend because it definitely took the pressure off during midterms and finals – if you did it right, which I certainly learned in second semester.

You do also have to buy the textbook, and I mean ACTUALLY buy it! There’s $100 you’ll never seen again…

GRADING –

Coming from home where it’s considered a miracle to break 70% on your assignments, I arrived in America and suddenly began getting 95% on things. WHAT?!

No matter how many times I got 90%+ on a piece of work, I still always felt like I’d become a genius, destined for Mastermind.

Having said that, one of the nicest adjustments was that Professors in America want a personal relationship with you and to get to know you both inside and outside the classroom. They know your name and not just your ID number and for me that really helped while settling in.

And sometimes, they’ll let you re-do their work if you’re not happy or will offer extra credit so you can boost your grade. Extra credit is literally free marks, just let that sink in for a minute. Free marks?! Completely unheard of at home.

DRINKING – 

Drinking culture is also a huge part of American college life, but because most college students are below the drinking age, a lot of it exists underground — whether that be at house parties, frats, fields, or through the use of fake IDs.

A massive culture shock for me was not being allowed to legally drink or go into pubs and clubs. But to be honest, it was actually nice to not revolve your days around it – like we do at home.

Also, just a heads up – NO ONE in the United States thinks red Solo cups are interesting.

They are seen as the dirty, plastic cups which you spend half of the morning after a party cleaning up and are the ideal beer pong receptacle. But because they are ever-present at American parties, they have made it onto TV and because American college movies are watched everywhere, red Solo cups are now “a thing” abroad. Weird.

 

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HUMOUR AND GENERAL LINGO-

Or should I say ‘humor’…

Sometimes in British humour the jokes on you – Americans cannot grasp that. Plus, we use irony, A LOT.

But when Americans use irony, they will often immediately admit it by adding an unnecessary “just kidding”, even if the statement is outrageous and obviously ironic.       For example, “If you don’t come out tonight, I’m going to shoot you… just kidding.”

Don’t get me wrong, Americans can fully appreciate irony, I just think they don’t feel as comfortable using it on each other in case it causes hurt or anger. Whereas over here, we use sarcasm as both a shield and a weapon. We mercilessly take the hand out of people we like or dislike. And also ourselves, in fact, even more so ourselves!

It’s not so much about having a different sense of humour, but more an all-round different approach to life. Americans are not embarrassed by their emotions and they applaud ambition and openly reward success. It’s an openness that always made me feel slightly guilty and apologetic when their achievements were met with silent appreciation, rather than claps and shouts – we just don’t do that. We avoid sincerity until it’s absolutely necessary.

A major thing I noticed is how Americans say, “have a nice day” whether they mean it or not. Here we wouldn’t dream of it! I don’t know whether it’s because we don’t want to sound insincere or because we don’t want to celebrate anything too soon.  As bad as it sounds we are so much more pessimistic and expect the worst. Americans are brought up to believe they can be the next president of the United States. Over here we’re told, “Have a plan B, in case things don’t happen for you.”

FOOD

Ah, ONE of America’s greatest assets.

A friend of mine once said “American food means taking everything you learned about moderation and healthiness growing up, and completely ignoring it.” I mean, what’s not to love?

US students can NEVER go hungry, especially if they have an unlimited meal plan, just one swipe away from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even without a meal plan, you can sometimes use the dining hall for as little as $5, then eat all the food you possibly can and get a box to go for later.

This is very unlike the UK and Ireland where, by week 12 you’re living off beans on toast because you’ve almost completely run out of your loan (and by almost I mean ‘ran out two months ago’).

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I could talk ALL DAY about the differences between here and the U.S.

I think it’s so important that each of us get the chance to experience different cultures and interact with different people at some stage in our lives. It’ll definitely change how we see things and if you’re in anyway like me, how you say things…

and so on that note,

Have a nice day y’all!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

5 Things to do at Lake Garda

Lake Garda has been the most beautiful, relaxing and magical place I’ve ever been to so far on my journey’s.  Lake Garda is a spectacular lake located in Northern Italy, created during the Quaternary Ice Ages (1.5 million years ago).

When visiting Italy (in September), I stayed at Riva Del Garda located at the top of Lake Garda. It is surrounded by imposing mountains and sparkling blue water, and is known for its medieval towers, Renaissance churches, and narrow cobblestone streets.

What I loved most about Lake Garda was its picturesque villages, medieval castles and lakeside promenades that created a unique magical experience for me. So here are 5 things that I recommend you should try on your trip to Lake Garda:

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1.     Visit the Santa Barbara Church

The Santa Barbara Church is located up in the high mountains beside Riva Del Garda (the top of Lake Garda). The small Chapel to Saint Barbara was built in 1935 by the miners who worked on the conduits of the Ponale power plant. Its panoramic views are breath taking. It took me around 3 hours or so to go up and down to visit the church. Unfortunately we picked a day were the rain poured from the skies while we trekked up, but it made the adventure all the more memorable and exciting.

However, one think to note, when you first see it, it is so tiny from the town (almost like a dot) that you would think it is impossible to get to, and when you are walking it can be a little dangerous at times. But when you reach the top it really is a gift to the eyes and a feeling you’ll never forget!

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2.     Visit the picturesque villages

On my stay I visited two beautiful villages beside Riva Del Garda by boat called; Malcesine and Limone.

The picturesque Malcesine, framed for its medieval Scaligero Castle is magnificent. The charming village is surrounded by breath taking landscapes and embellished by architectural treasures. It has cobbled lanes and a breathtaking castle, crammed between the blue lake waters and the massive mountain ridge behind (Monte Baldo). If I were to get married abroad I think I would choose this castle in Malcesine because of its fairytale beauty.

There are pretty little squares, cafes and restaurants, and shops selling ice-cream, handbags, shoes, limoncello (a local drink) and clothes. The main harbour is typical of Lake Garda: small, attractive, filled with boats and lined with cafes. A short distance away is the old port, the Porto Vecchio, a quieter spot with good lake views, curious sculptures and more restaurants. There is also a cable-car running up to Monte Baldo which is highly popular and gets very busy as the day goes on. The trip in the cable car will take you 1,800 metres above sea level, with spectacular views. It is perfect for capturing an incredible view and for cyclists, walkers and paragliders.

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Limone, is another small village backed by lemon groves, with waterside cafes and cobbled streets lined with shops.

The heart of the old town is the little harbour, the Porto Vecchio (‘Old Port’). It is a very small town and when I went (in September) it was packed with tourists. However it is a peaceful and relaxing place to stop by and have a coffee or an ice-cream, to admire the lake views. Its narrow streets are lined with tourist shops along the shore and up the slopes behind. While you’re here you can also tour an old lemon grove, the Limonaia del Castèl or visit the small Chiesa di San Rocco church close to the old port.

One thing I might add is to avoid buying touristy items here, as you can get them much cheaper in the city. I made the mistake of buying a Venetian mask here and found them cheaper in Verona. Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during the Carnival (Carnival of Venice), to hide the wearer’s identity and social status.

3.     Go cycling – hire a bike

There are so many bikes shops and so many people on bikes! Take advantage of your health and the weather and hire a bike out for the morning to enjoy a scenic cycle. We went mountain biking on Sentiero della Ponale beside Riva del Garda, and the views were amazing.

Although, there are so many routes to choose from ranging from beginners to advanced, you can go up into the mountains or around the lakes. Seeing Lake Garda by bike couldn’t be easier!

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4.     Paddle on Lake Garda

While my trip was on a budget, we took out a little paddling boat with a slide called a Pedalos to enjoy the lakes natural beauty. The clear and calm waters of the lake make it easy to unwind. Plus there were a lot of people also out kayaking , canoeing and on stand up paddle boards. Or you could always hire out a boat for the day and adventure down to the South side of the lake.

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5. Visit a Wine Vinery

On my trip I visited a beautiful vinery in the mountains called Villa Calicantus. We had dinner there as part of a tour group, and of course I was eating their delicious pasta. After dinner, went out to the vineyard for a wine (which was more like a few rounds of shots – because I tried them all), and listened to music amd talked. A very beautiful place!

Lake 7

To sum up, Lake Garda is one of the most romantic locations of natural beauty, and is a MUST to go on to your bucket list for travelling (preferably with your partner).

 

Shannon Doyle is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @shannond_761 / Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-doyle-28b827109 

Working with the General Public… It’s not always plain sailing

Working with the General Public… It’s not always plain sailing

They say to work in PR you have to have the best of the best in communication skills. Now you can study these skills at university or on a night out, but nothing will teach you the art of communication better than a job that requires you to work face-to-face with the general public.

As someone who has spent 4 years in retail and a further 2 years working in the travel industry for a shipping company, I’ve had my fair share of time with the general public. And because of this, I’ve learned the hard way that the general public will challenge your ability to communicate professionally and push you dangerously close to crossing that unprofessional line. So, I thought I would share some of the nuggets of knowledge ive gained in my career so far and how they could benefit you in a job in the future.

  1. Non-Verbal Communication – there is no skill you will build more than the ability to control your non-verbal forms of communication. We’ve all been there. It’s 5.29pm and you’ve 1 minute left of your shift. You’re thinking about getting home to your dinner and a glass of wine when all of a sudden a face appears at the door. Now you want to give the customer the benefit of the doubt, maybe they didn’t check their watch or maybe they just need to grab something quickly. We all know this is not the chase. Usually it’s a woman who believes the entire shop will stay open just for them to come in and have a little look about. It is at this moment the anger and the resentment starts to creep into your face. But you smile through it, because even though they’ve ruined your night (albeit 5 minutes of it) it’s the professional thing to do.

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  1. Embracing Shift Work – PR for the most part is a 9-5.30pm job, Monday to Friday. But jobs like retail and travel, are most certainly not. There’s nothing a student loves more than good Saturday shift followed by a Sunday shift to wipe out their social plans, hence the various student nights during the week. You never get to experience that ‘Friday Feeling’ those professional folk talk about because the weekend means work. But the one thing shift work will teach you, is the ability to work well with little sleep and to be flexible. One night I’ll work 6pm – 11pm and then the next day work 6am – 3.30pm. That’s dedication to the job and to a complete lack of sleep. But you do it and you live. It also proves to future employers that you can make time for work and are committed to the company, at least that’s what I tell myself at 5am.

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  1. The customer is not always right – its probably the most cliched saying when it comes to work, but I can confirm that the customer is not always right, but they certainly think that they are. I’ll take an example of this from a few days ago at my part time job. I work for a ferry company and on this night, I was checking in vehicles that were traveling over to Scotland. Like most travel companies such as airlines etc, if you’ve made a mistake in your booking, you are liable to a cost to change such mistake. It happens more often than you would think but customers often book their travel arrangements the wrong way around. So instead of sailing from NI to Scotland, they’ve done Scotland to NI. Now most people who make this mistake are a little embarrassed but generally are happy for you to amend the mistake which can incur a cost. But there’s always that one customer who believes you are doing this simply to annoy them. I can confirm we are not. The first sentence that usually leaves the mouths of those who believe that the customer is always right is ‘are you sure?’. Yes I am. I’m not making it up for a laugh, you’ve done it wrong. On the night in question I had this from a gentleman who had booked the wrong. Now the important thing here is that, this was not my mistake, this was his. But given the 10 minutes this man spent yelling in my face about how much I was making his journey hell (by fixing his mistake so he could actually travel) and his threats to travel with the rival company instead of paying the amendment fees (which would have cost a lot more than the payment I needed from him) he did in fact prove to me that the general public will blame anyone if it means not admitting their own mistakes, and they seem to think you are their verbal punching bag.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I will never be rude to a customer, you can be as rude to me as you like and I won’t yell or be rude back. But if someone continues to yell at me, I will not go out of my way to help them unsurprisingly.

These are just 3 examples of the things ive learned working in a job that puts me face-to-face with the general public. Stay calm, smile when you have to, always be flexible and remember in a situation where you are the one with the knowledge of how your profession works, more often than not you will be in the right, not someone with little experience in what you do for living.

These are skills that can be taken to every single job and it’s why I believe that only once you’ve spent time working with the general public are you ready for a job in communications, because only then do you understand the way in which you should hold yourself in the professional world.

Kirsty Wallace is a final year BSc Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/kirsty-wallace-851504115 and on Twitter @KayyWallace

 

Great things never come from comfort zones – Study USA!

Imagine this – you wake up one morning, you’re lying in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange country, all alone. Scary right?

Wrong, it’s the exact opposite!

…And I’m here to tell you why.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate ordinary. I hate getting up every day, doing the same thing, going to the same places and having the same experiences. So that’s why last year I swapped my standard, routine and completely average student life in Belfast for an unforgettable year studying abroad in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Where do I even begin? *gulps to hold back tears*

The BEST thing about my year away was the people that I met. If any of you are reading this you’ll know exactly who you are!

Before I left I never imagined myself being in the situations I was in and getting the opportunity to meet the most amazing people. Arriving in the U.S. I was the ‘foreigner’, a strange thought but true. I thought I would be the weird one, the one who stood out – but I was wrong.

There are people from all over the world at college in America. Some of my best friends came from completely different continents, and learning about them and their culture made daily life so much more interesting.

My year away was a whirlwind to say the least. I got to experience some AMAZING American events, I felt like a fully-fledged citizen after a while!

I was there for the most controversial U.S Presidential Election (that was something else – to say the least!) American Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, Christmas in NYC and Spring Break in Canada. I mean come on, who wouldn’t cut off their left arm for that?

 

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Having said that, we definitely celebrated some things the Irish way. A blurry pub crawl hitting every Irish bar in Philly was a 21st birthday not to be forgotten and running through the streets in Boston on St. Patricks day with face paint and flags makes me cringe, smile and cry all at the same time!

It was only then I realised, adventure is the best way to learn. Why not do everything while we’re young?

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where reality hits, and it hits HARD.

When the rain and snow is beating off the library window and you’re up to your eyes in deadlines and textbooks. You suddenly realise you’re 3000 miles away and you can’t just pop home for a cup of tea, wheaten bread or an infamous Sunday roast.

But that’s O.K.

Having had a couple of those days myself I can safely say for every bad day there are 30 great ones. Do not let yourself be put down, have a break, take a walk and go again.

As I write this, my heart is broken. My year is over and I have had to leave my ‘home’ and best friends to come back to my home and best friends. Not many people can say that.

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I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, the chance to live and study in America doesn’t come around very often.

It was only when I returned home that I realised how life-changing the year was. I had seen America’s true colours, my eyes had been opened and I had changed indefinitely.

Before I finish, I’d like to leave a few tips for anyone considering studying or doing placement/ post-grad work abroad.

My ‘wish I knew before going away’ Tips

  1. You don’t need that extra suitcase
  2. You won’t drink a good cup of tea all year
  3. Hope for the best but plan for the worst
  4. Study/Work abroad is an emotional cocktail (not a rollercoaster)
  5. Learn how to read a map and navigate without your iPhone.
  6. Forget yourself in a new country and make memories, leave the FOMO at home.
  7. Join a club, whether it’s a sports team or cheerleading or chess. You’ll meet so many people and it’s a great way to get involved!
  8. Sleep is for the weak, say yes to EVERY adventure (even if it is going for Dunkin at 4am).
  9. Reverse culture shock is worse than initial culture shock, prepare yourself.

 

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What have you got to lose?

‘It’s better to look back on life and say “I can’t believe I did that…” than to look back and say “I wish I did that…”’

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/ lauren-kearns-90819710b

The Best Five Days!

                           ‘New York; Concrete Jungle where dreams are made of…’                                Shop to you drop, eat until you explode and sight see until your eyes ache.

                                                             28/10/17 – 02/11/17                                                                                                                7 girls, 5 days, 4 nights

When thinking of what to write about for my next blog it appeared obvious- my latest adventure…

As I boarded our direct flight from Dublin to Newark Airport- a number of things circulated in my head. I wonder what New York is like? I wonder if it really is a concrete jungle? Do they actually have yellow taxis like you see in movies? Is it as busy as people make it out to be?

YES. YES. YES. They do!

Even though it is known as ‘The City that Never Sleeps’, it is almost impossible to see New York in 5 days. Even if you lived here for 4 months I still don’t think it would be enough time to actually see it all! I seen quite a lot when I was there and I think I got about 16 hours sleep the whole time!

5 Must Do’s When In New York and 1 Don’t

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  1. Shop to you Drop- Jersey Gardens

AMAZING DISCOUNTS AND AMAZING SHOPS. From Tommy Hilfiger to Ralph Lauren to Victoria Secret. This place is amazing! Just remember your passport and you get a book full of discounts and freebie coupons to shop with until your hearts content.

 

  1. Hop on, Hop off Open Top Bus Tour is best for Sightseeing

A MUST HAVE. ThAR25is bus saved our legs for 5 days! Sounds silly but so true! Buses run basically 24/7 and stop at all of the key tourist attractions, streets and landmarks. Within our package we got four tours; an Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn and Night time tour as well as entry into two main tourist attractions for $100! It also included the boat over to Statue of Liberty 🙂

Although heights are not my forte, if you would like to observe the whole city from above, the Rockefeller Center and the Empire State building are a must do! If I was to pick one of the two, I would go to the Rockefeller Center as you can see the Empire State building from it and the queues aren’t just as mad! Personally I think it is best to go at night to see                                                        the beautiful view and the millions of lights!

  1. Carlos Bakery & Stardust Diner are AMAZING!

After a fun filled day shopping at Jersey Gardens we stopped off and had a bun and coffee at Carlos Bakery. Carlos Bakery is an attraction in itself with lots of treats and tasty desserts 🙂

Stardust Diner is a must-do also! Ever wanted to feel like you were part of a Broadway show while eating breakfast, lunch or dinner? Have characters from all different Broadway shows dance on the tables and have a singsong while others serve your food on rollerblades?

  1. Tiffanys- Treat Yo Self!AR22

If you are into jewellery and think that you deserve a treat then Tiffanys is definitely a good shout! Although if you are indecisive like me, make sure the company you are with don’t mind waiting as there is an awful lot of amazing jewellery to pick from! 🙂

 

  1. The Statue of Liberty

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The Statue of Liberty is a must-do! (Although hopefully you won’t have the same experience as I had) The Statue of Liberty is bigger than you could ever imagine and a prime spot to get the ultimate insta pic! We stayed on the boat and did not get off as the boat does a loop around the statue and given the short time frame that we were there for we didn’t want to waste any time! It was at the Statue of Liberty on the second last day when we knew that something was wrong…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        6. 31/10/17 – Halloween Day – 3:30pm – 8 killed, 12 injured                          

We were walking alongside the harbour (shown below) looking for the boat over to the statue when the commotion started. Police, ambulances, helicopters and pedestrians frantically running on the other side of the street. As we spotted the boat we seen the Captain frantically waving and shouting ‘Everyone onboard… last boat, last boat!!!’ It was only 3:30pm… why was it the last boat of the day? Alarm bells started to ring and we started to run onto the boat… as the boat started to leave I looked at my phone- 8 messages from family and friends asking if I was ok and if I was anywhere near the trouble in New York. The attack was breaking news on Sky and was all over different news channels worldwide.AR30

Eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured after a man drove a truck nearly a mile down a bike path in lower Manhattan striking pedestrians, cyclists and a school bus.

After smashing into the school bus, injuring two adults and two children, the 29-year-old suspect exited the truck displaying “imitation firearms”. The suspect was shouting “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for “God is great”, before he was then shot by police in the stomach. The suspect was arrested, and a paintball gun and a pellet gun were recovered at the scene.

Donald Trump tweeted about the incident: “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!”

Despite all this, I have already planned another trip back to New York at Christmas, this time to visit a cousin who is going there on placement! Next time I will definitely squeeze in a Broadway Show, a basketball game and a horse and carriage ride around Central Park 🙂

Love,

Aimee xo

Aimee Rourke is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aimee-rourke-593013109/ 

Eat, Sleep, Rave, REPEAT!

If you’re a young, wild & free, hungry partier in search of paradise then look no further, Tomorrowland will have you sorted! If you’ve ever been to Tomorrowland you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say it’s ‘out of this world!’ However, with 200,000 tickets up for grabs, it can be a pretty scary place for a couple of girls. To make things even scarier, we didn’t know anyone who had been before so we were really ‘wingin’ it! Nevertheless, eager to go and failing to pull together a crowd, we thought ‘frig it’- two will do.

Deciding to go only weeks before the festival was due to take place obviously meant we couldn’t get tickets from the Tomorrowland website itself so we got them on Viagogo. Before purchasing we had read many bad reviews about Viagogo and so were a bit nervous that we were about to purchase fake tickets but we were willing to take the risk. Just short of £1,200 later, we were the proud owners of two Tomorrowland tickets. Real or fake? – We didn’t know. We booked the flights to Brussels and we were good-to-go!

With very little thought put into the trip, before we knew it, we were on our way! As we sipped on our ‘Sex on the Beach’ cocktails in the airport, we had no idea what was ahead of us. So here you have it, tip 1: leave all your worries behind, they don’t belong where you’re going.

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It’s all fun and games until you find out your tent isn’t included so tip 2: find out if your camping equipment is included before you arrive, unless you want to buy an overpriced tent or run the risk of them being out of stalk. PS. ‘Full Madness Pass WITH Camping’ does not include camping equipment! I repeat, does not include camping equipment!

We arrived to the campsite, Dreamville, where we finally found out our tickets were legit, (much to our relief) got our passes and scanned through. It was like a direct pass to paradise. We made our way along the wooden boardwalk, amidst 40,000 people trying to get settled in, it was a bit overwhelming. Tip 3: get there early to allow enough time to get organised and prepare for the Gathering Party, it’s well worth it and gives you a taster of what Tomorrowland has in store.

Woken by the sound of music much too early when severely hungover, we got up and spent some time exploring Dreamville and all it’s magical creations. So tip 4: bring earplugs if you’re not a morning person. With tons to see and do we weren’t long passing a few hours. All kinds of entertainment was on offer including their own newspaper, radio station, supermarket, tattoo parlour, Mac makeup shop and a hairdressers. We honestly couldn’t get our heads around this place, surprisingly though, it took very little time to settle in and it soon felt like home.

As we made our way from Dreamville into Tomorrowland it became very clear that the incredible line up of EDM DJ’s wasn’t the only reason people travel from every country across the globe to unite together at Tomorrowland. With so much more to offer than the music and in many ways very over-the-top, it’s so incredibly unique. We wandered through what I can only describe as a ‘fantasy land,’ attempting to comprehend what exactly it was we were experiencing. Everything was so finely carved and crafted to suit the magical theme, with surprises around every corner, it was hard to take it all in. Tip 5: explore every inch.

We made our way to the main stage for the opening act, the immense crowd put us off going anywhere near the front of the stage so we opted for the hill at the back which gave the best view and room to dance – double win! The main acts that night were Tiësto, Axwell & Ingrosso and Steve Aoki. As floods of people gathered and the stage lit up, I’ll never be able to put what I was feeling and seeing into words. It’s true that the main stage gives the best atmosphere and it really is the life and soul of the party’ but, tip 6: make sure to visit all of the stages, there are 16 and they all have new experiences to offer with their own unique theme and vibe.

Tip 7, and one from your mum: stick together (and be good!) Festivals are so much fun but they can also be dangerous so it’s important to have a meeting point because with 200,000 people around it’s so easy to get separated. Managing to somehow lose my phone twice in three days meant we relied heavily on meeting points.

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Unfortunately though, all good things come to an end with Tomorrowland being no exception. Monday comes around quick and before you know it, it’s time leave the fantasy land and all the people of Tomorrowland and head back to reality! People say there’s no place like home, but really, there’s no place like Tomorrowland! It exceeded all of my expectations and I will be back. Tip 8: book a day or two off work – you’re going to need it!

‘Live today, love tomorrow, unite forever’ – Tomorrowland.

Jessica Patterson is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @JessPatterson16 / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-patterson-79a755113/