Fear and Loathing in Kingman, Arizona

For my first blog post for the Ulster PR Student blog I decided to write about a topic / experience I consider important and the impact that it had on myself as an individual. In the summer of 2018, I embarked on a road trip across the United States of America with my three best friends in a Dodge caravan.

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This motley crew consisted of a German American named Yanique Apgar, Jake Becker from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, two Irish men (including myself) and a lad from Carland, County Tyrone. One thing we shared in common? We had all met at a summer camp in Fryeburg, Maine in 2017.

The surreal and bizarre choice of wording for my title is deliberate and a direct reference to Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.’ A basic synopsis of the novel revolves around journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr. Gonzo as they travel to Las Vegas in 1971 in search of the ‘American Dream.’

From an early age I’ve found the concept of the American Dream and American culture fascinating. One of the many definitions available describe it as ‘the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.’ Basically, meaning if you work hard enough you are entitled to the millions of dollars that you deserve.

When myself and my friends planned this road trip spanning from East coast to West coast, I was excited to see if the American consumerism and excess Hunter Thompson described in his novel still existed and if Las Vegas still symbolized the coarse ugliness of mainstream American culture. So, in a way, we were looking for the American Dream as well.

‘Buy the ticket, take the ride.’

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The first phase of our trip involved a 17-hour over-night drive from Boston, MA to Nashville, TN. The layout of the people carrier we were driving allowed for two passengers to sleep in the back (since the seats could be concealed in the body of the vehicle), whilst there was a driver and co-pilot in the front. The foggy descent along the East Coast travelling through New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and West Virginia into the South was an endurance test for all of us. My last recollection of the East coast was seeing the bright, high-standing structures of New York City, as I had decided to rest in the back and take the second shift of driving once, we arrived in Nashville.

We arrived in Nashville and had decided to enjoy one night on the town. We visited the main strip, a variety of vintage guitar shops and famous honky-tonk bars, a brief taste of what southern culture had to offer.

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Then came the bruiser…

My friend Jake had contacts in Golden, Colorado who we had decided to meet up with. Our trip was based on a 10-day window to arrive in San Diego, CA as I had to board a flight to NYC to meet my family. This meant I was riding shotgun for a 17-hour drive straight through the night through both Missouri and Kansas. This was a change from the opulence and wealth you’d experience on the East coast. Both Missouri and Kansas hold proud agricultural significance for the US, but what did this mean for us? 1,000 miles of driving through corn fields…

When we arrived in Colorado however, we were treated like kings. Jake’s friend’s family put us up in their mansion located in the Rocky Mountains.

After four days of wining and dining like celebrities in Denver, Boulder and Golden Colorado, it was time to travel the most significant leg of our trip, through the Utah desert.

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We had been experiencing problems with the axel of the caravan, this problem only escalated when approaching state lines leaving Utah and into Arizona. One of our back tires exploded on the desert highway leaving us stranded. After two hours with limited signal coverage a friendly passer-by stopped his pickup to offer assistance.

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The good Samaritan was a Native American who explained to us that his ‘son owned a reservation down the road,’ and that he would be more than happy to offer assistance. When we arrived on the reservation, we couldn’t help but notice how harsh the living conditions of the desert were for native American families living there. But also, a feeling for admiration for how resilient they must have been to continue life as normal in such a hostile environment.

Where was the reservation located? Around 50 miles outside the city limits of Las Vegas…

This made me reflect on the writings of Hunter Thompson and his critique of whether or not the American Dream was still alive and it’s relevance during our era.   Has the ‘get rich quick’ culture popularised today with social influencers, multi-media conglomerates and celebrity youth culture made us lose our moral compass?  Did me and my friends find the American Dream?

Francis Sherry is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Instagram: frankoosherry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How NOT to backpack around Brazil

Ever heard of the phrase “life’s too short”? Of course you have, (Everyone has that pushy friend that says it when they want to get you to go out). Thankfully, this blog is not about going out (partly because there wouldn’t be much to write as I don’t remember) instead I’m going to tell you about my trip to Brazil and give you advice on how NOT to backpack.

Julia my friend from work managed to convince me to go backpacking around brazil this summer for 5 weeks by reciting the line ‘life’s too short’. I thought about it, and agreed, after all, travelling for 5 weeks is a lot better than working for 5 weeks. So, on the 4th July we set off on our travels.

We arrived in Rio after a 13-hour flight from London, we were so excited to finally be in Brazil and believe it or not, we had an amazing flight.

Top tip – Board the plane last. Honestly you will have the best flight ever (although the food is still going to be gross) if you’re the last person to board, you are able to see what seats are free, and if you’re extremely lucky like we were, you’ll get a whole row to yourself to sprawl across. This definitely made the flight more bearable.

I have a few Do’s and Do not’s that I would like to share with you all.

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Photos from our first week in Brazil. Believe me that backpack is a lot heavier than it looks.

Do make sure to book your accommodation in advance. Do not walk around on youfirst day, with an 18kg backpack for 3 hours. Believe me your legs get tired and if you’re anything like me you end up very hangry.

Do find out exactly where your hostel is and make sure it is legit. Do not walk up and down the same street 40 odd times to find out the hostel you’re looking for had actually closed down 3 years ago. Duhh.

Do get your phone unlocked before you go away so that any local sim card will work. Do not leave it until you arrive in Brazil and find out you can’t get a local sim card that will work. After going around five phone companies trying their sims in our phones and having no luck, we accepted that our phone bills were going to be sky high (sorry mum).

Do check the dates that certain attractions are open. Do not travel for 30 minutes and arrive on the ONLY day they are closed (typical).

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I did not enjoy the train as much as picture one would lead you to believe. Picture 4 was rough.

Do download the Uber app and get Ubers absolutely everywhere. They are so cheap and convenient. Do not try and navigate yourself around Brazil without a map and just hope for the best. Believe me, before we discovered just how handy and cheap Ubers were, our journey to get somewhere was at least 5 times longer.

Do make sure you plan your trips well and have a way home. Do not get stranded at the top of Christ the redeemer. There are no taxis that can get you home and it’s a very, very, very long walk down.

Do make sure that you have a good time when you go out to a bar and stay sober enough to make it home, with your belongings is a bonus. Do not get too drunk and lose your purse in an Uber. Yes, this did happen to me. Caipirinha’s are not your friend, they may taste delicious (especially the raspberry ones) but they are dangerous. I finally got my purse back 2 days later, after many calls to Uber.

Do make sure you travel around and get to see all parts of Brazil. Do not book an 8-hour bus journey when you are hungover. 8 hours feels like 80 hours.

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A few pictures from our time in the Amazon. it was AMAZING.

Do go to the Amazon, it is one of the best places in the world. We experienced so many things here and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Do not book a ‘floating’ hostel. Yes, floating hostels are actually a thing. Our Uber driver dropped us off in the middle of the amazon forest and told us ‘we had arrived at our destination’ all for us to get out of the car and find an empty warehouse. He quickly sped off so we were stranded with no 3g, wifi or signal. Eventually we made it Bear Grylls would be proud.

Do make your own meals in hostel kitchens, it makes it a lot cheaper. Do not give yourself food poisoning, especially when you do it 6 hours before your flight. This might be a case to too much information but I’m glad aeroplanes have toilets.

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Picture one is the dish that gave us food poisoning (bet you aren’t surprised).

Do check the weather forecast before going to sugar loaf. Do not rock up on the one and only day it seems to be lashing down.

Do make sure you have enough time between your connecting flights. Do not leave yourself one hour between the two flights. We were travelling home on the day that British Airways had an absolute nightmare. Once we landed, we couldn’t get off the plane for 40 minutes therefor had 20minutes to sprint through the airport to get to the other side to board your plane and find out you’ve also lost boarding pass for the second time in a day.

Yes, we were only away for five weeks and yes, we had quite a number of disasters, probably too many. But do not regret my time travelling? No, not at all. I had the most amazing experience and after all ‘life’s too short’ so make the most of it while you can.

Thanks for reading and please do learn from my mistakes.

 

Molly Stevenson is a final year BSC in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at – Instagram: @molly_stevensonn ; Facebook: Molly Stevenson ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-stevenson-4bb39115b/.

Placement, In Retrospect

Everyone’s placement journey is different, for some of us we may find our dream job in one interview and for others, it may take several bottles of Rescue Remedy and endless nights on Glass Door.com.

What I learnt from the placement process is the most important thing you have to market is yourself, or how about, #SWOTYourself?

Strengths

Yes, we all did well in our A Levels, we’re here for that reason – we work hard, but we are not homogenous. Each of us offers something unique to future employers, some of us know what that is and some of us don’t but if the fit is right for you, your placement will be your match.

Try your best not to let your nerves get the best of you – excel in your strengths and your ability to communicate your ideas on why you are the best match for the prospective placement.

Weaknesses

My name’s Olivia McKearney and I completed six placement interviews; the first 1-4 were train wrecks. I prepped for each for them, had pages of notes of buzz words memorised but when I sat in front of the panel, everything was forgotten. I stuttered answers even though I knew I was more than capable to answer those questions.

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After each politely worded rejection I gave up for a few months, I applied for a final two placements and gave myself the ultimatum that if I didn’t get them I would go straight to final year – which is a completely worthy path but not the one I had planned to pursue.

On a Wednesday in May I had my fifth interview and I went in with one thing that had been absent from disasters 1-4, Confidence. I wasn’t intimidated anymore by the people across the table, I was able to converse with them because I knew the answers, and I didn’t need memorised statements.

The next day, I had my sixth interview. That afternoon, I was offered both placements and chose to accept McKeevers Chemists based in my home county of Armagh. You wait for a bus and two come at once.

Don’t become disillusioned, it will work out.

Opportunities

These prospective employers are here to give us opportunities to succeed, they wouldn’t have advertised the role if they didn’t want us, we’ll be taken seriously and treated professionally. I can only speak to my own experience when I say I received an unprecedented amount of opportunities on this year. From event planning, social media influencer outreach and content creation, this year provided the building blocks to my future career.

Don’t let anyone look down on your chosen placement, I have had, and still have people question the experience of what you can “really” achieve in a local company – check out my CV.

Some people remain largely ignorant to the effects of marketing, but not us as students, take every opportunity you can.

Threats

The obvious threat is that of competition amongst fellow students. We’ve faced that our entire educational career and it’s not going anywhere. As I said, you are unique as a person, better yourself and let employers see the real you across the desk – don’t let the biggest threat to success be you.

Placement was a pivotal year for me; I become financially stable and massively independent;

  • I travelled the West Coast of America for three weeks with my best friend.
  • I made my way to Budapest for a once in a lifetime music festival.
  • I realised the career path I want to endeavour and enhance my skills at.
  • I made wonderful friends and connections.
  • I achieved my own personal KPIs and know that I am more than capable and deserve my standing in the future of Communications.
  • I made myself proud.

If I can do it, you can too.

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Olivia McKearney is a Final Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mckearney  

 

 

Bali, Indonesia.

As a CMPR student I am constantly being encouraged to create a blog. With so many people asking me about my recent trip to Bali I thought this may be more convenient for those asking and helpful for me. I really hope you enjoy this and I don’t come across as a complete DOSE.
•DUBAI
Firstly, I feel it’s necessary that I discuss my stop In Dubai.
We stayed in Dubai for 3 nights/ fours days at the Wyndham Dubai Marina. The location of our accommodation was very convenient and there are numerous other places to stay in this region. Staying here meant we were very close to the famous pier 7 and the Dubai marina.
Most connection flights to the south east Asian  including Bali, Thailand and the Philippines stop in Dubai. I decided to stay in Dubai for an extra few days as I have never visited there and was curious to get a feel for their luxury/ wealth.

However the main reason was because the flight to Bali alone is 17 hours.

I chose to stop in Dubai on my way to Bali and not on my way back because my biggest fear was being to exhausted with the travelling and time difference that I wouldn’t enjoy Bali. Dubai is 4 hours ahead of Ireland and Bali is 7. I wanted to wean myself in as I knew my sleeping pattern wouldn’t be use to the drastic change.
So many celebrities take regular trips to Dubai and they are constantly posting their luxurious photographs on Instagram. They made certain places like the five palm Jeremiah look out of this world. I was eager to visit here and after making the time for a famous candy brunch I can confirm it is simply amazing! At all these events you can drink or eat till you drop as it is unlimited. Other famous beach clubs this is available at is Zero gravity, Nikki beach club and Barasti beach.

IMPORTANT- There are ladies day deals and offers in Dubai that are exclusive to women. For example my tickets were far cheaper than Gary’s wiBH14th more perks.
There is one thing I would encourage those to do if planning on visiting Dubai, this is the desert safari. This was phenomenal and there is so much do. As Dubai is so hot we couldn’t go to the desert until it cooled down. We left at 3pm and spent the whole evening here. Gary and myself took a dune buggy and quads out before ending the evening riding camels. This was the most expensive thing by far because we wanted to do everything on the list they gave but the most memorable. UNREAL IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.
Now to discuss all things Bali!
Bali is without a doubt the most picturesque place in the world. The pictures on Instagram do not do it justice.

•SEMINYAK
My first stop in Bali was Seminyak. It made sense to stay here as it wasn’t far from the airport or the small islands I planned on visiting.
We stayed here for three days at the Harris Hotel. Seminyak is the more lively compared to other areas in Bali with plenty of bars and beach clubs including Finns, Potato Head and Miss Sippy . Happy hour is very popular here and all drink is at a reduced price. Seminyak is known for its beautiful beaches including double six beach and La Pancha. This place is full of colourful bean bags you should watch the sunset here as it is truly breath-taking.

WARNING- This place is quite dirty compared to other places in Bali and the islands. Do not let this put you off stopping here as it was my favourite spot.
The food in Seminyak was my favourite compared to other stops as there is so much variety Catering to everyone needs, especially the fussy eaters like myself who wouldn’t dream of touching Balinese food. Seminyak was the one place I didn’t live off carbohydrates. The rest of the stops my diet consisted of only chips and bread.

Here are a few of my favourite restaurants in Seminyak.BH15

Kynd Community -popular Bali bowls
Bali bowls and smoothies
Dusty cafe
Strawberry field                                                             Setting cielo- Italian
Ku de ta
Hard Rock Cafe
From Seminyak at Sanur harbour there was easy access to all the small islands around Bali via boat. There were fast boats and slow boats. I recommend taking fast boats and paying that bit extra. Look around and find the best deals. Try to negotiate with the men at the harbour and you are guaranteed to get cheaper and better deals. For example I noticed when walking down the harbour the prices of the boats dropped. All the boats are safe but I did feel at times and on certain boats very unsafe and uncomfortable. This may however be because of the speed of the boat and my travel sickness.
THE NUSA ISLANDS
•Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan
The first island that we stopped at was Nusa Lembongan . This was the closest island to inland Bali at just 30 minutes on boat. It was one of the smallest so we stayed here for two days and one night before heading over the yellow bridge which connected the island to Nusa Ceningan.
IMPORTANT- You can do a day trip to the Ceningan island as it is very small.

All Moped heads are easy to renBH8t and cost as little as £2 a day to run. Luckily our accommodation as with most of the places we stayed rented the moped heads out. This made visiting all the tourist places easy to get to.
Nusa Ceningan was a five minute drive via moped head from Lembongan across the yellow bridge. It had numerous swings in the ocean and small shack-like quirky bars. These bars were full of bean bags/ hang chairs and were decorated and beautifully painted according to their themes.

 

Having visited most of the bars and restaurants the ones that stood out to me in Nusa lembongan and Nusa Ceningan were-

Lemon grass bar and grill
Sea breeze
Sand Ceningan
I sat in these places for hours spending, drinking and eating everything from the menu.

IMPORTANT- There is no tax on food or drink on the islands off Bali so everything was so cheap.BH19


Places I recommend visiting whilst staying in
•Nusa Lembongan-
Jungut Batu beach
dream beach
devils tear
•Nusa Ceningan-
Blue lagoon beach
secret beach
The waters are crystal blue!

• Nusa Penida
From the yellow bridge we made our third stop which was Nusa Penida.
This was the biggest island but it was my least favourite. I felt that everything on the island was so far away from each other. I would recommend a scooter as it is the easiest way around the Island. Unfortunately when it got dark there was barely any lights and the roads were very bad. This made it hard to get back to our accommodation. Two days on this island was enough for me. In my opinion it was over populated with tourists and everywhere scenic we visited we had to pay. I found it unfair because on the other islands this wasn’t the case. However I don’t want to discourage anyone from going here as this island is full of amazing sightseeing places and famous spots.

This island was full of amazing beaches and waterfalls. Some of the famous and beautiful spots we visited include-

Angel billabong
broken beach
Kelingking beach
THE GILI ISLANDS

My fourth stop was Gili Trawangan and we stayed here for three days. We originally had planned to stay only two but added an extra day as we just loved it. From this island I was able to easily access the other Gili islands on day trips which are Gili Meno and Gili Air. These islands are beautiful they are filled with Sandy beaches, palm trees and coral reefs. There is no public transport like cars or buses, the nearest thing to this would be a horse and cart. I absolutely loved the island because of this. We rented bikes from our accommodation but everything was within walking distance.
The sunset at Gili T is amazing and the island is famously known for this. Everyday we made our way to the beach or a near by bar to grab a good seat to watch.
Gili Trawangan is more lively in comparison to the other Gili islands with plenty of bars and restaurants along the beach front. There wasn’t loads to do but instead we took this time to relax. I have no recommendations only to go snorkelling. The boat took us around all of the islands when we done the snorkelling. It made numerous stops including the famous turtle point and here we were able to swim with turtles. We also made a stop at Gili Meno to view the beautiful under water statues.

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Places to visit-

Tir na nog- Irish bar
hello Capitano
Pink coco ( pink bicycle )
IMPORTANT- The accommodation on all the islands was very cheap around £30-50 a night including breakfast. These small huts or shacks had outdoor bathrooms beautifully decorated and were nothing like any place I’d stayed before. I didn’t book accommodation until arrival on the islands. I was very uneasy about this but everything went smoothly. This worked out better for me as I was then able to decide when I wanted to move on.
•CANGUU
After visiting these near by islands we got a fast boat back to Bali which took around 2 hours. Here we travelled to Canguu this is small place and we stayed here for just one night. This place is not far from Seminyak but without the loudness. I found a beautiful villa with our own private pool so we travelled for that reason.

places to visit-

Batu Bolong Beach
Love Anchor
•UBUD
Our final stop was Ubud. We got a taxi here before renting another moped head for our stay. I felt this place was a lot more congested with traffic than the other stops. Riding the scooter here was a lot harder for this reason.
Here we stayed in the beautiful Udaya famously known on Instagram by celebrities and bloggers for its popular petal baths and floating breakfast.I was stupidly unaware before I booked this trip that a lot of hotels and resorts do this. I would encourage those travelling to Bali to look around for cheaper alternatives as lots of places specialise in these. Nonetheless the Udaya was something else and I would highly recommend.

Places to visit in Ubud include-
Tegalalang rice terrace
The sacred monkey sanctuary
Tegenungan water fall
Mason elephant park and lounge

Bridget Hughes is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bridgethughes1/, LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/bridget-hughes-382474195, and Twitter – @bridgethughes14

 

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.