Category Archives: LIfe

Cross Stitch Update #1

I am currently working on two cross stitch projects. The first I have been working on since August, the other I started in February this year. Below are some photos of my progress.

The Weasley Family
This is my first ever cross stitch project, and I’m really enjoying the process! Although it was a slow going to start with, I am really enjoying stitching this design (unfortunately I don’t have any progress pictures). In my opinion it’s a great pattern for learning how to cross stitch, as there is satisfaction after completing each character. I only have Charlie and Bill left to do, as well as ‘The Weasleys’ text above the family, so I’m hoping to finish this project soon. After completion, the next challenge will be removing the mystery stains that have appeared and framing the design!

 

Sherlock
I only began stitching this design in February, but I’m working to a deadline as it will be a gift for a friend. I still have a long way to go but already it’s starting to come together! The hair and coat will probably be the most challenging to stitch due to the number of colours, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Next step – finish the face!

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Design by Colleen Carrington in Benedict Cumberstitch

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I had a an absolutely amazing time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last summer. Universal Orlando Resort was a great holiday destination before the addition of the two Potter Parks, but now it has become the prime destination of many Potterheads around the globe!

I went on the holiday with my mum, and we enjoyed the sites, sounds, and incredibly oppressive heat of Orlando for just over a week at the end of May/beginning of June 2016. Below are some of the pictures that I feel best represent the Harry Potter part of my time there (which lets face it, was pretty much the main bulk of the holiday). You might say it’s a review in photos…

 

There are so many memories that I will take from this trip and not all of them are captured on camera. Encounters with other lovers of Harry, talking to the people working there about living in the UK and using my interactive wand. These are just some of the things that I will hold on to forever. I am particularly thankful to have shared this experience with my mum, who first read Philosophers Stone to my brother and I all those years ago.

Graduate Chronicles: first five months of my internship.

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Below is account of my first five months as Project Assistant for a widening participation programme. The first few weeks were a steep learning curve, which I chronicled at the time, the rest of the post is a reflection of the five months so far. Every day presents a new opportunity to learn something about myself, my technical abilities, and the world of widening participation in higher education. (Long post warning: bonus points if you make it to the end!)

Week One 

My first week as a graduate intern has been completed and I have not made a single cup of tea! One week on the job and I can already tell that this is going to be such an invaluable experience in so many respects. We’re still in handover at the moment so it’s been lovely to have my predecessor around to show me the ropes and answer any questions I may have. Within this first week I have had a catch up with each member of the team, compiled and sorted data, managed communications, and begun to take control of the social media accounts. Looking to the next coming weeks, I will expand these duties and begin project planning, which I am really looking forward to!

Week Two

Settling in to my new role well, and I’m looking forward to the challenges the job will bring. It’s the last week of handover, and I’m kind of sad to see Michelle go because we get on really well! I’m working with spreadsheets a lot, and although I’m not a whizz-kid-genius, I am getting the hang of excel (which is something past me would never believe). Also this week, I moved into my official desk. Facing into the office is much better than facing the wall, and after adding a few pictures and photos it looks pretty cool.

Week Three

Busy is the word of the week! I really feel like an integrated part of the team, and like I’m putting my mark on the role. My latest project has been the launch of the Snapchat account, which I believe will improve student engagement with the programme. To mark the occasion I hosted two giveaways using the Snapchat account, both of which were successful (although one campus did greatly outperform the other!) Also in the social media side of my job, I proposed a solution to the lack of engagement on the programme’s Facebook page, which I will continue to work on behind the scenes into next semester. Away from social media, we’re taking thirty students away on an Adventure Weekend this week and not only will it be a fun experience for students and staff alike, but it also coincides with my birthday!

Five Month Reflection 

Wow. The months are passing quickly. Social media and comms remain a crucial part of the role, and I am learning the best way to connect and engage students via different platforms. What works for our Facebook content doesn’t necessarily work for our Twitter or Instagram profiles, and another approach is needed again for Snapchat and newsletters. There’s also a difference between our public Facebook page, and private groups were we communicate only with the students we work with, the key to this being understanding the audience. Different students engage with different communication platforms, and the platforms themselves require different approaches.

Away from social media and comms, I have been developing skills in the project assistant side of the role by developing and promoting a series of events and opportunities for mature students and student parents. This section of the student body has different priorities and needs to the ‘typical’ student (18 y/o straight from school), and it is important to recognise this when attempting to engage this demographic of widening participation students. So far we have made pantomime tickets available for student parents who wish to take the their children to panto over the Christmas and New Year period, rebooted a previous attempt at a Mature Student Cafe (where students can meet others in a similar position) and ran a trip to Bayfordbury Observatory for mature students, student parents and their children. This demographic of students has their own targeted comms, and ‘priority booking’ for events which may be more difficult for them to attend due to factors outside of their university lives. This allows arrangements to be made in respect to those factors, giving these students more of a chance to attend the events, due to advance notice.

Data analysis continues to be part of my role, and I am feeling much more confident with the tasks I am given and take on through initiative. This includes things such as identifying new students for the programme, and maintaining and updating databases with student information and event attendance. I have also been involved in creating reports from data from events for the outreach team in our department, and reformatting previous reports using an online report and infographic software, to create an annual report for the team for the year 15/16. Use of this software is something that I helped to research, and has been a benefit in many ways. As well as reports I am able to use my skills (which I first developed for my blog graphics!) to create infographics for our students and for the public. Examples of this include a recap of first semester events, and graphics for the launch of the international opportunities and mature student programme. This has really improved the look of our social media pages, and I am taking on the task of putting forward a re-branding of the programme to foster a unity and identity among the students.

I initiated the programme’s first mini ‘social media campaign’ to get students involved, excited and engaged in our international opportunities. The mini campaign across social media (snapchat, Facebook and instagram) encouraged students to like/screenshot the photo of the opportunity they are most excited for, raising awareness of the opportunities and encouraging them to apply. We also streamed the launch event on Facebook for the first time, allowing students to follow along at home or catch up on the information later if they were unable to attend. This was particularly successful with around 60 students tuning in at the time, and over 220 students viewing the video in the week following the event. For our communications I created a specific graphic to use with all email communications and some social media posts. Although the graphic itself is very simple, it helps student to identify which posts/emails/newsletters contain information about international opportunities at a glance, which improves engagement on social media and read/open rates of emails and newsletters.

On another note, another part of the first five months of my internship has been office experience. It sounds really unimportant, but I have been rejected from a few jobs in the past because I lacked experience in an office environment (my previous jobs having all been in retail or service/hospitality). I really enjoy going to work, and I am learning so much from being in this environment and from working alongside, and with, members of the department, who all bring their own skills and knowledge from various sectors and experiences. I love this internship and don’t want it to end!

Graduation!

On Wednesday the 7th of September I graduated from the University of Hertfordshire with a First Class Honours degree in History with French with a Year Abroad.

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I was lucky to have my family attend the ceremony with me and it was great to spend the day with friends and course mates celebrating our achievements.

Usually I’m not a fan of ceremonies. For me they fall into the same category as public speaking and presentations, and therefore are usually a great source of anxiety and fear. While I was still incredibly nervous walking across the stage, the fact that I was one of hundreds helped to calm my nerves slightly. It also helped to keep reminding myself that four years of hard work went into this moment, and that I should enjoy it!

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A couple of weeks ago, I was notified that I had been awarded a University Prize for outstanding contribution to the humanities programme. This was a proud moment for me, as I have loved every single moment of my degree and want to continue my studies further. The graduation ceremony helped confirm to me what I want for my future, and now it’s about finding the path to get there.

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Day Trips: Verulamium Park, St. Albans

Here are some photos from my visit to Verulamium Park in St. Albans. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to visit the museum, but I was able to soak up some of the city’s Roman history in the glorious May sunshine.

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My visit also reminded me of how great solo trips are. I love travelling with other people, and there’s nothing like experiencing a city or country with your friends, but I believe that solo trips are good for the soul.
You have to be decisive, motivated and have your research down (and be safe, as always), and it can give you a chance to see things or meet people that you might not have done had you been a duo or a group.

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Remains of the Roman City Wall can be found in the park. 

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The hypocaust and mosaic are a must see. It was uncovered in the 1930s, and is now enclosed by a fully accessible building. The hypocaust is a short walk from the museum.

I know St. Albans isn’t exactly a big, exciting travel adventure, bit it was a mini-adventure that quenched my wanderlust for now. It also served as a reminder of the long history that surrounds this area, and even though my speciality is not in ancient history or Roman Britain, it was great to get back into history and heritage mode after my end of exam break. (Also, local travel is great.)

To Masters Degree, Or Not To Masters Degree?

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While this is definitely me studying, it’s most definitely not my university.

I love my university. I love the people, my course, the campus, and the experiences it has given me. But the history department here is small, and the university itself is very enterprise orientated. So where does that leave me in terms of further study?

#SmallUniProblems

When I say our history department is small, I mean that the staff fit into two fairly average sized offices, and that I have come into contact with pretty much all of them throughout my university career. That doesn’t mean we’re all best pals or anything, it’s just small, and because it’s so small it’s very student orientated. My lecturers know who they’re teaching, the biggest module I’m in this semester contains around 40 people – but split (unevenly) over two classes, meaning that my class is still small. Therefore my university history undergraduate experience has been very personal and I’ve felt supported at every step. The discussions are informal and the doors are always open, and yet it’s never felt like the university you see on the big screen, or what you imagine you’re filling out your UCAS application. For my masters I am thinking of applying to much bigger universities, with large faculties and more than six modules on offer each semester. This has left me wondering how I would manage the transition, not only from undergraduate to postgraduate, but also from student focused to an academics lead institution.

Life after graduation?

This brings me on to my seconds point. My current university is very career orientated, taking on the task of preparing its students for the ‘real world’, and this works for them. In terms of humanities graduates, over 90% are employed within a year of finishing their degrees, and in our second and third years we have compulsory modules on graduate and employability skills. Now this is very useful, and I’m not for one moment saying that it’s not. I like being able to pop into the careers office for a chat about my CV or help with an application, and this kind of support is what makes students from all the different schools employable. Where I feel it falls down is the promotion of further study as a valid pathway after graduation.

Apart from a few fantastically helpful people, postgraduate study (that is not a PGCE) has never been presented as a proper option. It’s been on the outside of our corporate based careers fairs, and for the two compulsory career conferences I’ve had to attend for humanities, those representing postgraduate study have failed to attend for various reasons.
I know that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I also know that postgraduate degrees in this country aren’t cheap, but this is why I wish the promotion would have been there. So prospective students could discuss options for funding and financial support, and pick the brains of postgrads who have gone on to take a number of different courses at different universities.

At this moment passion is my driving force, and I am being helped by some amazing individuals so who knows where I’ll be this time next year. All I know is that I have loved (and continue to love) my undergraduate experience, I would have just liked a little less of the ‘you-will-graduate-and-be-a-successful-high-flying-business-person’ approach, and more of a ‘look at all these options you could be considering!’
But then again, I’m coming to the end of my last semester as an undergraduate.
Maybe all of this is just an existential crisis?

 

 

 

 

 

This is purely based of my own experience and an afternoon of thinking a little too hard.
Is your university particularly employment/academics leaning?
How have your options been presented to you, if it all?  

Project For Awesome 2015 – Holidays and Giving

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For me, like many others, the holiday season is a time for giving.
I always donate a portion of my Christmas cash to charities here in the UK, and it would feel like my holiday season is incomplete without this donation. That’s why this year more than ever I am thankful for the Project For Awesome.

We are nearing what is likely to be one of the most stressful periods of my ‘adult’ life so far: the end of first semester of final year.
Unlike last year in Montreal, the first semester at Herts doesn’t end until the 4th of January. This means that all final assignments are carried over the Christmas holiday, and third year assignments + holiday commitments = STRESS.

I was afraid that all the stress would detract from my usual ‘giving vibe’ and not allow me to have time for research into charities, but that is where P4A 2015 comes in.
Confession time: Despite being part of the Nerdfighter Community for many years, I have never before donated to the Project For Awesome. I have used social media and watched the live stream, but due to many reasons (some of which I’ll admit were excuses) I haven’t been able to donate.

But this year I have the ability to do so.

This year I can participate in a community of charitable people helping to raise money for charities that a community collectively decided upon, and it takes up only 48 hours of my time. Money goes to some of the most deserving charities, and some smaller charities with limited reach get access to funds the would otherwise not have access to.
The Project For Awesome makes supporting charities easy and simple, and everyone has a great 48 hours.

I will still be making my usual donation of Christmas cash (this year to Clic Sargent), but I’m grateful for being able to be involved in something so cool before the Christmas hols officially begin.

A great discussion could be had on the motives behind giving to charity, and whether it’s ok to feel good about charitable acts. Whether that feeling should be motivation alone, or should the primary motive be helping decent, ground up charities? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I do think it is important to give as much as we can and in an informed manner.

With that, I’m off to continue writing an assignment.

Happy Project for Awesome!

Links:
Project For Awesome 2015 – Watch, vote and donate!
http://www.projectforawesome.com/

Some of Favourite Videos:

Médecins sans Frontiérs
http://www.projectforawesome.com/watch?v=Edhw7TMCaM8

Great Ormond Street Hospital
http://www.projectforawesome.com/watch?v=9NNjEEWO0Dk

Vision Aid Overseas
http://www.projectforawesome.com/watch?v=n9JMSpaSJMM

One Girl
http://www.projectforawesome.com/watch?v=ya5P1a-QHs8