Monday, 31 August 2015

My Experiences with University

Unsurprisingly, the topic of choice lately has been university, so I thought I would weigh in with my little bit of advice and experience when it comes to the topic.

The first time I went to university, I lasted a grand total of three weeks because I didn't actually want to be there. I did like the idea of university, but I didn't get in to the subject that I wanted to do, which at the time was education. My grades weren't high enough, but the university contacted me and asked if I wanted to do social sciences instead, which I accepted. However, this topic was not what I wanted to do AT ALL, and so I stopped seeing the point of it very quickly. It wasn't what I wanted to do, so the idea of paying hundreds of pounds on books and immediately doing essays on a topic I didn't really care all that much about meant I quit within the first three weeks. Another problem I had at this point was that I didn't live on campus; everyone else on my course did, so they'd all formed really good friendships already which I wasn't able to be a part of. This isn't telling you you should stay on campus; I think if I'd have been more into the topic I'd have been more likely to put the effort in to making friends, but when you really don't want to be somewhere it's hard to do that.

The second time I went to university, I went purely because I completely failed at finding a job within the year so felt like I had no choice. Oddly, this time, with the exact same grades as last time and literally no work experience in that year, the university I went to previously decided that they would accept me to do education after all, and this time I completed the three years and got my 2.1.

Following this, I started the PGCE, which is the UK teacher training qualification. I was surprised by this as I thought I would love it and that it was everything I'd ever wanted to do, but I really hated it. There was such a horrible atmosphere. It was a really bitchy course, the teachers that I worked with when in schools weren't nice at all. I've continued to hear this a lot from teachers, that the PGCE is awful, so is the first year, and then after that it generally gets better. Well, for me I decided it wasn't worth it. I have never been as low as I felt in that first year; The teachers were horrible to me, I was paired with this absolute bitch who used to steal my lesson plans and do my lesson first, so that I would then have no lesson to do and have to wing it, and for some reason everybody sided with her. She was absolutely horrible, and it actually makes me sad that a bully like her has continued to be able to work in education, but there you go...

After this, I was really torn between doing a master's degree in early years education or a journalism course. The journalism course was the one that really interested me, though logically I knew that the jobs were actually available within the early years sector. Eventually, I admitted this, and the university offering the early years degree took away the fees for me and gave me a bursary to do it, so since I was basically going to get that one for free and a payment on top of it I chose it. I did actually really enjoy this course at first whilst it was full time, but then when it went to part time and I had a full time job as well I completely failed at being able to go in. Somehow passed this course though!

Here's what I will say. I got a lot of jobs in early years very very easily. I'm certain that the reason I got interviews was because of my qualifications. I got basically every job I went for, and in some cases the settings would actually offer to create a new role purely for me, because obviously it looks good on them to have someone so highly qualified. The problem? They're all basically minimum wage. So having my qualifications made it really, really easy to get a minimum wage job, which isn't how it should be.

And now? I work in an entirely different career. I work within the emergency services now, a job that pays double and didn't require a degree to begin with. So in a way I consider my university education pretty much worthless, although with the added bonus that I still get to pay towards it every month to work in an entirely unrelated sector...!

With that being said, here's my advice for university...

  • If you don't want to go, don't go. Honestly, I think unless you're wanting to do a job that actively requires you to have a degree, ie medicine, then there are plenty of better routes into your chosen career that are much more relevent to it and won't cost you a fortune.
  • If you do choose to go, make sure you're doing something you're interested in. Don't go just because you think you should go, and don't do a topic that you don't actually care about on the grounds that you think it's the only way you'll be able to get a job out of it. 
  • I can't reiterate it enough - do something you're interested in! Even if it's a topic that some people may consider to be a pointless one, if it's one you're actually interested in you're much more likely to enjoy the experience and do well in it.
  • Choose the university you like the best. Unless you're going for something ultra competitive, don't just go for the high ranking ones. Take the time to read all sorts of prospectuses, go and visit the areas and get a feel for them. I ultimately chose places where I thought I would have fun, and where there were people like me. Ultimately, the people you're with and the area you're in are going to be what makes the experience for you.
  • Don't feel you have to live on campus; My chosen university was a commutable distance, and I don't really feel like I missed out a whole lot by not living on campus. Worst case scenario, I'd sleep on someones couch who DID happen to live on campus.
  • If you can't decide what you want to do, there's no harm in having a year out to think about it. It's much better to take a year to work or travel etc and think about what you want to do than spend a few grand just to decide that you don't actually want to go.
  • Be prepared for the commitment - I had friends who made it into the third year, only to decide that they didn't want to continue anymore. While I totally get that, it was making them unhappy and they didn't see the point, it did mean that they'd spent £6000 on the fees and who knows what on living expenses and other loans - and this was a few years ago, so it would probably cost much more than that now!
  • Discover what works for you. I actually had the best success doing my essays all in one go and spending hours on them. The recommended advice will always be to take your time doing it over a few weeks - whenever I did that, I'd completely forget what I had already written, no longer understand what my bullet points for further topics meant, and completely lose any sort of natural flow. Use the first year to work out different styles and see what you find works best.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

JapanCandyBox; August 2015

Last month, I was really excited to receive my first JapanCandyBox. I have long lusted over the lovely and intriguing looking treats available in Japan, and was even more curious after receiving my Kracie Popin Candy kit. Last month I received my first box, and was so excited (and, let's face it, overwhelmed!) to open it up and see what was inside. There were just so many over the top colourful goodies - and the best bit was, I had absolutely no idea what most of it was!

Meiji Petit Bubble Gum; I'm including this one first as I don't actually eat bubble gum, so it is mostly used to provide with colleagues when they are looking a bit grumpy. However, I did love the packaging on this, and you do get quite a big number so this would definitely last you a while!

Popsicle DIY Candy Kit; A bit like the burger set, but nowhere near as difficult. You make mini popsicles with this - and it's nowhere near as time consuming as the other set. Again I really loved the packaging on this, the penguin character in particular is really cute.

Kikko Chameleon Candy; We loved these! These were the first candies we tried and at first we had no idea what to do with them. They are solid candies about the size of marbles and we were really unsure how to eat them. We tried putting them in our mouths assuming they were sucking sweets, found they were slightly too big, discovered we couldn't bite into them and eventually worked out that yes, we were correct the first time. These are hard fruit flavoured candies, disguised by an initial brown layer so you have to work on them for a little while before discovering what flavours they are. There were four different flavours and they were very tasty!
Meiji Waterpachi Poppin Candy; I got the grape flavour, as you can see. The first thing I noticed about this was the amazing packaging. I love it! So vivid and over the top - and that just continued on to the back. This was a very odd candy; it's basically candyfloss, with the very occasional bit of popping candy hidden inside. It was delicious, but does make your hands very sticky and somehow ended up getting absolutely everywhere!
Line Drops; Quite simple packaging on this one, but I still thought it was really cute. LINE Drops are little hard candies that are apparently very popular in Japan.
Maruta Ramune Bottle Soda Candy; How cute is this? This is a very odd product - there's a bottle inside which contains the candy itself. I haven't actually tried these yet although they are ready to come to work with me, but apparently they are a lemony flavour that is supposed to taste just like a Japanese drink! Very odd, but I'm looking forward to trying these.
Bourbon Petit Chocolate Chip Cookies; One of the most simply packaged but by far the biggest packet that arrived. These chocolate chip cookies looked very simple, but I wondered if there would be something out of the ordinary about them. They're not, they were as simple as I expected - but absolutely delicious! I'm only slightly ashamed to tell you that I ate the entire packet in one sitting.
Strawberry Pocky; I'm not a stranger to Pocky, so I don't have too much to say about these!
Glico Collon Biscuit Rolls; The second biggest package, and another one I haven't actually tried yet. I'm actually a little afraid to try these, because they just don't look nice at all! I honestly expect to be pleasantly surprised, but to me they look a bit like a sausage roll stuffed with mushy peas or something, ugh! I'm sure they're not at all. I could be completely off but I'm pretty sure that these are actually green tea flavour, which is...different! I'm not entirely sure I'm looking forward to trying these, but I'm definitely intrigued!
Pokemon Pineapple Chewy Candy; As it says really! I am a big Pokemon fan so I do appreciate this addition.
So, that was my first box of Japanese goodies! I was really happy with this box. It was full of all sorts of interesting, different, and most importantly tasty treats, and I definitely look forward to getting another one.
In fact, a friend has signed up to a different box - we're looking forward to receiving his too so that we can compare them both!
There are a fair few Japanese candy boxes on the market but if you're interested in signing up to the same one as me, you can get your JapanCandyBox from their website, here! It costs $19.90 a month (less if you get a longer subscription) and had free shipping everywhere, including to me in the UK!

Monday, 24 August 2015

My Trip to Majorca!

I just got back from a three day trip to Majorca, and overall had a great time there - despite it ending up being nowhere near enough and the fact that the rain was pretty torrential the entire time!


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dior Addict - Miniature Perfume Collection

I am a big fan of perfumes and lovely smelling things in general, so when I came back from Majorca the other day having completely failed at spending much money (the restaurants were just too expensive!!) and faced with their giant duty free shopping area, I did my normal method of passing time - trying as many perfumes as I possibly could.

I'll be honest - this time I was pretty disappointed! Palma has a HUGE selection of perfumes, but I really wasn't feeling any of the scents. Until I stumbled upon Dior's selection, and their amazing little Addict perfumes. I tried a few of them and was really torn between two of them, however then noticed this cute little miniature set. After a grand total of about twenty minutes (no really) I decided to go for the mini set. I have genuinely never finished a perfume before going and buying more, so it made sense to me that if I couldn't choose, I'd just get a smaller version of more of them!

And here we have the gorgeous little set. I'll be honest guys, the perfumes themselves were much smaller than I expected to be. I know, I read the sizes of the bottles on the box but to be honest they just didn't mean much to me - they were just numbers! These are small little bottles, however after the initial disappointment I know I'll still get lots of use out of them, and I would still prefer to have four mini ones than a bigger one. Another disappointment with these bottles is that they don't have a little spray device on them, so I can already tell this is going to go quite wrong when it comes to application. But anyway, enough of the negatives, let's get on with the positives - the scents!

Dior Addict Eau de Parfum is the first bottle in the collection. This is also the original of the collection, and, oddly, my least favourite by quite a considerable amount. However, despite it being my least favourite, it's still a pleasant scent, I suppose I would just describe it as a bit more masculine and heavy than the others. It's quite an intense scent and definitely the strongest of them all, blending Mandarin Leaf with Tunisian Orange Blossom.

Next up we have the Eau de Toilette, and my favourite scent of the bunch. This is a lighter scent, though still very fragrant, and it's quite an uplifting and very feminine scent that for some reason just makes me feel happy whenever I open the bottle! It's a lovely citrusy scent (that despite this, isn't overwhelmingly fruity) with Sicilian Mandarin, Jasmine sambac and Tunisian Neroli.

Next up is the Eau Fraiche, which I would say falls somewhere in between the above two in terms of how deep it is. This is a very floral scent, though again quite a deep one, and blends grapefruit with Freesia and Lily of the Valley.

Finally is the Eau Sensuelle - the hardest of all of this collection to find anywhere! This scent is quite similiar to the Eau Fraiche and so is again quite a floral scent, with rose, jasmine, musk and cedar.

I absolutely love this collection. Two of the scents (the middle two, for me) are amazing, whilst the other two I still like a lot and rank very highly. There is literally not a weak link in this collection! If you're looking for a perfume, this is definitely a collection I would really recommend you go and check out.

I don't think you'll be able to find the mini set without a lot of looking - As mentioned, I bought mine at the airport for 50 Euros, and searched extensively to try to find it online to see if I was getting a good deal or not before buying it - I couldn't find it. However, the full sized products start at around £50 for a 30ml bottle, going up to £82 for a 100ml bottle!


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Japanese Candy Time; Kracie's Popin Cookin Hamburger Kit

I have long been intrigued by the adorable little Japanese DIY food kits I've seen - in particular, Kracie's Popin' Cookin' sets. So I was really excited to come across this little kit, which makes you two mini hamburgers, a little packet of fries, and a little drink of cola.

The above box arrived, and I couldn't wait to get started. However, my start was a little delayed as I mentioned it to a friend who also wanted in on the action, which I was very pleased about actually as it really did take two of us to work out what we were supposed to do. We very quickly gave in and found English translations for the instructions, but it was still very helpful to have someone filling you in on what you were supposed to do - and most importantly, to help you taste them at the end!

The above is the contents of the box. You get some little packets which are basically the ingredients, a little knife and spoon, a little cup, a sort of plastic tub which you basically end up cutting up to make the different sections, and then the packet that it's all sitting on cuts up into a little sheet to set your food on and what you need to make the packaging for all the food.

Making the labels are simple enough. You cut out the little sections and stick them where necessary to create the packaging.

Ta-da! A cute little packet for your fries, and a label for your drinks. There were also two little flags that go in your burgers, but we didn't bother making these as we didn't have any toothpicks to put them on. They were cute though!

The majority of the food making is pretty simple. You pour the packets into various containers, add water, mix them up, and then place them in the microwave.

And that leaves you with something that looks a bit like this!

In this case, this was the mixture to make the cute little fries. You then push them down into the container, empty it out, and use the little knife to cut along the lines to create your chips.


The others were all made in much the same way.

This one made the burgers. The burgers contained the actual burger, buns, cheese, and tomato ketchup. And after this, it was time to make the cola!

And there we have it! A cute little set of miniature food. And most importantly, how did it taste? The fries we thought had the wrong texture but actually did taste like chips. The cola didn't taste QUITE like cola, but we both still enjoyed it. The burgers were what we the most apprehensive about as they had the most opportunity to really not taste great. However we were both surprised to find that they actually did taste like burgers - obviously not the best burgers you've ever eaten, but still pretty good!

We both ended up really enjoying making these cute little foods. It's a bit of an odd experience as it takes a fair bit of time to make what you basically eat in three mouthfuls, but we both enjoyed doing it and will definitely be making more in the future!


Thursday, 13 August 2015

EarlyBird vs Graze - an EarlyBird Taste Box Review!

 The TasteBox from EarlyBird Snacks is a relatively new food subscription box company, sending out five healthy and tasty snacks once a week. At first look they seemed relatively similar to Graze, a company that I subscribed to for a good two or three years. Ultimately, I enjoyed Graze but stopped my subscription as I was ending up with a huge backlog of products that I didn't really want to eat, so I was interested to see what kind of snacks were on offer from EarlyBird.
 As stated above, EarlyBird's idea is that they send you out five healthy snacks to last you a week at work. Of course this doesn't work for people like me who work shifts and usually on a six day cycle - however obviously I can't exactly expect a company to cater to that, and I do like the idea behind this. Particularly for people like me who are sometimes on their feet their entire day and don't always actually get a lunch break, something like this is a great idea as it means I can carry the snacks around with me and have them for an energy boost when I need one.
 The other difference with these products is that each week there's a different piece of artwork on the inside lid. I think this could be interesting - I always liked when Graze did a specially themed box, so something like this does appeal to me.
Here we go - five snacks, and also two little teas. I won't be reviewing the tea in this as I don't actually drink tea, however it's a nice idea for those of you that do. The first difference I noticed was that the way the foods are packaged is different from Graze too. Graze is in little boxes, EarlyBird simply uses little wrappers. This has an advantage as it does make them smaller, which initially for me I thought was great as it meant they would fit into my pockets much easier. However, I very quickly found a problem with that!

 Here was my first snack - milky berry. This is cranberries with blackcurrants and white chocolate. And here is my first problem, although to be honest, it was my fault. I put this in my pocket and when it came to snack time was greeted with some berries absolutely coated in melted white chocolate. DUH. Though this probably made them all delicious, it was also a complete mess that got absolutely everywhere! This was my fault for not really thinking about it (in my defence, I did leave for work at 4am...) but it does give Graze a bit of an advantage in their packaging, even if these ones are smaller.
I also had Koh Tao, which was a rice cracker with a mixture of garlic, kaffir lime, and chili. 

 Senor Jose, which was filled with broad beans, giant corns, soft corns and a chili seasoning. I found this was particularly good for energy throughout the day - it was more filling than I expected it to be, and it definitely gave me a bit of an energy boost!
 These are some Salt N Pepa Cashews - this one is reasonably self explanatory!
 And finally, Berry Berry Nice. I am a big berry fan so this was a good one for me - it contains strawberries, raisins, and cranberries.
I'm going to keep comparing this box with Graze because I figure that is a fairly similar company that most of you are probably already familiar with. I feel that a particular advantage this box has is that it does contain more snacks, so if you like more variety then that's good for you. The packaging is a bit smaller so it is easier to carry the products around with you - Graze boxes are already small, but these ones are just that little bit more portable. This could be an advantage or a disadvantage for you, but I felt that the EarlyBird products were much more healthy than Graze products are. There's none of the cakes or the brownies or flapjacks that Graze offers (although there are two biscuit products, however I didn't receive those so I can't say how they compare). For me this is actually a bit of a disadvantage as Graze's cakes are absolutely delicious, but if you're more healthy minded then I'm sure that's a positive for you! I do prefer the EarlyBird write ups for their products, and do feel that you get a little bit more information about what you're eating and what the benefits are than with Graze.

The boxes are slightly more expensive than Graze's £3.50 boxes - they cost £4.50. However your first box is just £1 so if you're intrigued and want to try then now would be a great time - you can go and have a look and find out all the details over on Early Bird's website, here!
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