1st few days in Madrid (ever!)

I’m here!

It’s really cool here actually – well, not cool, it’s hot! Like 33 or so degrees C every day hot. But I’ll take that! I’m already getting a bit of a tan on, and my hair is starting to turn ginger in the sun as it tends to do…

DSC06171

Just chillin’ with Velazquez outside one of the entrances to El Prado – the famous museum/gallery. 

So for those who are new to my blog, HELLO! I’m a student at Exeter University in the UK, studying Spanish and Russian, and I am currently on my year abroad! I found out about Family and Aupair through my university and applied through them to work as an Au Pair this summer, and so for the next 2 months I am living in Madrid, practising my Spanish and trying desperately to tan in the mean time. And of course, revising some Russian before I fly out to St Petersburg in September.

The family I’m staying with are all lovely. They have a little girl who I will be looking after before and after school in June, and then all day every day in July when her school breaks up for the summer. There’s a communal pool here where they live, and also a communal gym. It’s really sunny and beautiful, and although Catalunya (Figueres) will always have a piece of my heart, Madrid is also now one of my favourite places. On Sunday, my family kindly showed me around the city centre, avoiding the parades for the Real Madrid victory against Italy (Juventus) on Saturday night before, which we went to watch at a friends’ house a few blocks away. It was really fun and we ate hot dogs / I had a soy burger and ALL the olives oh my days!! I’m so glad that I discovered that I like olives last summer because I’m definitely eating my fill of the good stuff here.

I’m hoping to meet up with some other au pairs while I’m here in the next week or so to make some new friends and see a bit more of my new home, and of course, to take more pictures!! I’ll insert a few from last Sunday here.

DSC06151

No idea whether this is an important work of art or not but I thought I’d take a picture anyway 🙂

I think that because the family has been so kind and welcoming, I don’t feel homesick at all, so I’ve actually not messaged home all that much. In fact, my mum has had to message me a couple of times! So this is a good sign, especially as last summer I had a not-so-amazing au pair experience in August.

I have a little bedroom with a desk and wardrobe all to myself. It’s honestly so nice here I feel like my descriptions are not doing it justice. For now, because the little girl I’m looking after is so young, I’m mostly just teaching her some vocab here and there, things like ‘scooter’ and ‘pool noodle’ etc. and in the kitchen we’ve stuck some blank pieces of paper up so we can write down new words and then go over them at meal times. The parents have one too and are constantly asking me what something means in English or how to say things. And obviously I do the same but in Spanish. I’ve caught myself thinking in Spanish a lot more, and I know that by the time I go home in July it’s going to be hard to switch back! That’s definitely a big positive thing about living with a family in Spain. You have to speak Spanish from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed. All day. It’s the best way to improve, and you learn a lot of functional and conversational stuff. I think I’ll have to write a post with tips about how to make sure you make the most of your year abroad and learn as much as you can vocab/grammar/language wise.

But anyway, my year abroad has officially begun and all is going well, so I’m happy 🙂 This week, I’m free to do what I want during the day, so I tend to do some Russian revision and more of my TEFL course, go to the little gym and speak as much Spanish as possible! Oh, and sun bathe 😉

That’s it for now… but I’m going to aim to at least post once a week if not more! I’ll try and post some pictures of the family once I know that it’s ok to do so… but I want to respect their privacy if that’s what they want. ‘Til next time!

Year two: reflections 

 

Yay! Second year completed – no more exams, revision… just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine! Not for long though..

I fly out to Spain next weekend for 2 months to work as an au pair, and then come back for august before flying out to Russia for 9 months. Is this real life? I cannot believe that it’s happening already! My year abroad is finally upon me, and I have to admit I’m excited but also a little nervous.

Last summer I had a not so optimal au pair experience, so I’m really hoping and praying that this year won’t be like that. I’ll be living in Madrid until the end of July, and I’ve never been there before so it will all be new to me! I’m hoping to make some friends at the church I’ve found and intend to go to while I’m there, but I also hope to gel well with the family.

I will take as many pictures as possible so hopefully a few will end up on here, and also I’m going to do some year abroad posts – things like what to do/what not to do and how to go about studying your language while abroad and making the most of your time out here. I hope it will be useful!

The weather in Exeter is beautiful right now, I’m loving the sunshine and clear blue skies. I’m missing my church camp back home (this weekend) which is sad, but I rang my family yesterday to top up on some lurve before I go home on Tuesday. Yeah, I know, I’m already about to go home and leave for the summer!!

I will admit, this year hasn’t been easy. It’s been somewhat easier than last year in the sense that I knew what to expect a little more. You can usually tell the difference between and fresher and a second/third year because of their confidence levels and how they behave. I definitely feel more confident and well on my way to being a True Adult. Although I’m not sure I’ll ever fully grow up! But I can at least feed myself decently well and put a wash on once a week so we’re doing good so far!

I was so glad to walk out of my last exam yesterday knowing that that was it. The thing is, I’d been struggling with the more complicated grammar stuff we learned this year in Russian, and even Spanish was giving me a run for my money! The step up was bigger than I expected… so I had to amp up my game and work harder than last year. I pretty much coasted last year – which is not the best approach, but then it doesn’t count towards your degree so most people do even less work than I did!

So yeah that’s the first thing – this year was harder work-wise. Because it counted. So everything had to be good. I had to read tonnes of books and things while doing all of my grammar/homework for my lectures and preparing before the lecture in order to write my coursework in my second term. And I had to revise hard over Christmas for my January exams, which is never fun at that time of year.

Secondly, I learned to trust God a lot. I couldn’t work a lot this year because I was so busy with my studies, so there were some hairy moments where I had barely enough money for food and things. Don’t worry – I made it through, but it was a little rough in places and this is also partly because I didn’t really earn a lot of money last summer. It’s hard to get a job as a student because bosses look at your CV, realise they’ll train you up to only lose you again in 3 months and say nah not having you. #studentlife.

But this summer that won’t happen as I’m working as an au pair through a company and the family has to pay you. But anyway, back to my point. I had to learn to trust God with my finances… to trust it would all be OK and try and still meet up with friends even if I couldn’t buy food or a coffee, but to just be there to enjoy being with them because that’s the important bit.

Lastly, I learned to forgive myself and love myself for who I am. It’s something I’ve found hard my whole life, and I’m sure I’m not alone with this. But this year has really been a turn around in many ways… and that has definitely been helped by reading the Bible and discovering what God thinks about me and not worrying about what other people think.

Bring on summer… I hope you’re all well and enjoying the weather as much as I am!

Exams and year abroad plans

Why hello there….

You guys… I’m sorry I’ve not posted in forever, life has been so hectic and over Easter I just needed the break to clear my head and get ready for my final exams (eek!).

Yup, I have 5 exams… most people only have 2 or 3. But no, language students get more. I’ve now taken 4 of those 5 exams, the last one is on the 25th, so think of me if you can between about 9.30am-11.30am!!

Aside from the fact that I’m busy cramming and revising my socks off, I’m also madly applying to work as an au pair in Spain this summer before Russia in September. I think I possibly mentioned plans to go to Mexico in a previous post, if not, then briefly; I was considering going to Mexico this summer but the plans never got off the ground, mainly due to the cost of flights etc. and how it was kinda unwise to spend so much money on that when I needed to pay for my visa and insurance etc for Russia.

Basically, I have Russia on the brain right now so be warned, I will be talking about it A LOT as of now. Hopefully you’re all interested anyway!

OK so I’ve bought my insurance, paid my deposit and admin fees…. so I am officially GOING. Which is kind of scary when you think about how a year ago it felt so far away and downright impossible.

I’m working my socks off in the Ram trying to pay for various flights and such, so that means balancing work with revision. So yeah, that’s why I’ve not been writing in a long time. I’ve been so busy! Yesterday the fire alarm went off while I was in the Ram kitchen and we all had to evacuate… something about oil leaking into the cellar and setting the alarm off. I don’t know exactly. But it was pretty exciting!

I’ve had some pretty good times meeting up with friends – went round to one friend’s house for tea and a movie the other night which was lush… she always cooks amazing food and it’s so much fun to hang out and chill. We watched The Pacifier with Vin Diesel – funny film which I used to watch a lot as a kid….

So yeah sorry this is a brief update I’m sending out there into the world… not sure if any of you remember me I haven’t posted in SO LONG. I’ll try and post more often and the plan is to post a lot while I’m on my year abroad to help future language students out.

So ’til my next post – have a great rest-of-the-week!!

 

It doesn’t last forever.

This is not a downer post. At least, that’s not my intention.

I want to talk a bit about friendships at uni. Might add in a bit of comparison between first year and second year, giving some experiences. Sorry – I’m a humanities student… essays are my life and always have been. Analysing is what I do…

Friends. They are so important to our development and well being, and especially to our confidence. I know, I know, you shouldn’t care about what people think, you should just be you. But to a certain extent in this world you are going to care, no matter how hard you try. And if you really genuinely don’t – please share your secret with me!

A bit of history is due here: I’ve always been a people-pleaser. I don’t really know why; I guess it’s because I’m a perfectionist (aren’t we all) and I set really high standards for myself. I’ve been bullied before (who hasn’t?) and I can remember all too well the times when I would speak my mind and say what I was really thinking only to meet crushing rejection and have my ‘friends’ gang up on me and make my life miserable for a few days, until we were ‘friends’ again. (Kids can be cruel right?) I would lose myself in my story writing – or journal the experience, you know, to try and get it all out. Now when I look back, I’ve realised it said more about them than it did about me. I always blamed myself, thought that I was the problem. But really they were just jealous, insecure, and wanted to be in control of their friendship group. Now, I’m not saying I never did anything wrong. But I don’t remember doing much to provoke this treatment.

So it sounds sad, but I never really had many friends most of my life until I got to uni. And even now, I only really have a handful of true friends. Ones I would feel comfortable being 100% myself around. Maybe I just go for quality over quantity…

I also have 2 best friends… Elisha (Ellie) who I’ve known since birth (literally) and Ruth, who I’ve known for probably 5 years now. Ruth goes to uni in Glasgow, and Ellie lives and works in Manchester at the moment, so geographically, we are really far apart. But the amazing thing is our relationships pick up from where they left off when we meet. I have made more friends at uni and it’s really amazing – it’s getting to the point where this whole concept of having only one best friend has become ridiculous, because I have many close friends now.

Anyway… on to the comparison. So before starting uni, I was told I’d make tons of friends. Especially in Freshers week. If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ll know that Freshers Week wasn’t all it was cracked up to be for me. Everyone was out partying and getting horrifically drunk, and I personally don’t find the idea of that fun. Especially seeing the aftermath every weekend of such antics. You might call me boring, but actually I just think I stayed true to myself and did what felt right for me. I saved a ton of money which would have been spent on club tickets and alcohol… And I did meet tons of people – but half of them I never spoke to again. Because they only really talked to me when they were drunk… because it made them more confident. Again, it says more about them than it does about me. And it’s OK. You wouldn’t be able to keep track of everyone anyway!

The people I found I really clicked with were those on my course – studying the same things as me and as passionate about them as I was. Also at Church, where there will always be a ready-made community ready to accept you with open arms. I made friends with people in the societies I joined… although I haven’t seen them so much this year because I chose to have more time to focus on what I’m really here for: my degree.

And that’s the thing: you’re here to study. That’s why you’re thousands of pounds in debt. You’re here to get a degree. Sure, friends are great. Societies are great. But things like that, they come and go. Friendships are sometimes only for a season or phase.

It’s hard to grasp, but I’ve come to realise this for myself in the last year or so. I moved around a lot when I was younger – my family moved to Watford (London) for a few years, then back to Worcester, then to Spain, then to Worcester. I changed schools a lot, and got used to making new friends, but also to expecting to probably move again. So as I progressed through school and found that some relationships weren’t the best for my growth, I knew that it wouldn’t last forever. And that’s completely normal. In fact, I think that this was what made my life at uni easier in my first year, socially.

Don’t take all this the wrong way – I’m not saying that you shouldn’t invest in your relationships and keep in touch with people. But if you do happen to lose touch with someone, or you find that they are toxic for you and you grow apart, that’s totally fine. And I hope you know by now that who you hang out with has a profound influence on who we grow into. We do become like our friends, to a certain extent.

Oh, and also, people aren’t perfect. Sometimes, you’re going to get annoyed and want to go home and change the scenery for a couple of days – or even a week. I’m currently at home doing just that. Ok, so it’s not all because of friends and stuff – I was stressed from work and, fortunately, I know the warning signs for when I’m getting burned out. Listen to yourself! If you need a break, take it. Whatever gives you that rest… it’s so important. And if you’re finding your friends get on your nerves… that’s fine. It’s not forever (hopefully) but people will annoy you sometimes. You probably annoy someone else too occasionally. (I know, it’s not often something you would think about yourself.) but yeah.

I used to think that going home was a sign of failure. But then my mum pointed out that this was the first time in a year and a half that I’ve come home when things got rough. It’s not failure, or weakness. Other people just don’t talk about it, but really they are having a similar experience most of the time. Everyone’s trying to be brave… and sometimes it’s best to retreat for a bit and recover. It’ll make you stronger, trust me.

I’m just giving my observations here – feel free to agree or disagree. Comment if you’ve had a similar experience/different experience – I would be really interested to know what you think!

It’s not even half way through term yet!

Fellow students – I know you’ve been there!

That weekend when you’re so tired you can’t bring yourself to work, and you kind of feel like you should but at the same time know you need a break. Yes, that’s where I am right now! Yesterday was the worst – by the end of the day I was half asleep in my final lecture (which started at 4:30!) and it’s like I didn’t sleep deep enough or something because I’m still tired!

Assessments are stacking up… not that they haven’t been doing that since week 2 but now it’s even more full on – if that’s possible.

I have some Formatives due by the end of February, and a lot of reading to do (as always). Formatives are basically mid term tests, which don’t count towards your grade, but they are your only point of feedback before you do the Summative, which does count. So basically, if you want to do well, you do the formative. Simples. But stressful. As if doing just the normal grammar/exercises from lessons wasn’t enough. (To be honest, as if turning up to said lectures wasn’t enough! Where’s my medal? 😉  ).

Fortunately I haven’t needed to do Deliveroo this week because I’ve had a lot more work at the Ram. I’m constantly balancing the two, which works out well most of the time because I can adapt to the weather. But also if there isn’t work in one then I just do the other one. Sadly, the Deliveroo app has kept on crashing since before Christmas so I’m glad I’m not part of that drama. Also, it seems as though every day my Team Leader is recruiting new Roos (yes that’s our nickname as riders) and now there are SO MANY of us it’s almost no wonder the app keeps crashing when so many people log in at one time!

Plus, it’s been so cold recently that I probably would have lost my hands to frostbite… it’s actually currently snowing a bit as I write this… not the kind that settles, but it’s pretty 🙂

I’m not the best at selfies but I thought this one summed up my mood that morning 😉


Year abroad plans – a couple of things have changed. Us modern languages students have lectures every week scheduled on Wednesdays to talk us through the key components – so last week it was about our assessment. We have to write reports and compile a portfolio, etc. I can’t remember what the coming lecture is about but they follow the same theme really. Just stuff we need to know.

So yeah it’s set in stone now – I’m going to St Petersburg. I have managed to contact some people from a charity called Love Russia and I’m looking forward to maybe helping out if I can while I’m there. The situation in Russia surrounding Churches etc is a little tricky at the moment; there is a law about sharing your faith with other people and being a ‘foreign agent’… so that is going to be interesting to experience. The church I’m planning to go to is on a ‘watch list’, which sounds quite ominous, but apparently I have nothing to worry about according to my contacts/the people I have met through my friends/family.

I’m taking a module called Understanding Russia, and it’s really interesting learning about the current situation there (and in the world generally – it’s all kind of interlinked). I’m not going to post to much on here about it because at the moment I don’t know if that’s a good idea (as in, if it could affect my getting a visa or something), but if I find out it’s OK then I will. I might have to leave it ’til I get back in 2018! Seems so far away but time literally flies here at uni… no day is the same and I think it makes time seem to speed up. Sometimes it feels like the week only lasts 3 days. Anyone else get this?

On another note: I miss the kitten so much. My family posts pictures of her on Facebook and I wish I could play with her and cuddle her again!! She’s still absolutely bonkers but she’s the cutest.

Absolute tinker 😉


I also miss hugs – feels like at uni you can’t get enough of them! My family knows I love getting hugged a lot… I read a study the other day about how hugs can improve your mood and immune system etc. I can believe it! 😉

Sorry I’ve not posted in a while, I’ve literally had nothing to post about or no time to post in. I have some recipes to post, and some to try, so hopefully that’ll make stuff more interesting on here! I am going to get some flour today hopefully to make some pelmeni (пельмени) or vareniki (Вареники) – they are like dumplings #russianfood – so I’ll try and take some good quality pics this time with my camera and not with my phone. Naturally I’m going to be experimenting making Russian food so I hope you’re all down for that.

Oooh, funny story before I go… I joined the Russian equivalent of Facebook a few weeks ago and a load of strangers tried to add me. I got a couple of Egyptian guys trying to message me and one of them pretty much proposed after a short polite convo, saying he’d fallen in love with my picture etc. I checked all his followers and they are all women -_-. Don’t worry – I don’t add them, I block them or delete the friend requests unless I know them. But they can still message me if I haven’t blocked them. Still, it was a very bizarre experience!!

Anyway, until next time guys – have a good weekend 🙂

January blues – the highs and lows of uni life.

Exam week. I don’t know about you but – I don’t like exams. And after having what was probably my best Christmas ever… getting dumped back in Exeter is a bit of a downer!

….Buuut it’s finally over!! I had 5 exams, unlike most people, and 3 out of 5 of those went really badly. We’ll see when results come out, eh? I honestly don’t get how chilled out they are about preparing for exams at uni. During my A-Levels, we did two to three essays a week. At uni, we do formatives… which might just be an essay plan or just the introduction. Or maybe a short commentary. Either way… that’s all the prep you get. Unless you’re super keen or an absolute BEAST and can somehow find the time to do test essays in your own steam.

This is probably really boring but I’m gonna explain what I did to revise, because this blog is kinda for the students out there.

1/ Basically I do ‘smart’ revision. In other words, I pick the stuff I know I will need to know, or that I know are my weak areas, and start there. If I plan it right, I usually cover everything, but if I don’t get that far, then I’ve at least covered the key areas.

Also… I never consider an exam ‘lost’ and stop revising even if it’s the hour right before the exam. NO exam is lost. Any revision you can do before or in advance COUNTS. Especially if you target key areas. Say you have tonnes of books to just read. Don’t try and read them from cover to cover. Just look at the contents page and pick the chapters that are relevant and read those. Or parts of them. This tip is kind of a 2 in 1.

2/ I look at past exam papers. I don’t necessarily do them, but looking at them and even at the mark scheme really helps. If there are some titles I don’t think I could write an essay on under pressure then I might have a go at mind-mapping everything I know related to that title and then try and read up on those areas.

3/ This one mainly applies to history modules etc. I make a time line. My A level history teacher frowned upon it saying it would make me narrate events in chronological order. Obviously DON’T do that… but it helps me (personally) to get the key dates in my head and memorise them in relation to one another, i.e. one thing led into another thing… and so on. Because you associate one event with another event, it helps you memorise it.

4/ Figure out your learning style. I’ve probably mentioned this in a previous post but take a free online test and find out if you are a visual, kinesthetic, aural or traditional learner. Do you need colours, do you need to hear it over and over again, do you need to write it out… etc.

5/ TAKE BREAKS. Even if it means watching a silly YouTube video for 10 mins.

6/ Exercise. This could literally be just going for a walk. This week I went most evenings for a little walk near where I live. When I’m at home, I go and bounce on the trampoline for an hour or so before bed.

7/ Eat well. I know most students live on pot noodles and pasta… but add some veggies and your body will thank you. It’s easy to get run down, so make sure you’re getting lots of nutrients in and not just coffee!! And revising uses a lot of mental energy… so you will probably feel quite hungry!

That’s all I can think of for now. Hope this helps someone!!

Anyway… back to general life stuff… I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. My room is my little house (obviously). It has everything I need and use in it… All my books and some of my food things that won’t fit into my kitchen space. But everything has it’s little place and what with all of my colourful revision posters and mind-maps it just looks really cool. Yeah just complimenting myself I guess 😉 All about that positive outlook!

Term starts on Monday, so I’ll probably begin reading and doing (more) Russian grammar. Oh and my application for St Petersburg is in and I’ve paid the deposit… I’m officially GOING. AHHH 🙂 I still need to figure out flights and a visa and insurance, but it’s actually happening and you have no idea how excited I am! I’m gonna post my first Russian recipe shortly so watch this space!! I made голубци (golubtsii) – they are like stuffed fig leaves but made with cabbage. Please don’t let that put you off though they honestly taste really good!!

Oh yeah and over Christmas I passed my driving test! I look pretty gormless in this picture but I was so happy I didn’t care 🙂 

Anyway, until next time!! до скорого!

Hello 2017: Resolutions?

Hey all, I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and New Year. I certainly have. It’s probably been my best one ever… and that means a lot I can tell you!

Even a couple of years ago I was struggling with an eating disorder and Raynauds (poor circulation) which meant winter was bitterly cold for me, and this made me so miserable, not including the fact that I was a shadow of myself. So now, it’s a new year, the start of my second whole year free of those things. I can’t tell you how much joy I feel in contrast to how I felt before… it’s just a deep sense that life is really worth living now.

So – you’re probably wondering if I’ve made any resolutions. I’m not really one of those people that does that… but instead what I do is pray and name my year. Just one word, and it’s the theme that I expect for that year. I heard about this concept in a podcast from Life Church (in Bradford) and have been using it these last few years. My 18th year (2014) was my year of Freedom, when I finally kicked my eating disorder to the dirt and began to truly accept myself for who I was. My 19th year (2015) was my year of Discovery. I discovered myself again – my strengths and weaknesses, my smile and laugh (I used to be so depressed that I could go for months without really laughing or smiling). I discovered that I can cope alone without my parents at uni in the Big Wide World. (Mostly!). And now for this year; 2017.

2017 is my year of Adventure. I don’t know what that means yet. It probably has something to do with the fact that, this time next year, I’ll have been living in St. Petersburg, Russia, for about 4 months. Scary, I know. But I’ll keep you all updated with plenty of my ramblings and pictures I promise 🙂

All I know is that I have a gut feeling this year will be a year where I step out of my comfort zone even more than before. Even more than I dared to think would be possible for me.

My Dad and I walked to the top of the Worcester Beacon (Malvern Hills).


Term two is around the corner (I go back on Saturday morning!) and I am dreading exam week next week, honestly where does the time go?? I’m going to miss the kitten and our cat Tigger, my family, my friends; but then I have friends to go back to so that eases the anticipation a bit. This term will be long and hard – I don’t get a reading week in the middle. So I’m going to have to be careful with myself and not overdo things.

[obligatory kitten pics!]


The amount of books in my room right now is ridiculous, I have about 7 for each module, and another couple for each language I’m doing.

The best thing is my parents and grandparents put together to get me a Kindle Fire for Christmas so now I can buy my coursebooks cheaply and have them all in one place – to save me crating home a whole box-ful every end of term!! (No joke – a whole box).

Anyway, I digress (as usual!) Tangents are my speciality 😉

So yeah, I’m excited for 2017. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

(Let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for!)