Giving up alcohol and resisting other temptations

I have never been particularly religious, but I have always given up something for Lent. Maybe I’m more God-fearing than I would like to think I am, but I have found that whenever I choose to give something up for the forty-day period I tend to stick to it. I think this has something to do with knowing you can indulge yourself when it gets to Easter! The last few years have involved giving up crisps, chocolate biscuits and, reluctantly, coffee.

Lent is a period in the Christian calendar that lasts for forty days before Easter weekend. Fasting, which is represented in a contempory sense with giving up a favourite treat, is used in preparations of Easter to reflect the period where Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert before beginning his work for God.

cocktailsThis year I have chosen to give up alcohol for Lent after agreeing this with my friend and housemate, Ellie. As university students, we can’t deny that alcohol, and sometimes binge-drinking, is a part of life in university. Alcohol is everywhere, from the pubs we socialise in, the predrinks we have at home to the clubs we go to on our nights out. We want to experience all of this during Lent and prove that we can have just as much fun without a drink!

For me, it’s also about finally sticking to my New Year’s resolution of being healthier in general, and I think having a short forty-day plan is the best way to stick to something. Hopefully, the alcohol free period will leave us feeling fresher, help us lose some weight (alcoholic drinks are deceptively high in calories) and help our mental well-being, as well as not having to deal with those Sunday morning hangovers!

I’ll post an update in a few weeks’ time to discuss how we are finding the experience, as well as noting how different university social life is without alcohol. Let us know what you are giving up for Lent this year and how you resist the temptation to give in by commenting below, or by tweeting me @andrea_avena

Advertisements

So, you’re going to uni? My Top Ten Tips for being a Fresher!

It’s results day today, and a whopping 386,000 of you have got into university today – well done to all of you! I’m starting my second year this September, so here’s my top ten tips for being a university fresher:

1. Look on Facebook for people in your halls and on your course – lots of universities and student unions run facebook pages for freshers to find people that they will be spending the year with, it’s a great way to get to know a few friendly faces before you start.

2. Go to as many fresher’s events as you can! These events are there for you to meet new people, find new friends and get to know your campus. If you’re not into partying all night there will be a whole range of different events to go to.

3. Don’t sign up to every society you like the sound of – your first year at uni is a busy year and you won’t have the chance to do everything, so don’t waste your money on signing up to societies. Most societies let non-members but tickets for events anyway!

4. Don’t buy too much if your moving into halls – do you really need a whole set of different sized frying pans, saucepan’s and woks? One or two will do!

5. Enjoy freshers week, but don’t go too crazy – you don’t want to get a reputation from the beginning. At my freshers week one girl got incredibly drunk and urinated in a kitchen sink, and for the rest of the year she was known as “The Girl who Peed in the Sink.” No one wants that as a nickname. She was actually a lovely girl.

6. This tip was given to me by a teacher, so don’t judge me. When you are dropped off to uni your parents will be in a highly emotional state. The apple of their eye is moving away from them and they still want to protect and help them. This is a perfect situation to ask for money. What?! Uni is expensive!

7. Most courses will give you a reading list – do NOT buy all the books! A lot of universities have enough copies in their libraries, and many now give you access to free e-books, so don’t waste money on expensive textbooks. Also, you’ll hardly open them in your first year, save money for the second year! (Please don’t tell my lecturers I said that)

8. Stay safe – for many people uni is the first chance of independence and you want to make the most of it. Do it! Try everything! But still be safe – go out with good friends, take care of each other and don’t trust strangers.

9. It’s okay not to enjoy some things – we go to uni with high expectations, and sometimes things are just not as good as we expected. Don’t worry,you’re probably not the only one thinking it. Don’t let it get you down, just try something different and you’ll soon start enjoying uni again.

10. Hangovers- you’re going to have them. Hangovers are simply the effects of low blood sugar and dehydration. So when you get in from a night out drink a pint of water and eat some carbohydrate (this is where 24hour Domino’s delivery helps). If it’s really bad take some paracetamol and a nap and you’ll soon be ready for the next night out.

So there’s my top tips for starting uni. God, I wish I could do my fresher’s year again! As always, if you have any questions or comments please leave a comment below, or tweet me @andrea_avena

A whirlwind year.

This time one year ago I had just finished my last A level exams and I was looking forward to enjoying the last summer with my friends from secondary school, as well as having an anxious wait for results to serif I had got into university.

Fast forward a year later, and I’m sitting here organising what needs to be done before I move into my house next week, ready to start my second year of university. It’s safe to describe my first year at uni as being a complete whirlwind. To use as many X Factor-style metaphors as possible, my first year has been a roller coaster with some amazing highs, some challenging personal lows, but I’ve come out of it as a much stronger person, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ll stop now before I start going on about how I’ve “found myself” (I’m still looking).

For me, despite the lows, starting uni has been the best choice I’ve made. I’ve become far more independent, I’ve found people who are like-minded and I’ve learned how to deal with hangovers and sleep deprivation whilst facing morning lectures. It’s character building stuff.

My personal highlights have included a geography field trip to Spain (which incidentally was the subject of my last post all those months ago) as well as the Summer Ball which was not only a fantastic evening but a great chance to see how much had changed since I started uni in September. I experienced so many new weird and wonderful things (notably the Rocky Horror Show) and I have so many fantastic memories of my first year at uni.

Looking ahead, I intend to start blogging more regularly as I think I’m going to pursue a career in writing. Look out for tips on starting university, as well some travel writing blog posts from a very exciting trip I have coming up in the next few weeks…

As always you can find me on Twitter and Instagram (@andrea_avena) and on Facebook.

Some friends and I at the end of year Geography Boat Party.

Some friends and I at the end of year Geography Boat Party.

 

My great friend Ellie and I before a night out!

My great friend Ellie and I before a night out!

 

2012 – What a year it’s been!

What a great image from the 2012 London Olympic Games!

What a great image from the 2012 London Olympic Games!

I can’t quite believe that it’s New Year’s Eve already, the year has seemed to fly by faster than any other year! I’ve had many ups, and a few downs but I’m definitely happy to be moving forward to 2013.

Thinking back to January, I can’t believe how much has changed since then. Back in January I was still at my Sixth form getting ready to spend the last few months on my A Levels, and I remember thinking that they were the hardest things I have ever done! After getting through them and starting university they seem a lifetime away. It was sad to say goodbye to lots of friends at my sixth form as my last year there ended, but it has been great to catch up with so many people over Christmas.

I had a great summer with friends and family. I enjoyed visiting Italy with my dad in May, going to Barcelona with my close friends in August as well as enjoying the Olympics and Paralympics in London with my family.

Starting university has made me more independent, given me the chance to have so much fun, as well as being tough at times. I love being at Royal Holloway, spending more time in London and having a good time there.

Although the year ended for me on a sad note – we sadly lost my grandfather, Nonno Carmine after a long battle with illness – I am so grateful for the time we did get to spend with him and I hope this will give me the strength to make 2013 a positive year for me and my family.

Overall I can say that 2012 has been a year of many new beginnings for me, I’m grateful for everything it has bought me and I hope 2013 is a great year too.

Have a very happy New Year everyone, stay safe and have a lot of fun!

Warhol.

 

I’ve always liked Andy Warhol’s art but I’ve been learning more about him lately by reading his some of his writings, including his autobiography. Its a really interesting view into the the mind of the great artist, with lots of philosophical thoughts and advice which certainly shows his peculiar sense of the world. I wanted to share some of his quotes with you and I found these great pictures, I hope you like them.

Also, I must add that Warhol had great taste in sunglasses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food and the Trouble with Social Media

As many of you well know, I have a little bit of an addiction with social media. I can hear you nodding in agreement, probably as you try to ignore my latest inane tweet, attention grabbing Facebook post or “vintage” style photograph from Instagram. I should spend less time on these sites but they interest me very much.

I love being able to keep in touch with my closest friends on Facebook now that we have all been separate by university; I love the banter and debate that Twitter provokes and more recently I have enjoyed sharing pictures with everyone on Instagram. But it’s also nice to take a look back and see what kind of things one has posted. I did this, and I have identified that I have a deep fascination with one topic. Food.

I tweet about it, I post about it, and I even take photos of it and share them. It looks like it’s all I think about, and I’m wondering if it is something that should concern me, as I sit here writing whilst devouring some chocolate buttons.

I’m not usually a fan of “instablogging” but here are some of the highlights of my social media and food relationship from the past few months. I might even post some of the recipes in the future, so please let me know what interests you.  You can do this by tweeting me, commenting on here, on my Facebook page, on an Instagram post…

This is an in-progress shot of a pasta sauce I was making, made to the recipe that my Nonna uses (and her tomato passata bottles)

 

Here’s a very nice Pad Thai I made only the other night. I love Thai food in particular, and this is one of my favourite Thai dishes, plus it simple to cook. 

 

Insomnia and hunger do not mix. I made this Rocket & Parmesan salad with a balsamic dressing at about 1:30am when I couldnt sleep. On another note, I should probably stop watching Nigella Lawson

 

A Parma Ham and mozzarella ciabatta sandwich that I ate at my dad’s eatery Carlo’s Kitchen on Union Street. Very nice. Especially after a day of lectures and a train journey.

 

I made this vegetable soup myself! It’s so healthy, delicious and cheap which is perfect for being a student.

 

Finally, here’s me eating a pavlova that my mum made. Its my favourite dessert, and she made it on the day of the Olympic Closing Ceremony, hence the Union jack (and gin & tonic).

 

Starting Uni and Other Excuses for Not Blogging in a While

This is the main building at my uni, and yes I admit I have pretended in my head that I’m at Hogwarts

Well it’s been well over a month since my last blog post and whilst I’ve never posted terribly frequently I don’t think I’ve ever left it this long between posts. The last few weeks have flown by and have been so busy that I haven’t even had time to think about sitting at a computer and typing.

That’s going to have to change very soon, as I started university two weeks ago and I have no doubt that deadlines for essays will soon be set! I’m studying Geography at Royal Holloway so if anyone has studied it before or you have any general tips for studying at uni they will be greatly appreciated.

I’ve had the most amazing time at fresher’s week, I’ve enjoyed it so much, and I’m pleased to be living in halls with a group of friendly, interesting and fun loving people. It’s my first time living away from home, which is a bit strange after living with only my mum, dad and my brother for my whole life but we are all getting along famously (at the moment! Haha!) and so far no food’s gone missing from the fridge and more importantly neither has the vodka!

The best moment for me so far has been the night of my 20th birthday (no, I can’t believe I’m 20 either). My flatmates, who I had only known for a few days, ordered in some pizza’s and decorated the kitchen which was fantastic and made me really feel at home in our flat. That’s in stark contrast to our weekly early morning fire alarms, but its swings and roundabouts I suppose.

I’ve also discovered the wonders of Skype, which is where I can be found when I’m not at a lecture, or a party, or reading as many geographical papers as possible. It’s allowed me to keep in contact with my family and friends at other universities and at home, which makes settling in here in Egham so much easier.

So that’s briefly what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks since I blogged, and my excuses for not posting in such a long time.  Hopefully I’ll get some more posts done soon, I hope everyone who read’s this is well too!

50 Shades of Grey: A Male Response

It’s the most talked about book of the year, it’s sold 20 million copies since April and it’s made its unpublished fan-fic author, E L James, a multimillionaire. So what is all the fuss about?  This week my curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded Fifty Shades Of Grey onto my iPod.

I have to say, as I read it I was really underwhelmed by it. Linguistically, the book bored me. It’s crudely written, and the use of clichés is repetitive, even during the steamier parts of the novel. If you missed Anastasia, the protagonist, saying that she “blushed crimson” the first time, you certainly would read it again. In fact, the novel as a whole is repetitive. Each of its 26 chapters involves some angst on Anastasia’s part, a new sexual revelation from Christian Grey, and a not so exciting sex scene. I would have been fine with only fifty pages of Grey.  This is the first time that an erotica novel has entered the mainstream market, and it would have been excellent to see the author experiment with the language she used, as well as sexual element of the book. In fact, after hearing the hype about the novel’s graphic sex scenes, I actually felt that they weren’t as graphic as I believed they would be (or possibly hoped!)

Moreover, the storyline is very unoriginal. Anybody familiar with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series will notice the undoubted similarities, thought E L James herself has said that these books inspired her. I also couldn’t help thinking “what’s actually happening here?”  Ana and Christian are having a lot of sex and they seem to be enjoying it, but there was no movement in the rest of the story.

But something about the book made me carrying on reading.  I wanted to know if Anastasia would submit to Christian Grey and sign his bizarre sex contract.  I began to be interested in the psychological theme of the novel, which hints at Christian Grey’s traumatic childhood. Was I going to find out what created this darkly unique character? This enigma, like many others,  was left unresolved, maybe to entice readers to buy the second and third novels in the series.

However, it’s clear that Christian Grey is the sole reason for the book’s success. He’s the stereotype of the “perfect” man. He’s the man that every woman wants, and as a guy, I can say he’s the man every man would like to be. Christian Grey is extremely wealthy in money as well as good looks, and he’s completely irresistible to women. Which guy doesn’t want all of those things? This fantasy is what has made the book successful, as readers are allowed to bring their own imagination to it. (Though, it does lead me to question why so many women in the post-liberal world are happy to read a novel about female submission to men.)

I find it hard to see much success for a film version of the Fifty Shades. It will be difficult for a director not to disappoint when so many readers have a vivid image of what the scenes look like. (Especially female readers, Christian Grey is not real!)And it will be almost impossible to create a good plot out of the book’s limited storyline. Moreover, as graphic sex scenes are integral to the novel, it’s hard to see mainstream cinema’s playing what will essentially be porn.

So to summarise, Fifty Shades of Grey is hardly the most impressive book I’ve read. I can see why they have been particularly successful, and I’d probably read the other books just to see how the rest of the story pans out, but for now I only give it two stars out of five.

How to Speak in Public Without Feeling Stupid

Speaking in public terrifies many people, and it terrified me up until a few years ago when I had to travel Birmingham and deliver a speech to 200 teachers and headteachers. I practised and rehearsed many times with t the people I spoke with, and I found that really helped me. This week I got to take part in a conference aimed at helping students become better learners. I was asked, along with my friend Charlotte, to run a workshop on public speaking.After the workshop this week, we came up with ten top tips for preparing to deliver a speech, and I’ll share them with you today:

1.  Where do you start?

 Start with three broad points you want to get across. This will help you structure your speech or talk. A good structure will ensure that you don’t repeat yourself, will make the speech easy for the audience to follow and will help you remember your speech.

2. When writing your speech, use a simple but standard vocabulary

Using simple but appropriate words will make sure that you don’t over complicate the speech this will help the audience understand your message, and well as making it easy for you to speak.

3. Familiarise yourself with the room you will be delivering your speech in.

When you make your speech you want to be as relaxed and as confident and you can be. By familiarising yourself with the room, you’ll be able to visualize your speech and presentation and this will help with your confidence.

4. Use cue cards.

They make you look professional and prepared, you have something to do with your hands & most importantly they help you remember your speech.

5. Rehearse!

Rehearsal is key. A well-practiced speaker will feel more confident & will speak more fluently and this will help you engage with your audience.

 

Delivery of your speech

6. Talk to the audience rather than read your speech

A good public speaker will give the audience eye contact rather than just reading their speech. This is where rehearsal and cue cards help.

7. Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problems

Since you are the only person who knows how your speech goes, the audience won’t realise if you miss something out.

8. Don’t be afraid to ad-lib

When you’re giving your speech and it feels natural to include something you haven’t written, it most likely will help the speech flow. This makes your speech more conversational, and this will maintain the audience’s attention.

9. Speak Slowly

When you start your speech it is likely that you will be a little nervous, and you may speak quickly to get your speech finished quickly. This won’t help you in the long run, as your audience may struggle to understand you, and you will be more likely to miss things or slip up.

10. Finish by inviting the audience to come and speak to you after the speech

Asking for questions may result in your speech or presentation just fizzling out, as the audience may be nervous to ask a question. A face-to-face conversation with interested audience members will be a more effective finish.