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

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Barcelona – The Best of Spain

Barcelona is one of Spain’s most beautiful and most cosmopolitan cities. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, bathed in Mediterranean sun and right on the coast, the city makes for a fantastic place to visit. Last week I went back to stay in Barcelona with two friends after visiting the city last year with my family, though this time I stayed for slightly longer.

We stayed in the fantastic Casa Gracia, a hostel located on the Passeig de Gracia, which is in central Barcelona and is scattered with designer shops such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and D&G. The wonderfully unique hostel provided so much more than we expected – we had a private three-bed room with an ensuite, which was immaculately clean and spacious. The hostel owner’s organised great evening’s out in Barcelona, offering free entry to the coolest bars and clubs in the city. The best feature though was the sangria and paella nights. For just €8 you could enjoy a hearty meal of paella, salad and tapas as well as jugs of sangria! Also, the staff could not have been more helpful with advising us on the best bars to go to, supermarkets to buy food as well as getting around Barcelona.

We made the most of our Hostel’s central location by buying a T-10 metro ticket. This allowed us ten stops on Barcelona’s easy to use metro system, making it easy to explore the city. On our first day, we covered La Ramblas, the equivalent of Oxford Street and the amazing La Boqueria market. The historic market is fully functional with fantastic displays of fresh fruit, the region’s finest Iberico hams and chorizos as well as an interesting, yet odorous, fish section. I’d fully recommend a visit, is a beautiful place!

Fish at La Boqueria

We all enjoyed wandering around the streets of the Barri Gotic, the older quarter of Barcelona. At its centre is the magnificent Barcelona Cathedral (not to be confused with the even more spectacular Sagrada Familia) a tourist hotspot. The backstreets here are filled with independent clothes shops, vintage and second hand stores and well as excellent Tapas bars.  We really enjoyed Bilbao Berria, a fantastic bar which offers a buffet style selection of tapas treats, including traditional Serrano hams, quail’s eggs with chorizo, padron pepper amongst modern foods such as the mini-burger’s. What’s more, the prices offer excellent value for the great quality food you get.

A small selection of tapas available at Bilbao Berria

In contrast for with our typical tourist days of exploring the sights of Barcelona, we spent one day on Mount Tibidabo, which has a great theme park! We got the bus directly there from Placa de Catalunya, the central hub of Barcelona which was only a short walk from Casa Gracia. When we arrived at Tibidabo we discovered that not only could we get to spend the day enjoying a series of white-knuckle rides, we had also found the most spectacular panoramic view of Barcelona! The view could be enjoyed with your feet safely on the ground, as well as being hoisted into the air on a rickety contraption where you stood in a basket.

Our last full day in Barcelona was spent on Barceloneta Beach, a short metro ride from our hostel and central Barcelona. The golden-sanded beach was packed with local people and tourists, and we may have arrived too late in the day judging by our difficulty in finding an umbrella to sit under! However, we managed to keep cool by enjoying lunch and an iced drink at one of the beaches many café’s and lounges.

Our short stay in Barcelona was packed with seeing sights, the most awe-inspiring being the uncompleted Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece of a church. The beautiful architecture on every street of Barcelona is no match to the Sagrada Familia, and I don’t think I’m capable of describing it in a way that will do it justice. I’ll say this much, you must see it once in your lifetime!

We could have spent more time in Barcelona, we didn’t get to see Parc Guell, another Gaudi designed attraction or the Olympic Village, built for the 1992 Games which regenerated the city. I’d recommend a 5 night stay in Barcelona to see the best of this beautiful city.

Churros are to die for! You dip these sweet pastries into warm melted chocolate

More Information:

We would have been lost in Barcelona without the Dorling Kindersley and Lonely Planet Guides to Barcelona, as well as the extremely helpful Tourist Information kiosks on Placa de Catalunya, and the concierge at Casa Gracia.

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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.

Top Ten Tips for Staying in Hotels

Here are my Top Ten ways of getting the most out of your hotel when staying abroad:

1. Put all complimentary toiletries into your wash bag even if you haven’t used them yet.

     The cleaning people will replace them when they see that they have gone, so you get more free stuff to take home! It’s not technically stealing, it’s just moving things around. Like tax avoidance. 

2. Always make sure that you are holding the key/key card before you close the door to your room.

     One of the most embarrassing things to do is to go down to reception and tell them you have locked yourself out of your own room.*

*I learnt this from experience.

3. Don’t bother packing gym clothes, you’ll never be bothered to go to the gym

     Do visit the gym though; they often have free bottles of water.

4. Breakfast can also double up as snacks for during the day.

   Just because the food is there for breakfast it doesn’t mean it must be consumed then. Take carry-friendly foods such as bananas and biscuits. Scrambled egg and sausages are more daring, but it may be worth the funny looks.

5. Collect all complimentary stationary teabags and sugar sachets

    Let’s be honest here, you’re paying for them in your overall bill, you wouldn’t buy shoes or clothes in a shop and leave them t here would you?*

*UHT milk and the Bible in the bedside cabinet are unacceptable to take with you.

6. Don’t ask for a wake-up call.

    You are woken up suddenly by a stranger who sounds too happy for both the time of day and the job they are doing. It’s very unnerving.

7. There’s no need to have your bed covers turned down for you.

   I just don’t get this. The staff who came to tidy your room before breakfast come back in the evening to fold back the bed covers. It’s pointless; they could have just left it that way in the morning.

8. If you wake up late, and more importantly are showering late, double lock the hotel room door.

This saves you from the highly awkward and embarrassing  moment when the cleaning staff burst into your room whilst you’re are butt naked and drying yourself with a towel.

9. Ask for some clothes hangers before you unpack.

 I can personally guarantee that there will never be enough clothes hangers in the wardrobe. Ever.

10. Don’t order room service.

     It’s just an extortionate price for food which you can get cheaper in the restaurant and to have crumbs all over your bed.