University: Was It Worth It?

I recently read a post by Katie over on Life of Kitty on whether university was worth it. I really enjoyed reading it as it got me thinking a lot and after commenting I said I’d do something similar myself.

I went to a smallish university in North Wales. I picked it when I was 17, pretty much at random and decided that was the only one I was going to apply for (pretty reckless looking back on it but it worked!). I didn’t do a visit or talk to anyone who was there, I just applied and the first time I saw the town and the uni was in September 2009 when I started.

I wouldn’t recommend that method for everyone, but it did work out for me. I loved it there: I loved the small town, living by the sea, the campus itself, the societies I joined and all the people I met. Oh, and the course itself. As I went before the fees were changed I only (only!) paid about £3000 a year in tuition. I also got maximum amount of bursaries and loans. This isn’t the point of this post but I did struggle to live on that, so I don’t know how people who were given less money did. I also did have several part time jobs throughout my time there so I was trying to support myself too.

But was it worth the £21,000 debt I am in now, plus the overdraft I struggled to get out of for over a year? Well…

We’ll start with the obvious one – I got a degree out of it. Actually I got two, as I did a Masters straight after I finished my undergrad, but I paid for that all myself. Most people would probably say that’s the main reason for going to university, although I’m of the opinion that it’s the experience that counts just as much. I got a 1st class degree in Creative Studies and a Master of Research in Creative Practice, and I’m really proud of that as I worked very hard.

Fast forward through four years of university and I was working full time at a supermarket cafe for little above minimum wage. Having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job. Though I was well educated, all my friends who didn’t go to uni had four years worth of work experience, while I’d only had several part time jobs. Work experience is a real key thing when you’re looking for a job and I think a lot of university students don’t have it, and that’s where they fall down.

I eventually managed to get a temp job in an office. In the phone interview for it I was asked about my extra curricular activities rather than my degrees: I had experience as secretary for a drama society and coordinated a performance for the local council as voluntary work. And that’s what got me the job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the degrees helped, but that was what my soon-to-be boss was interested in, as it was real world experience I could pull on. I think when you’re at uni you don’t always realise what a bubble you live in.

That six month temp job turned into a year and a half until a different department offered me a full time position with the company, which I’ll return to after maternity leave. I work in IT and do absolutely nothing creative in my job. But I am happy there and that matters to me, having been utterly miserable in jobs in the past.

The experience of university was what really made it worth it for me. I did so many things there which I might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. So I’ve done a little list of some of the things I’m proud of:

  • The above mentioned voluntary performance, which I scripted, cast, led rehearsals for and basically did everything for myself and was a great success
  • Performed in several plays in Wales which were all unforgettable experiences: favourites include Ariel in The Tempest, Hermia in A Midsummer Nights Dream and Jack in Lord of the Flies
  • Performed in a dance competition in Edinburgh
  • Did lights for a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a month
  • Performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for two weeks
  • Had a short story published in an anthology
  • Acted in several short films which have been shown across the UK, America and South Korea

And then we get on to the more sentimental stuff. I didn’t really make friends for life at school, bar one person, but I made excellent friends at university and still speak to a lot of them. There’s a few who also came from the West Midlands and we all came back here and still meet up, which is awesome. I wouldn’t have those people if I hadn’t gone to uni.

And now the really mushy stuff. I also met Nathan at university. He was one of the first people I spoke to there and we were friends for a couple of years before getting together in our third year. And now we have a son together. Again, I wouldn’t have these two if I hadn’t gone to university. I know if I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t know what I was missing and yada yada but I love them both and wouldn’t change a thing.

So while university may not have worked out as I might have once planned – I haven’t (yet!) got a job in creative industries – it worked out well for me in so many other ways that I know I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot there I’ll always treasure the memories I made.

If you’re not sure whether to go to university then I’d say go with you gut – it’s not for everyone, but it definitely was for me. It’s definitely a life changing experience and one that I would go back and do all over exactly the same if I could.

Eczema Relief Tips

This is a bit of a different post for me, as usually everything I do on here is either book or baby related, and this is more of a lifestyle post I guess.

In some ways it is baby related: I think my recent flare up of eczema is down to pregnancy hormones (which are apparently responsible for every weird thing my body does these days).

Being pregnant and also having super sensitive skin, it can be hard to find something to soothe my itchy skin, so I thought I’d share my tips for those in a similar position.

  • Don’t Itch!

Literally everything you’ll read will tell you this, and I know it’s obvious, but it’s so important I think it’s worth emphasising. Sometimes I am so tempted because I know how good it will feel for the few seconds that I’m scratching – I had a session the other day that felt so good I swear it was orgasmic. But, the relief is short lived, and you know it’s going to be short lived, so don’t give in to that temptation.

Keep your nails cut short so you don’t break skin if you do happen to scratch. If you’re a secret night scratcher then try wearing cotton gloves to bed. And most of all, try to stop thinking about how much it itches. Easier said than done, I know, but I’ve found things so much easier when I’m constantly thinking about scratching my skin.

  • Try an oatmeal bath

This is my favourite discovery from this eczema breakout. I did a lot of Googling to try and find something to soothe my skin when it was at its worst – bright red and itchy all over. And a lot of people suggested an oatmeal bath.

There’s two ways to do this. The first is with colloidal oatmeal, which is basically really fine oatmeal – the first time I did it I used Ready Brek, as that was what we had in the cupboard and I figured it was about the same thing. Since, I’ve bought whole oats and used a food processor to blend them into a fine powder. Run yourself a bath – lukewarm, not hot, as hot water will irritate your skin even more – and add a generous cupful of oatmeal.

The second way is with whole oats. You can do this by filling a muslin cloth or the foot of some old tights with oats, and tying a knot in it so they can’t escape. Let this sit in the bath with you – give it the occasional squeeze to bring out some of it’s goodness – and make sure it doesn’t burst, otherwise that’s a horrible mess you’ll have to clean up!

Either way, soak in the bath for a good 20-30 minutes. I found it really relaxing, even with the odd bit of chunky oatmeal finding its way between my toes! When you’re done, climb out – carefully if you’ve used the fine oatmeal, as it can get slippy – then pat, rather than rub, yourself dry, and slap on a ton of your favourite moisturiser.

Oatmeal baths are a great way to naturally soothe and heal your skin. You can pimp it out a bit if you’re feeling more adventurous:

  • add some baking soda for even more itch relief (more on that in a moment)
  • add some essential oils, such as lavender or lemon – but only if you’re sure this isn’t going to irritate your skin more
  • add a cup of milk for some extra creamy goodness – I know this is just starting to sound like breakfast in a bathtub, but it’s good, I promise!

 

  • Use baking soda

Baking soda, or bicarbonate of soda, is the secret miracle in your cupboard. Not only is it good for baking with, as you probably already know, but it’s great as a natural cleaning product, and for some good old itch relief.

As mentioned earlier, you can chuck some into your oatmeal bath, or even just have a baking soda bath by itself. Again, I’d use a generous cupful in lukewarm water, relax until you’re done and then repeat with the patting dry and moisturising.

For a more instant relief, try making a paste with water. I used a tablespoon of baking soda with a splash of water and rubbed it on the worst offending areas. It sounded bizarre and I wasn’t convinced it would work but it really did! Let it dry on your skin, then wash off with lukewarm water, pat dry and moisturise.

I wouldn’t recommend using baking soda on broken skin or if you’re having a really bad flare up, but this would work wonders on things like bug bites too.

  • Moisturise

I’ve mentioned it casually in most of these points, but it deserves one of its own as well. When I’m having bad eczema my skin is usually painfully dry and constant moisturising is key to the healing process, as well as soothing for hot, painful skin. I tend to use Norwegian Formula Deep Moisturiser (this isn’t sponsored by them, I just like it!) and also Sudocrem when it gets really bad (that cream is a miracle cure for anything). I’d experiment and see what works best for you though, as everyone’s skin is different.

 

These are my top tips for more natural/home remedies for eczema and general itch relief. If symptoms persist I’d always recommend getting advice from your doctor or a pharmacist.

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t normally go in for New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I never seem to stick to them. But, it’s the first day of the year, I’m feeling positive and willing to make some promises to myself that I may (or may not) keep.

1. Start a blog
I know it’s kind of cheating because I technically started it yesterday, but this is something I’ve promised I’d create and keep updated this year. So far so good!

2. Complete the British Books Challenge
I’ve already done a post on this, but will mention it again (repetition will make me stick to promises!) I love the idea of supporting British authors and should also encourage me to try reading some new things.

3. Finish my second draft
Last year I finished the first draft of my first YA novel and I have never been prouder. Now I need to go back over it and fix all the broken bits (I swear I WILL plan better next time). It seems momentous at the moment, but so did writing the first draft, and I got that out the way so I think I’m ready for Round Two.

4. Get fit
It crops up every year, but this time I’m determined to stick to it (like I was last year, and the year before…) I’m off to a good start though, having completed my first run on the NHS Couch to 5K run. Just another 8 weeks and 26 runs to go…

Wishing everyone luck in whatever they have resolved to achieve in 2015 🙂