Tag Archives: university

Advice from a Year Abroad-er

12 Dec

Hello lovelies!

I recently was reading some articles on thirdyearabroad.com, which is a fantastic resource if you’re prepping for a year abroad, travelling or even if you just love reading about what other people get up to on their adventures! The more I read, the more I nod along. However, I recently read a very well-written article by Craig that I mostly totally disagree with (soz Craig), so I thought I’d respond. Everyone’s experiences are different on a year abroad, after all!

1. French bureaucracy is a pain that is mostly unavoidable…

Unlike Craig, my bank account was set up within a day of arrival, my housing was sorted in a relatively smooth fashion and my MGEN paperwork all sorted. I can thoroughly recommend sending lots and lots of frantic e-mails before your year abroad starts, to your mentor or a teacher, but since I’ve arrived, it’s been pretty fuss-free. One thing to mention, if you don’t feel like you’re carrying around your identity in paperwork for the first week, you’re doing it wrong. Check again. Photocopy everything. Trust me.

2. Interaction starts with YOU!

I won’t lie, I found the whole first week a bit of an ordeal, and it quite frequently was overwhelming. However, the second week, I decided to really make an effort to communicate. Sure, there will be people that have no interest in talking to you, but do not be disheartened, it gets better! The teachers at my school are incredibly friendly, the people in my apartment building are always throwing a ‘bonjour’ my way, and I’ve even started to have little conversations with the shop assistants now. Breakthrough!

My advice if you’re an assistant like me is to find the other assistant in the school, if there is one. The Spanish assistant at my lycée speaks zero English, and I speak even less Spanish, so we have to communicate in French. She is the best person to talk to, because I don’t feel scared about making mistakes, and we’re both patient when the other person is trying to find a word or do the classic Erasmus-rephrasing!

3. CAF

Yeah okay, it’s a massive pain. There’s just no way that you’re going to beat the system here, but my apartment building is a foyer, which means that when the aid eventually comes through, they’ll give me the difference back on the rent from previous months. Result! The best thing I did was listen to the assistant from last year and contact the foyer. It’s safe, resonably priced (even before the CAF), in a nice part of town and there are tons of social activities. There are loads all over France, but here’s the one for where I am in the Basque Country, just in case.

4. Transport is cheap, but you might have to swap buses eighty-five times to get somewhere..

It’s not quite the €10 a month that Craig says it is in Toulouse, but it is cheap. Travel anywhere on the bus system in the area for 24 hours and it will only cost you €2, which is awesome, but be prepared to change buses to travel some distance…and never, EVER get off of a bus by the front door. A bus driver will shout at you in a very agitated voice. Use the back door!

5. Different teachers want COMPLETELY different things

I’m not an Erasmus Uni student, I’m a language assistant, so Craig’s number 5 doesn’t really apply to me, so I’m going to talk about being prepared for the total inconsistency of teachers. I teach nine hours at a lycée and three at a collège, which is basically a middle school. The lycée has a pretty large English department and about 1800 students, so I work with seven different teachers. Some gave me lesson plans, some said ‘do whatever, just make them talk!’, some tell me five minutes before the lesson what they want me to talk about, some give me a topic, some give me resources. It’s taken a few weeks to get used to doing what they want me to do, but before that, I planned every lesson just in case. Don’t expect all the teachers to want or do the same things. Sometimes I work with four students, sometimes it’s fifteen, sometimes it’s seven. It really depends.

My advice if your teachers are like mine is to prepare lessons just in case, you don’t want to stand in front of 10 18-year olds with nothing to say!

6. An Erasmus society is not always an option!

If you’re an assistant, it’s quite likely that you’re going to be in a school with maybe one other assistant, and that it’s going to be the only school in the area. A lot of assistants get sent to small villages that are quite isolated. Make friends with the teachers or locals first and the other assistants or students will be a bonus! If you’re introverted, it can be difficult to take lots of risks with a society. If you’re homesick, you might not want to socialise with people who don’t speak your language. It’s really difficult to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I would say that a good place to start is your induction with your académie, add eachother on Facebook to stay in touch with people. Plan visits from your English friends so you can show them your new home. It’s totally possible to have a great year abroad without having a society there to organise activities!

7. Your language level probably is better than you think…

Before I left for my year abroad, I would maybe rank myself a 4/10 in French. I was petrified that I would just not understand people, and that’s occasionally a reality. Think about it, you’re moving your whole life to a completely new area, alone, where everyone speaks a different language to you. It’s scary stuff!

The first couple of days were a whirlwind of paperwork, formalities and information overload. But I made it through, and probably understood 90% of it. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves or talk slower, but I can confidently say that I’m living in a foreign country, speaking a language that is not my own, and that it’s not a disaster. I’m pretty proud of that. I’m probably a solid 5/10 in reality. 🙂

Now I’m off to get a chocolatine. Which is a pain au chocolat here in the south of France. All I know is that they’re definitely better in France, and as Craig said, you should definitely be jealous!

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My Life In Pictures: May 2013

31 May

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1. My friend Kent riding down the hill on the scooter that was found in my boot. 
2. Beautiful Uni. Not many people see this stuff, as it’s on a hidden hill.
3. Outrageous selfie on the evening of a wonderful birthday meal out celebrating a Uni friend’s 19th.
4. Swatching. Life of a beauty blogger.
5. Oh SO PRETTY! (shame it stained though!)
6. Nandos please? My first trip without my parents or a big group. Was a lovely girls shopping day!
7. Windsor on a beautiful May bank holiday. My parents came to visit and it was so wonderful to see them after 8 weeks alone.
8. Gaming night with my guy-flatmates, Charlie, Stephen and Roo. All the other girls have left/were packing/travelling, and so we played COD. Well, I say we, I controlled the headset.
9. My little sister (on the right) and her best friend Millie. They’ve both grown up so much in the time I’ve been at Uni. Makes me sad that I missed spending the time with them, but it also reminds me that people change!

I post loads of life and beauty photos on my Instagram. My username is christieannturner if you would like to follow me!

I hope you’ve had a marvellous May! I got my first set of wages from my new job, made some awesome new friends, treasured time with family and Uni friends and bought a LOT of make-up. I can’t wait for June. Moving out of my Uni flat, into my place for the summer (don’t even get me started), a weekend at home with family and beautiful friends and hard work! 

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5 Things To Take From First Year

23 May

Hello lovelies,

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I will take my last exam, a French oral, at 11.15, and then my first year of university will be over. This year’s been quite the journey for me. I think anyone that goes through a major life change can vouch for that. It’s been incredible, and scary, and difficult and enlightening. A few things have remained constant, and a few things will be revelations.

1. The love and support of my friends from home is paramount. 
Since arriving at RoHo, my perspective on friendship has been drastically altered. You really do have to find the people who care, because so many just won’t.

2. The desire for me to support myself is key for me to succeed.
This year has only reinforced what I already knew; I want to be able to support myself financially and be independent. Whether that means paying rent at my parents house once I graduate, moving abroad (a definite possibility), or just getting a 9-5 job and living in a little flat, I know that’s what I want to be doing. I think me and my best friend have that in common. Something that our surroundings, our upbringings and being around each other our whole lives has taught us.

3. Not everyone will want to hear your opinions. 
I thought that university would be my kind of, cultural stomping ground. That I would find people who had the same and different opinions and that we would all get along. More often than not, you don’t find people like that. In my experience, there are five types of University students.

a. The drinkers/partiers.
b. The loners.
c. The activities whores.
d. The overachievers.
e. The workers.

Most people are a combination of two or more, and if I’m honest, I’m probably more of a cheerful and sociable b/e combo. If you don’t find those other people who are the same combo as you, you’re pretty much destined to fail. I think I’ve given all five a try at some point, but I just fit best into a schedule. I’m jealous of those who can just throw caution to the wind and do whatever, I tell ya!

4. It’s okay not to be okay!
Although I haven’t been clamouring to go home constantly, I have experienced bouts of homesickness. The worst thing is when you’ve got a project due, an essay due, lectures in the morning that you haven’t prepared for, no money and nobody to give you a big squishy hug! I had one maaaajor meltdown this year, where I actually Skyped my Mum and sister at 6.30am before they headed off for work/school and just cried about all my problems. It’s okay not to be okay for a bit. You will pick yourself up, dust yourself off and be on your way relatively soon!

5. It’s okay to have a change of heart.
I’m not planning on giving up on my degree, but it’s definitely different to what I was anticipating as I made my journey from a quiet Kent village to…a quiet Surrey village last September. If you get to Uni, and you KNOW you don’t want to be there, then it’s okay not to be there. I think I had so much pride, or will or something at the beginning of the year that I didn’t really realise how this just wasn’t for me. It didn’t click. And I’ve tried loads of stuff to keep me going, like joining clubs and really trying hard in class and doing extra research, but there’s not really anything (especially in Drama) that excites me. What’s keeping me going now is that I have an income and I have a year abroad to look forward to. And that’s really good enough for me.

So there are the 5 top things I have learned this school year.
Definitely going to be indulging in some serious retail therapy tomorrow! I’ve not even set a budget! :O And there will be a haul, don’t you worry!

Now,if any of you would like to give me suggestions of what to spend my hard earned cash on, I would LOVE TO KNOW!
Have a wonderful day/evening,and I shall speak to you all soon!
Christie xoxo

ImageI made this on recitethis.com. Just in case any of you lovelies have something inspirational you’d like to keep with you too!

Don’t grow up, it’s a trap!

13 Apr
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Image from pinterest.com.

I came across this image on Pinterest the other day, and for some reason, it really resonated with me. I’m at university, which is somewhere I’ve wanted to be for as long as I can remember, but now I’m there, all I think about is how much fun school was. 

Growing up can be brilliant, but I also think there are some serious downfalls. Like not car-sharing with your best friends, not eating lunch at the same time every day, and not seeing your favourite teachers. 

I think the thing that you should take away from this post, especially if you’re young, is that time really does fly. Don’t wish away your teenage years, as much as they seem REALLY crappy right now!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful day or evening, wherever you are!
Christie xoxo

Christie gives advice: Applying to university.

7 Mar

My university! Doesn’t it look like Hogwarts?

Yet another of hopefully what will become regular features on this little blog.
As a university student, I have been through the entire ‘applying to uni’ process, and let me tell you, it was not easy for me! First, I’ll tell you a little bit about my experience and then I’ll give you the top 5 tips I’ve come up with for sixth formers, either who have already applied or are thinking about what to do at university.

Okay, so I’m currently a student at Royal Holloway, which is one of the colleges of the University of London. At the end of my degree, I’ll have the same qualification as places such as Queen Mary’s or UCL. I took 5 A-Levels to full course, which is relatively out of the ordinary, from what I can tell. Most colleges or sixth forms offer three or four A-Levels, with the option to drop one after AS. Seeing as I passed all of my AS levels, I carried on with all five. I will say now that that was probably a mistake, and I should have dropped one (cough cough Religion, Philosophy & Ethics). The A-Levels I took were English Literature, Theatre Studies, French, History and Religion, Philosophy & Ethics. I emerged from a reputable school sixth form with 5 full course A-Levels, but at a price. I got 2 B grades and 3 C grades. I had been predicted 2 A grades and 3 B grades, so I under-performed  but now that I look back on it, I really did work very hard in school, and I think I just took on too much.

I had applied to universities that expected those higher grades too. I applied to Sussex, Birmingham, Kent, Royal Holloway (UoL) and Warwick. The course I chose was French and Drama. This definitely limited the places where I could apply to, as it’s quite an eclectic course that not many universities offered at the time. Eventually, I chose Royal Holloway to be my firm choice, and Kent to be my insurance. Both offers were ABB (including French). I actually received BBCCC and a C in French. You may be thinking, ‘How on earth did you get into university then?’. I shall tell you.

I was saved by my extra-curriculars. 

I was not always the most academic student, especially towards the end of my time at school, but I was a bit of a busybody! Throughout my time at secondary school, I was part of the selective school choir, school council, charity team, prefect team, and I was made Head of House (a bit like deputy head girl in role, not in title). I also played some sports when I was younger, trained as a junior life-guard, had two jobs, two music qualifications and stage managed and acted in three school plays. I was definitely an over-achiever, and that was what set me apart from my fellow students. Even though they were incredibly intelligent and worked hard, they did not attend after-school events or help with charity functions. But that’s the thing, it’s impossible to maintain an incredibly packed academic, extra curricular and social life, so something has to suffer. 

And that brings me to today, where I am a first-year French and Drama student at Royal Holloway.

Going through the university application process can be tricky. There are so many thins you have to consider that it can be very overwhelming. Here are a list of tips that I hope will help you, whether you’re just starting to think about university, or about to go in September. 

1. Choose A-Levels wisely. 
If you love science, choose science. If you love art, choose art. Do not choose something because your friends are in the class or because it seems like a bit of a doss, because when it comes to choosing a degree (where you have to pay for your education), you’re not going to have your friends and you will have to pay for subjects that don’t really interest you. For example, most universities ask for History A-level if you want to do a History BA, so make sure that you have History if you know that’s what you want to do!

2. Go on as many visit days as you can.
You don’t get a feel for a university, especially if it’s a campus university, if you sit at home looking on the internet. You have to visit if you’re thinking about applying or if you have applied. I visited four universities, and I knew straight away when I stepped onto Royal Holloway grounds that it was the place for me. 

3. Before you apply, think about what kind of living environment you enjoy.
If you’re a very quiet person who doesn’t enjoy clubbing or late nights, then halls probably won’t be your cup of tea. If you love to socialise and hate long journeys, you probably need to live on campus. A university will offer places to live on and off campus that accommodate your best interests. Perhaps give private housing a look too. In addition to that, do you want to stay at home?

4. Think about whether you actually want to go to uni.
I had friends who didn’t apply to university and ended up regretting it, and friends who applied then decided it wasn’t for them. It’s not always possible to tell what you want to do for the next 3/4 years, but have a good long think about where you see yourself in the near future. If it’s not at university, save yourself the aggro and thousands of pounds worth of debt! 🙂

5. If you get to uni and change your mind, don’t be afraid to tell someone.
Whether you hate your course, your tutors, your flatmates or your university in general, you must talk to people about it. You can change course quite easily once at a university,or at least tailor your current one. If you dislike your flatmates, then contact campus housing (you’ll get a mass of paperwork and fliers on your first day that will probably end up in the bin barring a few post-its) and discuss moving or room-swapping. There’s almost always more than one person in that situation. And if you hate your university, then don’t get stuck there for the forseeable future. I had a friend who spent less than 24 hours at her university of choice, decided she wanted to be closer to home, dropped out, and was at a new university doing the same course within two weeks. UCAS really does want to find a place for you, no matter how much it may seem like they don’t.

Okay, so there you go. 5 hopefully helpful tips. I hope this helped or at least was interesting to read. If you have ANY questions at all about anything to do with university, leave a comment and I will be sure to reply asap! 🙂 I remember feeling completely lost this time last year, and I had so many questions, but no-one to talk to! 

Have a wonderful day!
Christie xoxo