Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Introspection


As I sit here by my window on this chilly but bright Tuesday morning, watching the last of the autumn leaves fall from the trees and people striding purposefully to their lectures and seminars, I feel oddly peaceful in way that I haven't felt in quite sometime. This past year has been full of ups and downs and altogether hasn't been the best. Something within me hasn't felt quite right, like I'm off balance somehow and can't quite reach an equilibrium. A lot of time has been spent feeling dissatisfied, numb even. The past few weeks have been extremely cathartic and have allowed me the time and space for introspection. Through this I feel that I've found a source of this disquiet.

I've realised that I've spent so much of my time focused on 'one upping' myself this year. Always striving to go above and beyond what I've done before. Always having to fill up my spare time with exciting adventures and experiences just for the sake of saying I've done them. I am extremely lucky to have had some of the experiences that I've had but the negative side effect of having had them is that it sets a standard. The bar is so high that I've put this unnecessary pressure on myself to constantly do do do. I had 5 months off for summer this year and I chose to fill it up as much as possible with new adventures and exciting trips, always making sure that when someone asked 'So what have you been up to?' I had a mega list of awesomeness. I realise now that this was a mistake. I should have allowed myself to catch up with myself. To have a bit of time just to just breathe and be. I spend so much of my life planning the future that a part of me has forgotten to enjoy the present. To be in the moment and feel content with the simpler things.


Life doesn't always need to be a great excitement. There is so much happiness and extraordinary in the ordinary. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the great experiences you've had in the past and accept that life isn't always going to be as awe inspiring and life changing, but that doesnt make it less incredible and meaningful. Sometimes you have to slow down and just be in the now. Focus on the all of the wonderful things in day to day life that make you happy. Lets give it a go. 

I love having my own place. I love the feeling of freedom it brings, knowing that if I don't want to talk to anyone, I dont have to. I can keep it as tidy or messy as I want, I can eat whatever I want whenever I want. I can go out in the middle of the night for a walk if I felt the need. I love waking up in the morning and making myself a cup of tea. I love the sun shining through the kitchen window and making the room seem bright and homely, no matter what the weather. I love the feel of hot water on my skin in the shower. I love my little chats with my flatmates. I love wrapping up in my warm coat and scarf, wearing jeans and boots and walking to my lectures. I love listening to my music and people watching as I walk pass the masses. I love learning. I love sitting at my desk or going to the library and getting work done, the feeling of being productive and feeling on top of things. I love talking to my friends on Skype and having a good catchup. I love my flatmate Ria who is also one of my best friends. I love how comfortable we are around each other. I love how she's always there if I need. I love how much we giggle and laugh til our stomachs hurt and our eyes are blurry from the tears. I love how I don't have to think about saying goodbye for a long time. I love going to the gym and buying my own groceries. I love pushing myself. I love hanging out with friends, old and new. I love going to Theatre meetings and playing silly warm up games and the sense of community you feel when you're in a production. I love sneaky trips to Spar to buy a KitKat chunky with Ria and I love sitting down with her afterwards with a hot drink, in my pyjamas and watching an episode of Black Mirror. I love going on walks in this beautiful place I get to call home. 

Life is actually great. When you actually allow yourself to appreciate each day for what it is, it's amazing the peace it brings along with it. 

I'll go into more detail about things when I sit down and write my annual roundup of the year, but for now I just wanted to say, to myself and to anyone else reading this, go and make yourself a cup of your favourite drink and sit by yourself for 10-15 minutes and write down a list of things in your day to day life that make you happy. I promise it's worth it.

Until the next time,

xx
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Friday, 21 October 2016

An Epilogue: Post Exchange Blues


It's been about six months since I left Calgary and I felt it important to write a little something about life post exchange and how it feels to return 'home'. My last blog post about studying abroad was titled 'The Final Chapter' which I, at the time, felt tied up all the loose ends of my exchange and summarised the experience as a whole. However, when writing that piece, I neglected to consider the epilogue; that the experience of studying and living abroad in Calgary would have a much more profound impact on me and affect my life upon return in ways I never expected or truly anticipated.


First things first, leaving Calgary was heartbreaking. I felt truly truly sad. My poor brother had come over to North America to have an epic adventure with me and for the first few days in New York I was terrible company. I felt it difficult to smile, to enjoy my time with him in this crazy city. All I wanted to do was cry. I hadn't realised just how hard it would be to say goodbye to the people and the place that had become my home for the previous 8 months. To acknowledge that I would never again return to that normality, that day to day life that I had in Calgary. I was also sad to leave behind people who I saw everyday, who I'd started to care about deeply, whose friendship could have developed so much more than it was able to in the time constraints. As I said, I was truly, truly sad.


Landing on UK soil didn't bring the same inexorable excitement as it had done at Christmas time, or as I'd hoped it would. Instead, I looked out of the window of the plane and felt numb. I wanted to be back to my normality and I didn't know what that was. I wanted to feel at home but I didn't know where that was either. I didn't even feel happy to see my parents who I hadn't seen in months. I felt guilty and yet unfeeling. It was horrible. I felt this way on and off for the next month, until I went on my next adventure to Eday, which was definitely what I needed at that time. I had thought I would feel happy to be home, to be back in the UK, to see my friends and my family again, and I was to a certain extent, but I felt so out of place. I felt like a jigsaw piece that no longer fitted into the puzzle. I was annoyed at myself for feeling so miserable, but that's how I felt. Miserable.


A friend of mine went travelling for 10 weeks and returned around the same time as I returned from Canada. She shared this article titled 'The Hardest Part Of Travelling No One Talks About' and I read it and felt such a wave of relief. It was true. When you return back to your home country, all you want to do is tell people about your time away. Somehow everything you want to say relates to your time studying abroad. I found myself saying, 'When I was in Calgary...', 'Oh my friend in Calgary...', 'Yeah, in Calgary...' and then chastised myself for saying it, tried to stop myself from sounding like a broken record because after five minutes, no-one is all that interested in what life was like in Calgary. Or at least that's how it seemed. It feels like while you've spent all this time away, growing and changing, everyone and everything you left behind has stayed absolutely still. Or maybe that some people have done their own changing, but on another path, away from you. Things aren't the same, yet it feels as if you're trying to fit into the same mould that was there when you left and unfortunately that normality doesn't exist anymore. It's hard to describe, but the world feels so different, so much bigger and you've had all these experiences, you've met all these people from all over the world, you've seen new places, you've had your eyes widened, your perspectives altered, your life completely and utterly changed and to presume that everything will be the same is somehow ignorant.


I'd say that keeping busy and making sure you push yourself to continue trying new things helps. Being back at Lancaster has also been a strange transition. It feels familiar yet so different at the same time. Things have changed and friendship groups have parted ways, so I urge anyone who's in the same position to try new things and maintain some of the old too. Rejoin societies, get yourself back into the swing of things, but acknowledge that you've changed and so have people around you, so don't beat yourself up too much if you feel things aren't the same as they were when you left, because you're not either. Make some new friends, go to the Study Abroad events held to reintegrate you back because you'll meet other people who are going through the exact same thing. Allow yourself to feel sad and miss your home away from home, but don't spend your time wallowing too much, because there's so much more you have yet to do.


Until the next time,

xx
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Monday, 26 September 2016

Autumn Watchlist

coffee-fever.tumblr.com
As Autumn and the start of university loom, I find myself looking forward to those cosy nights in, snuggled up under my favourite blanket, a hot cuppa in my hands and an episode or three of my favourite TV shows. I know, am I middle aged already or what? Hey, we've all been there.

Just in case you find yourself sat inside on a cold blustery night with nothing to watch (could there be anything worse?!), I thought I'd share a few of the shows on my watchlist for these upcoming months, some new and some old favourites.

1. Cold Feet


Cold Feet is a British drama set in Manchester that originally aired for 5 seasons from 1997-2003 and has recently been rebooted as a continuation of the original story, 13 years later. The show follows the lives of Adam (James Nesbitt), Jenny (Fay Ripley), Pete (John Thompson), Karen (Hermione Norris) and David (Robert Bathurst), their friendship, their families and all the sweet and sour moments in between. It is such a heartwarming and relatable programme, showcasing a large range of real and sometimes taboo problems. The 6th series is absolutely incredible so far. For anyone who didn't watch the original series, I urge you to go and watch it, but if you can't for any reason, you can pick up without having seen it first.

2. This Is Us

I just watched the first episode of this new series on NBC and it's safe to say that I am hooked. Here's the official trailer for you to see for yourselves.

3. Grey's Anatomy

It's no secret that I love Grey's Anatomy, but I could probably put my hands up and say that this show is my all time favourite (sorry Veronica Mars). I've grown up with this series and I've always, always found something or someone I could relate to. Despite its cast changes *sobs quietly into pillow* this show is one of the only shows that has managed to keep relevant and keep fresh. It has something for everyone. It has its adrenaline filled episodes, its fair share of drama, its funny moments, its heartbreaking scenes, it has friendship, it has love, and yes, death... But most of all it has a lot of heart. Plus a lot of medical terminology. So technically it could be called studying #definitelynotageographystudent. I watch Grey's Anatomy when I need an emotional outlet and boy, does it always deliver.

4. Great British Bake Off

If you like food and a bit of competition and fun, this is the show for you. And if you don't, this is still the show for you. Currently on it's third series, I'm amazed I never watched it before. It's currently on BBC One and available online at BBC iPlayer if you have a TV License.

5. Our Girl
Our Girl is another BBC show, but this time it's a drama about the life of two female medics in the British Army. The first series follows a medic called Molly and the second follows a medic called Georgie, pictured above. Of all the shows on this list, this is the most action packed (sorry Mary Berry) and I absolutely adore it! Currently airing on BBC One after Bake Off.

And there you have it, what I'll be watching over the next few months.

Happy Autumn!

xx

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Fersness Farm, Eday, Orkney (Part One)

Heifers on The Point, Fersness, Eday
Part One: Discovering WWOOF 
A couple of years ago, smack bang in the middle of my exams, I spent an afternoon procrastinating using my favourite form of escapism: planning for and dreaming of the end of the misery and the start of the summer. Working on a farm has always been a little dream of mine and so I decided to use my trusty friend Google and look at summer farming opportunities. At some point on this search trail, I stumbled across an organisation called WWOOF which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. With a little bit of research I discovered that WWOOF is a network of farming hosts and volunteers across the world, whereby farms offer room and board in exchange for volunteer labour. This provides individuals with a way of travelling to new places, experiencing a different way of life and learning new skills whilst in return, lightening the tough load that comes with running a farm or smallholding of any kind. Each country involved has its own WWOOF organisation that works on a national basis and my experience so far is with WWOOF UK, although there are so many other countries you can get involved with.

Walking around the Point, Fersness, Eday

Membership was £20 for a year so I thought to myself, why not? And started looking at different hosts. The ones that interested me the most were larger farms with livestock, as I'd had no real experience with working with cattle and sheep and was eager to learn. I limited my area of search to North and Central Scotland and more explicitly, to the Islands around Scotland including the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. I did this because I'd never been to any of these areas of the UK before and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to visit these areas and experience their beauty while at the same time doing something different and learning new things. As I was set to work in the USA that summer and with moving to Canada for their earlier start to Semester, I didn't have enough time to dedicate so instead, I only looked and saved a few listings that I liked the look of to get in touch with at a later date.

Sunset and Silhouettes, Fersness, Eday

Part Two: Making Contact
So in December/January time, I logged back into WWOOF UK and started contacting a few hosts. There were three farms/smallholdings in total. One on Skye, one in Lossiemouth and one on Eday. I heard back from two of them, a smallholding on Skye and Fersness Farm on Eday. There was no competition in deciding which I wanted to accept. I was completely taken with Fersness Farm, but when I'd applied, I hadn't thought anything would come of it considering my complete lack of livestock experience. Over the next few months, with the help of my most amazing hosts Mark and Lou, I planned and booked my travel up to Orkney to embark on one of the most amazing learning experiences I've had in my life to date.

Hatson Ferry Terminal, Kirkwall - 11pm

Part Three: Travelling to Eday
Travelling up to Eday from Essex wasn't the most easy or straightforward journey, and it's probably one of the most tiring journeys I've had to make. The first time I went up was in June, and I travelled by train up to Elgin to stay with family, and then made my way to Aberdeen the next day to get the Ferry up to Kirkwall (the most populated town on the mainland of Orkney). I did this for several reasons,

1. To see my family.
2. To break up the long journey.
3. To be able to get a much cheaper train ticket.

I found it difficult to travel cheaply by train from Essex to Aberdeen in time for the ferry (Operated by Northlink Ferries) to Kirkwall at 5pm. Most tickets were ridiculously expensive so instead I found far cheaper tickets that took me to my Brothers home in Elgin for a fraction of the price, and it was only an hour and a half away from Aberdeen to catch the ferry the next day, meaning I got to spend a bit of time with my nieces and nephew: a bonus! My favourite sites for finding cheap tickets and booking trains are Virgin Trains and Trainline

Tip: Depending on the time of year you go, and on the day of the week, train tickets fluctuate in price. I find that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the cheapest days to travel on.

Tip: If you're under 26 years of age, I wholeheartedly recommend investing in a 16-25 railcard. If you're travelling by train over a long distance, you will likely pay for your railcard in one journey. It has been one of my most valuable treasures over the past 4 years. I would say that by now, I've paid for my railcard at least 25 times over, probably more, as trains have been my most common form of transport. If you're a UK student, you can get a 4 year railcard for free with Santander if you sign up for their student current account - extremely worth it in my opinion.


Map of Orkney in respect to Mainland Scotland
Unfortunately, Northlink ferries only operate a ferry that arrives into Kirkwall at 11pm at night, therefore too late for the last boat to Eday. Therefore you need to find a place to stay overnight. Unless you want to wait for 10 hours at the ferry port in the cold, which I would not recommend doing. Both times I've been to Eday, I've stayed at the Kirkwall Peedie Hostel and it is awesome. I don't know if I'd want to try anywhere else now. It is such good value for money, and very cosy. I love it. It's easy to get to both from the Northlink Ferry terminal when you dock at 11pm (ask the bus driver on the X10 bus at the terminal to drop you at the Peedie Hostel), and to the ferry terminal for the boat to Eday (operated by Orkney Ferries).

Note: You can also get to Orkney via the ferry from Scrabster on mainland Scotland to Stromness (the second most populated town in Orkney), and then get a bus to Kirkwall. It depends on which is the easiest option for you.

So, anyway, enough about travel arrangements. I arrived to Eday on the ferry and was met at the pier by one of my lovely hosts Lou. I was pretty nervous initially, but Lou was absolutely wonderful and calmed my nerves with her warm welcoming chatter.

View from Kirkwall Peedie Hostel upon arrival - 11:25pm

Part Four: The Farm
As soon as I arrived at Fersness, I was catapulted into hectic farm life. I'd come at the tail end of calving and lambing, in time for Artificial Insemination (hereafter termed AI). The first few days, before AI began, were especially crazy, with adjusting to farm life, getting to know everyone, lots of new things to learn and a mixture of allsorts to do. That first day I arrived, I had lunch and then immediately was taken over to Pharay, an uninhabited island North of West Eday where they keep sheep. We went over by boat, an orange rib which looked like an old lifeboat. The reason for the trip over to Pharay was to check for newborn lambs and to see if any lambs were separated from their mothers. We found two lambs looking poorly with no mothers in sight. One particular lamb, the one that made a big impression on me, was a newborn, who was curled up almost out of sight next to the ruins of an old croft house and he had this green goo splattered all over his face, which I soon learned was Fulmar spit. Fulmars are seabirds that project a foul smelling and sticky substance when feeling threatened. It's a defence mechanism used by the chicks as they are otherwise defenceless. I got off the quadbike (the preferred use of transport on Pharay as there are no roads) and went and picked him up. The first lamb I'd ever held. He was so light and fluffy in my arms, and was so poorly he didn't even try to resist me. I felt a wave of sadness as I looked down at him. We returned to base and Marks brother, had found a ewe (pronounced Yow in Orkney, instead of Yew) and lamb that needed to be taken back also. So in total, we had 4 sheep to transport back on the rib. I didn't know until that day, that if a sheep is on its back it cannot, or at least finds it extremely difficult to, get back up again. And when sheep have a full coat of wool and it rains, they begin to get an irritation on their backs and roll over, and then remain stuck sometimes, which is something else that needs to be looked out for and monitored on Pharay, as visits are few and far between.
View from the Farm
We returned and put the most poorly lamb in the polycrub after giving him some glucose and ephadryl as it was warmer in there. We checked on him an hour or so later and he'd passed away. I felt my throat get tight and tears sprang to my eyes but I didn't want to make a fool out of myself in front of Mark and Lou who had probably seen hundreds of animals die over the years. It was a big moment for me truthfully and I think I'll always remember that poor little lamb. On a more positive note though, the other little lamb we rescued from Pharay, who we named Purple Dot, began to thrive and I couldn't get him to stop drinking milk, and I can tell you now that he continued to grow and do well.
Pharay in the distance

First day over, I started my daily duties. These included:

1. Feeding three cows that were to be sent to the abattoir (slaughterhouse). They were fed 2 scoops of barley, 2 scoops of maize and 1 scoop of mixed feed, twice a day.
2. Making up ewe milk for the 27 caddie (orphaned) lambs. The lambs were separated into two pens depending on size. They were fed three times a day from a milk bucket with teats. I had to make up 40 litres of milk a day, in batches of 8 litres, which gets very tiresome, very quickly. This involves putting 2 kilos of Shine formula into 6 litres of hot water, and then 2 litres of cold water is added after thoroughly mixing the formula. In addition to the milk, the lambs were given creep feed 2 or 3 times a day depending on how much they ate, hay, and their water was changed every day.
3. Feeding and watering the ducklings three times a day.

Making up formula
Although my least favourite job was making up the milk, my favourite part of the day was spending time with my young lambs, and there were several favourites. Some of the youngest lambs hadn't quite got the hang of drinking from the teat so I had to hold them and help them to suckle. This was my favourite job because when you succeed, it is the best feeling. One little lamb, who was particularly fluffy hence the name Fluffy, could not get the hang of the teat, no matter how much I tried and I sometimes had to be quite forceful with him but for several days he refused to drink from the bucket and would only accept a bottle. So eventually I decided to stop his bottle and he got so hungry that he started bleating at me for food and would run up to me everytime I went past or entered the pen. After he'd missed a couple of meals, I took him to the bucket and he drank and drank and drank. I was so happy and relieved and proud. For a long while afterwards, Fluffy refused to drink from the bucket unless I was there, holding him, which was very cute.

Fluffy finally drinking from the bucket!
In between these daily duties, the first week brought with it a lot of other work. I mentioned earlier that we'd given the poorly lamb glucose. This is administered by putting a tube down into the lambs stomach, I learnt how to do this and check to make sure that I hadn't put the tube down a lambs windpipe by accident. It was quite scary but extremely exhilarating. Other things we did during that week were herding and moving sheep, herding and moving cattle, artificially inseminating cattle (I'll go into waaaaay more detail next blog post), clearing out boxes (stables for cattle), pressure washing the barn to prepare for shearing/clipping, driving the Gator (a John Deere vehicle).


One amazing, amazing thing I got to witness, which was hands down the most incredible experience I had, was a caesarean on a cow. The vet had to cut through so many thick layers of skin, and the the womb and all of a sudden there were these two legs popping out and they pulled out the legs and there was a big, alive, calf! It was incredible. I was completely gobsmacked by the whole thing. It was covered in gunk and kept wheezing but that's normal. The vet then proceeded to stitch the cow back up, which I got a photo of. Apologies to those with weak stomachs.


I didn't expect this post to get so long! I intended to write about all of my Eday experience so far in this one post but I fear it will get way too long. So, until the next time... where I'll tell you all about cattle. AI, Bulls, Calves, Nutrition, Medicine and Dehorning...

xx
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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden


'Our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.'


I'm not quite sure how to review this book as I've read quite a bit of criticism about the factual accuracy regarding life as a Geisha portrayed by Arthur Golden. Having no prior cultural knowledge of Japan and more specifically the life of a Geisha at this time, I cannot say whether it was or was not a correct portrayal. Nevertheless, Memoirs of a Geisha was absolutely intriguing and heart wrenching. The imagery of Japan and the detail of everyday life in Gion and in the Okiya was exceptional, and was a large factor in my love of this novel. However, ultimately, it was Chiyo's story that gripped me from the first page and kept me reading on. A coming of age book through and through, the entire account of young Chiyo/Sayuri was bittersweet.

It was warming to see that so much good could eventually come to someone who had been through so much hardship. Chiyo was such a relatable character that I felt her heartbreak and her happiness as if it were my own. However, as someone who likes to have loose ends tied up, I found it hard to accept some of the loose ends that were left untied in this novel, and the way some things were left in general. That isn't to say that I would change anything about it, in fact, the story probably wouldn't have affected me as much if there was a happy ending in every which way. It reminds you that not everything in life turns out the way you necessarily want it to and more importantly, and personally more difficult to come to terms with, not every relationship in life ends on good terms or even in a way that you can understand. But that is life, and fortunately, it goes on regardless. The way in which Golden writes Chiyo/Sayuri and her journey into this realisation is so realistic and gut wrenching that the whole tale is absolutely incredible.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Summer Update

Fersness Farm, Eday
Hellooo. It's been a while I know. The lack of routine over the past few months has taken a toll on my blogging schedule, which has always been inconsistent at best anyway. Since my last proper post, I've been here, there and everywhere it feels like. I left Calgary and visited New York, Toronto and Iceland with my brother PJ, we returned and I spent the next month being a tourist back in the UK with my Australian cousin Lucinda and we had a small yet eventful trip to France during that time too. As soon as she headed back to Brisbane, I left for Eday, a small Island in the Orkneys, where I worked on a Cattle and Sheep farm for 5 weeks. 

Lac de Virlay, France
Less than 24 hours after my return I set off for Washington D.C. where I stayed with my good friend Lisa for a few days before we ventured to Turtle Island Preserve for the third year running to participate in Girls Camp 2016. As always, Camp was eventful, rewarding and a learning experience. I know I still haven't got round to writing about Turtle Island on this blog but that time will come, and soon I think. After 2 weeks of camp, I stayed with another close friend Kendra in her wonderful home in Hickory, NC for a week and we journeyed back to DC for a couple of days to visit with Lisa again before my return flight to the UK. So, yes, it's been hectic. Time to have a little breather and focus on my dissertation, my family and my friends for a few weeks before heading back up to the Orkneys for a couple of weeks.

I hope to write some individual blog posts about some of the above adventures, but thought this would be a good way to end the blogging drought for now. Talk to you soon! 

xx
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Monday, 9 May 2016

The Final Chapter: Studying Abroad

I finally saw a black bear in Alberta
Hellooooo! It's been a while since I updated you on my time in Calgary. As I expected, there was nothing too exciting to report over the past semester. However, there are a few things I want to say as my time in Canada draws to a close.

Glacier Skywalk, Jasper
It's crazy how little time I have left living here. The countdown has well and truly begun and I'm feeling a mixture of emotions. Things really hit me like a tonne of bricks when my roommate Ali moved out a few days ago. She has been my rock here in Calgary, the one constant thing throughout my time in Canada and saying goodbye was incredibly hard. Now the sadness is passing, it's being replaced with a feeling of relief (NOT about Ali, just to clarify). I am so relieved to be going back to the UK.

Moraine Lake, Banff
It's a funny thing growing up, travelling and moving away from 'home' because you'll never have just one single place to call home again. And that's difficult to get your head around, knowing that wherever you are, there will always be somewhere and someone who you'll miss. But being here in Canada has made me absolutely certain that I need a base a bit closer to my family.

Emerald Lake, Yoho
Do I regret studying abroad? NOOOOOOO WAY, I wouldn't change a thing. Experiences like these truly make us and show us who we really are and what we really want. I have had such an amazing time here, there are so many things that exchange has brought me and taught me that will no doubt stay with me for the rest of my life...

University of Calgary, AB
At the top of the list is friendship. I have made friends from all over the world. Just the other day I was sat in a full car comprised of a Canadian, a Brazilian, an Australian and an Ecuadorian. And these are some of the most awesome, fun, kind and accepting people I've ever met yet all of us have come from very different backgrounds. Some of the best friends I've ever made have been here in Calgary. It gives me such a great excuse to go travelling to see them again. We'll all share a bond over the memories from Exchange for the rest of our lives and that reason alone would be enough to make it all worth it.

Spray Lakes, Kananaskis
But that's not the only thing. I have seen so many new places and experienced so many new things. I remember the feeling I had being up in the mountains for the first time, the sky was dark and grey and the mist hung low, making the mountains ominous shadows all around. I felt in awe and almost a tad apprehensive. Contrast that to the second time, with the bluest of skies and the sun shining down and glinting off the peaks, making the mountains less ominous but no less majestic. Being here in Calgary and having this opportunity to be so close to the Rockies has reminded me that the world is so big and beautiful and that there are so many places still to see and so many amazing places wherever I may go. It's given me a kick up the backside to continue to explore. Especially the places you may take for granted. Be a tourist sometimes, and you may learn something new about the place you've lived for years of your life.

Spray Lakes, Kananaskis
This exchange has no doubt made me stronger as a person. It's hard to explain but I feel more comfortable in my own skin. When pretty much the only constant person in your day to day life is yourself, you have not only a lot of time to figure out who that is, but you have to portray that to a lot of new people. I don't know if that was explained well... But anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I've had a lot of time and space to grow and to learn what I want and who I am at my core. I feel a million miles away from that scared girl who'd just got off the plane and was overwhelmed and scared of this new, huge place. I feel a lot more confident in myself. There have been countless times on this exchange where I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I've done things even when I've felt nervous, sad and/or scared. Saying yes to things, making your own opportunities, taking a little bit of a risk. That has been extremely important here.

Lake Louise, Banff
It's given me a bigger appreciation for the things that I may have taken for granted, from the big things like my family and friends to the small things like food and drink and humour. My parents deserve a medal for everything they have done for me here in Calgary (and everything beforehand too). Honestly, I am sooooooooo thankful for modern technology because if I hadn't been able to talk to my Mum and Dad I would have struggled a LOT. Being 4,384 miles away from home has made me appreciate my family and friends sooooo much more. Their love, support and good humour is something that I have relied on so much here and I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had that. I don't think I would have been able to enjoy my time half as much without having regular contact with everyone back home. Just talking about them now makes me even more excited to be back in the UK.

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper
But, back to studying abroad. Honestly, I think everyone should do something like it. Simple as that.

Peace Bridge, Calgary
I'm really going to miss Canada. I'm going to miss watching the snow swirl from my windowsill. I'm going to miss the mountains. I'm going to miss my roomie Ali. I'm going to miss poutine. I'm going to miss the friendliness and chattiness of pretty much everyone, everywhere you go (except over the phone for some reason - Canadian politeness doesn't seem to extend there). I'm going to miss the mega bargains at the mall on EVERYTHING and the cheap cinema tickets. I'm going to miss the campus. I'm going to miss the experiences I've had over the last 8 months and just being on exchange in general.

Bow River, Calgary
Oh Canada, thanks for putting up with me. Now off to New York, Toronto and Reykjavik! I'll keep you posted.

Bow Falls, Banff
EDIT: I'm writing this last bit after having left Calgary just over 4 days ago and I just wanted to say that I'm surprised at how sad I've felt about leaving. I've been so focused on exams and on going home, moving my things out and all that hectic stressful stuff that I didn't expect to feel the way I have been. I've felt unbelievably sad as it's finally hit me that I won't be going back to live in Calgary. Calgary was never my favourite city but it's been my home and I've come to love it's little quirks and love its people. I have had one of the best experiences of my life living there and I think i'll always be happy to go back and visit. Until the next time!

Peace Bridge + Downtown, Calgary

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Twenty


Everyone tells you that your twenties are the best years of your life and although people tend to say a lot of things, this one makes a lot of sense. The twenties, for some not all, are generally a time of freedom, of good health, of naivety and grand ideas. Life in education comes to an end and the possibilities of what to do next are endless. They are a time of hope and wonder. To do the things you really want to do without the general ties that life brings as you get older.


Turning twenty has me feeling a mix of emotions. Happiness at what I've managed to do and to achieve so far. Thankfulness for the people around me who continue to love and support me and make me smile and laugh everyday without fail. Sadness that time is already seeming to fly by. And terror. A worry that I won't make the most of this time being young and relatively carefree. That I won't fill my days with things worthwhile. That time is going to flash by that I'll be looking back in 10 years wondering how I managed to waste it.


So this is to my future self. I hope that you took the time to find the joy in every day. I hope you made sure to show the people you love and care so much about just how much they mean to you. I hope you went out of your way to make people smile. I hope you were there for your friends and family when they needed you. I hope you stayed up late talking and got up early to see the sun rise. I hope you laughed til you cried so many times you couldn't even count. I hope you experienced new places and did new things. I hope you worked hard. I hope you took time to treat yourself and to appreciate the little moments of quiet and stillness. I hope you played silly games with your nieces and nephew. I hope you lay down in the grass and watched the stars. I hope you ran in the rain and laughed at your reflection when you returned. I hope you filled that time with love, laughter and precious moments.


Here's to the next ten years of my life!


xx

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Sunday, 27 March 2016

10K

Today marks the day I finally, for the first time in my life, managed to run 10km. I honestly never thought I'd actually manage to do it but seeing Eddie Izzard complete 27 marathons in 27 days made me realise that in comparison, 10km (6.2 miles) really isn't that unachievable and it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. I don't actually have any pictures of me running, so I'm just going to include photos of moments when I've been extremely thankful and happy for my fitness.

Hiking to Tent Ridge, Kananaskis, 2015
Running is definitely my favourite choice of cardio, and for the past 4 years, since I really began to make an effort in regards to exercise, it's been running that I've chosen as my benchmark for fitness. During this time, my fitness has dipped and risen in waves as I continually manage to make and break exercising habits. The past 8 months have been the longest amount of time I've gone in a row with regular exercise and at the beginning of this year I upped my usual goal of running 5km to running 10km and I feel so elated right now to have managed it. 

Founders Netball Match, Bowland vs Lonsdale, 2015
Being fit and healthy is a lifestyle and a choice and one that's so often rewarding. Being able to run without getting ridiculously out of breath, being able to do activities like hiking and playing netball without even thinking about being tired, feeling stronger when you've been strength training, it's absolutely amazing what your body can do when you exercise and train it and when you feed it the right things.
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