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25 emotional struggles of being a final year student

9 Mar

…as demonstrated by my cat. Take it away Fudge.

I’ve had the most amazing summer. I can’t face even thinking about packing for university, there’s just too much…stuff.
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This is probably all I need.

I get a headache just thinking about all the work I have to do this year. Make it stahhp.

I’ll just go out tonight instead. That’ll solve it.

Walk into the club like…

That was AWESOME. It’s 4am and the room is spinning. I have SO MUCH to do tomorrow.

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No. NO. This can’t be happening. I’m never, drinking, again.
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I’m SO THIRSTY.
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That’s better.
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Urgh I drunk texted last night! I should probably send a mature follow-up message to explain my actions.
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Right, now that’s sorted, WORK. Time to move into the library all day every day.
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Needed energy drinks. Had energy drinks.

Must. Stay. Awake.

Must. Stay. Awake.

Feeling pretty good, I submitted that essay with a comfortable 30 seconds to spare.

I'm so on top of my life right now.

I’m so on top of my life right now.

Right, now DISSERTATION.
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No. It can’t be. It’s Christmas in a week!
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Everyone else is festive and what am I getting for Christmas? Stressed. I’m getting stressed.

Don't tell me what to do.

Don’t tell me what to do.

I got fat too. I got stressed and fat for Christmas.
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Don’t even remind me that it’s January already. I’m not ready for that kind of comedown.
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Won’t go back. Can’t make me.
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Should probably unpack my things and get back to the library. 

It's worse than I remember.

It’s worse than I remember.

I’M SO RESTLESS IN HERE.
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Bumped into Margot in the library today. She asked me how my dissertation is going.

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The conversation did not end well.

I wonder how Margot’s dissertation is going. Maybe I’ll ask her.

Only a few weeks to go and I’m feeling full of energy, at the top of my game.
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I don’t know if I can make it
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Just have to keep calm and think of summer…
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To be continued….

A letter to my fresher self

4 Feb

Dear my fresher self,

Congratulations for choosing to study English and History, I know that careful decision took a long time. You’ve been accepted at Leeds and secured the accommodation you wanted at Clarence Dock. It must feel like you have everything worked out. That’s nice. Four years later you’ll have an arts degree under your belt yet still no grand life plan. Whatever people tell you, not knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life at 21 really is OK.

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Packing for the big move…

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My first year student halls

Despite choosing a Northern university you will spend most of your degree socialising with Southerners who talk about how great London is. In your final year, you will meet employers at networking events who will tell you about the benefits of moving to London and about how great London is. Be prepared to defend the North, love.

Don’t rush out to buy any of the set texts- especially not from the almighty rip-off that is Blackwells- find the books in the library or get them cheap on amazon.

There was really no need to email your tutor about missing the welcome lecture. Nobody takes attendance there, just a heads up.

Students can be…how should I put it…ruthless individuals. If you are late removing your laundry from the washing machine by even a minute you will find your freshly washed clothes gathering dust on the floor. 310607_10150832245100113_2023834161_n

Carnage is the most overpriced, overhyped and despicable sequence of events that could possibly be strung together in exchange for your precious money. It won’t do your bank account, your waistline, your self-esteem or your general well being any good. Please, just, don’t go.

Stop buying new fancy dress items for every fancy dress night out. That’s not what your student loan is for. Geek glasses and some face paint will suffice. 298520_10150899680830113_2003306070_n299800_10150918622820113_8638098_n

The Hidden Café is not a cutesy little coffee place you discovered by the miracle of getting lost in Freshers’ week. It is the most conspicuous place on campus to take your laptop, eat overpriced lunches and pretend that you are working.

There’s a corridor that connects the Edward Boyle library to the Roger Stevens Building- yes, really. Find it and use it- unless you in fact prefer climbing 10 flights of stairs and arriving at all of your English lectures sweating.

After your first year you’ll go on a life-changing trip to Costa Rica, during which staying in the jungle will make you feel as if you could conquer any living situation life will throw at you. But living in a below average student house with a broken boiler through the winter months in Leeds will make you drastically reconsider that statement. 199123_10152091047120113_1095390777_n

During your third year you’ll find yourself in South Carolina, enjoying a whirlwind year of cowboy boots and sweet tea, country music and American football, rock-climbing and travelling all over the US: basically having more fun and learning more life lessons than the rest of your university years combined. You’ll also hear about how great London is from Americans who went there once when they were 12. Savour that year, because time flies faster than a Gamecock when you’re studying abroad. 1148862_10153153567195113_790654073_n1267851_10153197620035113_1460927503_o

Returning to Leeds for a final year spent in the library will feel like the world’s biggest comedown. It is. The study abroad blues never go away, especially when you insist on putting peanut butter and jam on your porridge every morning. Make sure you stick to your hobbies and passions more tightly than ever before during fourth year, as you’ll need them in order to feel like a sane human being who is more than just a degree.
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If I had to end with one piece of advice for your impending university experience, it would be to make it yours. Don’t get sucked in to what everyone else might be doing, because comparison kills joy. Don’t  compete with anybody but your former self: know your own values, priorities and goals and focus on exceeding those. Student life is your precious time to start figuring out who you’re going to be, so make it yours and get stuck in. 1229944_10153197588695113_295444563_n (1)

Sweet treats for your back to uni shopping haul

3 Jan

It’s January, and there’s nothing worse than the thought of returning to university for essay writing and exam stress. In the next week most students will be waving goodbye to luxurious home comforts and returning to our shabby chic (but mostly shabby) student houses. With the #newyearnewme social media onslaught in full swing, many are starting to get stuck into detox regimes and diet plans. But if you have a sweet tooth like me, you’ll be needing small, everyday pick-me-ups to take the sting out of exam season. Check out these delicious, inexpensive sweet treats that I’ll be taking back to Leeds:

Screenshot_2015-01-02-18-52-41-1Peanut Butter & Belgian Hot Chocolate
When I’m craving something sweet after my evening meal, making a hot chocolate is my go-to solution. I recently discovered ‘Peanut Hottie’ peanut butter flavoured hot chocolate and it didn’t disappoint. For those who don’t like nuts, try my staple hot drink: Options’ hot chocolate- at only 40 calories per mug you can’t go wrong. Both are available from Tescos, around £3.

Screenshot_2015-01-02-18-48-52-1 Organic Peanut Butter & Jam
I can’t start my day without a bowl of porridge. Since my study abroad year it’s become super Americanised by adding a dollop of peanut butter and ‘jelly’. These organic indulgences do just the trick, and are a cut above standard peanut butter and jam. Available from Holland & Barrett and most major supermarkets, around £3.

Screenshot_2015-01-02-18-45-09-1 Screenshot_2015-01-02-18-47-05-1Choccy Biscuit Spread
This Morrisons’ own chocolate spread is so delicious it almost started a war in our house. It tastes just like melted Ferrero Rochers, compressed into a tub for our chocolatey gooey enjoyment. It’s so good, we’ve all been eating it by the spoon and we’re #sorrynotsorry. Get Morrisons’ 4 tubs for £5 offer before they’re gone!

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Lemon, Ginger & Manuka Honey Herbal Tea
This tea is definitely the healthiest treat on the list- but that doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t tickle the tastebuds. These flavours melt together to make a sweet, spicy and warming mug- great for relaxing just before bed. Available from most major supermarkets, currently on offer at Tescos for £1.50 in a variety of flavours, or Sainsbury’s for 2 for £3.

Screenshot_2015-01-02-18-54-24-1 The Body Shop Strawberry & Coconut Shower Gels
Of course these luxurious shower gels aren’t edible- but they smell good enough to eat. They’re a special treat and a nice change from budget shower products- also great to use in bubble baths. As you can see I just couldn’t wait to start using mine before driving back to Leeds! £4 each.

              Screenshot_2015-01-02-18-40-46-1IMG_20150101_162350Funky Country Honey & Amber Scented Candle
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to relax with some scented candles. Funky Country candles are a huge indulgence at £15 but worth every penny. With really unique flavour combos, they’re the best candles I’ve ever smelt and they last over 40 hours. Available from many boutique shops across Leeds, (mine was from Fodder at the Great Yorkshire Showground)- or via the Funky Country website.

How are you coping with the move #backtouni? Tweet me @EvelynHRobinson to share your coping strategies or chat about all #thingsbetterthanjanuary

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I think I’m in Christmas denial!
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10 ways you know you’re a final year arts student

19 Dec

Freshers’ week lasts forever…right?

I’ve made it halfway through my final year as a BA English and History student, and there’ve been many painful moments of realisation over the last few months. Despite my best attempts to keep the work-play mix in checks and balances, as I slump to the library for another daily grind I find myself lamenting the slow and painful death of my social life. Perhaps the saving grace stopping me from going completely mad is the fact that my course-mates seem to be going through the same thing. So here are ten symptoms well known to those battling through the final year of their arts degree:

You know exactly what you want to do after you graduate…just kidding
You’re really glad you chose an arts degree, because they have the best possible reputation for post-graduate employment, and you don’t know which job offer to accept next September. See you in Costa Coffee, future baristas.

quickmeme.com

quickmeme.com

Your social life has become that of an ageing bohemian
I never thought I’d go to a cheese and wine night until I was in my 30s, but arts students hold them regularly as a happy medium between a night on the town and a night on the sofa. Good food, great alcohol, even better company and none of the annoyances of jostling about in a sweaty nightclub with a bunch of strangers. It’s pretty em-mental. Sorry.

hdbitz.org

hdbitz.org

Someone just recalled the one library book you need over the Christmas holidays, and it caused you to have had an existential meltdown

But that’s the one book…what do they need it for…I can’t write my essay now…may as well not do it…why did I choose this degree…life is pointless.

butler.edu

butler.edu

You’ve finally given in to using a backpack daily

Remember that canvas tote bag that you used to use all the time? No, you probably don’t, because you ditched it in September when it became heavy enough to use as a hammer throw. Now you’ve succumbed to using your Roxy rucksack to carry your books to the library. Mum always did say something about comfort over style…

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You’ve been studying so hard you forget which words are real- and invent your own

Last week, at the end of an eight hour library stint, I used the word ‘premacy’ in my essay, to discover that it is not a word, other than being the name for a Mazda minivan. Primacy is a word, as is pre-eminence, but premacy is definitely not a real word.

The Mazda Premacy is delightful but not what I need right now

You’re buying lined paper at an abnormal speed

I swear I bought a new pukka pad last week and I’m already making notes on scrap paper. Where did it go?!

sanitaryum.com

sanitaryum.com

You worry about your argument in your daily life

Not arguments with real people, oh no. But the argument you’re meant to be having with all of the scholars you’re citing in your latest essay. Is my argument strong enough? Should I side with Winthrop or Koritansky? What is the meaning of all this?

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You get the best ideas when you aren’t studying and write them all in your phone
No matter how long you spend in the library, you’ll get the best ideas for your work when you spend some time away from it. Then a ray of brilliance shines down on your thought process, and you’re on the toilet, or out with friends. Who are you texting? Myself, actually…

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Your sense of humour revolves around ironic socio-cultural references

This probably explains the cheese and wine nights. Where else will we fit in?

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You have dissertation complaint stand-offs with your course-mates

All discussions about final year projects have become a tirade of one-upmanship to vie for pity: I’ve only written 200 words. Yeah? I haven’t even decided on my title. Urgh.

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Despite starting to smell like a library, you wouldn’t have spent your degree any other way than exploring the wonderful, fascinating, inspiring and challenging world of the humanities. Let’s face it, maths was never an option.

lookhuman.com

lookhuman.com

Is there a secret to public speaking? Lessons from Bettakultcha

26 Nov

This week I delivered a speech at Leeds University’s very first Student Engagement Showcase. It was an afternoon of presentations designed to highlight the many ways that Leeds students are engaged in university life outside their studies.

We heard from a variety of speakers with an array of interests, from volunteering in India, to music improvisation, to entrepreneurship, to rugby and medical ethics. My speech was about my passion for media and journalism, which has been burning steadily alongside my studies in English and History ever since my first work experience placement at my local paper in 2010. 1507365_292918607566928_7053378692667460006_o

On hearing ‘afternoon of presentations’ you might think that the Showcase was a long string of speeches that had the crowd’s heads lolling about their shoulders. But the speeches weren’t merely factual regurgitation- they were inspiring, entertaining and heart-warming narratives, written with the sole purpose of sharing unique and untold stories.

Prior to the event, when the showcase team had selected each speaker, we attended a training session led by artist and professional speaker Ivor Tymchak, who has been making (tidal) waves of creative impact lately in Yorkshire. Ivor is the co-founder of indie phenomenon ‘Bettakultcha’, a cultural event in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield that invites people to deliver presentations about their passions.

But there’s a catch- all presentations must be five minutes exactly, consisting of 20 slides lasting 15 seconds each. All slides must move automatically on a timer- and the crux of the idea is that all presentations must tell a story. Forget all your one-dimensional presentation styles like describing, explaining and listing- and start thinking more along the lines of engaging, exchanging and inspiring.

What the in-house illustrator made of my speech

What the in-house illustrator made of my speech

So what did we learn from Ivor? Listening to him bestow his public speaking wisdom took me on a journey back through all the embarrassing presentation mishaps of my past. The first thing he focussed on was that presentations are a two-way experience. Not only do you have to think about getting the bare bones of your presentation right, but you also have to remember that the audience will only relax at your discretion. “If you feel awkward and nervous, the audience will feel awkward and nervous.”

The brilliant Ivor Tymchak

The brilliant Ivor Tymchak

He also told us not to pretend to be someone we aren’t, as audiences have a natural intuition and will be able to see right through it. So rather than spend an entire evening watching Ted talks and deciding that you’re going to adopt a different accent or start using an array of fancy hand gestures, try focussing on what makes you unique, and whatever that thing is- nourish it.

Something I’d never considered before was to remember to make your presentation human. Don’t let the podium, the microphone or the spotlight go to your head and remember that you’re just like the audience. They’re much more likely to relax if you talk about relatable or humbling experiences- or even the times that you failed. 1441575_294113977447391_2743191964987906894_n

But the ultimate piece of advice was to speak from the heart. Think about why you’re passionate about your topic in the first place. Why do you care about it, why is it important, why is it pressing? Think about the many reasons why you are emotionally attached to your passion and share them.

As I thought back over the various speeches I’ve listened to in the past, this last piece of advice immediately made sense. It reminded me of sitting in the audience at World Merit Day 2014, when I was moved to tears by a speech from Hillsborough disaster campaigner, Margaret Aspinall.

Margaret lost her son James in the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 and has campaigned for truth and justice for the last 25 years. The weight of the journey she’d already endured, the enormity of the path ahead and an unwavering determination to carry on the fight were articulated loud and clear with every word she spoke.

I didn’t give her a standing ovation because I thought she was well rehearsed, because she was especially articulate, or because she used just the right amount of triplets. I gave her a standing ovation because she had moved me. I was roused from my seat because I’d forgotten I was listening to a speech at all. I wasn’t hearing a speech: I was listening to Margaret and her story.

I’ve been writing and blogging for a lot longer than I’ve been public speaking. But what Ivor helped me realise is that what unites the brilliance of the written and spoken word is very simple. As Sir Philip Sydney once said, ‘Look in thy heart and write.’ The next time I’ll be taking to the stage, I’ll remember to look to my heart for inspiration before opening my mouth. Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 10.59.24

Edgy Leeds: has the phenomenon come full circle?

4 Nov Screenshot_2014-09-26-11-47-47-1

Comparing student fashion fads from South Carolina to Leeds: do all edgy nonconformists now look the same?

Since returning from my study abroad adventure in South Carolina and delving into a whirlwind schedule of final-year studies at Leeds, I’ve started to appreciate certain aspects of British university culture in a new light.

While the edgy Leeds phenomenon is nothing new to me, coming back to campus after a year away has made the grungy, vintage, second-hand look seem even more distinct than ever.

For anyone who hasn’t stumbled across what it means to be edgy in Leeds, all you have to do is (look out the window) or Google ‘edgy Leeds’ to get the gist. There you’ll find numerous news articles by The Tab and The Gryphon mulling over the trend, and the Twitter accounts of ‘edgy girl’ and ‘edgy boy Leeds’, tweeting utter gems like:

The nucleus lying at the core of the stereotype is a student dressing exclusively in vintage, second-hand clothing, wearing hand-made jewellery, (preferably accumulated from gap year travels) travel pants from India, oversized jumpers, Nike Air Max, stuff with holes in, (both deliberate and accidental), oversized scrunchies, chokers, and championing a refined taste for house music and borderline club nights the rest of us mainstream cattle haven’t a hope of knowing about.

The edgy look couldn’t offer a sharper contrast to the nature of college fads back in Columbia, South Carolina. Fashion trends in the Palmetto state are much more safe, careful, clean-cut and often preppy- as perfectly exemplified by the existence of a Ralph Lauren shop in the University of South Carolina’s student union, a sharp contrast against LUU’s in-house charity shop.

To any valiant South Carolinian hipsters out there: I know you exist, but you must know that to the observances of a foreign visitor, the majority outnumbers you remarkably.

As my year abroad progressed, I realised it wasn’t that the majority of students in South Carolina were simply unafraid of conformity, but that wearing similar items of clothing from the campus sports shop was a deliberate statement of solidarity: a pledge of loyalty to their beloved football team, their university, and their community.

If dressing alike in Garnet and Black is a statement of solidarity in South Carolina, dressing ‘edgy’ in Leeds is West Yorkshire’s irresistible fashion spin-off.

Except- and it’s a drastic exception- the edgy fashion phenomenon appears to make a statement of nonconformity, individuality and distinction rather than unanimity and team spirit, like our friends across the Atlantic.

The ultimate irony of the edgy fad is that so many people have jumped on the bandwagon that some are daring to tout it as ‘mainstream’. The effortless, alternative look that once began as a coveted trend only for those who knew its dark secrets, is coming full circle to create a sea of students treading through campus in swathes of chokers and a sea of oversized denim jackets. 

Surely, then- merely by innocent implication- mustn’t mainstream folk like me, who have been ignorant of the edgy fad from the outset, now be considered as truly edgy, wrapped in our block colour New Look cardigans and carrying our trusty River Island Handbags?

Edginess has quickly become an inescapable, polarising identity model. If I happen to like a vintage jumper or go to Flux, all of a sudden I’m accused of trying to imitate the over-saturated fad, whereas maybe, I rather plainly just like that jumper and I’d prefer to join my friends at Flux rather than sit at home on the sofa, agonising over the latent implications of my lifestyle choices amid a headache of conflated edgy-mainstream confusion.

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In the diverse society we live in, there are millions of ways to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps the edgy look does have individualistic intentions, but from the outside, it looks as if the outcome has created exactly the conventional, popular and common clothing phenomenon it set out to escape. The edgy innovators that began the trend, now scratching their half-shaved heads in despair, are probably better off moving to Columbia, South Carolina- a hipster’s utopia- where the fashion majority and minority remain strictly separate.

How to save money when you head back to university

27 Sep

For many students, returning to university in September can prove quite a shock after a whole Summer of home comforts and help from Mum and Dad.

Listing site wrappler.com quizzed parents whose children were about to leave for university, asking them what items they bought and for what price. The study found that mums and dads spend an average of £1215.54 on equipping their teenagers for heading away from home on items such as a new laptop, bedding and new cookware.

So with the bank of Mum and Dad thoroughly exhausted, when the student loans come in, you’ll want to make sure you spend those precious pennies as wisely as possible before resorting to your overdraft too early in the new term. Here are some useful ways to save money early in semester one:

Food and drink

 If you’re planning on getting a take-away with your new housemates, check out hungryhouse’s latest deal. They’re offering every single student in the UK 25% discount on a takeaway order. Enter your name and university email address into their Feeding Freshers Portal any time before 5th October and they will send you your discount code.

For your Fresher’s week pre-drinks, head to Tescos as they’re offering multi-packs of beer, lager and cider at 2 for £20. Sorted!

If you love student cooking, but aren’t quite ready for Great British Bake-Off yet and you fancy the chance to win £1000 worth of groceries, check out Bacofoil’s new competition. 

All you have to do is upload a picture of your signature home-cooked student meal to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #BacofoilStudentCook before 31st December to be in with a chance of attending the final cook-off and winning the grand prize. Entries will be judged by presentation skills and creativity of the dish.

Finally, check out Heinz’s new range of delicious beans and pulses. They’re different from the usual student staple of ordinary baked beans, with a variety of new flavours and chunkier textures to help make your meals more varied. But they still take minimal preparation time- great for when you’re working on a deadline. I added the Tuscan beans to a sausage hotpot and it was just what I needed after a long day studying in the confines of the cold library! 

Home supplies

Instead of heading to your student union’s shop for overpriced stationary every time your pens run out, why not bulk-buy essential items at the start of the year? I got mega-packs of pens, tea towels, scourers and more from Viking at seriously competitive prices- and I’m stocked up and ready to go for the year ahead.

    

Freebies and discounts

Walking through campus during Fresher’s week can sometimes feel like an information overload. All you wanted to do was meet your friends for lunch, but instead you’re being harangued to join the choir, sign up to the Marxist society or become a student ambassador. 

Not to mention the inadvertent game of dodgeball you have to play while swerving all the leaflets being thrusted in your personal space.

While I’ve politely nodded and subsequently thrown many of these leaflets into the recycling bin, some of them have been worth keeping. I’ve had vouchers for free drinks at The Library Pub, Leeds, numerous helpings of free Dominoes pizza, a buy one get one free voucher for the Hyde Park Picturehouse and 30% off my total bill at The Handmade Burger Company. So think twice before you say no to campus leaflets…

Transport

If you’re living out of town this year and are weighing up whether to pay hundreds of pounds for an annual bus pass, do some research into university bike hire. The University of Leeds offers bike rental for £35 a semester, which is practically theft when you consider that the average single bus ticket costs £2.20. Cycling to uni is a great way not only to save money, but to stay fit and active during the year.

For weekends travelling home and visiting friends at their universities, don’t forget to renew your 16-25 student railcard, which costs £30 for one year or £70 for three, giving you a third off all rail journeys in the UK.

                                                  Entertainment 

Want to try something new to bond with your flatmates? Most universities run Give It A Go sessions for their clubs and societies, so that students can dip their toe in the water without buying full memberships. For example, why not try Vertical Fitness’s Give It A Go pole-dancing and acrobatic circus skills session, for just £2? Or try a new sport by visiting the free Korfball Give It A Go on the 15th October.

If you’d like to get out of town for a day or two, The University of Leeds also runs regular day and weekend trips around the beautiful surrounding countryside and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and most trips are under £20. There’s no excuse not to dive in!

  Shopping

While many students will rely on their student cards for a 10% discount in many high street shops, it’s worth considering getting an additional NUS card for £12, as it comes with a variety of extra discounts, like 25% off at National Express and 10% off The Co-Operative Food.

Once the student loans come in and you’re raring to go on a shopping trip, consider checking out the wide variety of charity shops, thrift shops and vintage clothing shops around town. I’ve started to venture into these recently and have found some really distinctive pieces for affordable price tags.

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American college cardi, £14, Pop Boutique

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