Saturday 21 September 2013

Guide to Fresher's Week: the ABC of UNI

My little brother has just left home to start uni. I literally cannot believe it was five years ago that I left home to do the same (that's HALF A DECADE people!).

I was the first to fly the nest, so it was a massive deal for me and my family. Since then, I've found a few posts that I really could've done with reading before I left my weeping parents as far up the M6 as I'd ever been. So, this one's for you baby bro - make the most of it!

I also thought I'd do my essential uni guide as an acrostic because I'm really edgy and cool like that (yeah...)

U -
'U' is for unique - sounds cliché but it's probably one of the most important things to bear in mind when moving to uni for the first time. You're going to be living and socialising with people not just from around the UK but from all corners of the globe: different personalities, cultures and mindsets... it's amazing and probably the only time in your life you'll live with such a diverse bunch of people.

Let's forget other people for a minute; going to uni is also a great time to 'recreate' who you are and really put a stamp on who you want to be. Screw school-age rumours and what other people might have thought of you - it's your chance to let your uniqueness shine!

N -
Nerves. If someone tells you they're not nervous about moving to uni, they're lying. Agreed, there are different levels of nervousness, and I'm sure some people are more confident than others at the thought of making new friends & living away from home, but underneath it all I guarantee that each person will be feeling the pressure - so please try not to worry!

I -
I is for 'immerse'. Immerse yourself in as many activities / societies / nights out / bonding trips as you can. It'll keep you really busy so you won't have the time to feel sad about home. You're far more likely to meet your new best friends over lunch, shopping for fancy dress clothes or at the Ultimate Frisbee Soc trials than sat in your room waiting for people to knock on for you.

V -
V is all about visiting. Whether that's visiting home, having your boyfriend / girlfriend to stay or travelling to see your mates at their respective unis. Now, there's no 'right' time to first visit home or have people to stay as this will depend on your personal preferences. Personally, I wouldn't go home/to see mates for at least three weeks to a month. That way it gives you time to adjust being on your own (plus by then you'll have probably run out of food and can stock up on these to take back with you!). Boyfriends / girlfriends are totally subjective. I went from school to the same uni as my (then) boyfriend & we decided not to see each other during fresher's week... it lasted a few days and then naturally, we wanted to see each other and it worked out fine (well, for a little while), so it's totally dependent on the relationship I think. Don't put too much pressure on making it work, don't worry that if you're in a relationship you're 'missing out', just do what makes you happy.
E -
E is for Eat Well. You're in charge of your own meals. So don't fall into the trap of over or under eating. It's not healthy! Basically everyone I knew put on a few fresher's pounds in the first semester so don't sweat the small stuff. It's hard getting portion sizes right, and going out four times a week with a cheeky Dominos delivery at 4am is hardly the epitome of health. Instead just make sure you get your five a day, drink lots of water & take multivits.
R - 
R'n'R. Don't underestimate the importance of Rest & Relaxation. Fresher's Week might seem like a non-stop party but no one can hold out for seven nights on the trot without a serious dose of chilling the hell out. Movie nights are a good way to wind down with your friends, but sometimes all that will cut it is being snuggled up in bed reading your favourite book with a big bar of Dairy Milk (etc).
S - 
Sozzled. Smashed. SodrunkIcan'tspeak. Whatever you want to call it, there are going to be nights where you get a little more 'boozy' than others around you and the most important thing here is to a) make a pact with one or two pals to look out for each other no matter what and b) always leave for a night out with your phone fully charged. Chances are that the many drunken nights you have as a fresher will be ones you still laugh about in years to come but y'know, just be safe too.

I - 
Intelligence! After all, the primary reason you're at university is so that you can study and get a decent qualification in a subject you're interested in. Granted, you only need 40% to pass the year but don't be afraid to dream a little bigger - that way you won't have such a shock when next year rolls around.

T - 
T is for talk! If you do find your self feeling down, talk to someone about it. Whether it's your mum, your oldest friend, your newest friend, your course co-ordinator or halls rep. The worst thing you can do is bottle things up inside you.
Y - 

Y is for the year ahead. Fresher's year is essentially one big barrel of laughs with your soon to be best best friends, as well as some hard work thrown in every now again. Team that with independence and the look on your mum and dad's face when you visit them as a surprise (cheesy I know but it works and if you want that mass food shop bought for you it's worth it!), and you've got a pretty sweet year ahead of you.

Even if things don't go how you'd imagine - I had to live in a hotel for fresher's week whilst my halls got refurbished and I was convinced it was going to ruin the start of uni for me (it didn't) - you'll have the best time.

What do you think? Are you nervous about going to uni?

Frank x

(I've had the tune from the YouTube vid stuck in my head ALL day..... sorry!)

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Croatia Part II: Lopud Island

Like I said before, we were sad to be leaving Dubrovnik.

We got the ferry going to the three Elaphiti islands just after lunch. Lopud is in the middle, so the ferry only took about an hour. We weren't sad about leaving Dubrovnik once we saw our home for the next few days:

One thing that hits you when you arrive is the peace and quiet. There aren't any cars allowed on the island and it feels a world apart from within the walls of Dubrovnik Old Town.

In the high season there are four boats a day that take people to and from the mainland to the Elaphiti islands, so it's perfect if you just want to do a day trip (although I'd definitely advise spending a few nights on Lopud). I also thought the tourists boats made a pretty nice clock to live your life by; to know what time it is according to which ship has docked.

You get off the boat here:

With each ship comes different goods from the mainland: fresh loaves of bread, beer, milk and meat, that kind of thing. It's driven through the island on an electric buggy, trailed by trotting cats and kids toddling after it, trying to catch up.

We stayed at Villa Franka and honestly I can't recommend the place enough.

The owner, Franka, is lovely - she met us from the port and led us to where we would be staying. There are a few bedrooms (I think the villa sleeps eight if I remember correctly..) and it's nice and roomy inside. Here's a few pics from :

It's lovely, isn't it?! Once we'd thrown our rucksacks down it was straight out on to the terrace where Franka cooked us tea and pancakes (uh-mazing). The terrace is a great way to meet the other guests; we all had a quick natter about what corner of the world we were from before taking ourselves off to do our own thing.

That was probably what I liked most about staying at Villa Franka: it was homely enough to really relax and be spoiled by Franka's hospitality, but at the same time offered you all the independence you'd want from an anonymous hotel (plus Franka had a great sense of humour and offered great advice on what to do on Lopud).

The island is covered in dense green forest, so by the time the light has filtered down to people level it's dappled, making your gaze hazy.

Like I said, there are no cars allowed on the island so 'streets' become a term to be used loosely. You can be on a dusty dirt track classed as one of the primary lanes through the island, or you could be on a similar looking path at the dead end of deserted mansion's driveway. There are SO many gorgeous but derelict mansions on the island. We explored one and it's inevitable... I'm going to have to save up and buy one one day!

One of the main attractions of Lopud is the sandy beach, or Sunj Beach, as it's known locally. Because the beaches in Croatia are mainly rocky, when you get a bit of sand they go wild for the stuff.

But by far the best place to get an amazing view out to sea is won hands down by the 360 degree views from on top of the ruined fortress.

It's about a half an hour walk up hill through forest and dilapidated buildings but it's so worth it when you get to the top.

There are no tourist information signs but it's quite nice really, you get to make up your own history.

When the sun is setting, make your way back through the dusty paths to the other side of the island for drinks..

(...and a quick sunset pose)

You'll know it's time for dinner when the last boat leaves at 8pm...


Sunday 15 September 2013

Croatia Part I: Dubrovnik Old Town

I got back from Croatia just over a week ago.

Oh my god. You have to go. It's amazing. We went for seven nights but it felt like we were gone forever (in a good way!), because we moved around a few places. 

The first stop was Dubrovnik Old Town. 

You enter the Old Town through its medieval drawbridge, which basically feels like you're staying in a castle (pretty impressive). Once you're through, you've got the old port on one side (we arrived at night so were met with glittering water reflecting off the marina restaurants), and the sweeping boulevard with its rickety, cobbled old alleyways on the other. 

We raced down from our apartment in the morning to get breakfast before the first cruise ship dumped thousands of people in the port. The steep, stepped streets zig-zag their way down to the main boulevard, where an abundance of cafes, restaurants and ice-cream parlours spill out onto the pavement. 

Imagine our surprise as we were met with this...

Happy holidays! Ha. Still, not to be put off by a 'spot' of rain (we are British, after all), we ignored it and set off to enjoy a breakfast beer..

The Buza Bar is incredible - the entrance is a ruined gate halfway along the town wall. You could walk past it in a second and not know you'd missed it. It's chipped right into the cliff edge and offers amazing views out to sea.

The storm got worse:

Eventually it decided to leave, meaning we could enjoy our time exploring the Old Town!

The mix of decadent religious architecture with bustling street markets and turquoise water really make it special, I think.

We went to the Buza Bar every day and found a landmark to help us mark the spot:

We ate some amazing food but one place that really stands out for me is The Arsenal restaurant right on the water's edge in the marina. 

There are huge ship hulls indoors that serve as private dinner areas, but we chose to sit at the very front to take advantage of the view.

We ordered a bottle of local white wine, mussels, Parma ham & melon, sea bass and tuna steak and ohmygod it was all delicious - biggest food coma ever.

I can't find their website but the reviews on Tripadvisor say enough. 

It was sad to say goodbye but moving on to Lopud Island didn't seem too bad a trade...

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