october reflections

october reflections

I have returned to academia only to be met with the familiar cries of “I have soooooo much work to do” and “omg I’m soooooooooo stressed”. At the minute I’m trying to find the right balance of getting enough work done and taking time to look after myself.

As I live in Cambridge and don’t have a bike, I’m finding myself doing a lot of walking. I mean a lot of walking. My faculty is about a 50 minute walk from where I live so each morning I’m marching through the streets fuelled by Aldi’s-own crunchy nut and the sound of Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast in my ears.

Recently I was listening to an episode she did with the absolute ICON that is Gok Wan. I was a HUGE Gok fan growing up and have watched basically every tv show he’s ever made, so was very keen to hear what he had to say about this funny old thing we call life. The majority of their conversation revolved around work, both Fearne and Gok are self-confessed workaholics, and to be honest I could identify with a lot of the stuff they were saying.

So this month, I’ve decided we all need to ask ourselves if it’s actually worth it? As 20-something’s we are under a lot of pressure to get the job, make that money and splurge it all on renting a room in an okay house in an okay borough of London. I’m not suggesting that you quit your job and go to south east Asia to find yourself (you still have bills to pay hun), but I am suggesting that you question why it is that you do what you do. Does it bring you joy? Are you fulfilling your potential? Are you taking enough time off to look after yourself?

For a lot of us, work is a means to and end until we find “the next big thing”. But even if you hate your day job, you can do other things that bring colour to your life. Hopefully the question below will help you to manage your time more effectively to ensure that you are getting some of that good ol’ self loving in, as well as the boring but necessary stuff.

In theory, these are questions that you could be asking yourself every day. Some are about getting organised, some are about chilling the heck out. That’s how balance works right? Off we go:

  • What will I do to take care of myself today?
  • Have I created an unrealistic to do list? Do I need to manage my expectations?
  • How many hours a day am I spending on social media?
  • Am I saying yes to some things I should be saying no to?
  • Am I saying no to some things I should be saying yes to?
  • Do I set boundaries for “me time”?
  • Do I ask for help when I need it?
  • Am I spending enough time with friends and family?
  • Am I organised enough?
  • What matters the most?
  • Why am I doing this?

LOADS of love,

han X

september reflections

september reflections

This month we’re gonna talk about friendships: managing our friendships and removing ourselves from the toxic ones. As adults, we have collected friends from many different areas of our lives and they all have different functions and purposes (that’s a whole other blog post). We have school friends, work friends, uni friends, church friends, housemate friends, yoga friends, football friends, holiday friends etc etc etc.

When was the last time you stopped and thought about whether you should continue making an effort with all of your friends? Perhaps one has said something that has upset you or you just don’t feel that spark anymore – what do you do?

As my friend Ginevra rightly points out, it is so easy for us to rid ourselves of romantic relationships that are bad for us/we are not deserving of, but we find it difficult to address the same kinds of problems in platonic friendships.

I often hear people saying “but we’ve been friends for YEARS” as an excuse for putting up with somebody’s problematic behaviour… why??? Do we not deserve better? We cannot continue to be loyal to people simply because of the passage of time. Life will always go on but we don’t need to keep dragging those people along for the ride.

Having a supportive network of friends is a vital component of maintaining good mental health. If you are letting people in that do not deserve to be there, you could be putting your own well-being in danger.

REAL MOMENT: There have been a few occasions this year when friends have had to tell me that I am being a bad one. Obviously it’s never a fun conversation to have, but once it’s had, you can move forward with a stronger friendship than ever. It’s really important that we communicate how we truly feel with those close to us, pent up resentment will never produce good things.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your current friendships. As you will see, these questions are also about you being a great friend too:

  • Which friends can I rely on? Who is in my inner circle?
  • Which friends did I make memories with this month?
  • What role do I play in my friends life? Do I add anything to their life? Do I elevate them? Am I supportive of their ambitions?
  • Do I need to have an honesty moment with some people?
  • Which friends would I hate to be stuck on a desert island with?
  • Do I need to break up with that friend?
  • Would I recommend my friends as great friends to others?
  • Do my friends place value on me as a person? Do they care about me?
  • Do I communicate with my friends? Do I ask them how they are often enough? Am I listening?
  • Do you speak well of your friends to others? If no, RED FLAG.
  • Now that I have put some thought into this, what conversations do I need to have? Which friends do I need to see more/less often? Which friends do I need to check in with?

Loads of love,

han X

p.s. feel free to contact me with any queries/suggestions you have

#TeesForFees Look Book

#TeesForFees Look Book

This year I ran a campaign called #TeesForFees. The aim of the campaign was to raise funds for my Masters degree whilst celebrating the incredible women in my life.

Below are photos of some of the beautiful people that supported me in this endeavour. I have also created a physical copy of the look book so that I can never forget the insane support I have received throughout my life.

Please take the time to look through these photos. I am so proud of the campaign and so proud to call everybody below a friend.

If you wish to read more about the campaign, you can do so here.

august reflections

august reflections

August has been a bit of a wild ride. Apparently moving back to the UK was a much bigger challenge than I expected. It has been difficult for me to express how I feel about all the change that is happening so instead I have opted to observe the emotions that I have been feeling over the past month…

This experience has prompted me to focus on the positive things that are present in my life. I find this to be particularly important when much of the news media is also overwhelming and pessimistic. It is very easy to feel swamped.

I hope that this month’s questions help you to realise that you are doing fine, despite how you may feel.

Ask yourself…

  • Who or what am I grateful for this month?
  • What am I good at?
  • What makes me excited to be alive?
  • What activity can I do today that will bring me joy?
  • Where do I feel most at home? Do I need to be there more often?
  • What has been taking up the majority of my headspace this month?
  • How can I be kinder to myself?

All my love,

han X

a (tried and tested) guide to surviving UCAS Clearing

a (tried and tested) guide to surviving UCAS Clearing

Since its almost that time of year again, I have decided to share my top tips on surviving UCAS Clearing on A Level Results Day. I am drawing on my own experiences of going through Clearing 4 years ago. The short version of my story is that I did not gain a place at my first choice university but I also didn’t want to attend my insurance option so I voluntarily entered myself into clearing.

I decided to write this due to feeling completely terrified of Clearing because of the stigma attached to it when I was in Sixth Form. Realisations of how much time has been procrastinated away was met with cries of “I’ll end up in clearing” by myself and my peers. Although Clearing is available to those that didn’t meet the grade requirements of their first or second choice uni, the truth is that fantastic institutions (yes, even those Russell Group ones) have places available on there to students that are tenacious and prepared to persuade the person on the other end of the Clearing hotline that they really do deserve that spot on the course.

This guide aims to ensure that you are that student who is ready to face Clearing head on and come out with the desired result.

keep an open mind

Clearing actually has a lot of opportunity for change, the freedom allows you to alter not just your university but even your degree programme if you choose to. Obviously this has limits depending on whether the course requires specific A Level subjects, however this isn’t the case for many disciplines. If you have a change of heart in terms of course and you are able to provide convincing evidence in your clearing phone call, then the university may well accept your request. You could use examples of your extra-curricular activities or your reading you justify your change of course, explaining why you have been inspired to change direction and perhaps what this degree would enable you to do in the future. Be passionate and authentic.

In broader terms, keep an open mind about whether university is for you, whether that be right now or at all. You might want to take a gap year and re-consider your options, even retaking exams in different subjects to enable you to change degree programme. This may not seem like a viable option right now but one year of your life will fly by and you may gain some valuable life skills. As my mum always says, education is life long and there’s always opportunity to go back to it. I know plenty of people that have rushed into degrees and regretted it, many making the initial decision due to the pressure of their friends going to university and because it can be considered the obvious next step in many cases. I would advise you to not go with the flow if this is the situation you are facing, there’s no harm in reconsidering your options, especially when it could save a lot of time and money due to dropping out.

Prospects have written a guide with alternative options to replace higher education, read it here

nothing is impossible

It may seem like a bold claim, but as I have already mentioned above Clearing is a place where (grade) boundaries can be pushed and aspirations can become a reality. In my own experience I had a place at Queen Mary by approximately 10am on Results Day having achieved ABC, the grade requirements outlined on the website for the course at QM were AAB but I was accepted on regardless. This is just one of many examples as to how Clearing can actually be a stress-free process rather than the hectic rush it can sometimes be made out to be. Have confidence in the fact that Clearing is a tool to help and not to hinder you. Following the steps below will give you an even better chance at a successful Clearing journey.

be attentive and informed

A huge part of empowering yourself in being able to access alternative university options involves gaining information on the clearing opportunities available to you in advance of Results Day. The 2019 UCAS Clearing search tool is here and can be used right now!

I spent the day prior to Results Day using the search tool to identify appropriate courses according to my interests, expected grades and university location. If you are not expecting to obtain the grades expected for your first choice then it is important to be realistic about the grades you think you will achieve. Once you have identified the courses that may be appropriate for you, begin to write down the basic information such as course name, grade requirements and an outline of the course content (this will become useful when using the clearing hotline). To avoid scrambling around at note paper or frantically searching the internet on Results Day morning, save the clearing hotline numbers for said universities in the contact book of your phone. Next we will tackle some essentials in terms of the all-important Clearing hotline phone call.

research, research, research

I cannot emphasise how important it is to research the course and university before you decide to take that call to the Clearing hotline. The person on the other end of the phone will be asking the obvious questions such as why you want attend that university or why you want to enroll onto that degree course. However, they may ask more specific questions about why you didn’t initially choose that institution or what aspects of their course is particularly drawing you to choose them. When I took those calls I had both my list of interesting things about the course/university and my personal statement in front of me to help answer the questions. Granted, you may need to use some artistic licence when talking about why you didn’t initially choose that university (if that question is asked), but generally its better to be as prepared as you can be.

patience really is a virtue

The Clearing system definitely isn’t always plain sailing. One of the most difficult things that I faced was being patient with the process, especially when that process involves being on hold a lot of the time. Expect to be put on hold and passed around to a lot of different members of staff until the appropriate one in your department eventually answers the phone to conduct a short verbal interview with you. It’s Results Day, everyone is frantically ringing phones and answering them, be gracious with those facilitating your call.

The first university I called had me on hold for too long and I decided to hang up after listening to a lengthy period of classical music. My second phone call lasted for around 20 seconds as they immediately told me that they wouldn’t be taking applications from anybody who had achieved lower than ABB. Queen Mary was my 3rd or 4th phone call and being passed onto a member of staff from the linguistics department happened fairly swiftly. The head of department that answered my call and interviewed me was lovely and within minutes she offered me a place at QM. I was incredibly fortunate. These things may happen to you, they may not, but patience is always the key. The same universities may have different opinions later on in the day, you just have to keep trying.

procedural matters…

I thought I’d finish off by explaining a bit about procedural stuff if you make the same decision as me and choose to reject your insurance choice and enter clearing. In order to be released into clearing you may have to call your insurance choice and let them know that you shall not be accepting the offer of studying there. The institution might ask why you no longer wish to study with them (I assume this is for feedback purposes) so make sure you have a reason to provide when you call.

For more info from UCAS about the Clearing process for Results Day 2019 click here.

go geddit!

han x

july reflections

july reflections

hello my loves!

Welcome to the July 2019 edition of my reflection’s blog posts. This month we are going to explore negative energy and hurt feelings (sounds like soooo much fun right?!).

This blog post has come about because of certain events this month that have left me feeling a type of way. I’m not usually one to attract negativity, drama or malicious behaviour and never have been, even when I was a teenager! However, as my platform has grown I have been on the receiving end of nasty comments and misjudgments. Unfortunately, as long as human beings continue to be human beings, we cannot go through life without experiencing pain and discomfort. So, we should be prepared to navigate those feelings when they arrive.

Find yourself a quiet space, open your journal and begin to consider the following…

  • When was the last time I was hurt by something that somebody said or did to me?
  • How did I respond to this? (Just write down what you did/how you felt, do not analyse anything)
  • How can I make concrete actions to move on from this incident? For example, confiding in a trusted friend, writing a letter to concerned parties, speaking to a manager (these are just examples… only you know what works for you)
  • How have I/can I grow from this? What have I learnt?
  • Do I need to establish boundaries with the person/people concerned?
  • How can I be kinder and more intentional with my words or actions going forward?
  • How can I use words to positively affirm somebody this week?
  • Who do I need to check in with today?

If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions… it is OK. Steering through these feelings is a process, it can take time. Remember that you can always come back to these questions further down the line.

All my love, han X

p.s. you’re doing amazing sweetie

What is learning anyway?

What is learning anyway?

Learning can be defined as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught”.

For many of us, the word learning is synonymous with formal education, studying, tuition, schooling and teaching. A high-quality formal education is something that I appreciate the value of. This is why I made the decision to invest in studying Linguistics at undergraduate level. I also believe that a good formal education should be accessible to all, which has motivated me to study an MPhil in Education (Globalisation and International Development) at the University of Cambridge.

However, the majority of my most important learning moments have occurred outside of the classroom.

When applying for jobs during my final year at university, the majority of the content in my application was drawn from my extra-academic commitments. I was interviewing for communication, events and fundraising roles within domestic and international charitable organisations. During the application and interview process, I was asked to draw upon the skills that I had learnt in my voluntary roles and my part time jobs, rather than from my degree course.

Because I had ran almost one charitable event per month during my time as co-Charities Chair of my netball club, when asked, I was able to talk the interview panel through the logistics of planning and executing an event. Because I had worked part time as a social media assistant, I was able to give a presentation on how the organisation could use Twitter to garner more support for service users. Because I had been given the opportunity to write a grant application for a charity, and it had been accepted, I could utilise it as an example in an interview for a fundraising role.*

What I am trying to say is, (cliché alert) life is the biggest teacher of all…

Playing on a netball court has taught me more about teamwork than a group project at university ever could.

Practicing the art of self-reflection has helped me to understand the importance of prioritising certain tasks to avoid burn out, something that I have always struggled with in formal educational systems.

Listening to a first hand account of the blitz at a care home gave me a better insight than any of my history classes did at high school.

Building a snow cave and sleeping in it taught me a lot more about perseverance than every single motivational speech I have heard from a headteacher.

Creating my own newsletter, blog and Instagram brand has taught me things about marketing that I never picked up during my AS Level lessons in economics and business studies.

My generation really grabs hold of opportunities to learn in life. My favourite thing about us it that we often have the drive, skills and outlook to get things done, to reach our goals and to achieve. This is exhibited in our ability to work outside of the typical 9-5, to invest in our side hustles, to demonstrate our creativity, to have multiple streams of income from internet sponsorship deals. We know how to devote our spare time to acquiring a new skill like a language, art form or technical proficiency.

If you take anything away from this article, let it be that your learning is not confined to an educational system, but is in your hands everywhere you go. As my mum always says, education is life-long.

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This piece was written to be entered into the ActiviaTraining Scholarship Competition, if you want to have a crack at it yourself, click here.

*It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that my degree was still important as the organisations were only accepting applications from degree holders.