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.
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.
Even though we are halfway through the year, this month really DRAGGGGED for me. It was ridiculously busy but seemed to last for an eternity.
During June I’ve been thinking about minimising and decluttering in all areas of life, from committing to not buying any new clothes for 3 months to packing up and preparing for my move back to the UK in August.
My hope is that the questions below will be a starting point which you can use to declutter mentally and physically. If something isn’t adding value to your life… why is it still there?
Do I need to tidy my room? (I mean like REALLYYYYY tidy it, a good old clear out)
Are there any clothes just sitting in my wardrobe, that will never be worn again? Can I recycle, swap or donate them?
Is there anything I need to let go of this month? Negative thoughts, negative people? How can I let go of them?
When was the last time I stopped to notice the breath in my lungs?
Am I dedicating too much time to something that doesn’t bring me joy? How can I refocus my energy?
What am I looking forward to next month? Make a list.
If you find it difficult to answer any of these questions because your mind is too busy working at 1000 miles an hour, you can try something else. Take a sheet of paper and record all of the thoughts swirling in your mind. You can use different colours and tools if that works for you or you can just go mad with a biro. DO NOT worry about analysing or categorising any of these thoughts, just get them out. You can include all of the arbitrary thoughts that occur whilst brushing your teeth or walking down the street.
After you have done this, you can explore the thoughts more if you want to. What are your priorities moving forward? Is there anything you need to do? Anyone that you should call?
This may help you to spring (or summer) clean your mind.
As my #loyal followers will know, in December last year I was offered a place on a Masters course in Education (Globalisation and International Development) at the University of Cambridge. I was both shocked and delighted when the offer letter came through, but immediately began to worry about the cost of the degree. The combination of tuition fees and maintenance costs is a total of £24,000. This is not a sum of money that I, or my immediate family, are able to cover.
In a bid to secure my place, I have been applying for and writing to many charitable organisations/foundations/businesses to acquire funding. So far I have enough to pay my tuition *happy dances* but I still need to prove that I can afford to live, eat and travel during the course of my time there. As of yet, the university itself has not granted my application of funding.
I am a very persistent and impatient person, so waiting for other people to make decisions about my future does not sit well with me. Therefore, I have decided to get a lil bit entrepreneurial (hello dragons den) and sell tees and totes to fund my time at uni!
The illustration features on the tees and totes was designed by Kim, who goes by @wheelygooddoodles on insta and features sketched portraits of the women that cheer me on and inspire me to do this degree (and every damn day in fact). These printed tees and totes were designed with the intention of celebrating powerful women in all of their glory. My friends are artists, scientists, philanthropists, nurses, athletes, financial experts and political geniuses, but most of all they are unstoppable. It’s worth noting that it was extremely difficult to pick just nine of my girl gang, all of my friends are legends.
“Buy this t-shirt of the everyday inspirational woman, to support an everyday inspirational woman.” – Adut Ayik 2019
If you’re interested in supporting, both products are available to buy here. Tees are available in sizes XS-4XL. Both products are made from organic cotton and can be shipped worldwide.
If you don’t care about tees or totes but want to support financially anyway, you can do so by clicking here!
Let me tell you about my mates (obviously this isn’t the extent of their qualities and talents, just a taste)…
Where do I even start with Adut? Did you know this girl has TWO Masters?! Her intelligence is astounding, but her ability to empathise, rationalise and express herself in a way that doesn’t damage others is so much more important. Adut is not afraid to tell me when I’ve screwed up and she’s ready to listen when I think she has too. She’s always there to chat to me when I’m ranting about politics in the UK and abroad (watch out for our podcast #HotlineBling). I don’t think I have ever laughed as much when I’m with somebody, when we come together the behaviour is shambolic in the best kind of way. There isn’t a friendship like this one. She should also be a model tbh, the definition of SNATCHED.
Alice is another one of my crazy intelligent friends. She’s currently studying a PhD and just presented at a conference in Chicago?! Your fave could never. This girl proofread my UG dissertation and my Cambridge application so she’s basically the only reason I’m suceeding academically lol. Alice is also hella passionate about the best sport in the world, netball! Ask her anything about this year’s Netball World Cup and she’ll tell you everything you need to know and more. Alice will always support me in crodough eating and all other emotional endeavours. We once dressed up as Damian and Janis from mean girls (I was obviously Damian), so that tells you everything you need to know about our friendship.
Carol is my flipping mum!!!! She’s also potentially one of the funniest people I’ve ever met (other than myself obvs). We have been through some crazy crazy times together. We have laughed, cried, grieved, fought and loved. My mum has remained resilient throughout all of this and is in a much better place now because of this attitude she has to life. My mum is also ACE because she is a nurse and we all ❤ the NHS right?! She has quite literally saved people’s lives and is now in charge of training the next generation of nurses in the UK. What a woman.
Deanna is the definition of a girl boss. As well as being an excellent historian and #academic, she also knows how to kill it on the netball court and throw a$$ on the dance floor. She has and will achieve great things because she cultivates an amazing energy and atmosphere in every room she walks into. She is a natural born leader and does it ever so gracefully. You can also find her being a Queen B stan on Twitter or stunting in a two piece suit on the gram. Did I mention that she set up a GoFundMe on my behalf? THAT’S MY PRESIDENT!
Grace is a creative genius. The end. Seriously though, talent just oozes out of this girl. Since the day we met in our first year of uni, she has been an incredible supporter of everything that I do. She’s photographed things for my blog, depop, charity events and everything in between! She’s a real one. Grace also has an extensive back catalog of puns and vine references that have got the both of us through some very difficult times. One of my favourite memories is trying (and failing) to steer a boat around Lake Bled with her and having to be rescued by somebody that worked at the boat renting place. I think that sums us up nicely.
Helena is my wisest friend. Period. This girl has helped me navigate some very difficult decisions and emotions. Helena is quick to put me at ease whenever I am worried about something, she speaks truth and life into every situation. I look forward to meeting up with Helena because our conversations are authentic, our laughs are loud and our outfits are on fleek. Helena is a force to be reckoned with and I feel so grateful to have her in my life. Love you long time girl.
Latia is the very real embodiment of the word legend. She’s that friend that ALWAYS has your back, from helping you do a tampon collection for charity to leaving the club early with you to get KFC. She’s also half of the fabulous pair of angels that decided to set up a GoFundMe on my behalf. I love her so very dearly (and I’m still baffled/impressed that she studied dental materials at uni – what even is that?!). My favourite memory of latia is her crying on a party boat in Kavos (don’t ask) because she managed to get tickets to see Nicki Minaj. I bloody love you Latia.
Mary is the type of person who insists on putting tomato ketchup on EVERYTHING, much to my continued disappointment. She could also eat all of the biscuits in your house in one sitting whilst simultaneously dead-lifting your dad. Mary is not afraid of telling me that my behaviour is ridiculous and will happily serenade me via voice note or whatsapp video on my bday. When Mary isn’t doing any of these things, she is helping out the good people of the UK, ensuring they get all of their coin in her job at the financial ombudsman. Mary, I love you as much as you love plain food.
Natasha. Last but certainly not least. Natasha is one of those people who pretends that they don’t have any emotions and people fall victim to her resting bitch face on a daily basis. In reality, Natasha is one of the most loving people I know. It doesn’t matter if you’re friends, family or a complete and utter stranger, she knows how make you feel welcome and wanted. Natasha is a hostess at heart, I’ve been at her house more times than I can count, it has been a haven for me during difficult times (side note: her and her mum’s cooking is the best). She’s also a saint for putting up with me and Adut being problematic on several occasions. You’re the best, friend.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope is has brightened your day.
*freaks out that we are almost halfway through the year*
As Mental Health Awareness Week falls in May, I wanted this months reflection questions to prompt us to focus on the things that make us smile, as well as addressing whether we are looking after ourselves enough.
Here are the questions:
What made you smile this month? List those things.
When did you feel happiest in your skin? Why?
Did you maintain balance in your life this month? Is there anything you need to change in order to achieve this?
Did you have a particularly bad day this month? What happened? How did you handle it? Is there a way you can handle it better?
Why are you unique? What makes you, you?
How did you practice self care this month? How can you make sure you practice it enough in June?
This month I felt amazing when…
all my love,
(p.s. you can sign up for my monthly newsletter here)
I think that we can all agree that April was a pretty depressing news month (apart from the Old Town Road remix release obvs). We’ve seen natural catastrophes, horrific acts of terror and political chaos hit the headlines. Being constantly bombarded with news like this can lead us to feel helpless and apathetic, so I have decided to include some reflection questions that allow us to think about how we can make changes to our communities, and in turn, the world.
Before we start, I would like to acknowledge that doing too much can lead to burnout, remember that to be able to help others, you need to love yourself first. If you need a reminder of the importance of self care, read this.
As always, you do not have to answer all of these questions, they are merely a starting point for you to use in order to dive into your own time of reflection.
Take a deep breath, here we go:
Which adjective describes how I feel about this month?
Which colour represents how I feel about this month?
Is there a particular news story/issue that has bothered me recently? (e.g. climate change/terrorism/lack of democracy/homelessness) Why is it bothering me? How can I turn this negative emotion into a positive?
Can I get involved in volunteering in this area within my local community?
Are there any books/podcasts/online courses that will help me to understand this issue on a deeper level?
Can I make any small changes to my routine to save the planet? (e.g. investing in a reusable water bottle, walking instead of driving, remembering my reusable bags at the supermarket, eating less meat) If yes, what is that change and how can I turn it into a goal?
How does watching the news/reading the paper/scrolling through Twitter moments make me feel? Is it a positive, negative or neutral emotion? Can I change my browsing patterns to advance up the emotional scale?
How can I bring more harmony in my life?
I hope you enjoyed reflecting this month, here’s to a happy and healthy May!
p.s. If you missed the previous monthly reflection posts, find them here:
This month we’re going to talk about gadgets/social media usage and the impact it has on our self-esteem/mental health. We all fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the pristine personas presented to us online, even though we do not know the trauma and challenges that individual has faced behind the scenes. We want their success and to know how they achieved it, but we don’t want to know about or experience any of the messy stuff.
For the LONGEST TIME I had vehemently denied that social media has a negative effect on my self image. Nowadays I’m happy to post an ugly photo of myself and my 74 chins on insta, but when I was in my teens I would take hundreds of selfies in different poses until I could find the ‘perfect’ one, and even then I would focus on it until I hated it entirely. Although I’m fairly body positive now, there are still occasions where a combination of comparison and endless scrolling gets the better of me.
Obviously I am a big believer in using social media for good, there are so many exciting social justice initiatives that have been born out of/promoted by social media. Y’all also know that I love insta, I post something every hecking day BUT it can sometimes be overwhelming and quite frankly a waste of time that could otherwise be spent productively. The new screen time feature on my phone has really helped me to check myself.
My hope is that these questions will help us all to evaluate how we are using socials currently & how we can use them to cultivate healthy mindsets and relationships with ourselves going forward. Here we go:
Am I spending too much time on my phone? If yes, what activity could I replace this with? (personally attacked by this one)
Do I need to unfollow some social media accounts that make me feel negatively about myself?
Did I see something on social media that made me feel positive/good about myself?
Have I learnt anything new this month? Why/why not?
When was the last time I changed up my routine? Do I need to do this more often?
If you missed them, check out the previous reflection posts from January and February.
My April challenge to you is: post about how you REALLYYYYY feel on instagram. (I know this is not helpful/applicable to everyone, but if you feel like you can put yourself out there, give it a go). Here’s to more transparent and honest interactions.
I was born in Salford, a working class area of the North West. We were skint at times and therefore absolutely loved a bargain. Huge hauls from Primarni, getting pirated dvds off the local market and buying other people’s junk at car boots were the norm.
Growing up, I always bought my clothes from high street shops, starting off with Tammy Girl at BHS and moving onto New Look, Forever 21, Zara, River Island, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge (the very predictable list goes on and on). At one point when I was around 16 almost every single item of clothing I owned was from Topshop. If I’m honest, I wasn’t completely ingnorant to the unethical nature of the sweat shops that these clothes came from, but at the time all I was concerned about was the cost to me (aka my mum).
Those of you that have followed me for a while now will know that I’m pretty passionate about calling out the fast fashion industry for being damaging to both people and the environment. However, I only really got into buying vintage and second hand clothing when I began earning my own money just before I started university.
FACT: Buying from ethical clothing brands/second hand shops is more EXPENSIVE. I don’t need to cite 83 sources for you to believe me, we all know that a 5 pack of primark undies is a whole lot cheaper than one pair of knickers made from recycled fabric in an all female studio in East London.
Thinking about the cost of sustainable clothing has led me to this question: Is investing in ‘conscious fashion’ a viable option for low income individuals and families?
As somebody who follows and interacts with others from the ethical fashion community, I have encountered blanket statements such as “if we ALL changed the way we shopped, we could save the planet!”. I have been guilty of using this kind of rhetoric myself in the past. Now that I think about it from a more critical perspective, can we ALL change the way we shop?
Are we assuming that those who don’t buy from sustainable brands are doing it because they don’t want a more ethical world for all? Or is it simply because they don’t have enough/any disposable income? Are they just thinking about how they are going to put food on the table?
Are we privileged if we can buy ethically?
Are we asserting that this is the best way to live and the way that everybody should be living?
I realise that this is just a stream of consciousness stemming from my thoughts about ethical fashion, but I hope it helps you to think about this issue too.
Instead of shaming people with facts and figures about those that suffer at the hands of fast fashion, perhaps it is time for us to offer cost-effective solutions. Let’s encourage people to make small changes that have a significant impact over time. We can swap clothes with friends, recycle old clothes, wash our clothes on a lower temperature, buy from charity shops etc.
We are lucky that we are able to shop ethically, we shouldn’t take it for granted. We shouldn’t use our privilege to humiliate others.
As always, shout me on instagram with your thoughts.