Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Freiburg, Germany

I was very fortunate to do a lot of traveling this summer, mainly in Germany but in Switzerland too. My best friend Laura invited me to stay with her in Basel, Switzerland for a week, the first day of which you may have read in my post "Celebrating The Swiss National Day with Fireworks". Basel is only about an hour away from Freiburg, and seeing as everything was closed for the holiday on the 1st of August, Laura suggested we go to see Freiburg, which I was more than happy to do! I had heard previous whispers of Freiburg being a fairytale town, so my expectations were high.

In my mind, Freiburg was to be a town of gingerbread brown houses with snowy roofs and a quaint feel. Maybe it feels more like that with the annual Christmas Market, but on a 34ºC/93ºC day, it felt far from it. I liked it genuinely, it was small and cute and colourful. There weren't many people there. It was peaceful. Too hot for me (an Irish summer is at best 24ºC/75ºF), which unfortunately inhibited the enjoyment, but a nice place to see.

There were plenty of shops and restaurants, definitely a place where one could live or holiday easily and happily. Being in Baden-Württemberg, it's well located for trips to France, Switzerland and other lovely places in Germany. We were only there for a day, so we didn't necessarily get to see much, but I definitely want to come back for the Christmas Market at some point over the next couple of years!

Bonus: I met an adorable bear in a department store and probably won't ever forget the effect he had on me.

Have you ever been to Freiburg? If so, what would you recommend I do there next time?

Anna x

Sunday, 16 September 2018

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

I'm now at the beginning of my second year of college, which is a completely crazy concept to me. First year went by so quickly, and while I have grown and changed and learned so much as a person, there are definitely a few things I wish I had known before starting college instead of learning the hard way. I'm hoping to take these things in with me to second year, and hope that those of you just starting your third level journeys can take something from this collection of thoughts too.

The first thing I'd have to say is, don't buy everything on your reading list. I'm not sure if I've ever explicitly stated this on my blog, but I study English, and as one might expect, the reading lists are huge and there are just books and books and essays and poems and so much more that is planned for the year. It's really expensive to try to buy all of them, and you probably won't enjoy every piece of writing you're asked to read, so having a physical copy sometimes just isn't worth it. The other side of it is, the deeper into the semester you are, the less likely it becomes that you're actually going to go to every lecture and read every book. So I'd recommend either borrowing books from the library, downloading free digital copies (think iBooks) or buying cheap editions of books (think Wordsworth editions). Definitely treat yourself to a few books you're excited to read, but owning every book is simply not worth it. 

Secondly, take advantage of your university's societies... but don't join all of them. The temptation to join societies in Fresher's Week is extreme. Everyone seems so nice, and the free stuff they're offering along with the cheap membership rates just makes everything even harder to resist. Maybe joining the knitting society would be fun, maybe I'll learn how to play snooker. The truth is, you probably won't go to the society events if you're only joining on the spur of the moment. Research which societies you'd like to join in advance. So many of them will have social media accounts. And if you know of anyone who's gone to the same university as you before you, you can chat to them about what they know. Joining societies is a great way to create a social outlet for yourself, and maybe even to pick up new skills. If there's something crazy you've always wanted to try, the chances are, there will be a club for it. Just don't join too many!

In the first few weeks of college, there will probably be a lot of free food being offered to you. People want you to sign up (for free) to newsletters, the Student's Union wants to welcome you, some random company you've never heard of will be promoting themselves with packets of crisps. Take the free food because before much longer, the free food supply dries up and you have to buy it all for yourself. You can save up the free food (provided it's snack-style) for days where you have loads of work to do and not the time to buy yourself anything. If the item is something you can't eat or won't eat, you can always give it to your friends who will be more than happy to take it off your hands!

Life is so much easier if you keep up with your readings and homework. It's college! You have so much more freedom than ever before. The temptation is just to party or nap or socialize the whole time. And honestly a balance of those is good, but please, for the sake of your own sanity, keep up with the weekly workload. It's so daunting at first, like how on earth am I supposed to read 3 books a week? but I promise, the more you do it, the easier and faster the whole thing gets. So then, when exam time rolls around, you'll be way less stressed and won't have to do any catching up, just a bit of horrible studying.

That's all I'll say for now, but I hope some of these tips were new or helpful for you! Please share any tips you have for incoming college students in the comments. Let's help each other out!


p.s. photo credz to my sister!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Celebrating The Swiss National Day with Fireworks

The day started with me waking up way earlier than I usually do. I put the final few things in my suitcase and carry-on and said goodbye to my house and dog. A goodbye to last 5 weeks. I was nervous, I both wanted and didn't want to be away from home. I'm a homebody and probably always will be. Then I said goodbye to my family. It was hard because you don't want to part ways sooner than you have to, nor do you want to be stuck saying goodbye forever. My flight was alright, a bit bumpy, only 20 minutes later than scheduled. I was happy to land and feel the warm air, so much warmer than my own country, and happier still to be reunited with my best friend.

I had to change out of my black jeans and long sleeved top, I had to sit in front of fans and drink lots of water to ease my body into the 15 degree Celsius change in temperature. We caught up and talked for ages and went back out into the city. It was lovely. It was new and old and happy. We started the evening with sparklers in the bathroom, then brought them to the city. We ended the night with a special fireworks show along the Rhine. We sat and then stood on the old bridge, which was filled with citizens of Basel as well as tourists. The street lamps were shut off and a hush began among the crowd. Then the fireworks started, and they were beautiful. A full 25 minute show of them. It was magical, and felt like such a strong welcome. I had no idea what we'd do when I arrived early that afternoon, and to be standing on a packed bridge surrounded by "oohs" "ahhs" and a brightly lit sky was surreal.

A good start to my continental summer.

Anna x

Friday, 7 September 2018

Growing Up is Weird

The minute you're in a bar and they don't ask you for ID is weird. It's weird when it's just a spur of the moment thing, you've just been to the cinema and you've no makeup on and your t-shirt's too big and you're tired after a day of walking. But your friends suggest you go for a quick drink. It's weird when your curfew isn't 6pm, nor 7 nor 8. It's weird when you watch the sunset from a bar stool. It's weird when it's not a big deal anymore, even though it kind of still is.

There comes a time where all of these things seem to happen at once. A weird freedom that you always anticipated but never knew you'd have. I'm not someone who particularly enjoys going out, my friends will attest to the fact that I rarely do, although they might wish otherwise.

I think you spend your whole life learning more about yourself, and sometimes all you learn is that you were right all along. 13 year old me said she hated the idea of nightclubs (even when all that was was a room full of sweaty preteens and a 10pm ending) and when 15 year old me went to her first one, she didn't like it too much either. Then when 18 year old me got a chance to try it in the real world, it still wasn't her cup of tea. At this point, it's something I feel I have to do at least a few times a year. Good things come of it as well as awkward experiences and too much money spent on one mediocre evening (sorry!). I sometimes wonder whether I'll ever get used to the whole being out late in noisy rooms. Probably not.

People's expectations change with age and stage. And that is so natural. The sorts of things I'm into, the sort of evenings I enjoy are so different to the things I enjoyed 10 years ago. Mostly anyway, if you ignore going to the cinema or watching a film at home. I know a lot of us laugh at our inner grandmother, mine likes bars when there's no one in them apart my friends. My inner grandmother would still probably prefer being in bed, but will reluctantly and then gleefully perform her best/worst dance moves when the time is right. But our inner grandmother isn't the only thing we should get over and embrace. It's cool to like what you like. It's cool to go against the crowd when you're just not feeling it, just as it's cool to participate when you feel you can. So long as you are respectful of others, people are a lot more likely to be respectful of you and your wishes. I digress.

I enjoy nights out when I know when I get to go home. only an hour left, enjoy it while you can. I enjoy myself when I feel like no one else will bother us. please don't approach me, stranger. I enjoy myself even when the music's bad and too loud and my feet hurt and I'm hating the money I'm spending when I know I've made other people happy with my presence.

It turns out the whole figuring yourself out thing outlasts your adolescence. Growing up is weird. I like it, though.


p.s. The giveaway winner has been chosen and I've passed their details on to Caseapp! Congratulations Julien U!
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